Monday, February 24, 2014

Week #60: Does This Gorilla Look Tired Yet?

Last Thursday, I got up, put in my normal day of work, then left straight for State College from the office. Nine hours and waaaay too much sugar later (trying to keep energy up without caffeine so late in the day), I arrived at Frank's house a little before 1:00 a.m. As happy as I was to get a bonus weekend with my favorite person just a few days after spending a whole week with him, the real purpose of the trip was that I had two job interviews on Friday. To up the nerve-wracking stakes, they were back-to-back at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., because those were the only times available for either party. At least they were in the same building just one floor apart.

I feel like both interviews went well, with one being a seemingly perfect fit from my perspective (I hope the feeling was mutual), and another at which I also would probably do quite well, although I have a feeling that they may have other candidates with more specific experience. After that, I slept a whole bunch, finally got a sunny but windy outdoor ride in with Frank on his new #yoloroadbike, and got to have one day of pleasure mixed into a mostly stressful trip. Then I had to drive home and get ready to drag my exhausted, sugar-poisoned butt back to work on Monday like everything was normal.

The last part is the hardest. I want to shut down, sit on the couch, and self-medicate with junk food until I hear something. If by the end of the week I have a new position secured, the few days of lapse will almost seem justifiable. It will seem that I did what I had to do to survive an incredibly stressful period, and having the new job offer, the self-inflicted damage will look minor in comparison to what has been gained. Unfortunately, we never know when our fortunes will finally turn. Although I certainly feel like I'm due for some good luck and signs that it will all work out look promising, experience has taught me that the world owes you nothing and it will only give you a break when it damn well pleases. Therefore, I'm also mentally preparing to not be devastated if I'm not offered one of the jobs this week.

The past year, I've really started to understand that saying about how success is like wrestling with a gorilla, and that you don't stop when you're tired but when the gorilla is tired. I'm tired as hell, but I'm not sure where the gorilla stands, so I have to do what I can to maintain my strength. That means keeping up with my training, nutrition, and sleep, as well as not taking any unnecessary time off from my current job and doing my best to focus while I'm here. All of that will leave me in the best position to succeed when I finally do catch a break, but that doesn't mean that it's not super hard to do.

I'm also struggling once again with the feeling of bearing the burden of these circumstances alone, like the future of Lindsay and Frank is resting on my feeble shoulders (this stuff is certainly distracting from my pull-up goal so they're still feeble). He is also working hard right now, and I am very appreciative and proud of him for that, but it's work that won't pay off for another year or two. There's not a lot that he can do for our immediate circumstances except shower me with appreciation and encouragement for the work I'm putting in to secure our short-term future, and then maybe help me move when the time comes.

And there in that expectation, I've realized, lies my problem. All I can think about is how hard this is for me and how much effort I'm putting in, and I want to be praised for that. However, I've come to realize that I'm expecting praise for something that I'm mostly doing for myself.

My own recent desperation for appreciation takes me back to days of dealing with Adam getting mad at me for not showing enough appreciation for him. I'm not so prideful as to say that there weren't many times when I should have shown more appreciation than I did, and thus I always make it a point now to thank Frank for everything he does for me, big and small. However, when I was dealing with depression and had to endure pouty fits over Adam always being the one to do the dishes, all that did was build resentment because: a) if I cared that much about the dishes I would have done them myself, but dishes are usually pretty low on depressed-people priority lists b) being told that I was selfish only made me feel more depressed and hopeless. In remembering this, I came to clearly see the futility in expecting to be lavished with appreciation from people who merely benefit from things that you do primarily to fulfill your own needs. Literally or figuratively yelling, "Hey, look how selfless I am!" is lame and pretty much defeats the purpose.

Of course, my situation now is very different, except for that core truth. Frank is certainly not uncaring or selfish in this situation; in fact he probably one of the more genuinely unselfish people that I know. He does tell me that he appreciates my willingness to move for him and the efforts that I'm making towards making that a reality. I just sometimes wish for some special level of gushing when I'm feeling extra scared or insecure. You know, maybe a parade or something would do.

Then it hits me: Frank would have been okay no matter what. It's good for him that I'm taking charge and trying to get a job so that he can stay in a place that's better for him, and I'm sure being spared the inconvenience of having to look for a job and move is nice, too, but if he'd had to move to Bloomington and take some crappy job so that we could be together, it just wouldn't be as big of a deal for him as it would be for me. I just didn't want to be the person to make him go through that. (Hey! Look how selfless I am!)

Really, I'm mostly doing all of this to satisfy my own need for security, so his response is proportional to benefit that he's actually getting. He doesn't *need* the plan/stability/security the way I do; he just benefits from my obtaining them, so it's unfair to expect gushing thanks for a gift that's nice but not what he needs most. I'm still working on figuring out what that is.

So that's the difference between us. He's more or less okay no matter what, while I still find dealing with everyday struggles and disappointments to be like wrestling with a gorilla. If I'm not offered either of the jobs, he will be disappointed but not too worried, while I will have to gather all the strength that I have just to get through the next couple of weeks of my normal daily life while I formulate Plan D and start hoping that it comes through. I guess that it is just another manifestation of the hole of which I've spoken before. Maybe wrestling the gorilla is part of the healing process, as I am certainly able to feel okay in a greater variety of situations than I was a year ago and I'm also more resilient in the face of disappointment than I used to be. I obviously still have a long way to go, but I can't help but hope that maybe the gorilla will at least give me a time out sometime soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Week #59: Hopeful and Terrified

Things are mostly looking better than they were at the time of my last post, at least in the general life sense. In the prepared for Death March sense, they are looking worse. Another 8-9 inches of snow fell on Thursday followed by more cold and another 2-4 inches on Saturday, so today is now day number 15 of no outdoor riding. Hopefully that trend will break tomorrow.

We did make the best of the snow dump, and added a little snow tubing to our "Arbitrary Day of Love" celebration. It's like Valentine's Day, but the day before so that the restaurants are less crowded and we can open presents sooner, because we're kind of bad at waiting. Oh well, this was the first time in my life I've been excited about Valentine's Day, because I found the perfect present weeks ahead of time. Okay, it was perfect in it's appropriate level weirdness. I saw where you could order marshmallows with your Instagram photos on them, so I thought what better way to celebrate than printing the key moments of our Instaromance on sugary confections? There's nothing like dunking selfies in hot cocoa.

Otherwise, the rest of my trip was spent planning/mentally preparing to move to State College. The job search is looking very hopeful, although the thought of having to make an emergency trip for an in-person interview is quite daunting, but I suppose I will do what I have to do, if needed. I just hope that it doesn't take a whole bunch of trips to get things settled. So that is why I'm both hopeful and terrified right now. There are quite a few things that are looking like they are in our favor, but still a few too many moving parts flying around that I expect to break at any moment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Week #58: Setbacks

This week is definitely a "I'm posting because I'm committed to doing a weekly post" post. In addition to my lack of (good) material, I have been in State College since Saturday, so I've had other things taking priority over blogging. However, since Frank is still dedicating a few hours a day to dissertation writing and teaching, I find myself with some free time on my hands

The theme since my last entry has been setbacks. At the time of my last entry, I was merely "rested" after backing off my training bit, but I never seemed to get back on. A big snowstorm on Tuesday kept me on the trainer for the evening, and when the roads were still in bad shape on Wednesday, I thought, "One night off won't kill me." We all know that slippery slope.

On Friday evening I came home to a For Rent sign in front of my house, which really bummed me out after what had been a pretty positive day until that point. I knew this was coming since they had already given me an extension to recommit for the 2014-2015 academic year, but I can't commit to another year due to the circumstances discussed in last week's post. They don't allow an early termination clause, so if I sign a lease, I'm stuck with paying the rent or finding a sub-letter until August 2015. Now there is a chance that I could lose it for next year before any official plans are made. I really like that house and they gave me an awesome deal on the rent, so I would really like to stay in Bloomington and still live there if we can find a suitable position for Frank at IU.

The other setback that happened on Friday was that Frank got hit by a car door while commuting on Friday. He's now in a split due to a possible fracture in his left ring finger, and has not been able to ride since then. The lack of a tour guide, the big dump of snow on Sunday, and the fact that it has not been warmer than 25 degrees have kept me off the bike since I've been here. So today is day nine of no outside riding, so not only am I super behind on Death March training, I just feel pretty icky at this point. Hopefully, we can hike Mount Nittany tomorrow, which might not help my Death March performance, but will hopefully be good for my mental state.

Despite all this, as well as another relatively minor unexpected setback in the future plans department that left me spending a significant portion of yesterday crying, Frank has been awesomely supportive, and *most* of the time I'm confident that I will be happy in the end no matter how all of these big questions get settled. As far as good news, I did successfully work up the courage to lift weights at the Penn State fitness facility, which was every bit as awful as I imagined it would be, but since then I've found a gym that could be a reasonable replacement for The Iron Pit if I were to move here. I was also just invited for a phone interview for what should be a pretty good job here, so hopefully my not being able to find a job that's better than or equal to what I have in Bloomington doomsday scenario won't come to pass.

Finally, we did get our #scenicviewselfie, although it was off of the balcony of the cottage where Frank's office is located rather than a mountain. Perhaps I'll have some snowy mountain pictures for you on Monday, even if they mountain must be traversed on foot.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week #57: Partnership, And Not Just The Death March Variety

The past week wasn't so fruitful in the training realm. I've felt like I was fighting more physical fatigue through January than I was last winter, but perhaps it was a combination of being stuck inside more and trying to do more earlier than last year. I think my expectations for January were based on where I was in March and April last year instead of comparing myself to last January where I really was starting pretty much from scratch on New Year's Eve. However, last year I did continue to make some sort of progress every week from January 1 through Death March.

This year I feel like I started much further ahead, but have made little progress other than improving my deadlift and getting closer to my unassisted pull-up goal. Given, these are important to me, and I have been heavily focused on them, whereas last year was more about just meeting my goal of showing up to the gym three times a week and doing whatever workout my trainer had assigned. It was more base-like, I think. Aside from my strength improvements, my body composition and anything regarding a bike have been completely stagnant, so that's a little frustrating. Last week I ended up doing some deloading in the gym to try to freshen up a bit before the last five-week push until Death March. Some stomach ickiness on Friday night forced some additional rest, so I'm no longer in danger of overtraining. Now it's just about getting refocused and trying to figure out the best way to balance my somewhat conflicting goals.

Aside from training, my focus last week was dealing with some interpersonal conflict at work and all of the things regarding my fate for the next 18 months. Regarding the former, I am proud that I am finally making the effort and developing the skills to address issues and try to fix them instead of just withdrawing and being unhappy. I'm not yet sure if my efforts were successful, but I suppose it was good practice either way.

As to the latter, it was a matter coming to terms with the options for next year and formulating some if>then scenarios. Of course, plan A is Frank gets a tenure-track position at a major research university that's adjacent to both a good cyclocross series and excellent mountain biking trails and where I am able to find a decent job, as well. Okay, really it's just any full-time faculty position or good post doc that offers a paycheck, health insurance, and will make some sort of positive contribution to his career. Plan B is that he gets a staff position at IU that still allows him to get writing done and set himself up well for 2015 and allows me to keep my stable employment for the time being.

Neither Plan A or B or any of the sub-options thereof are guaranteed to work out, so it might turn out that the best option is for him to stay at Penn State and keep the support system he has now while preparing for 2015. That means that to be with him and still do what's best for him, and really both of us in the long term, is to leave the stability of IU and delve into unknown world of trying to find acceptable employment at Penn State.

Throw in some complications with leases, roommates, kitties, etc., and I go into full panic mode. What if I don't find a job by August? What if I have to take a crappy, low-paying job? I've already been struggling with all of the material things that I've had to give up since moving out on my own, so the thought of giving up more is very upsetting. I know that sounds shallow and lame, but it was how I was feeling most of last week, although I have mostly worked it out.

A lot of my issue has to do with moving to Bloomington newly married and straight out grad school thinking that I was good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like...well, I'm actually sort of an obstinate bitch but a really smart one. This town quickly started eating me alive when I discovered that all my supposed preparation for successful adulthood via degrees, good grades, etc. was totally irrelevant. I had to start at the bottom and scrape my way to the upper middle as I have been doing for the last eight and a half years. I was stuck with a partner who would never really do more to improve the situation than he did on day one and gave little support or appreciation for how hard the transition was for me.

So I quickly learned that whatever financial or emotional needs that I had, I would have to meet myself. He would wash dishes and fix bikes. I continued to get hard-fought promotions and make more money, but the gain was never really more than the cost. I could never get ahead. I wasn't that successful at going it alone, which is why I dealt with stuff through binge-eating, over-spending whatever little financial gain I could get, and thinking that if I could just win bike races it would make my life worthwhile. Of course, that is why I came finally came to the conclusion that if I was going to go it alone, I should actually be alone and maybe open myself up to opportunity to not being emotionally and financially self-supporting forever.

Then I found the kind of emotionally supportive person that could barely conceptualize previously, and way faster than I expected at that. Pretty much as soon as I met him I was able to share my burdens with him without fear of judgement. His company has a way of making shitty things feel less shitty, so I think that if worse does come to worse, that it won't be as hard this time. I may get a little pissy at fate for putting me through that a second time, but I know that it will be temporary, and we will both be working equally hard to improve the situation as soon as possible.

So, with that, I started applying to jobs at Penn State last week with the thought that possibly getting a job too early was better than letting things come down to the wire. It would be inconvenient as I still have a lease in Bloomington until August and he still has a roommate in State College, but if it comes to it, we'll makes it work. There's also the chance that one of the more preferred options will work out right about the time I accept a job there, but again, we'll cross that bridge when it comes. I just feel better that I can finally take some action rather than just sitting and waiting.