This and that

I haven’t mentioned that I  got a new job last Friday – huzzah! I’ll be doing remote editing work for the Windows group at Microsoft, which is pretty similar to what I did before. I’m delighted to be working from home; although I was convinced that with God’s help I could manage an office nine-to-five, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it – or to the appropriate-clothes-buying ordeal (ugh) that would ensue.

So since I got that news I’ve tried  something brand-new to me: relaxing. I no longer have a tense, panicky feeling that I should be spending every second of every day looking for a job. Instead, I sat by the Charles last Saturday, looking through the haze that colored all the Boston buildings in soft pastels and watching the pinks turn to periwinkle as the sun set. I spent Sunday afternoon out at the Old North Bridge, then wandered through the Back Bay and Harvard Square early in the week. I found an awesome recipe for a Middle Eastern plateful of deliciousness called mujadaraTrès bien.

I also spent more hours than I want to admit reading Harvard Business Review weblogs one night. I read easily more than two dozen posts, many of them by one of my new favorite writers: Peter Bregman. Just a few of his awesome posts:

To Get More Done, Slow Down: How rest periods make people much more productive

What to Do When You’re Out of Control: About being – gasp! – helpful instead of making stressful situations more difficult

Stop Worrying About Your Weaknesses: Because they’re probably your strengths

Why You Need to Fail: Those who never fail don’t challenge themselves enough to learn

The Interview Question You Should Always Ask: Why what you do in your spare time matters

A New Rule for the Workplace: Changing expectations to meet reality reduces negative emotions

I Want You to Apologize: How to defuse tense situations by showing, like, humility

And there are soooo many more – I don’t know what Mr. Bregman’s background is, but I love that he applies gospel principles to real-world situations.

There are a few others too – most notably How to Write a Resume That Doesn’t Annoy People and Ace the Interview by David Silverman and a 5 Leadership Essentials ideacast that explores surprisingly warm-fuzzy leadership values by Dave Ulrich.

Whence cometh this interest in business, you ask? Note that the articles I enjoy are generally about making people and situations better, not about manipulating Excel worksheets. They tend to illustrate gospel principles. And the gospel is something I’m very interested in, since it has miraculously made my life actually enjoyable instead of just endurable. Huzzah, again.

The good news and the bad news

So for a little over a year I’ve been attending a Spanish branch of my church. The Spanish branch was so desperate for people that I was immediately called to be a Primary teacher for the six-year-olds. I was terrible at first, but got much better once I realized it was about the kids, not me (epiphany, that). Teaching Primary was fun, but it was also a lot of work. Sometimes I would think, as I was preparing my lesson, It would be nice to go to church and not have to do anything – just sit and learn.

A few weeks ago I decided to return to a singles ward and was looking forward to quiet Sundays. My first day back was last Sunday. After Sacrament Meeting, as I was subconsciously mustering the energy to corral five now-seven-year-olds (and looking forward to having a fun lesson), I looked around and realized: Wait a second. Here I don’t get to do anything – I have to just sit and learn.


How to handle an extrovert: A perennial question

So a few years ago the Atlantic Monthly ran a brilliant article entitled Caring for Your Introvert. I was thinking about this last Saturday as a good friend and a casual acquaintance and I strolled around the grounds at Tanglewood, where we had gone to hear a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony (lovely!). The good friend is, like me, on the introverted side of things; the casual acquaintance, I quickly discovered, is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and kept up a running commentary on our surroundings, the musicians (many of whom he knew well), and other incidentals. It was interesting, but I couldn’t at first figure out how to respond. When I tried to contribute in my plodding linear way, I found that the acquaintance had already gamboled off to a different topic; thus these efforts quickly became exhausting. However, I also didn’t want to remain silent and feel like a hostage (and a boring one at that).  Ultimately I settled on a non-committal positive vocalization every so often, and that seemed to work.

So, for all you extroverts out there: Is this the optimal response? Or do you want more interaction? (Note that if you want more interaction you’ll have to give other people a chance to speak as well, and maybe even, like, listen to them – so be sure to count these costs before you respond.)

The purpose of romantic comedies (or, Meg Ryan is my anti-heroine)

Romantic comedies exist for a reason.

No, not just to torture anyone with a Y chromosome. Guess again.

And no, not to serve as coasters, because then one would have to actually buy a copy of the movie.

Their purpose: To serve as valuable illustrations of what not to do in relationships.

I’ve watched many a romantic comedy in my day, and some of them I’ve really enjoyed. But in almost all of them, characters in romantic relationships do things that appear completely bizarre. One smack’s one’s head and thinks, Why is that person engaging in such counterproductive and counterintuitive behavior?

But then one finds oneself in a similar situation, and suddenly these completely bizarre activities seem not counterintuitive, but even, like, rational.  Yeah, I could totally do that. And it would TOTALLY help. Only by concentrating furiously on one’s experiences watching romantic comedies can one restrain oneself from shooting oneself in the foot (or head).

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but: Thank goodness for chick flicks.

(Now back to The Innovator’s Dilemma so I can feel wicked smaht again… Vanityvanityvanity)

Some like it hot

But that “some” wouldn’t refer to me. The a/c at church is broken so I spent a total of about five hours today in thoroughly uncomfortable rooms and am now thankful beyond measure to be at home. Heat destroys both my sleep and desire to eat; insomnia + quasi-fasting + more heat –> ugh.

But some things are comforting. Monday and Tuesday were pretty good; Wednesday got off to a rough start but then the first verse of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” came to mind and I had an A-HA! moment about the second line. “E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me”: Even though it’s an awful trial that is raising me up closer to God, still I’m getting there. And it’s true. Verse 4 also has a great line: “Out of my stony griefs Bethel [lit. “House of God”] I’ll raise.” I’m amazed at the comfort that has flooded into me over the past couple of weeks. Doesn’t mean I don’t have moments (insomnia + quasi-fasting + heat + emotional trial –> need for waterproof mascara), and it doesn’t mean I don’t have to restrain myself sometimes from tired typing/cry calling/emotional emailing (the Mormon equivalent of drunk dialing), but those moments are the exception, not the rule. Huzzah.


Henceforth let it be known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people:

That I, the indomitable FishieFishies, am hereby an official Young Adult;

That I am hereby NOT yet an official Mature Adult;

That Young Adults are old enough to not have to eat the foods they didn’t want to eat as children but are yet young enough not to need the “healthy” foods that Mature Adults require;

That All-Bran in all its forms and flavors comprises a Mature Adult “healthy” food;

That I am thus absolved of the duty to consume All-Bran in any shape, form, or fashion, with or without milk and/or various flavored yogurts;

That this absolution shall stand until I am a Mature Adult, by which time miracles of science will have rendered unnecessary these foods; and

That this proclamation shall stand as a witness to the world of the aforementioned absolution, henceforth and forever, amen and amen.

Signèd and sealèd this Fifteenth day of July, 2010, whereof ye are all witnesses.

The Right to Air Conditioning

A good friend of mine is currently enduring exceedingly uncomfortable temperatures in Munich, and says that he’s “been spoiled by the energy sucking AC’s in the US.” My response:

Is it possible to be “spoiled” by a basic necessity? Food, clothing, shelter, and air conditioning – that’s what we learned in school. Indeed, though I have North Cambridge resident attitudes aplenty, I’d rather be “spoiled” by an energy-sucking air conditioner than RUINED by will-to-live-sucking heat and humidity.

Had this wonder been available in the eighteenth century, some of our country’s most important documents would look slightly different:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and Temperatures in the Summer that don’t make everyone want to Kill Themselves.

And the Preamble to the Constitution (and methinks air conditioning should also be added to the Bill of Rights – it could replace the unused “protection from the quartering of troops” or “right to a speedy trial” amendments):

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, prevent intolerable indoor Temperatures in Summer, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

(So the irony is that today is probably the only day in both the past and coming weeks that we may not need our a/c. Still, it should be freely available to all who have no use for temperatures above 80°F. [If I wanted to experience such temperatures, I’d move to the sun.)

That “peace… which passeth all understanding”

(Phil. 4:7)

Was feeling pretty terrible earlier (this breakup stuff is incredibly hard sometimes) when I felt a gentle impression to read a few verses in 2 Nephi 2:

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23 And they would have had no achildren; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no bjoy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no csin.

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who aknoweth all things.

25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men care, that they might have djoy.

26 And the aMessiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may bredeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are credeemed from the fall they have become dfree forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the elaw at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

I’ve read these verses countless times, of course; most Mormons have. There’s even a mnemonic: “Second Nephi two-twenty-five, Adam fell and I’m alive” (said in a jazzy sort of way to wake up early-morning seminary students). But what I took away this time, among other things too personal to share, is that there’s a subtle but important difference between “I will be happy when” and “I won’t (or can’t) be happy unless.” “I’ll be happy when I get married” implies that the person is at least looking forward to the event and may even have some control over the situation; additionally, the person may not be happy at present, but still might be. “I can’t be happy unless I’m married” erects a fatalistic roadblock completely barring happiness unless certain conditions, usually beyond a person’s control, are met. The latter is generally a consequence of overexposure to the former.

I admit I’ve been stuck in this trap before, and in some ways currently am. However, these verses led me today to realize that it’s not absolutely impossible to be happy unless some great event happens. “Men are that they might have joy”; I can “act for [myself] and not… be acted upon.” “All things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.” I don’t have to remain “in the same state in which [I was] created” or in which I currently find myself (and I could write a whole hyper-emotional post about the past 9 days). This may not sound like such a breakthrough for most people, but to me it’s potentially life-changing. It has already enabled me to feel “the peace… which passeth all understanding” – and which I desperately needed two hours ago.

God is real. He and His Son live and love each of us. The past week has been incredibly painful, but I’ve come to feel much closer to God and Christ because of it. And I’m grateful for that.

Nightmare in calculus class

So I dreamed a while back that I was in a calculus class (shudder) and we had a test – and I hadn’t done a single homework problem or even stayed awake in class for a full period all year. Holy (and wholly) horrible. My genius older brother was also in the class (the star student, of course [this was not an unfounded fear, since we shared THREE classes my junior/his senior year {he was better at physics; we were equal in band; I was better at drama}]), as were a few other people with whom I got into an apocalyptic fight – and boy do I have a potty mouth in my dreams! I must be repressed.

Things that are hard to do

Break up with somebody totally freaking awesome

Be productive in any shape, form, or fashion for at least the first week after the breakup

Not cry before, during, and after the breakup

Say the words “we broke up” with a steady voice

Not feel kind of pathetic about all this

… But I’m alive, and will be better soon. Thanks to some wicked awesome friends for some wicked awesome talks this week.