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Settling In.

16 March 2018

I have finally settled in to my new job. I’m actually working, as opposed to merely getting oriented. It will take time to get the project off the ground, but the team I have is brilliant and motivated, which is nice. I’m excited by the opportunity and figure I can meet the challenges expected of me.

There was a crazy hiccough though. My first paycheck was $14,069.97 heavy. When I negotiated to come out here, I was given a $20,000 travel allowance. That’s about what it costs to have a home and car professionally moved coast to coast. But the way it was supposed to work is that MWCMC was going to pay the movers directly. I was not supposed to see the money. There are major tax advantages to me to doing it that way.

But what did happen was that MWCMC paid the movers AND they paid me the $20,000. After taxes and withholding, that made my first paycheck awfully big. I kind of panicked. I admit there was a part of me that thought I could keep it if I just kept my mouth shut, because their left hand would likely not know what their right hand was doing, and no one would notice.

Whether or not that’s true, the better angels of my nature won out and I contacted both my institution and the moving company to put the situation right. I don’t want to have anything like that hanging over me, and it would surely be a firing offense if discovered. So, in the spirit of sobriety I decided to pay the money back instead of buying a helicopter full of cocaine, or whatever.

I mean a nice oriental rug. That’s what I meant.

Sobriety requires that we do our best to maintain strict honesty. I’m not always perfect at that, but my “cash register” honesty has always been pretty good, even while I lied and lied and lied about other things. Life is treating me very well. I don’t need to try to swindle my employer.

A Glorious Weekend.

12 March 2018

The weather in Seattle this weekend was PERFECT. High 50s, low 60s, clear, sunny, crisp. Basically, what the weather is like all summer, but way early. The mountains were gorgeous, and the air was clean and dry. I’d forgotten just how wonderful the air is after 25 years in the miasmic sewers of the Midwest and East Coast. There is simply no weather in the world as nice as the Pacific Northwest.

Soon, it will be light from 5am until 10pm, and for the most part won’t get above 80 degrees. The average high in July and August is 76 degF. Whereas in Philly it’s 87, and in St. Louis it’s 90. Additionally, there’s no humidity in Seattle during the summer. And in the spring and fall, the temperature is low enough that even when it’s humid, it’s not soupy. That’s why I’m fond of saying Seattle has a “dry dampness”.

But this weekend was beyond fabulous. So BB and I went hiking. We climbed up to Kamikaze Falls on Mt. Teneriffe. We couldn’t quite summit, because there ended up being melting snow pack that was very slippery, and we didn’t have any micro spikes. Something to buy. But the views were unbelievable.

We hiked about 6 miles with 1400′ of elevation gain.┬áNext weekend we’re going to search out actual trail running instead of hiking.

Sunday, we went on a 15.4 mile bike ride. The first time I’ve taken the X wing out since my half-Ironman. We rode from home to BB’s work, then over to my work, and back home. We somehow managed to find a place almost perfectly halfway between our workplaces as measured by length of bike commute on protected paths, despite that not really being the criterion we tried to optimize.

Add in a good hard trip to the gym on Sunday morning, and it was a good weekend, fitness-wise. I’m excited about being here. I’m happy.

Painful Progress.

9 March 2018

I am slowly ramping my fitness back up. As a man now essentially in my mid-40s, my body doesn’t quite respond to effort the way it did seven or so years ago when I first decided to get into shape. But it’s not awful. Since arriving in Seattle, I’ve been running or going to the gym 5 or 6 days a week, and that’s critical to my physical and mental health.

Yesterday was my longest run since November. I ran from my house to Greenlake and then around it twice, then back home for 7.2 miles. I did walk for two tenths of a mile after hitting 10km. I did it at a good clip too. Including the walk, I averaged 10:12 minutes per mile. So when running, about 9:44. Getting back below 10 minute miles for an hour feels important. I know it doesn’t actually mean anything to a totally recreational runner like me, but there’s a mental aspect to being faster than that.

My time for the 10km split yesterday was 1:00:32. I’d have loved to hit 59:59, but it wasn’t to be. But I have to remember: when I first set the goal of running a sub-1 hr 10km, it took me about three years to get there. Now, having been all the way back at 12+ minute miles only a month ago, I’m able to brush up against that goal pace again already. Only about 5 seconds per mile. If I hadn’t done 4 miles of hill training the day before, I might have gotten there.

I also really want to get my strength up for another Spartan (or other obstacle) race. I’ve been doing a lot of upper body strength work at the gym, including my new favorite exercise: tying 100+ pounds of weights to the end of a long rope and pulling them hand-over-hand across the room. Great arm and core work. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to climb a rope. As of now? I can hang from one for about ten seconds.

But it’s ok to be bad at things. I’m working at being better and I’m excited about the prospect of improving.

I Have Begun.

1 March 2018

Well, here I am in Seattle, working at my new hospital! So far so good, but I have a lot to do in a short time. I’m excited but nervous. And I’ve had very little down time so far. Also very little in the way of planned orientation. Very few “get to know you” meetings, etc.. Which has felt very unstructured, but has required me to take the initiative some, which is good.

I have a big meet and greet with “my” team on Monday. I’m the leader, but I’m not the boss. And I’m learning a new work project system called “agile” which keeps things focused and on track, without project management. Which is weird. But what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I kind of have to!

I’ve been going to AA meetings and I’m even speaking tonight at my men’s meeting. I’ve been exercising and that’s been good. I’m not losing much weight, but at least I’m feeling fitter and stronger after about three weeks back at it. It takes time.

I’m very nervous right now but I knew to expect that. Everything is new and difficult and confusing. New systems take time. There are different expectations here. But I’m a professional and I know how to do what I do. And they want me to do what I know how to do. So that’ll be what we do.


The End of the Interregnum.

21 February 2018

Well, I have about 5 days until my new job starts. I’m nervous of course. I have a large set of new duties and very little knowledge or understanding of the structure of the company. I will go into it consciously unafraid to ask questions, lack insight, and be stupid. I’ll have a lot to learn very rapidly. But that’s one thing I’ve always been pretty good at. I enjoy steep learning curves.

This six weeks off has not felt like a vacation. I’ve been packing, unpacking, driving, working, shopping (for boring necessities), and learning the new aspects of my new city as fast as I can. Even though I grew up in Seattle, it’s changed enormously in the 26 years I’ve been gone. And I lived on a suburb island, not the city itself. So I never really knew the “mainland” as we Islanders called it.

I like where I live. The house, the neighborhood. It’s very comforting and feels like me. It’s a little hipstery, but that’s ok. And there are things I still don’t know how to find that I want, like a little gourmet grocery. Though the basic grocery store at the end of my block is very good. There’s plenty of good coffee.

The AA here is really wonderful. I’ve been asked to speak at my Men’s Meeting already. That’s next week. The attendance is inspiring, the meeting structure is comforting. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the length. Meetings seem to be largely 75-90 minutes. I’m a 60 minute guy. But I’ll adapt.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to a meeting for a professional society. I’m interested and excited about it. But also nervous about entering a room of highly trained professionals in a field I’m only peripherally trained in. But I think it will be interesting to go and meet people and start to make connections.

I’m looking forward to going back to work. I’m ready for a new thing.

9.99 Years.

15 February 2018

Today is the anniversary of my last drink: a double shot of Maker’s Mark bourbon in an airport bar in St. Louis, MO, as I waited to board a plane to go to an inpatient rehab in Malibu, CA. I also had a couple of beers, but that wasn’t nearly enough to get me drunk. Not then. I remember being angry that I didn’t have cash for another drink on the plane. And so that was the last one.

It’s late enough in the day now that my last drink was more than ten years ago. But I won’t really feel it until tomorrow. A decade. And unbelievably long time has passed. A decade of work and joy and fear and love and pain and all the things every normal person has in their lives.

I’m normal now, on the outside. To everyone else. People look at me and see a slightly pudgy 43 year old man with a job and a partner, a couple of hobbies. I do normal things like ride my bike to work, and cook dinner, and go on vacations, and argue on the internet. I’m normal on the outside.

On the inside, I’m better. But I’ll never be normal. I’m an alcoholic. Which means I obsess about myself, and feel aggrieved and entitled. I have to work especially hard at everything to achieve what normal people can do in their sleep. Like open all the mail, or get my car retitled, or ship a package, or get to work on time. All those things can be hugely laborious.

But I’m better than I was. And I’ve come to be glad I’m not normal. I know where I belong. I know who I am. What I do. Why I do it. I love what I’ve become. I’m grateful that I’m an alcoholic, because I’ve learned how to live. How to rise. How to fight, and when not to.

I am a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I have been for ten years. Well, 9 years, 364 days. I don’t think I’ll drink tonight. Tomorrow looks good. And Sunday can take care of itself.

The Hill above the Lake.

13 February 2018

I can’t believe the things I’m feeling here.
Bewildered joy infects my cautious heart.
A sudden drop, through spaces far and clear,
and then the bounce, far higher than the start.
We find ourselves unanchored in the stream.
We’ve flung ourselves from harbor to the waves.
But clasp my wrist, and while this tempest heaves,
I’ll hold you; let the howling winter rave.
For there upon the hill above the lake,
there stands a house awaiting to be built.
And board by nail, each shingle, plank, each shake,
we’ll raise our home; a sturdy place. Not gilt
But furnished well with hope and love and light,
We’ll share a place to sleep the starry night.