Missing in Action

Screen cap of penguins on BriziCam

Hi, everyone. As another calendar month is coming to an end and I’m about to be three months behind on my posts, I thought it would be a good time to enlighten you all concerning what’s going on – or, rather, what’s not going on, I guess. In the first place, I must apologize again for this dry spell; it’s really come on out of the blue and I’m quite upset with myself for not fulfilling my promises in regards to my calendars. I do hope that I will be able to get caught up at some point, but the reality is that I don’t know for sure if that will ever happen, in all honesty. I am struggling mightily every single day right now and the lion’s share of my fortitude is directed toward not just breaking down completely. Luckily I have more than a few safety nets at home, and the one we added last September seems to be bearing up rather well under the load I have been placing on him. This coming Saturday (September 4) will be the one-year anniversary of Devon’s “Gotcha Day” and just four days after that the magnificent beast will turn 16 years old, which was positively beyond our wildest hopes when he first arrived. I’m immensely proud of him, and exceptionally grateful he joined our family when he did.

Mr. D and Grumpy P

There are several reasons that will account for the current state of my blog posts here; I’ll try to just talk about the most salient ones, or this could be my longest piece ever. To begin with, there’s the most obvious factor: the state of the world. I was filled with anxiety and hopelessness during all of our many lockdowns, to be sure, but that turns out to have been nothing compared to the anxiety that now faces me every day with even just the very beginning of a reopening in Ontario. People are horrid. Just horrid, and they’re everywhere. Oh, of course #NotAllPeople, but more than enough to make every outing – no matter how brief or innocuous – feel like I’m navigating a minefield. And I’ve made significant progress in that area: I’ve been inside a restaurant, I’ve visited friends, I’ve been to a few ball games at the Dome. I’ve encountered, as the Zoo’s CEO put it in an Instagram story, “Maskless Mofos” at every turn. Even for an old misanthrope like me, the sheer number of willfully ignorant, entitled, selfish jackasses in the world is positively horrifying. It’s gotten so bad that I honestly feel I can’t even visit the Zoo (my former “Happy Place”) unless I am going to be meeting someone else there to walk around with. This is a 180-degree turn from previous days when I was at my absolute happiest on the trips where I could visit and really connect with the animals who live there. I would even go so far as to say this: had I not spent some of my Census money this summer on upgrading my camera kit, I would barely go to the Zoo at all these days. I’m enjoying focusing (tee hee) on improving with the new body and lens, and it takes my mind off of all the idiocy going on around me all the time.

Credit: Matt T; it’s Captain Census!

I will not be ranking the rest of these in any way; however, here is another reason: I was an Enumerator for Census Canada for several weeks this spring and summer, and I did a lot of this work on weekends and evenings, hours when I traditionally work on my blog posts because my SO is using the office during normal “working hours” and I don’t want to disturb her. I really enjoyed doing this work (the financial ability to upgrade my photo equipment is just one reason why) and not for a second do I regret the job, but it’s been quite a while since I put in over 30 hours of weekly work at any job and my stamina is not what it once was. Throw in the exceptionally hot days we had and the fact that Enumerating requires a lot of talking to strangers (which none of us really had to do for about 15 months by this past May) and it’s a wonder I was able to do anything else over those weeks. But I did manage to stay the course on my Noom program and cook our “Hello Fresh” meals four times a week with Mrs. Grumpy P, and I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment to be sure. Oddly, there was something about my experience working for Statistics Canada that did affect me in a harsh way, and that’s going to lead nicely into my next paragraph (which I am going to be quite vague about, for reasons which should become obvious rather quickly).

When I joined the Census Team in late May, I was fortunate enough to be an “early hire,” along with another gentleman who was actually returning from five years ago, with the task of Dwelling Occupancy Verification. About two weeks after we started, 12 more people joined our crew and we turned to the Enumeration duties for the rest of our terms. From the very beginning we (all) worked on our own, accountable to the Federal Government only through our hours logged and accomplishments. In many ways, this is not dissimilar to the Volunteer work I have done at the big institution up the road from me, but there was one glaring difference. You see, as a “DOV” and then an “EN” I was giving regular encouragement, congratulated on accomplishments, and otherwise treated with respect and professionalism by a supervisor (Crew Leader, in this case, but also her boss) who not only followed up on the work I did each day, but also was openly delighted with it. In fact, when the cases petered out in our area, I was recommended to move to two other regions for a couple of weeks each, as I had performed so well for her, which gave me nearly a month’s more hours than most of the others on my original team. This had a dual effect on me: it made me work to the very best of my abilities through some tough situations (and hot, hot days); and it made me realize that the way I have been handled over the past nine years in my “other” work has been very, very questionable at best. This realization, in turn, has led to some examination of how I wish to proceed from here with respect to the unpaid work I love, but which doesn’t really love me back.

Which now leads me to reason number four… or, more correctly. reason 3B. Around the same time I was beginning to become heavily involved with Census work, I was also starting to feel burned out doing the camera work for Brizi a few times a week, and was thinking about maybe pulling back at the very least. As I was pondering my options, Ontario began to slowly open up, and eventually the time was nigh for Volunteer shifts to resume. Unfortunately, this also meant having to deal once again with some difficult people, and very quickly some old patterns popped up and the situation became untenable. As a result, I found it prudent to just take the whole summer off from everything to do with my Volunteer work: camera, in-person, Town Halls, Zoom meetings… everything. And I immediately knew it was the right decision for me, and I thrived and grew in confidence and performance quite rapidly in my Census work. Now, one might think this would not be a reason that might keep me from doing the posts… but remember, the posts are about the place which had caused the frustration to begin with. In all honesty, I am currently as dispassionate about my former Happy Place as I have been at any time since I first started training back in 2012 in the throes of a horrible depression – and that includes the period from early 2017 to late 2018, believe it or not. Something has very evidently and troublingly been snuffed out inside of me, and I am honestly not sure if I am ever going to light it again… or, indeed, if I even care that much either way. I’m hoping to have a better answer to this after the summer is over and it’s easier to visit the animals; I fully expect another lockdown of some degree to happen after school starts here in Ontario, and how the lack of access for a third time affects my mental health will be a pretty good indicator or where I stand emotionally. For the time being, I am at an impasse with the management of my department and am not currently allowed to work any shifts until I address this in a way I am simply not interested in doing; there’s an excellent chance I won’t be back “on strength” for a year or so and I’ve not yet decided how I feel about that. But the tl;dr of this paragraph is simply this: my blog posts rely on my emotional connection to the animal(s) in that month’s photo and my enthusiasm for telling stories about their home… and, at the moment, those two factors are pretty much non-existent, which is shocking to me. In the meantime, I am left to ponder how it is that, for the past 25 or so years, I have worked in many different industries for big-time and small-scale employers of all types, and only one of these places has had anything but glowing praise to offer me for my work – and that happens to be the one place where those “in charge” have never actually seen my work at any point in my time there. This is quite obviously not a coincidence; how it is solved from here, however, is really up in the air right now.

And now, actual “reason four.” This one is quite mundane, actually. My desktop computer has been very cranky over the past several months and every single task I try to perform on it has been so… very… slooooooow. If there’s one thing I imagine is pretty common to everyone with ADHD, depression, or anxiety – and absolutely common to those of us with all of those issues – it’s that if you are even slightly struggling to get a task accomplished, it doesn’t require a very big roadblock to completely derail the project. And believe me: the level of orneriness my PC has fallen to is a very big roadblock, indeed. So even when I have had the time and opportunity to put together a post for everyone, I have been quite quickly disabused of that notion by my own technological demons. Now, here’s the really dumb part of all of this: in the past few days, I have started taking steps towards doing a full “factory reset” on the HP, which has included such things as taking all of my photos from the main hard drive, moving them to a removable drive (which already holds all my previous digital shots), and then plugging that drive into my laptop to work with some of the more recent photos I have taken. And in doing this, I have only recently come to the realization that I, in fact, have a laptop which is many times faster than my PC is right now, because it was purchased for exactly that reason in order to facilitate my ability to go online and not have connection or bandwidth issues. And that laptop – that very one – is where I am currently putting together this post explaining why I have not been able to… well, to post for the past few months. Isn’t that ironic? (Don’t you think?) Sigh. In any event, should I find myself in a position to get past reasons 1 & 3B, I now know I can plug my photos into my laptop, sit in a room that does not affect my partner’s daily work in any way, and put a piece together for the calendar folks. Now, this will not come together in time for September 1, sadly, but I really hope I find the emotional strength to catch up on all three missing months sometime before October, so I can finish the year strongly.

Just one more thing I should mention here, as kind of a head’s up: if I do produce a calendar again for 2022 (and the permission-getting might be a bit tough this time around, but we’ll have to see), it will not be in aid of any specific charity. Last year’s debacle was so horrifically disheartening and frustrating that it has left a very bad taste in my mouth indeed, and I need some time to shake all that off. I’ll be keeping whatever proceeds may come of the sales, which will likely also bring about a price drop (that will depend on Vistaprint), and when the campaign is over I will tally up the profits and hopefully make a one-time donation to Story Book Farm again. I’ll post more about all of this down the road. But the second point I’d like to make is more germane to this post: I will not be doing a monthly blog piece going forward, but will instead leave it up to my own whims as to when I might post about something interesting and what that post will concern. For one thing, I have covered so many animals over the years that you have heard all my best stories; for another, the stress of trying to keep up with this promise has not been kind to me over time and I think it’s painfully obvious that, if I can’t make one post a month during an actual lockdown where there’s nowhere else I can go, then it’s much tougher than it should be and I really need to drop it. Again, more on this later.

For now, let me say, again, how sorry I am that I got this far behind, and I really hope the fall brings much better times for every one of us. I guess we’ll really find out on September 20th.

Which brings me to another reason……. ok, let’s leave that one for now.

Take care, everyone. Later.