No output without input

I was supposed to meet some local church leaders for breakfast this morning, only to discover about 5 minutes after our scheduled start time that they had rescheduled via Facebook last night. And since I had been dreaming of Gailey’s French Toast for several days, I decided to stay and catch up on reading blogs and enjoy the morning before diving into work.

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A Net By Any Other Name

I live and die by my calendar, and yesterday I looked at this weekend and discovered that I have just a few hours free on Saturday during which I can rest and relax. The semester has started out pretty well, but I’m busier than ever.

What is interesting is that all of these things I’m doing are very supportive of one another. That is to say, what I’m learning in my classes is helping me at work and at church; the work I’m doing at my job is giving me practice for church and school; my vision for my ministry will fuel my school and work. I feel like I’m on a rising tide, and it’s lifting all the ships.

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Graduation excitement

I’ve lost the blogging buzz. My promotion brought with it both an increase in activities as well as increased focus on finishing everything. I want to wrap up this year and seal it away in the archive so I can move on with my life.

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Feeling alright

The antagonism of the last few weeks is waning, and yesterday was the best I’ve had in a while. I think part of the problem was a sense of being out of control through the start of the semester, with people moving away, people leaving work, new classes (and wrong classes and hard classes); just generally being too busy to live like I had been the previous months. My schedule was shifting, and it threw me.

I’m getting a handle on things, and I think it’s going to be alright. Yesterday was good. I hope today is too.

Where has Matthew been?

Just a quick note to say I’m still alive, just not writing much. My work schedule has been kind of intense the last couple of weeks, and will only get worse through the end of the semester. I expect a return to normalcy sometime around June. Until then, if I get more than one thing written a week, I’ll be pretty happy.

For tonight (the last hour I have before bed), I’m going to play some League of Legends, then crash. Today’s 11 hours at work passed pleasantly and I feel good about it, but there’s no getting around the fact that it was 11 hours.

When people run in circles it’s a very, very…

I consider it a failing to reach the point of exhaustion. To be stretched to my limits to the extent that I can accomplish no more than I am currently accomplishing means that I am too limited, too weak, and simply not good enough. If I were better, I could accomplish more in the same amount of time, in less time even. I should be able to manage everything.

There are a variety of reasons why I cannot accomplish everything, though. And at this point, I have reached my limit. I think about work just about all the time. It’s on my mind as I’m falling asleep, and I wake from my dreams with lists of what I need to do the next day. When I wake up in the morning, my first thought is of what needs to be done at 8 a.m., then at 8:10 a.m., and every five to ten minutes thereafter. Lists and schedules and reprioritizations, plates spinning with colored balls bouncing between them. I’ve got to keep it all going all the time.

I half work through lunch everyday, keeping myself accessible to student workers and assisting when necessary. I have random people stopping by my office all day long to talk, needing to know what’s going on or what they ought to be doing. That’s fine because it’s part of my job, but I’ve got a lot of parts that have added up to something greater than the whole. Or, at least, greater than what the whole seems like it ought to be.

Maybe it’s temporary, this overload. Of course, I’ve been thinking that for a while now, that once this project ends (whatever the project may be) everything will lighten up. There’s always another project, though. Right now, I’m banking on June or July. Who knows, maybe things will go back to “normal.”

For now, though, I’m kind of going out of my mind. Forty hours isn’t enough, when it comes right down to it, but the projects I’d like to give up are ones other people can’t do that well, and the projects other people could do are the ones I’d rather keep. Bit of a stickey wicket, huh?

I’ll keep on keeping on, and maybe I’ll feel better next week. I said that last week and really thought it–my schedule was totally clear this week. Now I’ll be lucky to get 2/3 of everything done that needs to be done.

Going for a walk. Maybe I’ll be able to actually write about something I want to write about when I get home.

Post-walk Update:: There’s a line from SLC Punk that comes to mind when I think about the work I do, especially compared to some others.

“I don’t know who started it and I don’t give a fuck. The one thing I do know is that we did it harder, we did it faster, and we definitely did it with more love, baby. You can’t take that away from us.”

– Stevo, SLC Punk

I don’t know that “love” is there. Right now, there’s mostly just bitterness and frustration. But there’s a certain amount of pride as well, and for now, that will have to suffice.

I work harder, I work faster, and I do it with more… whatever. That’s got to be worth something.

On the way home this afternoon I decided that the best thing I can do right now is make more lists while I’m at work. Really flesh out my todo, set reasonable deadlines, record more in our work management system, and take more notes. I need to start letting my computer do more of the scheduling thinking for me so my brain can do more of the analyzing and creative thinking. Maybe I’ll work on that… Thursday or Friday, because for the next few mornings I have some training lined up.

Whatever happens, I’ve got to change something. Either I’ve got to get better, or something’s got to give. I can control the former, so I’ll work on that. In a couple of months, maybe things will be lighter and it won’t be such an issue.

Thinking about thinking about doing something

I wouldn’t call what I’ve been in a “slump.” I’ve had ideas, and they’d be good things to write down; old projects have new life and new projects come to mind on a regular basis. What I don’t have is time, energy, or desire. I’m busy a lot of the time, and when I’m not busy, I’m tired. Even when I could potentially work after resting, I just don’t feel like pushing myself so hard that I burn out.

This is why I wanted to drop out. I just don’t have the energy to write much during the semester. I don’t understand why those two nights of classes wipe me out like they do, but between my job (which requires a great deal of extroversion when I’m an introvert, and subsequently drains me emotionally and mentally) and three 12-15 hour days in each five day work week (two of class, one of D&D which, being social activity, still requires extroversion as well as mental work since I run the game), I’m just gone by the weekend. So I don’t write, and I don’t bother to record videos, and I haven’t done a podcast in I-don’t-know-how-long.

I did have a cool realization last week, though. For the last year I’ve had an ongoing worry that I’m nothing but a how-to writer. The most popular stuff on this site is all related to how to get something to work on Linux or how to make a Mac application work right. Most of the articles and particularly the stories I put time into draw little traffic. That is, until a few weeks ago when I invested half a day (after four weeks of cogitating about it) into writing that piece about Christianity and poverty. It’s moved up to #7 on the site in a short period of time, which is pretty cool. Put some work into writing something I find interesting and other people might be interested in it too.

It’s ridiculous, I know–this should be common sense–but I’ve had nagging doubts for a while if it was all worth it. Or, to put it another way, “Is the premise of this site even feasible?” When my number one article in the last two years is how to install a game on Linux, banged out in about ten minutes,  compared to other stuff I spent hours on… well, it makes me wonder. It doesn’t help that I haven’t liked most of what I’ve written in the last month or so, including this blog entry.

But they say that the only way to get back into writing after a dry spell is to start doing it. Ignore the crap and get the words out. If I keep at it, hopefully pure, quality work will start to flow again. Unless, of course, the dam of exhaustion is insurmountable. Then I guess I’m just screwed for the rest of this semester.

Returning to the Library

Did you know that people I work with read my blog? Hi work people!

Subsequently, complaining too much in an incredibly public location would be unwise, and I shall refrain from doing so. Let us just say this much:

Last week I was asked to return to the Help Desk (call center) for a week to help out. They’re understaffed at the moment and the two people left over there have been scrambling to get end-of-year things done, so I covered the phones and email while they focused on those other things. The work was frenetic and I was back in the thick of things–when something went wrong or there was some bit of news, I was one of the first to know. Moving and Shaking occurred.

Today I returned to my office in the Library, where instead of playing with tech and talking with customers (which, to be honest, I don’t enjoy a whole lot), I worked on schedules and management related stuff. It was equally busy, especially since I wasn’t here last week, but also different. There is far less communication between my peers on this side of the house, and since I’m away from the heart of Computer Services, I’m a bit out of the loop on things.

My job, despite a grueling six months (or perhaps because of it), is getting better. Another way to phrase that is that it’s getting easier, which is helping me cope with it and subsequently feel better. Do I miss working in the Help Desk, and/or would I want to go back? I certainly miss the staff there, with whom I interact far less now, and I enjoyed the work a fair amount (though call center stuff was always 50/50). But I also recognize that the work I do now is important and really helping people. I’m striving to improve our customer relations and how we interact with and train our staff, and I expect 2010 to be a year of great developments for us. I was glad to be back in the Library, but I’ll admit, I do miss the Desk a bit.

No idea what 2010 will hold. This will be my fourth year in Computer Services User Support as a full time staff person, and every year I have no idea what’s going to happen. At the end of every year, I look back and marvel at everything we’ve done and am rather surprised. It seems that there’s a good chance that 2010 will be awesome, though, and I look forward to finding out what crazy stuff we’re going to do so when I look back in 2011 I once again think, “Wow, I can’t believe we did all that.”

A Christmas Mystery

I totally took the weekend off and did nothing but read books I like, accomplishing little of value to the wider world. I hope my promises of productivity will keep you satisfied, dear Internet, because that’s all you have forthcoming for the next week. It’s the holiday season, which means family and more family and, subsequently, no time for locking myself away in the office and writing.

I do have some goals for my week off this year, though. They are, in no particular order:

  • Read Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and compose a review/critique
  • Work on a Christmas mystery, which is a story centered around Christmas time that is also a mystery (I actually already have this all planned out in my head and I’m quite excited about it, I just don’t have time to write it. I’ll get it done early next year and schedule it for publication the week before Christmas 2010.)
  • Write a bit about Ayn Rand, objectivism, and Christianity
  • Respond to a commenter on Reddit by way of an article about “testing” for Christians by attempting to elicit charity/donations
  • Make some progress on the fantasy story I began over a month ago, but got stalled on due to finals and term paper (I had wanted to start publishing this in January, but it doesn’t look like I’ll come anywhere near that goal)

On the plus side, I did get a winter newsletter done on Sunday, though it took much longer than I had anticipated. This will go up either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I’ll decide after I schedule this post.

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed holiday. Merry Christmas everyone!

A Change in Direction

When I broke my collarbone, I pretty much stopped doing the online Bible study (OBS). Studying the Bible isn’t something that comes naturally to me, so this whole scheme to read, write, and podcast about what I was reading was there to keep me motivated and moving forward. I elected to organize the study by book, digging into the verses and pressing through, with the goal of researching even verses that seem mundane to find out what they really mean.

Unfortunately, I never had the time to do this. Even the barest research on a few verses would take 2-3 hours, and then add an hour or so for writing plus half an hour for recording the podcast… that wasn’t so bad during the summer before I broke my collarbone. For a month and a half I had a sling on that prevented me from moving much, and once I took it off it still hurt too much to type more than fifteen minutes. Once I could type regularly, the school year had started and my weekly schedule exploded.

All this to say, I haven’t done the OBS in a while (in case you hadn’t noticed), and I’m not going to pick up where I left off. 1 John, as it turns out, was incredibly repetitive and somewhat boring, and while there is most certainly value there, there isn’t value in the way I was doing it. More importantly, it needed way more time and research than I could give it. The last OBS I wrote, which I never published, I spent quite a bit of time on only to discover I was completely wrong. I hadn’t done enough research, and when I realized how wrong I was and how much more I needed to learn, I begged off. It’s not really fair to the text or to you, but those are the circumstances in which I find myself.

In addition, I feel like my focus needs to shift from a general idea of, “Let’s read the Bible and write about it,” to a more specific topical study. Namely, I need to start focusing in on what the Bible has to say in regards to spiritual warfare, and I’m shifting my writing to that topic as well. Rather than picking a book and pushing straight through it, I’ll be reading for this topic and sharing what I find.

For those who are curious, the OBS won’t be the only place for information about spiritual warfare. When I was seeing what other people on the ‘Net had to say on the topic, all I found were platitudes, ambiguous or vainglorious statements, and long lists of Bible verses. I don’t think any of that is particularly helpful in regards to fighting demons and defending against Satan. So while I’m studying the Bible and podcasting about it, I’ll separately be sharing stories about my past experiences, suggestions for what to do, and some how-to guides (some written, some video).

I don’t know why these resources don’t exist on the ‘Net yet, but maybe it’s like Samson told me about worship. He said that when someone dances, raises their hands, and sings loud in worship, they give everyone else permission to do the same. Maybe someone’s too scared to step out on their own and raise their hands, or they want to sing but are afraid of what others might think. When they see someone else doing it, they’ll be less scared and maybe they’ll join in.

Maybe the reason no one talks or writes about this stuff is because everyone feels the same way I do: a bit silly, a bit scared, and that it’s easier to either go it alone or just ignore it. Hopefully by studying the Bible with this topic in mind, sharing my stories, and giving suggestions, others will be inspired to join in and share their words, thoughts, hearts, and strength.

I’ve got no timetable for the OBS, in regards to how often it’ll happen. Hopefully once a week again, and my plan is to start reading Isaiah and write when I come to something. I don’t recall what all is in Isaiah (though expect a follow-up to this article later this week), but something’s telling me to check it out. Maybe that urge is unfounded, in which case I’ll quickly end up in another book, but it’s worth following to see what happens.