March 30th, 2009


Owning my own doomedness

Email this morning had a note from the VP of Engineering at my current client -- she wants to meet with me about her budget going forward and its implications for me. "Aha!" goes the little voice in the back of my mind. "We're toast! They're going to let us go, in favor of in-house people! She never wanted a consultant in the first place. We're doomed, Doomed, DOOOOOOOOOMED!"

After a few minutes of raising my blood pressure, the other voice then kicked in, with a resolute, "You're overinterpreting, but okay, maybe. So? Yeah, it would be a pain -- it's a good company, and I'm still enjoying working with them. But if they let me go, that just means I start getting serious about the networking and find some more clients. And I probably wind up with a bit more time to work seriously on CommYou in the meantime, rather than just squeezing it into the cracks as I've been doing."

It appears that I've made progress on training my own brain. Having realized, about five years ago, that I'd become prone to over-analysis and panic, I've been carefully subverting that ever since. In particular, while I may not be able to entirely keep myself from thinking further ahead than is good for me, I *can* perform some mental judo on myself. One of the best things about reading into Buddhism is getting more comfortable with the idea that All Is Transient. That being the case, I'm slowing learning to view every crisis as an opportunity. The best example was when Zingdom went down: by the end of that day, I was pretty excited about the possibilities that that freedom offered me.

Mind, it can still be stressful, and stress isn't fun. I find it fascinating that I generally react very positively to a crisis when it's on me: it may scare the snot out of me for a minute or two, but once I get my bearings I'm usually pretty cool under fire. But the anticipation still kind of sucks -- it requires real mental effort to remind myself of the fact that I'll cope just fine either way. Still, it gets a little easier each time. Eventually, I may get to the point of being able to counter the panic-voice *before* it sends my blood pressure through the roof.

One curious help in the process has been religion -- kinda-sorta. The thing is, I don't really believe in a conscious, interventionist God. Even on the days when I consider myself "religious", I intellectually believe more in a distant demi-urge that doesn't mess significantly in human affairs. (I am, at best, Deist -- that's about as close as I come to formal belief in God.)

Yet, despite that intellectual stance, I've wound up developing a very strong gut-level belief in the principle that everything happens for a reason, and that there is something to *learn* from every experience, good and bad. The fact is that, when I truly leave myself open to possibility, and listen for opportunities, I land on my feet. There are sometimes some difficulties along the way, but things work out -- and work out better the more I zen out rather than over-anticipating.

So we'll see. I might be facing a crisis point in this particular professional relationship, or nothing more than a restatement of my existing assumption that things will wind down in a few months. Either way, we'll find a way to make it all work out.

(You hear that, voice #1? Now let my damned blood pressure down, okay? Sheesh -- some people just don't listen...)

Owning my own toothache

The other news of the day is that I just returned from the dentist. I've been having occasional hard-to-define twinges for six months or so -- nothing agonizing, just little "ow"s every now and then in a particular area of my jaw, always kind of diffuse and hard to pin down. Since they've always gone away quickly, I haven't worried about them much.

Then, last Thursday, the twinges showed up and stuck around. Still not constant, but twinging frequently, sometimes even to the point of being a constant, very low-level ache. So fine -- time to call the dentist. I made an appointment for today; Murphy's Law being what it is, this meant that the pain vanished again entirely yesterday. So this appointment wound up being the typical frustrating attempt to diagnose an intermittent problem.

I explained the situation in detail, along with what I have been able to figure experimentally. (Chewing has no apparent effect on the pain, but head position does: lying on that side makes the problem worse, lying on the other makes it go away.) He poked and prodded around the gums, and hit me with a fascinating little device that tests nerve sensitivity: he puts one hand on me, and an electrical probe on a tooth, and gradually raises the current until the tooth tingles unpleasantly. That demonstrated that the nerves in the teeth themselves are fine -- in fact, they're apparently a bit weird, because the nerve conductivity of each tooth was *exactly* the same, which he says is unusual.

So his best guess is a pinched nerve in my jaw. That fits the diffuse and intermittent nature of the pain, as well as the position of its center. (Which turns out to be almost exactly the location where the nerve bundle exits the jaw and spreads into the gums and lips.) He suspects that something may have gotten pinched when I got my wisdom teeth out a year or so ago, and the twinges are some combination of the nerves getting pinched and healing. Neuralgia always being weird, he suspects that the actual location of the pinch may be the back of the jaw; it's just showing up where it is because of the way the nerve bundle works.

The upshot, both for good and bad, is that there isn't a lot they can do about it, at least not within his skill set. If it becomes horrible, he'll refer me to a specialist for more radical options. But the current best option seems to be "grin and bear it" (so to speak). Which actually isn't terrible: while the twinges are annoying, they're not worse than that -- on the 1-10 pain scale, this is maybe a 2 or 3. The worst of it is worrying about whether there is something Very Wrong, that I need to deal with; knowing that there probably isn't, I suspect I can deal with the annoyance more easily...