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    • A gloomy sky and a gloomy day for a gloomy mood...

      We are in the middle of a four-day weekend: Today is day two. I should feel happy, I should feel relaxed, but I don't. I would have before.

      Before I would have been thinking that I have four days to get things done, four days to just relax. And today is only the second day, which means I still have the rest of the day. (I'm out on a bike ride and so it's still early in the morning) and then two whole days after that. Great times. But right now I'm thinking that although this is nice, too soon it's going to be over and when it's over, I will have to go back there, and I really don't want to go back there.

      I have time this morning. My wife and kids are away with family hiking in the mountains. It's a holiday, a day off, I can go for a long ride. I have the time and the fitness and the freedom to go on a long -- long both in terms of distance and time -- ride. I just don't want to: My heart just isn't in it right now.

      I still want to get on my bike. When I'm out on the road I feel good. But what I don't feel is totally relaxed and carefree like I did before, like when I fell in love with cycling. Instead what I feel is an intense desire to be at home. To do what, I don't know because when I get there I don't feel like doing anything. I just don't really want to be out there. I do want to be riding my bike and on the road, but I don't really want to be doing anything. I just don't have the heart or desire to do anything anymore.

      I should stay out for a long time; I should go somewhere way out there, to one of those places up in the mountains, one of those places I really like to go to. I should take advantage of this opportunity. I know I should. But I just want to go home.

      Has anybody else realised I may never see my parents again? They're not that young anymore: If they were to come down with it, it could be serious and possibly fatal. And I won't be able to go back to see them. I wasn't even able to go back to see them a few months ago when I really wanted to and the world was normal. Even if things normalise soon, because of what has already happened my summer vacation is shot and I won't be able to go back then. It's going to be over a year before I can go back again. Before I may not have had the funds to go back often or whenever I wanted, but at least the possibility to go back was there. Now it's not. Can you imagine what that can do to a person's state of mind?

      I used to often think that I should plan an epic ride, a ride up to those places in the mountains that people -- or rather cyclists -- infrequently go to. The only things that stopped me doing them before were finding a good time and a possible lack of adequate fitness. I haven't thought about doing or even planning for one of those rides in a long time. I don't have the desire to do them anymore. Not because I am not interested in doing them, it's just that doing them would take almost an entire day and when I get back home, I'll just have to go back to that school. It's not that I won't want to go back to work, it's that I don't want to go back there.

    • May I offer up a couple suggestions? You know I’ve been a teacher and that I’m currently in a job that I’m not happy with, so I may have some useful perspective.

      One, I think you should be actively looking for a four day a week teaching gig, even if it’s four days of teaching night school. The extra day off means less planning on the weekend and more time for family, friends and those long bike rides you used to longingly dream about. Even if it’s only for a year—or even just a semester—it will be good for your soul.

      Two, figure out what can make you happy now. I mean, wake up in the morning and first thing ask yourself the question “What can I do today that will make me happy?” Maybe bike riding, beyond physical fitness, isn’t bringing you joy right now, but writing a letter or email to your parents weekly will bring you some joy. I don’t have the answer, but I’ve asked similar questions on a daily basis when life was shit and it’s amazing the answers my subconscious mind would come up with after several days of pondering.

      That’s it. End of suggestions.

    • Those are both very good ideas. The funny thing is that for a long time — probably at least three or four years but I can't remember how long — I was off all day on Friday. I was able to arrange my classes so that I was busier on a couple days but then totally free on Fridays. I didn't get a three-day weekend as I also had class on Saturday, but it was really nice having that one day off and is one thing I miss.

      It would be nice to at least have a morning off, to have some time when I feel I don't have to rush and I can get something done, even if it is just taking some time for a breather. Hopefully after July I'll be able to arrange things so that at least one morning or even afternoon — but preferably a whole day — I'll be free. Unfortunately I won't be able to get Saturdays off, but other than that breaking up my weekend and not giving me two days off in a row, I don't mind going in at that time. That school and that class and the whole atrospheie and feeling of going there is actually quite enjoyable.

      As for the getting up in the morning and doing something I enjoy, I do try to do that. Every morning I get up early and either (in order of preference but not frequency) ride my bike, exercise at home, or go for a long walk outside. But it's becoming harder and harder to get up in the morning and face the day.

      Tomorrow is Sunday and I'm pretty sure I'm free. The group ride tomorrow is a long one and is to a place I have never ridden to before. It should be a lot of and very relaxing. There are an American and an Irishman in this group and so I will be able to converse in English (my first language) rather than in Mandarin like I usually do when I am out. Once again, it should be very enjoyable. But right now I don't really feel like going.

      Do you put much stock in fortune telling? Chinese fortune telling is a little different from crystal balls and tarot cards, it's more like an observation of how your life is going to be and what you should do — for example, be careful about your health for the next couple years or the next few years you won't have to worry about money —than what is going to happen to you. People go to see a fortune teller if they want to open a business and want to know if now is a good time, or if their girlfriend is the right one to marry, or — like me yesterday — they want to ohange jobs. Well, the good news is that the fortune teller yesterday told me that anytime this year is a good time to change jobs and that going back to my old job is a good idea.

      Let's just hope my wife doesn't get upset.

    • But right now I don't really feel like going.

      I used to be big into self-help books and psychology: I probably read over 50 books on it in my twenties.

      One of the most interesting observations from my research was that you can change how you feel by the actions you take. Meaning that if you force yourself to go on that ride and commit to doing it as if you were enjoying it—showing up with a smile on your face, speaking with cheerfulness to the other riders—your mind will become convinced that you really are enjoying it.

      You’ve mentioned that you’re more of an introverted dude, so this sounds like a rare opportunity to chat with English speakers intermixed with a beautiful long ride. Good for the soul stuff.

      The alternative is to stay home and perseverate on a lot of stuff that your mind needs a break from.

      Yeah, I’m selling you on the bike ride, but at the end of the day you’ve got to do what you think is right for you. I’m glad that there is a better future for you after July: having even an extra half day off sounds wonderful.

      On fortune telling. I know a little bit about Chinese fortune telling. I remember something about the I Ching and choosing a number and then you’re fortune was on a scroll. Would you mind telling me a bit more of what the fortune telling process was actually like for you?

    • The way fortune telling here works is that you give the person your name, your date of birth, and the time you were born and then a table or chart is produced. How, I don't know. From that, the fortune teller can then decipher — through, I am assuming, many hours of study — certain things about your personality and luck. Once again, how, I don't know. For example, two separate fortune tellers a long time ago told me that I would always have enough money. No matter what came up in my life, I would somehow always have enough money to pay for it. They also told me that I would have two children, both of which would be boys. I really hope they were right with the first one. The second one they were mostly right: I did have two children (and only two) but one is a boy and one is a girl. But, a lot of people seem to think my daughter is a boy, so maybe the fortune tellers weren't wrong.

      As for my recent experience, I went there — it was a place and person I had been to before — for the explicit purpose of asking him about my job. I asked him if it was a good idea to change my jobs, and according to my chart, it is. He also told me to pay attention to my parents' health, and that my wife and children are all okay. In regards to work, he told — with no prompting from me — that my current job is not as good as it was in the past.

      Right now I am planning on that ride tomorrow. I hope I'm able to go and it does help. This afternoon and evening I have at times been gripped with a bouts of anxiety over the fact that Monday and the return to that school is coming soon. Let's hope I can get up and go on the ride, it helps me relax and enjoy life, and that the rest of the day goes smoothly.

      Here is the chart that was produced for me. Don't worry, other than understanding some of the Chinese characters, it doesn't make any sense to me, either.

    • Oh, by the way, regarding changing how you feel based on the actions you take...

      I do agree with you that having a more positive outlook on things might make things seem better. I have been aware of the opposite of that and have been wondering if my negative emotions regarding this school are making things feel worse and then things get constantly compounded, making things seem worse and worse. But I find it hard to find anything positive. Another friend of mine told me to find something each day that is positive about my job and to focus on that. So far I have been unsuccessful in finding anything positive...

      Getting back to having that extra day off, I think one of the benefits of that is not necessarily having the extra time off, but just the knowledge that you have time off. I can remember on a Tuesday or a Wednesday not being overly happy about having to get up early and get ready for work and then go to work all day (and evening), but then I would remember that on Friday I didn't have to get up and either get ready for work or go to work. (I did still have to get up early to get my kids ready for school.) I would also think that I should be able to go for a bike ride that day. I would then feel better about everything.

      It was kind of like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The way schools here do tests is that they test everything every month and a half or so. So for two or three days the students have no classes, just tests. When I was part time that meant that since there were no classes, I didn't have to go to school those days and was therefore free. (It also meant that I wasn't making any money, but I thought the free time and chance to relax was a fair trade-off for lost income.) But now I still have to go to the school and proctor tests during the time I would normally have class. Before the light at the end of the tunnel was that I might be very busy this week and working long days, but at least next week I have an easier week. Now that light is gone.

    • If you’re near Beijing, it was around two in the afternoon on Sunday when you wrote your message. You had said that the bike ride was Sunday morning. Were you able to make it and how was it? If not, were you able to do something that fed your soul?

      <><><>

      I do agree with you that having a more positive outlook on things might make things seem better. I have been aware of the opposite of that and have been wondering if my negative emotions regarding this school are making things feel worse and then things get constantly compounded, making things seem worse and worse. 

      When I was in college, I spent my last semester training to be a drop-in center counselor. The drop-in center was a building on campus that provided counseling in person and over the phone. Out of the dozen trainees, there were eleven psychology majors and me, a business major. I excelled at both the in-person and phone simulations and I made the first cut down to five. We then focused on suicide call training, reading suicide notes of people who had killed themselves. One of the things the trainers stressed is that all of the people who wrote those letters believed that they had run out of options. And the counselors role in those situations, whether over the phone or in person, was to help the individual in pain to see that there were other options and that there was good in their life right now. I think your friend is trying to get you to see the positives of your job, but it feels like the loss of your Fridays off is making it challenging for you to see any of the good.

      Before I became a teacher, I used to travel a lot doing projects for companies. Once I had to supervise a staff person who had been seriously demoralized by a project that would never end, in spite of the previous two managers’ attempts to complete it. She was getting the runaround from people who wouldn’t meet with her to get what she needed from them and she was miserable dealing with Madison’s freezing weather, which lasts nine months.

      I got the project completed in two weeks. I’m no genius, but I knew I had to give her hope that there was not only a light at the end of the tunnel, but that today wasn’t as bad as she was convincing herself.

      Every night, after a 12 hour day at the project site, I would drive the two of us back to the hotel we were staying at. And during each night’s car ride, I required that she verbally answer three questions for me.

      One, What was good about today? I didn’t let her off the hook with “Nothing.” It didn’t have to be huge, but it had to be something that she believed was good about today. At first, the response I got was a minimal almost begrudging response. But because she knew every day that she would have to have an answer by the evening car ride, she started to notice more good things and shared them.

      After a few days of this inquisition, she actually felt that things weren’t hopeless and I was able to get better results from her, including her figuring out how to get some of the missing data.

      The second question I made her answer at the end of each day was What could’ve been better? Not “What sucked about today” or “Why are things hopeless”. But What COULD have been better? It acknowledges the disappointments of today with the idea that tomorrow could be a better day. Consider it venting with guardrails.

      I think this took a lot of the emotion away from her frustrations and allowed her to state them objectively. Which if you’re going to fix your situation, it helps to look at the problems objectively. Which leads to the final question.

      Three, How can we make tomorrow even better than today? We know that today could’ve been better so what steps could she take to make tomorrow a little better. This was another area where her temptation was to say “Nothing.” But I forced her to give me at least one action step that she would take tomorrow. And by the end of the week she was making meaningful improvements that made things easier and less stressful.

      My suggestion to you. For the next two weeks, take twenty minutes before bed and write down the answers to those three questions.

    • I wasn't able to make it out for a ride. I had gotten ready for the ride but wasn't able to get out of bed in time.

      To be honest, I wouldn't say that I was missing having Fridays off. I would be nice, yes, but not having that day off or the switch from part time to full time is not a deal breaker. I was just using that as an example.

      I do miss the lifestyle I had before, but that gets back to the part of this job that I really don't like, which is the constantly thinking about it. What I miss is the finishing at one school and then being free, be it for an hour or three, until I next had class. Not just being free, but being able to forget about work and not have to think about work. I also miss picking up my kids from school and seeing them in the late afternoon. Leaving house and home after supper to go back in to work was hard, but I think being able to see my children for a little while late in the day makes up for having to say good-bye to them again after supper. It's better to see them and leave them than it is to not see them at all.

      I'll take a look at those questions. One problem, however, is that question number three will be difficult. Too much of what goes on the school that makes me unhappy is out of my control.

    • Yes, in light of the conversation you were having with StephenL, it seemed superfluous and self-indulgent.

      Carry on. 🙂

    • One problem, however, is that question number three will be difficult. Too much of what goes on the school that makes me unhappy is out of my control.

      I have a favorite teaching story of the boy and the box of horse manure.

      The boy is a young prince and has been kidnapped by enemies of his father the king. The captors want to break the young prince so that he renounces the king and leads a rebellion against the crown.

      To break him, the captors put him in a cell that measures 20 feet by 10 feet. Half of the room is taken over by a wooden square box that measures 3 feet high and 10 feet by 10 feet. The box is completely filled to the top of the container with vile stinking horse manure. Next to the box is a shovel left by the workman tasked with filling it.

      Hours go by in solitude and then the guards outside hear shouting from within the cell. They rush to open the door and once opened, they see the young prince happily flinging manure from one end of the box to the other. When they ask what he’s doing, he shouts “I figure there’s a pony buried somewhere under here and I can’t wait to ride him.”

      <><><>

      Many people believe in that form of positivity. In essence, “Always look on the bright side of Life.”


      There are people who swear by that view of acceptance and they are often extremely pleasant people to be around. If that gets you through the day, I’m all in favor of it.

      I’m not that kind of person. Never have been and probably never will be.

      Instead, I’m always looking for whatever way I can to improve my situation.

      If I was the young prince trapped in a room with an enormous pile of excrement, I would find as many excuses as I could to leave that room, even if it was briefly. I would turn my shirt into a bandana and cover my nose to make the smell a little more bearable. I’d face away from the box, or close my eyes for long stretches, so that I wasn’t constantly reminded of it. I’d grab the shovel and shovel it around so that the pile dried quicker, reducing the smell.

      I’d basically do everything I could do to make my predicament bearable, so that my captors didn’t break me before I could be rescued.

      The last question I gave you isn’t about escaping your prison: you are stuck inside it until July when you finally gain an extra half day or day off.

      Instead, the question is about finding ANY way to improve your predicament so that you can last until help arrives (July).

    • How are things in your part of the world? The weather out here is becoming a mixture of mostly Sunny days with temperatures in the spring to summer range: hot and not too hot. The dogwoods are blooming for a little while longer. Last week we had a violent hail storm that I thought was going to down one of the branches but the trees survived without damage.

      Tomorrow is the start of my furlough. Wrapping up my projects took a bit longer than expected, I thought I would be done at least a week earlier. So now I focus on how best to use the time at my disposal. @CygnusX1 was kind enough to share a few suggestions and the importance of following a regular routine. I’m planning to read in the morning as in physical books and magazines, Afternoons, a bit of learning programming and a walk. It’s a manageable goal and anything accomplished beyond that is bonus.

    • Sorry that I haven't been active lately. It seems I have a choice of either being active on here or getting other things done, and sometimes those things are things I want to do and not work related.

      I have gotten on a few bike rides lately, and did a nice 104-kilometre group ride on Sunday.

      As for as work is concerned, I am pretty sure that I will not be continuing at my current school. I am looking into going back to the school I was at before (where I had worked for twelve years prior to coming here). If I can get back in there, I will most definitely not be coming back here. Even if I don't, I am strongly tempted to not renew my contract and see if anything else pops up between now and September. My wife wants me to go back to school to get a couple more degrees or so and if I stay here, I definitely won't have the time or sanity to also study.

      So things could be changing in the next few months, but if things work out the way I would like them to, my life will pretty much be going back to how it was a year ago and the twelve year period before that.

    • Wow, what a difference a month makes! You should go back and re-read the start of this thread to see how different and more hopeful you are now about the future. I’m really glad to see that you’ve gone on several bike rides!!! That’s just awesome and it looks like you’ve got a good crew to spend time with.

      Best of luck with the job change. I hope it happens and works out the way you want it to.