Comfort Zone

We’ve once again reached that time of year at AcronymCo when we have to document our accomplishments from the past year, in preparation for our performance reviews. It’s really difficult to summarize the outcome of a year’s worth of work and make it fit into a single page of text (no cheating – we can’t use 6 point font). And you want it to be a difficult exercise, because that means you’ve been doing it right and you’ve been excelling at your job.

It always takes me a bit of time to get my brain in gear for this exercise (this’ll be the nineteenth one I’ve had to do). I’ve come to realize that my brain is pretty present- and forward-looking. Memories of certain times and aspects of my life are fuzzy – I think because I don’t dwell on them or try to hang onto them (which, come to think of it, is pretty much why I started keeping journals). When it comes to daily minutia, my mind has come up with its own version of a cache purge. However, the nature of my job is very heavily reliant upon electronic communication – emails, reports, presentations, databases. So with a bit of forensics, I can piece my own story back together.

It was while this exercise was currently on our task lists that the members of my department attended a group luncheon. The department leader did an inclusion exercise – we went around the room and each person had to give an example of a time during the past year in which they operated outside of their comfort zone. I was, oh, fifth or sixth in line, so I used the ten minutes or so that I had to come up with something. I couldn’t very well use the best example I had – too personal for such a large group. And, thinking back on the last year of work-related activities, I couldn’t think of a time when I actually felt uncomfortable. Challenged, yes. Interested, yes. Engaged, yes. Frustrated, yes.

In the course of the past year my “desk” has changed around a number of times. There were things I hadn’t done before, tasks I hadn’t undertaken before, people I’d never engaged with before, and processes I’d never been exposed to before. But none of that felt like it stretched my comfort zone. Which lead me to a couple of questions – am I just remarkably confident in my own capabilities, or am I not pushing myself hard enough? Am I just uniquely suited to the environment in which I work? Or am I all out of fucks to give?

There are two things that I particularly like about myself. One is my interest in learning new things. I just like the whole process of not knowing something, learning about it, and becoming proficient in it. I like adding to my “skills toolbox”. The other is how I deal with change. I just… do. At least as far as work is concerned, I just go with it. Move forward, do what needs to be done. Jump in and get involved. Let go of the things that are no longer under my purview. Above all, keep a good attitude about it.

I think the very things that take most people outside of their comfort zones – tackling something new, having change thrust upon them – are the things that make me thrive. In which case, I guess I am uniquely suited to work at AcronymCo.

And, really, just life in general.

(This writing prompt brought to you by the January 16th entry of The Daily Post’s Ebook, 365 Writing Prompts – “Toot your horn.” Because I’m trying to make writing a habit again, and I’ve apparently lost the ability to come up with topics on my own.)

Lost and Found

What a strange, surreal December it has been.

Back on the night of the 10th I had a very vivid dream. In it, I was approached by an elderly woman who claimed to be my mother. She said that she had asked the family to tell me she was dead because she had been in prison for murder. Now she was out and wanted to have some sort of relationship with me.

I woke up with the most unsettled feeling, one that stuck with me all day and wouldn’t leave me alone. The next evening I talked with Bill about it, and he said, “You know, that’s something your family not only could pull off, but would pull off.” To say that my family is secretive is a very severe understatement. I was raised among the members of my mother’s side of the family – all good, stalwart folks who just weren’t into the whole “sharing” thing. I know there are secrets. I’m 40 years old and I know that I’m only aware of the smallest portion of the secrets in my family. Some are certainly none of my business, and some most certainly are my business. I was raised in an environment that made asking questions awkward. I’m sure information was withheld in the spirit of protecting me. When I left home at 19, some of the questions didn’t seem to matter anymore.

One subject did stay on my mind, the truth of which I wanted to know – details about my father. He and my mother divorced when I was around three years old. If he was granted any sort of custody or visitation arrangements, he didn’t take advantage of them. Whenever I asked about him, I was summarily shut down. There was even a point in time, before anyone would tell me what had taken my mother’s life, and with the continuing redirection whenever I asked about my father, that I honestly thought I must have been adopted.

Over the past handful of years, I have asked both my sister and my uncle what they thought about me contacting my father. They were both against it. They told me that even if they thought I should, they didn’t know where to find him or how to get in touch with him. They said I was better off without him, and to leave well enough alone.

So, with all of this secretiveness in mind, I talked with Bill about contacting my father. We both agreed that the perspective in which I was raised, regarding him, was held by the side most firmly in support of my mother. The limited amount of information I received was by my mother’s mother, my mother’s brother, and the sister with which I share a mother but not a father. So I started to wonder about the “other side of the story”. I started to wonder about the whole side of my family that I’d never been in contact with. I started to wonder what it would be like to be able to talk to someone else closely tied to my beginnings. It was time to start finding out some answers for myself, rather than waiting for someone to give them to me.

So, I decided to see if I could find my father. I started with an internet search of his name, which came up with several possibilities. I believed he still lived in Maine, and I thought I knew the first name of his wife. One address came up with both of their names, so on December 12th I wrote a carefully worded letter, which included all of my contact information, and sent it out into the universe.

Then I freaked out just a little bit.

I honestly thought it would be weeks before I heard anything, if I heard anything at all. I had visions of the letter being tossed out with the junk mail or otherwise just discarded if it reached the wrong recipient. It was a shot in the dark, one that I had to take on faith would work out if it was meant to work out. If it didn’t, well, I could know that at least I tried.

On the evening of Tuesday the 16th, Bill and I were enjoying a tasty beverage at our local watering hole. I was fiddling with my cell phone, and noticed that I had a voicemail message. My cell doesn’t get reception in the building where I work, so it’s often the case that I notice missed calls hours after they occur. So I stepped outside to listen to it.

“Hello, my name is Carol Tripp. I’m calling because I received a letter about you trying to find your father, and I’d like to talk to you about that.”

I almost had to take a knee. You see, my mother’s name is Carol Tripp. She died when I was eight. Barely a week before, I’d had that strange dream about her being alive, which prompted me to try to find my father. And there I was, standing outside a tavern, listening to a voicemail message from a lady named Carol Tripp.

I freaked out more than a little bit.

(Here is the point where I would normally slap down a “to be continued”, as I have in the past. But I won’t do that to you this time. You’re welcome.)

I went back into the bar, told Bill about the message, and vehemently agreed with his uttered, “NO. WAY.” Then I had a shot of whiskey.

The next morning I worked from home, trying to sum up the courage to call the lady back. I’ll let you all off the hook right now – she’s not my mother, back from the dead. She married into the Tripp family (a cousin of some sort, we worked out) and just coincidentally shares the same name as my mother. But you guys! Holy shit, right? It just floors me that a dream about my dead mother lead to me sending a letter out into the universe, to be received by a woman who shares her name. I swear, I’m not making this stuff up.

Anyway, Carol was SO nice and SO excited to be able to help me. She said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you got a father for Christmas? What an incredible Christmas present!” She didn’t know my father, but she was in contact with a woman who was putting together a Tripp family genealogy. She’s already done quite a bit of research before I even called her back. Based on my father’s first and middle name, we narrowed down the search to a single person. And she had that person’s phone number, all ready to give to me.

I hung up with Carol, after promising that of course I would let her know how it all worked out. Then I just sat there, staring at that phone number for a long, long time. I got ready for work, drove in, got myself settled, and remembered nothing of my morning routine. I knew I wasn’t going to get a darn thing done until I called that number.

So I went into one of the “phone booths” that AcronymCo provides for private conversations among the sea of cubicles. I shut the door, sat down, picked up the receiver and just dialed. I had no idea what I was going to say. My brain was muffled by white noise. After a few rings, a man answered. I said, “Hello, I’m trying to reach Sidney.” He said, “This is he.”

I stuttered, I stumbled, and I apologized for the upcoming awkwardness of the conversation. I said something to the effect of, “Hi, my name is Tiffany, my mother’s name is Carol, and I’m trying to locate my father. I think you might be the person I’m looking for.”

There was a very long pause. And a bit of confusion. Some clarifying questions and answers. Then he said, “You’ve reached him. This is your father, dear.”

Well. Well, then. Holy cow.

We talked, for nearly an hour. He was THRILLED to hear from me (thank goodness, because who would expect to hear from their grown daughter like that, so totally out of the blue?). We both got a little emotional more than once. He learned some things about me, I learned some things about him, and I got some additional perspective with his own accounting of events that occurred during my childhood. My eyes have been opened a bit wider than I thought they would, let’s just put it that way.

He’s been carrying a photo of me in his wallet, this whole time. Queue waterworks when he told me that.

I told him that I harbored no negative feelings toward him, that I was never angry at him for not being present while I was growing up, and that I’d had a wonderful childhood and good upbringing. I just wanted to contact him and know about him. He was very happy that I took the initiative to do so. I promised him a long letter with some pictures (I wish he was on the internet but he’s eschewed computers), and he promised to send a letter of his own. So, just one week after sending my initial letter, I sent another. Three pages, with a handful of photos, to the correct address this time. A few days later, he called to tell me he’d received it, and we had another lovely conversation. Then I called him on Christmas and we talked a bit, and he called me the day after Christmas and we talked a bit more. I’m planning on a trip back to Maine in late May or early June to see him, and other members of his side of the family. I’ve become Facebook friends with an aunt, an uncle, and a cousin.

It’s still really strange, very surreal, to be in contact with my father. I’ve viewed myself as parent-less for nearly my entire life, and the only family I’ve known is from my mother’s side. Every time I see his name on my caller ID, I get a big old grin. I put him in my contacts under “Dad”. So cool.

Oh, ha. This is funny. The day that I reached my father, I was messaging with Amanda about how I’d had no idea what I was going to say when my father picked up the phone. She responded with,

“Hey, I just met you,
and this is crazy.
But I am 40,
and I’m your baby.”

She cracks me up.

Getting There

If I close my eyes and pretend hard enough, I can almost forget what it’s like to actually get up and go somewhere every morning to earn a living.

I had surgery last Wednesday – everything went well, I was back home by early afternoon, and they gave me druuuuugs maaaaan. For a few days after that I could only manage couch or bed, had to be assisted up and down, and just kind of lay around all listless and blah. Michelle came over to keep an eye on me Thursday and Friday while Bill was at work, and I was generally spoiled rotten and waited on hand and foot.

I’d highly recommend it, except you’d have to go through the whole surgery thing so… yeah. Unless you can convince people to wait on you for no reason. In which case, share your methods please.

Things were improved by Sunday so I dialed back on the drugs (maaaaan) and now I can ALMOST get comfortable enough to sleep on my side, and can MOSTLY get up and down without hurting. I’m still trying to take it way easy, and laughing/coughing/sneezing still makes me feel like someone’s jamming an ice pick through my belly button.

I never realized how funny Bill was until it hurt to laugh. And now of course when I’m trying NOT to laugh, every funny thing makes me feel like I want to go off into giddy peals of breathless hysteria whether it’s THAT funny or not. Case in point, seeing this on the internet yesterday nearly made me pass out from the pain, and I still have no idea WHY I think it’s that funny:


I have a follow up appointment with my doctor next Wednesday, and if she clears me I’ll be going physically back to work next Thursday. I’ve been working from home since yesterday. I don’t really miss going to work, but I’m starting to realize that I don’t mind going to work. Apparently I’m a creature driven by routine (and italics). Plus I like the folks I work with.

Oh, circling back to the follow up appointment thing. Bill says that after my surgery the doctor came out to talk to him, and showed him color photographs of my insides – my liver, my appendix, and various other bits. He was FASCINATED and told me to try to get copies while I was at the doc’s next week. I don’t know if I should be horrified, grossed out, intrigued, or what.

So my question to you is, would YOU want to see photos of your insides? Would you want to see photos of MY insides?

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