Picture

Hey, I drew something.

gracemona

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Personal Best

If having a child teaches me nothing else… it’s helped me grok, really understand the concept that doing well isn’t a comparison against anyone but yourself.

Stacking six blocks on top of one another is not a particularly overwhelming feat. But… for someone who’s never been able to stack more than two on top of one another, it was amazing.

And it’s tempting to think that this stops being true when you stop being a kid. I in particular have spent a lot of time thinking about how easy it used to be, when people were impressed by ridiculously small and simple things… but, well, they weren’t. They only seemed simple for someone who’d picked it up already.

And it doesn’t stop being impressive, to pick up new things. You just stop getting a cheering section to tell you it’s impressive.  You gotta do it yourself. (And to withhold it until you’ve actually done something.)

It seems like you’re competing against the world. For the eyeballs, for the job, for the love. And a lot of time, you are–but even then… the only way you actually improve is to reach your personal records. Comparing yourself to other people can be limitedly useful, but in general, it’s hard to really understand their strengths and weaknesses in a useful way.

And… yeah. I have to keep that in mind.

Personal best.

Jammed and Productive

I’m kind of jammed up, right now. Mostly mentally.

On the bright side, aside from doing my job (which is very well-defined and doesn’t actually require a great amount of personal initiative), no one particularly relies on me for anything I’m blocked on.

I’m blocked on editing that book I wrote because I’m basically convinced it’s not worth it? I’ve started on as paint-by-numbers a plot as I could to get my confidence back. (It’s actually being surprisingly fun. So I’m calling that a win already, even with only a couple of pages down.)

I’m stymied on where my professional aspirations should go. (My husband pointed out to me over the weekend–a lovely, lovely date weekend where we took some money he’d earned from an extra job and got a sitter and a hotel in a reasonably nearby city–that I’ve got some presumptions about what I can and can’t do based on some pretty iffy ground. Failing as the sixth couple-of-months secretary in a row for a lawyer who’d lost his fifteen-year workhorse to retirement doesn’t mean I can’t be a paralegal.) So… I picked up the clutter from the house, which already is making me feel good.

I’m kind of lost as to who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. So I’m going to go fold laundry.

Then I’m going to wake up early (much earlier than my standard), make breakfast so that my husband feels guilted into getting up early, take the baby to his parent’s house (so that his dad–currently suffering a gout flare-up–doesn’t have to come down to the valley), and get to work at a reasonable hour.

Really… it’s something I need to remember. If you’re feeling dissatisfied and like you’ve wasted your everything, do something useful. Anything useful.

It at least kicks the question down the road a little, and gives you a better hand.

Aspie in the Workplace: Fulfilling Expectations

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of tips I’ve picked up to make working in the office easier or more feasible, and it’s been hard–it’s so easy to look back and see basically an endless string of failures, even though I logically know that if I’ve been working in an office continuously for the last year and a half (and more sporadically before that), I’ve got to have managed something correctly.

But it occurred to me today that there’s one thing that’s absolutely essential, on which everything else builds, and so it’s an absolutely perfect start to this whole series. It’s less of a tip and more of an underlying philosophy, but hey, you gotta start somewhere:

You are expected to function on a level with your coworkers, and it doesn’t do anyone a damn bit of good to pretend this isn’t the case.

Which would all be really good and straightforward if “perform” meant “fulfill the productive aspects of the job competently.” But it doesn’t. There’s this whole package, largely not only undefined but undefinable, that comes as a base expectation of almost any office job… and woe betide us unfortunates who can’t figure it out. Seriously: The person who completes their work accurately and ahead of schedule, but never manages to look anyone in the face or respond to a friendly “hello!” or chip in to the office charitable causes or food days… he’ll be viewed with suspicion and never quite accepted. And that feeling like they’re “not really part of the team” will be considered when it comes time to renew the contract.

But before you throw in the towel and give up on the concept of ever having office employment, I want to tell you that there’s good news. In fact, there’s kind of a lot of it.

First? It’s not just you that’s not living up to the unstated expectations. Let’s look at a few case studies for examples.

You know your gregarious coworker? She’s always got a kind word for everyone and can make you feel warm from your head to your toes with just a smile… but she’s consistently ten minutes late and can’t manage to sit down at her computer before she’s spent twenty minutes saying hello to everyone in the building. Is she fulfilling all of the base expectations?

How about that one, over there? He’s a great guy, always willing to go the extra mile, never takes a sick day. But… every day, he lets himself get buried under a pile of “just this one little thing” coming into him by phone and email and never gets around to his core work. Is he fulfilling base expectations?

Meanwhile, there’s that girl. She does everything she’s asked, promptly and without attitude–but a third of it needs to be done over again because it’s wrong. I don’t think we need to mention that she’s not quite fulfilling everything her bosses would want of her.

So, long story short, there’s a lot to this pile of expectations. And the more things you’re good at? The more forgiveness you can stash up for the things that are just beyond your capacity.

Second: The stuff you’re not good at? You can cheat. You may not know how to hold your end of the office cooler small talk, and not know what’s expected when someone comes to your desk wanting to chat about something entirely unrelated to work. But there are a couple of tips that you can use for those sorts of interactions that allow you to basically fake it until you make it. Hopefully, I can go more into depth with this sort of thing later, but… well. Let’s take one of my weaknesses. I tend to obliviously go on at length on subjects that nobody gives a damn about–or worse, are actually repulsed by. (Yeah… the dreaded Office TMI.) So, what are some interpersonal tricks I’ve picked up to “cheat” my way around this issue? One, don’t start any conversations. (You can branch out into “Only start conversations when you’re very sure the other person is interested” once you’re more confident–stopping by to ask someone how their daughter’s minor dental surgery went is likely acceptable.) Two, be reactive instead of active; express interest, nod, and ask questions like “And what happened then?”–but shy away from adding anything to a conversation unless specifically prompted. And finally, keep an internal list of topics to shy away from, even if someone else is discussing them already. Even if you have to leave the room in order to keep your mouth shut, don’t discuss politics, don’t discuss sexx, and don’t discuss anything negative about anybody.

There! I still don’t know anything about how to talk to a person, and in fact these rules aren’t going to make me seem more like a regular person to anybody. But I’ll avoid a black mark. And honestly, that’s frequently as good as any of us can ask for, and every bit as good as we need to be.

(Meanwhile… let’s take a coworker I had once. He never talked to anyone unless prompted, and when you did get him to talk, he only complained. I’m absolutely sure this was because he was deeply unhappy. But in his case, the advice might be: Smile when someone greets you, respond to questions with rehearsed non-specific answers, and under no circumstances use curse words. They wouldn’t have made him happier, but he might not have been fired before leaving training.)

Finally, and almost most importantly, Surpluses in one area can make up for deficiencies in another–though never at a 1:1 ratio. Say you’re interpersonally lacking and have trouble switching between tasks. You’ve done all you can to cheat competency at these things and you still don’t think you’re up to snuff.

That’s okay. Or it can be. Because these are only two of the aspects you’re being graded on. And let me tell them? Some of them are really easy to game in your favor.

For instance? Every day, show up fifteen minutes early to your shift. (Don’t charge your employer for this time. I don’t give a damn what the law says. (Obviously, if your boss insists, or doesn’t want you coming in early, that overrides this suggestion.)) Come back early from break’s and lunches.Volunteer for overtime whenever asked.

Or maybe something simpler, softer. You can make the coffee in the mornings, make sure that the general-use office supplies are stocked. Buy the office’s affection by bringing doughnuts every other Friday.

Even something as simple as accepting any task that’s handed to you without complaining (asking questions if you’re not sure how) can do wonders. A lot of office staff will get snippy about, for instance, emptying trash cans or sanding icy sidewalks. Or, frankly, anything that they don’t consider part of “their job.” You’re already miles ahead of these folks if you do it with a smile.

 

In summary… you’re going to have to live with the fact that there are a lot of things expected of you that you’re just not going to be able to fulfill, or at least not fulfill very well. But it’s okay, because a) nobody else is fulfilling all of the obligations, either, b) you can figure out ways to cheat at “being good enough” at some of your deficient areas, and c) you can make up for deficiencies with strengths, albeit at a discount.

(And if your response to all of this is “But it’s not fair that they’d judge me on something I can’t help, you’re in the wrong blog. I’m not here to make things fair, I’m here to help you succeed in spite of it.)

So! Get to work, my friends. And let me know if you have any questions or suggestions of your own.

Scribble

One of my favorite games with my sisters growing up was called Scribble. Most of the kids I’ve played it with–older than my young one, but still–have enjoyed it, too. So I figured I’d share, because I don’t know if it’s widespread or something my older sister invented.

What you need is a piece of paper and a drawing implement, doesn’t matter what kind. (As a personal preference, probably not pencil; the paper will get handed around enough that there’s a lot of potential for smudging.) And at least two players.

The first person makes a mark on the paper, any mark they want to, and hand it to the next person. This person will incorporate the scribble into a full drawing. Say, maybe a wavy line becomes a fish in the ocean, or a tight little scribble becomes a raincloud. (When my sisters and I played, a zig-zag line usually became Bart Simpson–my older sister got frustrated with that, but it amused my younger sister and me endlessly.)

Then that person makes a new scribble and passes the paper along.

It doesn’t sound like it would be very engaging, but I’ve managed to keep children occupied for a long time with that one. And… well, me, too. I still like to play it.

(I look forward to when my daughter is old enough to understand the concepts–we’ve graduated from “she wants to immediately scribble all over whatever I’m drawing” to “she wants to steal my pen and see if that lets her make the same thing I did,” but we’re still a little bit distant from where we need to be for Scribble.)

So, yes! Go! Enjoy! Play it with adults! Make up variants! (Maybe everyone has a different colored pen/crayon so you can track who did what after the fact? Maybe all the drawings have to fit a theme?)

And heck, take a picture of the paper once it’s done and send it to me. I’d be thrilled to see what you do with it.

Friendsgiving

It occurs to me that I filled Thanksgiving with angry-rar-rar with a post from a month or so ago… which, y’know, is a little tacky, particularly because… I’m feeling great.

Seriously. My husband and I are both in the realm of “I don’t even know how to narrow down what I’m thankful for.” We’re becoming better people at an amazing rate (that is, those bad habits and tendencies we’ve always struggled with are… actually getting better), we’ve got an amazing amount we each never thought would be in our futures (marriage, children, close-knit friendships of mutual aid and companionability, and certain core competencies for which we are in demand)… life is good, and it only looks like it’s getting better.

Today was a good example of that.

Okay, it wasn’t all great shakes–the baby tried to swallow a quarter, which doesn’t sound like it should be as frightening as it was but I swear the ten seconds it took for Bill to get it out of her throat/airway were the longest ten seconds of my life. Anyway. She lived. And kept trying to fall off of everything. But…

Well. Our friends, who are aid workers for the disabled, both had worked massive overtime on Thanksgiving ($$$), and thus threw their Thanksgiving bash tonight. Invited us. Invited another friend we haven’t seen in too long. Great food. (Seriously, the rule has always been that if Mat invites you for dinner, the answer is yes.) And…

And it didn’t even stand out as that outstandingly awesome, because life has been so outstandingly awesome lately.

So. Yeah. I just wanted to give a… life is good, and I think that deserves some recording.

The Contract

At its core, a contract is made up of three essential elements: Offer, acceptance, and consideration. And the time it takes to read that sentence is about how long it stays that simple. But it’s a pretty good way to think about it, anyway. Basically, it implies three things: A specific proposal was made, the other person agreed to that exact proposal, and both parties benefited from it. If any of these things aren’t present, you don’t have a contract. (Yes, if I agree to give you a thousand dollars, but I don’t get anything in return for it, that’s not a contract—and it can’t be enforced as such. The more you know!)

(Is this a good place to put in that I only know anything about American law, I only studied paralegal-level at a community college, and am not qualified to give legal advice? Cool. I should put an overall disclaimer somewhere on the site, I swear.)

So, anyway. You don’t have those elements, you don’t have a contract. The inverse isn’t true: There are all sorts of ways that you can fail to have a contract despite having offer/acceptance/consideration. You can’t contract for illegal goods and services. An adjudicated incompetent can’t be bound by contract. Et cetera.

I love contracts. I love them as a concept, I love them in reality. At heart, they’re a way of making sure everybody’s on the same page, and that certain things can be expected going forward. You can’t build… well, much of anything without predictability, and a contract is a pretty good way of generating a little more of that.

But another thing comes to mind.

There’s a saying my husband has—“If you can’t trust a man’s handshake, then you can’t trust his signed contract any better.” It’s one thing to say that a contract is enforceable, and it’s entirely another to actually enforce it. Don’t believe me? Try recovering back rent from a deadbeat tenant. Oh. You’ve got a court order. Whoop-de-doo. They might have trouble buying a house now.

So the beauty of a contract isn’t enforcement, not really. The threat of enforcement is really just a cherry that, frankly, only works against the honorable anyway. No, what I really like about contracts is the mirrored nature of them—that it gets everything right there on the table, expectation and obligation, and how we want this relationship going forward for the next however long. All there in black-and-white, plain to see. Because there is no contract without agreement to the same terms.

Anyway, that ended up dragging a little and not going anywhere. So I’m just going to cap this off with an overview of the Statute of Frauds, because it’s a neat piece of trivia and has a cool acronym: MY LEGS.

The Statute of Frauds is the concept that certain contracts have to be in writing to be enforceable. There’s a lot of flack over whether it should exist or not, particularly with non-writing forms of permanent information storage now—but it does, and I learned about it. Please note that there are, again, enough exceptions and clarifications for all of these to make Swiss cheese, but in general, the following types of contracts must be in writing to be enforceable:

M – Contracts in contemplation of Marriage.
Y – Contracts taking over a Year.
L – Contracts for an interest in Land.
E – Contracts where an Executor takes personal responsibility for the decedent’s debts.
G – Contracts for the sale of Goods over five hundred dollars.
S – Contracts taking over responsibility for another person’s debt (Surety).

So! Yes. Statute of frauds. My legs!