Things I learned from my cats

What matters most is how you see yourself. That’s the lesson in a nutshell.  I touched on this a little in my post titled, “A Better Day”.

I’m coming at the topic from a different angle, observing my cats.  My five year old cat, Smokey doesn’t know how big he is.  He’s a bit skittish and shy. He climbs up on my chest to cuddle.  (A lap isn’t good enough.) When he does that, I have to put down my laptop, or else he walks on the keyboard and, invariably, messes things up.  (For example, he once deactivated the keyboard. It took till the next day to figure out that you could still hit shift + enter to get it back, though it seemed like nothing on the keyboard was working. Another time, he turned the screen display 90°.  I didn’t even know you could do that.  I was able to go into the display menu and turn it back from portrait to landscape, though it remains a mystery how he did it with just the keyboard.)  Also, I can barely see the TV over him when he’s sitting on me.

Enter Rex the much smaller, younger little guy my brother and I adopted about a year ago.  Rex is a sweetheart and after about ten days, Smokey accepted him and they get along nicely now.  However, Rex is a little troublemaker at times, picking on the gentle giant, Smokey.  It’s only in play, but he gets a little carried away and makes his house mate squeal sometimes.  Then we have to separate them and scold Rex, sometimes even close him in a room for a while.  The thing is, Smokey could easily kick Rex’s ass.  He has learned to assert himself, and the problem has slowly gotten better.  So, I guess Smokey gets to a point where he’s had enough.

I share these feline antics as a way of relating my own experiences.  I was shy and timid in school, and socially awkward.  Add to that my rather small stature, and you’ve got an easy target for teasing.

Like Smokey, I didn’t realize how big I was.  Not physically, but intellectually, emotionally, and personality speaking. I was blessed with a brilliant mind, a bright and generous heart, and a lovable, witty, fun spirit.  None of this came out until young adulthood.  I started coming out of my shell somewhat the last two years of high school, but was still kind of a lost puppy.  (Awww)  It’s okay. It got better.

Today, I still come across as reserved, and social anxiety does hold me back until I get to know people better, but the shyness and the fear are gone.  Physical lack of energy is a problem at times too, with sleep apnea and Crohn’s disease, but caffeine helps.  ha ha

I don’t resent any of the teasing I took in school because it actually did help push me to change. I realized after getting my associate’s degree in my early 20’s that I had played right into the teasing, making it all to easy. (Not saying it was my own fault.  Just saying I could have changed things.) I was also very alone in my two years at community college, for all the same reasons.  I had no problems with the intellectual aspects at all, but yet was completely burned out at the end.  It made me start analyzing.  Why was it so hard? To quote John Donne, “No man is an island”. I needed a support system. How does one build something you’ve never known? Where to start….

An epiphany came one day at the mall.  Maybe some of you remember the mall store called Deck the Walls.  They sold art and photo prints and the like.  I saw a small matted picture of a kitten looking into a mirror.  The text read “What matters most is how you see yourself”.  Reflected in the mirror, is a lion.  It really struck home, so I took it home.  I mean, after I paid for it, of course. I still have it as a reminder.

It made me see more clearly than ever how one’s persona is perceived by others as a reflection of your own inner image.  Confidence, satisfaction, contentment, happiness.  All things I lacked, therefore did not project.  What I got back from others was a direct correlation to what I was carrying and exuding, or not.

I was just coming into my own in my late 20’s when I hit some health problems.  Getting to work became all-consuming and I eventually had to take a break from it.  Then, I didn’t get much social contact, but things are going much better now.  I sometimes feel like I end up being put in that old “box”, where he’s the shy, quiet guy.  Or, my anxiety makes me feel uncomfortable and pushes people away.  (Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable.) The good news is, I feel like I’m ready to Bust That Box! (I believe I found the topic of my next post.)

Til then, keep going and keep growing!

Workin’ hard

My fellow assistant manager is one of those people who is really cool as long as things go his way.  He is admittedly, more efficient than I am both at getting things done himself and utilizing the help he has to get things done.  I’m improving on both counts, though.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m too nice a guy that people don’t always bust a gut to get things done on my shift, or if it’s that I don’t give clear enough goals or instruction.  My counterpart is very aloof and doesn’t like to be bothered while he’s working on his stuff.  That’s not a good thing, but at the same time, I think he gives the associates clear assignments before he disappears.  It seems to work as far as getting things done, but it’s not my style.  I think management should be approachable and supportive.  I think I am those two things.  I just need to be more assertive, decisive and authoritative.  I truly don’t care about being liked.  It’s more of a confidence thing.

The best managers I’ve had over the years have been nice and approachable, but still commanded respect because they were clear about what they expected, and were not afraid to both delegate and to express disappointment and discipline when necessary.  I respected and liked those managers.  I strive to be like that.

It’s challenging to get on people’s cases for not getting things done sometimes because I struggle with it myself.  The job is fast paced and demanding, with CONSTANT interruptions.  But there are times when I’ve thought that I could work circles around someone and I am too gentle in telling them to pick up the pace.   Part of the reason for that is that I have a hard time relating to people who are not self-motivated like I have always been.  Many people will get work done when you give them a specific goal and check up on them.  The checking up on them is the key part for most, which I tend to lag on.  When I’m given something to do, I want to do it for my own sense of satisfaction upon completion.  I’ve had one or two associates like that in over a year as an assistant manager of a dollar store.  I’ve realized with some disillusionment, that even good workers usually need to feel that someone is watching to put the maximum into the job.  Maybe that’s fair, if they think you won’t notice either way; whether they bust their ass or slack off.  I know it’s on me as the one in charge.

People might think that being an assistant manager of a dollar store is easy, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.  Like many businesses these days, discount retailers rely on minimal staff/payroll to maximize profit.  A “fast paced environment” means understaffed.  “Multi-tasking” means doing three peoples’ job (for less pay than your predecessor).

It is what it is, and I strive to do it to the best of my ability.  I feel that I am continually improving, but it’s frustrating, especially because I could be doing so much more.  I lacked support or guidance when I was younger.  (See Father’s Day post)  but I’m not blaming disappointments in life on my parents.  The choices I made and actions I took, or didn’t take, are mine to own.  That’s what keeps me going.  If I blamed everything on others, I’d be bogged down in self pity and bitterness.

So, I do the best I can where I am while looking ahead and trying to plan for the future.  That’s all anyone can do.