Sunday, June 9, 2019

Trust Issues, Inherently Accurate, Aggressive Me

All of this time I have gone through life thinking that I’m way too trusting, but I am beginning to realize that I actually have some pretty big trust issues in the opposite direction. Things that I don’t trust include walk lights, bicyclists, phone alarms, clothing size charts, the post office, dogs, pollen count websites, doctors of any ilk, electronic boarding passes, people on sidewalks with clipboards, that red stool that my trainer makes me jump up and down on at the gym, and bleach wipes (I use too many, according to Mr. Typist.) I recently learned that, despite spending a fair bit of time at the range, I also don’t trust guns. 

I’ve been watching this guy on You Tube name Chris Sajnog, who is an ex-Navy SEAL sniper. He has the best videos out there on shooting by far. Since I started watching his vids, my sighting and grip have massively improved and my form has gotten a lot better. I watched one of his videos recently on trigger control, and the take-away was oddly Zen-like. He said that a pistol is “inherently accurate.” A pistol is designed to hit its target, and your only job as a shooter is to relax, get out of the way, and let it do its job. Something about that concept of inherent accuracy put my jitters to rest and greatly calmed my mind. 

Today at the range I was struggling a bit at first, but then during one of my sessions, I heard Chris’s voice in my head saying those exact words, and I got the highest accuracy and precision I ever have. I was astounded. I realized that I never fully trusted the pistol. I thought that I knew better than it somehow, that it required my intervention and help, and that I needed to do a bunch of extraneous manipulations to “make” it work correctly. Chris was totally right. The more I let go and trusted it to do its job properly, the better I did. Today, I finally made friends with the pistol.

Speaking of doing a job properly: Years ago, Key and Peele had an ongoing sketch called “Obama’s Anger Translator,” in which a menacing figure named Luther stepped in to give voice to the thunderous rage underneath Obama’s notoriously mellow expression. I was unburdening myself to Mr. Typist recently about a rash of lazy, incompetent lay-abouts I had to deal with at work (I want to stress these were outside vendors, not people I work with—I am lucky in that I work with a bunch of super-competent high-achievers.) In each instance Mr. Typist kept asking me if I pushed back and confronted the wrongdoers, to which I wanted to reply, “Have you met me?” Of course I didn’t push back and confront them. 

At that point we decided that we would deputize Mr. Typist to be Aggressive Kristen. We’d get a T-shirt made up, and I even told him he could wear a cape. He would come to work with me and just hang out until I, for example, had to make the seventh call to Big Cooler to find out why my defective water cooler that gushed three gallons of water onto the new carpet hadn’t been replaced yet. While I mildly and politely ask when I may expect it, as it hadn’t shown up during any of the last three delivery times they promised, Mr. Typist would wrestle the phone from my hand and bellow, “Look, you bungling, bush-league maladroits, get your s together and get that cooler in here stat, or I’ll have your heads on a platter, do you understand me? Now drop and give me thirty!” I’m excited about this new plan and I think it will work out really well. I’ll keep you posted. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Good People, Dark Places

Lately, many of my deepest and longest-held beliefs and tenets have been challenged. This has been happening for a long time now, but it’s been accelerated recently by events externally in the world, and internally in my own personal orbit. One of those tenets is that it is a morally defensible position to believe that people are naturally good. 

I recently watched a Jordan Peterson interview with Dennis Prager, in which Prager introduced Peterson as a “good person” and Peterson countered by saying, (and I paraphrase somewhat for brevity) “I would never claim to be good. I think it’s dangerous. But in reading history, I did become terrified of how terrible I could be. And I would say that I have tried to avoid the pathways that lead people to the dark places that they go, and that there is something in that that might approximate good.” 

There was a rash of gang shootings in Seattle over the last month, and my precious, gentle friend and co-worker recently saw the fresh body of a seventeen-year-old kid shot to death, bleeding out on the sidewalk at the hospital campus she works at. I didn’t realize the extent of her trauma until a recent get-together with my colleagues from my hospital’s other campuses. My co-worker is someone who I would consider a classic “good person,” a warm, kind human being who is probably a little too trusting. Part of her trauma came from the shock of seeing true evil at play. 

I am coming to realize that it’s been been a luxury for me to go through life believing that people are essentially good. We hear about horrible things happening all of the time, but until we come face to face with them, they remain more or less theoretical. We can’t really process that human beings have darkness and savagery within them until we see something like that. And because we don’t see it in other people, it’s very hard to see it in ourselves. And that’s the really dangerous part. In trying to process this local tragedy, I spent the morning listening to a podcast about the much bigger and far more atrocious My Lai massacre. It drove home to me how important it is to not get complacent about our own potential for evil. Believing that humanity is essentially good is dangerous and foolish. We have to face the truth of who we are as human beings and be vigilant, or we will fall to prey to savagery, violence and acts of inhumanity, no matter how “good” we convince ourselves we are. 

That having been said, my colleague discovered a deep well of hidden strength within her during the incident, and she stepped up, went way above and beyond, and handled the ordeal with true moral leadership. I am really proud of her.

Usually when I write a heavy post, I feel obligated to end on a light note, but not today. If you are up to facing it, the My Lai podcast is #31 in the Jocko Podcast series. You can find it wherever you normally get your pods.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Flailing as an Art Form, Crisis of Confidence, Bad Checker

I feel weird going on and on about my trainer, but to be honest with you, there isn’t much else going on in my life right now except work, a realm in which I am struggling to defend myself against the slings and arrows of Other People’s Needs vs. my career goals and the desire to defend my team against the vagaries of senior leadership’s whims. It’s very tiring. And this thing with my trainer, which started out as sort of a temporary lark and a distraction, has become something that I never expected it to be: It’s become transformative. I didn’t want or expect that, but here I am. I shall explain. And I’m going to go ahead and name names because he won’t read this—his name is Akida.

In the last few sessions, in addition to him babbling on about his wish for me to “display confidence”, whatever that means, one of the things Akida showed me is how to jump up onto a square-shaped stool, lift and hold up one knee, then come down, reverse it, and lift and hold up the other knee. At first, I was certain that the stool was unstable and I kept watching it like a hawk, worried that it was going to shift or collapse under my feet, until he assured me it wasn’t going anywhere. I was still uncertain of that, but I decided to trust him. Then I was bobbling around a lot, slipping and shifting and falling with every jump. He told me that I needed break it down into parts, stop trying to do everything at once, be intentional and “stop flailing around.” I laughed off the “stop flailing around” comment, but I must admit, it got to me. It got to me a lot. And by that, I mean it really, deeply hurt me to my core. I was a tall, weak, skinny kid with zero confidence, and I feel like I have spent my entire life flailing around physically. Also, I do have an unfortunate tendency to try to do everything at once, but there is no way I was going to admit that to Akida.

Yesterday I went to the gym, yanked that stupid stool out, and did four full sets of those bitches with only a few bobbles. I was totally focused. I did what he told me to do—broke it down into parts, drove with my hips, and was intentional. I know it sounds like such a simple thing--such a non-event--but to me, it was transformational. It was the first time that I have ever felt fully in control physically. I was able to set a physical goal, think through how to achieve it, then execute on it. This is not a normal experience for me. I came home and cried afterwards. I am not going provoke Akida to use the word “flailing” in reference to me ever again. I know that realistically, I am just getting to a baseline level of fitness, a level of physical confidence that almost everyone else grew up with and that feels natural, but to me, it’s huge. I am still struggling with the grief of never finding a sport that clicked with me, and feeling out of control all of the time in the physical realm, and this felt like a beginning for me. I feel that there is potential now for me to do more and to build on something. It feels like a future. It feels like pure potential. And it feels strangely like confidence. 

On a lighter note, in regards to nothing going on in my life but work and the gym, I still go grocery shopping twice a week, during which I contend regularly with a Bad Checker at my grocery store. I’ve worked at an untold number of low-paid, crappy jobs, and I am not being an elitist here when I say that objectively, this woman is bad at checking. However, the Bacon Guy that day didn’t seal my bacon up properly with the little price sticker, and when I brought it to the Bad Checker, she looked at it askance and asked, “Who packaged this up for you?” Not wanting to rat out poor Bacon Guy, I mumbled something vague about “a young man in the meat aisle.” Her face hardened with recognition and she nodded knowingly. “He did a bad job sealing this up,” she said. She then painstakingly pulled out a random sticker from under the counter and sealed the bacon with a sticker that said, “THIS PRODUCT CONTAINTS LIQUOR.” Then she said, “Your bacon has booze in it now”, to which I nodded approvingly. Life is fun. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, May 19, 2019

No Good Very Bad Week, Anniversar-not, Fortifying the Boundaries

I’m going to be honest here: It’s been a crap week for a number of reasons, including a huge amount of work stress. I find myself harboring increasingly bitter thoughts about my fellow man, and actually looking forward to going to the gym, where it’s peaceful and no one asks anything of me. (You know it’s bad when the gym feels like a safe haven.) I feel fried and frayed and despondent, and I couldn’t even work up enough oomph this weekend to get to the shooting range. On top of it—we worked it out, but Mr. Typist and I spent most of our anniversary yesterday in a sullen mini-feud due to unclear communication. It was mostly my fault. I had agreed to plan a trip, but I didn’t want to admit to myself or to him that I was way too burned out to plan anything. I have been “planned-out” due to multiple work events and stressors, and had literally no brain power left. I guess I thought I’d be able to pull something out of my hat at the last minute, but of course that didn’t happen, and it led to us arguing and me sobbing in the bedroom for thirty minutes, which was actually rather cathartic. To be totally fair, Mr. Typist had offered to plan the trip when I told him I wasn’t particularly enthused about doing so, but I didn’t want to let go. I deluded myself into believing that I was strong enough, responsible enough, and good enough to make it all happen on my own, despite the recent heavy demands on my time and mental energy. 

I have had to do some deep soul-searching of late on how my inability to maintain boundaries and say that simple, one-syllable word, “no” has left me a frazzled wreck of a human being, which in turn has led me to become angry at myself, because I don’t have anyone else to blame. It’s my responsibility to defend my own boundaries. The problem is, I never see it coming until it’s too late and I look up and realize that inch by inch, I’ve ceded all of my territory and now I’m overextended, angry, and burnt out. I feel like there should be a “NO” app or something…maybe a device, like a little alarm, that sends out a warning beep when I when find myself agreeing to something that I really don’t want to do out of a desire to help, or to preserve a relationship, or to keep the peace, which, as evidenced by the shake-up at the Typist household yesterday, just ends up backfiring most of the time anyway.  

My trainer talks a lot about the importance of developing an understanding of how one’s body moves and balances so you can “handle anything that comes at you.” He strikes me as fairly concrete thinker, so I’m pretty sure he’s talking strictly about the physical. But while I’m getting my physical body into some semblance of shape, I need to be doing a mental version of squats and pull-ups so I can strengthen my boundary-setting and fortify my defenses.

Lest you are concerned about the state of the Typist union, be assured everything’s okay. Mr. Typist has agreed to plan an anniversary trip for another weekend and take care of all of the details, and I’m very much looking forward to not having to lift a finger.

This is what I need to do to my inner agree-er: