Defying Gravity

When life’s thermals decide to take you into the stratosphere you simply have to buckle up and breathlessly enjoy the ride.

For no particular reason that I can pin down, I have been feeling good. Not just good. Great. Exceptional. I feel full of energy. I feel in very high spirits. Certainly, I have both good and bad days, but lately I have been feeling, well, terrific. I am trying to think how long it has been since I felt this way. Years most likely. Decades perhaps.

I am trying to find an explanation but nothing can wholly explain it. It is not as if I have found a new love (the old one is still fine, thank you). It is not as if my sex life has suddenly skyrocketed. Nor has this blog taken on thousands of new hits. In fact, there are many aspects of my life right now that should be downers. My mother is dying. My wife is still chronically underemployed. My daughter still has issues she is working through. I still have some weight I could stand to lose. The yard needs a lot of work. Clearly these are not all huge issues, but they are issues nonetheless that must be groped with and through.

So why do I have this good mood? Perhaps it is a combination of lots of things. Washington D.C. has delivered a lovely summer week, with low humidity and highs in the mid 80s. The skies are blue and the haze is absent. As a result, I can ride the bike to work every day and it was more of a joy rather than a pain. My body really appreciates the extra exercise. Getting my heart rate above 150 several times a day through biking seems to tickle my body.

It also likes the workouts at the gym. Usually I hit the gym more out of necessity and resignation than with any eagerness. Yet I find myself bounding up the stairs to the gym and almost jumping onto the machines. Adding additional weights to a set is not as difficult as it usually is. I like coming home and having my muscles stretched. My body tingles in a healthy, aerobic glow.

A large part of it is doubtless my job, which I seem to enjoy more and more everyday. I have felt optimized for quite a while now. My In basket is generally overflowing in the morning and overflowing in the evening. Rather than get upset over it, I seem to like it. I like the frantic nature of my job. I like its chaos. Moreover, I like its management aspects a whole lot more than I expected. That is because I am empowered. It is lovely after 48 years to finally be able to be in charge.

I feel great being so challenged at work everyday. This is the aspect of my job that I strangely like the best: being pushed to excel. Although my job is sedentary and it seems like nothing much gets done, a lot actually does get done. I am blessed with a dedicated and professional team. Unlike most managers, I have no deadweight to deal with. This leaves me free to lead, and I like to lead aggressively. I do not lead recklessly but I do move confidently and strategically. Fortunately, I have a team full of people who feel exactly the same way. While realistically they know they have limitations too, each employee seems to arrive at work in a similar frame of mind: anxious to get into the tasks of the day and to do things exceptionally well.

If you saw the movie Apollo 13, you may have some idea how my team works. While that flight was a failure, it was also a success. Despite all the odds, the astronauts and Mission Control successfully brought a crippled spacecraft home from the moon. That is what we do. It may not be obvious to you, but the Internet is a big, chaotic environment. Entropy tries every day to bring our distributed system to its knees. Yet we persevere. We keep it going at it full throttle. My team certainly stumbles now and then. Nevertheless, we never give up nor despair. No matter what the Internet gods throw at us during any given day we can work through it or around it.

It is a glorious form of chaos. We juggle dozens of balls in the air at once. Occasionally one drops to the ground. However, what is amazing is that we mostly keep them all in the air at the same time.

It is like this pretty much every day. Yet I seem to thrive in this sort of chaotic environment. I love the asymmetric nature of the job. I love the fact that it is hard and complex work. I also seem thrive in our much-challenged budgetary environment. We always have to pinch our pennies. We are not funded like Microsoft or Google. It is hard to do anything complicated with computer systems, but it is a lot easier when you are flush. When you are not, you have to think outside the box. We think outside the box a lot.

So why am I happy? I am not sure. Nevertheless, many things are going right, or at least feel like they are going right. And for once I feel a sort of synergy from it all that is almost ecstatic. My body seems to be in step with my mind. We are a team. We are moving, we think, toward greatness. We are changing our little corner of the universe for the better.

I feel like Elphaba from the musical Wicked. I feel like I am defying gravity:

So if you care to find me
Look to the Western sky!
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who ground me
Take a message back from me!

Tell them how I am defying gravity
I’m flying high, defying gravity
And soon I’ll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!!

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