accountants

Mastering Parisian manners

There is a commonly held belief that Parisians are rude. So common, in fact, that the Parisian Chamber of Commerce has published a guide for Parisians on how to handle tourists of different nationalities. I am not making this up. It is called Do You Speak Touriste? In my experience, Parisians aren’t rude so much as incredibly blunt, with an endless capacity at pointing out what should have been obvious. Tact? Not their forte. But seeing as I am often at risk of an aneurism when faced with people’s lack of common sense, I rather appreciate Parisians’ approach. Furthermore, it grants me carte blanche: they can be as blunt as they chose, I will reply in kind. I find it rather freeing, frankly, since diplomacy, tact and restraint are not instinctive concepts for moi.

Exhibit A: success

On Friday, I was told by a Parisian employee at the airport to stop “talking down to him, from my high perch of condescending attitude.” I replied, curtly, that if being asked repeatedly the same question due to his inability to provide an on-topic answer was condescending attitude, he must receive a lot of it – rather than pass a comment on my communication style, could he please finally provide me with the requested information?

And then I danced a jig, bc clearly I’ve fully integrated into the Parisian lifestyle.

Exhibit B: less success

Today, I got to the Paris office before lunch, and was happily reunited with my colleagues (internal audit). I really enjoy them – good thing, too, since I find myself spending a whole lot of time with them! We went for a coffee break on our floor, for a quick chit chat and update on our lives. One of them just got married, another one was going on vacation, and me? Well, I had just been to Toulouse. I was mid-explanation/demonstration of the really cool outdoor salsa festival I’d attended, when the head of Group Tax unexpectedly walked in. He stared at me as I twirled, blinked, and sighed. “Normally, I would find anyone dancing salsa in front of internal auditors, of all ppl, slightly odd. But somehow, I do not find it surprising when it’s Vanilla. I did feel a slight earthquake earlier this morning on my floor, but said to myself – impossible, Vanilla is only arriving tomorrow. I should have known. Vanilla, you do realize that it is not standard behaviour to dance salsa at the office when in Paris? We typically adopt a more restrained demeanor. Unless… of course. This IS your more restrained demeanor.”

Defiantly, I told him of my successful moment with the Parisian airport employee. Group Tax congratulated me on my mastery of Paris manners, and then asked me if I had danced salsa throughout that interaction?

Hmph. Who would have thought that a tax guy would have a sense of humour? #ifwearegonnabedealinginstereotypes #brownsocks

Dancefloor drama, part III: the meltdown to end all meltdowns

Apparently, this is turning into a series.

  • Dancefloor drama, part I: I walk off the dancefloor mid-song, whilst dancing with an international artist/instructor in Dubai.
  • Dancefloor drama, part II: where my dance partner has a freakout and makes the rookie mistake of mentioning my weight… like any female, I am slightly over-sensitive about my weight. Remember this?

So. We’ve established, at length, multiple times, that I am the Queen of Meltdowns, yes?

Hahaha, y’all have no idea.

I’m under a lot of pressure at work. Big deadlines of big high-profile projects coming up rightthismomentrightnowactuallyyesterdaywhyisntthisdonealready. I’ve been late on some of my deliverables, and overall, I’m not as advanced in MY big projects for the year as I’d like to be, because I have been so caught up in my deliverables for OTHER ppl’s projects. And yes, I’ve had a few meltdowns at work too. One of which was the reason I found myself in Dubai, under orders from the CFO to take a vacation to avoid an imminent burnout. Since then, I’ve been working very hard at getting shit done and learning to control my emotions. But… apparently, I’ve aways to go until I succeed at regulated emotions.

I left work early yesterday, so as to show up on time for my weekly private with Teacher. 5 minutes after arriving at the studio, I realized I’d forgotten my laptop at work. Which, given that I still had a solid 4-5 hours of work to perform in order to meet a hard deadline for this morning, was a bit of a problem. My plan of working at home at night? Ruined.

Teacher walked in 7 minutes later (yes, he shows up 15 minutes late for privates. He is an artiste, and artistes are not bound by earthly considerations such as schedules. He always makes up for it – he is very generous with his time – but one never knows exactly when that generous time will occur) to find me weeping in a soggy mess, sitting in the middle of the dance floor. Teacher typically can handle ANY situation, no matter how fucked up. Not this situation. Teacher reacted the same way as all men do when faced with a woman crying: panicked, frozen, unsure and uncomfortable.

I continued to cry for the remaining 40 minutes of the private. Even as we were dancing, tears were streaming down my face. How to create a pleasant atmosphere 101.

Once the private was finished, Teacher started class. Students were streaming into the studio. I stood around, undecided: should I skip class and make the 45 minute treck back to the office to pick up my laptop? Should I miss my deadline? OMG I have so much work left. OMG I am the worst employee ever. OMG I am tired and why do I have so much work and I can’t face ANOTHER late night and I worked 45 hours so far this week  and it is only Wednesday and this will never end even if I meet this deadline and…

Cue THE biggest meltdown.

Ground-shattering sobs. In the middle of the lobby. The assistant teacher came to see me, giving me hugs and trying to calm my breathing. He thought somebody had died. When he heard me wail, “I forgot my laaaaaaaaptoooooooooooooooop” he managed to not laugh, almost. Gently patted my back, as I continued to cry so hard I couldn’t get enough air.

Teacher materialized in front of me.

Vanilla, I dunno what is going on, I feel bad that your personal life is clearly shit, but you GOTTA get a grip. This is my school. My reputation! Students can see you. They are not gonna think you are crying because of a work problem, they are gonna think my school actually broke your heart. Please. This is not professional. We can talk later, but GO CRY SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Which enraged me because he wasn’t wrong.

I cried all the way back to the office.

I sniffled as I worked at my desk for 2.5 hours.

I went back to dance practice and danced with my favorite ppl. Assistant Teacher waited until I successfully danced with 3 guys before approaching me – I think he was scared I’d revert to my watering-pot alter ego.

And then I went home and worked till 3am. I met my deadline.

Who says accountants are boring and bland?

My facial expressions are not correlated to my happiness levels

Finally! The official photographer from the Dubai festival uploaded his pics onto Fbk yesterday! It turns out that I look like a prissy know-it-all when I dance. Yippee. This pic however, I enjoy. You can see traces of the prissiness, but really that’s just my look of intense concentration/mild panic, mixed with enjoyment and satisfaction.

photo cred: Farantini, the amazing photographer of all kizomba events @http://www.farantini.com/

When I first danced with that guy on Day 1 of the festival – hands down, one of my favorite leads ever! He can make me DO things!! – he surprised me by pulling that move. I didn’t expect it, the sudden falling forward, so maybe definitely I screeched. Loudly – I don’t have an indoor voice even when I try. Classic dance styling option: startle your partner into almost dropping you. Imma trademark that, stat.

Notice how my mouth is closed this time? That’s what 4 days of non-stop dancing will produce: no more hearing-loss for my dance partners.


Cue many minutes of total non-productivity, as I perused through all those pics, bringing back small moments I’d already forgotten.

It’s the “bringing back” part that I struggle with. When I first got back to Montreal, I didn’t want to let go of the intense happiness I’d felt in Dubai. I made the mistake of assuming everything I associated with this trip – including the friendships and all emotions – must be in the past, distinct from my present. And that is true, kinda.

This Dubai trip proved to me that I have the capacity to feel happiness, and the capacity to dream. I created deep bonds with friends, both new and old; these friendships changed me, as all love and shared experiences must. Therefore, who I am today, post-trip, is different than who I was pre-trip, because of the people that I met in Dubai. My anxiety lied to me last week: it is false to assume that all these lovely people are continuing to live their lives, without me, and I without them. We all bear the marks of each others’ influence, stemming from those moments of intersection. That eternal connectivity is just as true as the physical truth that we all apart now, sprinkled across the world.

If I can feel that grateful and connected to the people I spent 4-8 days with, perhaps, maybe, I should refocus my gratitude on those that I share my daily life with? There are so many opportunities for happiness in my Montreal life, that I frequently don’t notice, distracted by the noise that is adulting. Like my Baba taught me: “give us this day our daily bread”. That means my happiness is not stuck in the past, nor is it tied to the outcome of goals set in the future. Happiness is felt in the now, if I will but let myself be open to it. It can be found in my #dreamteam that smiles when they see me, and care and worry about me as much as I try mentor them. In the zany disorganization of Teacher’s dance classes. In the grey weather that is starting to show green tinges of summer. In a good workout with Coach and my gym crew. In my favorite ice cream parlor opening on Sunday for the spring-summer season. In a Friday-night supper with my friend & her fam that I haven’t seen in a few months. In the satisfaction of knowing that I did a good day’s work, boring accountant-style.

Dubai taught me I can be happier than I ever thought possible.

Montreal will teach me to enjoy every day that I build a life of happiness for myself.

Them happiness goals tho!

#beherenow

Roller-coasters were never my favorite

After 7 years, a bit of closure

Earlier this week I was frazzled & late for a date. As I made my way through the crowded bar, a guy grabbed my arm. Startling. Even more startling was realizing that guy was my ex‘s cousin, TwinkleEyes.

Gosh, I loved that man. His weekly Sunday family dinners were tradition – for 5.5 years, TwinkleEyes and his beautiful wife welcomed me into their family. I attended their wedding. He witnessed me grow up, drop out of university, put myself back through school.  When my ex and I broke up, it was TwinkleEyes who came to pick up the boxes of my ex’s stuff.  He told me he’d enjoyed every minute of getting to know me, and wished that I would eventually find greater happiness than what I had known with my ex – for if it was ending, it was because better things awaited each of us. I didn’t believe him at the time, but his sorrow for my heartbreak was a comforting memory I revisited often in the following months.

In that crowded pub, we tried to cram 7 years of updates into a few minutes of conversation. Hard to talk when your cheeks hurt from smiling. He & his wife, doing well. Me, doing so well- TwinkleEyes had been right, of course: it might have been a much longer and tortuous journey than either of us could have anticipated, but I’ve finally found my path to happiness. Seeing him gave me peace I didn’t realize I still needed. One of the hardest parts of that breakup, like any breakup I suppose, was finding myself cut off overnight from my ex’s family whom I’d grown to love deeply. I’ve often wondered what became of them over the past 7 years. I never expected to have the opportunity to find out.

TwinkleEyes came to say goodbye as he was leaving. More grinning and happiness. Then the mischievous look I’ve so missed crept into his eyes, and he introduced himself to my date, adopting an avuncular attitude. I’m surprised he didn’t ask flat out, “And who is this? Hmmm? What are your intentions towards Vanilla, young man?” Nice try, TwinkleEyes. Meet the Dude. That’s it. The Dude. No label, because he is just the Dude.

7 years later, and all I have to show for it is this blog, and its collection of various dudes. My ex, meanwhile is married with a gaggle of children. He wins. Or does he? My blog is pretty sweet, y’all. #forgethumblebragging #fullblownbraggingismoremystyle

#closurefeelsdamngood

Where in the world is Carmen Santiago?

On Thursday, an email popped in my inbox from Parisian Coworker. He politely invited me to drop off a project in Barcelona in late March because I was behind on deliverables for another of his projects. Cue the tears of embarrassment and shame.

I asked CFO-boss for a closed-door meeting. Seeing my tear-streaked face, he kindly told me that I should always consider his office a safe space to rant/vent/cry. I explained how overwhelmed and close to a burn-out I was; despite working with my #dreamteam, we’ve been unlucky with a series of protracted sicknesses/injuries and never-ending mat leaves, such that we are always playing catch-up, and I can never catch a breather or focus on my special projects. I shared the humiliating email. I blew my nose violently.

20 minutes later, I was still crying. CFO-boss exclaimed, “Vanilla! I’m proposing solutions and all you are doing is crying. Work with me here!!!” Which made me giggle. #genderstereotypesreenacted

Our tentative solution was to reach out to Parisian Coworker and propose swapping the Barcelona trip with an immediate Paris trip where I’d clear all deliverables related to the more important Paris project. CFO-boss also ordered me to take the following week off in vacation, out-of-the country. By Friday morning, this plan was confirmed, and after 1-2 hours of planning, I booked myself a 2 week long international trip, beginning 3 days later: 5 days in Paris, 9 days in Dubai, visiting Dynamo‘s brother & sis-in-law and attending a big dance festival. I leave tomorrow. I’ve never been this excited to purchase sunscreen.

Bet y’all didn’t realize that accountants lived such an unpredictable, highly-strung, jet-set lifestyle. (Funny story: I was mentioned my impending travels to a stranger at a party last night, and he asked me if I modeled, because why else would I be flown to Paris & Dubai? Bro, you slick.)

I’m excited for the change of scene and the chance to recharge. Hopefully this will trigger some new experiences, beautiful pics and blog worthy stories. Any bets on how badly I get sunburned?

#bestbossever

#adultingishard

#mylastrealvacationwasDynamosweddinginmarch2016

Sick in Paris, le zut alors

I’m back in Paris this week, for work. Just like that. Apparently, I’ll bring value to a special project that is getting fast-tracked from inception to execution and roll out. So wee, here I am, and I might be back in the spring du coup.

Its my third visit to France within 8 months for work. It blows my mind. I have trouble reconciling that I, Vanilla, have insights and inputs valuable enough to merit that kind of company spend. Part of me knows how hard I’ve worked to get here, part of me knows that I deserve these opportunities, but a huge part of me feels like an imposter and the rug will be pulled out from under me at any moment. The terror of joy.

This current (French) manifestation of my joy-terror feels suspiciously like the worst case of jet-lag of all time. I landed in Paris Sunday morning at 9am – as my hotel room was not ready, I walked aimlessly about town, trying to stay awake. I decided to go to the Louvre, as it has been 15 years since I’d last been: it would be like window-shopping, browsing bougie style. 25 euros later, I made my way to the Mona Lisa, laughed at the dozens of people taking bad selfies of themselves with La Jaconde, and almost fainted from exhaustion. 25 euros for 25 minutes. Win! 2pm, back at the hotel, got my early check-in. 3pm, asleep. Woke up at 5:30am today feeling like a marching band had taken up residence in my brain.

Behold the pics I managed to take before my body decided to hibernate:

 

Today I had fever, chills, a brain that was 100% wool and 0% grey matter, weird pasty tongue and dry mouth, and my kidneys hurt. I also lost my appetite. Do you know what sucks more than just losing your appetite? Losing your appetite in Paris. I see all those macarons, baguette, profiteroles, I am aware that my time here is limited and that I cannot find the equivalent in Montreal so I should eat up… and I just can’t do it.

The universe has a petty sense of humor. Hmph.

Zut alors.

Busy season as an accountant

So I’ve been MIA because of work. I worked easily 70 hours last week (Jan 2-8). By Tuesday, Jan 10th, I’d lost track of what day of the week it was. I was tired.

When I am tired and stressed, my body plays tricks on me. First, there was the whole wannabe kidney failure, brought on by a feeble attempt at health. I know, I know, that will teach me to have such bizarre priorities. Next, as during every busy season, the combination of lack of sleep, and the lack of time to do groceries or cook, is deadly. Body is convinced it at risk of starvation from over-counting (“1, 2, 3, 10, 42, calculator, excel spreadsheets, oh look at all that concentration we just did, we have consumed too much brain energy, we are going to die from famine“) such that I am hungry all the time. ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t matter that the hunger isn’t real, that it is a product of fatigue and unbalanced hormones. My body requires all the food.

Me: *eats like shit* *drinks lots of water* *thinks it's ok*

A post shared by Claudia Oshry (@girlwithnojob) on

 

That, coupled with the lack of time to workout, makes for a pervasive icky feeling. Je ne suis pas bien dans ma peau. I tell myself that this is temporary, that I am doing as best I can, balancing exceptional work requirements and committing to a minimum of self-care to avoid jeopardizing my health. I make sure to walk 30-60 mins every 2 days, as per therapist’s orders to avoid medication. But walking 30-60 mins is not the same as the 4-6 intense workouts I’d been doing for the past 15 months. I can feel the emotions bubbling up inside me, harder and harder to keep a lid on them, threatening to spill over, and scorch everything, me especially, in sight. I’m scared, not going to lie. I wonder if my decision to trust myself to handle a full return to Career Vanilla was the right one, or if I will end up paying a huge price. My last depression in 2014 was vicious and has left me with scars; the next one might maim me permanently.


During my supper with Kirsten, Friday night, she reminded me of a not-so-gentle reproof I gave her 15 months ago that has made a major impact on her life and her dealings with people, especially her coworkers and bf.

You are fair. You apply your high standards equally to yourself and others; you are not wrong in your assessments of people. But unless it comes from a place of kindness, you are judging others, always. Fairly, but hurtfully.

It must come from a place of kindness. I remember that conversation. I remember my life when I said it: in the thick of therapy, unhappy at my (former) job, exploring vulnerability, all my defences stripped away, emotions raw and true.

I’ve not been kind for a long time.


Over the past 2-3 months, I’ve been increasingly assertive at work. I need to be. The projects I am working on involve collaboration and clear communication across many departments, with people that in no way report to me. I have to speak up, to be heard and to effect the changes I’ve been mandated to bring about. It’s exhausting. I try emails, phone calls, patience, explanations, direct orders, nagging… After weeks of getting the roundabout, I usually find myself with two alternatives: throwing a full-blown rage tantrum (“No, I do not accept “that isn’t my problem” as an answer, I am expecting you to exhibit the teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills for someone at your level in the organization, and provide me with the timely information I require to be able to do my job.“) or going into CFO-boss’ office, and requesting him to intervene, aka being a tattle-tale. I hear some of the words that come out of my mouth, and I wonder how long it will take until certain coworkers hate me. 100% of my statements are true. I even manage to assume positive intent on behalf of my coworkers. But I am not kind. I’m a full-blown judgmental bitch. A hilarious one, with a sense of humour, but critical AF.


One of the first things my therapist worked on to staunch the flow of depression in 2014 was the idea of compassion vs perfection (explained here). While I struggle still, I’ve come a long long way in accepting my imperfections. Yet, since the fall, I’ve lost compassion. Stretched to my limit, taking on projects that thrill and petrify me, I need that protective wall of Bitchy Vanilla. I don’t understand how to get the results I need from my coworkers without resulting to the bullying techniques mentioned above. To pull off those bullying techniques, I must be close to blameless, delivering exceptional work, quality communications, meeting deadlines, universally respected for my competence and knowledge… I must be perfect.

So. My fear that this challenging period at work poses a serious threat to my mental health is justified. I’m falling back into the cycle of perfectionism and justified perpetual judgment.


It must come from a place of kindness.

Yes, it must. I’m just not sure how.

2017: coping with the terror of joy 

I’m sitting in my Qc uncle’s family room, slightly tipsy, sipping some port, listening to Leonard Cohen.

I feel like weeping.

This was a good holiday season. Unlike last year, I didn’t have a blow out fight with my father. True to the past 7 years, I did all my Xmas shopping on the 24th, in a state of panic, guilt and elation. 25th at my godmother’s, as I’ve done for as long as I can possibly remember: a day of food babies, mundane chit chat, terrible jokes and SO MUCH love. My father and I left Montreal early on the 26th, and made it to Quebec city by lunch time, and have been spending our time with my darlings ever since.

I want one. #socute #corgipuppy #justlikethequeen #auntiejune #xmas #familytime #selfienation

A post shared by June Svetlovsky (@junesvet) on

WE MATCH!! #socute #familytime #matchingpajamas #jellybeans #cousins #cousinlove #xmas #bestpresentever

A post shared by June Svetlovsky (@junesvet) on

Domestic bliss. La belle cousine, les beaux chiens. #xmas #familytime #dogstagram #cuties

A post shared by June Svetlovsky (@junesvet) on

It makes me SO happy to see my darlings grow into mature adults. They might be younger than me, but they impress me with their wisdom and courage in their quests to become the truest and best versions of their selves that they can be. Nothing is better for my soul than time with my cousins.

I spent the day remotely working from Qc city; tomorrow I will do the same. Friday is shaping up to be a full day at the office as I lead the year-end close like a big girl. Back at it, Jan 2nd – I’ll hit the ground running. Not gonna lie, work is stressing me out. But even as I feel pukey when I look at my impossible to-do list, I feel joy at having found my dream-job, dream-team and dream-company. Joy at being healthy enough to struggle with this challenge, and the opportunity at manifesting an important side to my personality (smart, assertive, ambitious, possibly bitchy, mentoring leader).

I have a long list of people I am supposed to try squeeze in my few hours of free time after work tomorrow and the 30th. My NYE plans are yet undetermined, but my friend Superwoman has determined that wtv happens, we will see each other. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I’m blessed with the best friends ever.

So why, if everything seems to be falling into place, do I feel like weeping?

True to my cerebral self, I tried various theories: shame at the insane amount of weight I’ve piled on these holidays, and fatigue at always having body-hatred issues. Stress from work, knowing I am likely to miss some deadlines on important projects. Adolescent insecurity at not having firm NYE plans: nobody loves me, I must be lame. Dismay at not having a particular boy to flirt with at the moment. But those are all superficial discomforts, and do not justify this deep malaise. Part of it is finding myself with the headspace to hear my own thoughts; the let-down after a particularly intense December, and the anxiety/fear of a big January. My paranoid brain, resentful at having been given the backseat for so many months, is trying to get itself heard.

And there we have it. I feel like weeping, because I am too happy. Too bone-deep happy. This is the closest I’ve ever been to being fully myself, unshackled by fears and insecurities. When I wrote the post Aiming for Happiness, back in August, who would have thought I was so close to finding this level of joy? Having found it, I’m petrified. Petrified that it is too good to be true, that I don’t deserve it, that the Universe will deem that I am a fraud, and true to its habit of bringing people to their knees for the fun of it, the Universe will strip me of my joy and send me back down the dark path of depression. Its been 2.5 years since my last depression, 18-20 months since my symptoms lapsed and 7 months since I stopped therapy. I’m due. Fundamentally, I do not believe I deserve this level of well-being/contentment/peace. Or so my paranoid brain whispers to me. Like Judd Apatow explains so well:

 

I feel like weeping, because I am tired of constantly battling my paranoid brain. On the eve of 2017, I wish myself the freedom to feel joy without the terror.

#mentalhealthstruggles

P.s. Interesting article in the newyorker on happiness.