The Dreaded Annual Performance Review

This is the first year of my life that I haven’t had to endure one of these asinine assessments of my performance on the job, and there’s a simple reason for that.

I’m no longer working.

Be that as it may, I should probably take a look at how my first year as a retired guy has gone, and share my results with the ten people who consistently read my posts. I’m sure they’re dying know. But first, a little background stuff.

For the last thirty years or so, I was an RN. I like to think that I was a really good psych nurse, and most of my performance reviews reflected that. My managers tended to love me, and generally said really nice things about me. Their main concern regarding my performance was that I wasn’t always conventional in my approach with my patients.

“I’ve held my breath more than once watching you in action, but I can’t argue with your results. Keep doing what you’re doing, I think.” one of my managers told me once during my review. That was when I worked for the Minneapolis VAMC.

Performance reviews are basically the same, no matter where you work. You’re rated on a list of criteria. Your boss makes an assessment of how well you’ve met said objectives. Sometimes your colleagues are asked for their input. In the healthcare field, sometimes your patients are. Add it all up and you’re either a valued employee, or you’re not.

Back then, the VA wasn’t concerned with Patient Satisfaction Surveys. I’m pretty sure that has changed quite a bit in the last few years, mostly because millions of people started listening to the thousands of people who had been complaining about the VA system for decades.

Working in the private sector was vastly different. They were very concerned with how satisfied their patients were, and almost everything we did at those facilities was driven by those goddamn surveys.

We were expected to have high positive ratings from our patients 80% of the time, and that’s just crazy when your patients are in a psychiatric setting. These are chronically unhappy people. Getting one such person to feel 80% positive about something is a monumental task. Getting a group of them to consistently do so–it’d be easier to build a suspension bridge from Baltimore to Paris.

Especially when you consider that you’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness but your own. Try telling that to a bunch of suits when they ask you why the survey results for behavioral health are twenty points lower than the rest of the hospital.

There’s probably a couple of good reasons why I didn’t last long as a manager…

Performance reviews are legion, and they essentially begin the moment you’re born. Ever heard of an APGAR test? It’s nothing more than a performance review for newborns. If you don’t pass that initial review, you probably won’t have to worry about any of the others.

Employers use performance reviews to motivate their best employees, and also use them to rid themselves of their worst employees. This is something I learned from my days as a manager. I also learned that performance reviews are purposely skewed, even with your best employees. You never want to tell someone the don’t need to improve, nor do you want to rate anyone too highly because then they’ll merit a performance based raise, and there’s seemingly nothing that employers hate more than paying someone what they’re actually worth.

My Boss from Hell at BannerHealth discovered that I really sucked at this part of my job when I was a manager. I rated my direct reports honestly, especially the really good ones, and more than one of them found their paycheck a little more generous for at least one year.

So my fucking boss repaid my honest assessments by giving me the worst performance review I’ve ever had in my life. It was at that precise moment I realized I needed to find another job, and left BannerHealth.

I’ve written about this previously, so I’m not going to go into any further detail here, but you can rifle through my archives if you don’t have anything better to do.

* * * *

If there’s one overwhelming reason to retire, it’s this. Your employer can no longer tell you that you’re not meeting their high standards of mediocrity. In all honesty, you can set the bar as low as you want once you retire. There have been days when I haven’t changed out of my pajamas, like yesterday.

In my defense, I have Minnesota Vikings pajamas, and yesterday was Football Sunday. I was supporting my team, and it must have worked because the Vikings destroyed the Rams. I’ll probably do it again next Sunday because you never mess with something that works when you’re rooting for your team.

Also in my defense I should point out that I actually do take a shower and get all spiffed up most of the time, even if I don’t leave the house, which happens quite often. We have a beautiful house, and my lovely supermodel wife and I are very comfortable here.

It’s not always easy being married to a supermodel. They have very high standards, so there is that. Luckily, I’ve been married to Lea for almost thirty years, so I’ve been well indoctrinated as to what I need to do to keep her happy.

Happy wife, happy life. Any guy who has been married longer than a Kardashian knows that truer words have rarely been spoken.

Lea tells me she’s never been happier, so I should probably be getting a raise for an outstanding job. Oh, wait. There aren’t any pay raises after you retire…  You know what? I’ll learn to live with it.

* * * *

Moving to Mexico was something I couldn’t have imagined myself doing as recently as three years ago. It more or less happened without a great deal of planning on my part. The door opened, and it seemed prudent to me to just go with the flow, rather than resist something that unfolded so perfectly.

My first task upon arriving was to help my wife set up our house. It was really my first chance to try being her assistant design assistant, and it went better than either one of us expected.

I’m going to take credit for most of the foyer at the front of our house. And for Samantha’s office. Sam is our kit-ten, and she uses the office far more than either Lea or I do. Hence the name. Sam appears to be pleased with the way her office turned out, and if she isn’t, she hasn’t mentioned anything to me about it.

So, that went well, and I seemingly passed my first test with flying colors. I’m going to give myself an excellent rating as an assistant design assistant.

* * * *

But as I recall, my transition to retirement didn’t all go smoothly. About one month after I retired, I mysteriously screwed up my back, and I was in serious pain. I rate it worse than my first kidney stone, and that just about killed me to death.

I use the term mysteriously because I don’t remember doing anything to injure my back. I woke up one morning with a stiff neck and limited range of motion turning my head. Nothing serious, and I figured it’d go away. Two days later, I could barely move, and when I did it felt like I was being stabbed with a very long, very sharp sword.

One of my sisters told me God had afflicted me thusly to remind me that I still had defects that I needed to address. I do not disagree with that at all. As a Christian, it’s an argument that’s hard to dispute. After all, how many times did Jesus ever say this to anyone?

“Um, nope. You’re good. I can’t think of anything you should do differently. Keep up the good work.”

That would be none. If you don’t believe me, read the Gospels.

However, when you’re afraid to move because you’ll end up in so much pain that you might piss your pants, it tends to limit your course of action. I certainly didn’t spend a lots of time thinking about what I needed to do to make myself right with God. I remember that I mostly just prayed to die to death. Quickly.

Thankfully, the worst of my back pain lasted only about a month, and then I started cleaning out my closet of skeletons in my blog, and whether that was what I needed to do or not, it happened, and I didn’t got dead. And my back pain went away.

I attribute that to Diamond Dave, my Bowen Therapist, far more than than anything I did. He thought I was having some sort of allergic reaction to no longer working in a high stress environment. Personally, my sister’s diagnosis makes more sense to me than his did.

My only issue with this is how it was presented to me at the time. Would it have killed God to be a bit more subtle? Couldn’t He have sent me a text, or an email? And if I wasn’t attentive enough, He could have given me a warning. I might have paid attention to that. If nothing else, I am highly motivated to avoid excruciating pain.

I know I still have a lots of stuff to work on, so I clearly have room for improvement. Ten minutes after I die, I’ll probably still have a lots of stuff I should have worked on. But I don’t have to fix everything at once, and there are some things I’ll never be able to fix. It’ll all work out. Probably…

I’m going to say I’m meeting my performance objectives, but will need to be monitored.

* * * *

After roughly six months of being a retired guy, I took up golf again. I hadn’t picked up a golf club in about ten years when I decided to I needed to do something with all of the time I had on my hands.

I’ve never been a great golfer, and I didn’t get any better at it by not playing any golf for a decade. The first time I played in Mexico, I shot a 57. In the first six holes. As a point of reference, par for nine holes is 32. As another point of reference, par is the score a good golfer could have at the end of a round. A really good golfer can have a score that’s under par.

I’ve spent many hours hitting golf balls at the driving range. A bucket of balls here costs roughly four bucks. Practice may never make me perfect, but I’m not going to go broke on the driving range no matter how hard I try.

Playing golf isn’t exactly cheap. Most golfers own at least one set of really nice, very expensive clubs. I appear to be the exception to this rule. My clubs would be seen as antiques by any serious golfer. And there’s the greens fees. And the caddy. And sometimes golf lessons. And weekly sessions with your therapist. It all adds up.

I’m slowly getting better at golf. Last month I shot a 49. In nine holes. It’s possibly the best score I’ve ever had. It’s also possible that it’ll be the best score I ever have. I’d like to improve on that score, but it’s not the most important part of my life, or even my golf game.

Again, I’m meeting my objectives, but will need monitoring. Fortunately, my lovely supermodel wife occasionally acts as my swing coach, and I have a retirement golf wife who is very good at getting my ass off the couch and on the links.

Golf also serves an important service in my life. It keeps me humble, and I have every confidence it will do so as long as I can swing one of my antique clubs.

* * * *

I take a lots of pictures now that I’m retired. I have two cameras and a smartphone, and I use them frequently. I post most of my photos on my Facebook page. Sometimes I post pictures on Instagram, but not as often. I’m a pretty decent photographer, but it’s ridiculously easy to take amazing pictures here. This place is prettier than a postcard.

I’m going to say I’m doing an acceptable job as a photographer. One of my friends down here posts his amazing photos every day. I’d rate myself higher if I were as consistent as he is.

I write semi-frequently, and while I tend not to be greatly impressed by my writing ability, there are a few people who disagree with me, and they’re probably smarter than me. So maybe they’re right.

Noteworthy or not, I do enjoy writing. Thankfully, my ability to stay retired has nothing to do with the quality of my prose, so it’s not like anything important depends on me writing stories of varying degrees of readability.

I’m probably the last person who should evaluate my performance in this area, so I’m going to take the easy way out and leave that to anyone willing to offer any input.

* * * *

The remainder of my retirement duties involve household chores. Taking out the garbage, washing dishes, cleaning Sam’s litter box, vacuuming the floors, taking care of the plants in my patio garden. Stuff like unto that. I believe I do a mostly outstanding job in this area, and all I need to do is keep doing what I’m doing.

There is one issue that keeps me on my toes. Leaf cutter ants. These little bastards can strip your garden to nothing but twigs in one night. I have been at war with these pinche hormigas ever since we moved here. I’ve destroyed thousands of them, without any discernable drop in their population.

I had the same problem with squirrels when we lived in Minneapolis. I killed hundreds of them with my trusty air rifle, and there was always more of them to shoot…

I have to give myself high marks for attention to detail and immediacy of response, but I can’t rate my interventions as being hugely successful.

* * * *

And, thankfully, that is the extent of my retirement proficiency evaluation. I’d have to say it’s about what I expected, and that’s a good thing. You should never be surprised at a performance review, and if you are, your manager hasn’t been doing their job. That how I viewed it back when I was a manager.

Granted, I took my job a lots more seriously than I take my life now. I had high standards for my performance. I took a lots of pride in my work, and I mostly loved what I did.

I totally love what I’m doing now, and if I’m not meeting my much lower standards in retirement, I really have no one to blame but myself.

And Deliver Us From Evil

I had my third session with Diamond Dave today. He performed his usual therapeutic assault on my body. And he also gave me a lots to think about.

Diamond Dave suggested I start sitting in a different chair at home. The fact that I haven’t gotten a lots better is somewhat confusing to both of us, so there has to be something still aggravating my back.

We have a couch, a love seat and kind of a captain’s chair in our living room. I rarely used the captain’s chair in Arizona, but it’s been a different story down here in Mexico. Lea and her kit-ten have taken up residence on the couch, and I started sitting in the captain’s chair. I figured it hadn’t gotten much use in the last nine years…

I had actually considered the chair as a possible suspect for my back problem prior to my appointment today. We’ll see how this plays out. Today, I’m semi-sprawled across the love seat, looking at the mountains on the other side of Lake Chapala. It’s quite lovely, actually. And once my back settles down after getting pummeled, I may even feel lovely myself.

The other thing David suggested is that I wear shoes whenever I’m not in bed. I think the chair is a much better suspect for the back pain I’ve been experiencing than my tendency to walk barefoot. But I’m willing to try anything if it means I can put this behind me.

That was interesting, but today’s major topic of discussion was energy.

* * * *

I may have mentioned this before, but I find Diamond Dave to be a rather interesting guy. And I’m pretty sure he’s a guy. David likes to wax philosophic about any number of subjects. And while I’m not sure exactly what sort of training one has to endure to become a Bowen Therapist, I think understanding energy flow has to be part of it.

I’m going to condense most of what David said into the next few sentences. After that, it’s all me. Humans are incredible energy generators. Think of feelings. In essence, a feeling is nothing more than emotional energy. The energy we generate can be positive. It can be negative. And it can be evil.

Now, as a guy, I am hardly an expert on emotions. If you doubt this, you can ask my wife. Guys have three basic emotions. Okay. Not okay. And pissed. We experience varying degrees of pissed, and these are expressed by the swear word in front of the word pissed. Guys can also be happy, but we use the word tits when we’re in that state of emotional bliss.

As a psych nurse, I knew something about emotions. Mostly that you need to tone yours down, okay? Most of my patients were emotionally out of control, that’s why they were in the hospital. And my job was to help them get a grip.

Unless they were evil. Then my job was to make them disappear as fast as possible and make sure no one ever spoke their name out loud again, ever. Or the evil people would be back.

I didn’t meet a lots of evil people as a psych nurse, but I met far more than I would’ve liked. Evil people are flat out scary, even when they’re trying to be nice. Actually, that might’ve been when they were at their scariest.

The two most evilest people I ever met were two people that had separately set themselves on fire. On purpose. They, and everyone else on the planet, would’ve been better off if they had been given another gasoline shower and a lit cigarette to finish the job. You might think that harsh, but I don’t really care what you think. Not about this.

There were very few people that effected me the way those two did. I would’ve killed them if I ever ran into them on the street. I’ve given this a lots of thought, and I’m pretty sure that’s a true statement. Seriously, I would’ve gone over the curb to run them over with my car while they stood on the sidewalk. And then I’d call the police and wait for them to arrive, but only if the burned people were dead. Otherwise, I would’ve kept running them over.

* * * *

As a Christian, I was raised to believe in evil, a very evil spirit named Satan. Once I decided to walk away from everything I had been taught about God, I also walked away from my belief in the devil. I was never able to stop believing in God, but I find it almost impossible to believe there’s an embodiment of ultimate evil anymore.

This is not to say I don’t believe in evil. I do. Evil exists, and it is very real. I fear its influence on the world in which we live appears to be growing stronger. I may not believe in Satan, but I’ve encountered some weird stuff getting lost seeking the Truth. Satan or not, there are some evil-ass things lurking out there in the darkness.

Satan is a Hebrew word that means opposer, or adversary. In the Book of Job, Satan appears in Heaven as kind of a prosecuting attorney if you will, that God allows to test Job’s faith. Satan is hardly the embodiment of ultimate evil. He appears to actually have been God’s ally.

According to Christian belief, Satan was thrown down from Heaven. Jesus said he witnessed this event. And because Jesus said this, it has to be true, right? Jesus was quite good at saying one thing while meaning something completely different at the same time. But if satan simply means opposer, well, this statement could mean that nothing that opposes God is tolerated in Heaven, and nothing more. And it still makes sense.

My dad didn’t live in Heaven, but he had a rule very similar to the above stated concept. My house, my rules. Anytime you decide you don’t like my rules, pack your bags and get the hell out.

I’m not sure when Satan transformed into the black-hearted sonuvabitch he is today. It was Satan that tricked Eve, right? No, it wasn’t. Satan is not mentioned as being in the Garden of Eden. There’s a serpent in the Garden, but the serpent isn’t named Satan.

There’s a common myth that Satan the devil used to be an angel of light named Lucifer that fell from grace and was banished from Heaven. And there’s the story that the fall of Lucifer came about because he refused the command of God to kneel before God’s masterpiece of creation, Adam.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan famously states, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” I’ve given this some serious thought about that scenario. I probably would’ve done the same thing as Lucifer. If any of those myths are true, Lucifer/Satan doesn’t appear to be evil, he appears to be some kind of genius. With morals, and integrity.

He probably has me beat.

The Greek word for Satan is diabolos, which means slanderer. Satan is described as the father of all lies. However, lying is not a sin, and God doesn’t seem to have had any problems with the fact that all of the people He initially chose to interact with would lie about something, or even a lots of things.

From my point of view, there’s nothing that opposes the Will of God quite as perfectly as human will, and pride. And if that is true, then Satan lives and breathes inside of all of us. If I do this, it will please God. But if I do this other thing, it’ll please me! To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Lead me not into temptation, for I can find it all by myself. In my experience, if Satan does exist, he’s never had to break a sweat to get me to “sin.”

I also find the concept of sin interesting. At this point in my life, I think the only real sin is thinking we’re separated from God. And as for the Ten Commandments, those are the building blocks of an happy life. If you do these things, your life will be much better. I have some experience with this. Personally, I’ve broken nine of the Ten Commandments, and my life was pretty much a mess.

One of the most amusing things to me about getting back into the church is the current Christian view about Satan, and how he is constantly seeking to distract and derail good Christians from their faith. Satan, it seems, has all kinds of spooky superpowers.

My darling daughter, Gwendolyn, told me this story about a Women’s Breakfast she went to at her church. There were electrical issues at the facility, and one of the organizers said, “Well, y’all, I guess Satan didn’t want us to have pancakes this morning…” Because, apparently, there’s nothing that will precipitate a crisis of faith like not being able to eat pancakes. Especially in Texas.

* * * *

There’s one other illustration of evil in the Bible. It concerns the Grigori, or the Seven Watchers. The Grigori were a group of angels that were supposed to keep an eye on God’s human children, and teach. But somewhere along the way, while the Grigori were, you know, watching, they noticed that the daughters of men were totally hot, and they started doing a lots more than watching.

The Grigori weren’t evil, they were good angels. Neither were the cute and adorable farmer’s daughters the Grigori had sex with. The Muffys of the ancient world couldn’t help it if they were irresistible to angels.

But their children were evil in a way that the world had never seen before, nor presumably, since.

And that’s not where Noah and the Ark come in, if you believe this story. God didn’t want to wipe out the human race, he wanted to wipe out the mutant children of the Grigori and the cute and adorable Muffys of ancient times. And behold, there was a great flood.

God apparently chose to feel some sort of remorse afterwards, and promised to never flood the earth like that again, and created the rainbow to remind Himself of His promise, just in cases, God forbid, He forgets.

We should probably all pray that rainbows never go extinct.

And one last word of warning. If you ever encounter an angel, whatever you do, do not have sex with it.