Category Archives: Grace in Small Things

On skinny jeans and finding strength in unexpected places

After a month of construction, hauling 200-lb plus H-carts of books all over the store, banging in metal shelves and moving endcaps from one end of the store to the other until I’ve dropped into bed every night, so exhausted that I’ve dubbed the condition “manager dead-eye”– much less just moving boxes of books around in the back as part of my regular job– oh, that and the walking five to seven miles I do every day, pushing of V-carts and rearranging tables and shelves and other displays full of books with books that can be paperback Harlequins or coffee-table Home Decorating pr0ns (those suckers are heavy).  I’m eating like a trucker when I get time to eat at all, even as it takes me an hour sometimes to get all the food down.  And still, I’m down to 135 lbs.  Sigh.  I sense a “Skeletor” nick-name coming on.

One of my (female) co-managers has already pantsed me in the back room (at least with a “Woo!” for my lacy boy shorts) and arranged a shopping date to get me some new jeans.  “Stop wearing stuff that’s so baggy!  We need to get you some skinny hot jeans!”  Yeah.  They were 10s, normal for someone who’s 5’6″.  On the flip side, she’s the same one who buys me vanilla milk-shakes and sweet-potato fries and cheeseburgers on gluten-free buns, so I know the teasing comes from a well-intentioned place.

But after I went for a head-clearing, emotion-cleansing run Sunday, when I found I could run two miles in the time it used to take me to run one, and then did some yoga, I did discover something else nifty.

I. Can. Do. Twenty. Push-Ups.

I have never been able to do a push-up.  Ever.

Screw Skeletor.  I’m going for She-Ra.  She even didn’t have a pink costume.

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Whatever you need…

There’s a wondrous article in the NYT today about a woman with schizoaffective disorder and OCD who after years of struggling and misdiagnoses found a workplace where she could put her high intellect and skill sets to use in an environment where she could also be open about her impairments and get the reassurance she needs– and the time off to manage and cope– so she can keep on functioning.  Highly.

Would that we could all struggle to a place of such wondrous, open-hearted … not lucky, but opportunity-filled places where we could find time and space realize our true, broken, authentic, brave, smart, sometimes crazy selves.

My bookstore isn’t quite all of that place, since it’s not quite the challenge to my intellect that it could be– but it does let me do the organizing, the getting-out-of-bed-everyday, the managing people and helping them thrive, the getting people helpful information things that I do need to do so I feel like I am useful, even if various people in my life who have notions of class and of wealth have said aloud and unspoken (but may as well have said it aloud) that I could do better.

I don’t care if I can do better, because I want to do this — even if they meant well (and they did, even as their expectations and disapproval hurt my feelings), what comes across is that I’m making bad choices.  I’m not— I’m just making different ones than they would.  This is right for me now.  The bookstore is home– HOME in a way where we laugh and are brothers and sisters in arms in customer service, retail research librarians who find people things they sometimes don’t know they need.  So if my “I was burnt out from practicing law” is a cognate for “I am bipolar and had a complete nervous breakdown,” and “I take a neurological medication that affects my appetite” is the explanation when everyone fusses at me for why I don’t eat, well.  Nobody’s fooled, but nobody presses, except for an occasional “relax” or a joke when I’m really stressed.  And everyone eats my baked (not burnt) offerings with glee, and if I can make my coworkers smile or a customer, too– yes.  I have chosen the right path.  Not the rich path.  The right path.

Here’s to wishing that every one of you brave, crazy hearts finds some home workplace some day.

GiST, Fashion edition

I shouldn’t be spending money on frivolous things like clothing– I shouldn’t.  I have some serious problems with my law school loans right now that are going to take me a long time to pay off, and my credit is awful.  But.  When I was at a conference in September– and then yesterday at a Faire (not just a fair, a Faire, mind you) with a friend, there were items that grabbed me.

First, an antique kimono in an orange and green and gold pattern, autumnal, subtle, with bridges, leaves, trees.  It could be a Hokusai, muted.  I have no need for it, nowhere to wear it.  But there was a perfect green obi and the complementary purple cord in the pile and when I put it on– I have no geisha ambitions, no fantasies of that ilk.  It simply looked right, right enough that random people stopped and looked and I remembered a time when I was a lot younger and I’d spent time in Japan and … stories for another time, but.  Yes.  Lots of stories.

And yesterday, a black corset with a gold falling leaves, just on the central panels in front and in back.  I am not a corset person.  Ever.  Before.  Maybe after.  But for then, and during the Faire?  Sure.  Why not?  If not at a Ren Faire, then where?  And I got nods from people of all stripes (and I really mean all stripes, the lady in the tiger tights was something to behold), so maybe I was doing it right, as the kids say.

I haven’t ever owned lots of art, much less the wearable sort, and I don’t have any idea when I’ll wear these next, if ever.  But I can put them on nice hangers– put them up on the wall– and remind myself that clothes don’t make the woman, but they can call out the recollection that there are lots of possibilities, every day.

Grace in Strange Things

Communication is one of my things.  One of the themes I’ve been talking about with my therapist is the issue of not being heard– of saying something I think is plain, and either not being taken seriously/second-guessed, or feeling like my opinion just doesn’t matter or register, and then the person with whom I’ve been talking goes and does something that’s the exact opposite of the thing that I said or otherwise shows that they weren’t interested in/weren’t listening to the things that I said.  It’s enough to reinforce one’s feelings that one is crazy, either that or really fuck up one’s sense of self-worth.

The thing is, though, there are some people with whom I have no problems talking, and they not only hear the things that actually come out of my mouth (i.e., the words that I say and which I mean when I say them, and yes, I know, epistemologically and psychologically can we ever really know the whole of what we mean? no, but we can put the truth we have hold of into our words) but seem to discern all the unspoken emotion behind them.  There are people who get me.  Sometimes it’s even the same folks who at other times are like brick walls, and I start to wonder– did I actually say those words aloud, or is it really their problem, not mine?  Then again, there are people I’ve known hardly any time at all who also seem to get me– and that makes me angry at the people who don’t because it gets my pride up.  It makes me feel like– what’s wrong with you, that you can’t just listen to and believe in the words that I say?  I always know that there’s more there, but the first line of hurt is wounded pride and the feeling of so-and-so gets me and they don’t even have to love me. 

In any event– it’s a thing.  And it’s a theme we’ve been discussing because of how I react when I’m not feeling heard (and ergo, with some, not feeling loved).

The details of who, when, and why aren’t pertinent, except that this week I was extra touchy.

Today, I was working in the Religion section, preparing a bunch of books to be returned and others to be moved.  There was a man probably not that much older than me browsing New Age, and he made a joke about a particularly gravity-prone book falling off of the shelf as I was shifting stock from one bay to another.  We joked about ice cubes and “jumpers” that always head straight to the floor when you empty the tray, and then he returned to his browse and I went back to work.  He then made some comment about how he sometimes felt silly browsing these particular books.  I’m not personally into Tarot or crystals, tending myself more toward a liberal-social-Buddhist-cum-Quaker view of the world, but… more things in Heaven and Earth and all that.  And I believe in the power of books, if nothing else.  So I made some comment about how books were nice or important when they could help you find not just information that you were missing but confirm a thought or idea you’d been having but in which thought you were alone– and then you find out you’re not, it’s such a relief that you’re sharing that thought at least with the author, if not anyone you know in your immediate life.

He got really intent on me and started asking me if I had always been that intuitive.  NGL, it weirded me out just a bit, but he seemed harmless (100 lbs, soaking wet, gay as a Mardi Gras float which shouldn’t be a safety factor per se as a gendered assumption but hey, there it was) and he’d been nice and polite in conversation up to that point (plus helped me chase a toddler back to her mom) … so.  My philosophy, Horatio, all of that rot.  And he starts to tell me that he thinks that up to this point I’ve understood and known lots of things but other people haven’t believed it– or haven’t wanted to for their own reasons– and that I’d backed off from insisting that I was right because of that doubt.

It freaked me right the hell out and when he started asking me questions I deflected.  He just got more perceptive and started saying more things along those same lines until I could feel myself turning red and he backed off– verbally, I was still up on my ladder and he was still six feet away– and said he was sorry, but he just thought that I should know and he’d stop bothering me.  I said it was OK because, well– if it wasn’t, it would be, and he just smiled and said– “I think you need to tell yourself that more,” or something to that effect.  He then headed off with an offhanded smile because his phone rang.

Was he just another harmless bookstore crazy who happened to push my buttons on a bad day?  He’d been browsing the row  of books about “How to tell if you’re psychic.”  Was he something more?

Does it matter?

It’s OK, either way.

Childhood, processed, grace-full

Processed foods were expensive and required a coupon.  That we bought them meant we had money, comparatively, and didn’t have to worry about making rent or other financial particulars for that hand-to-month.  Plus?  Oscar Mayer’s cheese dogs are simply delicious, and to hell with the horrifying ingredient list.

I bought them this week after finding them in my new supermarket.

They were as good as I remembered.  I put half the pack in the freezer, but I didn’t stop myself from glutting myself on all four in the first pack and slathering them with Gulden’s mustard, just like I used to.

It doesn’t change the rest of my to-do list or all the other things on my metaphorical plate.  But it’s a real respite.

GiST, inadvertent revelations department

(TL;DR subtitle, how She Curmudgeon’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day turned into a Movie Cliche Moment of Self-Realization.  Also, abuse of ALL-CAPS and strikethrough alert.)

It’s rare I have two days off in a row– before my promotion I was full time and now I’m even fuller-time, such that balancing out all the people who can do all my job duties is one of those things that rests on the back of a turtle that rests on the back of an elephant that rests on the back of… well.  At some point it turns into turtles all the way down, but suffice it to say it’s a blue moon in June and all of that jazz.  So usually we manager-type people get a weekday and a weekend-ish type day off during a week, but rarely two together unless we’re on vacation or it’s a special request.  Very precarious turtles, you know.

Accordingly, my chances for accomplishing All Of The Things and winning my Fully-Adult Award Forever and Ever, Amen are limited to one weekday per week.  It makes things a little bit hectic, since one of the things I need to accomplish is the necessary headshrinking at the tune of about twice a week around my work schedule to keep myself in sufficient countenance to not go all ninja on some entitled customer (or bookseller, hey, sometimes it happens) or just curl up in a corner and die– or even try to act on those thoughts because BAD THOUGHTS ABOUT HARMING OTHERS AND MORE LIKELY, ME .  I SOMETIMES HAVE THEM.  It’s just part of my daily mental checklist and mostly not an issue, but yeah.  Lately?  Stressed.  And by lately, I mean off and on pretty much for two years, ever since I stopped being a lawyer and really dug that I had to stop repressing shit because I was in a glass cage of emotion and suffocating myself.  (I’m not really trying to make light of the situation here, just moving the story along, because those of you who’ve read here are already down with what’s going on, and this whole setup does have a point.)

So.  My own therapy two times a week, marriage counseling on top of that until it didn’t make sense any longer and all of the mutually fraught emotions and conversations and frustrations and work that went into that decision, work, life, getting out of bed every day and (on my part) checking off the “DON’T TAKE ALL YOUR PILLS TODAY” item.  Yeah.  Some days that item’s higher up the list, some days it’s lower, and then packing, moving out, packing the rest of my stuff, getting promoted and learning on the job, moving everything else, really, seriously working hard on the self worth piece and shoving that “TAKE ALL OF THE PILLS, TAKE THEM NOW,” bit down, sometimes a lot during the day and with just one or two of the little yellow anti-anxiety pills, and very carefully putting the rest back in the bottle… and as I mentioned in an earlier post, once even bothering my poor husband at work via G-Chat because my therapist was on vacation, my psychiatrist had pneumonia, and I was having such a shit day and couldn’t reach anyone else that I had to bug him to ask him to help me check that one item off so I wouldn’t do anything about it besides put it down and away and get on with getting along, even though I felt wretched.

Today was one of my days off, and one of those ACCOMPLISH ALL OF THE THINGS days.  I needed to open a bank account of my own, get some jewelry repaired, see both my shrink and my therapist, do some random errands at the pharmacist’s shop, deal with the bollixed-up mail forwarding order, and then, after supper, I was supposed to meet up with friends for a record release party for a band one of our bookstore friends drums in.  The show and party was long-planned, though of course I’d taken herding-cats point and been playing Our Lovely Cruise Director  trying to get people together and have supper beforehand, as is my wont.  I like to see friends, so I tend to  get bossy because I am an Adult Child with a Complex I’ll be working on it seems like, IDK, MAYBE FOREVER? take responsibility for getting things organized, and then I get exhausted and don’t have a good time when I’m there.  So this morning, I:

  • scheduled the car for expensive repairs and quashed the panic about how to pay
  • called the post office abut the wtf mail situation
  • responded to some way-overdue emails including trying to schedule meetups with friends
  • got a call from a friend who was sounding … not her usual self.

Cue screeching halt.  She’s been fantastic throughout this process of mine and is the most thoughtful person I know while also having the most wonderful, off-color sense of humor, so of course I could meet her to talk and get her out of the house.  We did, and I hope that I made her feel a little bit better… and then I:

  • saw the therapist across town
  • saw the shrink just up the street from the therapist
  • put in two more mail forwarding orders not that far from the shrink’s, because post office hours are weird and I was worried the one back home would be closed by the time I got there
  • drove back home in the ZOMG HOLY SHIT WHERE DID THIS RAIN COME FROM WAIT WAS THAT A FROG OR A LOCUST ON MY WINDSHIELD rainstorm to open my bank account,
  • realized as I sat in traffic in the pouring rain on Storrow Drive (aka, the slowest commuter road EVER) as everyone around me drove like even more crazy Massholes than I did that there was no way if I made it to the bank on time that there was any way I could go out to dinner even if I heard back from one of the people I hadn’t yet heard from about where we were going to go and OH MY GOD WHY COULDN’T PEOPLE BE AS ANAL AS I WAS ABOUT RESPONDING TO EMAIL, much less stay up for the show, because I had to be at work at 8AM and the band wasn’t going on until 10.  You see, I’d just spent three straight hours crying my eyes out about variants on … stuff to my psychiatrist and my therapist and I was a BEAT, DEAD-TIRED, EXHAUSTED, PUSHING UP DAISIES, EX-PARROT of a She Curmudgeon and now I was crying to Death Cab for Cutie’s “You Are  Tourist” again, even though it’s been almost a week and a half since that stupid song set me off all weepy and shit.

Gah.

Once again I had failed at being an adult and had over-committed by trying to do all the things.  But there was no way I was driving back into Boston after going to the bank, and goddamnit but I was going to get to the bank because it’s been weeks since I moved and a gal needs to get on with this stuff as much as it sucks for everybody concerned and I don’t want to pretend that the loss of my paltry pay won’t impact my husband, either.  But still.  Life has to go on, it’s just one of those things I’ve decided.  (Remember?  I have a daily mental checklist.)  So I called my lovely friends and bailed like I was on a Titanic lifeboat.

The one I reached and didn’t have to leave a voicemail was lovely about it and even put her cat on the phone to cheer me up.  (Awesome.  He danced, I am told.)  (The one I didn’t reach sent me a hilarious series of texts, like she usually does, and was understanding as always, thus proving I am a stupid moron who has overly negative thoughts about her self-worth and people won’t hate her if she cancels plans every once in a whileI have awesome friends.)  I got the bank account opened as well as the jewelry dropped off for repair.  But the pharmacy was in the midst of IDEFK what– store restocking? revamping?  WTF-ever and it was so soul-crushingly disorganized that when the first thing I looked for was all open and tossed-over looking I just bailed and came home and then promptly threw up, not a usual anxiety reaction of mine, so maybe I’m coming down with something as well.

Double gah.  I FB’d the band-friend and said I was sorry I missed the show and didn’t include TMI about how I wanted to go because I feel in not-too-deep-below-the-surface parts of myself like I’ve already missed a lot of “fun”, whatever that is, and this would have been that if I could have faked it until I made it but sometimes, that’s bullshit, then set about dinner, because wielding knives is my happy place frying bacon and leeks for crustless quiche is always relaxing.  I had supper with Dad (who snarfed that quiche LIKE A BOSS) and decided I would unpack more books.  I of course sliced my knuckle at one point with the knife and bled all over my dark maroon sheets, so that was ok since the stain won’t show up (oh my gosh, I hate laundry)– just the bandaging part was a pain because my Dad, see, HIS BANDAIDS ARE AS OLD AS I AM and it took me about 20 minutes to find a bandaid with any working adhesive.  Guess the Rite-Aid gets the last laugh.

AND THEN I COULDN’T FIND THE KNIFE when I got back to my room.

Back, meet last straw.  There were prickles.  There were sweats.  There were near-hives.  Because HOW COULD I GO TO BED IF I COULD NOT FIND THE KNIFE?  I COULDN’T SLEEP WITH A SHARP KNIFE IN THE BED!  (AND.  AND.  AND.  I’d just stopped taking so many of the lovely little yellow pills, too.  Underweight + too many yellow pills = rebound mood swings + disturbed sleep + addiction = REALLY NOT GOOD after two weeks or so, so I’m back on my regular dose and hyperventilating about the damned knife and thinking I CAN’T TAKE A CHILL PILL, I’M TAPERING TO MY REGULAR DOSAGE, JUST,  FUCK.)

Somehow, I stepped away from the bed and the place where I’d been blankly just staring as I got ready to pat the bed down.  With my hands.  For the knife I’d just cut myself with.

As soon as I did, I caught a glimpse of the knife, because I was now standing in a different place.  And I realized, in a way that because less and less inchoate as I put my hands on the handle and got the stupid thing off the bed, thus effectively ending a day that should have had a half-dozen less things in it to start with–

It’s okay to back away from the things that will hurt you if you can’t get a handle on them.  You can always try later and see if  you can get at them from a different angle.

It just so happened that the “later” tonight with the knife handle happened to be within the same minute.  I’ll reschedule the get-togethers with the friends a different day.  And everything else?  I will allow myself to take a step back.  Breathe.  And then try again.  Later.

Guys?  I think we’ve I’ve learned something today.  And in enough time to get a decent bedtime to boot.

Hell, at this rate, by the time I’m 40, I might be half-way to making it most of the way through my to-do lists without breaking into a flop-sweat or telling myself I’m a worthless person because I didn’t get everything done.  My goodness– I might even learn to make smaller to-do lists, and get everything done, with time over for fun!  (I know.  Let’s not push it…)

Oh, look, I could have also subtitled this USE ALL OF THE TAGS.

GiST, paternal edition

No matter how much he can drive me completely batshit (as my friend Erik rightfully said on my FB, we all get our crazy from somewhere, and I know my annoyance is sometimes merely displaced)– I love that I got to enjoy the following things (among many others, but brevity, so forth) with my Dad while we were away:

His own personal variant on the all-caps voice whenever we saw DONKEYS or PONIES, right before he’d revert to his disquisition on the “original town in” England or Scotland or France or WHEREVER of whatever town we were happening to drive through at the moment;
His equal opportunity old-school flirtation with sales clerks of all manners and stripes, even while he incessantly complains about changes in quality, price, etcetera, what-have-you and gabs about the way things were when he was a kid and then winks at the end of the transaction because he knows they’re humoring him even as he enjoys yanking their chains;
The way he said, completely deadpan, “This is really disgusting,” as he plastic-fork-stabbed my hand and then stole the grease and gravy-stained plate from me so he could scrape up the last remnants of his first taste of poutine.