Again with this job, like the last retail one, I started off at a small store, moved to a big one. I always make the mistake of wanting to believe that my work friendships are more than they are, that they’ll last my leaving a place. I’m usually wrong. I thought that this time, it might be different because of all the hippie-dippie values and the bonding experience (war trauma?) of opening a store and becoming one big retail family. Turns out, not so much. Continue reading
I was walking by a schoolyard last Thursday on my way to visit a friend, and was struck by all these life’s little reminders, right there in their schoolyard.
Let your reach exceed your grasp:
Play nicely with others:
Smile. You could be someone’s– maybe even your own– rainbow.
Don’t forget it has to start someplace, so be brave:
You’re only as alone as you let yourself be.
And the most important of all, because without it, you can’t do the rest full-heartedly:
There’s a fine line between long-needed solitude & escapist reading– and catatonic denial & avoidance. I’ve been trying to avoid crossing over, engaging in little small ways with the world the last couple of days even as all of me wants to just curl up in a ball and do nothing for a very long time. (Nothing defined by read nothing too emotionally challenging, eat, sleep, spend a little time in the garden, repeat…) So I’ve made calls to the plumbers & HVAC contractors to enquire about furnace service, something my dad hasn’t gotten around to doing as yet. And I put in my short term disability claim over the phone, though that made me short of breath & panicked at the idea of scrutiny. I went out of the house to get groceries, even if it was just to the corner meat market, & today I didn’t buy junk food, even if I did space out & leave my wallet at home. (Thank goodness they know me & would take my check, because of course I carry my checkbook.)
Tomorrow, I’ve got therapy first thing in the morning, and that will provide me with papers to fax in for my leave, and I will do that. (Functioning! See!) Continue reading
I am frequently asked if I have children– I don’t ask people why they ask me that question. Is it because I am a woman of a certain age and it’s a “natural” assumption to believe that women over 25 should have children? Is it because I’m not obviously a hyper-masculine bull-dyke and I wear Mary-Janes with quirky socks that coordinate with my clothes that are straight out of an L.L. Bean catalogue? Is it because my behavior codes as maternal, in my brusque & busybody kind of way? Is it because I work in a “helping” job and am usually the one with the common sense and resources/information to untangle people’s messes for them? How do these qualities come to be associated with maternal/”do you have kids?” rather than just “oh my God, you people are idiots, step aside and let me fix this,” which is sometimes what my inner narrator feels like a lot of the time? I try not to let that uncharitable & condescending sentiment show outside my head if I can. Is it just that we live in a society where asking about children is part of trying to get to know who someone is? (Why is that?) Continue reading
If there’s something you want, something you need, ask for it.
You have to ask for it, because it’s the only way to make sure you’re going to get it.
Other people aren’t psychic, much less as attentive or empathetic as we’d like them to be. You might mention it once, but what’s the off chance they’ll 1) remember and 2) care enough amidst the noise in their own heads to act on your expressed need or desire?
This bleak fact, that at the end of the day, we ourselves are the only ones who can make sure we get what we need, what will make us sane, healthy, happy, and that the people we care or love about, by DNA-roll-of-the-dice or by choice may not be able to deliver, even with prompting, is the hardest lesson of being a “grown-up,” and the one I struggle with all the time.
Asking for help, rather than expecting people to see I need it– asking for hugs, or giving them out so I can get one in return– repeating myself over and over about “no, I do not want to celebrate my birthday and it’s not a thing that’s going to happen,” and then carrying through rather than caving– expressing the need for solitude, or quiet, or to not be the one making decisions about anything from what’s for dinner to how some social activity ought/not to go– these are all exquisitely hard at times, especially when I do manage to say them clearly around the hesitations of not wanting to feel like I am actually as bossy/ bitchy/ a spoilsport/ just acting crazy again as other people might think I am for standing up for myself. Other peoples’ reactions and criticisms are still really wounding. I still get really paranoid around silence, and overanalyze what’s going on in that silent reaction.
Brene Brown writes in her books about shame versus guilt– that shame is silencing & paralyzing, but guilt isn’t. I haven’t read enough of her books to have worked out my own processes to pinpoint all the things that make me shame-turtle, but the “you shouldn’t need help and it’s wrong to ask for it” message clearly got driven home at some point. At some point, my incapacity to competently and intelligently handle a situation all on my own (even when, objectively, it’s more than any one person could handle), or my need for others to give me some positive emotional reinforcement got deeply entwined with my being a “bad” person if I had to ask for help. If it was freely given, then maybe it was something I could consider accepting (although even then it was suspect, because I have known lots of people who were just manipulative in the end and that reinforced the “don’t ask” button in a different way). In the meantime, I put on a brave face or a brusque face or just straight out lie.
And asking doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the help that you need. You might get half-measures, or none, and have to still do it yourself, with the anti-climax of breached trust in your fellow humans. (Hooray!?! At least it tells you who not to waste your energy on? Framing shit as teachable moments just sucks.) Sometimes, you’ll get help from unexpected quarters– and that’s good, in the end, but can be complex if you’ve been less than gracious to those folks beforehand, and so you’ve got to reevaluate your own shitty behavior.
I’m writing this on day one of my leave of absence, after precisely two hugs (freely given) and four and a half well-meant expressions of taking it easy or good luck or likewise from direct coworkers. I did get several more well-wishes from folks in my working group, and some unexpected help from that quarter, too– which means, again, that I have to examine the divide between my own self-perception and others’ willingness to help when asked not by me, but my boss. I am seriously questioning how long I will stay at my job once I return, having talked myself off the ledge of trying to quit while I’ll out– but the larger question of the cluelessless and/or disinterest of most of my coworkers and my need to look at what I can do to prevent future overexertion as well as to identify– what is it I like about the job, in case I do decide to look elsewhere, what I need to change in this workplace in me and in others for me to tolerate staying, and what conversations I need to have with colleagues & higher ups to see what would work.
Of course, there are other things to do. Sleep. Read. Socialize. Tackle the garden. File for divorce. Get my dad’s mortgage resettled. Other family health & legal projects. They will be good distractions and anxiety-reducers around the hard work of “how did I get here again,” and “how do I ask for what else I need to keep going?”
I saw an old friend I haven’t seen in almost a decade this weekend, and in between all the catching up, etc., she was remarking how good I looked– weight, demeanor, etc. She, too, looked better– despite us both being older and having some smile lines a little extra padding around the middle, both of us were lighter than we had been when we were younger. Lighter in heart, lighter in body, lighter in significant others (or lack of)– all around, lighter.
I was feeling a little sorry for myself yesterday after a health screening we had at work because my BMI was a little higher than our strict BMI range to get an extra discount over our usual employee discount. Granted, I knew my weight was 15-20lbs more than I wanted it to be– it’s been a stressful winter and I stress-eat– but seeing it confirmed made me bummed anyway. I’d resolved to treat the results as a benchmark to work from in terms of cutting back on starches, on increasing all those good things I should eat, etc., to decrease my at-work snacking and do better about bringing my lunch in, and I’m still going to do that.
But I was reading something this morning on tumblr– one of those semi-joke, semi-serious memes about how it sucks to be an adult and any small victory should be celebrated (I am a dragon, I am an adult, I have my 401(k), I breathe fire, I regulate my fiber intake!)– and it made me rethink my disappointment in myself as I drank my 8 oz. of water, ate my yogurt, and drank my plain, un-sweetened, un-be-creamed coffee, since I’ve decided that lactose may be one of my problems.
Right NOW, I happen to be 20 lbs heavier than I want to be– but my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol all would have gotten me the next-to-highest discount. And I still fit my pants, albeit a little bit tight. There are ups and downs in my mood & my introversion & ability to socialize, sure. But– measured in the larger scope of things, I am 80 lbs lighter than the last time I saw my friend 7 years ago, have kicked a legal career that was eating my soul, have found a job where I am truly happy, have eliminated some unhelpful or toxic folks from my life, and am exploring ways to enjoy my own company pretty well, thanks– all things I didn’t do, then.
In a larger, more geological sense of my life, that’s huge. (Unlike my waistline, which is still a size 10.)
So, yeah, I’m not going to be hard on myself. Instead, I’m going to think of a more not-now way of measuring progress.
I am an adult. I am a glacier. I carve rivers and mountains, and leaved uncovered layers of life no one knew about before in my wake . Sometimes I make more risotto and eat more cookies than really I should. But I keep moving forward, and I’m pretty damn cool.