Mental Health

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It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts.  Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough.  A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun.  It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost.  Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats.  A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.

But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much.  I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours.  I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.)  Regardless, people work too much.

A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set.  It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived.  As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers.  These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires.  Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?”  This life was for neither she nor I.

Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job.  If I have, I apologize.  A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system.  America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours.  It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside.  Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.

I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse.  It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office).  Nor is it the most difficult.  It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp.  It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with.  The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy.  In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.

Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me.  One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts.  The boy said simply that he had stayed home.  He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors.  The other teens were amazed and surprised.  One girl couldn’t believe his audacity.  I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud.  This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed.  He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors.  The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck.  This kid has his priorities in order.

Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.

Falling in Love at Langley

She slept soundly; every night, whether he was there or not, whether she worried about him or not.  It is a rare ability, but she used it regularly.  She knew not sleeping would just make her anxious.  She never heard him when he slipped in after she’d gone to bed.  For all she knew he came once she was asleep and left before she awoke.  Maybe he spent every night with her; maybe she told herself that sometimes.  Pretending it was true was almost as good as it actually being true.

He watched her sleep.  (He loved watching her sleep.)  The easy rise and fall of her chest as she languorously drew in breath and expelled it again.  How peaceful she looked when she slept.  (As she rarely did awake.)  He knew he couldn’t only love her when she slept, but he hated seeing her upset, sick with worry, or angry with him (with his job) with anything.  If only she could be at peace awake as well as sleeping.

The blanket had fallen off her shoulder, leaving her skin exposed.  The room was not cold, but her skin was cool under the heat of his palm.  He pulled the blanket up over her shoulder, saddened by the thought that she would never know he’d covered her again.  Sometimes he fantasized about her waking up during a gesture like that one.  She would roll over, blink open her eyes, recognize him in the darkness, and smile (that lovely smile).  She would let him under the covers and hold him, snuggle up against his chest and let him hold her in the night.  Moments of tender intimacy happened when they were awake, but never at night.  Never after he returned from a dangerous mission late at night.  How he longed for a spontaneously intimate moment like that.

In the morning she will wake before him, like she always does.  She will not be surprised to see him laying beside her.  She will be relieved that he is safe, that he is sleeping, that he is home.  She will try to leave the bed without waking him.  She hates his job, but she knows, without knowing, that what he does, he does to keep her safe; he deserves the rest.  But every time he wakes as she slips out of bed.  Every time, before she can get out of the room, he opens his eyes, and says, “good morning, love.”  Just once, she wished he would stay asleep.  If he stayed asleep she could make him coffee, bring it with the morning paper to him in bed.  He wouldn’t have to leave the warmth of their duvet to do the crossword, which they do together.  He deserves to sleep in.

She does not know where he’s been for the past forty eight hours; she doesn’t want to know.  She doesn’t want to know which news stories are faked information about things he saw, things he did, things he orchestrated.  She doesn’t want to know who he was with; she doesn’t want to know what she already knows.  She trusts that what he’s done, where he’s gone, has done some good in the world.  She trusts his judgement, even though he tells her nothing about his business.  Instead she rambles on about her days, the things he hasn’t seen her do, the places he hasn’t gone with her.  And he listens, glad she went those places and did those things, sad he wasn’t with her when she did.

He once told someone that falling in love with her was the worst thing he ever did.  He loved his job, he said; he loved knowing that he made a difference.  Right or wrong, his work makes a difference.  A difference that could easily get him killed, or, worse: put her in danger.  If he had never met her, if he had never let her get so attached, let himself, then she would never be in danger.  But because of him, she would never again be free from the shadow that follows her wherever she goes.  She’s never seen this shadow, but he sense it just out of sight, dogging her every move.  He never should have fallen in love with her, he said.

His companion, didn’t answer for a very long time.  It was autumn in Paris and she wasn’t reading the journal she’d laid out before her.  Just like he wasn’t drinking the cafe he’d ordered.  She spoke slowly, deliberately.  Her words startled him; he was scanning the sidewalk.  You’re right; she’s in danger and it’s all your fault.

He finished his visual sweep of the street before looking back at her.  You’re not very comforting.

If you wanted comfort, she said, you should have talked to someone who doesn’t know you as well as I do.  Her eyes remained on the pages of the newspaper.  She turned the page, pretending to scan it.  Then But think about your life before you met her… you were a mess.  You worked too much and slept too little.  You looked like shit most of the time, and you weren’t funny.

I wasn’t fun or I wasn’t funny?

Neither.  I’ve always respected and liked you, you know that; but you were no fun before you met her.

She removed a cigarette from a packet.  He pulled a lighter from his pocket and handed it to her.  She lit her cigarette.

Should people like us be fun? he asked.

It’s not really that we should or shouldn’t be fun; we shouldn’t be obsessed.  Diligent, aware, intelligent, sharp we should be, but obsessed, no.  Obsessed people are no fun.

I wasn’t obsessed.

His protestations give him away.

You weren’t, no.  Not yet.

He had been on his way to obsession.  He was already a workaholic, everyone had said so.  Then she walked into his life.  Quite literally.  Walked right into his living room and into his heart.  She was the guest of a friend of his sister, an accountant with whom she had nothing in common.  It was one of the few times she made the regrettable mistake of accepting a blind date.  Less regrettable after she met him.  And the accountant, who was silently pining for our hero’s sister the entire time, was the first to see the attraction, the first to feel the magnetic pull between them.  He was also the first to suggest they do something about it.

There isn’t a chance there isn’t anything between you two.  I was nearly crushed by the force of you two closing in on me.  he’d told her when she tried to say she didn’t know what he was talking about.  Don’t let an arbitrary obligation to me, a man you hardly know, stop you from pursuing something so very obviously meant to be.  Then the accountant kissed her on the cheek and led her over to him to strike up a conversation that he could, after an appropriate amount of time, bow out of easily.

After that, he stalked her.  They didn’t cover falling in love at Langley.  He knew where she went to yoga, he knew where she bought her groceries, he knew when she collected her mail, he knew what route she took to get to work.  He ran a background check at work.  His sister, who had known her for years, incidentally, vouched for her friend — even though she’d been sure she would hit it off with the accountant (who wouldn’t love the accountant?).  With her help, he soon knew everything about her.  She would never know as much about him as he knew about her.  But she fell in love anyway.  She worried fiercely with every business trip and breathed easiest when she opened her eyes to find him in their bed.

She often imagined that one day she’d open her eyes expecting to see him there, but find his side of the bed cold and unused, but she didn’t believe it.  Not really.  Because that sort of thing didn’t happen to people she knew.  No one else’s spouse was going to die mysteriously while on a business trip with no hope of ever getting an explanation.  It was only her fear, and her’s alone.  She doesn’t know it, but she will never have that experience.  They will continue for many years to come, and for many after the field is no longer his forte.  But they don’t know that yet.  So every trip fills her with fear she tries her best to conceal from  him, and him with dread that this will be the last time they see each other.

Right now, she sleeps.  Easily.  Before going to bed she said a prayer, begging her god to bring him home safely.  Tears escaping down her cheeks, ones she tried so hard to hold in.  Uneasily she extinguished the light and pulled the covers over her shoulders.  Then, she slept.  In her sleep she shrugged the blanket off, unaware of the falling temperature, or the coolness of her skin.  Or the warmth of his hand as he felt her temperature.  Still in his suit and tie from the plane, he kisses her shoulder before he pulls the blanket over it and gets up to change his clothes.

His pajamas were soft and comforting as he pulled them on.  His work clothes looked on from their crumpled heap on the floor with mild jealousy; (they knew he loved those flannels more than them).  And sliding into bed was the ultimate pleasure.  It was warm with her body heat and soon he’d be sleeping as soundly as she.

He looked again at her beautiful, peaceful sleeping face; he was glad to be home.

Sneaky, sneaky universe.

Days after I wrote my last post (and by “days” I mean one) I was invited by the camp director of the property where I work to come talk to him about the Nature and Gardening position for the summer camp.  He explained the job to me and how it essentially aligns with my personal manifesto about getting kids in nature (without actually knowing my personal manifesto about getting kids in nature).

I am strongly inclined to do this, assuming he is actually offering me the position (those words were never actually stated) – essentially because I would be able to do a lot of the things I do during the fall and spring and I would have the freedom to design my own programming as long as it is age appropriate and gets children to interact with nature.

I like this guy.

I like the sound of this job.

I am completely baffled by what the universe (god?) is throwing my way, but I like it.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth?

Something.

Updates:

  • People must have been stuck inside yesterday and really bored to read as much of this blog as the “Stats” page claims a few of you did.  But, hey, thanks for reading!
  • I think I just got a call from an application I submitted weeks ago (and I’m tomorrow moving for a job).
  • I’ve lost a filling in one of my teeth and it doesn’t really bother me, but I think working outdoors is going to irritate it.
  • I’ve not yet written my Statement of Purpose or chosen a writing sample for my application — or emailed my former professors to see if they’ll write me letters of recommendation.  I need more motivation than panic.
  • I can now access my old hard drive and all my writing from the past six years.  That’s very exciting.
  • I have to finish laundry, run some errands, and finish packing.  That’s less exciting.
  • I want doughnuts.

Vintage Stores

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Vintage Stores

I want a job in a vintage/consignment/thrift store, but I don’t know how to go about getting one. Hell, I’d settle for Free People or Anthropologie, quite frankly. I have always thought I’d really enjoy a small, locally owned, retail job. But I’m so crap at getting jobs like this.

Link

5 Reasons You Should Live With Your Coworkers: Scenes from a Start Up

While these fellas make some very good points about co-habitating with coworkers (especially the following: “You might think this would be a recipe for conflict, but a tradition of radical honesty keeps tempers cool.”), it’s also important to remember a few things about living with the people you work with.

  1. It can create an insular society; one that is both a part of traditional society and outside it.  That can be a troublesome and difficult dichotomy to undertake.  People in this sort of situation create their own rules and value system and usually adhere to them exceptionally well, but they are also expected to stand by the normative societal roles.  Something that is acceptable within that bubble might not be acceptable in the outside world.  “Radical honesty”, for example, might not be taken in the manner it is intended by someone how does not live within the bubble.  That could lead to larger problems depending with whom one chooses to be “radically honest”.
  2. Relationships can get dicey.  Spending that much time with someone can be detrimental.  Even with boundaries, even with separate living spaces, spending that much time together can break down bonds that were once strong and eventually cause their deterioration.
  3. When Sex gets involved.  I begrudge no one their private life and believe they have the right to do what they like, but sometimes when people live in that close proximity to one another and sex gets thrown into the mix it can upset the apple cart pretty quickly.  Personal lives and Professional lives mixing like this cause them to often directly impact the other and it is important that the people pursuing a sexual or romantic relationship keep that part of their life as far away from their professional lives as possible.  Those two crossing can affect the entire “office” and things said in the “office” can affect things in the bedroom.  (This is not easy and therefore ought to be approached with extreme caution.)
  4. Falling into “roles”.  As in who cooks dinner, who cleans up, who scrubs the tub.  If one person loves taking a toothbrush to the grout in the bathroom, so be it.  But if one person is always cooking and never gives anyone else who might want to an opportunity, there could be tension and resentment.
  5. Which brings me back to “Radical Honesty”.  This is the most important thing to remember when existing in this sort of situation.  One of the best managed co-habitation with coworkers experiences I have ever had was, in part, to the agreed upon house rule of “No apologies”; we could be brutally honest with one another and, if we hurt each others’ feelings, we talked it out.  But it only truly worked when everyone was on board.  If one person isn’t on board with this basic understanding, tension will grow, and it will be bad; like dumping water on a Mogwai.

This sort of lifestyle is fascinating and mind boggling to those who have never experienced it.  And there are plenty of reasons to pursue this sort of situation, like the original article says.  As with everything, there is also a downside.  But as long as everyone agrees to certain house rules and doesn’t just say they do when they really don’t, and everyone is passionate about the work they are doing, then this is a wonderful way to operate.  Some very strong lifelong friendships are made and, if people haven’t learned them yet, you gain some valuable experience about living with other people.  I would recommend doing something to this effect at least once in your life, even if you lived in a dorm in college, this experience is one I wouldn’t trade for the world.

 

Some Things I Learned While Temping This Week:

  1. How to use Phoenix.
  2. If you promote your company as being young and hip the “young and hip” will want to work there.
  3. Sometimes you really should use the crosswalks.
  4. Young People everywhere are exactly the same.
  5. Corporate America is fucken weird.

Project

I’m not sure how to chronicle my current gig as a temp.  Any suggestions?

Then again I have yet to write up my travel entries so if history has taught us anything, we have time.  I’ll be sure to keep taking notes.

Job Applications

Three minutes  after I sent an email with my resume and a statement of interest (like the job posting requested from its applicants) I received a return email telling me “What a lovely email” and informing me she would be passing along my application.

Does this mean I’ve made a good impression already?

I can be such a miserable cow sometimes.

Recently one of my very best friends got himself a new girlfriend.  (I am in no way bitter or angry or upset that he has a new lady in his life, believe me.)  But finding that out rubbed me the wrong way.  Then, a few days later someone posted pictures of another pal and his girlfriend on the FB and that irked me.  (I am not at all upset or irritated by him being in a relationship either.)  There was a college-aged couple on the bus the other day and their canoodling was equally off-putting.  (I don’t even know them!)

Lately, I’ve just been a right miserable bitch.  Everything from celebrating New Years, making New Years Resolution, forcing reflective thoughts, new beginnings, being “profound’, to shiny happy couples have put my teeth on edge.  Now, this isn’t because I begrudge anyone their season of hope, but more likely because I feel as though I am not living my own life at the moment.

Lately I have been living with one of my sisters and her family.  She just last week gave birth to their second child and I have been helping out around the house.  I’m happy to do it, but it also means putting my own life on hold for a spell.  I am unemployed, living in someone else’s house, and doing things to make their lives easier.  There is almost zero personal meaning in my life and I’ve been taking it out on other people.

(Here I could get whiny; but I’ll try to spare you readers.)

I am very happy for my friends newly in relationships; I am happy for my friends recently engaged; I am overjoyed at the birth of my nephew; I am glad people have new jobs.  I am.  But I am also frustrated and irritated with my own financial situation and unemployment.  I am started to do my off-season freak out where I can’t afford to pay my bills and I haven’t found work yet.

Piling on top of that my recent decision to stop working at my seasonal job (unless I can’t find anything) and recent trouble finding myself replacement employment (which is due to the fact that I am, by nature, lazy).  So really my personal insecurities are racking up and creating all sorts of internal turmoil that I find I am incapable of expressing to others.  (I literally had to walk out of a conversation over diner tonight about income, jobs, social security, and health insurance — I was too afraid I was going to burst into tears at the table if I sat there and listened to any more.)  I don’t mean to be horrible to other people and I think I am doing an excellent job of not actually saying anything to anyone else, but I am having difficulties keeping my calm that I’m so famous for possessing.

Hopefully I find some sort of shitty employment to give me something to focus on other than my lack of life direction and inability to send anything out to publishers.

Oh, yeah, and my fucking broken computer that houses all of my writing.