We Interrupt This Blog for a Brief Paroxysm of Panic

When blogging, work and OCD collide…

The lower the wage, the longer the employer spends explaining all the ways I could die on the job.

They spend even more time explaining all the things I’m not supposed to say. A bunch of rules that are perilously easy for a speak-before-I-think-trained-to-be-uncensored-in-the-moment-who-likes-to-make-people-laugh improvisor to violate, in our increasingly no-sense-of-humor-allowed workplaces.

So, within the first week, I’ve been confronted with a litany of ways to screw up and lose the new low-paying job I’m starting to wonder why I accepted in the first place.

After watching one of the innumerable terrifying training videos I am required to watch to preserve the privilege of awakening at 4 a.m. to work 4 to 8 hours less per week than I thought I was promised, I took down my immediate past post, “Survivor,” because I panicked that I might have said something I shouldn’t have, according to all those rules I was exposed to in all those videos.

Right after I trashed that post, the manager walked by.

Opportunity! Confess!

Seizing upon a policy I had just learned about open communication (I think? I was having an anxiety attack, ok?) I told him that I had a blog and that I was worried about something I had written, and that I took the post down. I mentioned how many followers I have (he thinks 129 is a lot – how sweet!) and got the “oh, that’s OK, that’s not a problem.”

Never one to quit while I’m ahead, I also blurted out that while I had never been formally diagnosed, I worry a lot and I’m definitely in the (mild) OCD ballpark. (A doctor did once tell me that, actually. Right before she mentioned Prozac, and I left.)

I was not required to, and didn’t, disclose this little, um, personality difference, during the hiring process, which process I described with gratitude in the blog post I took down because of the panic attack about saying too much about the hiring process.

Round and round she goes! Where the anxiety stops, nobody knows!

But wait, there’s MORE!

I also blurted out that I had written a book that I am now shopping around to literary agents, in which my employer (for how much longer I’m not sure) plays a minor role as the setting for a scene intended to make fun primarily of me.

The net effect of which was that a manager I had just met, who had been very welcoming, after telling me that it was all OK (and, God forbid, that he’d like to read my blog – “Oh, it’s just chick stuff, really!” meaning “please don’t read my blog, manager dude”) was looking at me strangely and, I’m sure, planning to review his own multiple scary training videos about how to deal with employees who have over-shared.

I always feel a lot better after dumping my irrational fears on unwitting colleagues sharing with a coworker, even though this manager was obviously in a big hurry to get the hell away from me back to work.

So, long story long, I panicked about something I didn’t need to panic about, overshared to a manager who really didn’t need to hear it, and was reminded of why I am Obviously Completely Displaced in corporate environments.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about corporate environments, it’s that they can’t handle my personality.

Primarily because I have one.

Why did I do this to myself? And for so little money?

Just because it was easy?

Maybe.

Also probably because I knew there might be a few good stories in it. If I can overcome my panic about telling them.

And because of the probability of proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff that comes with the job.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d get fired from a job that pays too little and wreaks havoc with my sleep pattern? For being a little too attentive to Men Who Know How to Do Stuff the customer? Or because my probable OCD irritating tendency to overthink and worry about everything drives everyone nuts?

But I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios! I can take it way beyond just getting fired.

Let’s hold off on that for the time being.

I’m going to revise “Survivor” and re-publish it. The part about the hiring process was incidental, anyway.

I got up at 4 am today and had an OK time at work. Stayed in my lane and didn’t go looking for other stuff to worry about. Got got some fresh air and exercise. Yay me.

So, preferring chamomile tea (or other forms of legal self-medication, which I couldn’t have last night, because I HAD TO GET UP AT 4 AM) to Prozac or CBD or whatever the latest anti-obsessive/anxiety balm may be, I remain,

Your panicky, oversharing, life’s-too-short-for-this-crap-but-running-out-of-money-fast-oh-shit-I-actually-need-this-job,

Ridiculouswoman

Morning Has Broken

Sky, snow, sun. Easter, baseball, and birds. Spring.

And then there’s this: that sky.

This is the way to throw off winter’s blanket –  lumps of snow, leaping down from the branches that shape them, making branch-shaped dents in the snow below, brightened under the blue. All that white will revert to green by the end of the day.

The female cardinal came to the kitchen door, hopping from the garden arch to the patio light, looking in at me, as if to ask for help; “please shake the snow off the bent cedars, my nest is at risk!”

I tell her it will melt soon, and it is melting fast. I can see her in there, bustling, making the necessary repairs.

And from the basement rumpus room I hear that my daughter has found a slow, brass instrumental recording of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” that she is listening to on YouTube.

Which she follows up with her own exuberant rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Well, now. Spring has sprung indeed.

I’m ready now.

Off to pay forty-five dollars more in state taxes than I will get back in federal but not getting bent out of shape about it because, honestly, look at that sky,

I remain,

Your snapping-out-of-it and looking beyond Thursday and Friday to promise of Sunday,

Ridiculouswoman

Solace in Spring Snow

Winter can’t come if it never leaves.

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow…

-TS Eliot, The Wasteland

Palm Sunday. A parade toward betrayal, pain, despair, and death.

Crocuses muffled in sudden spring snow, heavy and wet.

Cars off the road.

How could you forget how to drive in winter, so soon?

It always snows again in April, I said.

I was right.

Budding trees and flowering shrubs – freeze frame.

The cedars and arborvitae, which had just begun to lift,

bent now under a burden of white.

I wasn’t quite ready, anyway.

I heard his voice yesterday, so clear,

quoting Sara Teasdale’s “I am not yours,”

the voice that he left on my answering machine,

nearly thirty years ago.

“For yours is a spirit, beautiful and bright…”

just as I was feeling unworthy as mother to our daughter

whose spirit is more beautiful and bright than mine can ever be,

again.

Winter can’t come if it never leaves.

Sun and spring flowers, up from bulbs planted just before winter was coming.

“Mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain…”

Today I am grateful for the warmth of winter

and the forgetful snow.

 

Socially Impaired

I’d like to truthfully be described as “reclusive author of…”

I’ve said that my ambition is to be able to add “author of…” to my LinkedIn profile.

But I quit Facebook. I don’t Instagram. I wouldn’t know how to Pin or Tumbl anything, and though I have a Twitter handle, I don’t Tweet and I barely check on the people and media I (allegedly) follow. And I don’t even use LinkedIn that much, either.

So, correction: what I really want is to one day be truthfully described as “reclusive author of….” (followed a modest list of reasonably selling books that a few obscure but well-respected reviewers variously describe as “poignant,” “heartbreaking,” “funny,” “laugh-out-loud,” “insightful,” or “searingly honest.”)

HA.

But it seems that blogging carries with it some kind of obligation to engage in, and with, every form of social media imaginable.  I find that off-putting. And exhausting.

Because dammit, I’m trying to WRITE, here.

For me, writing requires more than 240 (is that how many you get, now?) characters, minimization of distractions, quiet contemplation, and time. Sometimes accompanied by classical music. I don’t claim to be some kind of brilliant artiste (we’re saving that for the reviews, right? HA!) but I want to write stuff that is worth reading. I don’t believe that every tiny detail of my daily existence (what I ate, where I went and how I got there, the current state of my physical being) is worthy of…what do we call it? Sharing.

AAAAAAAK!!!! Sounds like something you do “in group.” (Which isn’t to say that it isn’t valuable…in group. If that kind of sharing is your thing, more power to you. Don’t hate on me. But don’t expect me to read all about it on every social media platform imaginable, either. Unless it’s really funny. Or poignant. Or heartbreaking. Or laugh-out-loud. Or insightful. Or searingly honest. etc.)

I do understand the importance of audience.

I like being on stage.

I like singing in public.

And I want people to read my stuff.

But I regard the audience-performer and reader-writer relationship as personal, one-to-one, intimate kind of thing. Each audience member or reader brings their own stuff to the theater, or the page (or the pixels).

As a performer, I experienced the freedom (and the catharsis) of total honesty on stage – because the theater is a place where everyone agrees to pretend that that what’s happening isn’t real, when it is actually more real than any reality the audience will go back to after the show.

And as an avid reader since childhood, the intimacy of what happens between the page, the brain and the heart is really important to me.

Now, I’ve put myself on the page side of that intimate relationship, and found a kind of freedom, there, too.

I used to wonder about how authors of very personal books felt at book signings, meeting so many people who now knew… all that about them.

Some of my family and a few of my friends read this blog. So I know that they know stuff about me they didn’t know before; stuff that you, my blog friends, also now know about me, and about my life.

But it’s OK – because I’m discovering that the same kind of agreement exists between reader and writer as exists between audience member and actor:  we’ve made the choice just to know that we know what we know, and keep it – intimate. Personal.

PRIVATE.

It’s weird, I know, for something so public to be so… private, but I think you get what I mean. Claudette wrote about it recently.  I’ve written about the pain of grief and betrayal, the revival of love, the embarrassment and absurdity of things I’ve said and done, about regret, and gratitude and striving to do better. I hope some of that has gotten down under your skin, and given you a chance to feel what you need to feel about those things, or think about them, or just laugh, at least. And it’s that part of “sharing” that makes it worthwhile, to me.

But I don’t find it necessary to reduce those experiences to 240 characters, or a photo of a pizza. Or a cat.

Unless it is Sophie, expressing her opinion:

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Because, cats. It’s the Internet, after all. HA!

Wishing you some quiet contemplation, classical music, a good read, and funny cats, I remain,

Your social-media-impaired but always up for a good blog read,

Ridiculouswoman

(Featured image by ijmaki from Pixabay.  I just noticed for the first time that even though it isn’t required, I could be crediting the makers of the images I use from Pixabay – and I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so you may see these image credits from now on – if you don’t, it’s because I made the image or took the picture).

Blue and Happy, Empty and Full

I do my “forest bathing” on the prairie or the savannah.

The prairie has the empty spaces I find soothing.  The savannah has the trees. Both have birds, flowers, grasses and ponds or streams. For the past few weeks, the spring peepers have been singing near those ponds, very loudly, rarely stopping even when the paths I walk come close.

Blue sky, yesterday and today.

That bench, or one just like it, had a small engraved memorial plaque on it that, in addition to the names of the persons it commemorates and the family members who commemorated them, has the phrase, “carpe diem.”

Around here in April, if you see the sun and the sky, you better damn carpe that diem.

Yesterday, a walk through the savannah on my own, marveling at how abundantly life returns in spring. Even with the grasses still winter-flattened into brown, dry straw, the “controlled burn” areas still blackened, the birds are everywhere and the roaring chorus of spring peepers is occasionally augmented by the deep croak of a bigger frog. The ice on the ponds is finally completely gone.

Today, I got her to come with me, for a walk on the wide open prairie. She has a habit of stopping to sit at any bench we come near, but that helps me take a moment to really take it in, and read the information on the poster-stands, strategically placed to help visitors appreciate the rarity and fragility of what they’re seeing. A good long walk, under a blue sky with clouds my Grammie called “horse tails” and “lambs.”

I remembered what a pill I was, when Grammie or Mom would point things like that out to me: bored and unappreciative.

But now, it’s me exclaiming, “Oh! See the hawk! See the ducks, in pairs, the Mom and the Dad! See the chickadees!” And there were tiny finch-like birds, as small as hummingbirds but fatter, curious and unafraid, not creepers, just flitting from branch to branch, close enough to see a little yellow above the eye and wing.

She hurries forward, almost out of view, trying to get it over with, but I don’t care. I got her outside, at least.

Somewhere along there she’ll wonder why Mom stops to take pictures like this:

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or this:

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Someday when she looks at these photos she may remember the spring day we walked together here, the happiness of a blue Midwestern sky and the slope beneath it bursting with crocuses. She may remember Mom smiling as the birds flitted and sang over and around us, on the open prairie, shoots of green among the straw.

Tomorrow’s forecast includes rain, snow, wind and thunder.

April.

Back in the car she says, “we had a great morning, Mom.”

Today, blue means happy.

And empty means full.

Wishing you a soothing forest (or prairie or savannah) bath, I remain,

Your I-told-you-it-always-snows-one-more-time-in-April-but-I-planted-my-cold-weather-crops-yesterday anyway,

Ridiculouswoman

Sleeves. Please.

I admit I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

In celebration of opening my new store, I am reminded to post my latest addendum to the Middle Aged Woman rules, to wit:

  • Always wear sleeves!

I don’t care how “toned” your arms are – I don’t care if you look like Linda Hamilton in Terminator, if you are a woman of a certain age, sleeves are required.

Even Linda wears them, short though they are, on the set of the new Terminator movie. 

I will never forget the first time I saw her doing pull-ups, sleevelessly, in the first movie of that franchise. (I could link you a YouTube of it, but the clip gets violent and who needs that on a beautiful spring day. You remember the arms, I know you do).

It was a searing moment of self-realization.

I realized that I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

On the Presidential Fitness Award test, an exercise in public humiliation all fat kids of my era were forced to endure in elementary school gym class, my time on the “flexed arm hang” (basically holding your chin above a bar as if you had just completed a pull up – the girls’ version of chin-ups on the test) was never more than .001 second.

That glorious time of space-era inspired panic-patriotism (also known as oh-shit-the-Russians-are-way-ahead-of-us-on-satellites-and-sending-living-beings-into-space-so-we-better-get-our-asses-in-gear-and-get-fit-and-build-a-Saturn-5-and-send-some-guys-to-the-moon-like-Kennedy-said-we-would-not-because-it-is-easy-but-because-it-is-hard) included the joy of public weigh-ins (again, in gym class, in front of everyone, with the number announced aloud) and some moronic exercise called the “standing broad jump” where you were supposed to jump forward as far as you could with no run-up. Just stand there, and jump forward. As a dancer, I was actually pretty good at that one.

The year I actually completed the half-mile run without stopping, the program managed to turn that accomplishment into yet another form of crushing public humiliation when I was awarded the mortifying “most improved” certificate, given as a half-assed consolation prize to the fat kids who couldn’t keep up with the sporty kids on any of it.

As God is my witness, I didn’t let it lick me (but read “humiliated” where Scarlett says she never be”hungry” again and take out the lying, cheating and killing part – you get the idea.) Made the cheerleading squad in junior high, and directed the talent show in high school, which caused all the pretty, popular, sporty jockettes to suddenly become my best friends around tryout time. I’d include them in whatever Big Musical Number I was planning, choreographing and featuring myself in, surrounded by a bevy of said jockettes dancing the simple moves I had taught them, invariably earning epic applause.

But, sigh, there is no amount of applause or encouragement or coaching or weightlifting that will ever get me those Linda Hamilton arms.

At least I admit it. Hurrah for self-awareness. I live in a town where one of many guilty pleasures is to ridicule publicly (while devouring privately, dish, dish, dish) the local glossy rag that is filled with pictures of rich ladies in deep denial about their arms wearing sleeveless gowns at society fundraisers.

Sleeves, ladies. For the love of God, SLEEVES!

The first item I am featuring in my new store is a baseball-style shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and a message related to the (aspirational) theme of this blog. Some of my designs (if you can call them that – I come up with words and choose the fonts – but I did create the image for and design the logo, and I made the banners and drew the heart by teaching myself enough Illustrator to do at least those things, with a great deal of expletive-flavored trial and error) are blatant “branded items” designed to promote this blog, while others are just for fun, just because.

Some of them even allow you to customize a bit of text on the back (to de-brand it and put your name, or your church’s name, or something on the back instead of the website of this blog) or the type of item (style of shirt.) I hope I haven’t allowed any options for full-on sleeveless display. (We used to call that kind of shirt, pardon the slur, that’s what it was called, a “dago-T” or, eeww, aaaaak, a “wife-beater.” Yes, people used to casually use that phrase to describe a style of t-shirt. AAAK!)

So, anyway, even if the option is available to go sleeveless, don’t.

Just don’t. Please?

Even if they are short, you must choose sleeves.

Waiting for the next awards show to dish on who is sleeveless who really, really should not be, I remain,

Your three-quarter-length-sleeve wearing, vainly-hoping, barbell-using

Ridiculouswoman

“Oversensitive” Is A Compliment, Mom

It’s not a problem, it’s a gift.

Never underestimate what an autistic person understands, or especially, remembers.

It is bound to be a helluva lot more than you think.

Even with an autistic person who is verbal, communication can be oblique, indirect, hinted. Somehow, the direct route got derailed in the brain, or entangled in what science has found are far more neural connections than “neurotypical” people have. There’s a LOT more going on in the brain of an autistic person than in a “typical” brain.

As our daughter matures, I am reminded of this daily, and often, I’m amazed.

How did she….? Where did that idea come from? I didn’t know she even know that word!

When I was writing the other day about missing Mike’s centering influence in our lives, I mentioned how he loved to discover new music, and how he and our daughter would learn a lot of great songs by artists I had never heard of before.

One of those was a Canadian singer-songwriter named Jann Arden. They started listening to her when our daughter was a toddler.

Thursday, I noticed she was listening to Jann Arden on her phone.

We hadn’t played Jann Arden in this house for more than ten years.

Suddenly, as I am writing about Mike finding new music, she starts listening to Jann Arden again?

The truth is, Jann Arden’s music was the soundtrack to the most painful period of our marriage, a time that had ongoing traumatic effects for the rest of our lives together.  But Mike had gotten our daughter so hooked on that music during that fraught time that I actually took it away, with the promise of return if she mastered an essential skill.

Denying an autistic child something they are attached to is agony.

But it worked.

It was also the beginning of the end of our listening to Arden’s music.

Until Thursday.

I’ve been writing about how we’ve been going through another wave of grief, unexpectedly, and how I tell her to hang on to the happy memories.

Was playing Jann Arden, within earshot, her way of telling me the sad memories are there, too? She remembers listening to Jann Arden with him, and she remembers me taking the music away and giving it back again after a week of painful deprivation.

She also remembers the wrenching, raging discord too often present in our marriage.

My Mother used to accuse me of being “oversensitive” when things other kids did or said upset me, or when I objected to her nit-picking about my hair, my clothes, my reading habit (“go outside!” – I realized she nagged me about this because she wanted to go outside) or my choice of activities, jobs or diets. When I explained I felt attacked, she called me “paranoid.”

Mom often started her criticism with, “what will people think of your Mother if you (wear that hairstyle, leave that job, eat that food…?)”

Not what would they think of her daughter, but what would they think of her.

It infuriated Mom when I called her on this – that her complaints and criticisms had more to do with her than me.

The idea that I might have some insight into the motivation behind her criticism offended her.

The idea of insight itself exasperated her, I think. Who needs insight when something needs doing. So stow your precious little feelings and don’t forget to unload the dishwasher. We’ll talk about your feelings later. As in never.

Mom saw sensitivity as a threat. Acknowledging undercurrents means uncovering pain. Lost father, lost brother, kid-thwarted career, lost mother. Regret.

She did not want to open that box.

Whatever she had packed away so tightly burst out of her occasionally, as tears or anger. But she wouldn’t say why.

Other than I had forgotten to unload the dishwasher, again.

Or that she felt unappreciated.

I wish my “oversensitivity” had been comforting to her, not annoying. Not a threat.

Sensitivity is receptivity to expressed emotion in people, or observable beauty in nature, music, dance, literature or art.

“Oversensitivity” is the ability to discern things unexpressed, unspoken, unseen, but present, meaningful, and worthy of discussion, or at least acknowledgement.

That’s a gift, Mom, not a problem.

A gift your granddaughter displays in the unique, sometimes heartbreaking ways she communicates what she has discerned, through whatever alchemy of receptivity her overconnected brain employs (sensing tiny blips of my neuroelectricity? or a disturbance in the local magnetic field? glancing over my shoulder?) as I sit here, writing about Mike and music and our lives together.

So thanks for the compliment, Mom, but it is your granddaughter who really deserves it.

Listening again, after a very long hiatus, to Jann Arden, and allowing myself to remember the pain that is the flipside of love, I remain,

Your “oversensitive”

Ridiculouswoman