False Start

So much for that Men Who Know How to Do Stuff thing…

I’m not a quitter. If anything, I have a bad habit of staying at jobs for way too long.

But arising at 4 a.m. in order to work for four hours to earn (almost) one tank of gas?

Um, no.

Plus, the Men Who Know How to Do Stuff were all the way on the other side of the place.

Feh.

I had promised myself I’d stay in my lane, and work hard to get the kind of job that I really need – one that pays the bills and provides insurance benefits.

I can’t do that if I’m staggering around sleep deprived and wracked with Mom worry.

So the answer to the question, “why did I do this to myself?” would appear to be, “damned if I know.”

Unless it was to get me used to occasionally getting up at 4 a.m., when things are quiet, because today I got my book pitch written, timed and practiced for my upcoming agent-fest writer’s event. So there’s that.

But job-wise, it’s back to the starting blocks. I actually remembered that thing called “networking” when I saw some jobs I could apply for at a place where a college classmate works.

And this morning, I had a phone interview for a much more “in my lane” job at another place.

I hope that means the universe is telling me I did the right thing, quitting the four in the morning job.

Which it seems it is, because the phone interview went well, and I will be called in for an in-person interview, probably next week.

WARDROBE CRISIS!!!

(We can’t let a good thing happen without a little anxiety attack, now can we?)

It’s been a while since I’ve had an interview for an actual office-y kind of job. I wore jeans to the last three job interviews I had, for the last three jobs I got, at places where I wore jeans.

I genuinely don’t know what women wear to job interviews for office-y kind’s of jobs anymore. I got rid of all my suits. I own two pairs of OK looking trousers, but sitting around worrying has added a few pounds, so they’ll be snug and any blouses I have to go with them will come with gaps at the buttons.

Let’s go shopping. Suggestions for appropriate office-y job attire are hereby solicited and welcome. Crisis averted?

Anyway, during the phone interview, the very pleasant interviewer used a phrase that Angelic Daughter also uses regularly, to coach herself through her days, and used in conversation with me, shortly after the call ended.

Don’t want to jinx it, but I’ll take that as a good sign.

Until then, I remain,

Your trying-to-be-realistic-but-also-hopeful-and-optimistic-while-trying-to-figure-out-what-to-wear-

Ridiculouswoman

(Featured image by Gabe Raggio from Pixabay)

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

Menacing Midwinter

The rabbit survived. So did I.

The glass exploded. One just like the one pictured there, on the windowsill.

It didn’t “break.”  It didn’t “shatter.”

It exploded.

I could not believe how much glass was in that glass.

It was everywhere – inside and under the dishwasher I had just taken it out of, under the fridge across the floor, into the living room and the breezeway.

Tiny shards of it in my fingers and the meat of my hand.

WTF?

I had just taken it out of the dishwasher, and accidentally tapped it – just tapped it -on the underside of the Bulgarian-installed quartz countertop.

And BLAM.

It exploded.

Rational minded me instantly assumed that I had chanced upon the perfect point on the glass that was scratched or hairline cracked or otherwise weakened just enough to cause some sort of scientifically explainable reaction.

Kablooey.

I had to vacuum the inside of the dishwasher along with the kitchen and breezeway floors, missing a church service I wanted to attend, because it was unsafe for my daughter or Sophie the cat to walk through the kitchen until I was sure it was shard-free.

Earlier that morning, the relatively new television started acting weird, too, providing sound but no picture – just an odd sort of lavender glow.

Turns out I had connected the HDMI cables in the wrong inputs after switching out the DVR for a no-charge simple cable box (which still makes me mad – that even though I get internet service from this provider and I could watch TV via internet only, they still make me have a box and their salesperson was unable to give a technical reason why  – grrrr.)

Then the shelf on the new hutch on my new desk half-collapsed – one of the pegs that holds it up just suddenly fell out.

What’s going on?

There was nothing significant about the date that I could remember. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, other than considering giving up on my book, and missing Mike, and feeling a little lost about my future, when the glass exploded.

After I got the glass cleaned up and the shelf fixed, I spent a lot of time trying to complete an online job application, and just as I was finishing it, my computer spontaneously shut down.

Just turned itself off.

Wind? Was there a power surge and the strip cut the power? But the lights on all the other chargers plugged in to the strip were still on.

Weird.

These past few days, every time I veer in the direction of giving up on my notions of writing, speaking and singing, something interrupts, or switches off, or falls apart, or explodes.

It doesn’t feel like encouragement.

It feels like menace.

I wake up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic, wondering what the hell I’m doing and what could happen, all the bad stuff that could happen, in my capacity as a professional-class worst-case-scenario OCD worrier.

My heart races. I cringe and writhe, remembering long-ago embarrassments, mistakes, and failures, imagining they will all happen again now, and be much worse. I read nonsense on my phone for two hours to try to calm down and go back to sleep.

And then, today: a sparkling bright, perfect winter day. No extremes. Just a spotless blue sky, sunshine and fresh snow on the ground.

One day of calm, after the vortex, and the ice, and the wind and the windblown snow.

The house has stopped creaking and snapping and kerpowing, now that the temperature has moderated, but I predict a spate of “giant potholes that ate Chicago” blog posts and news stories, come spring, because of the insane temperature swings we’ve had. A thaw-and-freeze cycle that cracked steel holding up Lake Shore Drive is surely causing concrete and asphalt pavement to crack and crumble all over the area.

Old Sophie caught a mouse last night, and lovingly left it’s gnawed corpse as an offering  in the middle of the library rug.  She’s still got it, the old girl. I just wish she wouldn’t flaunt it in the middle of the library rug.

But we’re gaining daylight – the sun is up when I rise, now, and I can still contemplate a walk in the late afternoon.

It’s too soon to say we’ve turned a corner – March is yet to come, all lion and lamb, and it always, always snows one more time in April.

Waiting for the clock to run out on the agents who have my query and trying to screw up the courage to start another round instead of giving up, I remain,

Your anxious, worried, but like the backyard rabbit who survived the vortex by hiding under the deck, as yet unconquered by winter extremes and associated all-night-vigils,

Ridiculouswoman

Let’s Layer Some OCD on That Last Post

DON’T GO OUTSIDE. JUST DON’T.

A few updates to my polar vortex post.

I revised it, to make it clear that I understand this is a very dangerous, life threatening situation.

And because I’m not that idiot 20-something that went outside in temperatures like this anymore.

That was a spectacularly stupid thing to do.

Just so we’re clear.

Please go back and read the revised version of that last post.

AND STAY INSIDE.

Please.

Because I worry about you. Pretty much all the time. It’s what I do best.

And because the wind is picking up.

I’ll be here, worrying about you, and praying for anyone still looking for a place to go.

Fretting, and listening to every pop and creak coming from inside and outside the house, I remain,

Your penitent, concerned, perseverating

Ridiculouswoman

The Belated Obligatory New Year’s Post

Panic as a prompt…

We call them “revolutions,” not “resolutions.”

This year I’m thinking of doing two things that make me very anxious: first, opening up my Facebook page to “friends of friends” instead of just “friends.”

That might not sound like a big deal to you, but my brother is one of my “friends,” and he is one of those people who never ignores a friend request – he has over 1,300 friends on Facebook.

That’s a lot of aging hippies who love to argue about politics to contend with.

(Oh, alright already, “with which to contend.” Happy now, internal grammar bitch?)

Oy.

But my brother has 1300 friends because he courageously pursued his creative life from the tender age of 17, leaving college in the face of extreme maternal angst (but with paternal support, if not approval. And it was emotional support, not financial, as far as I know) and made quite a success of it. I’ve always admired him for that. Not sure I ever told him. I’ll do that today.

Which brings me to the other thing that scares me: posting the url for my blog on LinkedIn, and going all in on being the speaker, writer, blogger and singer (oh, and “aspiring professional party guest)” I want to be.

Oh, that’ll go over well among all those articles about how to improve teamwork and productivity and deliver deliverables, whatever the hell those are.

I’m supposed to be looking for a job. LinkedIn is one of the places I look. For a job job. You know, a day job. A real job. Something that might pay the health insurance and have a little left over for cat food.

But instead I’ve spent the last week designing products for an online store I intend to open to support my blogging habit, and emailing queries to literary agents who represent authors who are so, way, light years out of my league that I have a daily panic attack that goes something like this:

“Well, Annie, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Trading fear for flow, remember? Yeah, but look who she represents! I loved that book! I could never be that good! My God they turned that one into a movie! Who am I to be writing a memoir anyway? I didn’t grow up in a family of zealous religious survivalists (Educated) or dirt poor (The Glass Castle). The only group I might represent (see the interview with Stephanie Land, of Maid, who got an agent because she wrote an article that went viral – why didn’t you think of that, Annie, you dumbass? not that I could write anything that would go viral) is other widows in the US and there are about 11.75 million of them and 3.23 million widowers (oh, there’s some great odds for a date with a man who understands) and they’re all different from each other so no one person could be “representative” of them all and they’ll probably hate my story anyway because they are being good widow/widowers who don’t tell the world about the dark aspects of their marriages like I do in my book even though it is funny but also really sad and who wants to read that anyway? If I send it out there will be rooms full of snarky New York literary agents at conference tables laughing at me!”

Back here in reality, the second response I got, within two weeks of sending the query, was a request for the full manuscript. Rejected very politely after the read, but I got that far, anyway.  I’ve received two other polite rejections, one that even took the time to say “sorry for your loss,” and one that was probably canned (auto-reject), but it was a response, not a pocket veto.

Responses from four out of nine agents I’ve queried so far, in less than a month, and the other five are pending, still within the 6-8 week window.

So while I wait, I’m here blathering on about how I’m going to boldly pursue the creative life, when I should be putting all my effort into getting a job. Or at least getting something published.  Even if I do that, I’ll still need to get a job.

At my age, any job I’m able to land will likely involve a name tag, enforced cheerfulness and toilet cleaning. And still won’t pay the bills.

In the meantime I’m trying to work up the courage to do those things on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Facebook, maybe. I can handle aging hippies.

But LinkedIn? That’s my professional public face.

I’ll get another whole post out of that panic attack.

Losing my nerve, I remain,

Your shaky, anxious, fretful, stymied, what-the-hell-am-I-thinking?

Ridiculouswoman

Wisdom Tooth Weight Loss Secret: or, How to Drop a Pound a Day by Worrying

Oral surgery and germophobia make a powerful weight loss combination!

I’ve lost seven pounds in ten days.

What’s my secret? The miracle weight loss secret you’ve all been clamoring for (actually, that should be, “for which you’ve all been clamoring” or, “for which you clamor” – there’s no quelling the inner grammar bitch, even when what’s wrong sounds more natural)?

How can you, too, experience this miraculous, effortless and swift reduction?

Lose unsightly weight! Feel more energetic (and hungrier – I think that makes one a little more manic) and suddenly start getting SO much done around the house!

All you have to do is:

  1.  Have all your wisdom teeth removed, and
  2.  Be living with (in my case, self-diagnosed) Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and/or, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a/k/a OCD.

All the stars aligned for me on this one.

I put it off for almost a year because everyone I asked who had theirs out said it was the worst, most painful experience of their life. Some suffered awful complications that I dare not mention, lest naming call.

But, it went very well. After a day of trying to talk with a mouthful of gauze, and two socks filled with ice tied around my head, I had…

No pain, and no swelling.

I was almost disappointed, having been robbed of the drama I had been told to expect.

But I digress – get on with it, I hear you plead. How’d you lose seven pounds in ten days?

Easy – my natural terror of germs and infection coupled with the stricture that I can’t eat anything crunchy for six to eight weeks.

And no lettuce or spinach.

Nothing crunchy and no lettuce or spinach pretty much means I eat….nothing.

No lettuce, carrots, celery, cauliflower, radishes or anything else that usually goes into a salad. I can have chicken, eggs and cheese and mushy overcooked veg.

The instructions said I could eat hot food after the first day and pretty much anything other than crunchy stuff, seeds, nuts, lettuce and spinach, after the second.

So, being a salad eater and a carb-avoider, what did that leave me?

Soup.

Strained, to take out any little bits of basil or herbs or tomato skin or seeds that might get through, lodge in the (small but deep) crevices in my jaws, fester, create disgusting infection and probably kill me.

And overcooked chicken mashed into mush with mayonnaise and a little curry powder.

And eggs and cheese. Improvised turkey and swiss roll-ups with mayo and honey mustard.

Boneless, skinless chicken with overcooked green beans. Turkey burgers.

I’m so afraid of bits getting stuck where they shouldn’t be that I’ve been eating really, really slowly, and chewing and chewing and chewing with my weak and wobbly front teeth instead of the remaining molars in the back.

Then I rush madly into the bathroom to rinse, floss, and use this odd looking little syringe with a curved tip to shoot a water-hydrogen peroxide solution into the holes left by my former wisdom teeth, blasting out any of those little nasty bits that might get stuck in there (and fester, and kill me), which (the rushing madly, and the worrying about festering bits that might kill me) probably counts as exercise.

I didn’t have any milk in the house to make canned cream of chicken soup, so I made it with heavy whipping cream instead (hey, it’s called Cream of… right?)

Which was delicious and, it occurred to me, probably so high in fat, even though it had too many carbs, to, along with the cheese, almost qualify me as a Keto dieter.

I’ve also been drinking LOTS of water – I don’t know what it is about losing my wisdom teeth, or taking prophylactic antibiotics, that made me so thirsty, but the effect seems to have been a sort of cleanse.

And, while I was supposed to be prostrate with pain, not bending or lifting anything and taking it easy, I was actually

  1. undecorating the Christmas tree
  2. packing all the ornaments away
  3. getting the lights off and packed away
  4. hauling the tree outside so my brother could help me get it on top of the car
  5. driving out to the forest preserve to drop the tree off for recycling
  6. maniacally cutting up four cashmere sweaters that my angelic daughter innocently washed and put in the dryer on high heat for me, rendering them unwearable, and hand sewing them onto a fleece backing to make a blanket for my Great Nephew and racing to the only FedEx place open after 8 p.m. to pay a ridiculous amount of money to have it overnighted to him so that it would get there on time, thereby negating any money-saving idea about making something homemade for him but I really didn’t want to be late for his first birthday and, today,
  7. taking down the outdoor lights and garlands.

I’m beginning to sense a theme here.

Things that haven’t been dusted in months (OK, maybe years, but whatever) got dusted.

Vacuuming has occurred, often.

I just might wash that kitchen floor.

And clean the bathrooms.

And finally get a blog post done. Voila.

So, if you want to lose weight fast, all you need is:

  • a smooth, uncomplicated episode of oral surgery coupled with
  • a mortal fear of germs and infection which causes you to
  • chew very slowly with your front teeth, avoiding the molars, at the back of which are those openings into the dark and infectable places, plus
  • a determination not to eat any of the recommended mushy but very carby foods (potatoes! Hell no! Pasta? Are you kidding me?) and a whole bunch of too-long-neglected housekeeping.

No? Oh well. Works for me, anyway.

I’ll let you know where all this goes, in six to eight weeks.

Until then, I remain,

Your anxious, germophobic, mindfully masticating (yes, the word that starts with “m,” to give me some alliteration here, that means chewing, so get your mind out of the gutter), hydrogen-peroxide rinsing,

Ridiculouswoman

The Sideways Hourglass

How’d my hourglass fall over?

Back when Mike would drive me to the train station for my commute to my high-stress job, we’d sometimes arrive early enough to see the train before mine go by – it was an express, and our daughter loved the thrill of watching it blast through the station (from the safety of the car, of course.)

We came to call these express trains “whoosh” trains, because they’d “whoosh” by.

Every once in a while, she still asks to drive over to the station, to see a whoosh train.

Whoosh trains define my relationship to time, now – time that is whooshing by like a train I’m not on.

I feel like I should be “better” by now. It’s been over two years and we’re coming up on our third Christmas season without Mike. I finished my book and I’m working up the courage to start sending out my query letters about it. I’ve painted rooms, given away almost all his clothes, including, finally, the barn coat and boots. I’m still working on figuring out what to do with his collection of war games, and the telescope and the tandem are still in the garage. But still.

I’ve had days when I felt happy. Days when I didn’t think about Mike, and then felt guilty about it. I’m surprised by this new wave of grief that has hit me, now, at the start of the season of joy.

The train whooshes by. I’m supposed to be trying to live with love and laughter, and right now, I suck at it. I’m doing OK with the love part, I guess, except it feels like it is coming from a still, quiet place that just sits there – it isn’t an active kind of love. It’s an, “OK, get up, one foot in front of the other, let’s try to be a decent person today” kind of love, and I still fail at it regularly.

I feel an odd sort of responsibility to “make progress,” and I feel like I haven’t made any. I keep getting older and I’m every bit as alone. I keep losing and regaining the same three pounds.

The panicky anxiety is back. Mike could fix that. One hug from him and I was OK. I felt safe.

I don’t feel safe. I feel exposed. Unlocked. Threatened and afraid.

I sure as hell don’t feel like I’m “making progress.”

I feel like someone knocked the my hourglass over sideways.

Everyone else’s hourglass is efficiently sifting its sand, and when it is just about done, they’ll just “strike the bell and turn the glass” and start a new day.

I feel stuck in a place where time passes, I get older, but things don’t get better. Just dustier, greyer, yellowed. Old. Dried up.

chess and hourglass still life

I kept one of his many chessboards, the one he won as an elementary school champion. I still have his hats, though the smell of him is fading from them. I have too many dried up roses around the house. Feng shui, or something like it, says not to keep those, and to throw away the chipped dishes and cracked glassware. Working on it.

I haven’t been reading anything other than the deluge of catalogs that come this time of year, which I find oppressive. Maybe this year I’ll just do one of those, “Anne has made a donation in your name to…(insert laudable charitable organization doing the good in the world that I don’t seem to have the will or gumption or energy or courage to do.)

From darkness riseth light, right? Right?

Each year my church has a “longest night” service for people like me – people who need comfort because they feel left out of the joy.

That’s the message, though, isn’t it? He came in our darkest hour – never mind that we appropriated a pagan midwinter festival designed to address fears that the dark of winter would last forever and light would not come again. He came to bring hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness.

And to unburden us of our sins.

I feel like failing to be happy is a sin. I feel like I shouldn’t have to work so hard to feel grateful for the life I have and I don’t understand why I keep thinking about the life I never had instead of the one I do have, now. I don’t understand why I keep making the same mistakes, over and over again.

I’ve been slipping in my observation of the Middle Aged Woman rules. I’m in danger of giving up, drying up, sinking into a cronehood made up of joint pain and thinning hair and sagging spirit…well, let’s be honest here, sagging everything.

I have to go wash my hair, put on some lipstick, and take my daughter to see the holiday model train display. I’ll try to be quiet, and let her just enjoy it.

And maybe when they start sprinkling the fake snow from the ceiling, I’ll look out the window at the specks of real snow that is falling, and remember that spring will come.

From darkness riseth light.

In the bleak midwinter.

Time to buy a tree, and smell the piney-ness of it, and find the joy, even if it is small, and deeply buried.

Until then I remain,

Your humble, flawed, struggling, hanging on to hope by a thread,

Ridiculouswoman