self-conscious

I’m so painfully aware of myself these days. Maybe it’s the new skin I’ve revealed under decades of wearing someone else, it’s still raw. I’m moving about the world as a fundamentally different person and I have no frame of reference for anything anymore.

I’m so painfully aware that I might not be good at relationships, that I don’t know what healthy attachment looks like, or how to give all of myself to one person. I don’t know when to bend or fold, when to stop talking, how much to say, or even if I should say it. I’m suddenly insecure and aware of everything I do.

Am I a healthy person for others to be around? Am I making their lives better, or worse? When is it my responsibility to exit someone’s life, do I get to decide that? Or will they kick me out when they’re done? I don’t want to make anyone’s life worse. I know every day isn’t going to add value, but overall? What if I’ve identified that overall I am bringing someone down? What if, despite all my best efforts, I am not what someone else needs? Is this what it is when love isn’t enough?

For so long, I saw myself one way. I am surprised and saddened when people reveal the ways that I’ve hurt them. I’m caught off-guard by the ways I affect people. I’m painfully aware that it’s not just me in the world, and that’s been a monumental shift. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to be kind, how to be stable and safe for others. How to be emotionally sustainable and not burn someone out. I worry that I am a hurricane, leaving a path of destruction behind me. There’s a poem about throwing seeds behind you, and not looking back, and trusting that things will grow and blossom. I want to believe that, I want something beautiful to grow in people’s hearts where I have been. I don’t want to leave people with hearts of darkness.

Maybe I give myself too much credit. It’s arrogant to think I have that much impact.

I look at my life and wonder when I’m going to settle down and be the person someone can rely on? Someone I can rely on and trust, too? I’m terrible unsure of myself. I don’t know where I end and begin these days.

endings

I wanted to be good for you. I wanted to fill you with hope and warmth and instead I made the gaps bigger and the dark places darker. I never wanted you to feel like you had to set yourself on fire to keep me warm. I wanted to be good for you. I am sorry I couldn’t be with you the way I wanted to, the way you needed. You worried that you weren’t enough for me, but darling, it was the other way around.

when i give you a song

When I give you a song, it is yours. And it will be forever, and forever is a long time. I may make someone else a playlist, but your song will not be on it. And one day, your song will come on when I least expect it, in an unlikely setting, and I’ll either soften with warmth or I’ll bristle with pain. That song is yours, carved into my being with your initials next to it.

Music is love in search of a word. Sidney Lanier

this is normal.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m navigating a separation. And living by myself for the first time ever. And I have a job with a lot of responsibilities that requires me to keep track of hundreds of things at a time (my work-life is ruled by spreadsheets.) AND I’M IN A SIX WEEK INTENSIVE COURSE ON TOP OF IT ALL.

Some days I feel so fucking great, I’VE GOT THIS! SLAYING THE EMAIL DEMON! SOLVING ALL THE PROBLEMS! I CAN SEE EVERYTHING CLEARLY, I KNOW WHERE ALL THE PIECES FIT AND I AM CHARGING FORWARD! DEADLINES ARE MY BITCH!

And other days my executive function evaporates and I feel useless and anxious and like a massive failure. I can’t focus, I can’t do what I know needs to be done, and I can’t commit to anything. I try very hard to redirect my attention to things I would rather do in the name of productivity. But… the pandemic makes this worse. Working from home makes this worse. Going through a separation makes this worse. Doing school work in addition to a full workday makes this worse. All of these things combined with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and bouts of insomnia?

It’s overwhelming. It makes me question my ability to do my job. It makes me question if I can be in project management long-term. Am I even any good at this? Some days, YES. Most days, yes. Bad days are allowed, I tend to forget that. I had a bad day yesterday and today isn’t great. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back on track?

But my therapist reminds me that this is a lot, that all of those things would be hard on their own. But all at once? That’s next-level overwhelming, it’s NORMAL to feel completely swallowed. Most people aren’t doing all of this. Most people aren’t doing all of this with a brain disorder, clinical depression, anxiety, and running on less than five hours of sleep on a given night.

I’m actually doing really well. I’m still showing up to all of it. I may not be as productive as I want, and the timing might be all over the place, but the work is getting done. I picked the worst time to do a 180 on my life, but you know what? I’m HAPPY. I’m grateful. It still feels right, even though it’s overwhelming and stressful, and that’s normal. It’s normal.

Today

Today I want to look like a school teacher from the 70’s.

Today I want to look a little Stepford.

Today I want to look like I go to a private school.

Today I want to look like an airline hostess from the 60’s.

Today I want to look soft and like someone you can trust.

Today I want to look like I’m 12.

Today I want to look like my grandpa.

Today I want to look sporty and athletic.

Today I want to look business professional.

Today I want to look like I’m with the band. 

Today I want to look like Katy Perry.

Today I want to look like I’m an experienced woodsman.

Today I want to look fresh like a peach.

Today I want to look like a librarian.

Today I want to look like I’m relaxed.

Today I want to look androgynous.

Today I want to look like a Spice Girl.

Today I want to look like I’m on Battlestar Galactica. 

Today I want to look taller.

Today I look like Bob Ross. 

Today I want to look like I give a damn.

Today I want to look as tired as I feel. 

Today I want to look like Peg Bundy.

Today I want to look a little nerdy.

Today I want to look easy and breezy.

Today I want to look effortless. 

Today I want to look like I tried.

Today I want to look like I’m engaged and listening.

Today I want to look like a mermaid.

Today I want to look like I’m up to no good.

Today I want to look like I matter.

Today I want to look like I’m in high school in the 80’s.

Today I want to look like I’m going golfing in Florida.

Today I want to look like a Golden Girl.

Today I look like Dolores Umbridge.

Today I want to look like a beatnik.

Today I want to look like I ate the patriarchy for breakfast.

sometimes we’re living, and sometimes we’re not

I had to actively keep choosing to live in 2019.

There were scary moments of suicide ideation, when I felt like I was so far away from everything I’d worked so hard to achieve, moments of ambivalence and quiet acceptance that this is it for me, it will never get better, I will never contribute to anything good again. I was able to say those things out loud. And with a supportive doctor and a loving therapist, I was given the space and tools to heal, and the colour seeped back into my life.

And then one day in October I was unusually tired, and the lymph nodes in my neck and collarbone were the size of small rocks. And within days, everything slid down a mountain and I was in a hospital, slick with sweat and unable to open my eyes under the glaring bright lights of the emergency room. There I was, with a fast-growing and deadly infection, with an incompetent ER doctor who prescribed antibiotics that were never going to work with a raging fever, a doctor that didn’t ask the right questions and missed huge red flags in my blood work, a doctor that didn’t listen to begin with, and provided a misdiagnosis. Screaming, unending pain in the side of my head, fevers that soaked my bedding every few hours and made me delirious and dizzy like I’d consumed a whole bottle of wine, vomiting until I felt like my insides had been wrung out to dry. Another trip to the ER, a scary diagnosis, intravenous antibiotic treatments that put stress on my heart and disrupted electrolyte levels, and antibiotics that made me vomit until I had stars in my eyes. At times I wondered if the treatments might kill me if the infection didn’t. Tests. Tests. Tests. Treatment, tests, reassessment, home. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The fevers subsided, and after six days of out-patient care, I was discharged to continue treatment at home, every six hours, for ten days. I was prescribed anti-nauseants given to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy because those oral antibiotics had to stay down or I’d have to go back to the hospital. And yet, in those weird and awful moments, there was laughter, and hand squeezes, and love. There was overwhelming kindness. There were people pulling for me everywhere.

But I had to choose to live. So many people don’t have that luxury. Friends in their thirties have died unexpectedly of heart attacks and drug overdoses, leaving behind young children and devastated friends and family. Friends dying the long, slow death of cancer. These people wanted to live. Every day of their lives had meaning.

Life is inherently good, and I want to share my guiding principles that have seen me through the roughest moments time and time again.

  • I am trying to love my life as I am living it. There are nonnegotiable moments of discomfort, of course, but there are places where I have power to turn away from things that aren’t serving me.
  • Life is so short. Today matters. I want to be ready to die at any time, to know I’ve lived life to the fullest, tried all the strange and wonderful things that I could have, embraced the opportunities, failed, and learned every step of the way.
  • I’m scared of everything, but that hasn’t held me back. I try everything once, and if I hate it, I know that I don’t have to do it again. But often, I’ve tried it again, further down the road, and was overjoyed to discover I felt differently, and sometimes, overjoyed that I passionately still hated it and I was RIGHT!
  • I’m allowed to change my mind as I fail, learn, and grow, in whatever order that comes in.
  • Failing is important. Everyone needs to fail. It’s hard, it can be shameful, but the value is in learning from it. Did you really, truly fail if you came out of something better and stronger?
  • My self talk is important, and I had to go to therapy to learn how to be kind and empathetic to myself. This is not about enabling or placating bad decisions because they feel nice in the moment, but it is about listening to the uncomfortable feelings and allowing myself time to be sad and angry and disappointed, without shaming myself for feeling those things or placing blame for them.
  • I’m trying to live a life I’m proud of. I’m imperfect, but it helps to be able to take stock every now and then and reflect on the things you feel good about.

I used to think you only live once, but my mom recently corrected me. You only die once, but you live every day.

I’m still here

You might be here because you noticed that I’m missing from Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I’m here, I’m okay-ish, but I’m not online.

I generally liked being online, but lately, everything makes me angry or sad, even good things. I wish I had any modicum of self-control when it came to being online, but I don’t. I find myself closing an app and then immediately opening it again to my own horror. I’ve tried logging out and deleting apps from my phone, but that lasts until I’m in front of a computer and I log right back in, and then I reinstall them on my phone because I’ve already failed to stay away.

I’m not in a good headspace and haven’t been for quite a while. I’m in therapy and under the care of a physician, but I have my own work to do, too. My full-time job is recovery, and it’s hard to recover when I’m constantly triggered by things in my environment. I can’t control the content, but I do have control over the exposure.

I do toxic things like comparing my very small victories to others’ accomplishments and then I feel even worse about myself. Actually, I feel really bad about myself most of the time. Being online and bombarded with thousands of people’s seemingly awesome lives isn’t good for me. I know that Person X has just landed their dream job and is so happy! … and yet I’m here on medical leave wondering if I have enough mental capacity to return to work, ever. Person Z is so excited to announce their pregnancy! … and I’m wondering if I should have kids at all because the planet is melting and on fire and what if I can’t handle being a mom? Person Y got a raise! … and I took a $15k pay cut for a job that was supposed to be all about opportunity and was somehow the opposite of that, and I actually feel like they stole something from me. Person N is on vacation, again! … I don’t even want to go on vacation but I’m jealous of them anyway. Person D just seems content and I’m jealous of them, too. Person A is doing this awesome thing! Person B is doing this awesome thing! Karen* is like, if you do this thing, you will be happy, too! I’M FUCKING TRYING, KAREN. Karen is also not a doctor or a medical professional of any sort and she should probably stop telling people how to be happy like it’s the gospel truth. Normally I would be delighted that Karen has found herself, but Karen feels like my adversary now because she’s happy and I’m not. This is entirely my problem and not hers.

I’m okay, I’m still here, I’m just opting out of consuming other people’s lives because it’s not nutritious or nourishing, it’s junk food and I’ve been consuming it in large amounts and I don’t feel good. Therapy is not going to work if I keep returning to the things that contribute to my unrest and unhappiness, so I’m giving internal peace a chance by peacing out. Take care of yourselves.

*Karen is a fictional character and I apologize to all Karens who feel victimized by the internet. I have a cousin named Karen and she is lovely. 

Thinking about death

It is with the utmost sadness of our friends and family to announce the tragic death of our beloved Spicy Tuna Ro, who perished during a routine fly by of Saturn in her handcrafted space vessel, The Meow Machine, when it collided with an asteroid.  She is survived by her two wonderful cats, her partner of 17 years, parents, sibling, and all 1,525 of her Twitter followers. Rochele would like to be remembered for her excellent taste in music, clothing, going to bed early, and her ability to meal plan for an entire week at a time. She will be greatly missed on all social media platforms, but her partner is somewhat relieved that her cookbook collection and wardrobe will cease to expand. In lieu of flowers, please buy flower seeds and plant them everywhere for the bees. – My obituary, probably.

I spend more time thinking about death and dying than anyone else I know, and not in a ‘I want to die’ way but more of a ‘one day I’m going to die but I’ll be ready for it’ kind of thing. For the record, I do not plan to die for a very long time. One of my adult chores this year is to have a proper will done up, but if something should happen before then, here are my wishes:

I want to die as pain-free as possible and I don’t want to die alone. Please hold my hand and play my favourite music.

If I’m permanently incapacitated, brain-dead, or unlikely to ever wake up, let me go. I am a registered organ donor and if it’s possible, harvest anything that can be harvested. I would love nothing more than to give others another opportunity for a better, healthier, and longer life. Donate whatever is left to medical science. I don’t mind being a cadaver for medical students to cut up, sew back together, or even to try their own hand at being a Dr. Frankenstein. But if the hospital absolutely insists on returning whatever is left of me to my loved ones, do whatever is the most eco-friendly. I’m down for an organic burial, but ABSOLUTELY DO NOT EMBALM ME OR SEAL ME UP IN A CASKET. Bury me somewhere nice, like under a rose bush or something, but skip the grave marker, and make sure it’s legal. Or give me a viking burial at sea, surrounded by all my books. Be creative, but again, make sure it’s legal.

Give my phone to Jen. She knows what to do. She’s my designated digital legacy holder. If it’s password protected and you don’t have the password, I still expect my privacy to be maintained. I have zero intention of haunting this realm but God save your soul if you hack into somewhere you’re not supposed to be, I will go full poltergeist on you.

I don’t want a funeral. I want a wake with a life-size cardboard cutout of myself to greet people at the door, and you may select one or two from my fashionable IG account. For those that imbibe, I want whiskey sours, pickle backs, and Pyramid Audacious Apricot Ale to be served. I want balloons, disco lights, some Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and some Abba. I won’t say no to smoke and lasers or karaoke, I just want people to laugh and dance and enjoy life. I also want a sushi buffet and the after party to be at a pho restaurant. Ask Tiffany, she’ll know where to go. And instead of a guest book, just post your best wishes and memories of me using a witty hashtag like #DeathRo or something on any social media platform of your choosing, except Vero. I would love if you would wear something weird and wonderful to my wake.

If you can’t make it to my wake, how should you honour me? Get up early, drink a green smoothie, pet a cat or dog or both as often as possible, wear something you’re proud of, and love your life as you’re living it.

I’m still giving thought to my belongings and what I want done with them. SproutO, Malroy, mom and dad, you can keep whatever you want. There are mixed CD’s with questionable content on them that you should definitely listen to when you’re missing me, they are eclectic and awkward, just as I am now. I have enough blankets and throws for all immediate family members to take one home, but leave the red fleece ones and the soft white one for the cats.

It’s important to think about what you want and make your wishes well-known. One of my favourite death positive people is Caitlin Doughty, and she has forever changed how I think of my own death and what I want to leave behind. If thinking about this is new to you, check out her YouTube channel and website. And please, please, please consider becoming an organ donor.

 

The no good, very bad day at the office

Picture this:

I am 22 years old and pretty fresh at my new office. I feel smug; getting this job was easy, and the job itself is easy enough, and it is so very nice to work 9-5pm, Monday to Friday, with benefits and paid vacation. Easy!

A few weeks into the new job, I ride the elevator with ten business men. We make small talk, and I say goodbye when we exit the elevator, but they don’t seem to be going into any of the other offices. In fact, they follow me all the way down the corridor to the very last office. My office. Strange, I don’t remember anyone telling me that there was a meeting first thing today? No matter. I will get these fine gentlemen settled and then I will perform my opening duties. But more and more people keep showing up in reception, so before I do anything else I get them seated in the boardroom.

But it turns out that there are two meetings happening, not one. I sheepishly walk down the hall and ask the people for Meeting B to please follow me to our conference room. Very quickly we run out of chairs for both meetings as more and more people show up, and I end up stealing chairs from my coworkers who are out at their own meetings or on vacation.

And then a third group of people arrive. Really? Now what? The board room and the conference rooms are being utilized, the only other meeting space available is… my boss’s office. I ask politely and he’s gracious enough. By now we’re out of coffee and water cups, too, and I have to go steal those from my coworker’s desks when they’re not looking.

And the phones won’t stop ringing. At times, all six lines are flashing and I can’t remember who is on what line and I am so tempted to close my eyes and clear all the lines and start fresh. I take a deep breath and pick up line 1 in time to hear *click.* I pick up line 2 just in time for line 1 to ring again. I transfer line 2 and answer line 1 and they hang up before I can even say hello. I go to line 3 and line 1 starts ringing again. Not wanting to piss off whoever keeps calling and hanging up, I put line 3 on hold again and answer line 1. CLICK. It takes everything in me not to slam the phone down or yell.

And then a fourth group of people show up and I want to cry. Where are we going to put these people?? My other boss is in this meeting and brings them down to her office, and I help her clear drawings and floor samples to make space around her work table. There aren’t enough chairs, so they stand around awkwardly. I don’t offer anyone coffee or water because there are no cups left.

And then I get an email from a partner, asking me to print 52 attached PDF’s. Sure, not a problem. I select all, and hit print. I let the printer do its thing for a while, but when I go to collect the prints, there are about a thousand sheets that say COMMAND ERROR. WHY, GOD, WHY? I can’t get it to stop. I try canceling it from the printer a dozen times, and it just won’t stop spitting out copies of the COMMAND ERROR document. Exasperated, I unplug the machine and the printing finally stops. I wait a moment before plugging it back in. Things are okay for three minutes… and then it goes right back to printing more COMMAND ERROR sheets. At this point I contemplate quitting. I unplug the machine again and put an Out of Order sign on it.

I ask the controller to please phone IT and she informs me that we don’t have IT, he left last month. I wonder how I’m going to push the duplex printer out the window and make it look like an accident.

While I’m away from my desk trying not to kick the printer, a courier arrives and takes it upon himself to find someone to sign for a package. The next thing I know, my boss is escorting him out of her office with a look on her face that very clearly says what the actual fuck, Rochele? and I want to dissolve into the floor in embarrassment. I tell her I’ll handle it from here and I walk him back to reception.

The phone rings from the board room. “Rochele, I need you to order lunch for Meeting A, it’s going to go on for a few more hours I think.” I call a bunch of places and no one will offer delivery on such short notice. The person who usually provides backup for me has already left to taker her lunch break, and it’s far too busy for me to leave my post. I timidly ask another coworker if she will please mind the phones and she barks at me, “I AM AN ARCHITECT, NOT A RECEPTIONIST. I DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE.” I am struggling not cry. Everything sucks. I feel like this job might be too much for me.

I go back to my desk and rehearse how I’m going to say no to buying lunch, but suddenly I see everyone from that meeting walking down the corridor towards the elevator. I AM SAVED! Until next week, when the meeting will continue, apparently.

The partner is hovering and asks me where his prints are, and I sheepishly tell him I’ve broken the printer. He sits me down and shows me how to cancel prints from my computer and how to make batches in Adobe. We plug the printer in again and pages and pages of the most beautiful documents that don’t have the words COMMAND ERROR on them come out warm and freshly pressed. I want to cry for a different reason. It’s just so beautiful.

The meetings end, the phones settle down, and the printer is quiet. The chairs are back in their respective workstations and I even manage to wash a few cups and make a pot of coffee. I realize it’s 4pm and I haven’t eaten my lunch yet, and really, I’m too tired to eat. I take a moment before launching into a slightly irrational, hunger fueled email about the importance of booking meeting spaces. What I really want to do is run off into the sunset and never come back, I start questioning my need to make money at all. Living in the forest far from a ringing phone or demon printer and meetings of any kind sounds a little bit like heaven.

At the end of the day, my boss calls to tell me that I did a great job handling the mayhem. I soften a little bit and put my plans to run away on hold for a while.