Just beneath the surface of normal


My Own Worst Enemy

This is not my time of year. I mean, we already know I’m the poster child for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but if winter is the Pacific Ocean, then late February through Mid-March is the Marianas Trench; in theory it’s got a bottom, but it’s a long, long way down. And it gets more dark and surreal the further down you go.

what late winter depression looks like

Dude, I’m SO fucking ready for spring.

From last year’s post on the topic, we know that this is the time of year that saw me drop out of college when I was eighteen so that I could stay home and watch golf on TV alone in the dark because it was so soothing. That’s right: at 18 I opted for golf in the dark over a warm early-spring day, or friends, or boys, or my birthday. And I don’t even play golf. But I guess there was something about the green grass and the slow, papery voices that made me feel safe and calmed the overwhelm of navigating being newly on my own on a huge anonymizing campus with no structure, unlimited freedom, a full-time course load, a full-time job, and untreated PTSD and depression. Eventually all the avoidance just crushes you. While I haven’t actually hit that low since, not a late winter goes by that I don’t drift down into the trench and remember the warm cocoon of golfy oblivion.

Somehow that was twenty years ago. Now I have a light box, two different antidepressants, a gym membership, a juicer, a CPAP, a carefully regulated sleep schedule, and a house full of supportive family to keep me on track. And still I feel the sinking when this time of year rolls around. It probably doesn’t help that the blue light of my light box always makes me think of being in a submarine in Barbados, which also happened this time of year:

Also gives you a sinking feeling. But with tropical fish and a shipwreck instead of a cup of tea and a laptop on yet another cold and dreary day.

Worse? I can’t drink coffee anymore. Coffee used to be my life raft this time of year and I kept my doses low the rest of the year so that come mid-February I could double it and vibrate my way through. But in January, when I started the second medication, it started causing things like panic attacks and vertigo, so we said a teary, Ativan-soaked goodbye. We’ll always have Yirgachaffe. I’ve since funneled that frustrated energy into being absurdly well-versed in tea, though I do still occasionally sate my frustrated Arabica lust with fair trade organic decaf and revel in the memories of French presses past. But seriously, even WITH coffee I feel like crawling in a cave and full-on hibernating (fecal plug and all), and the gallons of tea I down every day has not even come close to stilling the relentless fatigue-induced eyelid twitch that has been my near-constant companion since shortly after Halloween. That is not helping things much. But I have to admit, lack of panic attacks and random sober bedspins is nice; most of the time I manage to choose it over still eyelids.

Regardless of my chosen caffeine delivery system, I also get really, really flaky this time of year. So I’ll think of this really great idea for a blog post and then I’ll totally forget by the time I get to a computer. And then I’ll remember again when I’m on the train – underground, with no signal. Needless to say, I’m not getting much of anywhere with writing right now. Most of my amusing moments these days occur in short pithy comments because I can’t muster the focus to draw it out into a whole post.

Like how there’s this student whose last name is close enough to “Mangina” that I ALWAYS have to retype it. He very briefly even got a file folder that said that. It’s a good thing I’m not in the Registrar’s office, where it might wind up on his actual diploma. Or – God forbid – his transcript. Of course if anyone is gonna screw up somebody’s chances at grad school with an unfortunate typo, it’s gonna be me. Imagine if he had to legally change it in order to get accepted so that eventually he had to go by Dr. Mangina. All because I have the sensibilities of a twelve-year-old boy.

But that little paragraph is all I have to say on the subject. Do you really want to read a 50-word post? Probably not. It’s like the written equivalent of tapas: lovely, but not nearly enough.Hell, maybe I should start Tweeting in earnest if that’s all I can muster. Though I honestly can’t think of Twitter without thinking of that scene in The Lonely Guy where everyone is shouting a name on the rooftops, and no one is listening, so I always have an irrational twinge of shame when I post. Especially to a famous person who doesn’t know who the hell I am. Hi, this is me, inadvertently e-stalking you. I swear I’m not creepy. Much.

Nor do you probably want to read yet another IM Transcript, where a good half of my decent material happens these days. That being said, here’s another one because I can’t resist a cheap laugh:

David: Thought of the day: Where are the children’s industrial albums?
Me: At the bottom of the remainder bin where they belong.
Or possibly at the Charles Manson Community Daycare
David: Heh
Trent Reznor’s Muppet babies
Me: Our talents for developing sketch comedy premises are totally wasted.
Because that would be freakin’ hilarious.
David: Not as much as Quentin Tarantino’s Muppet Babies
Me: “do you know what they call diapers in France?”

Also, I keep thinking things that keep me from writing like, “why does everyone speak in hyperbole all the time anymore? Like something can’t just be lovely, it has to be completely fucking epically awesome.” And since I kind of tend to speak in hyperbole myself, I’m suddenly keeping my mouth shut and saying things like “lovely,” which is completely fucking epically boring.

Still, despite the cold, the fatigue, the full-time job that it surviving the winter, and the lack of much interesting to say, I did just manage to write some words. That’s how you make art, and I should probably give myself points for that.

Nah. Because then I’d be my own worst frenemy. And I completely fucking epically hate that word.


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Working Is Weird

You know, I’ve never really thought before about what a strange thing working is.

But it totally is; the workplace is this sort of artificially-induced intimacy between a bunch of people with nothing more in common than that they get paid by the same entity to be in the same place for eight or nine hours a day. As a result of that proximity, they wind up sharing a lot about themselves, but guardedly so because there is an actual book of rules governing how you’re supposed to talk to one another and what’s grounds for dismissal, like streaking or taking student workers as pets (why don’t marriages and parenting have these handbooks?). Also, because you have almost nothing in common, everyone else is potentially a gossiping, judgmental asshole, so it’s like a minefield of hidden enemies. When you find one person who seems to be pretty okay with your personal brand of weirdness – or better yet, has an actual sense of humor – you hang onto them like a floating door next to a homicidal iceberg. AND – and this is maybe the strangest part – I’m one of those people to everyone else I work with.

And we spend more time with each other than our own families, who while they may not always like the unvarnished us, definitely love and accept us for exactly who we are.

Herein lies the problem: I’ve spent the last couple years either a full-time student, freelancing, or unemployed. I am always exactly who I am. I don’t have closely guarded filters or a host of situational personae. I can’t if I hope to ever make another blog post again. I don’t care what people know about me, and I’m not really sure I understand why it’s not good for students to know about your personal life or your absurd sense of humor if your job is just to help them navigate their academic path through school. We’re all adults here, for goodness’ sake & I’d rather relate to them person-to-person than have some kind of weird faux age- and position-based authority. I’m sure there must be a reason why this is the norm at universities, but I have yet to get a reason that makes me want to filter myself at work. Maybe there will come a day when someone explains it to me and I’ll reconsider, but aside from the paycheck, I’m here for the connection; no point in building walls for their own sake.

So this is me, three months into full-time job having: I haven’t met my department’s life preserver yet, and I’m still sort of paddling around, mentally sizing up every conversation I have for tiny clues that someone else wears a thin veneer of normal over a thick, crunchy center of freak-flag (and the award for the Mixiest Metaphor goes to…). In the meantime, I am in a constant state of acute self-consciousness over my behavior, which is only not crippling through the miracles of modern medicine. But I can’t help myself. While I was writing this, I turned the bottom of my shirt inside out to detach a tag that was bothering me with a staple puller. I am aware that this may make other people look at me askance, but I’m on the right antidepressants so I don’t actually care enough to go do it in the bathroom (wow, we really do mostly filter ourselves based on anxiety about how we might be judged, don’t we?). I blurt out random things that I find interesting and amusing, and where Jim or Corinne might laugh or look interested, I just get these puzzled looks from the people in the desks around me. I suck at pretending that I can’t overhear someone else’s conversation, or pretend that I can’t see the computer screen of one of my coworkers, who must have a new girlfriend because he’s suddenly started shopping for flowers and jewelry. I manage it, but it feels sort of like they don’t know I’ve seen them naked (a metaphor – I definitely haven’t seen any of my coworkers naked). I offer to make people scarves with my new ninja crochet skills, and everyone sort of awkwardly declines.

I keep hoping that in the long term my weirdness will be a good thing. Like somehow my be-yourself influence will rub off on everyone and reservations will become something you make for dinner again, and we can all have a good time. But I don’t think I’ve ever been the influencer anywhere I’ve ever been so it’s admittedly kind of a long shot.

Instead of opening them up, I just make people uncomfortable when I hang a little Miley Cyrus on one of the office nonspecific winter holiday (but not really because what other holiday involves trees and ornaments?) ball ornaments and then when the judgment fest begins, announce that I kind of like her and remind everyone of Britney’s big “I’m no longer a Disney star and therefore am allowed to have functioning genitals” coming of age media blitz, which they suddenly see as no big deal. And I actually think that’s pretty awesome, because that means that girls kissing on TV is no big deal anymore, even to some of the serious conservatives in my office (or at least compared to twerking, the reasons for which are a whole different rant). It’s not the sea change I was looking for, but I’ll take what I can get.

like a Christmas Ball

Not a work ornament, but you get the idea. Yes, I did this at home, too. The bear can’t even look. Slut-shamer.

Anyway, now that I’m settled into my new job, hopefully the misadventure quotient is about to rise. Also? I really wish you were my coworker. We would have so much fun.