The View from the Lobby

I made an enormous mistake by not taking more time off to recover from working nights. I took just enough time to get some rest, but not enough for replenishing my soul. If I’d thought about it, I could have taken Dana to the beach… or to a park… or on a road trip… you know, just something to get the heck out of Dodge and just not be here.

Right now I am sitting in my precious lobby, which I no longer “own” because there are people coming through the front doors at this hour. These are the most comfortable couches in the entire building, and not being able to take a nap at lunch, curled up in my Lumpy Space Princess blanket, is especially irritating. Don’t these people know I’m recovering from not a small amount of sadism?

Necessary sadism, but still.

Two ladies just came into the lobby and their perfume is so loud that I can smell it from across the room. They’re wearing clothes that ladies wear- one has a fancy top and pants with no waistline. The other has one of those “walking suits” that were all the rage in the ’90s.

I like my new schedule- it allows me to sleep in a bit later. The only drawback is that traffic is much heavier now than it was two hours earlier, my last day shift. Apparently, everyone in the city of Houston has to be at work at 9:00 AM, or at least, it feels like it because normally, my office is thirteen minutes door to door.

I’m so impatient. Add ten minutes to my commute and I’m like, “this is BULLSHIAT!” I should try to be better about it, but when I was growing up I had a friend who absolutely white-knuckled the steering wheel with impatience at having to wait on someone, and it made an impression. Showing up on time matters. In fact, just showing up is most of it.

I sometimes feel that any job, anywhere, is based on a collective agreement that we can stand each other every day. If you’re man enough to put on your big girl panties and deal with my crap every day, I suppose I can do the same thing for you.

The lobby is quiet. I wonder if I could get away with putting my feet up…

El Plato Caliente

It came to me in a flash of light, kind of like a dream if you believe in that sort of thing. I’m working like a cook. I’m working like everything is high priority and everything has to get out on time. I don’t understand the concept of “slow down.” Slowing down is being less productive. Slowing down means I am not contributing as much as I possibly can whenever I can.

No one gives me this pressure. It’s my internal slave drivers, “the committee,” as my AA friends would say (if you don’t have a friend in AA, you really need one). No one is harder on me than I am internally. It’s something that I’ve picked up from all my parents (which, by my count, is six). Everyone in my family is internally driven and successful beyond belief.

I am not yet, but not for lack of wanting. I mean, I do not discount all of the progress I’ve made over the years, but my mental health has been a constant obstacle in terms of time management and organization. If I was only paid to think, I’d do quite well. It’s the paperwork that kills me, even though it’s all digital. I’m sure you all have some version of this. Firefox always has sixty tabs at work, you know?

I am being switched back to days on Monday, not as a punishment but because I realized that graveyard shift was exacerbating the problem instead of making it better. I thought that I would have an easier time at night with the slowing down, but it’s been the opposite. There’s no one to talk to, no one to consult, and as I sit in the dark, I buzzsaw through backlog. The mistakes I have made are nothing major- akin to copying an e-mail to someone that didn’t need to be included or vice versa. Then, I hear the criticism that’s thisbig and blow it all out of proportion because I’m too exhausted to take it in stride.

Being on the graveyard shift has flipped my personality, as well. All of the alone time has made me retreat into myself. Even when there are other people around, I tend to put on my headphones and shut out the rest of the world. I only exist in my bubble, the place where no one can touch me because I look absolutely unapproachable, anyway. I am not like this. I have never been like this at a job. It’s nice to take off the mask and just be my antisocial, introverted self… but I’ve stopped feeling like I’m part of a team that shares the load. Right now, even though it’s really not true, I feel like it’s all on me.

In some ways, it is. I have to deal with my mental health issues. I have to keep tabs on myself when it feels like there’s too much flying at me. I have to know when the plate is hot, because it’s self-preservation to drop it. The calming down part is that not everything is an entree. Sometimes it’s just a salad.

Pushing Me Out of the Way

I am starting to find out, between all my writing and reflection, that I am my biggest obstacle, and I don’t know how to get me out of the way. I have ADD without hyperactivity, and it is constantly plaguing me at work. I don’t fall short with big picture details… it’s only when something so small needs to happen that it runs under my attention and hides just beyond my reach.

It’s a huge deal to me, because I cannot think of one single thing I’m doing wrong, because this problem is not new. It has plagued me since elementary school. I know within myself that if I could think of a solution, it would be implemented by now. I’ve read Driven to Distraction, and like one of the case studies in the book, I know I’d be late to the psychiatrist’s appointment to talk about my ADD as well.

I’m at the end of my rope, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m late to the psychiatrist’s office or not. It’s either get this taken care of now, or let it continue to plague me until I’m dead. Those emotions create so much fear in me that something has to give. I cannot live my life this way anymore.

There are all kinds of psychiatry that would help me, most notably cognitive and behavioral therapy to implement habits. Creating habits, for me, is just as hard and stressful as higher mathematics. I can deal with infinities as well as I deal with finding my keys/phone/bag every damn morning, which is to say, not well.

I go completely inside myself, gathering my strength, because some days feel like battling my own mind just to get it together. I’m awfully hard on myself, which is why when life gets difficult because of my disease I tend to spiral into self-fulfilling prophesies of failure.

Talking to Dana helps, because she suffers with the same disease. However, she is much more consistent than I am about having coping mechanisms and using them. I’m often jealous that she is so much more put together than I am, but then again, because she’s not working right now, she doesn’t have as much on her plate to handle as I do in a given day. I am sure that if she were working, I would see more of her struggle than I do right now. In my darkest moments, I realize that I rely on her organizational skills way too much. Her nickname even reflects this- she is my “Danabase.”

I am putting these words down on paper to have something tangible to hold myself accountable to my words. I said I need help, now I need to get it… else this will be another detail I let fall through the cracks, and it’s the one thing that will heal the cracks from happening in the first place.


I’ve had just enough time away from the events of the summer that my body and mind are starting to relax. When I think about how tightly wound I was, I can’t help but wonder why my response was so vehement. The thing is, though, I’m not in that place anymore. I don’t understand me the way I did in the moment. I only have lenses that provide me with a window of past insight.

As far as I can tell, it has been a process of learning to self-soothe my way into wholeness and the acceptance of who I really am… and how that person is different than the person I thought I was.

In a way, it seems childish to define myself by another person’s actions. That’s not what adults are supposed to do (even though we do it a lot)… or at least, that’s what it looks like from this far away. In the middle of it, I was re-living everything I’d been taught as a child, unable to “age it up” because it didn’t fit me anymore.

I also had to learn that it was okay to tell, ok to release, ok to stop taking her story at face value without allowing myself any input. Up until last summer, I really had this feeling that what she said was gospel, and I didn’t get to help write it. After almost a quarter century of feeling bound and gagged, it was time to stop trying to save her and start trying to save myself.

The best news I’ve gotten in a long time is that it worked… but that doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I rethink things and wondered if I could have handled it any better. The reality is that it’s wasted time, and I try to catch myself in the act so that I can consciously move to a different topic.

But, of course, that only works for so long, and then I have to think about it or it will keep popping up. That’s another thing I’ve learned. Stuffing things down doesn’t work, because it will come back up, either as an emotional well of grief or pychosomatic illness… and by that, I do not mean that the symptoms aren’t real, just that they’re brought upon by stress.

For me, that stress came from knowing things about my family that only family members know… but others have gotten a taste of it over the years… or at least, enough to know that my story is valid. Anger and fear boiled over when I realized that the situation wouldn’t change just because I wanted it to. The situation didn’t change when I presented my side of the story. The situation didn’t change when I made it clear that I wasn’t dealing with my own childhood issues, but the ones created for me by someone else.

Adults have so much power when you’re a kid… often much more than even they know. In this case, I don’t think that she can plead ignorance. She would always refer to how lopsided our affection was, but there was no recognition that as the adult, she set it up that way. I just didn’t have that kind of power.

The blessing this year was seeing that I had gained it.

Saturday Night

On Saturday nights, I work alone. I have an impossibly large caseload, but so much time on my hands that I’m already way ahead of the game. No one expects me to finish the whole thing, but it wouldn’t be a bad feeling if I did. When no one else is here, I can get an impossible amount done. At the same time, though, it’s Saturday night and I’m here while my friends are either out partying or getting together at someone’s house. If I was home, it would be mine. Alas, I am not.

I deal with this by calling the morning I get home “my party.” I invite Dana as if it were a real thing. If she’s asleep, I watch a movie, and when she wakes up, I say things like, “we enjoyed it. Too bad you weren’t here.” And then she says that she’s always fashionably late to a party and I laugh to myself that even when the party is held in our living room, Dana doesn’t show up on time.

What she lacks in promptness, she makes up for in enthusiasm. Dana is the best guest I could have chosen if I was going to throw a party every day. We are just hilarious, and it makes me happy that we can laugh at each other instead of zoning out to TV. You all are welcome to come to my party, but I don’t generally send out invites because very few people want to drink a beer in the backyard when the sun is barely up… especially on a Thursday or Friday, my days off.

Fortunately, that may change soon. I don’t know exactly when or what shift I’ll be on, but it might be good to have a day schedule again. It’s a catch-22, because I like actually working at night when there’s less going on, but at the same time, it wreaks havoc on my personal life. I don’t know what I want, so I think I’ll just take what they give me. I don’t have that much seniority, anyway. :)


Relearning How to Live

Mike: I like your hair that way. It looks like you just rolled out of bed.

The hardest part of working nights is knowing what time to do things so that your brain remembers how to live. When you work days, there is a certain rhythm. Working nights is recreating that rhythm when you have to figure it out on your own. I do things like forget to take medication or forget to shower because I haven’t ordered my day the right way. I am sure that showering is a priority, but did I take a shower “this morning,” or perhaps “last night?” When I wake up, it’s not even “tomorrow” yet.

I am fairly certain that I don’t have much longer on this shift, which makes me excited and reticent all at the same time.

Nights have their own pace, their own topics of conversation, and the pleasure of knowing that we’re not like everyone else. For starters, everyone just expects you to be tired. What they don’t know is that we’re not tired. We’re beyond tired. We drink more caffeine than you can possibly imagine and by the end of the shift, the caffeine isn’t even working anymore. We’re running on the fumes of adrenaline present right up until they’re not. It’s an exact moment, one in which all of the energy in your body exits like the plane is diving toward the scene of the crash. I was at my dad’s a couple of months ago and in the middle of dinner, all the blood ran out of my face and I said, “I have to go home.” It was instantly like, “yeah… get her out of here… she’s goin’ down.”

It’s happened to me multiple times. Sorry I fell asleep at your birthday party, Stacy. For those of you keeping score, that was when I fell asleep at the Indian restaurant. We’re going to a Mexican restaurant on Thursday. I’m thinking about loading up on chiles and jalapenos to give me a fighting chance. If my mouth is burning, it is less likely that Dana will have to carry me home fireman-style.


It’s a hard day for my old church community in Portland. Eight years ago today, we lost Ellie and Quinn, infant twins of members that had been at Bridgeport since the beginning. Their parents’ loss was incredible, but there was a sense that we all lost them, and we did. It was a moment that shook everyone, and we all reacted differently to the same type of stress.

When I opened Spotify today, Bach’s Mass in H Mol was on my recommendations page. I turned it on, and as the Kyrie started, I saw a picture of the girls in my Facebook news feed. I didn’t mean to celebrate their lives in this way, but it made the picture all the more poignant.

My mind instantly went to my abuser, because it’s on days like this that her absence is viscerally noticeable. After the girls’ funeral, I got a letter from her saying that she didn’t want to miss the possibility of us- not in a romantic way, just in an “I think of you as my family” sort of way. It hit me like a ton of bricks, because so much relief and gratitude flowed from me.

It was one of the great letters of my life, because it described in detail what it was like to attend such a service, including small details like the smell of the grass, and what people wore- it was near Easter, after all. She set the scene for me, and her writing was so painful and real that it made me realize how our connection had stayed so strong, despite not always being in the same city; her writing speaks to me in a way that breaks my soul into little pieces, but not in a bad way. It’s just that when she cracks my outer shell, it lets the light shine through. In some ways, she’s a better writer than I am, but I will never admit it. ;)

The brass are magnificent as the Mass plays on, from the Et Resurrexit to the Sanctus. It brings me peace, as if the brass are the heralds of great joy. That’s because in the story of Quinn and Ellie’s loss, there is so much resurrection. Beginning again was a superhuman feat in which we all passed from grief into once again experiencing joy. We had to give ourselves permission.

Just like I had to give myself permission to write down this memory, because the letter and the twins are inexplicably interrelated in my mind. I can’t think of one without the other… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Walking away from creating bad memories and focusing on the good ones is what resurrected me.