Saturday, November 18, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

all winter long

I think I am still ruminating on Crazy Counsellor #2.  I'm frustrated we have a second crazy counsellor.  One was enough.

1.  Why are so many counsellors crazy?  - because we teach that which we most need to learn?  Yoga teachers need to learn to be more flexible.  Drama teachers need to learn to be more expressive.  And so forth?

2.  She was afraid I would judge her.  And my first response was all around assuring her how non-judgmental I am and how I think she is doing a fine job, blah blah.  I don't really think this is true.  I do feel judge-y about people who don't get to work on time, especially if it happens often.  And I don't really think she's doing a fantastic job either.  I think she's alright.

I don't think there's anything left to do, which means it's time to stop ruminating.  I just want to point out that I like to think of myself as a liberal (small l) person, but this kind of bullshit makes me realize I am, in some ways, more conservative (small c).  I don't especially want to live in a society where it is socially acceptable to melt down at work, and where it becomes my responsibility to manage adults who are not managing themselves successfully.  If it has to be in my list of job responsibilities, I want a raise.  Maybe this means I need to look for work, eventually, in the private sector.

When I described this incident to Shawn, he told me if it happened at his work, the melter would be offered a mandatory week's vacation and a couple of mandatory counselling sessions to get sorted out on the company's dime but out of their sight.  I really like this.  I think.  Maybe I should think about other ways to make a living that are tidier.  I don't know.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

in which I take it all back

This morning the new counsellor in my office sent me a text message to say she would be late because she found a note from the police on her car stating her registration had expired.  She was going to stop on the way to work to renew it, which would likely make her an hour late.  She also looped one of our administrators into this conversation.  I did not respond - for a number of reasons:  1.)  I didn't particularly care, 2. ) I was working and didn't want to waste time talking about it, 3.) I sort of thought it was stupid but didn't really consider it my place to comment,  and 4.) she was asking if she needed to book a half day off to make her lateness "legit" and it isn't my role to decide upon such a thing as I am not her boss.  (I expected the administrator to respond, but she didn't respond either.)

None of my reasons for not responding were especially good reasons, but neither did they come from a place of malice or cruelty.  I was just not especially interested in or bothered about the situation enough to try and manage it.  I figured she'd show up when she was sorted out.  The end.

Instead, apparently, she used that time to both register her car and work herself into a lather, convincing herself that the reason I (and the administrator) didn't respond was that we had decided she was an incompetent idiot unworthy of our time.  I know this because she told me so when she burst into tears in my office.  I was startled, to say the least.

I have noticed that this new counsellor is insecure.  She is defensive, frequently, when anyone offers to help her or gives her a suggestion.  No problem, I've stopped doing either one.  I think N has stopped too - and M would never have offered anyone her help at the best of times.  I have given her space and tried to be encouraging.  Her meltdown really took me surprise because no one has ever said anything negative about this counsellor at all.  I had no idea the depth of her insecurity.

Sometimes I say self-deprecating things about how neurotic I am.  And to some degree this is true, but I compare myself with what I aspire to be.  When I compare myself with this sort of neurosis, I recognize I am really quite reasonably healthy.  I know I'm good at my job.  I know I'm good at dealing with people (even when I secretly want to kill them).  I know I work hard.  And for the most part, I assume other people at work feel the same way about me that I feel about myself.  This sort of paranoia is hard to understand.

I wasn't sure if I should counsel her or just reassure her.  I wanted to do the former, but I don't think she would have responded well to me asking her any difficult questions.  I did tell her that she sometimes gave me the impression she thinks we are in some sort of competition, and assured her that we aren't.  There is no scarcity here.  We are union workers, with no need to destroy one another.  She said she is competitive by nature as though this was something that could not change.  Again, I chose not to counsel.  I just assured her that I wasn't competing with her for anything.  That there's plenty of mental illness in the world for both of us to work on solving.  (Try not to look at her when you say it.)

It has become a frustration to me, the realization that other people cannot compartmentalize themselves the way I do.  I freely admit that I can be difficult to live with, a terrible housekeeper, an unpredictable partner, a pain in the ass, etcetera.  At home.  But at work, I put all that junk away and do my job.  Not that I think I am a perfect worker, but I don't bring my mess to work with me.  I show up on time, I get things done, I don't miss deadlines, I respond to requests for service, blah blah blah.  And I definitely don't get mad at people and burst into tears.  Not that I have never had conflict with a colleague (Crazy Sue nearly killed me) but I did all my breaking down about that at home.   I just cannot fathom coming to work in a rage and bursting into tears in someone's office.  I'm old-fashioned this way; I believe in saving the crazy for the people who love me most.  Poor them.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

you look like a photograph of yourself taken from far away

I no longer recognize the city in which I grew up.  Apart from the iconic tower, it feels vague and unfamiliar, like a city I have seen in pictures but never walked through the streets at night.  And this is strange because I have walked through these streets at night, half drunk and wholly broken, looking for things I could never find.  I have walked every street, wearing every colour.  Now the streets are different, the buildings are taller.  (I took this photo from the 54th floor of a building that did not exist when I lived here.)

What has not changed - probably never will - is my own reflection in the mirror when I visit this city.  The dryness causes my skin to look chalky, the blood drains away, I become white and dead, except for my eyes, which become irritated and red and dry.  And hyper alert.  I am watching for something that may try to kill and eat me.  My hair is full of static, and my hands shrink in the cold; my rings slip off my fingers.  This is what it feels like to come home.


The presentation was nice and safe.  My mother spoke well.  (I wondered what the actual fuck she was talking about, but she said it very well.)  I ate little pieces of food speared with sticks, and made small talk with strangers who knew all about my life (my mother's version, not mine) and about whom I knew nothing.  I think this mattered to my mother very much, and probably to my father too.  I was happy to travel with J, now an adult, rather than alone, and to catch her eye at odd moments that I used to bear alone.  My mother's OCD was in full bloom and J noticed; she did not used to notice when she was younger.  This made the trip easier on me, but perhaps harder on her.  I am awash in gratitude and regret, sipping red wine from a white wine glass, and nibbling at a fried thing on a stick.  Oh yes, so proud.  So wonderful.  Such a triumph.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

In my first year of teaching I worked with a Biology teacher who thought it was acceptable to capture mice from her barn for dissection labs, and she would kill them by placing them in a container in the freezer in the staffroom so they would freeze to death.  Next to our lunches.  I don't really like my fellow humans at all.


Saturday, November 04, 2017

extra mile

Shawn has taken J away for a weekend road trip to get her mind off the breakup.  They left at dawn. Times like these I am reminded that I chose the best possible man I could have chosen to with whom to spend my life.

On Friday, V came by my office to return a book and we talked awhile about her children, her divorce, and her fear that she is damaging her children by allowing her former husband to live in her basement.  (My job does not formally require me to provide counselling support to staff, but it seems to happen a lot.) Her ex-husband is incapable of supporting himself because he is severely mentally ill.  It isn't that I believe she is actually harming her children by allowing him to remain a (slightly distanced) member of their family.  It just reminds me that people make a lot of imperfect situations work the best way they can, and I have been fortunate not to have to work around a partner who is incapable of caring for himself properly.  If anything he has had to work around me.

When I was J's age, I thought I had the best father in the world, and in some ways I really did.  My father is a wonderful person.  But when I was J's age going through breakups, my father did not even know about them, let alone take me away on a road trip to help me recover.  Our family was in a state of disarray and I could share nothing with any of them.  There was too much other chaos. I would have given anything to have my father to myself for two days of road tripping.  The fact that J gets to have this experience moves me, and the fact I somehow chose the man who would adopt her and do so much to make her whole - heals all of us at the same time.


Tonight I am going to a birthday party at K's place.  K is my boss, and this is (I think) the first time I have ever considered a boss to be also a friend.  My union strongly cautions against being friends with management - but I am reasonably comfortable with ignoring my union.  I am at least as comfortable ignoring my union as I am being friends with K, which is to say that neither thing is perfectly comfortable, but I am doing them anyway.  At least for now.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

so it shines when you finally come home

There are times I still think of Noah; I wonder why that should be, and I wonder if it happens more in October than it does other times of the year.  I cannot remember what months we spent together and what months we spent apart.  But I remember sunshine, and I remember cool nights.  And I remember a mark on my wrist that he made when he tried to catch my arm while I was slipping.  (I liked that mark.)  Perhaps it was October, but I think not.  I think it was probably early in September, because that was when I lived on the prairies and winter came far earlier.

Something yesterday reminded me of Noah's eyes, how dark and haunted they appeared, although he was not an unhappy person, not that I could tell.  There is something about that look, those eyes that have hollows beneath - and a darkness that seems to say a person has not slept well in a long time -there is something about that look that draws me, and I do not know why.  Many of the men I have been most attracted to have shared that look.  (Perhaps they shared that look as I exhausted them and wore them out?)  It is possible that my husband's eyes look that way.

J is going through her first break up, and perhaps this is why I thought of Noah, when she said she could not understand how someone she had not known three months ago could suddenly have so much control of her emotions.  Undoubtedly I said this about Noah too.  I was angry with him because I did not want him particularly.  He was only an interesting actor in a play until he approached me, unbidden, and made promises I never asked for.

A sensible person, of course, remains on their feet, but I am not, nor ever have been, a sensible person.  I am easily shaken and Noah shook me hard.  He said we had obviously known each other in many lifetimes, and fucked it up repeatedly, but this was clearly meant to be the lifetime in which we would finally get it right.  I pushed him away and laughed at him for being outrageous and brazen, but I wanted this to be true.  For some reason it was easy to see the pictures he described.

I have not spoken to him for more than fifteen years.  This is not a story that matters, except that it is part of my history and tells me a small thing about myself that is unreasonable and has not changed.  I almost always fall for poetry and nonsense, and I do not really aim to change this aspect.

As J's heart heals I hope she will remain open to these headlong plunges into groundless promises, because they remain some of the tenderest and most treasured memories when one has grown up and stopped taking such risks.