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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.

*




Thursday, October 19, 2017

i hate when things are over

Today B sent me a message to thank me for remembering his birthday.  (I didn't.  Facebook told me.)  And he said he remembered the first time we met, how I seemed shy and uncertain of myself.  I decided to be honest with him and tell him the truth, that he reminded me very much of someone else I felt strongly about, and it rattled me.  I think I opened a door I ought not to have opened because his response was too warm, too much an invitation.  But not really.  The kind of warm invitation that feels good because it is sincere and a compliment and it is honest.  We could have.  We might have.  We would have if.  These are nice things to say.  These are nice things to be told.  Except that we work together and maybe that's not really a great idea to share those kinds of thoughts with people with whom you are supposed to be professional.

Oh well.

*

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

now your eyes see through me

I have been selected by my union to become a mediator for staff who are having disputes.  This is an interesting turn of events, as I tried to get this job about three years ago and was turned away because I didn't belong to enough committees (read any committees).  I still don't belong to any committees; the only difference this time is that I have become friends with one of the women on the executive committee who probably sold me during the vote.  I wonder about the ethics of this sort of thing.

The upshot is that I get two free university courses on conflict resolution and mediation, which is a prize that I consider a real prize because I love going to school, especially when I'm getting paid to do it, and especially when that's happening during work hours.  Mediating disputes between colleagues has potential to be very interesting too.

*

Monday, October 02, 2017

lavender blue

Shawn received an outrageous job offer in Sweden.  I asked him to take the phone call and get some information.  If it sounds too good to be true, I still want to hear about it.


*

This morning K brought baking to our meeting.  At the end of the meeting I saw M steal two muffins to bring home to her children.  I wonder what that is, the stealing.  I mean I wonder why she does that.  She has money, she has enough to buy her children muffins.  But she does this always, pilfers treats from staff meetings to bring home to her kids.  I cannot understand the imaginary warmth of false generosity that comes from giving a gift that never belonged to you in the first place.  It must taste like saccharine dust in her children's mouths.  

*

Sunday, October 01, 2017

End

The fast ended uneventfully.  The easing back in wasn't really necessary, it turns out.  I could eat just fine, but once I was eating I no longer felt like ordering a pizza.  Apparently my increased interest in food had everything to do with not having any, which is a fine metaphor applicable to many aspects of life.

*

October seems to have caught me by the throat this morning the way October does, even when it is clear and sunny and pretends to be summer.  It is not summer.  October is a difficult season for me year after year in the most unexpected ways.

*

M returns to work tomorrow after a month of sick leave.  Her return may make the rest of us ill.  I am resolving not to help her or enable her, and I am also resolving not to kick her off any ledges on purpose. Neither promise is easy to keep because she is slithery.  You never know which of your pockets she is reaching for.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Day 6

Day 4 was fine.  Day 5 was really hard for some reason, maybe because I didn't drink enough water, or maybe because I had to come back to school in the evening to give a presentation to 200 parents about graduation requirements, blah blah.  Maybe both reasons.  I felt gross.

Today was better again, probably the best so far.  I wonder if there are magical healing things happening inside my body the way the research promised, or if really, all I'm doing is getting skinny really fast.  I didn't do this for weight loss, and I did not predict how rapidly my weight would drop.  I've lost about 10 pounds in 6 days, which is ridiculous.  My pants are falling off and my hip bones are pointy enough to injure anyone who brushes up against me.

We researched how to end a fast and learned that sadly, one cannot order a pizza the day after the fast ends.  Apparently it takes a few days of slowly reintroducing foods, starting with juice, fruit, vegetables, etc..  So we decided to complete day 7 and then start refeeding on days 8, 9, and 10 with the fantasy that we'd be ready to eat somewhat normally by day 11.  I hope that's true because I really want to order a pizza.

*

Today was one of those days where I had to spend lots of time talking to the Ministry and to the police.  These days are so sad, when I really deeply think of what some people's lives are like outside our reach.  It's hard to imagine, even though the details are written in my notebook.


*

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Day 3

We are now 75 hours into the water fast.  Surprisingly, the third day was much easier than the first two.   This is an interesting experiment.  My new understanding is that this is somewhat like practicing yoga, where the discomfort is intentional and is meant to be honoured as part of the experience.  We should not try to numb the sensations - rather to explore them with curiosity and wonder.  I now look forward to what day 4 will bring.

*


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Speaking of starving

We decided to try a water fast.  That is, Shawn decided to try a water fast and I was swooped up, the way I often am, by his enthusiasm and certainty.  I have never fasted, excluding during illness, and so I do not have the benefit of practice to make it less difficult or to reassure me that I will soon feel better.  We are coming up on 48 hours with nothing but water, and so far I feel tired.  Everything I have read assures me that we are about to turn a corner and feel an incredible mental clarity unlike anything previously experienced.  I would like this to be true because currently I feel groggy and sort of mentally blurry.  The purpose of the fast?  I don't remember.  Too tired to think.  We are trying for ten days.

*


To distract ourselves from food we went to the ocean this morning and drank water (ha) sitting on a bench in the sunshine overlooking the sea.  It was beautiful and calming, and the walk (uphill) to the car assured my body that I still mean for it to do things.

After the ocean we went to a mall because I need new bras, and there I had the most satisfying bra shopping experience I think I have ever had.  The saleswoman was astonishingly determined to help me, in spite of my limp protests, and before I knew it she was in the change room with me assessing my boobs and deciding that all my choices were wrong.  She went off into the store without me and came back with the bras I should be wearing.  And lo and behold she was right.  Six times.  I spent a ridiculous amount of money but now I have the six best fitting bras I have ever owned.


*

Sunday, September 03, 2017

a hunger for contact

I gave up the end of my summer vacation to spend it with a semi-famous doctor of psychology, whose focus was on anxiety-related issues in children - but found that the information provided was applicable also to adults.  I always find these workshops somewhat harrowing.  I am meant to be learning about best practice for treating the teenagers under my care, but I cannot stop myself as I listen from diagnosing my family members, one by one, including myself, and wonder what happened to the ones who have always claimed to be healthy and well when they obviously are not.  My strength (and weakness) is that I cheerfully pathologize us all, myself included.  But the doctor did say the healthiest in his experience were those who had accepted the mess in which they were raised, allowed the pain to fully penetrate the conscious mind, and grieved it thoroughly.  I consider myself to have landed in this category.  So much of what I have written here is grieving - I call it processing - but it is grieving.  And I recognize, which I do not think they all do, that grieving is ongoing forever.  It does not have an end, the knowledge of which makes it easier as I get older to swallow it in small pieces rather than all at once.

What I take away is the comfort of knowing that my instincts work well, and that when my rational brain is combing through my books to find the right thing to say, my instinct to pretend I am the answer is a good one.  A self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.  I may not have any answers, but I can be one.  My own brokenness is of no consequence in this sort of encounter.  And what the doctor did not say - but I know in my bones - is that we all find healing in giving children the things we starved for most ourselves.


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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

filled with imperfect thought (and spunk)

In the summer, when there is no tiling or painting to be done, I sometimes occupy myself with writing porn.  Yeah, seriously.  I don't share this information with a lot of people because: a.) I don't want to deal with their judgment (whether that be negative, ie:  Ugh you're revolting,  or positive, ie:  Whoa that's hot) and b.) I don't want people to ask me if they can read it.  Because it's TMI.  I use a pen name.  I'm semi-successful.  I don't make enough money to quit my real job, but I make enough money to know that there are a significant number of people (women, I believe, in most cases) all over the world wanking to the dark sexual stuff I think of.  Oh yeah, it's kinky porn.  (Like I said, TMI.)  One day I'd like to focus on writing something a bit more literary, but my longstanding suspicion is that the porn pays better.  I'm always surprised that people will pay good money for porn - but I can assure you, they will.  (I once shared my secret with RW and RH - because we were in Italy and had a few drinks.  RH only mused that porn without pictures didn't really count as porn, and RW has kept my secret in his pocket - I think - but alludes to it ocassionally when we drink.)

I have a problem with the porn industry in general because, of course, most of those women are terribly exploited.  But the women in my stories aren't real women trying to make money or get famous - they're fiction - and they're my fiction, and they tell me they don't feel exploited in the least.  And what's more, they never need reconstructive surgery to turn their orifices right side out afterward either in spite of all the dirty stuff they get up to.  I'm fairly convinced that my contributions to the porn industry are not harmful to anyone.  Plus they allow me to buy a lot of expensive shoes.

It is always a funny experience working with a cover artist.  Cover artists read your blurb - never the whole book -  and come up with an idea of what your characters look like.  Let me be honest.  When I'm making this stuff up, in my mind's narcissistic eye, the heroine always looks like me.  I mean a significantly airbrushed and perfected version of me, but still me.  She's always a somewhat non-threatening, never particularly bodacious, spindly-limbed awkward kind of woman.  I describe the heroines the way I describe myself - with a critical eye.  I don't write them to be perfect at all.  Yet no matter how much I write about myopia, social awkwardness, clumsiness, etc., the cover artist always comes back with a picture of a huge-boobed big-haired blonde woman who looks like she came from Texas in 1985.  I don't know why that is.  I mean, I suppose it must be what sells the story, but again, with an audience (I presume) of mostly women, why is that what sells?  Why don't people want to see covers with relatable women who have bodies like teenage boys?  Olive Oyl, now there's a sexy lady.


*

I'm having wine and potato chips for dinner.




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I don't mind the sun sometimes

A funny thing about Bikram yoga is that they always warn you to let go of your expectations and instead to be curious about the practice.  To let yourself just experience it without judgment.  This is difficult for me.  I have expectations.  I expect to get better, only better.  I expect to be uncomfortable.  I expect to struggle.  On days that I don't get better, I am frustrated.  On days that I do not feel the discomfort or the struggle the way I expect to, I wonder if I am not working hard enough.

The goal is not to think like this.  The goal is to notice, and breathe, and let it go.  Notice and let it go.  I notice that I used to be better at Bikram before the vertigo because then I was fearless about inversion.  In my current practice I regularly come up against a fear that stops me from tipping my head as far back as I know it can go.  It stops me from rolling as far forward as I know I can go.  I notice, and I cannot let it go.  The anticipation of dizziness prevents me from finding my edge.  That is, it prevents me today.  And maybe eventually it will not.


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Sunday, July 09, 2017

start now, we'll be done by Easter

I received a call from my credit card company to tell me they suspected my card had been compromised.  We went over the charges together and they were right.  Someone was using my card at Bell Mobility, which is not a company I have ever used.  It's interesting how quickly it was caught - less than 12 hours.  I wonder how they do that.  Surely it has something to do with computers and not humans poring over incoming bills, but my brain couldn't stop conjuring up pictures of a roomful of workers tracking my movements based on my credit card.  "Oh, she's going into the grocery store! She's buying tomato soup for dinner." "She's on her way home.  She just stopped for gas."  "Wait, Bell Mobility?  No!  That can't be her.  Bell isn't on her route home!"

*

My neck muscles are weak.  This is indubitably from holding my dizzy head as straight as possible for two years to prevent an attack of the spins.  Now that I am using my neck again, allowing my head to move more, it is causing some strange sensations.  I am working to trust my body to be okay with this, to let the sensations enter my awareness, to notice them, to accept them, to let them pass through me.  Not to fight them.  To breathe through them and let them go.  It is a new exercise in self-discipline, and I like this kind of challenge.  By the end of summer I will get back my Ustrasana.


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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

anahata

Summer is time for projects, and I have done many over the years.  Some gardening.  But painting and tiling, mostly.  (I enjoy these things - except for the weeding.  I now have a blow torch for the weeds, which makes it more tolerable.)  This year I have run out of things to tile, and very nearly run out of things to paint.  The only thing left to paint doesn't want to be painted yet.  I haven't finished thinking about it.

This leaves me with no projects, except one.  The project this summer is... me.

I have finally, finally, finally returned to daily yoga practice properly  - with no stops and starts, with consistency and focus.  And no dizziness.  None.  My apprehension is still there; I think that will take more time and practice.  But that is why it is called practice, and I am ready to practice.  With my dizzy inner ear at last acting normal, I have been able to do full inversions for the first time in two years.

It feels like starting over in some ways.  I can tell I have lost some of my strength, and some of my balance.  And yet .. the muscle memory is there.  It feels like spiritual awe to me when my brain cannot think of the next posture, but my body knows it, twists itself without me asking, to set up the next position, and the next.  Twenty-six of them, and they're all still there.  With practice they will be better.  I breathe in, I breathe out.  My body is doing what I am asking it to do again, and this feels better than anything else I know.

Tonight I went to "pyropilates", a class my yoga membership offers me for free.  I did not know what I was getting into.  Now, in the safety of my living room, I think I did something amazing.  At the time it was mortal suffering.  An hour of intense cardio and pilates in a hot room.  Hot.  I breathed a lot.  I might go back, maybe.  My body is not really a fan of the plank, but maybe that means I should make it plank more often.  It probably means that.

*

I had coffee with CE this morning.  She crossed the bridge in my direction, which was kind of her.  Toasted her retirement.  And talked about her future plans.  I think she will have a happy retired life.

*

There have been some tentative steps toward new friendships.  On their part, not mine, because I am cowardly like this.  I find reciprocating these gestures nerve wracking, a bit like dating.  I want to make a good impression without appearing to try too hard.  I want to be myself, but I want to be cool.  I want to be a cooler version of myself, less likely to spill something.  I wonder why I made friends so effortlessly when I was young, and now it feels so deliberate.  Sometimes I tell myself I have everyone I need in my life already.  And sometimes I tell myself to go ahead and crack open my chest and see what pours out - and in.

*






Friday, June 30, 2017

orphans and atheists not withstanding

This was the last day of work; now summer vacation.

Wrap up.  I gave a big speech before the staff in honour of CE's retirement.  This was somewhat difficult as a.) I do not particularly enjoy delivering speeches - Drama background notwithstanding, I am not a person who especially likes a microphone, b). CE is very special to me and her retirement means I will not see her very often anymore.

However, giving a speech is also cathartic, and I appreciated the opportunity to tell my colleagues how much she meant to me, and how much she (quietly) contributed without them even knowing. The feedback was warm, some in person and some text messages later in the evening.  I appreciated it all, because I am not confident about these kinds of things.  I have no doubt they knew I needed a little feedback.  (The quaver in my voice would have told them so if they were listening.)

*

The boss is also leaving, and I was invited to participate in that send off, another opportunity I appreciated.  My change in position in the school has resulted in great changes to my relationships with many people.  This is both wonderful and frustrating.  Wonderful to find that people are more human than I thought.  Frustrating that it takes a change in position to earn the right to know so.


*

CM was lovely.  She gave me her shirt, she gave me some dragons.  She told me my speech was beautiful, she told me some secrets.  Fuck I wish I had gotten to know her before she was leaving.

*

Monday, June 19, 2017

the evidence shows we are probably not alone

To have a hard conversation with someone you care about is significantly more difficult than to have that conversation with someone about whom you do not.  I teased around the topic with N a few times but could not bring myself to tell him directly that I was going to apply for the position of department leader - because I was assuming he would be hurt.  Today I addressed it directly, but only because the boss sent out the email asking for applicants, and because he was away today, I took the henhouse door and sent him an email instead of talking to him face to face.  It made me recognize that I do care about N, I care about him more than I thought I did.  I do not want to hurt his feelings. (He responded very kindly, telling me it was a good time to apply and that he would support me.  Of course this does not prove he was not hurt by my decision, but I hope he wasn't.  And I hope that I will be able to do as good a job as I want to.)  This is not a fait accompli because the new principal needs to approve my application.  But the outgoing one has offered her endorsement.


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I talk about work a lot.  I think about work a lot.  A lot.


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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pimento

T went home early yesterday, and it troubles me that I did not notice she was struggling to be there.  Or that she had a new haircut and colour.  When she texted to tell me both things, I was surprised by my lack of awareness.  This tells me that I need to slow down and notice.  Efficiency is important to me.  Getting things done is important to me.  And getting things off my desk is important to me.  But so should be noticing, so should be genuine concern, and so should be (buzzword) mindfulness.  Time to slow down and breathe.  Breathe.  And breathe.

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The buttercups are taking over the yard, and with the mower broken there is not much we can do about it.  I borrowed a mower last week, but the rain has been relentless and things are growing faster than we can keep up.  Our mower won't be fixed for a couple more weeks, by which time the buttercups may have swallowed the house.  Being swallowed by a buttercup seems like a delightful way to die.  A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Boris devoured by bears... 


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Yesterday I received a rather sharp nudge at the end of the day when my VP asked me if I would be attending a goodbye event for a colleague and I said no, because I wanted to finish my scheduling before going home for the weekend.  She said no, that the schedules would wait until Monday and that I should go and let her buy me a drink.  I did.  I have not had this sort of rapport with administration in the past where one would take interest in my work/life balance or where one would care enough to proffer a bribe.  It is a bit out-on-a-limb-like to consort with the enemy this way, but my revelation this year has been that the enemy is human too, and not so much an enemy as a shepherd; the nipping can feel unpleasant but it is intended to keep us together and safe.  (My view on this has been altered by having an office with a window.)  I drank a Caesar that came with three olives.  I wanted to drink six more of them (I didn't),  and I did not regret leaving the schedules until Monday.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Would you rather be you?

I wonder if it seems incongruent that I should be busting with empathy for the young people I work with, the ones who struggle with depression, anxiety, and all sorts of other mental illnesses and disturbances.  And yet, I can muster no such compassion for my coworker.  It seems unfair that I should have so little room for empathizing with her, and it makes me wonder why I feel this way.  This list is a compilation of reasons I cannot empathize with M:

- she says she is allergic to everything, but she frequently eats things she says she can't eat
- she doesn't answer her work email for weeks at at a time, but will respond immediately if something free is being given away
- she jingles when she walks because she wears a lot of jewellery
- she lisps when she talks because she is lying (that's patently ridiculous)
- she always applies to go to professional development opportunities that will get her out of being at work
- she does not respond to students' requests for appointments
- she claims to care very much about her career in spite of being terrible at it
- she claims to care very much about being part of a "team" although she does not contribute
- she takes credit for other people's work
- she brings in student counsellors to take on her work
- she does not supervise her student counsellors 
- she complains about being very busy all the time although she spends her whole day with her door shut, not seeing students
- she leaves her paperwork for others to do when she falls behind and then calls in sick
- she seems very very very very happy and seems to have no idea how much she sucks


That's not a comprehensive list by an means but it covers the most important things.  When I look at the list I realize it's largely the last item that makes me unable to care about her apparent mental illness.  It's her apparent lack of awareness that her actions impact others.  The way she seems so pleased with herself and seems to think she's quite wonderful.  It really rankles.  Why?

Maybe it's because I ask myself at least a hundred times a day if I'm doing a good enough job.  Maybe it's because I am oversensitive to how my actions impact other people.  It's something to do with these facts, absolutely.

I'm too irritated to feel sorry for her, even though obviously something is wrong with her.  And that's the problem with invisible illnesses; maybe the more "normal" a person appears to be, the less room there is to tolerate something less.  Maybe that's it.

Or maybe it's the lisping and jingling.  I really hate that.


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Friday, June 09, 2017

forecast

Today M called in to say she is going on an extended medical leave, for "several months".  M goes on a medical leave every year so this was not very surprising, but the timing is suspect.  She is in some trouble.  She has been making some unethical decisions, and some downright stupid decisions.  She spends the better part of most days with her office door shut, and what she is doing behind that door is anyone's guess.  We know she isn't doing her paperwork or seeing any students, because the complaints don't stop.  But now people from HR are involved.

I hope she won't be back, and that's my honest truth.

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

right after the forecast

My principal encouraged me to apply for the position of Department Head for next year.  She said she would advocate for that to happen in spite of the fact that the other guy has more experience.  This was an interesting conversation.  Her vision and mine are very closely aligned, which would, at one time, have alarmed me.  But now I see things from a different perspective because I have been working so much more closely with the admin team.  This leaves me with a difficult conversation to have with N about the fact that I will be applying for a job he sees as his.


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There are only sixteen work days until summer.

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Monday, May 01, 2017

still under warranty

The differences between K and S are fascinating.  My relationship with S is easy.  He is jolly and warm and terrible at keeping secrets.  I boldly ask him questions about things that are none of my business, and he tells me he cannot answer those questions, and then answers them anyway.  He comes to my office for personal counselling when he feels inadequate.  He compliments me lavishly.  He is simple and easy to work with as long as I don't care if I don't actually get any work done.

My relationship with K is much more complex, made up of tentative gestures and large pockets of unsaid thoughts.  K is consciously ethical, acutely aware of Standards of Practice and Codes of Ethics and Union Rules.  She does not say much, in fact, when it matters most.  And yet she is the one I would be more likely to count upon to understand a complicated situation and navigate the way through it.  I once threw a bet to her.  I once gave her a Pez dispenser.  I once shared with her a piece of personal history.  She received all these gifts in similar ways.  She has a sharp edge that makes me nervous but is easy to respect.  I whispered a concern to her today.  She said, Yeah, that'll happen.

If I were to share that same concern with S, he would say, Haha, well that's because you're wonderful!  Have I told you that yet today, haha?! You end up doing everyone's work because you're good at it.  You need to stop that, haha!  But please don't.

Neither response answers my need.  I follow up with a conversation with my dashboard.


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Friday, March 03, 2017

behold

Today I had another of those rather difficult conversations that I have been growing accustomed to having.  This time it was Steven, who is frustratingly immature and surprisingly lacking in common sense.  It should not necessarily have been me having the conversation with him, but M doesn't come to work on time (ever) and I could not stand to wait for her to jingle and lisp her way in the door fifteen minutes late before addressing my concern.  So I ploughed ahead, and found myself quite capable of addressing another adult's idiocy in a straightforward manner - much more so than I ever would have thought a short time ago.  I am narcissistically fascinated by this facet of my personality because it is brand new and completely unexpected.  My whole life I have gone to great lengths to avoid having uncomfortable conversations.  To find out I can lead one so successfully is endlessly surprising.  I almost want to manufacture situations that will allow me to practice.  I wonder what has changed in me.  Is it all the new shoes I bought?


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It is only 9 days until I leave for Berlin.


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Saturday, February 25, 2017

forgive me I'm just an animal

Ghosting BB is not as easy as I hoped.  Like a high school boy, the less interest I show in her, the more she shows in me.

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Friday was an unpleasant day.

I had written myself a list of things I wanted to accomplish, none of which got done.

First I was forced to call the Ministry about a parent who punched her daughter in the face the night before.  I sat with that girl while she cried for a hour, and nursed the bruised knuckles she acquired returning the favour.

Then I went to the elementary school next door because I was required to lead a cheerful pep rally type event to welcome their grade sevens to high school next year.  I am so excited that you will be joining us.  Wooohooo!!

Then I came back to work and was interviewed by a social worker and a police officer about the girl.

Then I dealt with an angry father who wanted to reschedule his son's classes because he mistakenly believes his profoundly learning disabled son is capable of graduating.

Next, I informed a mother that her grade eight boy needs to have showers.  And wear deodorant.  And brush his teeth.

Then I had a meeting with a mother who wanted me and the vice principal to take responsibility for her daughter skipping school and who was astonished that neither of us were going to come to school on Saturdays to make her daughter make up missed time.

This was followed by a department meeting (the first of the year, and only because I insisted upon having one), in which I felt compelled to share with my team that I think we can do a much better job of several different things.

And then a conversation with a bratty grade 9 girl who was bullying another girl.

Throughout the day I noticed myself communicating more and more bluntly.  I have always been a person who is gentle with words, afraid of hurting other people's feelings.  Afraid of hurting people to a degree that has inhibited me, often, from being as clear as I should.  This has been changing rapidly as a requirement of my new job which no longer allows me the luxury of avoiding difficult conversations.  By the time the department meeting started I was becoming deadpan blunt, and the last bully of the day did not get a lot of nurturing.

I ended the day at the liquor store filling my cart with wine.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Note to self

1.  I would like to remind myself that overall I am good at my job.  I want to remember it on days when I am overworked and short on time and miss seeing students I should have seen, and miss doing things I should have done, and make mistakes.  Because overall, I am good at this.  I am not only good at this.  I am really good at this.  And I am already better at it than both my team members who have far more experience than I do.  (Not that being better than really matters, but it helps to have a yardstick by which to measure.  Or I'm a creep.  Maybe that.)


2.  I would like to remind myself that my job isn't me.  I would like to remember it when my job is enormous and overwhelming and eats up my evenings and my weekends and still leaves me wishing I had more time to do things.  My job isn't me.  I love my job but my job does not love me.  It wants to eat me.


3.  I would like to remind myself that where it comes to BB, I have made this mistake before, and I already know how to solve it.  I can run faster than she can, and for longer, but running isn't the only option.  Running is only one option.


4.  I would like to remember that being direct is generally better than being sneaky.  Today when N asked me to register for a workshop with him and keep it hidden from M, I got twisted glee from doing so.  And yet, clearly, we should have told her it was her turn to stay home and babysit the kids rather than trying to sneak out behind her back.  The fact it made me laugh does not make it a good thing.  We can do better, and when it is my turn, I will.


5.  T must never be undervalued or taken advantage of, because she functions far above her pay grade.  It is easy to forget this, but essential not to forget it.  She is invaluable.  She makes me look more competent than I am, and she challenges me to become more competent than I was.




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Saturday, February 18, 2017

beautiful wreck

The longer a pattern persists, I suspect, the easier it becomes to identify it.  I am vigilant on the lookout for patterns lately, my own and everyone else's, because we know that in general people behave the same way forever until and unless there is a reason to change.  One of my long established patterns has been to become close friends with bossy, domineering women who treat me like a child.  (Allowing myself to be infantilized this way is rooted in laziness, though I can entertain the argument that it is also manipulative.  Like controlling from a position of submitting; topping from the bottom, so to speak.)

When you are friends with a bossy, domineering woman you never need to make a decision on your own behalf because she already has it covered.  You don't need to drive anywhere because she does that.  You don't need to send back your undercooked food because she already eaten half of it and sent it back for you.  And she tells you who you are, so you don't even have to think about it.  Very relaxing.

But my second puberty has me in full bloom lately, and I suddenly cannot breathe when my bossy, domineering friend makes me breakfast because she knows I didn't eat this morning, and sends me home with a tupperware full of brownies, and criticizes my hair, and implies I have no secrets she doesn't know.  These kindnesses have become intolerable and I find myself pulling away, far away, further and further the more she demands to know where I am going.  I actually do have secrets she doesn't know, but that's because I don't know them either.  Our friendship is ending.  I choose this.

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I went to a professional development day yesterday and walked out partway through.  I left because we were painting and cutting magazines and gluing and sharing.  It was gross.  The purpose was clever; a counselling exercise.  A small cardboard box.  You decorate the outside of the box to represent yourself as you show yourself to the world.  And you decorate the inside of the box to represent the secret inner parts of yourself that only you see.  Too personal, maybe.  But also not necessary to do it to understand it.  But also, and more importantly, the growing awareness that my outside and my inside pretty much match each other these days.  Not because I have nothing flawed and prickly on the inside, but because I hide those things far less than I used to.  People who know me see my imperfections early on.  I left without fanfare, but also without slinking or looking apologetic.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

she thinks she's the passionate one

I think it is fair to say my vertigo has finally and thoroughly ended.  Although I credit my physiotherapist with helping me by providing desensitization exercises, the fact of the matter is that the main reason it has gotten better is the simple passage of time.  And this is aggravating because it tells me that should this condition ever recur, it cannot be cured.  Like many problems in life, it needs to be outlasted.

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Yesterday two women at my work had a fight via email, but for some reason felt the need to "Reply All", keeping the entire 100+ members of staff caught in the drama.  This is the kind of thing that makes me hate unions, because they give people confidence to openly act like asses, knowing that there won't be any consequence.  Sometimes a union is a wonderful thing, and sometimes it simply protects and preserves idiocy.  I wonder if the administrators look at each other and whisper about how much they wish they could fire certain people.  Actually I don't wonder.  I'm certain they do this.  I would.

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My sister-in-law convinced her doctor to take two new patients, me and J.  I have grown fed up with my doctor on a number of counts over a number of years, but my primary problem is that he is far too interested in talking to me about my sex life.  His curiosity is not rooted in medical concern as far as I can tell.  And I do not say this because I think I am particularly interesting, rather that he is particularly curious.  There have been a number of times in my life that I have ignored gut-feelings like this, and regretted it.  This time I have decided to act on that feeling and move on.  We met the new doctor yesterday, who was not nearly as smiley as he is, not nearly as warm and chatty.  She was serious and deliberate and professional.  I'm good with that.

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Now I am reading Caroline Adderson again.  Isn't it strange how some writers can alienate their readers so delicately, making them long to get closer?  And others just throw a warm arm around the readers and pull them in so comfortably that they can feel like they have always inhabited this world?   (Adderson is the latter.  Murakami is the former.)  Both styles intrigue me; I want to imitate them, each one in different situations and for different reasons.  I do not think I accomplish either one successfully.  Rather I invite my reader to watch me tread water and wonder how long I can go, forever on the cusp of swallowing water, and dare them to flag down a lifeguard.  Because I can swim; I just don't like water.


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Friday, January 20, 2017

what walks down the stairs, alone or in pairs?

When I moved into my first apartment I bought a shower curtain that had a print of strange cartoon-like creatures that looked like hybrids of birds, bugs, reptiles, and rodents.  I was quite enamoured of these peculiar little critters and spent a lot of time studying their faces while washing my hair.  I was particularly fond of the two-legged, pointy-eared guy next to the blue rabbit.  I liked his sidelong glance and his crooked little mouth.  This little dude clearly knew stuff he wasn't telling, and he had an opinion about it too.  But he knew how to be cool.
When I got my new drivers' license in the mail today I recognized a nearly identical expression on my own face in the photograph.  The woman taking my picture had clearly told me not to smile or make any kind of facial expression at all.  And I hadn't, not on purpose.  But the picture came out looking remarkably like the guy on the shower curtain I used to chat with while I got ready for school in the morning.  Eyes looking up and off to one side, mouth slightly askew.


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My new job continues to force me to have difficult conversations with people with whom I would not normally choose to have any kind of conversation whatsoever.  Today I told a mother she would be irresponsible to continue not to take her depressed daughter to see a doctor.  And I told another mother her son had chosen not to graduate and needed to be held accountable for that decision.  Neither of these things are things I could have said six months ago.  I may finally be becoming an adult.

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My husband's hair is astonishing.  For reasons no one understands he has stopped cutting it and allowed it to become enormous.  Something I did not know about his hair when it was short is that it is extremely coarse and very curly.  And now that it is so long, I find it all over the house, especially in the bathroom sink.  Like millions of silver slinkies.  (A slinky, a slinky, it's a wonderful toy.)  It's as though a toy box has exploded.  I have feelings and thoughts about the slinkies, but I say nothing.  I look heavenward (up and to the left) and hold my mouth crooked.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

a public memorial

Do you know Ruth Ozeki?  I have been reading a lot of her writing lately.  The first two were fiction (the kind of fiction that feels autobiographical), and now I am reading a set of, what would you call them?, memoirs I think.  But not exactly memoirs, more like a long poem or perhaps a blog  (the word is detestable) written as she looks into a mirror and contemplates her own reflection.  The exercise is a three hour reflection upon oneself.  The mirror is the tool.  And the pen (or keyboard perhaps?).  The idea is fascinating and revolting.  I started to read it last night but fell asleep about a third of the way in, not because the book is boring (it's quite interesting) but because I have jet lag caused by Christmas holidays.  I have been sleeping in until the luxurious hour of 8 o'clock for the past two weeks (!!! unheard of) and now returning to my regular schedule of waking at 5am has become a bit painful.  Staying awake beyond 9pm is challenging.

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Today was difficult.  This job comes with a different sort of schedule that is less predictable and largely out of my control.  I entered with the delusion that I would be setting my own schedule, which has turned out to be only slightly and ocassionally true.  The rest of the time my schedule is determined by emotionally-sodden teenagers.  For some reason today they were particularly needy, and the trend extended to the staff as well, and I accidentally found myself unsuccessfully attempting to mediate a dispute between colleagues (which felt wrong in a multitude of ways).  But it's so difficult to stop swimming once you find yourself immersed.

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