some days are better than others
Today falls squarely in that “others” category.
I had a hard time sleeping last night. I’d fallen asleep early due to severe sinus-related jaw pain (yep, still sick). I apparently slept through an alarm letting me know I needed to drop off our rent check, and I’m not exactly sure if I took my night medications. In any case, I did eventually wake up–at 11 pm–and ended up staying awake till 4 am. I knew I’d hate myself by 7:30 am when little tank would decide it was time to mao mao Mama awake.
And what a painful waking it was. I think mornings are the anti-everything when you have a chronic sinus infection. I was so dried out from the decongestants that I almost had a nose bleed. Good Lord. And of course, Rilly wouldn’t eat. Instead of fussing like I usually do, I just made sure the dry food bowl was full. We understand each other now.
I felt like I was in a fog. I knew where it came from. Not the sinus infection. I’m used to that. It was that familiar fog that comes with December. “Oh, hi. You’re back.” And it wasn’t from the shooting yesterday. Or rather, not directly. It was from the people shouting and arguing and whatever else people did or are doing right now–on social. The “I’m right. You’re wrong. Listen to me. Come here, now” dance we’ve all been doing. I, of course, did it during Planned Parenthood. It’s human to do that. But completely pointless.
I decided to not say much. And people, of course, accused me and the other ones not saying much of endorsing it. Nope. Just not adding to the violence. Just don’t have the heart to go there. Mostly because, after my anger faded from the other day–and this thing landed in that place that forever represents my father–well, all I could really be is sad. That’s what yelling and violence cover up: the devastation of loss.
This morning, before my crazy day began, I pondered out loud: “If we all just stopped, like we did after 9/11, after each and every one of these shootings, would it change things?”
On some level, I always feel bad working the day after. I’ve often had to call into areas where tragedies happened–to do my job. And the people I contacted didn’t mind, but I did. It seemed odd not to actually talk about these things–to talk about the reason so and so left his job instead. To talk about your knowledge of Excel. To pretend like any of it matters. Of course, it does–but it doesn’t always feel that way.
I don’t know. I think part of the problem is we keep going–like nothing happened. And so, in a way, nothing did.
More than anything, my father’s alcoholism taught me that grief and pain unacknowledged and dishonored becomes the boogeyman. The minute you stop, breathe, and tell the truth about your life, the boogeyman stops winning. Stops controlling you. But to do that, you have to understand your truth. To do that, you have to stop moving. You have to reflect and honor the parts of you that even you don’t know. We never do that. So, no one knows the truth about anything. Everyone just makes shit up and acts like they know. They live in their heads instead of their hearts. And I understand why. It doesn’t hurt there.
I never schedule anything before 9 am, if I can help it. I don’t like talking before 9 am, to anyone. Not even lovers. Not even kitties. The first part of my day is about preparing for what I have to do all day. It’s my time to listen to voicemail, read email, and prep for all the calls I have to make. I typically start working 15 minutes after I wake up–long enough to go to the bathroom, feed my cats, brush my teeth, wash my face, and take medicine. I stumble in, log-on, say hi to my boss, and plunge into the abyss of people tugging on me. I try to get all my overnight calls and emails answered by 8:30 am and then schedule any interviews with HMs or prep my screening docs to make things easier. I download resumes, do quick research, and plan my day–if I have any free time open. It’s my time of sanity. Stressed sanity, but it sets me up for a decent amount of productivity. It also gives me time to transform into a people person and get my energy right. To be just one octave above the person I’m speaking to. Sometimes, this requires a Coca Cola. Because damn, I am not an extrovert.
My first call was at 9. And then I had a half hour break before I had to take lunch at 10 am. Because most of the people I work with are on Eastern or Central time, I often have meetings and obligations that force me to take my lunch early–which sucks because it means I have to eat when I’m not hungry–or not at all. And I rarely can order out if I forgot to prep a meal or order something earlier. I had a lot of screens to write up, so when I was done with the 9 am screen, I continued–trying to play catch-up. It takes me at least 30-40 minutes to submit one person, and I was five behind. I’d promised the HMs I’d get this in this morning. All my food was inconveniently frozen, so I ordered a breakfast sandwich from Masterpiece and read about the VA Hospital gunman down the street. I raged inside and then found myself weeping. I realized I hadn’t paid rent and ran down to the office–in pigtails, PJs, and bare feet–straight into my building manager–announcing loudly that I had the rent. Avoiding the $100 late fee by all of ten minutes. I ran back upstairs, logged back on, and ate between phone calls. Hated my life.
My day was completely slammed, straight through 5 pm, with no breaks. I became that thing I used to be–the machine that was so perfect and scripted–and unreal. I kept going till my hands hurt. And I still had to write up all of the ones that passed. By the time I ended my day, 1 1/2 hours late, I was still 15 behind. But I got in the ones I promised. I didn’t lose my mind, and I didn’t have to reschedule anyone. I was not a happy girl. My head hurt. My stomach was growling. The kitties wanted food 3 hours beforehand. And my brain was spinning. I was angry with myself. Mostly because this was my yesterday, and it’ll be tomorrow too.
No one tells me to work like this. Quite the opposite actually. I made my goal on Monday. I’ll be 4x over it by the end of tomorrow. It won’t make any difference in terms of my offer rate for the month–and my bonuses. Our client isn’t fast. So my being fast is just a self-loathing road to burnout. There’s no reason to stay that busy. In fact, it makes me worse at my job. It makes me hate everyone. And I don’t have time to do what I do best. It’s what my old job required, and it’s why I hated my old job.
I was mad because I’ve been doing SO WELL at this since we slowed down earlier this year. Things picked up this fall, and I was still doing good. My people pleasing stopped being such an issue, and I politely declined things and asked people to reschedule if it was too much. I learned that four to five screens a day was my limit to maintain calm. I learned that I did a better job and actually still met my goal–always doubling it actually. I was kinder and happier. But something happened just before Thanksgiving break. I started scheduling and scheduling and soon my entire week was booked. I blamed it on the holiday, but now–I realize it was me…trying to be busy because it was almost December. Totally unconscious. This spiral of perfectionism, overwork, and control freakism that numbs me to feelings and keeps me distracted. Ironically, it doesn’t work anymore! The overwork made me even more aware of negative emotions. I started thinking about the anniversary of my father’s death next week. I started feeling off and focusing on the foggy feelings in my brain. I just got angry and started beating myself up–trying to bully myself into self-care. Making myself promise to never do it again.
The thing is–this is what happens when I go into autopilot. When I live like I used to. And of course, it meant eating poorly too. Disrupted sleep, disengagement, and undernourishment. All the things that remind me I’m not even on the damn list.
During the craze of my day from Hell–which used to just be my normal–at the tail end of my day–I spoke to an older woman who spent 24 years of her life working for a company that decided this October to suddenly outsource her job to Singapore. When I scheduled our appointment, she had written long paragraphs telling me about her reasons for being unemployed. When I spoke to her today, she was nervous. I did what I do and tried to put her at ease. Everything she shared was an overshare. She was a competent, awesome lady–and I could clearly see her gifts. But her confidence had clearly taken a blow and she was selling herself. She was not trying to convince me so much as she was trying to convince herself. The screen went long. I knew I wouldn’t be getting done with the things I promised anytime soon, so I decided I’d indulge her a bit more.
She talked about how she felt like everything happened for a reason. And that she would land on her feet. Maybe I was just done with my day by that point, but I took off my recruiter hat and put on my me suit. I told her I was really sorry that layoff happened to her. I told her I believed that sometimes there are reasons for things, but sometimes we can’t know what they are. That I also think sometimes things just randomly happen–that it doesn’t reflect our value or worth. I told her the reasons we need are not always the ones we get. I told her I think we always get what we need, and we end up where we are most needed. I told her about the fact that in 2014, 1 in 3 people I talked to (I actually kept track) had been laid off in the last five years. I told her how I was laid off 3 times in 1 year and had the hardest time rebounding. (Avoid higher ed). I told her about the ways I made it harder for myself–by limiting my choices. By holding on to my type A lifestyle. I told her how I finally started taking roadtrips — how I took over 5000 pictures in two months. I told her how I finally gave up and decided to go back to recruiting–but on my terms. I told her how the recruiter who recruited me told me I was worth so much more than what I was asking. I told her how life is good now. But that I never wanted this version of my life. But that it’s a pretty fine life, as it turns out.
I told her that she’s smart and that she doesn’t have to convince me of it. I told her to use fewer words when talking to the HM because he likes things brief. I told her he was a good man who would like her and would understand what happened. I told her it wasn’t her fault. I made her cry. Because she knew I believed in her. I told her I would help her if this doesn’t work out, and I will. Not because I’m paid to do it. Not because I really have time–just like I didn’t really have time today–but because she needed me to be someone for her. And I wasn’t willing to forget who I actually am today.
This is why I’m here.
My jaw hurts. My head is draining. I should go to bed now. But instead, I’m writing this. I logged on to Twitter as I was waiting for pizza. Read with sadness that a Twitter friend’s mother had a heart attack. Sent my love and well wishes. And thought about this day and yesterday and that thing that will be tomorrow.
I have few fears left anymore, but the one that still rips me a new one? I don’t want to die like my mother. I don’t want my heart to break. I don’t want to be scared and alone in some hospital .
The truth is–I might. Life hands you what you need. Maybe I’ll need that. It would be kind of fitting.
I talk about self-care sometimes like it’s another one of my goals. Like it’s that mountain of screens. Like it’s a chore. But it’s way easier and so much better than any of those things. And it deserves to be honored. Even if I have only been taught to dishonor it.
The truth is–my words and how I address myself–how I talk to myself when I’m not kind to myself? Well, they’re like the people on FB talking about killers and guns. I hate those words. I hate how mean I am. I hate that I do that to myself without thinking. I hate that it doesn’t hurt me anymore because I’ve done it my entire life. I hate that I don’t notice.
The thing is–self-care is easy when I stop to reflect. When I take the time to make every interaction worthy of the best parts of me–it’s all so much easier and better. I’m so much better. I’m so much more me and the person I deserve to be.
I’m not going to say I’ll be better–that I’ll never overschedule again–because I certainly will. But I can do something else. I can give myself a break and stop.