A Drive

Driving home from Maryland the week before Thanksgiving is nerve wracking, frustrating, and infuriating. If there is a moon, it’s hidden by cloud-cover. And the only things that look like stars are actually the lights on the top of radio towers. 


The few streetlights that exist are stuttering out a weird morse code that translates to “I have a fault in my wiring. Please help.” But they are not my responsibility. And I cannot help them regardless. 


The street is illuminated by headlights and tail lights and the occasional painting of blue and red from a police car on the side of the road. I have been watching as cars weave and forget that the 18 wheelers can’t actually see them hiding next to them. I’ve seen too many close calls as people forget that physics tells us that two items cannot exist in the same place and time. Or maybe they’re just pure scientists and want hard data more than theories.


Or perhaps they’re experiencing time slips as alternate timelines coalesce and merge making it possible that they didn’t see the car there. The car that in another lifetime they crashed into, stopping the traffic dead and ruining multiple lives. 


There is a frozen turkey in my trunk and a crumpled styrofoam cup that held warm cider a few minutes ago.


The internet radio is pumping out dark blues and rock that’s going through an emo phase. It’s filled with murder ballads and broken hearts that spiraled into anger rather than sadness. There’s sinners and vigilantes and a world of stories that want to be told. 


My brain spins with stories and characters. An old character I haven’t really thought of outside of porting into fanfiction because I didn’t think he was actually viable. I think that’s wrong. He and his wife and his child and his adoptive father who thinks he’s a vampire. And who knows, in a different story he might be, but for now, he’s just a nightclub owner who never gave up the goth phase and agreed to let his son get enamel fangs when he was a teenager because he never heard of appropriate limits. 


And stories or scenes from works in progress. 


Anything to not be tensingly anxious about being surrounded on all sides by cars that want to be going much faster than they are and following closely enough that a stunt driver would be cautioning them that they need more safety gear if they’re going to do that. 


I swallow my cursing when a car almost cuts off my front bumper because they’ll get a whole car-length ahead if they cut me off. I slow down to have at least a minimal ability to stop when the next idiot tries to commit suicide and take me with them. 


I take the express lane and feel my shoulders loosen, even as I have a pang of white-girl with a good salary guilt. I revel in the privilege of not being surrounded and feel as though I can breathe again as I barrel down the expensive drive. Is it worth the money to pay for it? Once I would have snorted and told you no. Now, though, now, I am okay with paying to drive and wishing social distance meant cars as well as people. 


It’s dark and the music is throbbing and maybe, if I weren’t navigating through a minefield of other vehicles, if I were instead rolling through a deserted desert moonscape, or abandoned city streets, I might even enjoy it. 


If you enjoyed this, please buy me a cup of ko-fi.

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Sunday Night Music: Miss Murder

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Filling the Kettle

There is an electric kettle in the office breakroom. I don’t use it every day. (Luckily, I can still work from home once in a while.) But I always make sure it’s got at least a liter of water in it. (Yes, I’m American. Yes, I know what a liter is. Deal.)

There’s a reason. I want the other people in the office to do the same, so I model the behavior. 

I want other people in the office to leave water in the kettle so that I don’t have to fill it on the days when I’m feeling dragged out and just want my tea to start steeping. 

I also know that if I get my tea steeping, I will have time to fill the kettle to the 1 L mark and put it back on the base well before the tea is ready to drink. But I will have accomplished the step of “making the tea” that required there to be water in the kettle. 

Let’s follow this into the realm of creativity. My kettle has been dry for a few months now. Writing has been hard and keeping up with a blog was not going to happen. 

Why?

Because I took a job that required all of my emotion, worry, and care to maintain. I was in that job for three months and it was already stressing me out, using up my mental health resources. I realized that I was heading head-first into burnout. 

Because I hadn’t been hired to do actual counseling, and suicide interventions, and triage. I’d been hired to check in on people once a month and make sure that they were taking their meds and making progress on their goals. 

But that isn’t what I ended up doing. I ended up being a life-line for people who needed real therapy, but couldn’t afford the plans with the real therapists. I didn’t mind the conversations with the CEOs and creatives who needed someone to help with hacks. I didn’t mind the stoner who needed to talk about limits and making a new start with her relationships. But the woman who wanted to die and needed me to make a safety plan with her? That was not what I wanted. 

Keep in mind. I have a MA in Psychology. I am a trained, but not licensed counselor. I have the skills to do the job and I’m ACE at it. 

It just kills me. 

It drained my kettle to the point where I was barely able to scrape up enough creative energy to start a craft kit that came with everything I needed. (We don’t talk about WiPs or UFOs.) 

It’s taken a few months away from that job and the application of just, doing nothing productive, and reading a damned book once in a while to start to refill that jug. 

Just the other night I got a new story idea. That hasn’t happened in ages. I’ve been picking and prodding at old projects in hope, but a new story idea. That’s hope. Even if it never goes anywhere.

My kettle is filling up again. And maybe it will actually hit the minimum fill line and I’ll be able to get back to work at the things I love. 

Pour the water.

Fill the kettle.

Drink the tea. 

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Sunday Night Music: Bittersweet

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Why I Wear a Poppy

Poppy field with sunset from Pexels.com

We are more than a century away from the War to End All Wars. And yet, we have continued to fight.

That means that we have veterans all around us. My grandfather was in WWII. My father was in Vietnam. My coworkers were in Afghanistan and Iraq. And others fought the Cold War.

I wear the poppy to support them. To remember them. And to remember that there are those still fighting.

I also wear the poppy to remember those who are fighting the secondary battles of PTSD, depression, or physical therapy. These are our veterans and they deserve our support.

And everything should read this once a year: In Flanders Field

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47380/in-flanders-fields

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Burnout and Recovery

There’s something incredibly freeing in knowing that you’ll not be able to look at your phone for eight hours. 


No, I’m not kidding. I’m not allowed to have my personal phone with me during work hours. So, you see, that eight hours might be more like nine hours. 


I’ve learned a few things being back in the office though. That I need the bustle of an office, or the noise or music, or something in the background during my day. Sitting in silence and working is doable, but my focus is shot. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still hit my deadlines and my daily goals. It’s just… a struggle to focus. I do a bit here and a bit there and I get to the end of the day and I’ve done what I need to do, but it feels as though I’ve been working scatter-shot and not actually been as productive as I should be. 

And there’s the trap. That not-so-little word “productive.” 

I have a problem with being productive. I take on more and more responsibilities because my brain stays active all the time. I don’t get to shut it off and I crave new and exciting things. I like to build businesses and find improvements in the system. It’s actually why I burned out so badly that my friends had been pushing me to leave my job three years into a five year stint. I wasn’t just doing the job I’d been hired for. I was also doing three or four other jobs on top of that. 

There was the process improvement initiative that needed someone on it. 

And the safety briefings that needed to be done. 

And the change management initiative that needed a cheerleader. 

And the team lead on the five year project that I’d been there for the first step of and needed to see through before I left it. 

And the leadership development course that I didn’t need but looked good on the resume and let me meet senior leaders.

There was the manager leaving without notice, and someone had to step in. And then they needed to hire someone though the outside process, because gods forbid they just promote from within. It wouldn’t be “fair.” 

Ask me about the fact that everyone assumed I’d have the job. Ask me about the fact that I was doing the job in addition to my other duties. And the fact that HR dumped my resume without it going to the hiring managers at all because I didn’t have the “manager” title anywhere in my background.

I answered the screening question honestly due to my understanding of the question and the manager who was doing the hiring told me “you could have asked me what I meant.” 

Um, I thought this was supposed to be a blind process from outside? So, to my mind that meant I couldn’t talk to you.

Turns out this is a female thing. It comes from how we’re socialized in the US. It’s why we end up outside of the old boy’s network trying to figure out how the social structure works. We swallowed the lies that our accomplishments and our achievements would be enough to push us forward. 
No. It’s networking. It’s asking the hiring manager questions that the person on the street can’t because the system isn’t fair. 

And the manager that was hired was from the team I was working on, so great! I knew them. I could teach them everything I was doing. Three months of me as the interim manager meant that we could trade off as The Great Unpleasantness meant we were suddenly doing shift work. 

Get that through your head faster than I did. Maybe you won’t burn out working a 60 hour work week trying to figure out how to make everyone safe in the office during The Great Unpleasantness and get everyone back to work at full staffing because the hybrid model would not work. 

No pressure. 

And give me a status on why you’re working so many hours on this project where we’ve changed the goal posts approximately every two hours since you’ve begun. And we won’t let you see the studies or the guidance, just let us filter that for you. 

And then, the headhunter called. And I left. Two weeks notice after the job letter was in my hand. 

That’s been another adventure. And a stop-work order that popped up in January. It took until September before I had steady work that didn’t make me want to stab my eyes out.

But those months of scrabbling and starting a new resale business and trying to set up for freelancing and cutting the budget to the bone so I could rely on my savings to float me until unemployment kicked in?

They were scary. 

They were also the rest point that I needed to recognize that I needed to get my head on straight. I needed at least a month to do nothing productive. To get my energy back and to look for something that would cover my actual needs every month. 

And I’m not recovered from the stress yet. I still have trouble being creative (though that haze over my brain is starting to clear, just a bit.) I have trouble self-motivating. I’m tired all the time. 

But I have a plan. 

I have been consciously trying to take care of myself. 

Increasing exercise. Downsizing. Clearing debts. Cleaning the house. And getting ready for the next big adventure. 

I don’t know when it’s going to hit. But I’m not just bracing for the waves. I’m putting up sandbags on the perimeters and boarding up the windows. I’m installing a sump pump. 
Part of me thinks I should go back and edit this piece about five times before I post it. 
But I’m not going to.

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Sunday Night Music: Mo Ghille Mear (My Gallant Hero)

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Sunday Night Music: Nox Arcana Medley

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Books Read October 2021

Graphic Novels

Sensor – Junji Ito

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Sunday Night Music: Warriors

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