How To Combat Grief

So I have been away for a long-ass time. I didn’t actually check the date of my last post, but it has been a while. First I was overcome by imposter syndrome, and this unexpected new sort of anxiety where when I tried to start writing a blog post after the last one this voice in my head would ask me “Are you sure you want to say that?” “You know, your sense of humor might be coming off less humorous and more like a whiny asshole,” and a lot of other great things. So I got anxiety about writing and venting about anxiety and it all fell apart. But I am back for now. I bet there are a lot of blogs out there with about six posts before the writer got hit with the new-and-improved “Why are you even writing this?” monster. But I’m going to try again.

A lot has been going on in my life lately, a little more than usual, and I realized that I need to write more because that is a great coping skill for me. Today I am going to share with you what I have been learning about combating grief.

The first step of combating grief is don’t. Fighting is a metaphor I use a lot for pushing through depression to get stuff done, or overcoming my anxiety to go to a new place, but fighting grief is like playing tennis with the wall– the wall will always win. Also, if you play the wall there is a good chance the tennis ball will bounce off the wall and hit the court lights, then come shooting down toward your head after making an outrageous sound and you feel so self-conscious you leave, then in the morning you have a wicked case of tennis elbow, tennis shoulder, and tennis embarrassment. I guess what I’m saying is that if you go at grief alone you’re probably going to make a big mess, hurt yourself, and be in the same spot under your blankets for a long-ass time.

Also, not combating grief does not mean not being angry. In grief there are a lot of emotions, and it is important to accept the grief and accept how you’re feeling. Grief is a huge pain in the ass and I don’t like it (not that many people do) because grief is something that by and large takes time; it is a marathon, and there are little things and big things you can do for yourself, and a lot of those things are to help you be more comfortable as you process grief.

I’m largely really bad at handling grief up until now because I am impatient and I like problems that I can solve or analyze, then write a proposal and create an annotated bibliography. Sure, I could probably do that for grief too, but that is not a solution for grief. Yes, it is important to think about grief and loss and mentally process that, but something I want to make sure you all who are reading this get is that grief is so much more than thoughts. It’s feelings, it’s the yawning absence of a presence that used to be a person, animal, even sometimes a job, or loss of ability. There is so much one can grieve and it is amazingly hard for me to wrap my head around. I am great at being handed things or problems and dealing with them, because they are things; you can even hand me a used bandaid and, while gross, is something I can handle, because used bandaids go in the trash, then wash hands, then probably have a drink that night and find something else to think about. It’s when something precious is taken away that things fall apart.

It’s important to know, though, somewhere in oneself that not everything is falling apart. Loss is the worst, there is nothing like it, it’s wrenching and awful. That’s important to know too– grief is worse than if someone went through all the available ringtones on their phone on loud at the climax of a movie, by a lot. That isn’t even a well-scaled metaphor. But that’s fine for now. Because grief is horrible, and exhausting, because sometimes it feels like grief will never leave. This is why it is also important to be gentle with yourself. So I think I’m going to practice more of that and end this post here, because I’ve processed a little more and maybe, maybe, made a point somewhere in this mess that can help someone.

Grief is not a battle, it’s not a war, it’s a marathon that is not meant to be run but walked, preferably with loved ones. And there is love and solidarity and strength in others that will be kind enough to lend it to you sometimes, because you are not alone in grief. Everyone feels it at some time, even if most people never know what to say to comfort someone. So keep going. You can pause and take a nap, or jump up and down and scream because fuck this marathon, and that is still going. You can do this, even if you don’t want to.

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I think my body is adopted

Like a lot of socially anxious people, I don’t walk into rooms or parties wanting to be noticed— and lets be honest— with social anxiety I rarely walk into parties in the first place. I would much rather be on a walk with a close friend or reading a good book. I don’t like to be loud, because I am noise sensitive and also because more people would listen and probably look at me. It is not that I am antisocial, I have friends who I will guffaw and get into heated arguments with, but never in crowded and/or public places. And like a subgroup of the previously mentioned socially anxious people, I am in some ways fucking goofy that are hard to ignore.

I get hiccups, sometimes in a row, and sometimes only one in a day. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why if I try and hold my breath with my mouth closed to keep from making a sound it feels like my temples have discovered they are star-crossed lovers and try to fight through the wall that is my brain and other important bits to be closer together. This is a romantic way to say that I feel pressure in my temples and it is very temporary but also very painful to suppress hiccups.

This wouldn’t be so unfortunate if my hiccups were normal “hic” sounds or even cute girlie “squeaks” at a regular or soft volume, as a fair number of hiccups are. Unfortunately, my hiccups sound like I have taken the cute mouse that makes people’s hiccups sound dainty, swallowed it whole, and when I hiccup that mouse is screaming its shrill head off with a killer set of lungs to be freed.

My friends know that hiccups are hiccups, they are a weird inexplicable function that happens to people and even animals and usually politely ignore them. Occasionally someone will forget and be startled and say something amusing like “I’m excited too!” In a room of strangers and acquaintances the best case scenario is that a few people will look out the windows or up at the vents for the cause of the howling mouse, but often times someone will notice that my mouth was open at the time that the tiniest battle cry was issued and I rocked back on my heels a slight bit and they will exclaim “Was that you?!” At which point anyone else in the room will swivel their heads as I mumble “It was a hiccup.”

I can tell who has known me and actually paid attention to me, because I usually try to blend in to the scenery, and I have had more than one person tell me when my hiccups come up “Oh, I thought you were trying to get attention.” I am a little alarmed by this, because what other people are in their lives who sound like a gerbil soprano? Also, other than the occasional bright orange t-shirt, I am not loud.

I get separated from friends regularly in stores because something will catch my attention and I will stop or turn down the aisle with the item and forget to say something like “I am going here now.” For two weeks after getting a cashier position and talking to people over the sound of sandwiches being made and chatty sandwich buyers I came home sounding like Kermit the Frog if he was losing his voice. It’s not that I grew up with the intention of being quiet, I just usually am. Except in the split-seconds that I really am not.

Some people say “That is awesome!” and other people ask me “Have you seen a doctor about that?” Which is ridiculous, because I think if I went to the doctor and said “My hiccups sound like someone’s trying to squeeze pee out of a hamster with a UTI who is super bitchy” they will diagnose me as being part cartoon character. I also know another woman who has squeaky hiccups. Like me she is quiet and soft spoken when her body is not committing embarrassment to its consciousness. She taught me how to blame everything else for hiccups, and now when I squeak and catch a friend off guard I will suavely point to the plant. It was him!

succulent plant
“You liar!” | Photo by Studio 7042 on Pexels.com

 

Dead Pond Frogs

Heya.

So I went well over a week without posting anything and while I don’t have a huge following waiting for their weekly Leigh, if no one else the absence was noticed by myself, since I want to have this little hobby be weekly. Life kept happening in weird and shitty ways that are personal and I don’t want to go into detail about, and then it became July and my already struggling will to do anything became a puddle of sweat.

While I was in the middle of getting texts and phone calls about more shit happening to people I love I tried valiantly to do all of the regular things I do and also be productive and this resulted in thinking of a few ideas and very little actually being done. One thing my mind kept coming back to when I thought about what I want to do for my next blog post was the damn old cliche “When life gives you lemons make lemonade.” This cliche has been beaten to death; if this cliche was a dead horse it has been beaten so bad that the ground beef is now completely destroyed and there is nothing to salvage. Regardless of the fact that “if life gives you lemons…” has been twisted and talked about in a cornucopia of different ways, taking my frustration out on this practically meaningless phrase was one of the healthy ways to deal with stress that I took my own metaphorical bludgeoning instrument to and will share with you now.

“When life gives you lemons make lemonade” is a phrase that was coined in the early 1900s, according to the internet, and is supposed to be a way to say that when shitty things happen in life you can find a bright side, make the situation better, or reframe the way you think about the situation. And since there have been terminally sarcastic people around for just about ever, I’m sure the phrase has been riffed on since right after the first time someone said it aloud. A variety of posters, t-shirts, and other human media have made the phrase into “…make margaritas!” “…find someone whose life gave them vodka and have a party!” “…squirt them into the eyes of your enemies!” These are all amusing alternatives to the original, but they are all very proactive and sometimes shit happens and you cannot do anything about it other than process what has happened and recover. This is my personal beef with the phrase. Lemons are sour and the connotation is that when life gives you something sour make it sweet instead, and the phrase utterly fails to see that people fucking like lemons and ingest or otherwise use them regularly. If someone gave me a lemon, whether their name was “Life” or “Allen” it would be a little weird but I wouldn’t be offended because citrus is …citrus. It is not malaria or a telemarketer call.

This is why I changed the phrase to “When life hands you dead pond frogs.” I haven’t figured out the rest but the working phrase is “When life hands you dead pond frogs be sad.” Where I live the pond frogs are tiny, you can’t be a snarky french chef and make frog legs because you would lose the meat if you even managed to use a magnifier to cut it out. The frogs are adorable in their tininess. This is the feeling I’ve had several times in the past week or whatever at different news and things. We all hold our hands out to life, however involuntarily, and when a little cold slippery once-adorable-now-deceased frog is put in your hand you see the smallness that is a life and have a cry and read on the internet what to do when finding a dead frog. The internet has a number of pages that talk about disposing of dead wild animals which vary but are largely for handling  children who see the dead animals that say “throw the dead thing away so it doesn’t give disease to your family and do not bury it. Explain to your child that animals are wild and the nature of life is death, particularly in the wild.” Which to me sounds condescending because right now I am that child, my adult damn self, who is sad about the dead animal that I didn’t know personally, and also smart enough to be offended on behalf of the ecosystem. Yeah, you don’t want the family dog digging up dead frogs and eating them, but how is throwing away dead frogs ecofriendly? Regardless of how one deals with dead frog disposal, there is a sadness that gets carried through the rest of the day for the nameless little no-hop that you know was once alive because it is fucking dead and death is sad. The way to deal with it is to keep moving forward, to process in the way that is right for you.

And this is life. No one short of marine biologists trying to figure out why the pond frogs are dying says “Thank you” when they are handed a dead frog. If “Life” came to me as a human and handed me a dead frog, I would not think they were weird, I would think they were one step away from being a serial killer and maybe call the cops. Because sometimes things happen in life and instead of making beverages you are left thinking/saying/screaming what the fuck?

This is all not to say that there are plenty of situations that people exaggerate and can do shit about. This is to say that sometimes there are situations where what you can do is accept what has happened and take some time for yourself.

This post was way more of a downer than anything and I don’t want it to just end at “Sometimes shit is shit!” So here is a video that I watch when I am sad and sober that never fails to make me feel a bit better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJDNkVDGM_s  I always replace the title in my head with “whatever, just look at the seal for a minute and breathe.”

Involuntary Fight Club of One

There are different kinds of depression, and one person can have multiple kinds of depression. There is also a plethora of ways that one person can experience and feel depression because people are full of moods and thoughts and feelings. What makes depression depression, though, is the sadness and negative thoughts and impulses that drag out for longer than a person can really stand alone. Or at least longer than a person should stand alone. This is my definition, at least. If you want something more official feel free to check out NIMH or APA or the dictionary.

Sometimes having depression is like a one person fight club where the fight club is your own brain kicking the shit out of itself. People close to you can see the bruises of you being so damn sad and when people ask “what happened?” you are not entirely sure because you just got the crap knocked out of you in your emotion and thinking space.

A difference between fight club as written by Chuck Palahniuk and depression is this club is exclusive and you are the only member. There’s still a whole damn cult that wants to burn the place down, except the cult are these angry, sad, painful feelings and impulses that are brain chemicals and the place they want to burn down is you.

Do these cultists want a classless society, motivated by the ennui of being a middle class office worker? Do they want to destroy social security numbers and information gathered by companies to go back to a more aggressive and primitive existence? I have no fucking idea. I think these rogue agents are super confused because besides the fact that I am not a white lower-middle class male in the 90s, I don’t even know how social security numbers work.

Regardless, these rogue agents keep speaking in (mental, metaphorical) violence and shitty feelings, which makes it really hard to accept them or give them space. Why would anyone want to accept these feelings, anyway? The answer I have is because one of the best counselors I’ve seen, as well as a lot of self-help literature and other self-bettering stuff have said in different ways that in order to get through feelings you have to understand them, and the beginning of understanding is acceptance.

If acceptance sounds nice and easy then you are not thinking of the same depression that I am. It is really fucking hard to accept emotions that want to punch you in the face as hard as they can. I was reminded, and remind myself when this sort of abstract rabid depression shows up, that acceptance means acknowledging it. At minimum, acknowledge that the emotion exists instead of trying to throw a thick woolly rug over it to stifle its gibbering and pretend that it’s not there. Ignorance is bliss, but even if you persuade yourself that the depression is not there through avoidance or escapism, the angry depression will throw the rug aside eventually and sucker punch you right in the kidneys.

That being said, acceptance does not mean welcoming. If bitey depression shows up in your life, you do not– and I recommend do not– open the door to your cozy happy place, dust off the welcome mat and offer it a comfy chair. This bitch will try and destroy your furniture.

 

So then what do you do if your depression is one step away from looking for pitchforks and torches to wave? The answer is different for everyone. My go-to strategy is to try and calm the fuck down. Even if I was calm before, bitey depression will cause anxiety by being ferocious. I use meditation to start because it slows down all the thoughts and decreases the intensity of most emotions. I learned meditation when I was 20 by a Buddhist psychology PhD student in California on the beach. I am not even kidding. He was boarding at my grandmother’s place and I had gone with him and his girlfriend to the beach while my mom and grandmother did stuff they liked to do. We sat cross-legged in the sand and listened to the waves during his instruction. I was good at it, and meditation scared the crap out of me.

Despite my intelligence and the quickness and number of my thoughts, or maybe because of it (who knows), I was able to clear my mind with relative ease. This scared me. The calm and revelation that I felt in meditation was strange and alien. I was not used to such stillness and calm and it was completely alarming. I was afraid that if I kept meditating that I would think slower, I would be slower on the uptake of new information, my creativity would become lackluster, and I would be less me. After I came back to Alaska from the trip I dropped meditation like a hot potato.

Before I met Buddhist dude I had read some of the Dalai Llama’s writing and found a sense of comfort in it, probably part of what had started the impromptu lessons, and I continued to enjoy more diverse Buddhist writings recommended by Buddhist dude after, picking up a book or essay every few years. Reading about how important it was to get meditation right, the posture, the sitting, the foundational thinking had to be just so according to some writers, the idea of starting meditation again morphed from jittery about personal change to afraid of doing meditation wrong and fucking myself up.

Nine years later I was depressed with enthusiastic mood swings that didn’t want to quit. A year earlier my best friend had recommended an app called Headspace, and I was tentatively interested. My relationship with my girlfriend at the time was in tatters, I was going to start a rigorous job soon, and on top of that was all this mental stuff. So I started meditating, and I used Headspace. I still do every night. In the beginning guided meditation was a break from my life. When I do other things that I enjoy such as reading, playing video games, sports, I am still in my head and using my mental faculties to do the things. In meditation it started with me following the meditation guide, Andy, word-by-word. In meditating I count breaths, if my mind wanders I acknowledge that it wanders and then return to sensations of the body and find this balance of quiet. At the least meditation is a daily 3 minute vacation from all of my responsibilities, from having to talk or write or otherwise communicate with people, from having to problem solve, and if I am utterly, thoroughly exhausted from even having to imagine as one does when reading. The silence in meditation is welcoming.

I stubbornly practiced meditation and use it as a break from myself, regardless of my mood, to settle. Even on days when I feel good, when I’m distracted, if I am afraid that I will meditate wrong or I am enjoying myself, the least I can do is take 3 minutes to sit in a guided meditation. Thanks to this discipline I’ve put on myself, it makes dealing with bitey depression more manageable. Bitey depression still shows up wanting to head-butt and flip tables, but since I’ve practiced the steps of meditation as much as I have I can use meditation as a buffer so the angry depression, my defenses, and knee-jerk reactions will all slow the fuck down. This usually gives me the space to acknowledge and recognize that bitey depression has shown up and remind myself that I have gotten through it before without it burning the place down, and sometimes it helps me see what, exactly, is motivating bitey depression to show up.

 

Unrelated to anything. On my wordpress reading feed the first thing that popped up today was: “Suggestions: DIY, Life, Chickens. ” DIY, yes that sounds like me, I like doing things. Life, ehhh, if I am in the mood I read other peoples’ life stuff. Chickens …?! I do not have chickens, I have seen chickens a handful of times in my life. Then again, Knock-knock, motherfucker.

 

A Few Reasons Why You Are Here

Hi, hello, again.

Introductions are always awkward, and I’m awkward, so bear with me for a few minutes. Or don’t, actually, we’re not in a room together so there is no social grace if you exit this page now. Woo! Pressure relieved! Anyway.

My name is Leigh, I have depression, potentially dysthymia, and general anxiety disorder (anxiety for short). I am newly 30, a masters student of English, and I also like ladies. I live in Alaska, which is a red/purple state, I am an independent and liberal leaning. Living in Alaska also means that like just about everyone else here I probably have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) since the sun goes down before 4pm at the peak of winter and after 2am in the summer.

A big aim for me in writing this blog is to explore depression and mental health, and share some of my experiences and coping mechanisms. I was inspired to start a blog for my writing platform in part from the support of a friend, and in part from reading Jenny Lawson’s work, also known as The Bloggess. If you haven’t read her work, it’s amazing, open a new tab now and look her up, probably some of the best advice that will come out of this post.

As well as Jenny Lawson’s blog there is a lot of good content on the internet, in books, and growing community awareness about mental illness. A question I debated for a long time is: If there is so much good stuff already growing on the net about depression, what could I possibly add? The answer I came to is that I can offer my perspective; there is a lot of great stuff happening and people are writing/drawing/otherwise producing brilliant, hilarious, heartbreaking stories and there is no one definitive story, so there is room for me to add my voice to the mix.

I am not a mental health expert, but I am an expert at being me and dealing with my depression and anxiety. As anyone with depression or anxiety can tell you, depression is felt by a lot of people but there is no universal experience. How I feel depression, the thoughts depression creates in the back of my head, are different from Jenny Lawson’s depression, are different from your thoughts, et cetera. This also means that there is no one definitive answer on how to deal with depression. The coping mechanisms I have are different than yours et cetera et cetera. However, when it comes to coping, sharing strategies can be so good. I have talked and traded experiences and strategies with friends, and now I want to share some of what I have learned on here.

I have had a number of friends and acquaintances, both with and without depression, ask me “How do you do it?” It referred to getting out of bed, to dealing with depression, to writing essays and holding down a job; “it” basically stands in for living with depression (and anxiety). Since these questions were directed to me and I am the me-expert, I feel like I can answer them. I’ve also had a number of good counselors (and a few less than helpful ones) compliment me on my coping strategies. Some urged me to publish. So here I am. I want to answer the questions that have been asked over the years, as well as new ones, write ranty essays, and maybe help a few people along the way.

Another question I ask myself is, why write an entire damn blog about depression and my life? Why not write an exhaustive 30-page essay with citations that answers the questions, give it to the people who asked and the counselors who urged, and call the project done? There are two reasons for this. Really three, but the third answer is getting nitpicky– that few people would want to read 30 pages in one go for their answer that is one of many questions I’ve been asked. Okay, that’s a lie, some of my friends are awesome and totally would read 30 pages for me.

Back to the point. Well, one more tangent, but it is related to the answer. I read Jenny Lawson’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened initially as a recommendation from a friend. I went through a phase as a teenager where I read books about girls with depression like Prozac Nation and Girl, Interrupted, and the girls featured in these books were nothing like me other than the fact that they were inexplicably, dangerously sad and moody. Reading Lawson’s book I laughed, I cried, I recommended it and read passages to friends and acquaintances. My life is not like hers at all. She lives in Texas, I live in Alaska. She is married, to a man, I am gay and single. Our lives are super different but her perspective, metaphors, and similes, were so familiar and validating that it made my heart hurt. Like Lawson, I am a human that lives with depression and anxiety. Reading about how she views her depression, how she views her world with depression and in spite of depression made my own internal reflection on my experiences and coping strategies more of a creative exercise and more enticing. I have talked to psychologists who totally didn’t get me, and acquaintances with way different values than me, and made all sorts of broken metaphors and allegories, and it felt like a battle to make myself heard. In this space, on this blog, I want to play with ways of viewing depression, I want to interact with anyone who wants to comment on what I write, so that this space is welcoming and sometimes hard (at least for me) but in a way that is rewarding.

Another reason to make this writing a blog is because I am a living person, which means I’m changing all the time. This means that my depression and anxiety change, too. The fact that my mental illness changes can be super infuriating, and it also means that my perspectives and strategies change too; this means that my answers change.

I have also been urged by some people to write a blog because they like the way I write, and so I am going to give this thing a shot. As well as reading the Bloggess I read Hyperbole and a Half (another good blog), and there are niches on the internet that have provided me with new perspectives, validation, or at least a good laugh when I did not feel like laughing. Here is my writing for the people who have asked for it. For the net niche of weirdos who want to find this place, here is my contribution.

I also want to hear from you guys, too. Questions, answers, tips, or random facts. One of the main reasons I get online is to learn about stuff and read, so I would love to hear from people as well. Until I start exploring wordpress some more, the best way to reach me is to leave me a comment. The comments get kicked to my email first, so I will read them all ( 😀 ) or keep looking at an empty inbox ( 🙂 ). I am very shy, so I don’t have a twitter or instagram. I have looked at them, I appreciate their utility, but they sound more social than I can be at the moment.

I’m going to post this now before I get shy again and back out of it. Thanks!

 

The Silver Linings of Being Sick

I am bad at being sick. I don’t think anyone is particularly good at being sick, or at least no one brags about their ability to drink lots of water, take meds on time, and watch The Price is Right. Like a lot of people, I complain about the fact that I am sick, and I am frustrated at my lack of energy and strength. What makes me particularly bad at being sick though is the disconnect between my brain and body that tends to slip through the “should I or shouldn’t I?” filter of my brain. When I am sick my brain is still filled with thoughts of the resumes I need to write, the dogs to walk, errands to run, as well as the whimsical things, art to draw, sidewalks to chalk, bananas to hide. And because I have contracted the blight, my brain’s a bit loopy, so I end up googling “mouse asleepy” and wondering if my cat’s ears would look like pigtails if I put tiny scrunchies around them because my mind is a horse that always wants to run but is now full of phlegm and a badly placed metaphor. I blame the T virus, or whatever.

What this means is that my should/n’t filter will get clogged with meaningful and meaningless thoughts and impulses, and one of the ideas will slip past. This has lead to things like me having taken most of my books off my shelves with the intention to reorganize everything, to having driven to a vacant parking lot and pushed off on a skateboard and, amid books or gliding along the asphalt, feverishly realizing I do not have the energy for this thing and am in need of a good lie-down. And I never learn. I get sick maybe once a year, and it always lasts longer than anyone anticipated from the strain of having to put all those damn books haphazardly back, or drag myself around the rest of the loop to my car and home, or some other benign but overtaxing act. Luckily, as stated earlier, I don’t get sick that often. I am no superhuman who hasn’t been sick since they were 7 but I do well to avoid the seasonal flu 75% of the time.

This time I have yet to find myself in feverish regret, and I am doing this exercise of thinking about the bright-ish side.

Pros and Cons of having the blight.

Pro: Getting to be inside. During the winter most people are inside, but during the summer a lot of people go overboard and are outside, soaking up as much vitamin D as possible, and aggressively growing things since we get grass for about 2-3 months a year. As a person with probable heat intolerance, I can lay on my mattress of kleenex near a fan or open window instead of wilting outside.

Pro: Watch some TV. Con: A lot of TV is not that great, personally. Pro: Having the plague lowers my bar considerably. I hope that We Bare Bears is still good when I am better. (Ice Bear is so good!)

Pro: I get to read! Con: I don’t have the mental stamina to read heavy academic stuff, which would be useful with school work and all, but Pro: I get to read adventure and scifi and fantasy and all that good stuff.

Pro: My cat is amazing. This is a pro that really spans my life since I got him into the future, and he makes a great little nurse. He doesn’t bring me hot beverages or remind me to take a decongestant, but when I am thoroughly irritated at how little I can sit up straight before my body starts telling me lying down is where it is at and I give in, he jumps on the bed and is so thrilled that we are going to snuggle in the middle of the day while doing nothing else, that my type-A parts are overwhelmed by his enthusiasm and I’m glad too. I grew up hearing stories of fickle affection-withholding cats, but he is the biggest fuzziest cheerleader who gladly follows me around to look at me with adoration and lean on me when I am still.

Pro: I realize/remember what it is like to not be as able and energetic as I normally am. I am no triathlete or body builder, nor am I a traveling scholar, but I am very productivity-oriented individual. At one of my first jobs my employer asked me why I was back on the floor after only having taken about 8 minutes of my 30 minute lunch and when I said it was because I was done, energy renewed, she sent me back to the break area. Her mantra of “You are a human being, not a human doing” has stuck with me through the years, even if I’m not very good at following it sometimes.

Aside from being mindful of being breaks, I am still privileged to have the energy I do naturally have, whether it is anxiety driven or just there. Some people have to push themselves to get through the day, for some it is a monumental effort, or even going to the grocery store takes a lot of preparation and/or effort. While I do sometimes take longer than I’d like to get out of bed, I can do a lot once I am. I don’t have to think about how many trips I’ve made up and down the stairs or to and from the couch because, even if I accidentally tried Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the first time on intermediate training day, these tasks don’t impact my energy levels. Being sick is not even a proper comparison metric of having deeper health problems, but it is a very real reminder, after I’ve trudged up and down the stairs twice and realized I have forgotten my water on the other floor and opt to recuperate for half an hour before making another damn journey that I am relatively fit and able. I will go back to being able to do sports, errands, and whatever else in a day once I have blown the snotmonster out of my nasal passages. For me being sick is a reinforcement that some people aren’t lazy or procrastinating, they just take a bit more time than I do. (Some people are totally lazy and procrastinating, but be judicious with such assessments).

Pro: I can blame things on the fact that I am sick. Like the fact that I can think of several other pros but have run out of steam for typing and looking at this screen. Con: Lack of stamina and bad grammar abounds, probably from the amount of time and energy I use blowing my nose. Pro: I blame it all on the blight.

 

Edit: By “bananas to hide” I mean hiding literal bananas, the fruit. And not in living organisms. Have you ever tried to hide a real banana? It is harder than you’d think. They’re shaped really weird, and you have to hide them in places where they will be found at least a few hours later to keep the game from turning into “find the weird smell.”

Resumes are more awkward than meeting relatives who knew you when you were 2

As I find myself in the job market, this time looking for non-academic jobs, I have to refresh myself on writing resumes since I have been scrupulously updating my Curriculum Vitae for the past 3-4 years and not my resume. I, like many people, do not have a natural talent for talking myself up, talking about myself very much to begin with, nor diplomatically articulating the monetary value of my experiences and skills.

For those of you who don’t know what a CV is off the top of your head it is the academic equivalent of a resume. Unlike a resume, your job history is assumed to be static (teacher/professor), so the focus is on classes taught, talks given, works published, and service tasks. For me CVs are a lot less painful because it is a list of things that I did, with very little need for explanation or talking myself up. Like relatives at a family reunion, if an aunt I don’t recognize walks up to me she is already interested in me because we’re related and primed to hear about the amazing shit I’ve done in the past few years. If socially anxious me is lucky I can tell her that I presented at a conference and interned with a professor and she’ll say “That’s great!” and move on to the next niece or nephew who needs to be told that she knew them when they were thiiiis biiiiig. Unless the world flip-flops into some alternate plane where it’s like an abstract Phillip K. Dick novel, I will never have to hunt down an aunt and wow her with thesaurus-scoured adjective-ridden titles and accomplishments to receive familial validation. (I would never go to these reunions, although knowing PKD they would be required and if a character did not attend one they would get a finger nibbled off by space lizards as punishment. Even then, I’d be willing to sacrifice my left hand pinkie for not dealing with such communal monstrosity).

I remember working in retail when I was younger and thinking I would die if I worked on commission. I know people who are great salesmen, including my brother, who are fantastic at selling cars or ladies’ shoes, whose philosophy is “I will sell [that thing] today!” Through my customer service time my underlying philosophy was “Buy it or don’t, it’s fine.” I think this went over pretty well, people didn’t feel hassled because I wasn’t pushing products on them, and if they had questions I was more than happy to answer. I would not stand by the nearest item they were looking at and start talking up specs or reviews but hang back and wait for them to point out what looked good to them.

Of course, in looking for a job, hanging back and waiting for an employer to look at you is the antithesis of getting paid (at least from what I’ve read/heard/seen). In my idea of a perfect world truth and clarity would be prized over power words. This means that 20-year-old me could write on my resume under “Food Court Employee” that I “swept and mopped the floors” instead of “maintained the cleanliness of the space.” One is much more concrete and direct, but does not have the flowery purple prose of the others. While maintaining the cleanliness of the space gives the general idea, it leaves a lot of questions to me, even if I do occasionally like to imagine I maintained cleanliness through telekinetic fire.

My feelings about cover letters are similar, although I have begun to see some of the usefulness of cover letters. Cover letters let employers know if the applicant actually read the posting, if their values are similar, and if they have stage one discretion (no swearing, no intimate details, etc). If I had my choice, most of the time my cover letters would still read “You want someone to do this thing in exchange for money? I need money, and I can do this thing for you.”

What is the point of me talking about this? THERE IS NO POINT. That’s a lovely thing about writing in this blog over editing my damn resume some more.

Also, I think high school is severely lacking, at least when I took it, in that very little time and attention was spent on skills like technical writing. Personally I have not used the quadratic equation once since high school but I have written over half a dozen resumes.