Category Archives: I Love My Job

Circular Logic of Tail Chasing

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At some point, perhaps, I will learn. I will finally, for the last time, put myself and my finances through the process of having something investigated only to emerge from that process poorer, more frustrated, and with the answer I already had: I have Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, and I will never feel “good” again in my life.

I spent $139.00 clams to get the MRI of my shoulder last week. That’s a nice pair of boots, or almost halfway to a pair of BedStu boots. (I KNOW RIGHT?) I had to go in to work late, and the tech was running late, and someone else there wanted to talk to me about my stalker sibling’s made up medical problems (because they are WAY more interesting than real problems). The tech assured me the doctor’s office would have the results the next day.

The short version of how obtaining the results went can be summed up thusly: PCP’s office decided not to answer their phones all day the next day, PCP was out of town, I got the results Friday via a text of the report he got faxed to him. There was a lot of anger, frustration, tears and cursing during this process.

The results? AC arthrosis, which is the same as arthritis except the word arthritis indicates inflammatory change and arthrosis is degenerative change without an inflammatory process. Just in case you wanted to know that. Here are other fun facts about this:

  1. PCP doesn’t think this explains the pain.
  2. I think it might.
  3. There’s nothing, not a goddamned thing, to be done about it.
  4. PCP wants to now go through the whole process again, but with my neck.
  5. But there’d be nothing to be done about it.
  6. And it would cost me the other half of those boots up there.

When will I learn? This time? This is how it is always going to work:

  1. Something hurts.
  2. It hurts all the goddamned time.
  3. I have to modify my life.
  4. IT DOESN’T MATTER IN THE SLIGHTEST THAT WE FIND OUT EXACTLY WHY.
  5. The answer is always this: I have EDS, and I will never feel good again. The end.

Oh my, yes, that is a negative outlook, I agree. But it’s also true. The other thing is, why do I feel like it’s more legit if I know the exact why? Part of me was wanting a torn rotator cuff even though that would be career-ending. OH. That’s why–I am looking for what I feel will be a legit enough reason to leave my job. Thing is, I already have a legit reason, because I have EDS, but I want an iron-clad out, not a soft, hard-to-explain, I-don’t-look-sick reason. I want something that is so clear that I don’t even have to admit to myself that I might be leaving simply because I work with one of the most impossible people in the world and I am starting to give up on the idea that I can win,and also, I am tired of this person taking so much of my energy when right now, I have trouble carrying my own belongings into work each day.

I can hardly carry my own shit, and once I manage to get inside with it all and put it down, I spend the rest of my day with a micro-managing tyrant with the tact and professionalism of an angry rhinoceros. I expend HUGE amounts of energy trying to buffer this person, in whose hands my leash was placed (after FIVE YEARS of working to get it out of their grip) by the new Department Chair, who has no idea what sort of monster he created. The rest of us do, because we all admired how hard it was to get myself off the leash in the first place and that the monster had finally been shrunk down just a bit.

We talked a lot, the spouse and I, about whether or not I can or should keep working. Let’s face it; this person is not worth what I am spending on them, and, despite the money and time and Dr Googling, my shoulder still hurts. And it’s not going to get better, any more than my hands, or my back, or my neck, or my ankles, or my wrists. Will I choose to remain trapped in the rough waters of this medical system? Or will I decide to liberate myself from it, from angry rhinos, and from feeling like I should hang on just a little longer? I don’t know yet, but the trend is going in the Give Up direction.

On Limitations

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I will have logged something like 50 hours by around 9:30 tonight, when I will be done seeing the show that opens tomorrow for the fourth–and not final–time this week. It’s not that it is the worst show ever or anything (I am looking at you, West Highland Way), but I think the only thing I watch more than four or five times is Firefly. I am exceptionally tired, and tonight’s viewing is an extra. Normally I don’t attend the preview performance, which is a sort of dress rehearsal with an audience, but we are apparently trying this idea of talk backs in conjunction with preview and our director (you may remember the Retarded Child Emperor) wants me to attend. I find this amusing, and hope that at some point his blood suddenly runs cold when he realizes that he has now taken the risk that I will mention, in public, to an audience, that he fired me from the creative team during the production process.

Imagining revenge keeps me alive, it does.

Prior to coming home, I went with a work study to pull from our stock for the show I am designing this semester, Frankenstein. Stock, for us, is like a nearly 2000 square foot closet full of amazing clothes, hats, accessories and more. It’s a candy store for kids like me, and it’s all, sort of, MINE. It’s also gotten increasingly hard. Five years ago I was a gazelle leaping among racks and boxes, climbing stepladders and hauling things about. Shoving clothes to the side to look at a suit, hefting several items at once up and down, carrying boxes and armloads with no worries. Now, everything I hoist is a choice that is painful and tiring then, and painful and tiring later, too. I keep a 20 year old stationed nearby, but let’s face it, I can’t stick my arms into theirs and make them move through it the way I want. I can have her carry everything I’ve chosen to my car, but I’m the one who spots the right suit and pulls it off the rack to measure it and put it on the rack of things I wish to use.

My shoulders, wrists and ankles will wish to converse with me about this activity for hours tonight. It’s something I used to love doing–the thrill of the chase, looking at amazing pieces of clothing, re-acquainting myself with favorites that we own and that we’ve built. Now it’s an endurance test, and an exercise in helplessness. All of that would probably be okay, if I were home for good now, instead of planning dinner and waiting to go to the show. It might even be okay if I were going to the show, but not going tomorrow, for opening night. But, right now, I hold two tickets to a sold out show, and I always go to opening night.

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In other news, I had the last visit with the Shrink on Monday. It was suitably awkward. At the end I stood up to go and she followed me as she does and then she asked if we might hug, which we did, and then I inwardly berated myself for failing to hug in the first place and realized I had already broken the agreement that I was going to carry out of that session a new dedication to not making myself feel stupid. I’m the dog who eats the obedience school certificate of completion and then pees on the rug.

I have made an appointment with the new shrink, but find myself resistant. I am loathe to start all over again. I don’t care for her intake form that is very focused on how much I drink and do I ever think I should stop and how much, really, do I drink? Too much, madam, that is the answer. Who doesn’t question even decisions they are (mostly) okay with? Get out of my head already. I feel like her form is seeking problems and I am not seeking therapy because I drink too much or something like that, I am seeking outside support as I deal with a permanent, un-treatable, degenerative, chronic-pain condition. It’s going to be what it’s going to be, I just need to dump some of it on someone-not-my-spouse.

I wish to be greeted as equal, is what it comes down to.

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My PCP had me get x-rays of my hands, neck and shoulder last week. On Monday his mother (also the office manager and yes, you do see where this is going, don’t you?) called to give me my results. She gave them to my voicemail, and said that everything was “fine.” “It’s fine, Gwen, just fine. Let’s see (crinkling paper sounds) your neck has a little bit of degenerative process and your hands are fine except for some degenerative process–that’s just arthritis, hon–and your shoulder is normal.”

Um.

Do you know how many “Not Okay” wands I break in a single week? I have to hit so many people so many times, I go through them like water. Also, it’s not long enough to reach all the way through the voicemail and the cell tower to find his mother with her diet Coke and smack her nose. I texted him the next day about the veritable not okayness and he said he’s called me.

No, of course he hasn’t. And tonight I have to go to the show, with my aching (yet normal!) shoulder and my aching (but mostly okay!) hands, and my wrists which we’ve never looked at and my ankles that look like I retired from a lucrative pro-football career. Where, after watching a show wherein I spend a huge amount of time feeling bad for the rabbit, I need to try not to tell the audience that the retarded child emperor (with a beard like a Monty Python lumberjack) fired me from his stupid project.

My Job and My Heart

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This has been a rather unbelievable week, and I promise I am trying to condense as much as possible. Theater is interesting business, especially since this job is the only experience I’ve ever had with theater. I sometimes feel like an anthropologist.

There is a lot of expectation that a director owns the creatives (“creatives” being the set, lighting, costume and makeup designers). A director has some tacit permission to be a complete asshole and demand, as my husband has characterized this week’s event, “the the stage go up in the air and spin around and also laser lights and the audience should go up and spin around too because that’s MY VISION.” Creatives are then supposed to kill themselves trying to make this dream come true, and if they do balk, traditionally there’s a lot of shouting and name-calling. Things are a bit difficult when it comes to academic theater, as we are not just doing theater, we’re also teaching, meeting with various committees, etc.

We have this tenure-track faculty member; wait, let’s just unpack that briefly–so in academic theater, a director who is an asshole can also eventually get a forever job, which translates to being a blessed and protected asshole.

Okay, so this director, whom we will refer to as The Retarded Child Emperor (a term Bill Mahr used to describe George Dubya Bush), is deeply insecure and very difficult to work with. He’s mean, he’s manipulative, he’s inappropriate, he’s dishonest. I have prided myself as being one who has worked with him several times and very successfully. I am one of the very few who has managed this. I was proud of this fact, but I also knew that it wouldn’t last forever, because someone who will say hateful things to you about other people will also eventually say hateful things about you to other people.

We have a new Department Chair, who is friends with The Emperor, and that was cause for concern. The Emperor is desperate to create the illusion that the Chair has his ear on all things, and that he is the Chair’s right hand man. So that’s the set up. Here’s how it played out.

The Emperor is directing our first show. Last semester he and I, in passing, had this conversation:

TRCE: Hey, I want to do this makeup thing with Gamma Rays (shortened play title) where a character goes from old to young to old again. Do you have any students who are really good at aging makeup.

Me: Are you kidding me? They are terrible at aging makeup, but that’s an interesting idea, I’ll keep my eye out.

Fast-forward to this semester:

I see a rehearsal report that shows that the actor will have 11 minutes to go from old to high school aged, and then 4 minutes to go back to old. Other factors I didn’t know: the actor is very dark complected (and black don’t crack because the epidermal layer is thicker the darker your skin, so wrinkling is far less prevalent in that population), the show will be performed without an intermission, and the audience will be seated on the stage. I email The Emperor and say, very nicely, that given the time frame, I think we won’t be able to re-make her up at the end and we’d need to rely on other visual clues like wig, glasses, cane, etc. The Emperor replies only that he wishes to meet about it.

We meet. He tells me that we’ll have 11 minutes, not 4, to re-age her. I point out reservations about this. He says, “I don’t want the usual college garbage we get here.” I wonder what he smokes to make him think that insulting your creative (who has done stellar work for you in the past) is a good way to proceed. I again assert my misgivings about this, and also ask for further clarification. He wants the 20 year old actor to look like she is 100 years old. He wants her to look like she’s 17, and an entirely different person, for the other character. Then he wants her back to 100 years old. In 11 minutes. He will not accept my concerns and wants it his way, period.

I leave the meeting feeling set up. At the same time this is happening, I am having increasing heart problems. My blood pressure, traditionally low, is too high. My pulse is insane irregular. I am waking up at 1:00 am, pounding heart, thinking I might die of a heart attack and worrying about this stupid makeup gimmick. Monday morning I send him a very polite, very clear email about why this is not possible. I don’t say, “I won’t do it, it’s stupid,” I say, “I can’t do this. Here are the reasons why” I copy the new Chair into that email. My blood pressure is higher than it’s ever been and my pulse is 118 and wild.

The world is consumed by a ball of fire. The Chair emails me that he is meeting with The Emperor. Then he emails that The Emperor will handle the makeup effect himself. The Emperor comes down to my office to ask if I am still doing the other makeup for the show. I say yes, of course, also, no hard feelings, I felt it was best to give him my honest assessment. He says everything is fine, of course, and then snidely slips in that “The Chair and I looked at your concerns but we don’t think it’s such a big deal, we’re talking to other people about it.” I am displeased to have my professional opinion treated dismissively.

The next day I get an email from The Chair suggesting that creatives should not “abandon projects” and should “respect directors” and “embrace an exciting challenge, not simply dismiss it.” My pulse rockets to 125 and I feel like I’m dying. I send The Chair a howler of epic proportions. My pulse never goes down all day as we exchange emails wherein he says he is shocked that I would send such an email to him and I respond that I am shocked that he would characterize my actions so negatively and he says no, that was a positive email and I say “abandonment” is not positive and he says maybe we should not do this via email and I say fine. We set up a meeting for Thursday because I am to be out of the office Wednesday. Right before I leave to go to the cardiologist, he sends me an email saying that he and The Emperor have met, and they feel I should be removed from the creative team altogether.

The cardiologist gets a splendid picture of what is happening to my heart. “Can you feel all the extra beats?” she asks me. She started me on a different beta blocker (Lopressor ER) and told me to come back in two months, or sooner if I felt I needed to. She is EDS-savvy, and I feel like finally, someone is going to take my heart seriously.

The next day I email the chair, detail how stressed-out I am, tell him I am starting heart medication and will take sick leave. Then I chose to worry that perhaps I am in early heart failure, which can be another post entirely.

When The Chair and I met yesterday, he was FURIOUS with me, and this is a guy who doesn’t really do negative emotions. I find myself in the position of being liberated from a yoke I’ve carried my whole life, as I realize that I don’t give a flying fuck that he’s angry. I am willing to be fired over this, and I am right. Through the course of our meeting I show him all the email evidence of my attempts to work with The Emperor. He acknowledges that he was only viewing this through The Emperor’s side, and did not have all the facts. I finally make him understand that The Emperor has triangulated this, and neatly manipulated The Chair into being his instrument to bully and retaliate against me. The Chairs mentions that now, well, he’s kind of pissed of at The Emperor.

I shake like a leaf during this meeting because my disobedient heart is not good with even minor stress right now. I point out that I am physically ill due in part to this situation. He asks if I would be willing to come back to the team, and I tell him I don’t know.

He later met with The Emperor, and I suspect that The Emperor realized that he’s made a serious mistake. The Chair then asked that we meet together (he, I, The Emperor). When we do, The Emperor opens with a groveling apology, and even gets teary (he’s an actor, though…). He begs me to return to the project. I say that I am unsure, is he willing to compromise? Suddenly he becomes the personification of Flexibility. The Chair even weighs in with further compromises he thinks The Emperor needs to make. The Emperor rolls on his back like an ashamed dog. At the end, where I would normally feel badly for the person apologizing and want them to feel better, I instead say, “You need to know that your behavior over this was really hurtful to me. I have never given you less than what was possible, and you went into this treating me like I had. I don’t understand why you took that approach with me, and I don’t want it to happen again.” There was further groveling. He made the excuse that an interaction with my co-worker fueled his perception and I stopped him. “I’m not my coworker. You know how much I try to make clear that while my co-worker likes to claim all opinions held by her are held by me, that’s not the case.”  He understands that now, it appears.

So now I have a puzzle to solve, but I also have four days off before I have to really tackle it. And I have to deal with the fact that the beta blocker makes me nauseated all day long and I’ve already lost five pounds since, uh, Wednesday.

I Think I’m Maybe 86 Rather Than 46

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Also: 46? Geez, I was getting along just fine with 45 although it was an extended period of adjustment. Let’s slow the roll here, aging.

Ongoing Medical horse-shittery:

The PCP is sending lots of info to the insurance and they are not responding except, I think, that they called me at work yesterday. What’s problematic about that is I work in a very fancy schmancy concrete building and cell phone calls mean I have to shout into the phone “JUST A MINUTE I HAVE TO WALK OUTSIDE” and then run outside to find they have hung up. Also I have a new phone and my voicemail isn’t set up. And it may never be so, that’s one of those chores I loathe.

In the meantime, the PCP and I agreed that he would call the local rheumy and smooth things over so that I could see him as a fall back for when the insurance refuses to let me see the one in Albuquerque. Except, the local rheumy regrets that he cannot help me, so he declined the pleasure of a little catching up. Instead, he and the PCP, after having a mutually supportive hand-wringing session about how hard it is to treat me, decided I should see a Physiatrist. WTF is a Physiatrist, you ask? So did I.

A Physiatrist is sort of the MD who offers everything short of orthopedic surgery. It appears that their understanding of EDS and practices vary wildly, so there’s no telling if this guy can help or not. My PCP called him and they agreed that “EDS cases are difficult” and that the Physiatrist would like to help me with my “misconceptions” about steroid injections. Um. I am well-informed about steroid injections for EDS patients, so maybe I can help him with *his* miconceptions? Except: I don’t really have time to pay you AND educate you about my care. Also, there’s something like a 3 month waiting list to see him. OH, and, he works with the tiny pocket India man that I have already fired as a physical therapist. So, yeah.

At the same time I have ordered the Kevin Muldowney book. The problem being that it is intended for the Physical Therapist, not the patient, and it has to be a PT who is a manual adjustment-focused therapist, not an exercise-focused therapist. The tiny pocket India man is an exercise sort and utterly rigid about his program from the get-go. I mean, he does x, y, z, and isn’t even interested in whether or not you are getting better.

Back-To-Work and Collision of Life Update:

I allude a lot to a problem person in my life, and I’m going to allude again and say this: Walking into my office the first day back at work to find manipulative voicemail messages on my office phone from someone whose last telephone message threatened me should I ever contact them again (even though there had been zero contact from me in over a year) really sucked. I’m not sure why this person didn’t get the message when they spent 15 minutes ringing my doorbell and hammering on the door earlier this summer and I a) didn’t answer the door and b) called the police (who just missed this person, but rumor has it that she knows that’s what I did) but, GO AWAY, PERSON. I am pretty sure I don’t have enough for an order of protection, but, still. I would like one.

Work is hard, already, and my body is not the wondrous instrument I would like. I cannot carry anything on either shoulder, and pushing that weight to my elbows is going to backfire at any moment. My back and hips hurt all the time. When I get home from work, the muscles in my shoulders/upper back seem to sort of crawl up toward my neck and clutch me in a very painful way. I’m chilling on ice (ha ha) and then sleeping on a heating pad to try to settle all that down. The results are minimal.

The emotional soup at work is one of uncertainty, resistance and naked agendas as we have a new department chair who is ready to make lots of changes. Our former interim chair was so bad that we devolved into tiny clusters of people vomiting anger and vitriol in corners, attacking each other and gossiping like a bunch of hens on meth. Uncertainty does not bring out the best in most people, I have found. My goal is to navigate this shit soup like a graceful sailing vessel that moves easily through, and above, the fray.

In Summation:

I have a condition that few people are even willing to understand or support.

Someone needs to stop with their obsessive stalking.

I just need to survive until Thanksgiving, when I’ll have a week off.

What Time Off?

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I was asked to make a Day of the Dead-themed Victorian walking suit for a show that will spend two years traveling to various museums. For the first time in my artistic life, I have not only failed to submit my piece early, I have missed the initial deadlines. Inspiration showed up late in this case, but I think it was worth it. Initially I made a Victorian-esque skirt from some of my extensive collection of Our Lady of Guadalupe fabrics. Then it all ground to halt. Digging around in a cedar chest filled with -Ray’s things for a class I was teaching on the topic of DIY-clothing (upcycling, transforming, etc) I found a jacket that I had made for her from two vintage blouses that featured an appliqued skull on the back.

In looking at that, and some other things I had made for her, I realized I was ready to let these things out of the silent tomb of the cedar chest. I wanted to transform them, then release the back into the world. I took the tshirt she sent me with the logo of their band, which I designed, and cut the logo out, hand colored it, and hand appliqued it onto the skull jacket:

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Then I appliqued elements from a gorgeous quilter cotton that was full of Mexican folk symbols (and some skull fabric leftover from my purse-making days) as well as drawing root elements by hand with alcohol-based markers and a Tee Juice marker.

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Next, I drew in a cat skull with bony wing elements and painted them gold.

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Then I decided that everything needed embroidery. Everything.

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Next  came the bustle. I used as the bottom layer a capelet I had made for -Ray from a vintage apron, that included hand made flowers and a portrait I drew of her sewn into the pocket. Over that are layers of a vintage linen with crocheted corners, and the top layer is a rotten Victorian collar. For height I made two sort of bum rolls out of related fabrics. Then I drew, appliqued, embroidered and painted everything.

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I will save the rest of the photos for a second post.

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Since that’s not enough to do, I am also volunteering as the Costume Designer for a production of Chicago that a good friend and co-worker is co-directing. The concept is that the show is being put on by a group of convicts in a modern-day women’s prison (shades of OITNB). Thus, they are all dressed in gray prison clothing which the actors have to try to make look sexy without a lot of options to remake things. If you doubt this possibility, think back to being in high school and shortening your skirt by rolling the waistband after you went to school, or tying your shirt so that some midriff showed. It’s working quite well. Also, though, a lot of their costume elements need to look like they made them from a limited amount of available materials, so I have now gotten very good at making fedoras and boaters that look like they are made from food wrappers and boxes:

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There’s also a derby hat covered in Dum-Dum wrappers for Amos as well as a bow tie and lapel flower of the same. The third boater, not pictured, is a Cheese-Its theme.

We go into Tech this week, and then, possibly, I will reclaim my summer break and actually get to relax and enjoy some of it.

Famous last words, that.

On Getting Out of Jail

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So, I alluded to a bad thing that might happen, and it did.

I spent about two days panicking and then, all of a sudden, I realized it actually didn’t matter at all. I’ve made my choices based on what’s best for my health and well-being, and it doesn’t matter what happens, those choices are solid. Now, less than a week later, I am hardly thinking about it at all, which is a place I once thought I’d never get. I’m okay, I have a plan, I’ve got this.

Which is good, because as much as this other situation might want to hijack my life, I’ve got some pretty big fish to fry of my own. Mainly, my hands. At least twice a month I am in enough pain to lose my composure and seriously contemplate more than just my daily almost-a-bottle-of-wine pain management routine. The same problems remain, though:

My PCP is a nurse practicioner in WAY over his head, and we had several medication fumbles last year such that we both know we need someone with more expertise.

I live where Medicine Comes To Die.

I have, literally, no options in my place of residence.

The Shrink is retiring in September.

Once again, I’ve set up the summer as a time to fix problems so that I can go back to work. Instead, what it needs to be is that I need to try to solve some problems, not for work, but for me and my life. The answers are no more forthcoming, though.

The bottom line being, my hands are my life, and they have begun to hurt all the time, and that is just way more threatening and deserving of my attention than just about anything else.

Oh, Yes, *More* Would Be Lovely

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I’m sick. At the almost worst possible time to be sick, I am felled with snot, buzzing nose, ringing ears, cough and fever. I have from now (almost 11:00 am on Friday) until Sunday at about 5:00 pm to get vastly better in time for the first dress rehearsal of 12th Night. I went in today ONLY because I had a student who said she would be in at 9:00 am to work on her build for this show, and my coworker wasn’t going to be in until 11:00. You know how it is, when you are sick, and every step is measured and harder and exhausting? Get up, take a shower, put on the makeup, get dressed, get in the car, go to work. Then, said student didn’t waltz in until just after 10:00 am, when my coworker (knowing I was sick) arrived early. So, there was no reason for me to go in at all. Twenty-year olds and their self-centeredness, I swear. I was offered no apology, either.

So I have dragged myself home. Having EDS and chronic pain and all the related things makes it that much harder to tolerate anything else going wrong. Of course people get sick, but my reserve for such events feels dangerously low already. Something alarming is threatened in my personal life as well, which has taken the stress level to Defcon 11 plus infinity. The personal life thing will likely resolve and go the way of many similar flare ups that seemed really huge and then died out, but again, how much reserve do I have? Daily chronic pain chips away at my reserves until I cannot afford to think anything beyond, “What do I need to do NOW to feel better?” And so, in the face of a bad cold or something that might happen in the future, I have to rededicate myself to just the Now.

Right Now, the possible bad thing hasn’t happened.

Right Now, I do not have to go to dress rehearsal.

Right Now, I am caught up at work.

Right Now, I am hungry and need lunch.

That’s it. Pretty simple. The hardest things are always the simplest.

There Will Be a Break

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My Spring Break begins tomorrow. My week can be summed up with this entirely true transcript of a conversation with a student:

Co-worker: Student, go outside and get some small rocks. They need to be smaller than the buttons you are painting so that you can set the buttons on them to dry without them sticking to the rocks.

Student (who wears a perennial expression of surprise/lack of comprehension and speaks at a volume of 11): OH OKAY THE ROCKS I GOT LAST TIME DIDN’T WORK?

Co-worker: No, they were huge rocks so the buttons stuck to them.

Student: OH OKAY.

-goes outside-

-returns-

Student: UM I CAN’T GET ANY ROCKS THEY ARE WET. IT’S RAINING.

Me:

Co-worker:

Me: Yanno, the rocks aren’t soggy….bring some in and dry them off.

Student: OH OKAY. WHAT DO I DRY THEM WITH?

Me: Paper towels?

Co-worker (at the same time as me): Hair dryer?

Student: OH OKAY. WHICH WOULD BE BETTER?

Headdesk, headdesk, headdesk.

While I have my doubts about the design for the show we are heading into (Shakespeare’s 12th Night), I am building a really cool dress for an actor I really like working with. This is the mock-up (I flat patterned this dress myself, having not found any patterns to work for what the designer wanted):

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It has these cool side pockets that are like a modernized upside down pannier. The actual dress is being built out of this amazing, very heavy, sueded, charcoal gray stretch fabric that feels almost as dense as a wet suit. Here is the base dress:

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Photos do not do justice to how amazing the fabric is. I got the big pockets put on but haven’t photographed it yet because I haven’t closed the center back seam. Interestingly, when she came in for the fitting to mark that line, the actor wore a tiny lace thong, which I then had to be eye-to-eye with  (it, or its absence anyway) while I fit the dress. Ah, youthful confidence, how you hath flown from my withered loins….The final fashion touches (big exposed zippers, a flap that zips down to show a color) will go on when we return from our break, hopefully rested and less aggravated by morons than we were when we started out.

My pain level has increased a few notches, overall, and I am back waking up at night because my shoulders hurt too much to get comfortable. My left hand falls asleep at least 3 times a week. Sometimes my right does, too. I am going to try getting a 90 minute massage instead of a 60 minute one each Friday for awhile to see if it helps, but I am wound as tightly as possible. I’ve noticed that after typing awhile I start to lose the ability to direct my fingers. They lock and fumble and become weak and I start streaming gibberish across the screen instead of what I meant to say. It’s frustrating, and depressing. I’ve considered seeing if I could try Baclofen again just at night. I can’t remember why I gave that up, actually, but there was a reason. I get home from work and I am exhausted, wiped out, not energized to work on my own projects, just bone weary. I hate that, but it is what it is. It takes a lot of energy to deal with constant pain *and* do my job *and* be kind, pleasant, encouraging, a role model, not an asshole.

Thus, the goal of Spring Break: to return feeling better able to be all those good things. Graciously.

Mostly, except.

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In order to preserve my energy and space it’s important to try to stay grounded in Now, and look away as much as possible from the Past and the Future. Of course that is easy to say and hard to do. For the most part, I look down when I walk, never looking much ahead or behind, because I that is how I end up falling down. I had no idea that walking could also involve looking around without also resulting in crashing to the ground, having rolled an ankle on a pebble or a crack in the sidewalk. It’s sort of like that; keep my eyes on what I am doing.

A huge trap for me is starting a thought that goes this way, “X amount of time ago, this activity was easy for me, and here I am, 45 years old and this task is now really hard for me and that is ridiculous.” Yes, it used to be that I could haul loads of clothes on hangers back and forth all day, push heavy clothes here and there on racks, lug boxes and organize clothes with no ill effects. That I knew of. But now I can’t. Tying what I can and cannot do to my age is also pointless. I’m 45 and I’m still not an Olympic athlete, either, but what’s my point? I want to do more than I can, and I can do less than I could previously. The next thought in that chain is about the Future, “How long am I even going to be able to do this job? Next week? Two years? Five? Why do I have to give this job up?” Right now, I am still able to do my job effectively and well, albeit with some accommodations that allow me to save myself for the things that I am an expert in, which is not putting heavy object A on rack B.

Today we did a lot of work in our stock, and it was hard. Three hours on my feet, moving clothing, pushing it hither and yon, starting to move a rack and then stopping myself and throwing a 20-year-old at it. My co-worker worrying that I was carrying too many things (probably right, I conceded, and grabbed a 20 year old). Me wanting to just be able to Do. It. But also trying to recognize that I *am* doing my job in using my expertise to determine how to organize and decommission stock, so that then someone less skilled can do the lifting and hauling. It’s a balancing act.

For me, then, it’s really better to keep looking down.

Honestly.

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It’s raining. It’s been gray for oh, I don’t know, the last five days or seven hundred years or anyway, I’ve had enough. Yeah, sure, like all my friends growing up in the desert Southwest I said, in high school, “WHEN I CAN I’M MOVING TO SEATTLE WHERE IT RAINS EVERY GODDAMNED DAY BECAUSE.”  Then, I got to move to upstate New York and one day my mother in law called me and said, “You might have Seasonal Affective Disorder, get some plant lights.” I had NO IDEA how much I needed the sun and how depressing a dark house is or how wrong it was to plant those plant-light nurtured gardenias in the front bed as we left military housing. I bet they were dead before we even got off post. I’m sorry, gardenias, please let the sun come back.

But this grayness, it is too much. As I sat through a three and a half hour meeting today in an entirely glass room (the curtains were mostly closed) where I could see all that gorgeous weather, I could appreciate it, yet still I wanted to crawl under the table with my blankie and take a nap. Instead my coworker and I texted each other about how awful the meeting was, how awesome my new purse is, and I doodled a billion odd women and a few men on the agenda. I mostly stuck to my resolution to observe and find humor, so when my other coworker The Director made his stand on an issue and began speaking in slogans I giggled quietly to myself, and when Mr. Wonderful who is, like, 14 (I am that age now where everyone seems too young to drive or even tie their shoes yet they seem to have jobs and can prescribe medication) misunderstood the question and gifted us with wise ideas for fundraising that were right up there with “bake sale” I tittered softly. When Ms Amazing (this is not a sarcastic title, unlike Mr. Wonderful, which is TOTALLY sarcastic) filled a plastic coffee mug with leftover sweet potato salad I pointed out that it looked like she’d just puked in her mug at a frat party and she was not particularly happy with my imagery but I found myself pretty damn funny.

The meeting is over, which is awesome, although it is still raining, which is decidedly not awesome. My body does not like the cold at all; my internal thermometer and thermostat are unregulated like the 1929 stock market and I am frequently suddenly FREEZING and my hands go numb and I can’t warm up and then suddenly I am ROASTING my god it’s so hot, etc. This is not optimal for a person who is almost always dressed to the point of wearing a costume and wants to look cool and otherworldly instead of old and vaguely weird. Vaguely; ha ha, VAGUELY is not part of my presentation. WEIRD, on the other hand, plays a strong role.

Tomorrow is the first day of classes and I need to be ready to sling some amazeballs at those hungry college students so that they fear, respect and admire me all at once. This is generally doable, but I swear ta gawd I’m going to need some SUNLIGHT.