Monday, September 14, 2015

She Works Hard for the Money

I'm trying to decide right now if I'm being a spoiled little brat, a rebel, or a hopeless dreamer. 

This picture of the wonderful George Carlin is all too true. Many years ago I did hate my job, for a long time, and I drank to forget how much I hated my job. 

Well, that's not the full truth. The full truth is that I draaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyynk to forget how much I hated my job. In fact, I drank my bitter sad self all the way to rehab. When I got out of rehab and could see more clearly exactly how much I hated my job (oodles), I promised myself I would never work at a job I hated again.

Hating your job is the worst. You dread the morning. You dread the nighttime because you know the morning is next. You love vacations and weekends with a kind of maniacal desperation so that anything that impedes on them is nothing less than devastating. And you're tired all the time because faking happiness for hours every day is exhausting, the bad kind of exhausting. 

See, there are two types of exhausting. There's the good exhausting that comes after a sweaty muscle-shaking workout, or a marathon sex session, or hauling boxes all day into your dream house.  And then there's the bad exhausting, the kind that comes after endless sobbing because your pet died, or staying up all night to care for a dying relative, or screaming until you're hoarse at your computer because you read the comments after the article even though you swore you'd never, ever, ever do that again.

The good exhausting is good because you wake up knowing you're better for what made you exhausted. And the bad exhausting is bad because it comes from something that keeps you stuck, so you when you wake up, you're still stuck.

It's been many years since rehab, but by now you're probably expecting me to to launch into a rampage to say I hate my job again. But I don't. Not exactly.

Okay, sometimes I do. But I can handle sometimes. Everyone hates their job sometimes because we all have bad days, but the hope is that the suckiness is fleeting. 

What I hate, and what's dragging me down and keeping me bad exhausted, is that I feel like my job is evidence that I'm blowing it. 

I never, ever pictured myself sitting at a desk for the majority of my waking hours, pounding away at a keyboard and answering phones and writing emails. As a teenager, it didn't even occur to me that I would allow such a thing to happen. But guess what I did today? And what I'll do tomorrow? tap tap clickity clickity tap hello thank you for calling have a great day tappity click send tappity delete clickity click fucking tappity tap

Back then, I was well aware that as an adult, I was going to be obligated to sell most of my time to someone else. While that was not how I wanted things to go, there was simply no way out of it. So while I accepted this absurd arrangement, I was determined to sell my time on my own terms and at least try to have a good time doing it. And the world was just so goddamn BIG, and there were so many people and so many things, that there just had to be something out there I enjoyed doing that I could sell. So I would find that thing, I would learn that thing, I would practice that thing, and I would do that thing for someone and they would give me money. 

Holy fucking shit, who knew finding that thing was going to be so fucking hard?

I know many people like me who enjoy doing things they cannot sell. Dancers, actors, photographers, writers, singers, painters...most of us are screwed. We're destined to data entry, table serving, temp gigs, and folding the fall's it skirt on the store-front display. We do these bullshit jobs because we don't have to check our emails on weekends or fly to a conference in Arizona on Saturday. Instead, we can use those evenings and weekends dancing, acting, photographing, writing, singing, or painting. Bullshit jobs also pay bullshit, but we don't care because we're happy creating. It's a balance.


This is what I've always thought, and it's what I've been clinging to for a long time. But I'm losing my grip now, and I am bad exhausted all the time. (caution: the first person to tell me the answer is to quit gluten gets punched in the throat.) I am wildly jealous of friends who have the drive to just do it, all the time. They divide up an eighteen hour day into bullshit job and fulfilling passion/hobby, and then they get up and do it all over again the next day. What the fuck? (Oh, and you parents out there? You scare me. I will never understand how you do bullshit job and chase children all day and then go write an opera. You are crazy.)

I'm starting to panic. A little. I think my age is starting to affect the way I see my bullshit job, not as just a nuisance, but as actual bullshit. But I am so goddamn lucky to have what I have: my health, a fabulous husband, kick-ass friends and family, a couple bucks in the bank. These are not small benefits. 

Every day that I wake up and realize with a flat dread that it's time to go to my bullshit job, I get a little more restless, a little more panicky, and little more bitter. Because every day is another day that I haven't figured out how to do this. I haven't figured out how to find a way to sell my time that doesn't feel like bullshit. This awareness is making me fragile and sullen. This morning I burst into tears - like, sobbing hiccuping tears - because I lost a receipt. My emotions seem to be shooting out of my mouth and my eyes without prior approval. (I am just a peach to live with right now. My poor hubby.)

So am I a spoiled brat because everyone hates their job like George Carlin says, and I should just suck it up and deal with it and be happy that I even have a fucking job, something many people desperately need right now? Or am I rebel because I refuse to settle and instead demand a job that makes me happy and fulfilled?

Or am I a hopeless dreamer because I think this is within my control?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Year Seven. Day One.

It's August 14, 2015. It is about 10:15 in the morning. And I think I'm going to die.

I manage the run team for a non-profit organization and this year, we decided to do Ragnar, a 200+ mile, 36-ish-hour relay race for a team of twelve. I decided I couldn't, in good conscience, manage this event as a bystander. I was going to have to run this bastard. 

Each runner on a team runs three legs of the race, and the total mileage for my legs was 16.9 miles, so I'd have to run roughly a 10K three times. Okay. I can do that. It's more running than I'm used to but I can do it. 

The days leading up to the Ragnar were lovely. I kept texting, "Can we order this 68-degree weather for the Ragnar??" to our run coach, thinking that we may just get that lucky. 

The heat index on the first day of Ragnar made headlines. It was so fucking hot that as I waited to start my first leg, I could feel tears of fear pinging behind my eyeballs. Heat and I do not get along. My husband and I never, ever vacation at beaches. I would be more than happy to retire in the Yukon. As a kid, I remember barfing and fainting because I'd get too hot playing outside in South Dakota. I don't know why. Maybe my mom had affair with Frosty the Snowman and heat is actually deadly for me. All I know is, I dread heat the way most people dread death. And now I had to fucking run in it. 

I was terrified. As the first runner triumphantly finished his first leg and slapped the bracelet on my wrist to signify my turn, I was off. I began running through a little town in Wisconsin that happened to be where my husband and I had vacationed only a few months before. The recent happy memories there were enough to distract me from pending doom. As my playlist blasted in my ears, I started to feel good. Bouncy, even. I reminded myself over and over to pace myself, slow down, and save my energy for the miles ahead. My fear receded and was replaced with a calm confidence. 

After I got through the town, the rural fields were laid out in front of me. Barren. Open. Not a cloud in the sky. "Wow," I thought. "It seems to go on....forever." My phone pinged. I looked at the screen: a message from Ragnar Headquarters. Hmm. "WARNING: EXTREME HEAT INDEX. TAKE PRECAUTIONS AND WATCH YOUR RUNNERS....." Great. I plodded on. The heat was starting to sap my energy a little, but no matter. There was a water station coming up....somewhere.....

About 40 minutes into my run, something shifted. I started to feel really, really warm. And then, all of a sudden, I felt HOT. Like, hotter than I've ever felt in my life. I felt like my core body temperature had matched the 105-degree heat index. And that goddamn SUN. It was unrelenting, and I swear it had focused all its sadistic evil heat rays on me. "Holy shit," I thought. "How am I going to get through this.....uh oh...."

And then I got that same feeling I got as a kid. An unsettling light-headedness, and my body said nope. Nope nope nope.  Nope to sun. Nope to running. Nope to everything that was happening. And then my stomach said nope. Nope to water, nope to protein drinks, and I noped that shit out of my stomach and onto the lovely Wisconsin landscape. 

As I stood up and realized I had just up-chucked whatever water was in my stomach, I got a sudden and overwhelming sense of fear. My body was saying no. And I was all by myself. And it was so blasted hot that I was afraid that if I sat down, I'd still have heat stroke and no one would be around to know. 

I walked for about five minutes, trying to talk myself out of this fear. Do I call my team? Do I tell them I can't do this? The thought was devastating. I had been planning this for a year, and I was going to call it quits within the first HOUR? Would that disqualify our team? Would everyone's training be for naught? How could I disappoint everyone and myself so completely, and right at the beginning of the goddamn race??

My brain nope-nope-noped as much as my body did. There was just no way I could stop. I slogged on. Finally, I saw the water station up ahead and for a brief moment believed in miracles and unicorns. I was so happy to pour as much water over my head as much as I did into my mouth. I asked the volunteers how much farther I had to go. "'Bout a mile and a half," was their answer. Beautiful. I can do a mile and a half. 

But about a third of a mile down the road, I realized a mile and a half in this blasted heat may as well have been Mount Everest. Soon I was just as hot as I was pre-puke, and I was truly frightened that I may be in real trouble. 

Just as the fear was paralyzing my brain, I heard a breathless, "Hi there!" from my right. I looked and couldn't believe it. It was a runner from my other team, catching up with me. She looked like a sweaty angel with a water belt. 

"I threw up!" I blurted out. She looked a little stunned and I blathered, "Will you please please please run with me I'm so hot I don't know if I can do this I'm afraid I'm going to have heat stroke and I feel alone oh my god please please please run with me!"

"Sure!" she said, back to her normal cheerful self. "Do you want me to talk, or do you want to concentrarte on running?" 

I wanted to concentrate on running the same way I'd want to concentrate on a kidney stone. "Talk! Yes! Talk about anything! What did you do yesterday?" And off she went, talking about her day, about anything that came to mind. This distraction was better than ice cubes in my bra (although I would have traded my car for that at the moment). After she ran out of things to say, she said, "Do you want me to sing my husband's old camp songs?" 

"YES! Camp songs! Love it! Anything!" I said. And so it went. I think she may have sung the songs twice, I'm not sure. I loved and needed every second of it.

At one point, I puffed, "You know.... today is my seven year sobriety anniversary. And this is my way of celebrating, but I dunno... I think I should have just stuck with cake." 

"That's a big deal!" she said between breaths. "Drunk you could never have done this."

I thought about that between fantasies of popsicles and ice baths. No, drunk me couldn't have done this, or anything else I'd accomplished over the last seven years. And I immediately realized that this anniversary was another reason I couldn't quit, barf or no barf. 

She ran with me (with some walk breaks) the rest of the way, giving me water, talking about happy things, keeping me going. Eventually, we made it to the next check point and I handed off the wrist band to the next runner. Good luck, sucka!

My other two runs went much better (I discovered I really love running at night) and I was able to cross the finish line with the rest of my team - smelly, triumphant, and full of gratitude. Grateful for my sweaty angel with the water belt. Grateful for such a supportive team. Grateful for another year of sobriety that will pave the way for the next year. 

I hope that I will be able to have that same gratitude for my eighth anniversary. With air conditioning and cake.