Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mercury in Retrograde

The universe is continually devising innovative and unexpected ways of humiliating me. Last week, it hit my car with a bus while I was in it (school bus; grazed me) and knocked off my license plate and scratched the hell out of my bumper, but the car is drivable. And I need to call my insurance team and schedule an appointment for repairs.

The same morning that I got hit by the bus, I went home and collected myself for the length of two or three cigarettes, and my friend Chris was late to work to come over and sit with me for a few minutes. I had been on my way to Department Store to start a 7:15 a.m. shift, which I began, instead, at 8:20. I think when I was a younger woman with fewer callouses and fewer experiences with the metaphorical rug being pulled out, I would have been more shaken up-- perhaps would not have gone to work that morning. Now? It's just one more thing.

The same morning that I got hit by the bus, my son texted me while I was at Department Store and I read (during my break) that the electric company had shut off our power and posted a hot-pink sign on the door alerting us to that fact. So, I took a chance that a check would bounce and went and got cash, drove to the grocery store in my poor bald car, paid my electric bill, and it was restored within the hour. I was standing in my kitchen when I saw the utility truck stop in the alley behind my house. I could hear the guy humming as he opened the fence and walked into my back yard like he had a right to (which, I guess he does). I ducked past the windows. For some reason, I didn't want him to know I was at home. Probably because he knew my power had been turned off, and that's embarrassing. But he came around and rang the doorbell to tell me that the power was back on, so hiding turned out to be useless after all. And shame on me for hiding in my own house.

The same morning that I got hit by the bus, my mother's siblings and three of their spouses were in town visiting. So, that night at dinner, they asked me how my day was. I told them about the bus. They asked if my day got better after that. So, I told them about the power being shut off. Hiding it or not owning it doesn't make it less humiliating.

This leads me to sunny point c in my ritual humiliation by the universe (is this because Scorpios have birthdays right now?): This morning, I was working at Department Store. We have a new employee, a young woman, and we were talking to her this morning while we were unpacking all of the boxes and de-trashing merchandise, sizing and colorizing it to take to the floor. We have a close-knit team. We all really get along well and like and respect each other, so it's a really great gig. We all laugh a lot and harass each other and tell stories about dumb things we've done. I have done a lot of dumb things, so we laugh about that a lot. So, I said something about how Department Store has a generous policy about hiring dumb people like me, and my team leader said, "She isn't dumb. She has a master's degree, and I have to look up half the things she says. Only, I can't spell them, so I am sitting there saying them into my phone: 'Rogue... Ohhhhh.'"

Then A said, "We should all go to Jen's class sometime. I think we might learn something." She was laughing as she said it, but seriously, it would be fun to have them visit my class.

I said, "Can you please come tell my students that?"

So, our new employee (okay, forgive me, but I am just going to have to call her the new girl, because at Department Store, that's the vernacular) says, "Oh, do you teach the WACT class?"

My eyebrows nearly shot off my head. Before I could ask her how she knew and why she was calling it "the" WACT class, she continued with, "My sister's in your class."

The only thing that could have been higher on the Richter humiliation scale would be if one of my students actually got a job there and was working side by side with me. But actually, I can be bossier there than I can in class, so that might actually be fun. Kidding.

So, I said, "Who is your sister?"

Guess who her sister is? Yep. I said, "Oh, she's the one I called a Nazi!" and her sister replied, "That's not the first time she's gotten that."

It occurred to me, though, that I was glad I've already talked in class about working at Department Store. It's not something I hide or am ashamed of. But what if I were a more private person or more given to genuine embarrassment? I have been embarrassed in the past about working at Department Store. I have felt badly for my former students as they see me working there and wonder about the value of the education they received from me. And if this is where I am, what does that say about their own futures? I have also hidden on occasion from people, because I was embarrassed. Seriously, I've seen a couple of people and told my co-workers that I was going to hide until that person left, and then headed back to the stockroom. I don't do that anymore. In fact, now I give those people coupons. But I have wondered from time to time about how my students feel about the fact that their professor works at Department Store. But I also set my chin (metaphorically) and think, "Tough shit!" That is the reality we all live in. There is no sense in whitewashing it. One of the basic premises that I grew up with, and I don't think I am alone in this, is that we generally attend college and graduate school and do all those extra papers so we don't have to work at jobs like Department Store that pay so little. But my education does nothing to make me more qualified to work at Department Store, actually. As I have said, my mistakes come up a LOT in conversation. I am just lucky that they have been benign mistakes, mostly limited to sizing things incorrectly and then bitching loud and long about what a mess these jeans are and proceeding to size them all wrong, without realizing it. All the while, my team was trying to figure out why the hell the jeans were always still sized wrong. Whoops. And I'm lucky and grateful that they tease me, but they don't make me feel stupid or incompetent. It's just funny. Nobody got hurt. It was dumb, yes, but honestly, sizing jeans just confuses the hell out of me sometimes. But I have had spouses who have been less forgiving of dumb mistakes than my team is at Department Store, so I lurve them. And I appreciate them not linking my mistakes to me as character flaws.

So yeah, those have been my primary reminders of my very small and unimportant place in the universe. But it's not all bad. As I said above, in passing, really, my mother's siblings all came to town last week! Except one, who missed a connecting flight and wasn't really feeling well to begin with. It was amazing to see them all in the same room together.

I haven't seen that since my father's funeral. And I try really hard not to dwell on the fact that I may never see it again. It's a really odd thing to go from teaching a college class to walking into a room filled with your childhood memories. They all got up to hug me as I walked into the room, and I felt loved. It's hard to live away from family all the time. I have my mom and my kids here and friends I love like family. But last night after work, I was walking around the grocery store and it occurred to me that I am very alone. I have always felt like I have a support system here, but it's grown smaller as people have moved, divorces happen, people grow apart. I have been in a hermit-like cocoon for so long that even though I have not made demands on people, I have not contributed anything either.

I used to get angry with my mother for not keeping things together more when I was a teenager. I let my kids see me upset and crying. I am always very specific about what I am upset about though-- they know quickly that it isn't them, that it is temporary, and that I'm okay, but I need to cry at that moment. My mother cried a lot and then when I asked her what was wrong, she said it was nothing. A little given to melodrama, that one. That only confused me and pissed me off, so I don't do it to my kids. I confuse and piss them off in different ways that I'm not aware of and wouldn't do if I could prevent it. But just as I used to get angry with my mother for not keeping it together more, I now get angry with myself for not handling grief and blows and life very well since Karl died in 2008. I am both present and not present. I smile, I joke, I laugh, I cook, I eat, I tease, I love, but the only moments in which I am truly, 100% engaged are rare. I usually feel like I am holding something back, and even though I am aware of it, I don't really know how to stop. Psychologically, I understand that because of some accumulated losses and events, I don't really ever feel truly happy in part because I can't deal anymore with the complete annihilation that comes with losing what you love. And I think in part, I keep myself from becoming too engaged or too attached by shutting down and either feeling like I need to nap or go do something else rather than sitting longer with a loved one or going out with friends. I won't be sad about dying if I never completely embrace my life. And dying is inevitable-- having a happy life is not.  There are a couple of people with whom I come pretty close to being fully present for. But even with my closest intimates, I will duck into my phone for a game. In some ways, it is a way to check out, to have some alone time, but it doesn't make my closest friends very happy. Rightly so. But I do a lot of things for a lot of other people, so I am selfishly refusing to give this form of rudeness up. Yes, it is rude. Simultaneously, it's helping keep me sane, and that takes priority. If I'm not rude this way, I'll be ruder more directly, because I will get irritated as time goes on. I need a lot of down and recovery time from three times and a lot of interaction out in the world. I have come to realize that I am an introvert, and I need alone time to recharge myself.

I berate myself, though, for stupid things like not getting family pictures done every year, not baking anything pumpkin this season, for not keeping a cleaner home. Somehow I feel like people who can not only survive but also engage happily in hobbies instead of becoming zombified like I do-- it feels like they're doing it better. Not that it's a contest. But they seem to be better at living life than I am.

I have been wanting to write since last week, but I have some pretty intense work deadlines that I need to return to. I have good intentions about writing in the evening, but by the time I sit down, I just want to drink red wine and watch TV and not have to think so damn hard about how to do what at which job.
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There's more I want to write about, but not now, there isn't time. There really isn't even time to think about them. I want to write more about dating, about friendships, about the herbs and spices of existence that I don't have enough time to think about, but sometimes I still do. It is not lost on me that a populace that can't spend time thinking because it is too busy working for its basic survival, or too worn out when the work is done, is exactly what the 1% is going for. But just because I can see how I am being manipulated doesn't mean I can make it end.