b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: work

blessed

This morning was yet another tough to wake up, tear myself out of sleep, drag myself out of bed, push my leaden self forward. But then I get to school and everything difficult about existing falls away, like shedding an outer layer and floating forward with new, fresh, plump skin. The children’s energy renews me, fills me up, fuels me so that I’m pushing forward with energy I didn’t even realize I had. I see their progress, it’s tangible and exciting, and I’m so very proud that I’m filled with buoyancy and delight. This is right. This is where I’m supposed to be.

Autism

Last Friday I subbed for the first time in a classroom for severely autistic kids. I want to say I was filled with compassion and felt like the work was meaningful, but mostly I just felt traumatized by the experience. These are children that will never be normal, that will always need help from others, that are far far far from anything resembling ‘normal.’ I felt for the parents that are filled with ambivalence for a child they both love and see as a burden. My heart was heavy. The day dragged, every little thing they did is an uphill challenge. Every single thing they did is painfully slow and difficult. It was exhausting to be around. I pitied them, found them to be pathetic, and felt ugly for feeling that way. I felt ashamed that I didn’t find the work meaningful and fun like the other women working in the classroom. I spent the weekend tormented by the experience and my thoughts and feelings.

Then I went back.

In the last 3 days I have spent in there I have been able to see these kids as more than their external behaviors. I have seen humor and subtly, frustration and anger. When they refer to autism as a spectrum, they are literally describing how unique each of the children are. Yes there are similarities, however each of the children presented a unique combination of interests, levels of interaction, intelligence and behaviors. Once I was no longer shocked by the strange sounds and movements they make and do, they became fascinating to me.

I need to understand to connect. And initially it was all so foreign, loud, strange, intrusive, that I just couldn’t process it. But it’s amazing how the strangest things can become normalized just by being exposed to it for a while. And just like that the noises they made, the arm waving and flapping, the rocking and body ticks, all faded into the background scenery, and I was able to really see them, who they are on the inside. The intelligence trapped inside a body that won’t cooperate. I also judged the program that is designed to have them restrict themselves in order to make the socially ‘normal’ feel more comfortable. I don’t have a background in any of this. And my experience amounts to a book I read (partially written by a severely autistic girl), some articles, and exactly 4 days in a classroom. But I have to wonder if all the things we were making them do was really for their benefit, or ours.

I started to really care about them, feel sad when they were sad, and feel joy when they experienced it. I started to bond, and then it ended – such is the experience of a substitute. And next week I go back to a classroom full of ‘normal’ kids. The teacher asked if I wanted to come back next time my school is on break. I’m actually considering it. I prefer to help students academically. I love watching them ‘get it.’ I feel joy when I help them understand. I know that’s my calling, my bliss, what feeds my light. And yet, this hidden world was a fascinating break from the daily grind, the rushing to and from minutia, the annoyances at mundane discomforts we take for granted. It has clarified and strengthened my gratitude for existence. I am taking them back into the rest of my life, carrying them in my heart, incorporating them into the full human experience of the world around me.

I knew that children like this existed, I just didn’t think about it in depth. I didn’t want to imagine the day by day and minute by minute struggles. I didn’t want to care. When I have seen them out in the community, I have felt uncomfortable and pity. But not anymore. I will never reduce them again. My eyes are open.

 

 

stuff

I might have nothing to say. I sit here, reviewing old writing prompts, and nothing stands out to me. Perhaps there are large, shadowy issues swimming slowly beneath the heavy ice, but I don’t feel attracted to releasing them for analysis today. Things are good. That in itself is a surprising realization. My destiny is changing, I can feel it, and things are moving forward easily, smoothly. I don’t even feel the gray cloud that usually appears over my left shoulder, the one that says, “beware the darkness is coming!” Yes, I was fearful a few weeks ago – convinced, but trying to ignore the words telling me this wasn’t going to work. Who did I think I was, deciding to change my career, and expecting it to be successful. It was a brief stalling, but my thoughts were sure it was the beginning of the end. I pressed forward anyway. Start where I am, use what I have, do what I can. Don’t give up. Keep trying. I couldn’t ignore the frightened voice, I couldn’t shake it, so I placated it by feeding it a morsel, by allowing for the possibility of “getting a real job” if things didn’t work out by the start of the school year. Then I pushed that to the very back of my mind, stuck it deep inside a drawer, and turned my focus back to steps I could take to go in the direction I really wanted. I threw myself completely into my volunteering, giving every drop of myself. Each day I would leave exhausted, but fulfilled, and filled with a warm, relaxed joy that I have not been familiar with for years. That’s telling, that’s the Universe telling, telling me this is the right path, keep going.

write about a time when a dream went up in flames

I have always been goal driven. Or rather, I had always been. When I was in high school Model United Nations, I knew I wanted a career in the UN. I would continue to study French, then in college study abroad in Paris, then graduate fluent and get a job in NYC at the UN building. Everything I did academically pointed in that direction. I even became president of MUN in college and went to the National MUN conference in NYC where I was on the Security Counsel. I was a the height of my academic career. I knew thousands of incoming freshmen because I was a counselor for orientation programs. I even knew the chancellor from participating in leadership conferences. I was close friends with many seniors. And I had a close knit group of friends (dare I say, a clique) that I did everything with outside of school.

Then came time to leave the country for Paris. I was distraught, I was a mess. I was about to fly to the opposite side of the world, alone.

To say the year was traumatic is an understatement. It was total culture shock. And even with 6 years of French classes behind me, I could barely communicate. But I worked very hard, and I began to find a rhythm there. Suddenly the year was over and it was time to return. Coming back home was even harder. That year had cracked the foundation of who I thought I was. I came back anonymous. The seniors had graduated. The freshmen forgot me. The chancellor changed. And I no longer fit in with my friends. I no longer fit my old role, and even if I had, that spot had been eliminated as the group dynamics shifted. I was lost. And I no longer wanted to work for the UN. I felt like I had wandered off my carefully tended path into the middle of a giant field of flowers surrounded by tall trees. Where was the path? I had no idea. I didn’t know in which direction to head, and so I was paralyzed, panicked and miserable.

As a result, when I graduated, I temped for a while before falling into an administrative role that paid well and was easy. And then I stayed in those kinds of jobs for 15 years, waiting for something, some kind of sign that would illuminate a new path.

Now that I look back, I see that I actually did receive that sign, 3 years after I graduated. I was moving from one administrative job to another, and my new boss (as awful as she was, micromanaging and manipulative) was the founding member of a synagogue. She saw the teacher in me, and brought in the educational director to meet me, who promptly offered me a job teaching Sunday school. Although I did not stay at that administrative job, I went on to teach Sunday school for 6 glorious years. My teaching only ended because I had my wedding to plan, then a child to have, then severe post partum depression. I didn’t go back to teaching. And I continued to look for a sign.

Well, the sign has just recently re-illuminated, pointing me again in the direction of teaching. And this time I will listen.

How

I am so exhausted. Mentally and physically. It’s like the top layer of my skin has been scraped off leaving all my nerves exposed. All stimulus is pain – fire and lightening, everywhere. I’m dragging myself forward. Dragged myself to the interview. Thank goodness I moved it to the morning or I would have spent even longer in terror, every minute leading up to it was torture. It’s farther away than I’d like, 20 to 30 minutes. It’s much less than I’ve been paid, since college. But the interviewer would let me work part time. And I’d be working with a dear friend. High volume, but not “rocket science.” I definitely need something that doesn’t require my pre-depression brain skillset. Writing this down makes it seem like a good choice. So why do I still feel a wreck at just the idea. How can I possibly reintegrate with a workforce. I’m so completely exhausted. Every single thing I do takes monumental effort. Every tiny thing I do raises my anxiety level to block out anything around me in prickly, discordant static. I’m walking forward, sure, but the pilot light is out. Somehow I haven’t walked into a pole or a ditch yet. Just lucky I suppose. And I can keep the mask on for swallows of time here and there. Takes monumental effort, but it’s possible. Just look at my interview. But how can I do that for hours at a time in an office. How in the world. In order to keep my head during the long drive I kept saying a mantra I had heard before. I’m sure I was saying it wrong, but I had to keep repeating it anyway. Chanted it over and over the whole drive. Focus on the chant. Nothing but the chant. No words. No images. Just the chant. I made it there. I made it home. Actually I didn’t go home. I went to lunch with a friend from the group. Exposed in a restaurant. But so frazzled from the effort of the interview I couldn’t care. Then I went home. Then I went with my husband to the local amusement park. That was tough. I thought the exercise would do my anxiety good. It did. But crowds and small spaces (in lines) were a tidal wave. I made it. We went on lots of rides. And I actually had fun on one of them. But I felt like crap. I was a puddle of intestinal pulp. And even after going to bed early, I feel only minutely better today. I made it to group, I needed to for my sanity. But I’m going straight home and going back to sleep. My body and mind are demanding it. I am beyond overloaded. I have to find a way to recharge, even just a tiny bit. There has to be a way, I can’t continue like this. It’s not sustainable. I feel like as I’m dragging myself forward limbs are going to start falling off. Piece by piece I’m falling apart, leaving a trail of body parts behind me, till there is nothing left.

Write about your best vacation ever, why?

The best vacation I’ve ever had was my 1 year dating anniversary with my then-boyfriend, now-husband – Hawaii. A good friend of mine who went about once a year gave me all her inside information so we were able to rent a condo on the North Shore for a week for ridiculously cheap. We ate at the restaurants she recommended and had incredible food with incredible views. And I surprised my husband by renting a convertible, since he had never driven one before and really wanted to. We were ridiculously relaxed. We slept in, did everything leisurely, and were in perfect harmony. The weather was perfect. And all of our pictures looked amazing – some even looked so good that they almost looked fake. The only part that wasn’t perfect was when we went swimming with the sharks. The waves were very active and everyone on the boat ride puked. But we went para-sailing on another day, almost a year after we had gone para-sailing in the Bahamas together, as a new couple – and that made up for it. That year when we visited my in-laws for Christmas and told them about this trip, they teased him and said he should have set the bar lower for an anniversary gift, because how can he possibly top that. We have traveled together since, all over the world in fact, and it’s true, nothing has come close to that Hawaii week of relaxation and adventure.

“You’re glowing!”

Yesterday I was laid off. So many people keep saying they’re sorry.

Well, I’m not.

I was trapped. My job was soulless, helping the rich get richer. I used to love what I did. But that was before what I did for money absorbed all my time and energy, and left me with nothing to give my daughter, my husband and myself. Sure there were some really great people I worked for. People I admired. People whose lives I truly care about. I wanted them to succeed, and I would do what it takes to help them, even as it sapped from what little I had for the rest of my life.

I managed to get my hours dropped from 40 to 30 when I got back from maternity leave. And even that was too much. Too much time sitting in that cubicle staring at a screen. Too much time sitting in one place, damaging my back and my fingers and my wrists and my arms. And for what, a nice paycheck. Well that paycheck was just numbers that went into my bank account and right back out again.

I work to pay others to do what I don’t have the time or energy to do, because I’m working.

Well, yesterday I was set free. I packed up my almost 7 years of stuff, it wasn’t even that much, and I put it in the trunk of my car. I said my goodbyes, people confused at my happiness (I told them I was still in shock, which is true).

Almost immediately job leads flowed in. If I wanted to do my same job, I could start on Monday. 14 years of experience and some big names on my resume, make me a precious commodity. But what if I don’t want to do the same thing. What I want to do is – something that really matters. I want to work with and for people that are making a difference in this world. And this layoff is a very special gift to me – freedom, with a financial buffer. I mean, c’mon, that’s really awesome! And, I qualify for unemployment. That means I could choose to not work for a long time if I wanted to. I know that I won’t want to wait so long. That my responsibility to house finances, and my sanity, require me to become a responsible adult again.

But this is just the first day after! Give me some breathing room. Other people that are laid off are given time to go through the grief graph. Maybe I will too, maybe I won’t. But in the meantime, I want to celebrate this gift. I’ve been set free. I know I rock at what I do. I know I interview well. But for today, and for a little while, I just want to take a break. A breather. I had started the unhealthy cycle again. Rushing to work, rushing home, rushing to work again – at the expense of my sleep, my sense of calm, my sanity. I was not happy. But I could not see a way out. Not one I was willing to take a risk for. It’s hard to be motivated to leave when the pay is good and you know your job blindfolded.

So I told the Universe, “I want a part time job, doing something I love, working with people I love. Make it happen.” And, bam!

I don’t know what the future will bring. But I’m ready for my next adventure.

Anxiety is called “fear disconnected from its original cause.” What does that mean to you? What were you causing triggers?

I don’t remember when it started. But every evening I would feel my anxiety rising, like the temperature in a thermometer. I was finally off Paxil, but I clung to my trazodone. I only had to make it till bedtime and I could take those two blissful pills and everything would disappear for a while. But it wore off, consistently, in the early morning hours. And try as I might I couldn’t sleep. So I just lay there. Morning, another day. And then sure as sh*t, it started again every evening, sea level rising to drown me.

Then, one day at work, May 29th, the panic attacks started. I told my bosses I was sick, and I rushed to my acupuncturists. Relief. I was able to get in to see a psychiatrist. She prescribes Celexa. The next day I went to work again, and that afternoon they started again. I couldn’t breath, I felt like something large was sitting on my chest. I thought I was going to die. I left work and ran to acupuncture again. But no relief. My heartrate was out of control, and I could not stop crying. They contacted my psychiatrist who told me to go to the ER or Urgent Care. I knew this was bad, and I knew if we went to the hospital I wouldn’t be allowed to leave. I went to Urgent Care, they did an EKG, started an IV, and gave me Ativan. Some relief. But now I was broken. Some wall that I had built to lock or hide away all that anxiety had shattered. I knew I could not go back to work.

What is this anxiety all about? Where did it come from? What was I so afraid of? I’ll tell you.

Lather, rinse, repeat forever. I was stuck in a life that was no fun. Rushing to drop my daughter off at preschool. Rushing around at work trying to get 40 hours of work done in 30 hours. Rushing home to make dinner and trying to spend time with my daughter when all I wanted to do was go to sleep. Day in, day out, the same thing over and over. Nothing refueling me. Nothing refreshing me. And my saviors, those two white pills, prevented me from doing anything in the evenings (because I had to take them an hour before bedtime and couldn’t drive once I took them). But blaming it on the pills isn’t the whole picture, because truth is, all I wanted to do was sleep, all the time. I was trapped. And I felt intense guilt and shame for not wanting to be around my daughter. She was exhausting. Always talking, always inventing stories she wanted me to act in, always asking questions, always wanting to dance with me or run with me or jump with me. I was so tired. I am so tired. And I felt so much guilt if I had to sacrifice my time with her, or from work, to go to my many doctors appointments. I was in lockdown. I hated my life. I envied my nanny’s life, single and carefree. She wasn’t burdened like I was. She wasn’t a burden like I was. She told me she envied me! Wished she had a husband and child. I told her it doesn’t simplify your life, it makes it more complicated. It means you have more people you can let down and disappoint.

I need meaning

I need meaning. Right now my life is a series of repetitions. Lather, rinse, repeat. Why do anything if I’ll just have to do it again and again, Sisyphean torture. And each time it’s expected that I find joy and delight in the repeated task/event/duty. My soul is vacant, hungry, exhausted. The idea of going back to my (well-paying) job inflames the emptiness in my gut. (My mean mind sarcastically spews, “oh poor you, an easy and well-paying job makes you sad, oh boo hoo.”) Why can’t I be happy with what others would be jealous of. I rush from one thing to the next, always late, always stressed, always exhausted. And I’m supposed to be happy doing it. Why can’t I be happy? Because the repetitions are rote. They take no thought, I zombie my way through it all. Too tired to pay real attention. Too anxious of the next item I’ll need to drag myself to. Would a different job help? To work somewhere where what I do really makes a difference, rather than just making other people rich? To work somewhere where the people are emanating positive vibes, and joy is easy flowing. Anywhere I look, all options reduce income – is that worth it? I want to be happy. I want to be able to move through life with ease and calm. I want to be able to enjoy my present, the here and now. There is beauty and joy in front of me. How can I get access?? I’m banging on the glass wall which separates me, excludes me. My fists are bleeding, I’m desperate. Let me in!