Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Floating Malaise

I pulled all the pots and pans and bowls and gadgets out of my kitchen cabinets five days ago, because I had A Great Plan about how I was going to rearrange everything so that there was no more of the shoving of pots into too small of a space and the cramming of cookie sheets into mountains of metal and then simply counting the seconds until the next avalanche. But that was before the malaise.

Yes, I'm well aware nobody has used that word since the Victorian era. But it's the only way to describe how I've been feeling these past four or five days. All swoony and floaty and just-not-quite-tethered-to-the-earth-y. Cold sweats out of nowhere. Exhaustion overtaking me at bizarre times. It got so bad in bed the other night that I had to wake Baroy to ask him to put an arm around me to keep me on the bed, because I just wasn't sure I wouldn't drift away without something solid anchoring me. I worried myself into my first-ever "classic" panic attack, the kind where you begin to panic that you're going to die of a heart attack, which makes your heart race, which makes you even more convinced about the impending heart attack...and so on and so on and so on. Mostly, I was worried that I was going to faint in my sleep, so tenuous was my hold on voluntary consciousness. And that led to wondering whether you can faint in your sleep, or if that's some sort of medical impossibility. Which led to wondering how you would even know if you did faint in your sleep, and how would you be able to 'come to?' Which led to wondering if this was even something I needed to be worrying about, considering I'd worked myself into such a lather by that point that I was clearly going to die of a heart attack well before I would ever have a chance to faint in my sleep...

Salvation came in the form of Xanax (is there a multiple form of the word? Xanaxes?), the idea to pull my comfy chair right up in front of the fireplace, the idea to light (and then obsessively tend to until the Xanaxes kicked in) a fire in the fireplace, and my grandma's old quilt wrapped around my shoulders. But still, days later, the malaise lingers, and the exhaustion is taking over my life.

And my kitchen? Every single surface is covered with pots and pans and non-mountainous cookie sheets, waiting to find a permanent, logical home. I refuse to just give in and put them any old place, but I just don't have the strength or the energy to figure out where they 'should' go. It's pure chaos in there. I can't stand it. But I just can't do anything about it, either. Not the way I insist it must be done...i.e., perfectly, logically, I-can't-imagine-it-any-other-way, you're-a-genius-ly.

Poor Baroy. He's living in a house with a pulled-apart, uninhabitable, unuseable kitchen, and an insane wife who wakes him up at 2 am mumbling some nonsense about being scared she's going to float away, a wife who answers the question, "What's the matter?" with "I don't know. Some sort of malaise." Clearly, the man is a saint.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

All Work And A Little Play

I worked all weekend. Or at least most of it. I worked while Em went to a bowling party (though I treated myself to a relatively expensive lunch by myself while I did so). I worked while Baroy took Em and N to see that movie about the sled dogs, which I was worried would be too sad for them. (Em: I had a tight throat the whole time, Mom, but I liked it. N, making an exaggerated booboo face: The doggies died, Mommy. Like Zaboo and Pumpkin.) I worked while the kids played with their Uncle Stevie. I worked while they all watched the Olympics and Flower Drum Song. (Don't ask.) I even got up early this morning to finish up an article, leaving my husband and warm, sweet-smelling little boy (who had joined us at about 3am, cementing my opinion that he should not be allowed to sleep in Em's room, even if he does beg to do so every night, because that's the only time he ever wakes up and comes into our bed) behind, until N came down the stairs all tossled and irate. "You never stayed in the bed with me! That's not nice!"

The lovely part of the weekend, though, was getting to see three of my friends, all of whom I met during my days at ABigScienceMagazine. Two of them were in from New York with their daughter; the other came from in from an hour or so away with her three kids. We met at my house, and the kids all ran around together; so odd and fun to see the offspring of a group of former work colleagues cavort around together. Six kids all together, between the ages of 10 and 3. Aside from trying to convince my friend's two boys to stop using N's whiffle ball pitcher as a gun with which to shoot the three girls (and trying to convince N that it wasn't hysterically funny and that, no, he shouldn't try it, too) we were mostly free to hang and gossip and enjoy each other. Which we did.

But there was a pall over the group, with good reason. The New York friends were in town to see another former ABigScienceMagazine colleague of ours, who was recently diagnosed with a very advanced cancer that was deemed inoperable only after they'd opened her up in the first place. I've lost touch with her over the years, but that doesn't mean that this isn't making me extremely sad. I spent a lot of time with her and her family for a few years; in fact, they were all at my wedding, 10 years ago next month. She's just much too young for this shit.

So, amidst the enjoying and the cooing over children and the taking of innumerable pictures, there were the clipped "how's she doing?" "how's she feeling?" conversations, and the "I just don't have the words" gestures. Because I don't. It seems too ghoulish to get back in touch with her in order to say goodbye, and yet it feels too cold not to say goodbye, if goodbye it is to be.

Too young. No words.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Charmed Life

So, on Friday I told my office that I was resigning; on Monday, the guy who's nominally in charge (we haven't had a boss since July, remember) sent out a notice, and I wrote up my resignation letter, though haven't been able to print it out because we're not sure who I'm supposed to address it to.

THEN, this morning, the director of development on campus (with whom I've worked on many a project in the past) bumps into me as I'm getting into the elevator, and says, "I hear you've made it official." And then went on to basically offer me a job with his office, half time, with benefits, WORKING FROM HOME. I ended up meeting with him and one of his staff yesterday afternoon, and walked out of there with the promise of a job, though we haven't talked details. The one thing we decided, which I think will be of benefit to both of us, is that we will do this on a six-month trial basis, at which point I can see if it's something I'm interested in continuing to do, and he can see if it's something he needs a more full-time person for. That will get me to September with N getting to stay in his same preschool, so if nothing else comes out of it, I'll avoid traumatizing my little, special-needs boy. Can't beat that with a stick!

The cool part is that this is actually a promotion of sorts. Plus, I get to create the job; currently, it doesn't even exist. So it will actually be a bit of a challenge. And best of all, I'll get to keep working with a couple of the colleagues I was sort of sad about leaving behind. So this is looking really good.

And so, with all that good news, I'm trying to think of reasons why I'm feeling a little bit sad
about doing this. I think it feels a little like giving in, I guess; sticking with the safety. But then
again, I've said all along that if my office would just have let me work from home I'd have definitely stayed on. So there's no good reason not to do this. And part of me is more than a little relieved, since mine is our only income these days, to know that I won't have to tapdance to meet our nut each month--and that I won't have to sell my soul to get health
insurance, which was rapidly becoming a big problem...

And best yet, I don't have to give up either of the other regular freelancing gigs I've landed, about which I'm so excited. It will just take away my need to kill myself finding other freelance work to make up the difference in income.

My colleagues in my office are hysterically laughing at me, by the way. Says one of them: "Who the hell else would ever get a job offer IN THE ELEVATOR the day after they quit? You lead a charmed life, girl."

It's true. I really do. And I'm thankful for it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

That Hissing Sound You Hear Is My Ego Deflating

Em is 8. She is getting into the shower, and kind of poking at herself.

Em: I know you always say I'm not fat, but do you think I'm a little too fat?
Me: Why do you ask?
Em: Well, my belly does go out like this...(she traces her shape which is, admittedly, deliciously pudgy) and a lot of my friends...(she trails off)
Me: No, I don't think you're too fat. But you've always had more muscle on you than a lot of your friends, so you're never going to be all skinny the way C and K are. And that's why I sometimes remind you not to eat too much junk food.
Em: But C eats junk food all the time, and her belly goes like this...(she tries to suck in to approximate her friend's concave shape, but fails).
Me: Yep. That's just the way it is. Some people can eat anything they want, and other people have to be a little more careful.
Em, turns around and pats my belly: Yeah. Daddy and N are the skinny ones in the family, right? And Daddy's also the one with the muscles, so I guess I get those from him.

And with that, she flexes her arm muscles, pulls the shower curtain shut, and begins singing, while I stand there, fat and flabby and wondering how, exactly, that conversation got away from me so badly.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

No Time For Streaming

I've been journaling, these past couple of months. On paper. With a pen. (It's beyond embarrassing to realize how far I, a writer, have strayed from the actual physical act of writing rather than typing. Suffice it to say that I spent the second week of my journaling with my arm in a brace, popping Advil, and complaining a lot. A lot.)

The journaling is part of the 'program' set out by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way, which I am apparently the last person on earth to have heard about. I'm going through the book with a group of women from an online writing group, which is keeping me semi-honest.

But here's the thing: The journaling--a.k.a. Morning Pages, which consists of three handwritten pages every morning--is supposed to be stream of consciousness, an emptying of your mind of all its clutter so that you can go through the rest of your day open to creativity and not bogged down by minutia. At least that's how I interpret it. But stream of consciousness doesn't really, well, stream when you wind up interrupting yourself to make pancakes, put a bandaid on an ouchie, listen to your husband's recitation of the day's top headlines...you get my drift.

Seems to me that creativity--not just stream-of-consciousness journaling, but many if not all kinds of creativity--requires a level of selfishness that isn't quite compatible with being the kind of parent I strive to be. As it is, I carve out "me" time as often as I can, yet this endeavor asks me to carve out even more. I wonder if it is possible--or, rather, if I'll resent it ultimately, as it takes me away from my other loves.

Now that I think about it, maybe I'm just defining creativity too narrowly. Maybe I should give more credence to the creativity inherent in parenting--in making up stories to pass the time in a traffic jam, in coming up with fun things to do with a shoebox and dried beans, in devising discipline methods that fit within your basic parenting framework and at the same time accomplish whatever you deem necessary. All of that should count for something, shouldn't it?

Maybe I'd be able to consider this more closely if I didn't have to go help N figure out his new computer game, and then drive Em over to a Valentine's party. My consciousness stream, she is meandering once again...

Friday, February 10, 2006

It's No Fun To Quit When You Don't Get A Reaction

So, that's done. My last day in the office will be March 10th--five days shy of my seven-year anniversary here--and my last day on the payroll will be near the end of the month. (I have saved-up vacation time, and I need to stay on the payroll if I want to keep N in his preschool until the end of this OT program they have him in, which ends on March 31.)

I got lots of good "oh my god" reactions from the colleagues I told, but the guy-in-charge-until-there's-someone-really-in-charge? Deadpan. Nothing. I mean, it's not like I was expecting tears, and it's not like I haven't told Every Single Person In A Ten Mile Radius how I feel and how I'm quitting the second I can, so I guess I stole my own thunder. But a little dismay, a little, "Oh, TC, how COULD YOU?" or "Oh, TC, we'll MISS YOU!" would be nice. It wouldn't be him, but it would be nice.

Now the fun part begins--the going-through-seven-years'-worth-of-stuff part, the taking-home-the-toys-and-tschotchkes-I've-accumulated part. And for anyone who knows me even a little bit in real life, my office at work? Twice as bad as the tsunami-that-ate-Los-Angeles that is my desk at home. Good thing I have a whole month. I'll need it...

Oh, and there's another part, too: The calling/emailling-everyone-I've-ever-worked-with part, which is where I get to announce that I'm going to need freelance assignments from far and wide if I am to make this work. Consider yourselves warned.

Wow. My exit strategy actually led me to...an exit. Funny how that works, isn't it...?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

It's A Good Thing I'm Quitting, Or I'd Quit

The weekly story meetings at my office have become a game of PR Survivor. We've been without a boss since the end of July, mind you, so there's nobody really in charge. Everyone is cranky and dispirited. We've had two more people quit since my boss left, and nobody is in a position to hire replacements. Morale sucks.

So, of course, now seems like a good time to turn every meeting into a bitchfest about how badly everything is being handled, doesn't it?

A recitation of what went on today would only interest me, but let me tell you: It was a bloodbath.

Which makes the conversation I'm planning to have with the most senior person in the office tomorrow even sweeter. You know, the conversation in which I get to say, "I quit."

I'm really going to do it! Although one of my new bosses-to-be already sort of outed herself in a previous message, I can't be too specific as yet. What I can tell you is that, in addition to being the managing editor of a bimonthly alternative medicine magazine, I'm now also going to be the news editor for a new not-yet-launched parenting website. It sounds like an incredible opportunity--and, even more importantly, it sounds like it's going to be a whole lot of fun.

So, with two steady-income gigs and the promise of the occasional freelance assignment from a number of different venues, I'm going to give it a go. It's going to mean that belts get even tighter than they currently are, but it also means I'll be working from home, and able to spend more time with my kids after school. And, even more importantly, I'll be doing writing again that doesn't make me want to scream with boredom and frustration. You have no idea how freeing that feels.

In my appointment with my therapist yesterday, I told her that it was official, that I was going to be quitting my job. She actually squealed with delight. Even when I told her that I'm a little scared about the uncertainty of it all, she kept on smiling. "Since the first day you came here," she said, "this is what you've wanted. It's been the constant theme in our discussions. You must be just thrilled."

And I am. I really, really am. It's amazing to me that something I thought--over and over again--would never happen for me has happened. And it happened because I pursued it steadily. Once my therapist got me to understand that there are always options, that there is never no way out, I started to see the signposts and the possibilities. They are, as I'd hoped they would be, limitless. Scary, sure. But limitless nonetheless.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Night At The Theatre

Last night, Baroy and I attended a reading of one of his plays, done by a theater group in Los Angeles. It was the first time either of us has ever heard his work read by people we don't know, without any of our (well, his--I'm just the supportive wife) input.

For those of you who don't know much about theater, a play reading is literally that--people holding the script, on an empty stage, without props, reading the word. They've usually run through it a few times so that they are familiar with the story and the playwright's intentions, and can do at least a little bit of "acting." The purpose is several-fold. In this case, I think it was a chance for one of the theater's company members to try his hand at directing, and it was a chance for the theater's board of directors to consider the play for one of their upcoming seasons. Sometimes it's an opportunity to invite producers/money people to see if you can find someone who might be interested in getting the piece up on its feet. For Baroy, it served as a way for him to see how the play is sounding these days (he wrote it about five years ago), and what needs to be done to it before it might be ready for a 'real' production.

This particular reading was, well, uneven. In general, the actors weren't nearly well-enough prepared, stumbing over the lines much too often. Baroy writes fast-paced, smart dialogue, and they were mispronouncing words and flubbing key lines, so that places that should have gotten laughs didn't. On the other hand, one of the actors--who at first glance seemed so ill-suited for the role he was playing that Baroy groaned aloud when he appeared on stage--did the best reading of his particular character that either of us has seen to date. At one point, Baroy turned to me and said, "THAT is how that speech is supposed to sound. I'd wondered if it was the writing that it always fell a little flat, but no. It can be done right by the right actor."

I often forget, between times, how very talented my husband is. I get sucked into the mindset I rail against, thinking that talent equals success equals money. If he's not getting paid, he's not a success, not talented. But it's simply not true. He's really good at this: at characterization, at exploring relationships. His plays are funny and heartbreaking. They are very traditional--not experimental, not edgy. They speak to real people. After the reading last night, one of the company's members came up to Baroy and said, "You are a wonderful writer. You made me homesick for New York tonight."

When our friend G directs a reading of one of Baroy's plays, he gives what we call his "G speech."

"If this were a production of the play," he says, "there would be a living room set over here..." and he goes on to describe, in great detail, what the scenery would look like, how there would be characters entering and exiting the room, the music you would hear, the sound effects, the lights.

"You're not going to see any of that tonight," he then goes on to say, usually to a big laugh. (It's all in the delivery.) "Instead, tonight is about the words on the page. Tonight is a celebration of the word."

Last night was a celebration of Baroy's words, and he deserves to have them celebrated. They are remarkable words.

Friday, February 03, 2006

On The Cusp

I've been quiet because I've been overwhelmed. Which doesn't usually silence me. Nothing usually silences me. But I'm overwhelmed by what looks very much like the final pieces falling into place for my departure from this job and my foray into the (very, very, very scary) world of freelancing. I am in the process of being offered the second steady job I need to make this happen, but the i's aren't dotted yet, so I'm in a little bit of a holding pattern. I'm applying for private health insurance, and crossing every body part possible. (The agent I spoke to on the phone said we'd likely be accepted, but we may have to pay a slightly higher premium.) I'm looking into alternative preschools for N, which is going to be the worst part of this, by far. He's finally doing well at preschool, and now I'll drop him into a brand-new environment, only to then have him move on to elementary school in the fall. But since most of the impetus to do this comes from my wanting--needing--to be home with him in the afternoons, I guess I'll have to just suck it up and do short-term damage for long-term good.

I'll talk about it more when it's a more-done deal.

There are also a dozen other things I want to blab about: How time gets away from me, and why; how I spent my Wednesday with N, WeeyumWise and WeeyumWise's mom at Disneyland; PTA guilt; the talks I've been having with Em; and, of course, coffee. (Yes, it's still on my mind. I still have questions! Freezer or no, and does it affect taste? Where to store beans? Where and how to store ground coffee?) But you see how I mentioned that time gets away from me? I'm up to my armpits in things that desperately need to be done, so hanging here for a couple of hours delving into the depths of my own mind is probably not the most proactive thing I could do. Which doesn't mean I won't do it. But later. OK? Don't abandon me now...

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