Odds and Sods

I do not have Covid, which is exactly as expected. I went, I stood in line, they put a swab up my nose, and 24 hours later I logged into my electronic health record and yep, I had allergies and not Covid. So, that’s good.

I can also tell you, should you ever decide that you want to learn python and R, don’t do it at the same time. Both languages do some similar things, but they do them in very different ways and you can be mindboggilingly wrong.

Finally, since it’s Canada day here, Happy Canada Day. I am, as ever, very proud to be Canadian.

Posted in Salmagundi: A collection of various things | 1 Comment

But my Pants Still Fit

I have to go and get a Covid test today. This is partly because we are testing even the asymptomatic here in Alberta, and partly because on Fri-Sat I had a mildly stuffy nose and a sore throat and a headache. In any other timeline, I would have shrugged and thought allergies or mild cold, but in this timeline, well, testing it is.

I was talking to Christie yesterday afternoon and I commented that I unpacked all of my summer work clothes, ironed them, hung them up and I have worn. . . . Well, none of them. When you leave the house for groceries and pet food, you wear jeans and hoodies.

I put on a pair of dress pants and a cardigan and a nice shirt and even a necklace. I wore make up.

I am dressing up for a pandemic flu test.

But. . . .

My pants still fit, so that’s something good.

Posted in Pandemic | 3 Comments

Mrs. Spit’s Summer Vacation

The last summer in which I did not work full time would have been 1993. I was in grade 8 that year, and I remember I did a summer camp for technical theatre and probably spent the rest of the summer being a suburban teenager. I think maybe there was some babysitting.

From Grade 9 until now, I have worked. I may have taken off a week in the summer, but I’ve never had more than 3 weeks of vacation in a year; there were no extended summer breaks. My current employer has, from time to time, required me to take time off when I wasn’t billable, which further reduced my vacation available. Finally, there has been school and projects and vacation while I went to Montana to help with the kids and Chemo and Radiation. What there hasn’t been are days where I had no professional responsibilities.

The anxiety, between J. and my job loss, was blinding. Blinding enough for Ativan, blinding that my friends and my doctors have kept close tabs on me. Blinding enough that I was frightened for myself. I’m still anxious; still worried about what happens if I don’t have a job at the end of September.

But for now, for July and a part of August? I’m going to stop thinking of unemployment as a bad thing and start thinking of my great good fortune. I cannot work because there is no professional work for me to do. My protestant work ethic and workaholic nature must be still and silent. I am supported by a social safety net that I have paid into for more than 25 years. I have some savings. It will not be a glamourous life, but I will keep body and soul together, a roof over our heads and the animals and I fed.

I’m going to call this a summer vacation.

I will learn python and read novels and knit and weed. I will re-teach myself statistics and R, and sit in my chair in the garden and stare at the fire. I will restain the deck, but be glad that I’m not trying to shove it into a few hours because I’m busy. I shall do what suits me when it suits me.

Sure, I’m an unemployed bum. But this bum is on summer vacation.

Posted in Pandemic, Unemployment | 3 Comments

Do you Paint your Nails While you Cut your Loss?

When I got ghosted and then dumped, the dumping came with a “let’s have coffee and talk” sort of thing. I don’t remember exactly what the offer was. I sensibly, to prevent rumination, deleted the text. I said that I needed a couple of weeks to get my feet back under me and I would be in touch. He said he understood.

A couple is two (Don’t I know this), and that two weeks ended yesterday. It turns out, as the last two weeks have passed, that I really don’t have much *useful* to say to J. Please don’t misunderstand, I have *plenty* to say, it’s just not . . . . useful.

What I have left to say is the sort of thing that would be unkind and likely does not need to be true.

I thought about just never responding, but that’s unkind. That’s a form of ghosting too. The text is written. It’s polite, kind and ironclad.

I just don’t want to send it.

Posted in Adult Dating | 2 Comments

Back When We Were Babies

I woke up this am and Facebook told me it was my 19th wedding anniversary. Except, well, you know, not really.

Christie and I had this conversation. We had it a bit in December, we had it a bit when I was back in March, we had it when she was hunting for photos for Andy’s service. I thought about it a bit more when I was hunting for a particular childhood photo of me to show J.

I look at my wedding photos now and I am struck. Christie was right. We were babies. I was 22 years old. I was younger than most of the men and women I’m taking graduate classes with. I got married when I had not finished my undergraduate degree. I knew nothing about anything and you could not tell me that.

There are no photos of just me on my wedding day, and in some ways I suppose that says a lot. I’m not sure that there was much of a just me on June 23, 2001. A nascent just me. A small portion of just me, but not one who understood that she was enough, that she was tiny but fierce.

We could say it was age, the age difference, perhaps even temperamental unsuitability that ruined my marriage. It was all of those things; all of those things would have been solved if I had a better idea of who just me was.

That baby on that day? She had no idea of who she would become.

Posted in Divorce, Feats of Wonder | 2 Comments

Steve’s Girlfriend Claudia Jean

Last December I met up with my friend the Scotch to exchange Christmas presents and five months later I got a fish. I thought I should tell you about her.

When we met in December, the Scotch started telling me about a particular experiment with a particular type of fish he was running. Since I do not understand any of the science the Scotch does, I tend to focus on the other more human details. One of those details was that his students named the fish in this experiment. The story so charmed me at least in part because it was about Steve and Steve’s Girlfriend.

It turns out that Steve was for some particular reason beloved by the Scotch’s students. I have no idea why perhaps Steve was particularly attractive or in some way scientifically interesting. Possibly every science experiment needs a mascot. Steve’s female partner was perhaps less attractive or interesting, sufficiently less so that she didn’t get a name; she was just Steve’s Girlfriend. I think I will not be the only person to assert that Steve’s girlfriend clearly had a reasonable quibble with this sort of fishsogynistic crap. It came to pass that Steve’s girlfriend ate Steve and that seems a sort of reasonable response when you don’t even have your own fish(person)hood.

The night the Scotch told me this story, I happened to call Christie. She was particularly down about something Andy had done, so I told the story of Steve and his homicidal girlfriend. Steve’s girlfriend, whom we christened Claudia Jean, became an inside joke.

When Andy bought enough guns to run a banana republic, when he bought and hid the second motorcycle, when he spent 10k on we have no idea what, when he ‘ran away’ from home and the police were at the house to put out a missing person bulletin, Christie and I would look at each other and mouth “Steve’s Girlfriend”. Or we would make gulping motions. It is the sort of grim and dark humour that has always seen us through. We would make jokes about how Claudia Jean was living the life of Riley in the ocean off the south of France.

As Andy’s body began to fail, the Scotch sent me a photo of Claudia. Alone in her tank. There was a piece of tape and the label “Steve/Steve’s GF”. Someone had crossed out Steve. Then, underneath there was another label “Claudia”. Claudia was the last of her kind and the last of that experiment and well, she either found a home or she went to the place all research fish go.

Claudia Jean, having gotten us through some very dark times, is now swimming in a tank in my living room, quite happy. As soon as the borders open up, I’ll get her a snail to clean her tank. I will name the snail Carol.

And that is why I was at Petsmart, digging past the single serving frozen mice to get at the blood worms. Claudia Jean thinks they are a very tasty treat.

Posted in And the Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, Ministry of Funny Walks | 2 Comments

And a Little More Zen

I will be 42 in about 3 months. Now, I suppose that I might have been zen-ish as a baby (I don’t recall my mother saying that I was a particularly difficult baby). At any rate, the first time I recall being told I was a bit difficult was in kindergarten, where my teacher refused to believe that I could read and told me to stop talking. So I did. For almost a year. I was then sent to an educational psychiatrist. They diagnosed me with 2 major learning difficulties and told my parents I would never learn to read. This was a surprise to my family, who often saw me read.

At any rate, this and other things meant that I was an anxious and nervy sort of child.*Let’s call it 37 years of not being zen-like. No one who knows me would tell me that I’m content to let things slide. I am not zen. I am not a process sort of person. I don’t go with the flow.

I often point out that the people who like me call me determined. Driven. A force of nature. Fierce.

The thing with pandemic unemployment is that I just don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know if my employer will sort out billable work for me and bring me back. I don’t know if I will find another job. I don’t know if I will be unemployed long enough that I will lose my drug coverage and my house. I do not know.

There is no way of knowing.

There’s not a lot I can do to make things break my way. I could do all the things I’ve been doing and not find a job. I could have done nothing, and still be offered my old job back.

The doctor didn’t give me long term anti-anxiety meds. He gave me some more ativan and an appointment next Friday. He wants to see how I’m doing. In some ways, I kinda like this approach. I don’t have to keep myself sorted until some not determined day that I get my job back or another job or it all explodes or Covid is all over.

I just have to keep myself sane and sensible until next Friday. Another week to recover, to get my feet back under me. To figure out how to do the new normal.

I can do that.

*Well, not really. What I was was an incredibly abused child, but no one thought that upper-middle-class parents would lock their kids in closets for a few days at a time, so instead, I just became nervy. Which I almost certainly was.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Monstrous Regiment of Women

About this time 3 years ago, I began having mini sort of panic attacks. I didn’t ever get to the can’t catch my breath, I’m dying phase I’ve been at before. Rather, it was a constant sort of dread. I could talk myself down from it, but as time went on I spent more time talking myself off a ledge than I did living my life.

The solution was a very low dose of an anti-depressant. I stayed on it until the end of my last MBA residency. 8 months after I started, I realized that I had forgotten to take it for 5 days in a row, so I stopped. While not the ideal way to wean yourself off a drug, it turns out that when I was done writing a thesis, doing coursework, and coping with awful classmates, I was capable of working 50 hours a week and managing a divorce and a chronic disease. Indeed, I was so capable that I applied for my current master’s.

In my medicine cabinet is a bottle of Ativan. There are, let’s say about 20 pills in it. There were originally 30. It was prescribed in the dark months after Gabe’s death, so in 12.5 years, I have taken less than a pill a decade. To be honest, given that it expired a decade ago, we might say that there was a decade where I did not take any of them.

I have needed three in the last 9 days, since I became single and unemployed.

This became particularly germane because a friend called to check in yesterday. We were to have a 5 pm virtual drink. When she asked what I was drinking, I told her honestly, I wasn’t. Yesterday at 3 pm, after a few hours of trying to get my racing mind and pounding heart under control, I reached for an Ativan. In minutes the panic was not gone but sufficiently receded that I could reason myself the rest of the way back to sanity.

Honesty about where I’m at, and needing help does not come easily to me. Which I suppose makes me all the more thankful for the monstrous regiment of women who check in on me. Asking for the truth, not my dry observations. Who tell me the same things over and over again – that I am loved and not alone. Who sometimes repeat back to me what I have told them during their darkest hours.

And this – the friend last night, who when I said that I didn’t think I needed to go back on anxiety medication, told me I was wrong. I do.

She’s right. I have a telephone doctor’s appointment booked in a few hours.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Space for Both

The problem (besides all the obvious ones) of being dumped 24 hours before you get laid off is that both of those things are rather monumental and require adjustment and a bit of grief, but different sorts of adjustment and grief.

The layoff is terrifying for all the reasons I’ve told you. I still don’t know how I pay my mortgage if I don’t have a job in September, but I’ve mostly reached the point where I know that I am doing all that I can to find a new job: I’ve reached out to former colleagues and employers, I’m hunting for new jobs, I’ve reached out to recruiters about contracts, I’ve reached out to the University to review my resume. I’ve applied for EI, I have some money in savings. I cannot think of a single thing to do other than do all of that, cross my fingers and hope something breaks my way.

The heartbreak? It sort of sneaks up. I was sending someone a text last night and in the middle of my most used emoji’s were a few that I used to send to J. on a regular basis.

It’s a sudden drop in your gut, it takes a minute to catch your breath. You feel a bit absent from your body for just a second.

I catch my breath. Try and remember to speak gently to myself. Get enough sleep, remember to eat. Keep doing the stretches for sciatica. Walk the dog. Force myself to reach out to friends. Make to-do lists and cross things off.

Each morning I wake up and I have to tell msyelf – gently – that I have to get up. Not because there is any reason to. There isn’t. There is not an employer or a partner who will notice if I got out of bed at all. I still have to get up. Confront that I am both unemployed and not worth dating.

And then write a to-do list and tick things off. About 5 pm I’m out of mental energy. I can’t figure out what to do next. The time passes slowly after 5. But somehow it does.

I’m sorry. I’m not cheerful. It’s a bit better. The blind panic has worn off, perhaps because it becomes exhausting. There comes a point where you have to tell yourself that there is nothing more that you can do, what will be, will be come September.

And now?

Now it’s a bit less panic and a lot more heartbreak.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Difference Between a Function and a Method

Spoiler alert: I don’t actually know what the difference is. I’m still learning.

If I spent last week both hollow and shocked, I woke up this morning and was maybe over the shock. Well, a bit over the shock. I suppose the good news is that I’m used to working from home, having been doing it for 13 weeks. I was used to really only leaving the house to grocery shop and go to J.’s. Thankfully I don’t have to adjust to not going into the office while also adjusting to not going to J.’s.

I’m not going to lie – I’m still hollow. I stepped on the scale and realized that I’ve lost 7 pounds in 10 days. While I certainly have it to lose (and more), it was a good reminder that I stop eating entirely when I’m distressed.

My anxiety is . . . . manageable with a bit of effort. I resorted to some ativan I found in my medicine cupboard from the days after Gabe died (yes, it expired a decade ago, turns out I’m fine with that.)

In the interim, I’m trying to keep to a routine. Carrying on with teaching myself python and tableau, sorting out a stats course and doing yardwork.

And looking for a job.

While I would like to take a bit of time off, while I would ordinarily assume that I am smart and qualified and well credentialed, and of course I can find a job in the 90 days I have savings for, I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that.

It’s not just Covid, at least not here in Alberta. The provincial government has shut off the taps. Government departments have cut to the bone. We are no longer supporting applications that citizens use every day. While my employer wants to bring me back, while I’m liked and seen as competent and capable, there may not be billable work to bring me back to.

So, upgrading, keeping myself busy and looking for a job.

I hope things break my way. I think it’s probably reasonable to be prudent and assume they might not, and I should have a plan B.

Still standing. It’s not pretty, but it’s what I’ve got.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments