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

Come What May

On Tuesday, when I got the meeting invite I knew, with a sinking sort of feeling, was the meeting where I was going to be laid off, I texted Kuri and told her that Covid be dammed, I needed a hug. She arrived with hugs and poured rather a lot of beer into me.

Yesterday, when I texted a friend to ask about how to file for unemployment insurance, she both answered me and showed up with more beer and a small dog to sit in my lap and cuddle.

I am fortunate. I have enough money between the little bit of top up my work is giving me and employment insurance and my own savings, that as long as I’m frugal and either back to work at my employer or I have found another job, I will be ok for three months. (After three months it gets way harder).

I had started teaching myself python and Tableau before I was unemployed. I’ll carry on with that, and maybe go and find some undergrad statistics classes before I go and take a grad stats class.

I’ll weed and maybe visit with friends where is safe. I’ll build a catio and restain my deck and finally build a garden bench. I might clean the basement. I’ll read Focault, who is my summer reading project anyway.

I’ll keep plugging away on finding a job, knowing my employer is plugging away on finding a way to get me billable again.

And come what may, I’ll breathe through the next little bit. I have friends.

(And to the many of you who reached out, thank you. It will take me a bit to get through the awfulness of the last little bit.)

Posted in It's an Ordinary Day, It's the economy, Just a Working Stiff | 4 Comments

That’s Three

A week ago Monday, I wound up in Emerg with Sciatica. Then I got dumped. About 3 hours ago, I became unemployed.

Look, I’m not going to lie. A big part of my psyche is hiding under my bed and it aint coming out for anything.


My mum always used to say that bad things came in 3’s.

And as near as I can count, that’s three bad things.

Something good now, right?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Bite Your Lip and Smile

I bought a blue suit for Gabe’s funeral. I had to buy a new suit and not wear an old one, because not only were my pre-maternity clothes packed up, they wouldn’t have fit me anyway. It was, as I recall, quite a nice one. Being practical, I had it taken in and wore it for several more years. It always did remain the suit I wore to my son’s funeral, whatever other places it took me. Never mind. You look the part. Bite your lip and smile.

If you needed to understand me, that’s all I can tell you. I wore a blue suit for my son’s funeral. My hair was done, I was wearing makeup, I was deliberately wearing waterproof mascara. If I cried at the funeral(and I did), if I was a bit of a zombie (and I was), I cried as quietly as possible. I stood in a receiving line and shook hands, accepted condolences, thanked people for coming. The words came out of my mouth without thinking. Bite your lip and smile.

I am a lady. I do not cause a scene, a spectacle. I am classy. Gracious, even when it hurts. I am classy and gracious *especially* when it hurts. That’s what makes a lady, my mother taught me. Not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. Bite your lip and smile.

Yesterday I put on a matching sweater set, brushed my hair, put on some makeup to cover my red and puffy eyes, and went to the post office. I had a small parcel of the books J’s son had loaned me. A note tucked in, written on nice stationery with a good pen, indicating that I wanted to make sure that they were returned and wishing the son good luck studying for his LSATs. Emily Post could not have written a better note. While I stood in line I bit my lip so hard I can still feel the marks with my tongue. I bit and bit, while my mouth filled with blood to keep the tears at bay. Bite your lip and smile.

This morning I woke up to a text message officially dumping me. I didn’t scream, I didn’t rant, I didn’t rave. I didn’t even say my heart was broken. I got out of bed, fed the dog, got dressed, made coffee. Did my stretches for sciatica. Then I bit my lip again and sent a text back. I thanked him for letting me know where we stood and for introducing me to his children and letting me share his life for a bit. Bite your lip and smile.

I’ll finish this post. Answer a few urgent emails. Then, if you don’t mind, I think I need to curl up on the floor. I didn’t rant and I didn’t rave. I didn’t scream. I didn’t wail. I didn’t cause a scene, there was no spectacle. I was every inch the lady. Bit my lip and smiled.

But my heart? It’s broken. I needed someone to see the woman on the floor sobbing. I need someone to see what it cost to make it look this good.

I need just a little bit before I can bite my lip and smile.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A Canticle for Atheists

From 1994 to 1997 I recited compline every night while I was at school. Within compline is a part called the Nunc Dimittis, it’s canticle – a portion of scripture that is recited together. Perhaps it was the sheer number of times I repeated it. Possibly it was the fact that it was so often done in a group. Maybe it was all the years after I left boarding school that I still recited compline to myself before I fell asleep. The canticle became my mantra in hard times. If I needed to steady myself, calm myself, reassure myself, it was what I repeated.

When you become an atheist, that doesn’t work anymore. Slowly, haltingly I found a new canticle. I wrote the most current version myself in August of 2016, during my residency at Roads. The residency was a terrible time and I needed something to wash away the days.

I will do the best I can with what I have, making room for wonder. I will not do it all, but I can do something. I am enough.

It works, after a fashion. It does not have the history or heft of the Nunc Dimittis. I cannot hear the echos of voices I have loved reciting it with me. It is not nothing.

I have recited it to myself constantly over the last few days. J. abruptly, with no explaination stopped speaking to me. We are apparently, over.

If you had a childhood like mine, where your parents elevated the silent treatment to a sort of psychological torture, this is breathtakingly painful. I thought being dumped was bad. Being ghosted after 5 months, by someone who has introduced you to their family, said I love you, held you while you wept for your nephew?

I suppose that’s why I’ve walked around my house crying. Nothing seems to start it, I just notice that tears are falling down my face. Again.

I will do the best I can with what I have, making room for wonder. I will not do it all, but I can do something. I will laugh at the days to come, for I am enough.

I tell myself that when I heard the Nunc the first time in 1994, I could not have imagined the sorrow my life had in store for me. Neither could I have imagined the joy. You don’t get one without the other.

This hurts. It hurts with the sort of pain that I cannot describe. It will take some time, I thought he was something extraordinary.

And then, one day, the day will come and I will laugh.

Posted in Adult Dating, Learning Life, The Cheerful Agnostic | 8 Comments

Nerves and Privilege

I have watched the BLM riots in the US (and our own protests here in Canada) through a haze of pain. I fought the dandelions this weekend, and while my back lawn is dandelion free, my sciatic nerve declared enough. When this happens, the nerve feels like it is on fire, from your hip to your heel, and then in bizarre sort of sympathy, every muscle in your leg spasms. I woke up on Monday and had to crawl to the bathroom. After several hours of that, in which I could not sit, stand, or walk, I called an ambulance. I crawled down my stairs, they more or less carried me out my front door, and we proceeded to the Emergency Room.

Eventually (In a period that was really very brief, but did not feel brief) the doctor came into my room. He poked and prodded a bit, then chuckled knowingly. It turns out that there are two kinds of people in this world – those who have had sciatic pain and know that it is crippling, and those that haven’t and have no idea how a nerve could cause so much pain.

The doctor was the first kind – he told me what happened to him when his sciatica acts up. Twenty minutes later a very nice nurse was plunging a large needle of morphine and gravol into my arm. She was handing me a bottle with Percocet, and a prescription for a bunch of muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories and pain killers.

Which takes me to the privileged bit. As much as J. thought I was a bit crazy for going to the hospital (He’s in that second, no idea what sciatica is like, group), neither of us thought for a minute that it would be unsafe. I may have looked like absolute hell, but I had the colour of my skin and an educated woman’s voice. The system was built for my kind of person. I knew I would be treated kindly and equally.

As I lay on that bed, scrolling through twitter, I thought about what an Indigenous woman in my position might experience. Would she be treated with kindness?

When I very firmly insisted that I needed a wheelchair to move, I was given one. When I told them that no, I needed some help getting undressed, the nurse checked with me as she touched me. When I told them that I do the exercises and this was brought on by gardening, I was believed. No one thought I was an addict. There was no question of drug-seeking behaviour. When I made a joke about solving this with an amputation, no one contemplated sterilizing me at the same time.

Those are the benefits I know about. Those are the things that marginalized voices have told me I am privileged in. I am privileged in other ways, ways I do not ever see because this world was designed for me. I don’t have to see or live the hard way. I was in pain, and a system designed for me fixed it.

There are those who cannot breathe. They cannot breathe from the weight of colonization, the weight of prejudice, the weight of systemic oppression, and abuse. They cannot breathe in the tiny bit of crappy space we gave them on reserves. They cannot breathe because we stole their parents and grandparents and tried to “kill the Indian in the child”.

I have no answers. I should have no answers. I should have the kindness and mercy to move back so that they have space to breathe. And I should listen to what they say when they can.

Posted in This I believe | 5 Comments

Bit by Bit

I continue to survive. I say this because I had a bit of a break down on Friday.

Leaving aside the bit where my nephew died and his wife had to sort out funeral arrangements and manage things on her own, absent the part where I went to Andy’s funeral in shorts and a t-shirt, and the funeral home used facebook live which was a nightmare for everyone over the age of 60 to use, they muted all the music to avoid takedowns, and then it cut out after exactly an hour after it started – which was right in the middle of someone’s eulogy. . . .

Leaving aside the fact that I largely live alone and the people I love – especially the nieces and nephews are spread across this wide world and I worry that everyone I love is going to die. Alone. Which is what I am mostly. I thrive on connection and touch and however hard I try, online meetings don’t do it.

Leaving aside existential angst about the economy in general, what my particular provincial government is doing and what the madman in the White house is not doing to keep American’s safe.

Leaving aside the fact that exiting my house seems like entering a germ laden war space, and the fact that I must remember my mask and to sanitize my hands and I pull on doors clearly marked push, so how do you think following arrows in the grocery store is going for me?

Leaving aside all of that. . . .

Every Friday I finish the week still employed. Exhausted from somehow eking out enough work on various little bits of things to figure out how to charge 40 hours to something other than the “I have nothing to do” code. It’s not billable work, which would keep me safe as houses, but it’s something. I suppose. Every week I hit Friday a still employed management consultant.

And I sit and wonder whether that will be the case a week.

Some of it is surely that no one knows what is going on. Some of it is that my new boss is the sort of person who considers people to be widgets. I don’t think it would occur to him that this is hard. I’m trying to ignore the fact that it is equally likely he is aware that it’s hard and actually doesn’t care. Some of it depends on the fact that so much of my identity (dare I say it, too much?) of my identity is tied up in my job.

All of it is exhausting. I don’t know if I will have a job, which means I don’t know if I will have drug insurance, which means I don’t know if I will be able to pay for my drugs. That makes me worry about the ability to work, which is also a problem because I won’t have short term or long term disability if I’m unemployed.

Bit by bit, I get through. I call each week a victory. Tell myself that nothing can last forever. Nothing good and nothing bad. It is getting harder, I will allow.

Posted in Pandemic | 2 Comments

No End Date

When the Alberta Covid-19 social distancing measures started, way back on the 13th of March (which was more or less 10 weeks ago, if you were counting), I set up a zoom meeting with friends and former colleagues each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Originally, I set the recurrence until the middle of April. Then to the May long weekend. This morning I just changed it to “no end date”.

I am largely fortunate. I could not be with my family for Andy’s death and funeral, but I have a comfortable home, an income (for now, I may well be furloughed before this is over), a loving partner, friends, pets, a garden to work in. I have some savings and groceries in my cupboards. I have the internet, which allows me to both work and play. I have more wool than I could ever knit in my lifetime.

In short, if I have to do this (and I believe we do), then I am reasonably well positioned to do it. Even if I lose my job, there will be government benefits, and existential angst aside, it will not be glamourous but I can keep body and soul together while unemployed.

Still. I live in a constant form of dread. Always a doom-laden soundtrack. It is mostly quiet, and I can mostly breathe through the times it gets loud.

But there’s no end in sight.

Posted in Pandemic | 3 Comments