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

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