Saturday, December 15, 2012

Normal is the watchword

Hidy ho, readerenos. If you've ever experienced a serious depression, you'll understand why I haven't been writing. I have a hard time returning emails, phone calls, texts (so many more ways feel guilty about being a flake), even leaving the apartment. When I do need to leave for something, I drag my feet leaving and get there late. Almost everywhere I go, I need to leave an hour and half beforehand to avoid being late thanks to fabulous L.A. traffic, and even when I'm ready to go I seem to forget what I'm doing and get distracted, or I just don't get ready to leave until the time I should be leaving. Even in the presence of other people, I sometimes feel hands wrapped around my throat and I can barely speak.

A depression like this can feel like it takes on a life of its own. It's a nasty little gremlin wearing steel-toed boots that kicks you in the chest and stomach, and then when you double over it's kicking you in the head. It hangs on you, pinching and kicking and stabbing you with it's sharp nails. It's not like you can just walk away from it; it won't let you. The things that make me feel better, like being around friends, getting out of the apartment, writing, and exercising, are the hardest things to get myself to do. I don't have the energy and a lot of fear is surrounding me. Like the depression, the fear has taken on a life of its own. Actually, it's from another time in my own life. I wanted the time to process the horrors in my past, and I got my wish. Those feelings of terror are no longer shoved down in my subconscious. They are swirling around me like a fog. The trick is to let them dissipate instead of shoving them back down. I need to accept those feelings as real, even though they don't match my life now. I know that my current reality is not that scary. There's enough hostility and conflict in my life to make my distrust of other people seem warranted and necessary. Such is the life of a lightning rod. The big difference is that I'm an adult now with options that I didn't have as a kid. I'm not trapped and helpless like I was then.

As soon as I started to feel like I was pulling away from the depression, I had a huge breakthrough. Or breakthrough crisis, to use the ASCA terminology. I go to ASCA (Adult Survivors of Child Abuse) every Thursday night. I think it's important to go every week because it keeps me from avoiding the work of processing my trauma. At least once a week I am opening myself up to remembering and re-experiencing the parts of my life that were too chaotic and painful to feel at the time. When a part of my life opens up to me, it is a confusing mix of emotions. It was something that I kept in the corners of my mind, with little hints in my memory to keep it from sinking into oblivion. It doesn't creep into my consciousness though. It slams into my mind with such force I wonder how I could have ignored it for so long. Such was the remaining void in my life- my time on the streets. It is so obviously a huge source of unprocessed trauma in my life. Living on the streets was an unmitigated horror.

My friends were other kids from abusive homes. Most of the girls had been sexually abused, and the ones that grew up in Seattle were mostly from abusive and alcoholic families. They left home when their alcoholic and violent parent was on a bender, and sometimes returned when the parent had hit bottom and were remorseful.  Then the cycle would start again. Heroin was everywhere at the time, and friends overdosed. Some died. Some disappeared and I never found out what happened to them. People started using and they were no longer the same person. Shooting up heroin is like committing suicide but staying in your body while it rots. I could hear heroin in peoples' voices and see it in the way they walked, and I knew my friend was no longer in control of that body and that mind. I saw so many track marks and so many abscesses they seemed normal. The first abscess I saw was eight inches long. It tore a girl's bicep open like something had clawed its way out of her, and I almost threw up. I knew women who's dealer/boyfriend/husband pimped them out to fund both of their habits. I got my first tattoo from a very talented artist and junkie, and realized later he had pored ink with his blood in it back in the bottle he used for my tattoo, and I spent the next 12 years terrified that I would become HIV positive. (I've gotten tested annually since then and 20 years out I finally don't dread them anymore.) I kept the needle out of my arm, but the death and despair I saw never left me. It was a terrifying life of drugs and vomit and blood, skinheads and frat boys who attacked us for sport, corrupt cops that took a cut of the illegal drug sales and treated the street kids as badly as our parents did, and sickening adults who preyed on the desperation of children thrown out by their families, their schools, and society as a whole. We were human garbage. Yet, it was preferable to living with our families. Think about that.

I didn't see a future for myself after foster care kicked me out when I turned 18 and had to drop out of high school. My friends went to college and I went to the live on the Ave in Seattle. I was angry, scared, abandoned, crushed, resentful, defiant, ashamed, aching, numb, frozen, raw, and hurting. Hurting all the time. I stopped thinking about how much I wanted to die because I thought I'd be dying soon anyway. But I held on to a tiny piece of hope and a stubborn refusal to give up on myself, and I figured a way out. I found help, a lot of help, but I still had to give it everything I had to drag myself out. I feel grateful, but just as angry that I was in that position in the first place and angry that it was so hard and that every one of us deserved a lot more than we were given. This whole time I've felt survivor's guilt for leaving friends behind that deserved a chance too. And before I even made it through college, my brother committed suicide and I had to work doubly, triply hard to push through the grief and loss and get someplace safe. I had to get as far away as I could, but I guess now I'm removed enough and safe enough to let that part of my life back into my history. I feel relieved to replace that void in my life with the memories of a time in my life that has been very influential on me ever since. It shaped who I am today in a lot of ways. But I saw horrible things that make me sob and shake all over when I try to talk about them. I felt horrible things. I saw the extremes of human depravity and selflessness. It was it's own education, and I wasn't just slumming it. It wasn't like spending a year living amongst the poor people to learn their ways. I lived it. I survived it.

Having those memories back, not just of things that happen but how it felt to be there, my survival wrapped up with the people I've related to the most but felt the worst with, the life that was both the most real and the most precarious, my body wasting away (from lack of food, not drugs) but prickling and raw, actually makes me feel more substantial than I've ever felt. I've stopped feeling derailed. When all the pieces float up to the surface, they fit together. I fit together. I am exactly who I am, at this moment, where I should be. That is a good feeling, despite all the horror and sadness. It is whole.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I don't care what anyone says, I love Nancy Pelosi and Twitter

I'm tweeting with the election results, but my feed on my blog isn't updating. I'm at: https://twitter.com/tealrat

Also following:
https://twitter.com/wilw
https://twitter.com/msmagazine
https://twitter.com/ezraklein
https://twitter.com/fivethirtynate
https://twitter.com/DVanLierEsq
https://twitter.com/nprpolitics
https://twitter.com/washingtonweek
https://twitter.com/morninggloria
https://twitter.com/MotherJones

I'm watching the PBS coverage on TV and will check out Comedy Central at 8 pm PST.

I'm also following the  Five Thirty Eight election blog:
http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/live-blog-the-2012-presidential-election/#more-37333

and NPR's election site:
http://election2012.npr.org/

This is one of the few times I like multi-tasking/watching.

What if we paid attention more than every 4 years?

Vote or this dinosaur in Hollywood will eat you.
So after all these months of wacky election coverage and rape fatigue, it's finally 2012's election day.  The only thing that has kept me going through Team Rape (while wondering if I'm the kind of girl who "rapes so easy") and bizarrely bad math by candidates who are supposedly businesspeople who are good with the numbers, has been to jam a pencil in my eye and twist it until I've destroyed the part of my brain that wants to throw up when the word rape is tossed casually around as if it's the breed of the president's dog and not the violent soul-crushing degradation of a fellow human being. Just kidding. It has been the comedy news shows The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.

Every time I saw something in the news that made me think I had gone crazy because how could anyone say such a thing, they made fun of it on one of these shows and I breathed a sigh of relief that I am not the only one who spent the day with their mouth dragging on the floor. For example, women vote based on hormones! Women can't handle disagreement in a debate! (Apparently, potential female voters watched the debates not knowing what a debate was. Or just women who shop at Walmart. Or all women shop at Walmart. I'm not quite clear on that.) Also, body language determines who wins a debate. Not making any attempt to strengthen gun control for 4 years as president means you will for sure take everyone's self-defense assault rifles in the next 4 years, and every other Obama paranoia that didn't come true is scheduled for the day after the election. Two trillion dollars (Romney's proposed increase in military spending, sort of) is less than $445 million (2011 federal budget for public radio and television) and $75 million (Planned Parenthood funding).

Funny how all of those shows that gave me comfort are hosted by men, by which I mean, Holy Christ, these are not "women's issues"; they are, "Excuse me but it is 2012, not 1912" issues! But, like approximately 100% of female voters, I don't vote purely on these so called "women's issues". I care about other things, like economics. Basically, Romney represents an economic as well as social philosophy totally opposed to mine. My idea of free market capitalism is markedly different. On the military budget, I think the problem is that the government throws money at our military, which provides zero incentive to the military to focus, plan, make choices, re-assess and/or cut programs that are out of date or the technology is not working, make vendors compete for contracts to push the costs down, keep accurate records for Iraq reconstruction money ($6-8 billion LOST, are you kidding me???), and recycle or otherwise properly dispose of assets (like not pushing working planes into the ocean so the new plane budget isn't cut. Yes, they've done that.) Apparently, efficiency is a virtue everywhere but the military and every other government program benefits from tough budgetary review and matching funding with the most effective and relevant programs. Just not the military. Since 20% of the federal budget goes to the military ($718 billion in 2011) and only 7% goes to benefits for retirees and veterans, 2% to education and 2% to science and medical research, a small reduction would be a big deal. What wouldn't make a big deal is cutting funding to PBS and NPR, at most a whopping .014% of the federal budget (or 7% of the amount the Pentagon admitted to losing in Iraq). I'm not even going to get started with how I feel about farm subsidies because I'd be ranting all day, except to say that politicians say they believe in free markets, except when they don't. Which is a lot.

My other issue with the Republican party line is that I believe (as a public company financial compliance professional) regulations are critical to any kind of free market capitalism. One of the reasons is that you can't have free markets if investors don't have equal access to information about publicly traded companies. If investors don't have accurate information, or have less information than other investors (i.e. insider trading) than the price of stocks doesn't reflect the economic reality of the company and the stock prices won't adjust for changes, plus insider trading directs profits and losses incorrectly. From the perspective of consumers, subsidies, monopolies, and price fixing depresses and increases the cost of goods and services artificially. Consumers are supposed to influence prices through demand and without real choices (monopolies, price fixing, and other unfair competitive practices) we have no influence in the market. Subsidies screw up the supply part of the equation by encouraging production that is not otherwise economically viable.

When companies commit environmental and human harm and don't have to pay for it, the damage is not reflected in prices. A company that injures workers and damages the environment needs to pay for what they do. Otherwise, others pay for it who aren't responsible, and the economy doesn't reflect reality. In short, the way we run the economy in this country is like a game, but without referees (regulators), the game is unfair and the best team does not win, which hurts consumers and companies and stifles innovation which has short and long-term consequences for the U.S.'s success in global markets. Without regulations and properly funded regulatory agencies, the markets are rigged, "virtuous capitalists" are disadvantaged, the cheaters cheat and are rewarded for it, and our country and other countries suffer. My biggest beef with economic theory is when it oversimplifies the economy and economic behavior, but that's my oversimplified explanation for why regulations are necessary.

Not that I entirely agree with Obama's approach. I was bitterly disappointed when he didn't clear out Bush's economic team. I'm also like most liberals in that I don't approve of the continuation of Bush's foreign policy and "war on terror". But I still have hope for Obama. If Romney is elected, I have no doubt that this country will be a flaming apocalypse in 4 years. I have other reasons for believing that, and keeping rape-denying, victim-blaming, violators of women's bodies and autonomy out of office (the "women's issues") is huge. I don't know how much more personal politics can get than to be forced to have a baby by a rapist and snotty hypocritical misogynist politicians or have a dildo shaped ultrasound wand shoved in my vagina against my will and my doctor's. So that's what I'm thinking about as I wait for election results.

The real reason I wanted to write this (7 paragraphs in) is to give a shout-out to Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger, statistician, and writer. He built a computer model that correctly predicted the results for 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election (Obama v. McCain). As of last night, he gave Obama a 90.9% chance of winning the election on his blog Five Thirty Eight. For some reason his predictions enraged Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's Morning Joe, who said anyone who thinks they can predict the results of the presidential election is "such an ideologue...they're jokes." Now I don't know why Joe is so pissed at Nate Silver. Silver was on The Colbert Report last night, and both him and Stephen Colbert seemed to think that his math-based predictions threatened political pundits who routinely make baseless predictions that are frequently wrong and they don't get called for it. I have another theory though. Nate Silver is the biggest geek I've ever seen and Joe Scarborough doesn't like geeks.

I grew up in a time where being a geek was decidedly NOT cool. I might sound like I'm trying to be cool by saying how I'm not cool, but far from it. I'm not a trendy geek. I think of trendy geeks as the well-paid, IT-obsessed, Mac-using business savvy super nerds to come out of the Internet boom. People tolerate, even admire those kind of geeks. I grew up a nose-always-in-a-book, straight-A student, social awkward, funny-looking glasses-wearing geek with no friends. I still geek out at random times and get the weird looks that confirm I can still be socially repellent. I've often suppressed my geekiness because, as I said, being a real geek does not make you cool or well-liked. I have no doubt that my belief that I know more about Sarbanes-Oxley compliance than my boss contributed to his desire to get rid of me. Actually, I think it bugged him that I DO know more than he does. I came into the job with more experience, a higher level of certification, and a genuine interest in financial compliance rather than an ambition to move up in the company. In the 5 years I was there, I worked more directly with the internal controls. I didn't shove it in his face, but I didn't hide it either because it was my job and it is unethical to not do your job when you're a CPA. It has to be because telling people they screwed up and that they should do their jobs differently does not make you popular and it's a whole lot easier to tell people what they want to hear. It's also unethical to skirt the rules for personal gain, i.e. to not challenge management because you think it will help you get into management. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get into upper management or being a manager rather than a subject matter expert, but someone who is the head of a compliance department should not look the other way, tell their employees to lie, and lie themselves. I am unable to go along with something I think is wrong, and despite how I was treated, I was good at my job. So there you go. You may be able to tell why I can irritate people. (I initially named the company, but since I have a lot more to say about them and this post is not directly about them, it's been redacted. I'll avoid any search term DIscoveRiEs by sharing my Conviction that it's importanT to Vote.)

Silver has kind of a defensive arrogance, and I hate to use that word because it sounds negative, but it's a justified arrogance because of his intelligence and the work he's done to get to his predictions, only to get what seems like unjustified criticism from someone who is not even challenging him on his methods or anything measurable. He had a laugh that was a nervous snort, and he went on a hilarious rant on why he doesn't like pundits that was both substantial and completely belittled pundits as a whole. Colbert said it was "the longest possible way of calling him (Joe Scarborough) a bullshitter." My theory is that Silver is a nerd and Scarborough is a bully/jock, and their feud is based on that fucked up dynamic of brawn vs brains. Not that Joe is going to beat Nate up (I hope). The brawn was a verbal attack, and an incoherent one. I know nothing about Joe Scarborough except his TV persona, but he looks and acts like a jock bully so I'm going with that theory. Team Nate! I certainly hope his predictions are right, although Joe went after him for having the audacity to even make a prediction, so even if he's right it doesn't make Joe wrong. But my main concern is not showing up Joe, it's avoiding the apocalypse. To that point, Obama is clearly the geek and Romney is the bully jock. Obama is judged as too thoughtful, which is a strange criticism for someone with access to nuclear weapons. Romney won the first debate because he was aggressive, not because he explained or sold his proposed policies well. There was a briefly reported story back in May of Romney bullying a fellow prep school student who turned out to be gay. It didn't seem to hurt him much politically. At any rate, this time next week no one will be talking about this anymore so I wanted to geek out on it while I still can.

Also while I have the chance I want to come out strongly against the inexplicable term "razor tight". Last night's Colbert Report did a montage of political pundits using the term to describe how close the election looks. What the hell? I can maybe see how one language and time-challenged pundit might make up this nonsensical term accidentally, but a lot more than one said it. It's like they want you to know they are full of it. They are purposely not making any sense to get on the comedy shows. "Razor tight" has replaced "folks" as the most annoying political term that never should have gotten started in the first place. (No, it does not make you sound like a commoner to call people "folks". It makes you sound like a politician.)

Despite my trepidation, I am super excited for the exit polls and result to start coming in. Will it be a long night? Will my enthusiasm for politics jump start my flagging interest in the outside world? We shall see.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A path with heart


Hello from Hermosa Beach! I moved in with my fiance this month. It is ridiculously beautiful here. We are walking distance from the ocean, and surrounded by excessive homes. Real estate is expensive here on the ocean, and people are constantly tearing down huge multi-story homes and replacing them with huge multi-story homes. We live in a non-fancy apartment building that happens to be in a gorgeous location. You can see and hear the ocean, which is especially nice at night (the sound) and mornings and evenings. The sunsets are stunning, and there is something about the ocean early in the morning that makes you feel like nothing else matters.



I, on the other hand, am not feeling stunning or fancy. I feel exhausted, in every way. I don't know if it's all the stress I've experienced with the job, trying to transition into a different life with different goals and priorities entirely, sleeping poorly and the ongoing nightmares, depression, being overwhelmed, or something else. Or, more likely, some combination of factors. I feel like I'm in limbo between my old life and a new life. I really want to get into my new life, but it's such a new way of living for me. I moved gradually into the corporate world, but I don't have that kind of time to switch gears.

Plus, I have been experiencing an explosion of PTSD symptoms coming to the surface. My dreams, for instance, are incredibly draining. Some of them are like flashbacks, but memories of the feelings and anxiety rather than events. I still have dreams where I wake up terrified that my dad is in the other room. My conscious mind, once awake, knows that he isn't really there, but my body is overcome with panic. As long as I'm still in the dreams, I experience all of the mental and physical stress of what's in the nightmare as if it was really happening. I also wake up screaming and yelling sometimes. It is hard to shake the foreboding and confusion of the dream once I wake up, even if it wasn't a flashback. I have dreams about violence, threat, arguing, rejection, and betrayal. Nightly, it is waves of uncomfortable feelings I have pushed down for years. It is my subconscious trying to let go of all this toxicity that came from the trauma I experienced. After 40 years of protecting myself from being overwhelmed by these feelings,  it takes a long time to let them all out. There is no back door. They have to pass through my mind and my body before going out in the aether. I guess that  it's easier to experience this while sleeping rather than while I'm trying to be functional during the day, but it makes for very poor sleep.

I am also having the worst writer's block of all time. I have pages of topics I'd like to write about, but there seems to be a physical force pushing me away from my computer and my blog. I actually dreamt last night that I was in a house full of old ladies, along with my dad and my brother, that had secret rooms that once you wandered in you had a hard time getting back. I set my laptop in a room of old ladies, and then went to find my power cord and couldn't find the room again. I am so used to writing on the computer that trying to write another way is an even worse writer's block. (Ask any writer. I think it's pretty universal, even down to the brand of typewriter or computer, the style of journal, the pen or pencil, etc.) Even in my subconscious, powerful forces are keeping me from my computer, and therefore, my writing.

The mystery is WHY. I have the desire and time, but I feel stifled. I'm afraid, but I'm not sure of what. It might be that because I've always considered writing my life's purpose, I'm putting too much pressure on myself now that the time has come. It could be that I am overwhelmed with all the changes in my life and finding it hard to focus. I got engaged! I left my job! I moved in with my fiance! What the hell am I doing?!

When I was in junior high, my art teacher told my mom that I needed to choose between math and art. She said I had a talent for both, but I needed to pick a direction. My art teacher in high school told me that I could "do this" if I committed to it (art). I was overwhelmed with surviving my parents at the time, then my life, and then I did choose poetry when I was in college, and then gave it up and switched to accounting. Now I'm switching directions again. I don't think of myself as a giant boat, but changing course is taking about as much effort. I found another Carlos Castaneda quote that applies:

A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone one question. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't it is of no use.



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Broken Glass- Nuns and ASCA Edition


I'm completely freaked out today. One of my teammates on my Lady Kings hockey team was seriously injured last night. An ambulance had to come and take her off the ice on a gurney because she couldn't move. It happened because of a collision that was right in front of me. We were wing pairs at the time. We (the team) haven't heard anything about how she's doing, and I'm very worried. I've been doing things all day to try to keep my mind off it, so now I'm on blogging.

I'm always reading or hearing about things going on in the world I want to write about, so I thought once a week I could share these bits and pieces. Firstly, I'm very excited that a friend pointed me to a support group in Santa Monica. It is part of the ASCA (Adult Survivors of Child Abuse). The group is run by survivors, but they follow the ASCA program. They call it "Survivor to Thriver" and there's a manual and steps you can follow to help you process what happened to you and come out the other side. I am just so thrilled that this organization exists. It is a huge undertaking to work through childhood trauma. It is terrifying for so many reasons. You have to be willing to disrupt the delicate balance you've found in your adult life. Lots of people stay in denial because they don't want to or don't feel they can relive the pain they've suppressed. But it feels hollow to wall off parts of yourself that way, and you might feel like a fraud because you're hiding yourself, and your life feels derailed. You wonder who you would be and where you would be if this didn't happen. I want to feel real, like I am really living and being who I am. It is like diving into an underground lake and trying to find a different shore. What if I get lost in all the grief and anger and bitterness and despair, and never make it back to the surface? It feels very alone to be in that place, but to have a structure and steps and people who understand me and all my weird ways of thinking and coping mechanisms makes it feel possible that I could get through this. It is amazing to listen to other people articulating things I thought I was alone in. It was so terrifying to get myself to the first meeting and I thought I would just fall apart or melt away the second I walked in, but I was definitely not the only one who felt that way. I went to my second meeting last Thursday, and actually volunteered to help with the meetings. The Santa Monica group meets every Thursday at 7:30 pm. They communicate through a Meet Up page. ASCA is an international organization, and their website has information on finding a local support group, as well as virtual groups and a forum. This is the most hopeful I've felt all year.

Did you know that American Catholic nuns are radical feminists? The other day, The Daily Show was rifting on the Vatican condemning nuns for focusing on serving the poor rather than spreading their anti-abortion and gay marriage agenda. Yes, nuns are wicked awesome. If you really want to hear some ass-kicking nunnery, I highly recommend Fresh Air's interview with Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Leadership Conference represents 80% of American sisters. They talk about the hypocrisy of the Vatican going after nuns when they still haven't fully addressed sexual abuse within the church, the radical idea that women have a place in the church, and whether there is room for questioning in the Catholic Church. Personally, I consider calling someone a radical feminist to be high praise, but Sister Farrell's opinions are hardly on the lunatic fringe of feminism, and don't seem to break with the history of Catholic nuns at all. Haven't nuns always helped the poor? Why would an organization of Catholic women oppose women having a place in the church? It seems unlikely they would participate in an organization representing Catholic women if they felt they didn't have a place. The larger issues, I think, is the Catholic Church focusing more on furthering political stances rather than the work of Jesus, and the idea that being religious is incompatible with having a brain.

Rock on, sisters! You're a credit to religion and feminism, and doing the always important work of speaking out against the misuse of power. Respect.

Monday, July 23, 2012

In the blink of an eye


“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, 'I haven't touched you yet.” 

― Carlos CastanedaJourney to Ixtlan


I've been thinking about confidence a lot lately. For one, I'm staring my lack of confidence in the face since my old life shut it's doors. It's not that I don't know what to do. If anything, I have an abundance of interests that have come out of hiding. Besides playing hockey, my main non-work pastime, most of my current desires are coming from the creative part of my brain. I've always considered myself a writer, and when I say always I mean since I was about 4 years old and writing, illustrating, and stapling together my own books. When  I try to look at my future with the lack of self-consciousness of a child in pursuing my dreams, a purity of vision that is unsullied by doubt, judgement, practicality, marketability, or social acceptance, that leads me to writing again and again. I'm just not feeling confident about getting from where I am now to where I want to be. For one thing, when people ask me what I'm going to do, I'm finding it difficult to sum it up in some elevator speech. I'm not trying to sell my vision of my future, but I am trying to get people to stop worrying about me, if for no other reason than it stresses me out. I have no clue how to get from here to there, or even exactly where there is. I just have a general idea that if I go THAT WAY, it will get clearer as I go. There is no 5 year career plan here. If anything, I'm trying not to think of the future because it's so easy for me to distract myself from the present by fantasizing about the future. I am very goal-driven, but what I want is not part of some preset path, like getting a degree or starting a business. I have the MBA part of my brain that wants to make a plan, but the creative part of my brain that is taking center stage right now is saying no, I need to let the path find me. Said in another way, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I know I can do whatever I need to do if I can just find some confidence that I can find my own path forward in all of this.

The career thing is really a sticking point for me now. Becoming a CPA was not easy, but once I decided to do it, it wasn't hard to figure out how to do it. I looked on some websites, asked some university program directors some questions, read some books, and mapped out a fairly generic path to the career I had up until my work life went to hell. It was non-traditional in that I wasn't a regular college student, but it wasn't like I had to come up with the steps I needed to take. I got the college credits, took the CPA exams, got my audit experience, and found a job that was relevant to my experience. It wasn't all that different than what anyone else would do if they wanted a career in my field. It wasn't like I was making it up as I went along. Having a career made me feel like I had reached some milestone of adulthood. I had the salary, benefits, 401K, promotions- all the outward signs of success. I knew it didn't fulfill all my needs, or use all my skills, but I was good at it and I did feel confident about my abilities. I deserved to be where I was. I earned it.

I was missing something though. I worked in compliance, so it wasn't like my job was a rah rah capitalism is awesome kind of job. I was supposed to question authority and stand up for ethical business behavior, and I did up until I was attacked personally and lost the support of my team. I think I did take my role as an independent monitor that is not supposed to be cozy with management or kissing anyones' asses more seriously than some other people did. But the way I feel about corporate compliance and ethics is not mainstream. Practically nothing about me is mainstream. I have something different to offer, and the career that gave me stability and a certain social acceptability was also very restrictive. It kept me in that double life of trying to be "normal" by day and hold on to my punk rock ethos in the off-hours. It gave me a life that made me feel grown up but by someone else's terms. I didn't find my own standards for how to be an adult. That can be a challenge when you grow up with adults who are inadequate and threatening. You don't want to grow up to be them, but you don't want to stay in the socially powerless position of a child. You have to find ways to feel in control of your own life without the benefit of healthy role models or the gradual process of developing your own sense of self that takes place in a functional family. You kind of just get thrown out there in the world, with only your childhood coping mechanisms, in shock and numb from your childhood. I think a lot of us feel behind the curve, as if we start adulthood a number of laps back from our peers. You look for ways to gain control over your life and be a grown-up having very little idea of how to do that. There are no books or websites, besides this one where I write in circles and then try to figure something out from the fragments of my brain that escaped, on how to become an adult version of the person I was when I was creating my own books. Finding a career to go into is not a bad way to search for your adult self, but it wasn't enough.

When I was first sort of unemployed/taking a break, I had a moment of freedom from the daily grind. The career panic set in early though. It's a hard concept to reconcile myself with right now. I fantasied about leaving accounting and writing full time, but I thought it would happen later and most importantly, with a plan. My plan, my life, and under my control. Now I feel directionless and overwhelmed with the idea of finding my own way, a concept of career and adulthood completely unique to me. I was completely driven and confident about following directions to get to my former career, but this new chapter has no instructions. Yet.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Number 14, get out NOW!

I'm at the Oceanside rink watching the game before JW's, which was not that interesting until a fight broke out and they called the game early because the score was 0-11. Clearly someone is in the wrong division. It was someone from the winning team that was kicked out of the game, so that's kind of crappy. Poor winners.

My team played this morning at 11:15 am. We lost pretty badly. It was a frustrating game- their goals seemed to come off of fluky bounces and we couldn't put it in the net. I did go balls to walls, despite my lack of balls, so it wasn't for lack of trying. I'm a lot better at trying to carry the puck up when I get it instead of just dumping it. It is definitely a beginner thing to want to get rid of the puck the second you get it.

Okay, I'm back from JW's game. They won again, but it was a close game just like yesterday. The team they played today has a bunch of players who are friends of ours from our Lakewood team, the Dirty Martinis. It was fun to watch JW playing against guys he normally plays with. There are a lot of L.A. teams here. Tomorrow my team plays the Polar Cats, who have a bunch of women I know from playing in Panorama City. There are a lot of local teams too, and teams from other Southwestern states, but there are also teams from around the country (Oregon, Texas, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Washington D.C.) and teams from Canada (3 from Calgary, Edmonton, 2 from British Columbia, Alberta, Montreal, Nova Scotia). There are some funny names too- Phoenix Mid Ice Crisis, Bay Area Angry Dolphins, San Jose Brown Trouts, Anaheim Sleestaks, Burnaby Fighting Hedge Sparrows, Colorado Booooze, Las Vegas Hockey Mob, Phoenix Project Mayhem, but I'm going to have to give the funniest team name to the Las Vegas Hookers N Blow. How could you not laugh at that?

We're done playing for today. Tonight we have our team dinner at a place with an electrical bull. I've been waiting all year to go back there! We have the team dinner there every year. JW has to keep an eye on me because I loves me some tequila shots. A couple years ago I got a tad violently ill the next day and was a little sick for our last game. You'd think playing four games over the weekend would require you to be in great shape and take care of yourself, but you'd be wrong about that. If hockey players weren't such heavy drinkers on a regular basis, I'd say that tournaments are really where we do our annual binge drinking. That is true, but it's maybe only slightly more than some people drink regularly. I always have high hopes of losing weight over the long weekend, but that soon goes out the window with having to eat out and all the shots and how ravenous I am after playing. I am inspired to get in better shape when I get back to L.A. The stronger your thighs and core, the better and longer you can skate. Upper body strength helps you fight back when you're being pushed around. Building up your stamina with cardio helps too. Basically, the better shape you're in the more you can push yourself when you're on the ice, and bursts of speed to get to the puck first and fighting for the puck and position in front of the net is what it's all about. Onward!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's Go Kings!

Hello from Arizona. I'm here for the annual hockey tournament here in Phoenix. I'm playing in the lowest women's division on the L.A. Chill, and the boyfriend is playing on the Let'sGoKings.com team, which is in the second to last men's/co-ed division. Right now I'm at the Ice Den, the Phoenix Coyotes practice facility, waiting for JW's first game. I had my first game earlier today at 4:30 pm. We tied Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Posse 2. They kept in our zone more than we did theirs, but no one scored so we ended 0-0. JW is in the locker room and I'm watching the game before his, which is teams from the fifth from the top division. There are 12 men's/co-ed divisions and 4 women's divisions. The women's divisions are all, obviously, women, and women can play in the other divisions but you rarely see women in anything but the lowest divisions. It is really fun to just watch games, especially because the teams in the top divisions (both men and women) are crazy good. The game I'm watching now is very fast and physical. Few people I know could survive at this level, and this is fifth from the top. It is exciting to see people playing recreational hockey that are this good. Of course, there are former college players and even former minor league players and men that were drafted by NHL teams but didn't play at that level. I was told that women from the US National team have played in the the Las Vegas women's tournament (put on by the same people).

It is really nice to be here and no have any work related-projects or stress on my mind. I don't even have to rush back after we're done, and we drove here a day early. In some sense it's a real vacation, although you could argue since I'm not working it's not a vacation at all. My boyfriend keeps telling me I look so much more relaxed than he's ever seen me. I've been on medical leave since the day after I had the lovely conversation with HR. It's unpaid, so I'm living off savings, but even with the worry about money it is like I escaped hell. It is amazing to just be. I thought I'd spend a couple weeks in bed, but I'm getting up at a reasonable hour most days and I feel motivated to exercise and work on projects at home. Chief among them is digging out of my clutter problem, which I enjoy now that I'm not dreading going back to work. Since the HR thing I'm developed a touch of agoraphobia. I trust other people even less than I did before, and I feel uncomfortable wonder what people are saying about me behind my back. I'm finding myself going numb and feeling distant around other people, something I used to do all the time when I was younger but had abated before this "normal people should stay away from her" thing. My therapist didn't think it was very funny, but I told her I was pitting one anxiety disorder against another, that is, going after my hording while I'm stuck at home feeling afraid to go out. Might as well. It is the evolution of my post-traumatic stress disorder- one stress calms down while another one flares up.

I've felt totally comfortable since I got to the tournament. The boyfriend is the only person I totally trust, and I don't feel agoraphobic around my teammates or other hockey players. They are my people. Speaking of which, OH MY GOD THE KINGS MADE THE STANLEY CUP FINAL!!!!!! Today we found out we are playing the New Jersey Devils, who beat the New York Rangers in overtime. I can hardly believe that I, mere mortal that I am, will be watching Stanley Cup finals game live from the fifth row behind the home net. The Kings unexpected journey from barely making the playoffs to blowing through the first, second, and third seeded teams in the Western Conference in 14 games (12 wins, 2 losses) is inspiring. If they can go from perpetual underachievers struggling through the regular season to a playoff demolition machine, I figure I can find a way to live my dream as a professional blogger. Onward!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The present is weird.

The Kings swept the Blues and are going to the Western Conference final. Wait, what? I think the Kings Nation (not really a nation. More like a small town) is more shocked than anyone. After all, it's been a while. Equally shocking, Barry "Not on Twitter" Melrose picked the Kings to beat the Canucks in the first round (just to be clear, the Canucks were #1 going into the playoffs, and the Kings were #8), but bailed off the Kings bandwagon before the last round, picking the Blues to win the series. What up, Barry? You can't abandon us now.

The NHL Network must have had to do some last minute research, since the last time they covered the Kings was, well, never. NHL Network, glad you're giving props to Kopi, Brown, and Quick, but I beg you, cut back on the Nickelback. Seriously, it's not necessary to play a playoff montage set to a Nickelback song every half-hour. I get it. Nickelback is the soundtrack to the 2012 playoffs. I have been sufficiently brainwashed.

I'm actually trying to brainwash myself right now, literally wash my brain of thinking about the future. I never realized how much I obsess on the future. I'm on unpaid medical leave from work; my future is unknown. I feel it is important to not make any decisions at the moment. It is like standing in total darkness and trying to keep from convincing myself that I can see some familiar shadow to walk towards instead of waiting for morning to find the right path. I don't know what to do. I don't know what will happen. The constant struggling towards a goal has to stop and I have to let the chips fall where they may.

I'm also trying to not think about work. The HR response feels like a rubber stamp for people to treat me any way they want to, and I'm not only afraid to go to work, but I'm afraid to leave my apartment. That sounds bad, but I think it's actually good for me to be here because it is like sitting in my mind. I'm not distracted. There is a lot to do in the present. Today I wandered around my apartment doing random things- going through my piles of papers, sending cards, calling my insurance, taking care of the rats, washing dishes...my brain is messy. I really don't know how to be in the present. I'm always trying to get somewhere else, and my present has been neglected. I'm not planning to spend all my time in my apartment, but I think it will help me to keep practicing being in the present and cleaning up my messiness.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Apparently, my co-workers are sunshine hating vampires. I should have known.

I've been dealing with some very emotionally draining crapola lately, which has sapped my energy to write, but here's a quick update on my last two days.

Thursday, May 3

Kings defeat the Blues 4-2, go ahead in the second round series 3 games to 0.

It's nice to be a Kings fan!
Kopitar, Superstar

Don't worry about me, I'll just hang out here and wait for the puck.

I've never heard the ENTIRE crowd taunting the opposing goalie.

Don't be blue!

There were a lot of grins on the Kings' faces.

I love you Willie Mitchell!
Friday, May 4

My conversation with the HR woman who investigated my complaint of discrimination based on health status-

HR: Well, when you put that kind of information out there, you can't control what people do with it.

Me: You mean, it was my fault that my co-workers read my blog, talked at work about me being raped and called me crazy and told people to stay away from me?

HR: Well, you put it out there. (shrugs)

Me: So, if I blogged about being Jewish, and people talked about it at work and said anti-Semitic things about me, it would be okay because I put it out there?

HR: Well, you see, religion is a protected class.

Me: So is health status.

HR: Well, if someone hates sunshine, and they don't like people who wear yellow, there's nothing we can do about that.

Me: What if they won't work with anyone who wears yellow?

HR: Well, yes, that would be a problem.

Me: There are people who won't work with me.

HR: Well, I asked them, and they denied it.


Nice one, HR. Glad you took my discrimination complaint so seriously.

Since my co-workers apparently read my blog to get "dirt" on me, and that's okay because I'm "putting it out there," let me make sure everything is out on the table for you. I don't want you to have to read too carefully.

I have post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a mental illness. I take anti-depressants. I go to therapy. I was raped and sexually abused and physically abused, and I actually think I should be able to write about it instead of living in shame and secrecy. I lived on the streets. I did drugs. I had an abortion. A lot of my body is covered with tattoos, and I'm getting more. I listen to punk rock music and I was an antisocial punk who hated the world when I lived on the streets. I've been trying to fight corruption from the inside, but I've given up on you people. I come from a lower middle-class family. I'm not one of you. My brother committed suicide. My mom is clinically depressed. I have a lot of alcoholism and mental illness in both sides of my family. I wear a lot of black. I have piercings. I'm not married, and I don't have kids. I have sex with my boyfriend, and like I said, we're not married. I'm part of a non-traditional religion, and I believe in multiple Gods and Goddesses. I'm a feminist liberal. I think taxes should be raised. I don't have a problem with Christians, but I think there is a right-wing Christian conspiracy to take over the government. I think the death penalty is wrong and racist, and I'm pro-gun control. I usually vote for Democrats. I'm pro-choice and pro-birth control, and I think religous institutions' medical coverage should include birth control for women. I'm against teaching creationism in schools and for teaching climate change. I want our government to spend more money on schools and social programs, and less on the military. I'm for election reform and more regulation. I don't lie to state auditors, and I don't kiss people's asses or go after people behind their back to get ahead. To all of you who called me crazy- you are weak, self-absorbed idiots. If you pulled your heads out of your asses, you might someday become decent people but I doubt it.

Is that enough for you? If you think you're going to prevent me from making a living the way I choose, you are wrong. If you think you'll stop me from being who I am, you are wrong. If you think you're going to take away my free speech and my right to my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, you are wrong. The only way you'll stop me from blogging about whatever I want is to pry my computer from my cold, dead hands.

Enjoy your pathetic, shallow lives, asshats.

To my friends and bf- love you guys! You make life worth living.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Not a good time to be a lightning rod

Fresh rainwater, anyone?
I feel like I'm back in Seattle. It has been poring rain all day, and there was just a super loud clap of thunder. It set off car alarms. I thought the rats would freak out, but they seem fine. I guess I'm easier to startle then they are. See that blue bucket? It was empty yesterday, and it has been full of rainwater since noon. The actual sound of the rain is pleasant though. I find the sound of rain relaxing, which is good, because I'm dreading work tomorrow. I'm trying to concentrate on de-cluttering my apartment to keep my mind off it. I did some eBaying too. I'm slowly selling things off. It's a good, tangible way to get a feeling of accomplishment. I've included a donation to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) in all my sales as well. It's a good time for me to get more involved with RAINN. My weather station says it will be sunny tomorrow, so I better enjoy the rain while I can.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

With their nine inch nails and little fascist panties

Death from the Neil Gaiman "Sandman" comics.


On Tuesday, I had just found out what was being said about me at work, and I was outraged. The terror hit me the next day. I felt violated, as if these people had been in the room watching while I was raped. I woke up sick and out of my skin. I dragged myself to therapy that evening, but felt I had to hide my hair. I pulled it back into a ponytail and put on a black headband. I painted my nails black. I wanted to cover my body in black clothes and my head with black hair. Black feels safe for me. People can't see me in black. I know people notice me, especially if I'm wearing black head to toe, but they are seeing the black, not what's underneath. They can't see how vulnerable I feel. I started thinking about going back to work and wondered if I could do it, if I could see those people, knowing what they were saying. I just wanted to disappear. I thought of my brother, dropping out of the world, and understood. I wished I could just walk away from that job, from those people, and never have to see them again. Even more, I didn't want them to see me. It feels like when they talk about me, look at me, judge me they are taking pieces of me.They are acid rain, little drops burning my skin. Their words are leaches, attaching to my flesh and feeding on my blood. I cried a lot at therapy, as my feelings from high school washed through me. I was right there, that feeling of having a gaping, painful gash in my chest that everyone could see, and they just looked at me and talked about it as if I wasn't there, as if I wasn't a person hurting from this bloody wound. When I was in high school, I was a virgin but the talk about me was that I was a slut (with men), a lesbian, and a satan worshipper. The insults were not even connected to what was actually happening to me, even after it became common knowledge that I was in foster care because my parents were abusive. I wonder about why, when my blog talks about sexual, verbal, and physical abuse, dropping out of high school, living on the streets, being an antisocial punk rocker who is covered with tattoos, having PTSD and a brother who committed suicide, that the one thing they lit on was rape.

My therapist and I had two different interpretations of what it could mean to say that I have "bad mojo" and should be avoided because of being raped- either there was something wrong with me that meant the rape was something I deserved, in other words, I'm a slut and I was asking for it. The other explanation we came up with is that I was broken by the rape, damaged goods. Either way, it's the rape victim who has something wrong with her, not the rapist.The implication could include both. It's such a classic way to keep women in a box. When a rape charge goes public, the discussion is all about her sex life and how active she is, never how sexually active the accused rapist is. In some extreme cultures, raped women are forever disgraced, and sometimes murdered to restore the family's honor. Here in the U.S., we're so enlightened. We just call a raped woman a slut and a whore and treat her like a pariah. It's so easy to discredit a woman by associating her with sex (even though rape and sex are not the same thing), and with rape you can stab at an open wound, imply someone is a slut and corrupted, and color someone as a victim rather than a strong capable survivor. Even though the insults play on gender, it is not men against women at all. Women can be verbally just as cruel, if not worse, on other women than men are. Men usually have more influence, but women can make up for it in vitriol. It sounds like most of the people at work gossiping about my rape are women. Thanks sisters.

I slept all day Thursday and dropped 5 pounds. On Friday, I pulled my hair back and twisted it into a bun. I put a circle of black barrettes around my head. I wore black pants and a black trench coat, which I kept on until I left work. I tried to stay in my office. I felt a little like I was crawling out of my skin and a little numb. I had a hockey game that night. On the way there, I listened to Tori Amos (the post title is from Tori Amos' "Precious Things" from the album "Little Earthquakes") and The Ramones and cried a little. I was even afraid of being around my hockey friends. I felt different, and I didn't think anyone there would know how I was feeling and didn't think I could explain. It made me feel like I was on another plane of existence, and it was painful to be separated from my friends, but the thought of trying to let them into how I was feeling about myself was too much for me to do. I still wanted to curl up under a blanket and hide. I was looking forward to seeing my boyfriend that night but nervous that I would be nervous about being touched. In a sense, this is an opportunity for me to sit with some of my lingering discomfort with my body and the pain from social ostracization,that I've had for most of my life, and process it now that I am emotionally mature enough to deal with it. It hurts like hell, but I do have support I didn't have back then, and options. Hugs from my boyfriend felt good too. I'm moving through it, the only way to get past it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

There are no words (except four letter ones).

Rats- kinder and more accepting than most people.
Today has been a perfect example of my struggles with writing. I've had a burning desire, no, need, to write almost all day, but I also kept trying to talk myself out of blogging when I got home. I had class from 6 to 9 pm, and now it's after 10 and  I'm tired, no, wiped out physically and emotionally (mostly emotionally) and just don't have the energy or time to write the manifesto this topic deserves. But f- it, my job is why I'm emotionally wiped out and dammit it won't keep me from writing. Actually, I need to write this to reiterate how important this blog is to me and how no one can keep me from expressing myself without shame.

I work on a floor that is all finance and accounting people. There are probably more finance and accounting groups on other floors than just mine, but there are lots of directors and a couple vice presidents on the floor. There is also a raging social hierarchy that would rival any high school. I don't say that lightly because there was certainly a brutal clique system in my small hometown high school. I had lunch today with someone who escaped the floor to another department. I told this person (don't want to give details for reasons that will become clear) about my job troubles, and they decided to be honest with me and tell me that they were told not to be friends with me and stay clear because I had been raped and I was "bad mojo". That wasn't all that was said about me. Seems someone found this blog and I and my experiences have been a topic of conversation on the floor. Seems that I was not imagining that some people were treating me differently than before, and were really avoiding me, and others were being friendly to my face and gossiping about me behind my back.

On the one hand, I'm not surprised. I attributed a lot of the whispers behind my back and people avoiding me in high school to it being a small town. It's not unusual that people in a small town are all up in your business. I guess more shocking, both to myself and many people I've described this to, is that adults, teachers and police and neighbors, would treat me like a leper rather than showing compassion to a child who is being put through hell. I've had plenty of experience with people who act like the bad things that have happened to me are somehow contagious, but it's still especially galling that a presumably mature adult would act like that. It was a little less inexplicable to be treated that way by other teenagers. I was in my 20's when my brother died, but maybe because that treatment was still fresh in my mind I was not completely taken by surprise when I was shunned after Jeff's suicide. I distinctly remember feeling like people didn't see me anymore, they saw suicide, and I myself was consumed by loss. Since then, I've earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, my CPA license, worked in accounting and audit for 13 years, turned 40 years old, and I'm still damaged goods, just as much as I was at 17.

After all I've been through, what the hell is wrong with people? Fuck this social contract that I will be allowed to live a "normal" life only if I'm a good little victim who keeps the secrets I know they don't want to hear. Fuck these people who think it's appropriate for me and the billions of people who share these experiences with me to live with guilt over things that other people did to us, to hide our emotions in the shadows, to live a double life, directing our pain in on ourselves to spare them the discomfort of feigning sympathy or even tolerance for someone with different experiences than them. I am 100% sure that there are other people on that floor who have been raped and/or sexually abused. At least I've learned to push the poison of humiliation and blame away for me. I've struggled, and I still struggle, but I won't let it destroy me or turn me into someone I'm not. At least I feel comfortable writing about it. Being able to express what this is like for me keeps me from drowning in it. This kind of pain can eat you alive until you don't know who you are or why you should keep living. I don't have to imagine what it's like to live with a secret that makes you hate yourself so much that you have to wall it up and everything you feel, everything you feel about everything in your life because you can't live with what happened to you and still function in the world. IT IS THE SHAME THAT DESTROYS YOU. It's not what happened to you. It's when you have to incorporate those hateful things into your precious soul because someone who didn't see you or care about you took their toxic crap out on you and these ignorant, selfish people try to force you to keep it inside you. How dare they sacrifice you like that, how dare they treat you like you don't matter.

Imagine if I was gay, or a recovering alcoholic, or sick with a disease, and the people I worked with were telling my co-workers to avoid me? Imagine if the Jewish people I work with not only couldn't talk about their religion at work, but couldn't practice their religion openly outside of work for fear someone they worked with would find out and they would be shunned. That's clearly discrimination. It's not like these kinds of games don't have consequences. One of the people who used to be friendly to me and now won't look me in the eyes is a director of a group that I was going to work on a project with that is very important to me and the company, and now she won't work with me. She won't return my calls, she won't tell me what's going on with the project or anything else, and she is complaining to my boss when I ask her for assistance or even cooperation on other projects. I know she gossips with my boss because he's told me about performance issues she had with someone who works for her. I don't think she should have shared that with him, but he certainly shouldn't have told me about it. I can just imagine that my boss, an ambitious people-pleaser, was so thrilled to be included in cool kid gossip that he thought nothing of turning on a loyal and hard-working employee if it got him brownie points. It's not enough that I'm good, no, great at my job, extremely qualified, committed, friendly, smart- no.  I don't deserve to acknowledge my life experiences, even outside of work, because people will know I've got "bad mojo". I shouldn't be myself, try to reach out to other survivors, share my story, try to do my part to reduce the stigma and burden we carry, and feel like I belong in the world because I've been raped.

Give me a fucking break.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Blogging From Hell

Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage.
It is so exciting that I can, and have enough energy to, start a new blog post right after publishing one. I love being able to write from anywhere, although editing is much easier from home. As a matter of fact, this is an advantageous development for my writing. I always had a hard time not editing while writing, which sucks (to be technical about it). It slows down my writing because I'm flipping back and forth between my writer and editor mindsets, and it can cause me to lose my train of thought or the flow of my writing. It's a bad habit.

I'm sitting in Project Management class right now. I started this program because my job has shifted from Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance to "special projects". One of the first things I learned is that I am NOT a project manager, even though I'm managing projects at work. This is because I have no authority, and a project manager need to be able to make decisions about the project and allocate resources. Otherwise you are a project coordinator. My job has become a living hell, and not just because I am no longer doing SOX work, which was the primary reason I took this job and moved down to Los Angeles almost five years ago. That's bad enough, to be torn from my passion in life (or in work, more accurately). Over the last year to year and a half my position in my department has been eroding. Although my level of stress has skyrocketed over that time, I did not become consciously aware until the week before Christmas. The short explanation for this is politics. Corporate politics is enough to ruin a job, besides that I'm not working in my field of expertise and it's not because I'm advancing in my career, I was publicly yelled at and humiliated by my boss, and my department has been overrun by ass-kissing (another technical term) which is valued over expertise. They would replace ass-kissing with phrases like "relationship building", "demonstrating leadership" and "doing it the right way" though. All that corporate talk annoyed the hell out of me in business school too. I'm starting to become bitter writing this, so I'll move on.

So what to do. The stress I'm under is nearly unbearable, definitely affecting my physical and mental health. I have migraines weekly, and take anti-anxiety pills every night to get to sleep. I'm on two anti-depressants and HELLO, I have PTSD. It's not an easy condition to live with under benign circumstances, even more so when you are being yelled at among other things. My boss and co-workers talking behind my back triggers memories of the neighbors talking amongst themselves about the abuse in my family, and the small town whispers when my brother committed suicide, and the manager of the restaurant I worked at telling everyone so that when I came back from the funeral I knew they were talking about it but they didn't say anything to me. Like most people, I hate finding out people are talking about me, so besides all my past stuff, it's just not fun for anyone to have their boss complaining about you with your co-workers. It makes me feel awfully uncomfortable around pretty much everyone, because I don't know who's talking about me and what they're saying. Plus, it strikes me as wildly unprofessional, especially for my boss. WILDLY unprofessional, inappropriate, trust-destroying, motivation-killing, the emotional equivalent of throwing your cute pet bunny off a cliff while laughing maniacally and then telling you straight-faced that you have no reason to be upset. Maybe not that bad, but the blowing apart of my perfect job has been heart-wrenching. I really thought this was my dream job, for almost 4 years. When I look back on the criteria I had when I decided to take this job (intending not to settle until I found my dream job), it was:

1. SOX work
2. A company that has strong support for SOX compliance and internal audits, consistent accounting practices, etc.
3. A supportive, non-psycho boss
4. Salary - I want to explain this one. In my last job, I was underpaid for my qualifications, experience, and the type of work. It seemed that my salary level had an impact on the level of respect I got as well. It seemed kind of dumb to go through all that schooling and work to get my CPA license and then take significantly less money than the average for my graduating class in business school, and I was sick of just scrapping by financially for the majority of my adult life. I wanted enough money to not have to worry about money. I wanted freedom from money.
5. Stability

I learned in the project management class I took in my MBA program to reassess projects midstream to determine if they will still give you the results you intended. That was one of the best life lessons I learned in school. You can apply that reassessment process to anything you're involved in or any life choices you've made to see if it's turning out the way you predicted. If not, you can tweak your plan or abort. It's not easy though. We tend to factor in what we've already put into the project. That can be money, but it can also be time, effort, expectations, hopes and dreams, sweat and tears, anything you put into your "project" that you can't get back. In project management they call these "sunk costs". Sunk costs are irrelevant for the purposes of valuing the effort going forward. They don't feel irrelevant, but you have to ignore the past to get a clear idea of the future.

A good example would be a house you bought as a fixer-upper. Say you put $5,000 into the house and increased the value by $7,000, so you're up $2,000. You have $5,000 more in improvements planned, but you find out the last $5,000 will only increase the value by $3,000. If you bought the house as an investment, you should just stop now while you're ahead. Right now the value is up $2,000 more than you spent, but if you continue you will have spent the same amount fixing up the house as you'll increase the house's value ($10,000), so you're basically back to where you were when you bought the house. Even worse, what if you bought the house, started renovations, nothing is going as planned, and after spending $5,000 the value of the house has only increased $2,000, and after you put the last $5,000 you're only getting another $3,000 in value back. Abort! Right now you've lost $3,000, and if you keep going you'll lose $5,000. But it's hard for people to walk away from something they've put time, money, and effort into, even if it's not paying them back the way they planned. You want to finish what you started even if you know it's not worth it. Sometimes the expectations are the hardest thing to let go off.

I thought of relationships when I learned about sunk costs. How many people stay in relationships because they've been there so long and been through so much and they think that's a reason to stay? Or stay because the relationship used to be good, and they hope it will get better again. Not that I'm making fun of anyone, I've done it lots of times. Hell, I wanted my dad's approval long after I knew it wasn't going to happen. Letting go is a lot harder to achieve emotionally than it is to decide to do rationally. But I like having this logical, objective framework for assessing situations. Sometimes it's easier to get over the disappointment and other emotions of something not going the way you thought or falling apart if the logical, analytical part of your brain has figured out the right way to go and it is just waiting for the emotions to follow. The decision to walk away from something that's not working is a lot easier for me if I can put aside what happened in the past and just focus on the future, especially if it used to be good and it went to hell. Trying to figure out why something went to hell just confuses everything, and feeling bitter over how much of myself I put into this failed effort is painful and mostly pointless.

So back to my work situation. It no longer meets the criteria I had when I took the job (not SOX, don't have a supportive non-psycho boss, not stable because I really think I could get pushed out i.e. fired, and not in that, "Oh my god I'm going to get fired!" kind of way). Plus my criteria has evolved over the years, for instance, I want to be treated with respect and appreciated and recognized for my work. I don't want my job to make me sick or unhealthy, physically or mentally. I don't want to be so wiped out by my job that I don't have the energy to do other things I care about (like blogging). I want to respect my boss and co-workers, and want to work with them. I want to like my job. High on my list is to feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. SOX work feels worthwhile to me because I was working on internal controls that could prevent or detect financial misstatement or fraud. I was an internal control. I was contributing to the proper functioning of financial markets by lessening the possibility of my company lying or misrepresenting the financials and other information used by investors. I was a crusader for truth and justice in our (overly) capitalistic society in which corporate malfeasance can cost people their retirement savings and jobs, hurt the U.S. and the global economy, even cost people their lives in some extreme instances (suicide). What am I now? A corporate drone. A suck-up (at least I'm being pressured to be a suck-up, which I suck at). I'm a peon. I'm doing nothing to fight the good fight against corporate misbehavior. I have no control.

(We're talking about quality management in class, and I just accidentally posted before I was done. This violates my quality objectives!)

You might have guessed I take my job seriously. I don't want to spend my time doing work I don't believe in, with people I don't believe in. There is so much that is messed up in the world, and I want to feel that I'm at least doing something to make the world a tiny bit better. I also want my job to contribute to my life. I want to learn from my job. I want to feel good about what I do. My confidence and sense of self and competency should be enhanced by my job. I shouldn't feel beaten down. I've invested a lot in my career, paid my dues, worked my way up, and it really burns me to be in this situation. My boss actually suggested I think about quitting. I've been totally loyal and worked hard and made him look good. Now I'm doing what I'm trying not to- complaining about what I put into this in the past. I'm hopped up on anti-anxiety medicine (at home) and it is so hard not to feel completely betrayed. I am not a peon! I am not a corporate drone. This job is not meeting my needs, and not just because my boss is not a nice person. That's as far as I can go without violating my "no bad-mouthing" policy. (I hate it when people complain about me behind my back, so I'm trying not to do it myself. Another one of those things that is a lot easier to say you won't do than to actually not do.)

On the up side, my boyfriend has been amazing through my crisis of faith. He's got my back, not like my boss or that Jesse guy. I know he'll be there for me and help me no matter what. He's that kind of person. I guess this is one of those situations where one area of my life is super happy while another one is crashing and burning. Ah, the wheel of fortune. The ecstasy and the agony. I'm really tired and I want to watch "New Girl". I said I'd talk about the money, but that's enough for a whole other post, so stay tuned for Part II:


"Money often costs too much." - Ralph Waldo Emerson




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

15 minutes a day keeps the burning need at bay

Hello from my Droid. (The phone capitalized its name.) I downloaded this app so I can post anywhere my Droid is working, which makes me feel like I'm Texting my blog. (It capitalized texting too. It also thinks it's spelled wrong in lower case. Silly phone.) Or my readers, if there are any left. You wouldn't know it from how little I post, but I think about my blog and yearn to go home and write EVERY DAY.

I guess the reason I'm not constantly blogging is that I feel like I need enough time to finish a post. This is a tall order since it takes me 3-4 hours to complete something that will make me feel good. It's like a full blown exorcism when I write a blog post that really gets into my feelings. It's an ordeal that I want to be ready for, although the end result is that I've worked through something that I might be able to let go. It's worth it.

I discovered a website from the Get It Done Guy's podcast (Quick and Dirty Tips) for FlyLady. The site/program is to help people de-clutter their homes and simplify keeping it clean. I signed up for their emails (your views intrigue me and I'd like to sign up for your newsletter*) because, as I mentioned before, I am a risk factor for hording. According to FlyLady (or one of her internet minions) not wanting to work on something unless you can finish it is caused by perfectionism. I can see this. I am a perfectionist. I am basically a Hermione Granger beaten down by life and by the utter hopelessness of things ever being the way I want them to be, and my own struggles to come even vaguely close to my expectations for myself. What I want and what seems possible, through the lens of pessimism and disappointment I've accepted as the price of playing in a culture that I feel so out of synch with, are on opposite ends of the earth. I get paralyzed by the suspicion that unforeseen road blocks are in any direction I turn. Sometimes it seems easier to give up rather than fail at something and feel bad about it.

FlyLady's motto for this year is "Perfection is shelved in 2012!" Cute, huh? I love the rhyme. Even better, she ends every email with "You are not behind! I don't want you to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?" I love that (except I wish she would spell it "okay".) I am always feeling behind, in practically everything. There is no behind in this philosophy.

Another thing that spoke to me is this month's habit to work on - declutter for 15 minutes a day. At first, I thought, yeah, I can see fitting in 15 minutes a day and, if done everyday, I'd make progress. But then, in another email, she said you could break your 15 minutes into 5 minute increments. It was a revelation, not for organizing but for blogging. What if I could blog in 5 to 10 minute a day? This would be a total stylistic shift for me. My modus operandi has been to only think about topics I want to write about during the day, and then sit down eventually and write obsessively for however many hours it takes for me to finish something. Why not use the current technology to write in bursts? It almost seems unfair that our predecessors had to sit down at a typewriter, and keep re-typing their subsequent drafts. Of course it's cool to look at writers' and editors' notes to see how the writing evolved, even though many of those writers hated the idea of anyone publishing their unfinished work. Even though I love learning about the process, I am so focused on my own end results that I stress out through the work it takes to get there. It's hard for me to just enjoy the journey. I'm realizing this is philosophically kind of hard on me. When I do finish something, it's difficult to feel good about what I accomplished because I'm thinking about how I should have done it fast, better, more. This perfectionism is also driving me crazy at every step of the process. I think I should have finished this already; I should be farther along; I should be able to see the finish line already. Even if I do get lost in the work, the time before and after is filled with reproach. I am notoriously hard on myself.

My apartment clutter drives me nuts, my struggles at work shake my confidence, but more than anything else in the world I wish I was a weekly blogger. Nothing, in terms of what I do, means as much to me as writing. This often means I put so much pressure on myself and am so unhappy with where I'm currently at that I only hold myself back. If I could change that mindset, I could be writing through-out the day and feel happy about it.** Writing is joyful for me, and sort of magical when I can write whatever I want and publish it seconds later. Speaking of, I'm about to do that now.

*Simpson reference **Entirely written away from home!