Someone broke my brain.  Fine, it was me.  I broke it.

Periodically, and for no justifiable reason, my brain tries to make me crazy.  Not my normal brand of crazy, made up of social anxiety and occasional depression, but insane-crazy.  It makes me almost non-functional for days at a time, but it hasn’t defeated me yet, and I don’t plan on allowing it to do so.  When these giant, existentially-challenging, brain wars don’t work, my gray matter will sometimes try a different tactic– seizing on one thing like a dog with a friggin’ bone and effectively creating an intense tunnel vision that prevents me from seeing anything else, making the one thing seem much more colossal than it actually is.  That is what my brain was doing the past few days.  I may as well do something constructive with it.

Two weeks ago, I had the first of what would be five interviews for a highly desirable job that could well turn into an actual career for me.  At the time, I told myself there was no way I would get it and that it was a crappy job anyway.  I do this any time I actually want something because disappointment is extremely detrimental to me.  Most people respond to disappointment with a sigh and a shrug– or if it’s significant, a bunch of shots– but they tend to get over it in a fairly reasonable amount of time.  When I allow myself to really want and hope for something and then end up not having it, I sink into a sad hole of discouragement so intense that I refuse to even try to accomplish basic life functions.  So my way of protecting myself from the rabid despair monster is to not get my hopes up.  Ever.  About anything.  Until I have incontrovertible proof that it’s mine.  I call it being realistic, but in reality it’s pure pessimism.  That way, when I don’t get something I want, I don’t get super upset– and when I do get it, I get to feel excessively happy about it.

So I walked into this interview planning to give it my best shot but fully believing nothing would come of it.  Imagine my surprise when, two minutes into my meeting with the GM, he looked me straight in the face and told me that I was perfect for the position and that he felt honored to have the privilege of meeting me.  He also said that my timing was perfect, as well as my knowledge and experience, and that he wanted to move me forward in the process and have all of the other managers interview me.  Essentially he said he wanted to hire me and then spent another half hour asking me questions while four other people waited in the foyer to be interviewed.  And if you know anything about a restaurant manager’s schedule, then you know that getting an uninterrupted, half-hour interview with a GM is about as rare as a narwhal sighting in Iowa.  So I walked out of the interview feeling better than I ever have walking out of any interview in my life (Honored to meet me?  Oh, he’s good).  And I proceeded to have three more interviews with three other managers, all of which went quite well, including the ninety-minute interview with the senior manager (the GM’s co-pilot), during which he basically turned my brain inside out and inspected it with a magnifying glass.

Thursday I had my final meeting with the GM, my fifth interview.  He said that the senior manager had written “HIRE THIS GIRL” in all caps across the top of my interview papers.  He said that was an unprecedented indicator of approval from a man who has been in the industry for three decades.  We settled my wage, discussed my schedule, and spoke more in depth about my experience.  He told me that he was hiring me and that I could come in for my first day of work after he spoke with three references.  I gave him three phone numbers of people whom I trust to deliver a glowing review of my professional and personal behaviors and accomplishments.  He assured me that I should not worry if he took a couple of days to call me because he was shorthanded over the weekend and would be very busy.  He even– no exaggeration– teared up as he once again told me how honored he was to hire me and how perfect he felt I was for the restaurant and the team.  All of these things would tell a rational person that they  have securely landed a job with a kind and intelligent individual.  Correct?  Any normal human being would walk away from this encounter with every certainty that they will start their new job in a few days.  Add to all of this the fact that, when I sent an email thanking him for the interview, he responded that he would be seeing me very soon.

Explain to me then why I have been in a fit of restless, pensive anxiety for the past three days.  My brain has seized on the lack of a phone call– a perfectly reasonable situation that has no negative connotation whatsoever– and turned it into doom.  My brain says, “What if one of your references said something bad?” or “What if he changed his mind because you said something weird before you left?” or “What if none of my references call him back, and he thinks it’s because they all hate me?”  Keep in mind that the references I gave him were two former bosses (one was my mentor, and the other offered when I left to be an excellent reference for me whenever I may need him) and a dear friend who used to work with me and whom I just saw a couple of days ago.  And I let all three of these people know that my new boss would be contacting them.  How in the HELL is my brain turning all of this logical and positive and explainable stuff into a hell-bound doom-rocket??!  I have a new job!  An excellent job!  I know this undeniably in the area of my brain that can process logic and facts.  That part of my brain is often incapable of defeating the other part, which I liken to a dark, damp, cold cave in the middle of a forest from which all irrational fears and doubts emanate.  Hence my utterly unfounded, anxiety-ridden, midnight rant.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been doing research into the psyche– more specifically the long-term effects of abuse and trauma.  Some people, when faced with a terrible and daunting problem, will stick their heads in a hole in the ground and pretend that it doesn’t exist.  And because of that, it gets worse, and it envelopes them, and they don’t even stand a chance.  I cope far better with health and mental issues if I gather as much information as I possibly can.  I want to know why and how and what to expect and what can be done to make it less disruptive to daily life.  Some people find the rush of potentially negative information very discouraging; I find it soothing.  The better I understand something, the less power it has over me.  I have learned that many of my quirks– thoughts and behaviors and feelings that I thought were unique to me and my particular brand of fucked up-ness– are actually symptoms that are quite common among survivors of abuse and trauma.  Which gave me a great deal of comfort.  And validation.

I wasted two days with my anxiety monster raging under my skin and preventing me from relaxing or spending quality time with my husband.  (It honestly feels like an alien inside of me, permeating my muscles and making them twitch, making my heart palpitate and my blood pressure increase.  It’s so intense sometimes that I can feel it physically, like a burning rock sitting on my sternum and a bunch of smaller rocks gurgling and grinding in my stomach.)  I tried to stay constantly busy, waiting for my new boss to call and tell me when my first day of work will be and checking my phone every thirty seconds.  I didn’t sleep well two nights in a row, holding my phone on my chest.  This is the weird and irrational compulsiveness of anxiety sometimes.  Today I woke up, and though nothing had actually changed externally, the monster was quieter for some reason.  

I never know how long it will hibernate, but I always try to take advantage of its absence.  I made breakfast and ate without feeling nauseous.  I did housework and enjoyed the fact that I didn’t panic when the hubby went to the gym and left me alone for an hour and a half.  I watched Workaholics all day and genuinely laughed and cut my husband’s hair for him and listened while he played his guitar.  And nothing interrupted my day aside from the occasional intrusive thought.  Today I felt close to “normal,” and I liked it.  I want to have more days like today.  One of my friends, who is more like I am than most, sent me a long and rambling text reminding me that I am not alone in being weird and a little crazy.  It made me feel grateful.

I don’t like my monster.  I don’t like that it tries to ruin days that should be happy.  I don’t like that it turns good things into doubts and fears.  I don’t like that it forces its way in uninvited and stays as long as it wants, putting its feet on the furniture and tracking mud everywhere and eating everything in the fridge and clogging the drain in the shower.  It’s an asshole for sure.  But it also forces me to be strong.  And self-aware.  And compassionate toward other people who have monsters of their own.  So I take those things and reject the rest.  My monster has made me a fighter, a warrior.  So far, I have won every battle, proven by the fact that I’m still here.  While the monster tells me to be scared that this amazing job– that I earned– isn’t real or that I don’t deserve it, I will shield myself from its lies with my truths.  I am smart.  I worked hard to get where I am.  I deserve good things.  I am a good person.  I can be happy.  I am as strong as a deep-rooted oak tree and as adaptable as rushing river, carving its path across the landscape.  I cannot be broken.  These are my truths, and I live them.  Find your truths, people.  Find your truths and live them every day.  Because the light of those inarguable truths weakens the monsters.  And that’s how you win. 

Isolation is a Self-Imposed Prison. And I Love my Cell.

I have been MIA from my blog for almost a year, and I feel I should explain why.  All of you who follow me on social media see only what I want you to see, as is true of all of us.  And what I have allowed all of you to see for the past 13 months or so is a gigantic lie interspersed with brief moments of alcohol-fueled semi-honesty.  I have posted pictures of cool shit and articles full of righteous political rage.  I have posted things designed to make you laugh and things designed to make you think.  I have posted anything but the truth, and I am going to do so now before I lose the courage.  (Remarkably, there is no booze involved in the writing of this post, which suggests that I have truly reached a point of desperation in the need to release all of this pent up crap-on-a-stick.)

A little over a year ago, I began training with a company that made big promises and kept them well– for the three months that I was in training.  I saw some things in the training process that I felt were counter-productive, but I didn’t think much of it because most companies are periodically moronic.  Upon completing training, I was placed at a location that was run by an individual who, I soon learned, was every abusive person I had ever encountered in my whole life.  This individual was so very mentally abusive (certain words come to mind, such as “gaslighting” and “narcissism”) that I began suffering from a daily recurrence of PTSD symptoms that I had worked  years to overcome.  In addition, his boss was just as abusive, if not worse, so I had no one to turn to for help.  In speaking with the woman who worked with this person before I arrived, I learned that she had suffered so extremely from his treatment of her that her doctor had required her to be medicated for the duration of her time there.  Anyone seeing a pattern here?

While this was going on, we also had someone break into our apartment and hold my husband at gunpoint.  With my gun (no one preach at me about guns– I don’t want to hear it).  A week after my children left to go stay with their dad.  In broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon.  This occurred a month after a massively devastating health issue hit me, and I was not recovered, physically or emotionally.  The thought of what I could have lost– and that it could have been taken from me with my own weapon– still gives me serious heart palpitations, nausea, and panic when I consider it.  So I don’t.  With this mountain of stress, I saw no way to hold myself or my life together outside of the greatest feat of repression I have ever attempted.  And those of you who have known me since my first marriage know that I am the widely-acknowledged QUEEN  of repression.  I was painfully aware that, should I choose to try and process all that had happened, I would have a full-blown nervous breakdown and lose everything.  I speak from experience.  This is exactly why I have become so good at taking all of those monstrous and evil things and tucking them away into tidy boxes in the attic of my mind with the label DO NOT OPEN UNTIL FULL MENTAL BALANCE IS ACHIEVED.  It is a necessity.  It is self-preservation.  Any one of these things I may have been able to deal with on its own.  After all, I have been dealt some shitty hands in my thirty-six years– chronic illness and anxiety disorder, the loss of both of my parents, a divorce, living across the country from my kids half the time, estrangement of most of my remaining family, etc.  (Don’t get me wrong– I’ve been dealt some straight flushes too: my second marriage, learning my own strength [which is nothing to shake a stick at], landing a brilliant new job, having three of the most beautiful and intelligent children ever to walk the earth, and on and on…)  So for me to say that something is too much… it’s really too much.

I operated on autopilot for a year.  I didn’t see my husband for more than a few hours per week, due to the fact that I was required to work every weekend, and most weeks I worked 60-70 hours.  Every day I dealt with crippling anxiety caused by my work environment, and every night I came home and had two or three shots to kill my racing thoughts so I could sleep for six hours.  And that formula was certainly effective in repressing most of my emotions for me.  I found us a new apartment right before our lease was up, so moving occupied any spare time I may have had between work and sleep (and there was none).  The moving helped tremendously– we went from an unsecured apartment in a crime-ridden area to a gated community with private security patrols twenty-four hours a day.  We no longer barricaded the front door and windows at night and no longer slept with a three-foot long sword (yes, a real sword) next to the bed.  We no longer had to search the apartment for intruders after every grocery trip, and we stopped jolting awake in terror at every sound.  The nightmares stopped for the most part.

Around Christmas we were allocated a therapist by the city to help us cope with the adjustment disorder and PTSD from which we were both suffering.  And do you know what I did?  I lied to our therapist.  My need to repress what was really eating me alive was so very overpowering that I lied to our therapist– the one person who was especially assigned to deal with all of that overflowing brain-garbage I couldn’t handle.  I said what I was expected to say.  I told him some other traumas that I had already dealt with to an extent and was therefore more prepared to disclose.  This worked for awhile.  Occasionally I would have verbal diarrhea or break down for fifteen minutes, but it was all very superficial– my heart wasn’t in most of it.  It wasn’t that I was being consciously disingenuous; I just didn’t know how to be anything else.  When you repress for so long, it becomes habit, instinct.  And you don’t know how to stop.

In March I stopped working for the company that was putting me through daily hell.  I knew there would be some financial worries for a minute, but I preferred that to the constant abuse and misery.  I was working 60-70 hours a week to spend my two days off alone, passed out on the couch, recovering from the other five days and preparing myself for another five.  And always, always suffering from a level of anxiety that I knew was very unhealthy both physically and mentally.  It wasn’t worth the decent paycheck.  Besides, with my experience, a job in my industry is never hard to find.  Once I left the company, I began to see exactly how badly the job had affected me.  I hadn’t seen the full scope of it until I was removed from the situation.  I stopped drinking immediately– I didn’t need it, and minus the stressors, I didn’t want it.  For the first two weeks after I left, I made an effort to go to the beach and to the store and to the park, etc. just about every day.  There was rarely a day that I didn’t leave the apartment.  And then that changed.  I stopped feeling capable of facing the world outside of my safe home.  I dreaded the thought of interacting with a stranger, even on the phone.  I started finding excuses to stay indoors.  I exercised at home.  I sent my husband to the store.  I would only go anywhere at hours when I knew there was likely to be very little human interaction, and then I would make every effort to appear as unapproachable as possible.  I even managed to throw out my hip and lower back, which– although frustrating and very genuine– conveniently gave me an excuse to stay home for a full week.  I felt myself sinking… and sinking… and sinking… down into that murky depth of suffocating sadness where everyone is an enemy and everything is a reminder of something that hurts.

I spent a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram to give the illusion that I was interacting with other people.  I played with my makeup for hours every day because it calmed me and made me happy.  And when I wasn’t doing that, I was watching TV (there is never not a TV on around me– I require the constant and mindless noise, even when I sleep.  It drowns out the monsters), exercising a little, doing food prep, looking for a new job.  Mostly watching TV.  And having an over-the-top emotional reaction to everything my husband said.  (I’ll say this for him– he has the patience of a saint, and he must honestly love me.)  I knew something was wrong.  I started being more honest with our therapist and letting him help me get the emotional blowups under control.

And then something triggered the trauma from the things that happened last summer.  The repression stopped working.  I stopped even trying to talk to people on social media.  I went to job interviews, and that was the extent of my human interaction (ironically this was when I landed my new job).  I felt like a walking wound, like an animal that has shed its exoskeleton and is soft and pink and fragile until the newly exposed skin hardens– vulnerable.  Hugely and terrifyingly vulnerable.  So I curled up in bed.  A lot.  For days.  And I drank a little bit (though not nearly as much as I had when I was working).  And I cried.  And cried.  And cried some more.  After a week of that, I started looking into what I had experienced, the science of how multiple traumas effect the brain.  I started researching how to deflect the inevitable abusers with whom I will occasionally come into contact.  I started seeking knowledge that made me feel powerful and in control of myself.  Able to protect myself.

I am not completely out of the dark and swirling waters of sadness yet.  I am sad.  I am comfortable with saying this now– I am sad about what happened.  It hurts when I think about it.  A lot.  But I have remembered that the sadness is temporary.  It will go away.  Today I got up early and asked my husband to take me to the beach.  It was the second time in a week that I have asked to go to the beach, which has always been my favorite place in the world and my solace.  I felt the waves pull the dirt and bad feelings out of my soul, making it feel clean and peaceful for a little while.  And while I am still not ready to socialize– I had to decline a last-minute invitation to dinner with friends this afternoon and send the hubby without me– I am consciously making the effort to walk out of my isolation cell.  I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I will keep going to the beach.  I will find a local community of like-minded women with whom I can feel mostly okay (I set a goal for myself to find a book club or something similar before the end of June).  I will have days that feel mostly happy and full of sunshine.  I will have days that are spent in bed, probably crying.  On those days, I will remember the sunshine-y days and look forward to the next one.  Because even though I know the bad days are inevitable, I remind myself that the good days are inevitable too.   On the dark days, I dig down deep and see how strong I am; on the bright days, I enjoy that strength and feel like Superwoman.  I have been through things in my relatively short life that most people will not experience, and I have seen and felt grief and sadness and rage that most people cannot fathom.  But that also means I have discovered a power in myself of which most people will never be cognizant.  And it means that no one can break me anymore.  That is very beautiful.  And it means that the happiness, the joy, the good things are felt so much more intensely than the vast majority of the population gets to feel.  That is also very beautiful.

Exactly one year after I lost my mom, I got a tattoo in honor of her.  It is the only one of my 20+ tattoos that is visible when I am fully dressed, and that is because I need to be able to look down and see it at any given moment.  Still I rise.  That is the most important lesson my mother ever taught me– that no matter what, I am to pick myself up and keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep breathing in and out until I don’t have to remind myself to do it.  Until it comes naturally again.  Because life is a gift.  It is not to be taken for granted or thrown away or wasted or given up too easily.  And I can choose how to use my pain.  I can use it as an excuse to stop trying, to hurt everyone around me, to turn into a little ball of meanness and anger.  Or I can use it to to make myself so very, very strong.  I can use it to appreciate the good things more.  I can use it to be wiser and make better decisions.  And I can use it to ensure that I do not give up– ever– because then the monsters would win.  I am the only winner here.  So still I rise.

Someone Needs to Pass a Law Against Free-Range Douchebags

I wrote this a few months ago and then didn’t finish it.  Then yesterday some stupid c-word (not referring to ‘customer’) tried to ruin my day by yelling at me and threatening me because her day was already ruined, and she needed to take it out on an innocent person. She failed because I am smart enough and thick-skinned enough that I couldn’t give less of a craphole what an obviously-insane person thinks of my managerial skills, but I do feel the need to remind the general public why most of the hospitality industry hates their goddamn guts.

People make me mad all the time for being stupid about everything, but none more so than the freely roaming douchebags that have infiltrated society like a plague of entitled locusts.  You know these people– the ones who think they deserve special treatment, that for some incomprehensible reason they are more important than everyone else.

These people go to a busy restaurant on a Saturday night without a reservation and then get pissed when they have to wait an hour or more for a booth.  They get mad that they can’t reserve a private table that seats six for just two people– on a holiday.   Or they insist on being seated in a “quiet area” at 7:00 on a Friday night.   Let me know if you find that quiet area because I can guarantee you–it doesn’t exist.  You want quiet?  You don’t want to make a reservation but also don’t want to wait?  Go out to eat at 3:00 on a weekday.  This douche is also the lady (and I use the term ‘lady’ loosely) who calls during the middle of lunch and expects the host to read her the menu, despite the fact that the host has ten people lined up at the front waiting to be seated and a phone ringing off the hook, all because she’s too lazy to take five minutes to pull it up on her phone and read it herself. Then, when the poor host doesn’t have time to read all eighty-five items, the douche-lady shows up in person to complain about it, insists she has a limited amount of time for lunch, but then sits at the bar for an hour and a half.  I personally wished some serious, explosive diarrhea on that particular douche.  

These are douche bag things that you should NOT do to hospitality workers:

1.  Do not call to ask what the hours are or if we have happy hour or if we take reservations.   All of that information is readily available online.  It takes thirty seconds to find it.

2.  Do not call and ask someone to read you the menu.  That information is also very, very easy to find online.

3.  Do not call to make reservations if you can make them online, unless you have a large party.

4.  Do not call before the restaurant opens.  People are busting their asses trying to get the place set up for your ungrateful ass, and calling before someone is specifically manning the phones is extremely frustrating.   You’re interrupting someone who is trying to do three people’s worth of work in an hour.

5.  Do not complain about shit at the front desk.  The host can’t do anything about it, and you’re making yourself look like a dickhole in front of anyone who happens to be around.  People empathize with the poor, unsuspecting employee, not with you.  Hourly employees have no control over the busyness of the establishment, the quality of your food, or whether the valet took too long to retrieve your car.  Management is the only staff qualified to take your complaint and the only staff that can actually do anything about it.

6.  Which brings me to number six.  Do not immediately go to the front desk to ask where the valet is if he isn’t present at the valet stand.  He’s either parking a car or retrieving a car– HELLO!!  Where the fuck else do you think he is?? He’s doing his job.  And no, we don’t have a way of monitoring him or getting hold of him.  Valet companies contract out to restaurants– they are not employed by the establishment itself.  I highly doubt that your day will be ruined if you actually have to wait thirty seconds for someone to get your car.  Or you could– *gasp*– park it yourself!

7.  Do not ask for directions.   In the days of advanced GPS systems, you can find your own way.  If you can’t, you shouldn’t be out driving by yourself.

8.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go out to eat unless you are planning to tip a minimum of 20%.  If you have qualms about that or you can’t afford it, go to McDonald’s.

9.  Do not come in with a party of 10 people and ask for separate checks.  You just ruined someone’s day by doing that.  It adds ten minutes, minimum, to your checkout to get all of those items split onto the correct checks and then handed out to the correct people and then ten forms of payment processed.  And you also just weeded your server because that’s ten minutes that he couldn’t get to any of his other tables.  So now they’re pissed off, and he has a lot of catching up to do.  Tell everyone to bring cash beforehand.  It takes two minutes out of your day to hit an ATM.

10.  Do not complain that you can’t get the exact table you want.  Most restaurants do not hold specific tables for people  (unless it’s some corporate bigwig), and they can’t bend the rules for you.  Why are you more important than anyone else who might arrive before you and want that table?  Other people have birthdays and anniversaries too, ya know.  And believe it or not, you will get the same quality of service and food regardless of your table.  Better, actually, if you gracefully accept the table to which the host leads you, rather than having a grown-up hissy fit in the dining room.  Or surrounding her like a group of teenage bullies and all four of you verbally attacking her at once.  That shit happened, people.

11.  Do not insist on being seated in a completely different section of the restaurant than the one to which you have been led.  Hosts have the responsibility of evenly distributing business so that every server has the opportunity to make money.  By picking your own seat, you are upsetting the flow of the restaurant and the employees.

12.  Do not ask for ten different modifications to your food.  It pisses off the entire kitchen.   The menu is a set menu for a reason.  Don’t like it?  Go eat somewhere else.

13.  Do not visit a restaurant on a regular basis and bitch about something every time you come in.  If it’s so terrible that you need to complain every time, why do come back?  Again,  go somewhere else.

14.  Do not give a single location bad feedback because of some corporate policy over which they have no control.  Don’t like the loyalty program?  Take it up with the corporate office.   We can give you the number.  Don’t like the FREE bread?  You can call that same number.  And for Christ’s sake, don’t complain to a manager or other staff member about that shit!  They can’t do anything about it, and when you complain about free bread, you look like a hairy dick.

15.  Do not ask employees personal questions or make comments about their appearance.  It’s a good way to get boogers and cum in your food (thank you, South Park).

16.  Do not call a female employee ‘sweetheart ‘ or ‘honey’ or any other term of endearment.   It’s disrespectful and misogynistic and makes us want to drag you from the back of a truck over broken glass. 

17.  Do not EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES put your hands on an employee.   There is no situation in which that is acceptable.   I have had people removed from the premises for that shit.

18.  Do not tell us your life story.  On the phone or in person.  We’re busy– we don’t have time for that shit.  If you’re lonely, hire an escort. 

19.  Control your children.  No one wants to listen to them scream– it ruins everyone’s meal.  Keep them in their seats and quiet.  Don’t take them to the bar, either– that ain’t classy.  That’s a grown-up environment.   And for fuck’s sake, don’t let little Jackass Jr. put his sticky paws all over the windows and glass door panels!!  Someone has to clean that shit.

20.  Speaking of which, do not open doors by putting your hands on the glass.  That is really unnecessary.  There’s a freakin’ handle right the fuck there– use it!

21.  Do not interrupt an employee who is trying to take care of another customer.  That’s just shitty.

22.  Do not snap your fat fingers at an employee to get his attention.  It creates instant loathing in the core of our beings.

23.  Do not tell us you’re a Yelper or a loyalty member or that you ‘know the owner.’  We could not give less of a shit.

24.  Do not tell us you’re giving us a bad reviews on Yelp.  Again,  could not give less of a shit.

25.  Do not show up with a party of eight people without even bothering to call to see if we have room.  You just totally disrupted the entire dining room.

26.  If you made a reservation for fifteen people but then find out later there will only be ten of you,  have the courtesy to update your reservation.  It makes a big difference in the dining room setup.  Same thing if you originally made a reservation for eight but then end up with twelve people.

27.  Do not try to make holiday reservations on the holiday.  Do not walk in without a reservation on a holiday.  Do not show up early for your holiday reservation and expect to be seated early.  There’s a reason for reservation times.  Dining rooms have a finite amount of space.

28.  Do not occupy a table for two and a half hours when the restaurant is busy.  We need those tables.

29.  Do not occupy any table for more than two hours unless you plan on leaving a huge tip to make up for causing your server to lose possible business.

30.  Do not make reservations at closing time.  Do not come in ten minutes before we close.  It makes every single employee in the restaurant hate your guts— kitchen is already clean, servers have done their sidework, manager has already counted the safe and put away the drawers.  You just added two hours to everyone’s already long night, and you will get surprises in your food.

31.  Being verbally abusive to a perfect stranger is completely unacceptable, regardless of how long your food took, how long you were on hold, or any other petty complaint you may have.  When you get all judge-y and superior towards someone who is just trying to make a living, it exposes you for the human trash you are.  You cannot honestly expect to treat another human being that way and then get any semblance of a satisfying solution to your problem.  Short of assaulting you or stealing your credit card info, no employee deserves that.

I could write a whole book on this shit, people.   It would be titled How Not to be a Shitty Dick.”  Because apparently, many grown-ass people are too idiotic to know when they’re being shitty dicks.  Fuck you, shitty dicks.  Fuck you. 

Well… It’s About as Bad as a Swift Kick in the Face with a Shoe Made of Broken Glass

I’ve been disconnected for a couple of months, and it’s because I’ve had a lot going on, a lot of changes to handle in a short period.  Some of them are good, and some of them are bad, but all of them are emotionally-charged and challenging and have taken up most of my spare time.  The little time I have had left has usually been spent napping or watching TV because I feel that it’s very important for me to spend at least some of my time being a useless, lazy fuck.  

Unfortunately, there is a fine line between detaching from the world for a little while and isolating, and I realized I was isolating about two weeks in.  I just wasn’t ready to do anything about it.  And I’m still not, but I’m getting worse, so I have to force myself to reach out just a little.  The past week has been a very special brand of terrible, and I can feel the cracks forming.  I know the more I ignore them, the bigger they will grow, until I crumble into a snotty, tear-soaked pile of emotional dust.  If, however, I take on the painful and difficult task of recognizing the cracks and patching them, I can live to have a nervous breakdown another day.  So I am using some of my lazy-fuck-TV-watching time to face the smallest amount of emotion I can and still function in a somewhat-human manner.  That means crying for awhile and hurling invectives at no one in particular and also maybe getting a little drunk.  Nothing too destructive. 

My point here, amidst all the lamenting and bitching, is that it’s important to recognize when you’re doing something that is unhealthy for you  (like isolating and pretending you have a Vulcan-like immunity to feelings) and to pull yourself out of it a little bit at a time.  And if you can’t pick yourself up, then for shit’s sake, ask for help.  I’m very bad at that, but I will do it when I get to the point that I can’t even deal with a trip to the grocery store.  Life can be really great, and it can be really shitty, and then sometimes it goes all great and shitballs all at once, so you don’t even know what you’re supposed to be feeling.  And that’s where I am right now, so I have moments of happiness, followed by moments of grief, and then moments of rage at the grief for intruding on the happiness because I get precious little of that.  It’s been a very bipolar couple of months.

I don’t want to write this.  I don’t want to post it.  I don’t want to talk to anyone or look at what I’m feeling.  But I need to, and life is about doing what’s needed rather than what’s wanted more often than not.   So there it is, just putting it out there so that it’s not locked up inside and eating away at me.  I will end with my all-time favorite quote by Khalil Ghibran: “Out of suffering emerges the strongest souls.  The most massive characters are seared with scars.”  I will have a massive character one of these days, and it will be my badge of honor.

Being Brave

I have felt better lately, more confident, having the courage to finally show my writing– and therefore myself– to the world.  To me, writing is baring the soul, the heart, the very nakedness of myself.  So when I finally started this blog, after years of wanting so desperately to do so but being so deeply terrified of it, I felt a freedom that I cannot compare with anything else in my life.

I felt very alone for the first 31 years of my life.  I was surrounded by people who not only did not understand me but who also used me as a punching bag on which to take out all of their aggression, fear, and sadness.  I don’t know whether that actually caused my depression and anxiety disorder or exacerbated it, but I have lived with those things for as long as I can remember.  I began suffering from insomnia at the age of three, and I first experienced depression while I was still in elementary school.  The anxiety and panic came when my parents separated.  I was twelve when I had my first panic attack.  I was spending the night with my grandparents, and my grandma and I were sharing a bed because I was having trouble sleeping.  I sat bolt upright shortly after laying down, overcome by a sense of pure panic, dread, and terror.  My grandmother was hard-pressed to calm me and get me to sleep.

After this incident, I experienced many, many more, well into my seventeenth year.  I continually asked for help– or for my mother to take me to someone who could help– and was continually dismissed.  At the age of seventeen, I read a magazine article about anxiety/panic disorder and was amazed to see, for the first time, that there was a name for what had been happening to me.  Up until that moment, I had thought I was crazy.  The relief I felt was palpable, followed by anger that no one had listened to me.  That anger still lingers.  Anxiety and panic attacks ruined so much of my teenage years, and it could have been treated had someone had the kindness and patience to listen to me.  Maybe someday the anger will go away, but I am not ready to let go of it yet.

Today, though I no longer suffer from panic attacks (because I had to learn to control them out of necessity), I still suffer from anxiety.  And usually depression goes hand-in-hand with it.  But it is manageable most of the time.  However, it is vital to me that as many people as possible are educated on this subject, if for no other reason than to prevent other young women from feeling completely alone.  Please, please click on the link below.

I watched this ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqu4ezLQEUA ) tonight and was overcome with sadness and poignancy.  It perfectly describes what I went through with my mother as a young woman.  I know her dismissal was borne of ignorance, not lack of caring, but I still ache from it.  If your child or sibling or parent or friend or anyone else ever comes to you with this, do not respond with fear or ignorance or impatience.  Open your arms to them and offer your love and acceptance and any help you can give.  It is so imperative in recovery to not feel alone.  If you are a close friend of mine, you have already seen me suffer through this, and I thank you for standing by me.  I am beyond thankful that I am no longer alone.  I have much to be thankful for today– summer with my children, a new job, and six weeks of full weekends coming up.  In addition to wonderful friends and an amazing husband.  Anxiety and depression do not understand thankfulness, and they don’t realize that they don’t belong where things are good.  So I hold on to the happiness I have today and the hope that my monsters don’t intrude on it.  I want to enjoy my reasons for being thankful.

I know I write a lot about uncomfortable things– reason being that these things need to be brought out of the shadows and into the light.  The stigma needs to be erased so that those who suffer from it no longer have to feel ashamed or guilty or self-conscious.  And remember, if you are one of those who does struggle with depression/anxiety– flare-ups are temporary.  Depression and anxiety lie– do not believe what they tell you.  Hold on to your life and to the ones you love and believe that you will walk through it.  Because you will.  I have survived it enough times to know.  Above all, know you are not alone.  Life is not easy for anyone.  It is more difficult for some than for others.  Today, I am thankful that it isn’t hard.  Today, I will revel in the many reasons I have to be happy.  Because I don’t know when the clouds will come.  I do know, however, that I will walk through them and see the sun again.

Childhood Bonding Experiences with my Father, Some of Which Were a Little Traumatic

When I was a child, kids were reared very differently than they are today– especially in Texas.  My dad was “Texas” through and through.  When my mom went into labor while my dad was attending Yale, he brought a jar of dirt he’d dug up before they’d moved to Connecticut and insisted on placing it under the delivery bed so that he could tell everyone his first child was born on Texas soil.  My dad and I had some great– and occasionally really gross or fairly dangerous– times together.

For instance, my father was an avid hunter– because Texas, ya’ll– so I ate a lot of venison.  That wasn’t the bad part- venison is actually pretty awesome when it’s not game-y (I would like to say, however, that I do not advocate hunting, even for food, because we have these great things called grocery stores now).  In addition to eating a lot of recently murdered animals, I also grew up around dozens of mounted heads and hides (and one gigantic snake skin from an enormous snake my dad killed while doing a geological survey for Exxon).  My dad did not believe in wasting any animal parts that could be eaten or used for home decor or given as gifts. He once gave my mother a set of taxidermied turkey feet. She thought he was doing some voodoo shit on her.  He also believed in doing the “cleaning” himself.

**WARNING: This next part is super-gross, so don’t read it if you don’t have a strong stomach or get offended by descriptions of dead animals!!**

One day when I was about three years old, I wandered out the front door of my grandparents’ ranch house and was not at all surprised to discover an entire deer hanging from a tree with a giant hole cut in its side.  Next to the deer stood my father, covered in deer blood and dropping the last handful of deer guts into the pile he’d made on the ground.

“Whatcha doin’?” I asked, probably very cutely.

“I’m cleaning the deer I shot,” my dad replied, no attempt to shield me from the disgusting animal carcass.

“What’s that mean?” I asked.  (I was going through the ‘question everything’ phase.)

“It means I take out the guts and take the skin off, so we can eat it,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Can I see it?” I queried.

“Sure,” he said, stepping back, giving me room to inspect the deer.  So I toddled over to it and poked at it a little and very probably put my finger in its nose because I was known to violate animals’ cranial orifices when I was little.  Seeing shit like this is almost certainly why.  I inspected every inch of the deer until I got to the gaping hole in its side and then stuck my head inside to look at the inside of the deer.  That happened, people.  And do you know what my father did?  Did he snatch me up in horror and try to explain how gross and potentially messy and dangerous that could be?  Nooooo.  My father felt the correct response to this inexplicably icky action was to lift up the deer’s tail, peek through its butthole, and happily exclaim, “Peekaboo!”  To which I responded by laughing hysterically.  So then and there, my father and I played a ten-minute game of peekaboo, using the asshole of a dead deer.  And I know I am remembering it correctly because my dad, when he was still alive, used this story to illustrate to his friends how “Texas” his only daughter was.  This explains so much…

He also proudly taught me how to clean his shotgun, and I used to look forward to it after every hunting trip.  He would take out his case of tools and gun oil (I loved the smell of gun oil as a kid), and he would let me screw the pieces of the plunger-thing together (I don’t know what it’s called, but you use it to clean the barrel).  Then he would thread a piece of cloth through the thing on the end that looked like a giant needle-eye.  He would let me shove it into the barrel and get it all clean, and then he would let me help him polish the gun all over.  Most parents wouldn’t want their small children exposed to firearms, but my dad wasn’t most people.  He thought I should know all about guns so I wouldn’t try to play with them, and I thought it was the funnest thing in the world.  I was not a typical little girl.

Think back to your last intestinal bug.  Was it a miserable day or two of running back and forth between the bed and the toilet?  Not at our house.  At our house, when you had a stomach virus, you were confined to the bathroom by my mother, who would not even chance someone barfing on the carpet.  She would make you a pallet and put the nine-inch, black and white TV on the bathroom counter.  You would snuggle into your warm, puffy pallet, watch cartoons, and get up occasionally to puke or be force-fed Pedialyte mixed with Sprite (back then they only had one flavor of Pedialyte– sweat) or to get an anti-nausea suppository rudely poked up your backside (no joke).

On this particular occasion, because Dad and I were both sick, my mom let us camp out in the master bath to give us room to get to the toilet without tripping over each other.  When we got bored with the TV and started to feel a little better, I snuck to my room and grabbed my cassette recorder.  I thought one of the most hilarious forms of amusement was to record myself on a blank tape and play it back over and over.  I brought the tape recorder back to the bathroom, and Dad and I spent the next two hours recording ourselves making fart sounds, singing, and making “bomb” sound effects.  Nothing passes the time when you’re sick like being trapped in a bathroom with your dad, a TV, and a tape recorder.  I saved that tape and played it over and over for the next two weeks, giggling behind my hand the whole time.

My dad and I had some great– and unusual– bonding moments.  He liked to tell the story of the time I saved him from a snake when I was four.  We were at my grandparents’ ranch again (lots of gross stories occurred there, often involving peril to life and limb), and we were getting ready to take the canoe out on the pond for a little fishing.  My dad had the oars and fishing poles, and I proudly dragged the tackle box along with both hands.  It was winter, so we weren’t really watching for snakes because they should have all been hiding underground or under rocks and stuff.

Dad laid the oars on the ground at the edge of the icy water and gripped the canoe on one side to flip it over.  As the six-foot, metal boat turned over and exposed the hard ground beneath, I caught a glimpse of something orange-y and white in the grass.  I looked closer and saw what I knew, even at age four, to be a Copperhead.  It was slow-moving because of the cold, and but even so, I saw it pull its head back as though readying itself to strike at my father, who was less than two feet from it and had yet to see it.

“DAD, THERE’S A SNAKE!!!” I yelled.  In one swift motion, he grabbed one of the heavy, wooden oars, looked to where I was pointing, and brought the flat end down hard on the snake’s head.  Then he hugged me tight and thanked me.

“We need to get a picture!” he exclaimed.  So we ran back to the cabin and told my grandpa what had happened.  He followed us back to the pond with the camera.  After poking at the snake a few times to make sure it was really dead, my dad scooped it up on the end of an oar and sat me on his knee while my grandpa took a couple of shots.  For the next few weeks, my dad proudly told anyone who would listen about how his four-year old had surely saved him from a venomous snake bite, twenty miles from the the nearest hospital.  Every time we flipped through our photo albums after that, Dad would point to the picture and say, “Remember when you saved me from Copperhead?”  And I would feel proud too– and thankful.

Dad and I had some strange and sometimes idiotic adventures, and I loved them all.  I also love that I have his wicked, sarcastic sense of humor.  I love that I can see him in my son and my brothers.  I love that I have these great memories of using my dad’s golf clubs to whack the heads off the mushrooms in the backyard every spring, and I love that he  introduced me the Beach Boys when I was eight.  I love that he always had a sports car and would sing “Barbara Ann” to me along with the stereo while we drove to the beach.  He called me “B,” and to this day no one else is allowed to call me that.

My dad would be fifty-nine years old today, and I am currently the same age he was when he died.  When I remember my dad, I smile.  I can never watch a bad ’80s horror movie or a Godzilla movie without thinking of him.  And how many kids can say they learned to read from the Sunday comics, while sitting on their dad’s knee?  My dad was funny and incredibly intelligent and also very, very complicated.  I look back on some of the very strange things we did together and– even though some of them are a little disturbing (like the deer peekaboo) or dangerous (like the snake)– I am grateful for every one of them.

Why Animals are Better at Teaching Sex Ed

Before you think I’m an unconscionable pervert, this post is not about bestiality.  It’s about how kids growing up in the Midwest learn about sex far before we take sex ed in school.  When I was a kid, I thought my family were the only freaks who learned the facts of life from, well, wildlife, but my husband recently put that fear to rest by informing me that he learned about sex from… tortoises.  Yup.  Tortoises.  Just about the least sexy animal in the world, next to hippos.  And giraffes.  Giraffes are very unsexy.

My darling husband, visiting the zoo with his dad as a young child, had no idea that he was about to be traumatized forever.  As the hubby and his dad wandered toward the tortoise pen, they heard a strange, unidentifiable sound: “Wwwwwoooooowwwww…  Wwwwooooooowwwww….  Wwwwwoooooooowwwww…”  They followed the sound, curious as to what it could be, and saw a crowd gathered.  Pushing their way to the front, they saw two tortoises, one perched awkwardly on top of the other, the top tortoise weirdly making the “Wwwwooooowwww…” sound over and over.  My husband and his dad looked at each other, and my kindergarten aged hubby imitated the tortoises: “Wwwwwoooowwww…”  His dad made the same sound back at him: “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  And this became their private joke any time they both saw something awesome.  “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  This explains… a lot…

Not quite as bad as tortoises– but definitely disturbing– was learning about sex from livestock.  Growing up, my family owned lots of horses and cows.  I still feel bad for my brothers because I can see how this would cause some insecurity in the male department.  Being the oldest, I was a little more educated than A1 and A2.  So when they saw our horses mounting each other for the first time, I had to answer some uncomfortable questions.  Being the excellent older sister that I was, I took full advantage of the opportunity to do as much psychological damage as I could to my little brothers.  It was hilarious.  There’s nothing like telling a three-foot-tall person that he is going to remain exactly the same size, grow a member the size of a horse’s when he hits puberty, and then have to reproduce in exactly the same position as a horse.  The facial expression is beyond priceless. (Almost as priceless is watching a miniature pony try desperately to mount a palomino that’s about fifteen hands high.)

Parents, take a lesson– unless you want to try ineffectually for years to undo lots of mental trauma and eventually end up paying for a decade of therapy, just have “the talk” with your kids. It’s uncomfortable, we all hate it, and no one can look each other in the eye for a couple of weeks. But it’s preferable to catching your two sons measuring their wieners every day and then asking you how long before they grow horse dicks. No one wants to have that conversation.