Meat suit.

I sat on the floor last night and my knee ached. I can’t sit cross-legged with both legs equidistant from the floor, it’s like a wire pulled taught. It’s not always the case but I think the 7 miles of hiking the previous day may have had something to do with it, or the cheeseburger. Wheat and I don’t always get along. Joint inflammation, bullshit.

When I was 19 I drove around in my first car, empty Mountain Dew cans rolling around in the back seat, smoking menthol cigarettes, sleeping 6 hours running on stimulants at 120 lbs of furious energy. I was tiny and intense. Like a thin wire vibrating with current.

Before I get in bed I try to remember to smear a thin layer of vaseline over my eyes so this tiny spot of rogue eyelid eczema doesn’t reappear. It’s not on both eyes but why tempt fate. The non-steroid medication I have from the dermatologist makes my skin burn like it’s on fire from the inside. It’s a great sensation so close to your eyes. Eyes that randomly water, so once every few weeks I’m holding a steaming hot washcloth to my eyeball to make sure my tear ducts do what they’re supposed to. Maybe it’s the lasik? Or hey, apparently the warm memory I have of my grandfather always carrying around a handkerchief was not because it was a classic gentleman thing to keep in your pocket but was, in part, because he had perpetually watering eyes. I wonder if no one told him about the washcloth trick. I remember he and my Grandma used to sit on the floor with us, I’ve seen it in old family VHS tapes. I wonder if he ever got old enough for that to be too hard. He died right after his 65th birthday so I hope not.

Suddenly 65 seems so young I want to grasp my entire life with both hands and never let go.

Waking up every day knowing that some part of this body will ail me, a twinge in my neck, a slightly upset stomach, an aching knee. Never anything intolerable but like a quiet pulse of mortality. My body is wearing, irreversibly. Another day older and closer to death. Is it fucking scary to read that? Sure it is. But only because it’s like a bucket of ugly truth water in your face. We are dying. By tiny degrees. Slower, less efficient. The peak of your physicality behind you, it’s where that lovely sardonic expression “youth is wasted on the young” comes from. That learned knowledge of just how fleeting and ephemeral everything about being human is. You change the oil and maintain the tire pressure and wax the whole thing but it’s still going to fall apart, require tune ups, eventually be a still hulking rusted shell. Parked.

I try to get 8 hours of sleep, if I don’t for more than a few days I start to feel broken. Emotional, unable to handle the more complex mental tasks that involve working, living, acting like a sane functional human being. I gave up sugar in my coffee with the occasional deviation. With my weight the highest it’s ever been pushing me from medium to large in clothes in a sick combination of vanity sizing and actual sizing reality, I try to be selective about where I throw sugar into my face. If I got to choose where that extra padding went perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. If I eat poorly for an entire day my lower abdomen inflates like a balloon and my digestive system typically stages a riotous protest for 12 to 24 hours. It makes me tired and hungry and annoyed. Vegetables, they’re friends.

I try to drink 2 liters of water every day. Sometimes that water comes from coffee, or kombucha or flavored mineral water. If I’m being evil it’s ginger ale or strong sugary tea but that’s rare. Alcohol in anything more than tame dinner party quantities has the potential to eat into both the quality or mere existence of the next day. An actual hangover is a punishing and frustrating affair that feels like throwing my precious and most valuable commodity into the toilet, my free time. The relief only truly arriving after 24 hours of “system” processing and another round of blissful sleep.

Sometimes I have issues with sciatica, usually if I’ve forgone exercise for too long. I’ve had the same knee surgically repaired twice, by and large it feels good. Sometimes I really miss soccer but the prospect of yet another surgery and the trauma of 6 months of rehab is just too significant of a hurdle, it’s humbling to realize that something you once enjoyed is beyond your reach. I guess age does equal wisdom in this instance, thinking about a third major ligament injury feels like inviting long term disaster. I like hiking and walking and running and generally being able to use my legs. I take the stairs whenever I can, two stints of crutches really drive home an appreciation for mobility that I try to be mindful of.

Mercifully I still sleep well and without difficulty. Camping in insane weather with my beloved but loud-snoring spouse notwithstanding I can sleep when I want to and insomnia is a demon that has never visited it’s suffering upon me.

When I’m outside exposed I coat my entire body in sunscreen, repeatedly. Skin cancer is not an obscure punchline anymore. I’m glad my forays into the land of the tanning bed were short lived, now my idea of color is just more tattoos. As my skin texture changes the incentive to decorate grows, it’s my party and I’ll color it if I want to.

Before I go to bed every night I eat two biotin gummies, who knows if it’s working but they’re like candy and I like having thicker hair, my nails are an afterthought because I’m always hacking them off to keep them out of my way on the pottery wheel. I dissolve a sublingual b-12 under my tongue and swallow: a capsule of turmeric, probiotic, vitamin d, fish oil and just introduced magnesium into the mix. If I add anything else I don’t think I’ll be able to get the whole lot down in a single mouthful.

Last month I finally had a troublesome tooth dealt with: root canal, temporary crown, permanent crown. It was creepy to feel that tooth ground down to a little nub and the permanent crown is this smooth alien object in my mouth, like a polished stone that I can tell is foreign when I run my tongue over it. My original equipment has started with small failings. It made me uneasy when I thought too hard about it … but like most changes it’s already faded to a footnote in the larger narrative of living.

When I wake up the idea of leaving the house without concealer is no longer an option. Being told you look tired gets really old after the 4th or 5th polite inference. I get it. Thanks. So I shower and shave and pluck and moisturize and perfume. Generally unless it’s freezing or special I don’t bother to blowdry. Special leave in conditioner for my hair so it’s not a scratchy pile of hay and now I’m up to three products to fill in my thinning eyebrows so I don’t look like a sleepy mole-faced ghost.

Beauty is fleeting and time consuming. And less and less meaningful. The chase is on. Hopefully with age the appetite for vanity wanes and my gaze shifts farther outwards and inwards. To what’s inside and to everyone else. House of cards, castle on sand, etc… No sense is driving yourself into frustration for a thing that will be increasingly elusive. Appearance pales in favor of function.

I just want to FEEL well and BE HERE and holy hell FUCK ALL THE REST. I know so many beautiful unhappy people.  I just want to be engrossed and enlightened and engaged. How I look doing that is a currency I don’t want to spend too much time managing.

I refuse.

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I don’t know – but that’s ok.

I don’t know where it’s coming from. Actually that’s inaccurate, it’s always kicking around upstairs, it’s just a matter of taking time to giving voice to what I’m thinking. I want to tread the careful barrier between usefully “blowholing” and thinking critically and writing as a useful form of self-evaluation and analysis, versus turning garden variety normal human stress into a giant mountain of oppressive bullshit.

Transition does this to people. It’s normal. Talking about it is normal. Thinking about it a lot is normal. Notice I didn’t say too much because really what is too much if you’re not walking face-first into a legitimate self-inflicted disorder.

I am in such a heavy engineering environment. I am out of my element but with each new job I guess I sift through the contents of my professional career and ask myself, what is my element? I mean how am I rounding the bend towards 40 and still completely up in the air about what I want to be doing. I have a decent length of professional continuity but in hindsight it feels like an accident. “And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?”  I feel like I’ve done things “right” atleast in protecting myself from ruin or having too disjointed of a resume. I put myself through school. I made what I wanted professionally happen. I used my skills and experience and education and found a way to marry those things into a path that so far, I have enjoyed. In hindsight it’s kind of amazing to me that I was able to actually do this. It seemed really abstract and complicated when I graduated 7 years ago. I feel like I decided to do something and was actually able to exert my will over the outcome. It’s kind of a big deal to me when I stop to savor it.

So without rehashing all of the crap I was rambling to M about last night basically I find myself in a new situation. It drives me to a lot of questions about the things I’m learning, what the motivation is, if I’m wired correctly for the type of environment I find myself in, if any of that even matters.

At times I miss my old job, but not because it was good AT ALL (parts of it were good, I feel like I did make the best of it and learned a lot…), only because it was familiar and I felt capable and confident about what I was doing, what I knew and my ability to contribute. It’s just that outside of the actual “work” it was a totally poisonous, negative, terrible environment. I am *very* glad to find myself in a situation now where the vast majority of my energy and thought and the stress I deal with is related to the “work” I’m learning about and how to do things and NOT on the mountain of politics and personal bullshit that seemed to completely overtake my last job. It was so unbelievably exhausting to be in that environment and have so little of your time spent on the work that you were supposed to be doing.

I guess the “key takeaway” from this ramble, for me ….is to stop beating myself up for not knowing what I don’t know. The people who hired me knew this. I did not falsely represent myself, my intelligence or my abilities. Not knowing how to code or the lingo or having the same background as the technical people here does not make me dumb or less capable. It has nothing to do with me being an intellectual equal. I am a smart capable person who has always found a way to thrive in any job I’ve found. I make friends, I make a point to be an asset, I learn things quickly (yes even on this large and varied of a scope) and I will be a useful and valuable member of the “team” so to speak once I have a better idea of what I’m doing. It does me and the people around me a huge disservice to spend any time disparaging myself for not knowing things. There isn’t anything wrong with that and I have got to stop thinking of it that way.

I have NEVER been the type of person who would want to waste time lying about my abilities or knowledge to save face, because I wanted to look knowledgeable, that’s stupid and unhelpful and will only be a wall between me and actually learning anything. What a sad self-defeating way to operate.

I can only be patient with myself and with the so far, really friendly and helpful people around me. The rest of all these large existential questions can wait. I’m enjoying it, I will learn things. There may be no massive lightbulb moment of “this is what I want to do exactly” and that’s ok. It’s ok that I don’t know. Everyone has to start from somewhere.

The Joys of Adulting

Tuesday   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First day of summer it’s like the DC Elder gods heard us. It’s the kind of oppressive heat that starts early early in the morning and is only appropriate and pleasurable if you’re in a caftan with a good buzz anticipating a visit to a body of water within the near future.

Walking to get coffee, riding the bus to work, being outside FOR any reason that is not to travel between air-conditioned boxes is so unpleasant. I can’t even. But here it is. Season of my birth, which hey when I don’t have to worry about my appearance (by worry I mean not be a sweating nasty mess) is fiiiine. Otherwise this is when moving to Norway or Iceland or Maine seems like a swell idea. So that’s the small talk out of the way.
I feel better than yesterday. In fact I didn’t even feel bad all of yesterday, it’s rare that a single mood dominates an entire waking day in my life but I imagine that’s true for anyone. Work being slow and not keeping me occupied but at the same time requiring that I can’t tune it out to tackle other things leaves me in a weird limbo.
I started back on reading the book I’ve had (took a break over the weekend), it’s Joe Hill’s latest (the Fireman) and so far I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s end of the world stuff, one of my favorite genres. I think largely because that sort of scenario creates such a fertile landscape for the best and worst of people and resonates with my constant thoughts about focusing on things in life that really matter. Death, chaos, and hardship serve as irrefutable elements to forcing people into shedding whatever bullshit they surround themselves with and get to the core of who and what matters to them, or they unravel like poorly made dolls but it’s a thought-provoking spectacle in either case. 1984, Anthem, Oryx & Crake, Dogstars, The Stand, Hunger Games, Brave New World, The Road, The Girl With All the Gifts, Blindness, Hyperion and on and on and on.

Riding the bus to work today was the variation of experience where I am calm about being in the middle of the diverse crush of humanity. Sometimes it’s less than thrilling.

Today (Wednesday)

Things went slowly downhill yesterday. I left work on time and got home and got everything moving for my ideal evening. Sweet potatoes in the oven, cleaned up a bit, found the yoga series I wanted to start doing on YouTube, sat down on the couch to read and wait for M to get home.  He calls and let’s me know at almost 6 that he’s just leaving work… I’m disappointed but it’s not a big deal. The rain kicks in for a real show and then the fun begins. Water starts pouring through the existing hole in the ceiling and walls from our first major issue back in the first week of May.

I scramble to get the sheets and blankets off our bed. Email our HOA president. Grab pots and pans and towels. We ended up sitting on the floor picnic style to eat dinner and just chill. Nothing else happened. No yoga, no little household chores. Stupid bullshit with this condo eats up another evening.

Today we already had an appointment to have the leak source assessed and I’ve been planning to work from home. M took the day off and the damage assessment guy is early but really nice. Says to him the cause is obvious (gutter and downspout and masonry issues.) You can even see the dark streak along the building where the water has been permeating the masonry. I can’t help but feel that our condo people and insurance spent all this time delaying because they were hoping it was a cheaper problem. At this point I don’t care. It’s been almost two months. Now I have ANOTHER insurance claim open because these additional damages have to be dealt with separately. The water mitigation people came back and I have industrial fans in my room and MORE missing drywall and insulation. At least this time they were able to just tear off the pieces of nasty smelly carpet that were damaged.  Now we’re out $1000 so far in insurance deductibles.

And to top it off the tasks I’m getting into at work now are more complex. I am feeling intimidated and overwhelmed with the amount of new things to learn. I feel like I should have been a developer for the last 10 years to understand half of this. I know my current negatively swayed emotional state is not helping matters but this entire day has felt like an enormous trial.

I just want my apartment put back together. Keeping things clean an organized here lends itself to my overall feeling of sanity and control. I realize it’s fake and illusory but not having it is really making this entire shit show worse.

Devil’s in the details

I had a great weekend. Somehow psychologically I have a weird need to do a variety of things to feel like my weekend was useful. Type A weirdness variety but between pottery and errands and then spending the evening visiting with friends. Sunday was an early morning to meet my Mom and my nephew for breakfast and a hike and then stopping for groceries on the way home. Suddenly napping for two hours afterwards didn’t feel wasteful and indulgent because I felt like I’d spent the time so well. It’s a stupid set of rules to impose on myself but I can’t seem to help from doing it. Ever mindful of the passage of time and wanting to feel like I’m spending this finite and invaluable currency well. It’s an admirable goal, I just want to avoid cultivating some sort of anxious neurosis.

Today I’m working from home. Admittedly because as I’m still learning things at my new job I am in a place where I’m not terribly knowledgeable or productive so I knew today would be slow. I feel this weird guilt gnawing at my thoughts because I want to be doing more but I’m not great with abstracts in this context. I could “read up” on the topics related to my new gig but that seems … sort of like time wasting. Which I’m not a big fan of. So I try not to actively worry too much that I”m not pulling my weight and also try to steer clear of being pointless defensive about being accused of not doing anything. I’m proactive about asking for work and offering to help and beyond that I can’t do much more, I don’t want to be a nuisance about helping. I’m often left wondering how many PTSD symptoms I have from my previous gig. Such an epic heap of paranoia and negativity I imagine it will be months before I finally shed the full weight of the baggage.

If I spend too much time thinking about it, atleast right now it feels weird and potentially cyclically damaging. Like… my life is great overall. I had an excellent weekend, I have a great job, spending all of my time wondering about the impermanence of this job, my life, my overall existence is quite literally HELPING NOTHING. It changes nothing. It accomplishes … NOTHING. So I shouldn’t do it. What I should do is be grateful and try to enjoy my life. That I’m at home in pajamas and I’m not super busy. That will come. I am smart and capable and even if the absolute worst thing happens and I get fired because they decide I am stupid and useless and unnecessary (which typing it out here seems ridiculous) I would STILL be ok.  I would live. I would find another job and journey my way back to sanity and stability. I can only do what I can do.

This weekend I spent great time with friends and family. I called my Dad. I bought a gift to thank a neighbor that’s been really helpful.

I am safe and healthy and can quite literally do anything I want. I think I just need somewhere to say it outloud and remember. And oh YEAH I went running and my knees and legs hurt but I didn’t die. So there.

Let me go back to sucking it up and not being such an enormous dumbass about everything.