I once worked for a Senior Leader who believed that addressing people’s fears out loud would legitimize the objects of their fear. This was an otherwise skilled political appointee whose good opinion I coveted but failed to secure. She appeared to think that if we addressed employee concerns about a building system malfunction or an impending government shutdown, we would be somehow endorsing those things as acceptable outcomes. I couldn’t get my brain around the idea that sharing information about something we didn’t control might constitute acceptance or that recognizing an unpleasant reality might constitute endorsement thereof. (Since I am still bitter, let me add that I’m glad no one put this person in charge of responding to actual environmental or public health problems. Radiation? What radiation?)
Reality is not waiting for our participation. The building ventilation system will continue to function (or not) whether I talk about it. Congress will do what it does without my endorsement. The lab will continue to send me bills whether I open them or not. Employees are still subject to office policies whether they acknowledge them or not. The government will validate the results of the elections regardless of the opposition party boycott. Unless you’re living as a revolutionary – or a hermit in a remote freehold, healing your own ailments with roots and berries – there isn’t a valid “opt-out” option for most institutionalized life processes.
When I’m in a funk, I feel like withholding or withdrawing my consent from the early 21st century suburban wage slave wife-and-mom terms of service. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In either event, I often confuse consent with participation. I stop opening envelopes and don’t clean up the pile of crap that’s accumulated near my basement desk because I just don’t want to participate anymore. I don’t want to be responsible for these people. I don’t want to make the effort. In those moments, I fantasize about opting out in terms that range from impractical to immoral to downright irreversible.
(Sooner or later something wakes me up and reminds me that it would be smarter to participate in such a way that I can find my way to some version of the aforementioned freehold (or at least a comfortable approximation thereof) without bringing shame upon myself or surplus sorrow upon my family. I’m rooting for that something to kick in soon, because damn. Dino Spouse and Mouse both look worried, and the basement is a mess.)
I wonder how many bosses refrain from talking about problems in the office because deep down they’re annoyed at people for getting distracted by unpleasant realities (like malfunctioning building systems or looming shutdowns) and demanding reassurance.
Dino Spouse is staying over at Babushka’s place tonight. This would normally be an occasion for either a preteen sleepover or heroic (by which I mean intense, messy, and/or stinky) domestic labors, both of which are best accomplished in the absence of my husband. But Mouse and I have both been poorly this week, so we are apathetically loafing about the Dino Nest. Podrostok is brooding in his room, being as he is grounded. Tweenbot is ostensibly cheery in the company of his BFF, but I sniffed out some adolescent malfeasance on his part earlier this evening, and he knows it. It’s kind of a disagreeable evening. On the Ms. Pac-Man scale of personal dysfunction, where 0 = optimal behavior and 10 = playing Ms. Pac-Man until 2 AM, I predict that tonight will be about a 7, offset by the high likelihood that I will go to bed before any of my kids.
(Sound of brain grinding to a halt while trying to link title and first para to observations on recent public discourse regarding the concept of privilege. Is it possible that more white people are recognizing that white privilege exists? Or more men recognizing that gender discrimination still exists? Or have I just moved so far to the Left that I now consider “Salon” a mainstream media outlet? Hmm, Ms. Pac-Man.)
I finally got one of those gratitude challenges on Facebook. For a while, I was relieved not to have gotten one (or an ice bucket challenge), but then I started wondering whether it wasn’t actually a sign that all my “friends” secretly think I’m an awful human being. I am willing to accept that as the price of being a somewhat awful human being, but still. One wishes to fit in.
Coming up with things to be grateful for won’t be a problem. It’s coming up with things to be grateful for that won’t inadvertently offend someone else that’s the problem. That and figuring out if there is anyone else out there left who hasn’t already done one of these challenges. I may have to skip that part.
(Pause to read the whole of Facebook in search of unchallenged friends.)
Recent social media quiz thingies suggest that I am a mere 47% psychopath, not at all a sociopath, and most like Hades (if I were to be a Disney villain, which is the only way I’d really want admission to the Disney pantheon except as a character on Phinneas and Ferb or Gravity Falls). I am kind of disappointed about the sociopath thing, but since they’re good at feigning normalcy it stands to reason.
This morning I woke up at 430 and could not get back to sleep. I was sorely tempted to play Ms. Pac-Man but I made myself work out, make coffee for myself and Dino Spouse, and pursue gainful activities online instead. Poor Dino Spouse! His beloved Verismo instant espresso doodad exploded on Monday and now he is reduced to drinking mere cafe au lait instead of his favored latte. He really loved that machine. Every time I am tempted to jone on his bougie tastes, I remind myself that the most cherished material gift my husband has ever given me is my beloved electric pencil sharpener. We all have our fetish objects.
Speaking of fetish objects, my idea of gainful activity this morning (other than the grocery order, that is) is blogging. Every morning I find articles online (about work or depression or the Left or which Disney Villain I am) and set them aside in hopes that I will find time to write about them and thereby expand my lands. Every evening I close the open browser windows* with a sigh. Venting about being depressed helped me perk up a little. I love having a personal diary for those moments when I need to just break sh*t, but writing for an audience satisfies me creatively. I mean, I spent hours yesterday studying the Code of Federal Regulations for waivers to solve a bureaucratic problem. It spoke to me, people. Its structure was illuminated like that of some awesome geometric proof. I really need a creative outlet. The last thing you need In Ur Takses is me hallucinating and raving about the Federal Travel Regulations from atop a (by DC standards) high-rise. Bureaucrates stylites, y’all.
No one comments on my blog except for the pingbacks I get in linking to my own posts, spambots, and this one nice young person in India, whom I wish success in developing the dream web app that will break down my grocery lists and tell me which things to buy at which local stores to maximize my cost savings each week. But I see that I have followers. Hi, followers! I have added a new page just for you!
Normally the ongoing unpleasantness in Ferguson would have long since inspired an outraged polemic from me by now. It saddens me deeply. It’s not as if the world is waiting for my opinion, but I am ashamed to be silent beyond a couple of social media comments. I’m just dead in the water for some reason.
(The reason is no mystery to me. I’m in the throes of a depressive episode. I’ve never had a major episode that’s made it impossible for me to function. This is merely another one of those periods of emptiness and self-loathing that I seem to experience every three or four months. I take my meds and I try to keep moving and, eventually, something changes and I experience a sense of well-being for a while. Gosh, I am sure looking forward to when that part happens again. I daresay my kids and husband are as well, since Zombie Me is nowhere near as agreeable or high-functioning as non-Zombie Me.)
This post from Medium.com likens depression to malware bogging down a computer, and I have to say that’s the best metaphor for it that I’ve read in a while.
Answering all political commentary from one’s visiting parents with “Property is theft” is a great conversation stopper. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me ages ago. The Protosaurs have returned their grandsons to us after a 10-day visit. They are now regaining consciousness in my living room (the grandparents, not the boys), and I have retreated to the basement to work on my latest writing commission.
(I do performance appraisal narrative drafts for people who hate touting their own accomplishments. I do this for free on the inside* all the time, and now word of mouth has brought me my first paying client for this service. Make that my first repeat paying client for the service, since this is the second time I’ve done work for her.)
(You know what works great for paid writing gigs? Getting the hell off of WordPress and drafting the paid work instead of blogging about it to the brave souls who still look here vainly for posts. If any of you other than spambots are actually going to the site and reading instead of waiting for posts to pop up in your RSS feeds or e-mail, I’m betting that none of you are coming here looking for my efforts at self-promotion.)
*By which I mean coworkers and friends within my workplace. Check out the disclaimers for more details.
Procurement Woman is more realistic than Procurement Man, but that somehow makes her creepier.