Monthly Archives: December 2011

Of cat bondage

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Today is Christmas, which means that I spent the first few hours of the day wrapping presents and, in the case of the Irish cream, making presents. Actually I had tried to make the Irish cream the night before, only it spilled freaking everywhere because my piece-of-shit food processor is a piece of shit. I swear it took nearly an hour to finish cleaning up the kitchen, and I am not too proud to admit that I considered whether I could slurp up the spilled liqueur from the countertop.

I didn’t actually do it, but I considered it.

I was so very angry at the piece-of-shit food processor that I heaved it into the trash can. This seemed like a much more attractive idea than cleaning it up.

Eventually I retrieved it from the trash can, not because I was thawing toward it, but because unemployed persons should probably not throw kitchen equipment in the garbage. At any rate, it had several minutes in the slammer to think about its actions and the consequences of misbehaving.

Thus it was that I made a second batch of Irish cream the next day, late on Christmas Eve, only at that point it was actually Christmas day. Also at that point it was actually Kentucky cream, since a certain piece-of-shit food processor had spilled all the good Irish whiskey all over my kitchen counters and floor. Instead I substituted Kentucky bourbon, which as far as I can tell is whiskey fortified with American hubris. And then I went into the spare room and dug into the closet for the wrapping paper. I had everything squared away by two o’clock on Christmas morning.

Christmas was lovely. Among other things, I scored some pieces of clothing that I both needed and wanted. One of the great things about being an adult is that you can get excited about a plain black sweater under the Christmas tree, even if, especially if, it was a sweater that you had yourself selected the week prior.

Back at home, I decided to take care of a few minor chores. I wanted to play with a new toy that Santa got me (a toy that is just possibly even more thrilling than my new sweater), but unemployed girls need to devote their time to responsible, grownup activities, even if it is Christmas day.

Let me deal with that briefly, and then we’ll move on. I quit my job. I quit my job, even though I have no other job lined up. I am without health insurance and without income. It seemed like the right thing to do. (Granted, my life is filled with instances of doing the right thing. I am not a compelling case-study in the value of doing the right thing.) Whether it was a good decision or not, it was my decision, and I stand by it. Among other things, I can report that I no longer feel the overwhelming depression and anxiety that was plaguing me around-the-clock with that job.

Put it this way: I’d rather die of malnutrition than of depression.

I’m plenty scared about the future, but I am no longer feeling ashamed. I’ve got my name in with the temp agencies, and I can earn a little bit of income with some writing gigs, and I am not the sort to feel degraded by menial labor. I can bag groceries and assemble widgets with the best of them. It’s not what I want to do for the next 30 or 40 years of my life, but right at this moment I am feeling fond of most any job that isn’t morally bankrupt. And that doesn’t have people yelling at me.

Where was I? Right: it was Christmas evening, I was back home, and the heat came on. This was dismaying. Heat is for the morally bankrupt.

Just kidding. Tolerance for the cold is not a moral issue. My preference for cold weather and cold temperatures means that I am a badass, but it does not mean that I am morally superior to everyone else. But anyway, the heat came on unexpectedly, so I hopped on over to the thermostat and gave it what for. I implored it to think about its actions and the consequences of misbehaving. And then, since I was up anyway, I figured I would visit the toilet in the guest bathroom.

There I was, having a nice Christmas evening pee, when I heard a plaintive meow. And then I realized that I hadn’t seen Gremlin all day long. And then I thought back to the gift-wrapping episode of the early morning.

My sweet little Gremmy Lou spent nineteen hours on Christmas trapped in the closet where I store the wrapping paper.

Poor baby! It wasn’t tragic, but it was certainly unpleasant. It’s bad enough being locked in a closet, but it’s especially bad to be locked in a closet on Christmas, when all the other Gremmy Lou Whos down in Gremmy Lou Who-ville are singing songs and clasping hands and eating roast beast and so forth.

I call my cat Gremmy Lou or, sometimes, Gremmy Lou Who. That was really none of your business but it sort of came out as I was telling the story.

It could have been so much worse. I rarely enter that room, and it could have taken some while before it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Gremlin in a long time. She is curled up on my chest as I type, so I assume all is forgiven. Or maybe she’s just seeking warmth because it’s kind of chilly in here.

Merry Christmas to all you folks out in Whoville. Check back next week, when I’ll have my annual book runndown. You know you can’t wait.


Hey! Wait! I’ve got a new complaint!

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On the drive home from work Friday evening, I stopped at the grocery store. I stopped at the grocery store because I needed groceries, and because I figured I should stock up on healthy fruits and vegetables while I still had an income. More on that in a bit.

I purchased my healthy fruits. I purchased my healthy vegetables. Uncharacteristically, I did not have my reusable totes on hand, so I had to carry my healthy fruits and healthy vegetables in plastic bags, which made me feel as though I shared roughly the same virtues as Pol Pot and Vlad the Impaler.

I then continued the drive home, only I got distracted by an ostentatious holiday scene on the horizon. It was bright and lurid and gawdy. It made me feel slightly ashamed to live among people with such tacky sensibilities. My internal lecture about how Vegas-style lights do not honor the birth of Jesus was already well underway before I realized what was going on.

The glow was not coming from tasteless holiday lights. The glow was coming from the moon on the horizon.

“No fucking way,” I said. “It can’t be.”

It could be. It was. The half-moon, nestled in the crook between two mountains, was lighting up the sky, sort of like Sauron’s eye in Mordor in the movies, only without the evil-incarnate underpinnings. All I had was a short glimpse, but it was enough to make me realize that I was witnessing a mindblowing moonrise, the kind of thing I would still be remembering thirty years from now.

Unfortunately I live in a valley. I mean normally that’s a good thing, a good and fine thing, but that night it was irritating because it’s hard to draw a bead on the moon if there are all these mountains in the way. So instead of turning into my road, I did the only sensible thing: I kept driving and headed for the nearest high peak. I had frozen vegetables melting in the trunk, but that was unimportant. I had a moon to chase.

Both of my religious identities were claiming victory. The pagan in me was excited that I was chasing the moon. The Christian in me was excited that I was chasing an astronomical phenomenon during the Christmas season.

It would have been a bit of a haul to drive to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak this side of the Mississippi, so I settled for a crest that is not too awful far from my house. When I got there, the moon had settled in behind some clouds. It was still a very bright moon and a really wonderful effect, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. That’s why I had to park my car, see? I had to park the car so that I could get out and hike around a deserted misty rainy windy midnight mountaintop. Actually I was wearing some decent hiking boots as well as my cowperson hat (which is basically a cowboy hat, only for feminists), so this was not quite as irresponsible as it sounds, but after hiking about for a few minutes, trying to get a better glimpse of the moon, I turned back around, since sweet bleeding nobody knew where I was and I didn’t want my corpse going undiscovered for days and months.

Anyway: that was a properly atmospheric mountain tableau, with the mist and the drizzle and the cold and the wind and the stars.

As I mentioned last week, I am so much happier living here, where we know how to do mountain tableaux with panache and where the moonrises are spectacular. Even so, I am displeased with my job, and I am trying to figure out what to do about it.

When I say that I am displeased with my job, I mean that I have been trapped in a state of depression and anxiety, incessantly, since I got out of training and actually started doing the real job for real. Part of the problem is that my job involves helping people who are, typically, upset. Which stands to reason: if they didn’t have problems, they wouldn’t be calling the help line.

Unfortunately, I have an overactive empathy bone. If other people are feeling bad, I pick up on it. I adopt their problems as my own, and then I feel obligated to fix them.

“You internalize other people’s problems, don’t you,” observed a coworker, unprompted. Yes. Yes I do. This is why I could never go into a career in medicine or in counseling.

This coworker’s offhanded insight into my psyche made me think of a line from a Nirvana tune: “I wish I could eat your cancer.” Which in turn led me to look up some youtube videos of Kurt Cobain. Which is maybe not the smartest move for a depressed person. Anyway.

The other frustration with the job is that I can’t always solve the people’s problems. I find myself in a position where I have to defend my employer, even when my employer’s actions have been indefensible. I am feeling morally conflicted. To perform my job, I have to compromise my own integrity and brush off the customers’ problems, even when they have done nothing wrong.

I have been losing sleep over this, sleep and sanity and self-worth. This job makes me feel like a bad person. I am ashamed of the way I have been behaving.

This puts me in a pickle.

On the one hand, I am performing well at my job– I’ve been getting excellent feedback from the supervisors– and it is a job that gives me a steady paycheck, and in February I will start getting health benefits. I am a fan of health benefits.

On the other hand, I feel horrible. I feel ethically tainted. And I learned about the Milgram experiment and about My Lai and about Nazi Germany. I know the importance of staying true to your own moral code, even if you have permission from your superiors to act otherwise.

(Not that my employers are Nazis. I disagree with them, but I’m pretty sure they’re not Nazis.)

I’ve got two choices. I can stick with my job, which involves people yelling at me, and which asks me to behave in a way that I find appalling, but which does provide an income and health benefits. Or I can quit my job, which would offer me the moral high ground, only the moral high ground never filled anyone’s tummy and it sure as hell never paid the bills when anybody got sick or injured.

I’m going to muse on this some more this weekend and see what I can come up with. Meanwhile, if anyone in the greater Asheville area knows of any job opportunities, I am really quite eager to hear about them.


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Even when I worked in libraries, I never returned books late. The salaries may have been meager and the patrons could at times be horrible, but staff were exempt from late fees. It’s the perks that make a job, you know. Only I never took advantage of that perk because I always returned my books on time. I made a science out of renewing my books, but I never turned them in past their due date. It was a point of honor.

In the past two weeks I’ve been late returning two separate books. My honor was nice while it lasted.

The pace at which I consume books has slowed dramatically, now that I’m living in North Carolina again. This is because my free time is being siphoned off. I am not clear on how this siphoning has been happening, and God knows I didn’t authorize it, but the fact remains that there is a striking disparity between the number of things I need to be doing and the time I have available for doing them.

Probably I shouldn’t even be writing this blog post, because at least I’m not getting charged twenty-five cents for every day I’m late. Though come to think of it I don’t have deadlines here. I haven’t imposed any, ergo there are none. Still though. My honor, what little of it remains now that I’m a serial late-book-returner, cries for justice.

I shall have to compromise with an abbreviated post. My honor will not be fully satisfied– my honor does not shut up for anything less than about 1500 words– but surely something is better than nothing.

I have been tetchy lately. This is akin to saying that the Middle East has been troubled lately, or at the economy has been in a downtown lately. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I have been tetchy lately. The only surprise is that I have been tetchier than normal– but, now that I’m thinking about it, that really doesn’t qualify as a surprise.

The reasons for my tetchiness are twofold. There is the matter of the tragically abridged free time, as mentioned a few paragraphs ago. I am late in making this year’s Christmas Kahlua; I am about to be late with a third library book; if I am not careful I will be late in writing a recommendation letter for a friend; I was very nearly late in turning in my debut article for my new library column, and in another few weeks I’ll have the opportunity to be late with its sophomore sister. I have not even solved a logic puzzle lately. That should tell you something right there.

The other reason for my tetchiness is work-related. After a rather lengthy training period I have now started taking phone calls at my new job. I hate to say even that much, because I am trying to institute a new policy around here, in which I do not speak about, write about, think about, or in any way acknowledge the existence of my job, not on my days and evenings off. Though I suppose you could infer that the wine I’ve started drinking each night is an acknowledgment of my job, in a roundabout way.

There is a third reason for my tetchijess, but I’m not inclined to reveal that card just yet. All in good time.

Hee! How do you like the typo I just made? Tetchijess rather than tetchiness. Oh, that pleases me. TetchiJess. Sums it up nicely.

I do want to disclaim that, despite being frazzled, I am still a gazillion times happier in North Carolina than I was in Virginia. Also a gazillion times poorer, but anyway. This is such a better environment. I’m grumpy. I’m not drowning in despair. There’s a difference.

I am afraid that this does not count among my more inspired blog posts, and probably it will not make the cut when editors in decades hence gather my selected writings. But at least it offers convincing evidence that I am 1.) alive and 2.) gamely trying to keep things current here, and with nearly 750 words, I am happy to see that my honor is almost halfway satisfied. I’ll try to write something else before the year is out, okay? Happy Christmas, if I don’t post before then, and remember that I am gracious enough to accept seasonal presents in person or by post.