Stuck in Chicago

You would think that in our current pandemic reality I would have plenty of time to write. In truth, I do have more time; however, I am still “working” in my ghost town daycare that just won’t seem to shut down. I teach art at my son’s new daycare. I am used to 90 or more kiddos coming in and out of my studio all day long. Since Monday, I average 20 kids total. So, I do have more free time, although, it is not the same as many other people sheltering in place.

Where do I start with everything that has happened? I started school shortly after the holidays and applied for a job at a fancy daycare to supplement my income. For a while I was working full time, attending graduate school part time, and retained my old job part time. It was incredibly stressful. I eventually broke down. I stopped attending regular meetings and stopped calling my sponsor. I relapsed in a new and terrifying intensity. Everything got very bad very quickly, and I was ready to watch it all burn. I was done with life and didn’t see any coming back to it. I can still remember how I felt, and how much it hurt. I was exhausted and alone in my mind. As my new sponsor explained it, it was like having my soul sucked out of me. It was a profoundly painful experience. I was pushed further towards the edge in my insanity. The paradoxical nature of this was that it wasn’t such a scary place to be in the moment. Living is hard. Dying is easy, and I was tired of fighting.

What was I fighting? I suppose it was a false sense of control over my life and my disease. I was running myself ragged trying to do it all and ignoring the most important parts of my life. It makes me wonder if any of it is worth the trouble. Money comes and goes, and by the time I’m done with grad school I’ll be about $60,000 in student loan debt. I thought that finding a career path that would allow me to be of service to people would complement my spiritual program. Now I’m having doubts.

I don’t know if I would have made it out of this relapse alone. Thankfully, my partner called me on my bullshit and quickly got me to a meeting. I got a new sponsor right away, and my partner and I were able to go on our trip to Florida. Six days in Florida bliss felt like it lasted six seconds. We haven’t even been back for a full week yet, and it feels like it has been months. I hate living in Chicago. I am not built for the lack of sunshine, the oppressive overcast skies, air that hurts your face, and weather that confines me to my home. I can’t hack it anymore, and I’m just plain tired of living this way. In Florida I was filled with hope and inspired by the possibilities of the future. As I sit here in my empty studio, watching the rain on the sidewalk outside, I just want to cry. That feeling of wanting to get away from here creeps back in to my heart, and I wonder how long I will last this time.

 

A Loud Mind

Late night; In a fight. Thoughts holding tight; Don’t feel quite right.

This post will probably not be too cohesive. I can’t sleep and my mind is racing. On to of that, my stomach is under siege by something. So, here I sit with Morgan Freeman on in the background narrating some documentary on death, rituals and God.

Anxiety flourishes over New Year’s resolutions I haven’t started in time. It’s absurd, that I should even think there is a “time” in which to make changes. Yes, there is global momentum around this time of year, but change is always possible. Each day is a new opportunity. Exercise, eating healthy, meditation, mindfulness, and self care. They are always on my list, but never high enough to prioritize as I wish I did lying awake at night. I have been exercising more, and I do, in general, eat a mostly health diet. (Although, I certainly over indulge my Achilles heel; The Great Frozen Overlord; ice cream.)

I had some success with mindfulness and meditation yesterday. I set an intention for the day, via mantra, that I took a few minutes to visualize before crawling out of bed. The day seemed lighter, and my heart was happier. Today, I forgot and returned to the trudge of daily living. It is so hard to take the time, though it’s only a few minutes. Why is that? Perhaps it’s the same reason I’m lying awake right now. My mind chatters too much to focus. Contemplation swirls in mesmerizing patterns, and I lose time and desire to commit any more to quieting the madness. Still, I know I fare much better when I make the time. I need to take the action until it becomes second nature; habituated.

How do I slow this mind enough to turn off my autopilot? Writing is certainly one way I am able to at least slow the flow in my head. Thus, why I am writing right now. Exercise is another tool of the like, as I am focused on my body and usually the clock. Haha.

Meditation seems all but impossible right now. I like to think I am too busy and just have too much going on to slow down. But as I sit here reflecting on it, I am starting to realize that although I am very busy being a mom, student, therapist, partner, and soon teacher, a lot of the chatter is purely of my own making. I can’t count how many goals I set for myself each day, only to pick them off one by one to either completely dispose of or replace with a “better” one. It’s almost infuriating.

I should focus on this. No, maybe just focus on that. I’ve tried focusing on X and Y and Z before and it went nowhere. Focus efforts to A, B and C. But maybe refocus; again and again.  It’s exhausting and meanwhile I’m flying through my day, not present in the current moment, thinking about moments that haven’t or may never happen. Future tripping, someone once described it as. Mindfulness and meditation, I know, can help this. But I guess I just don’t know how to get started. I guess carving out a time and making a quiet space would be a good place to start. I am torn, as always, as to purchasing the Calm app to help guide mediation. I know it works well for me, but I always wind up not using it. I don’t prioritize it, and that needs to change.

All the while I am worried I am not a good enough mother or a good enough partner. I am job searching, getting ready to start grad school, anxious about purchasing a vehicle, wondering how I’ll pay rent in the next few months if I commit all my saving into a car. Pros and Cons, this or that, up or down or inside out? Who knows? Not I.

Don’t Look Down

I cannot say I understand why a person would choose to run with the bulls. I suppose it is a cultural value difference. I feel like I am running “with” the bulls every day. Among the galley of major life changes currently on display, I have been displaced from a home multiple times, recently worked with three different lawyers regarding three different legal matters, received a crash course in finance and real estate, and, most recently, am starting a new career while simultaneously going back to school, losing my car, and trying to find a more permanent living arrangement. Problems and issues and changes; oh my!

If you are out of breath just reading that sentence, my point is made. It is exacerbating living this way. I am in a constant state of sleep deprivation and stress. I do utilize various support systems to help keep me going, none of which include relying on blood “family,” and somehow I just keep on plowing through it all. Helmet on, head down, one arm out in front and the other clutching everything I hold dear in life; I run, jump, and spin through the day searching for that place I can collapse to the ground in victory. I can’t see it, but it’s out there ahead of me somewhere.

When I start running out of steam, after it all starts to weigh down a little heavier than it should; I try to steal a glance at the hoard chasing close behind me. I loose focus and momentum. Often I trip, struggling to maintain forward motion, and sometimes I’m tackled to a bone grinding halt by my own terrifying emotions. Gasping for air with tears streaming down my face; I can either get back up or dare to lie a few more moments before I’m crushed by the weight of my heart into oblivion.

I don’t even like to take the time to describe these moments of break down. They don’t last long anymore; mostly because they annoy me so badly. Also, I know I am flirting with death if I wallow in self pity and anger for too long. It’s a waste of energy anyways. But if I don’t at least acknowledge these moments, I’m setting myself up for a catastrophic meltdown. So here I am, processing, evaluating, and moving on. I’ll keep running past the edge of the cliff with the drive of the road runner and the warning of that coyote to not look down… Just don’t look down.

The Speed of Life

I’m wondering if this is the pace at which my life with continue to be lived. EVERYTHING in my life has change over and over again in less than a year. My divorce was finalized in July, my condo was on the market for 72 hours and sold in August, I moved out of my condo and into my mother’s place after extensive renovations and a massive cleanup effort in September, I filed for bankruptcy, applied for FAFSA, and most recently moved out of my mother’s place this month; a new record for shortest stay with her at 45 days. Now I face a job change, loss of my primary mode of transportation, graduate school applications, and who knows what else!?

I don’t think I could have gotten this far without my partner; who is also riding this insane rollercoaster ride. I feel bad for my son being displaced so much, but I do not have any control over that right now. When given the choice to have to move again or stay in an unhealthy home environment, I don’t hesitate to jump. I have spent too much time in my life “trapped” in a bad situation. I will not make that mistake again. Head down, chin up, I will trudge the road and trust that I’m getting where I need to be.

Nine to Six Feet Under

I was never cut out for the corporate world. The thought of 9am-5pm jobs made me shudder. I could hardly handle 8am-3pm in high school. When I was little I would tell anyone to their face I would “NEVER” work for someone else. I was going to be my own boss. Reality really likes to kick me in the teeth.

Before I knew it, I was working for my high school as a tech intern, then Dominos for one “glorious” summer, then I started my brief job at Best Buy around 4:30am on Black Friday that year. Finally, I found myself with a 9-5pm job at the company my mom worked for, Adventist Midwest Management Services. This company was bought out several years ago, but I spent ten years there; on and off during school breaks and finally as a full time employee after graduating from college. My Bachelor of Arts degree is in English Literature. I graduated, however; at the end of 2009, and the job market was not doing well. I fell back into the world of medical billing/collections and haven’t been able to get myself out since.

I jumped to a different big medical billing company after I got married hoping for a challenge and upward mobility, but I just found more of the same monotonous boredom that tortured me all day long. So I made the decision to quit and become a personal trainer. I got certified the same night I passed another test; a pregnancy test. Back I went to the world of medical billing to save up for the bundle of responsibility now on its way.

It was hard to tell  I was pregnant until month 7 or 8. I was running right up until I got put on bed rest. One long night in the hospital with steroid injections and magnesium sulfate fun, and then I was home. But my son was impatient to get out into the world. I was back at the hospital in for a ten day stay with talks with NICU doctors as well as a surgeon in the even I started hemorrhaging after giving birth. Due to a low lying placenta, I was at risk and a hysterectomy would have been the only salvation. Three weeks prior I’m running in the fall breeze, now I was hoping my son and I made it through alive.

Blood pressure medication, of all things, kept contractions under control. As long as I took it and was on bed rest, the little bugger would keep cooking and I got the first chance I had in years not to be working full time. I knew that as soon as I went off the medication it was “go time.” So my pregnancy was kind of unique in that I could time when I was going to go into labor. It was a Saturday morning when I stopped taking the medication.  I went out with my mom to go buy a baby blanket and get some food and fresh air before the big event. My son was born at 5:43 am the next morning. Everything went fine aside from major game plan change of getting an epidural at 6cm. I wanted an all natural birth, but for all intents and purposes, I had been having contractions for a month and a half. Enough was enough and god bless that anesthesiologist!

Anyway, back to the topic of work. I found being a stay-at-home-mom to be far more work than a 9-5pm job, but it was much more rewarding and far less boring. I was fortunate enough to have almost two years at home with my son before I had to reenter the workforce full time. It was necessary as I had filed for an order of protection against my ex and (obviously) planned to file for divorce. In the span of a week and a half, I got a brand new car without a penny down or a job, found a daycare I wasn’t completely terrified to leave my son at, and found a job that started the Monday after I interviewed. Talk a bout a whirlwind; It was a crazy, stressful, and challenging time.

After the initial anxiety of leaving my son in the care of strangers for 9-10 hours a day, I found some appreciation for being back in the world of adults; working to support myself and my son. Alas, it was again in the field of medical billing, and after no more than six months I was, once again, bored to tears. A mixture of infatuation with my new love, hatred for my cubicle jail, stress from the divorce, and lack or relying on AA for support lead to a period of relapses. I missed too much work and lost my job because of that. Despite a solid month of looking for something in a different field, there was nothing that would compensate me at a rate I needed to survive. So, I wound up at my previous company’s biggest competitor; once again, in a cubicle.

Part of me thinks that I stayed with my ex as long as I did for the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom. I hated him, but I also hated working a 9-5. Eventually, I saw that if I was going to survive and do what was best for myself and my son, I had to get away from my ex. So now we are divorced, I am working a job I don’t love but need and can’t complain about, and I’m moving back in with my mother. I suppose I am hoping in the interim, I might find a way to carve out a new career path. If I stay on the course I am currently stuck in, I am certain it will eventually kill me spiritually. That may sound over dramatic, but you don’t know how much I loath the ice box rat maze in which I spend 40 hours a week.

Possibilities

I don’t know what to talk about today. I am feeling a bit ill physically, but mentally I’m doing pretty well. I’m not even grouchy it’s Monday. I have this feeling, since the divorce was finalized, that I have new found freedom to identify my goals in life. Also, because I am working my program, I am finding the courage to pursue them.

But there are so many potential paths to take. It is hard to focus in on one thing. Obviously the most pressing necessities right now are figuring out my finances, selling the condo, and finding a new place to live. However, just focusing on this is anxiety inducing, and there is only so much I can control about it each day.

So I let my thoughts stray to new career paths, perhaps taking a few classes to get certified as a teacher, new books I should read, places I should go, and things I could do to make an impact in my life and in the lives of other’s.

There is so much I want to do. I want to continue learning Japanese and some day visit Japan. I’d love if I could go teach there for a year, but that wouldn’t be possible for quite some time. Perhaps I should teach here? Should I learn to be a yoga instructor? I could write and publish an E-Book. Would my time be best spent doing more service in AA? Then of course there is a part of me that just wants to nap for a solid week. Ha.

I guess ultimately, I’m feeling like a free bird with too many possible destinations. To stay grounded, I’ll have to meditate on things before launching on a new journey. The future looks bright, the present is good, and I’m content as well as optimistic about possibilities for what comes next.

Working Life

No one gets paid to sleep, unfortunately. It seems like that is all I want to do these days. Amid the many stressful circumstances in my life right now, sitting in a cubicle bored to tears all day does not help. I am grateful to have a job, and the benefits are good. Still, I’d be lying if I said I felt stimulated in any way or got a sense of satisfaction from my job. Honestly, I hate it.

I know this job should be enough for me, but it leaves me with hours on top of hours of time to sit here worrying, stressing, and ruminating over all my troubles as I “work” in auto pilot. Medical billing can be challenging and certainly complicated for someone new to it. I, however, have doing this since high school. The work has become mindless.

So I try to think about what I would want to do that would lead to a job I would actually want, and I have no clue. I have a degree in English Literature with which I have done nothing. I thought becoming a personal trainer might be for me, but the same night I passed my certification test, I found out I was pregnant. Personal training has lost some of it’s lure for me. So lately I have been thinking about teaching yoga and/or being integrative health and nutrition coach. Unfortunately again, I am not in any position to pursue this financially, and my “free” time is almost non-existent.

So, I am trapped for now. I have to focus on more immediate concerns like getting through this divorce, finding a new place to live, filing for bankruptcy, and taking care of myself through it all. Hopefully soon, though, I will be able to seek out a new career path that is fulfilling.

Running on Empty

On days like today, I have no idea how I keep going. I was up at 4am,  because my little one had an accident and wet the bed. Fell back asleep for an hour, woke up, made coffee, made lunch, got the little one up, fed, dressed, then myself, ran out the door (late again), dropped him off at daycare, sped to work, 9 hours working in subarctic temperatures (something is broke in the heating system,) ran to the grocery store for TP and cat food on my lunch break in the rain, took 10 minutes to check out because “self” checkout is more like wait while attendants bounce around to all the machines until they finally help you (by this point I imagine flames blazing in my eyes), back to work through the hail, late, back to the arctic for four more hours… Then I will pick up my little guy, go to the gym (because it is the one “selfish” thing I get to do for myself), find a quick dinner, go to a meeting, go home, put little one to bed, which is a marathon effort of bath time, brushing teeth, getting him to go potty, reading a story, and making sure he has everything he needs to go to sleep. Then I will go wash the dishes, take a quick & quiet shower, and collapse in to bed. Tomorrow, repeat.

Just writing that out makes me feel even more exhausted. I’m sitting here, drinking expired Kombucha, because it was $1.50 off (quality and freshness guaranteed!) I’m worn the hell out and broke. I don’t want to vent/complain to my partner. He is going through some heavy stuff and I’m being as supportive as possible. Still, I feel like I’m going to snap at any moment and just lose my shit. I have no idea what the hell keeps me going.

Perhaps it is unbridled rage at my soon to be ex-husband, who doesn’t have a single responsibility in the world besides going to work. The abusive man-child who still gets kicks making my life a living hell has dragged out this divorce for a year now. The judge has ordered a trial since it is taking so long. He spends part of one day every other week or so with his son, and then pretends like I’m keeping him away from our son. Ask any time Mother F^cker!! I always say yes. Stop playing the victim and take some responsibility for your own life…

Anyway… I’m done venting. I can’t spend anymore energy dwelling in my misery and anger. Time for a chill pill;

…zombie shuffle until bed.

P.S. I do realize that there billions of people in the world living far harder lives than I am. This is just my reaction to my circumstances given the society I was raised in and still struggle to reside.

Purpose

I hate feeling like I have nothing of value to say. I can vent about the nasty divorce I am going through or complain about how mind numbingly bored I am every day at work, but what is that really good for?

I suppose writing here is a healthy outlet for the many frustrations in my life; a safe space to just get it ALL out. As a reader, though, what good does this do for you? Is it for sympathy, empathy, comfort in knowing you aren’t alone; maybe. Although I am going through some very engaging life challenges at the moment, it is never my goal to be some base form of morose entertainment.

 I have always had this fundamental presumption that any content that I write should serve some real purpose. So I ask, what can I do for you and in return for myself through writing? My experience can serve as a cautionary tale. My growth can serve as a guide for someone else. My failures can highlight some of the many pitfalls to watch out for in life. But is this enough? I don’t feel like it is.

Feeling like I have no control over my life during this divorce and having no real passion for what I do 40 hours a week; I am left with a giant hole to fill. I try to take care of myself and my son. We eat healthy, exercise, and usually get enough sleep. I see a counselor and a psychiatrist to keep myself mentally healthy. Still, there is this gaping hole in my life. It is a painful darkness that leaves me agitated, lost, and hopeless.

If AA taught me anything, it was that this hole is best filled with “God.” I am not religious, but the concept of spirituality in a very basic sense is intriguing to me. Finding a sense of self and purpose in a realm of pure energy and good intention sounds great. But how the hell do you do that?

AA lesson # 2, helping others helps you. So, I want to volunteer and help other people or animals or the environment, but when do I have time for that? I’m up at 6:30 am with my always way too energetic three-year-old, breakfast, get dressed, drop him off at daycare, and then get to work. I get to squirm for 8 hours of boredom. By the time 5 pm comes around, I’m exhausted and just want to curl up in bed. Instead, I drive in traffic, pick up the little man, go home, figure out dinner, bath time, maybe a few minutes to mess around on my guitar, then bed time for the kiddo. He’s out by 8 pm, and I’m lucky if I make it to 9 pm before I call it a night.

Lack of time, lack of energy, lack of money, lack of purpose; no wonder I’m having a hard time finding joy, spirituality, and satisfaction in my life. I’d love to get out of the office setting. I’m considering instructing Yoga classes, but certification is costly and time consuming. I got certified as a personal trainer about 4 years ago, but found out I was pregnant the same night. Since then I have lost interest in that path. Nutrition and wellness coaches are becoming popular career paths, but again, it is time consuming and costly to get certified. So, I’m left theoretically pulling out my hair.

Perhaps, I need a life coach. Or maybe I just need to stop thinking about myself so much and start giving the little free time I do have to others. The only thing I do know for certain is that I am need of a complete life redirect. So, one way or another, I have to find a way to make it happen.

Cubicle Prison

Sometimes, I feel very disconnected from the world. I’m like an actor in a play who never got the script and has no clue what lines to say. Quick to smile and even quicker to walk away; I’m not one for prolonged contact with strangers. I have to wonder if I was always like this.

To an extent, I think I can say I’ve never been much of a people person, but that hasn’t exactly kept me down. I aced my honors speech course. I was a student aid for my professor in college helping freshman with literary analysis.  I’m not one to wait a stupidly long time for the waiter to come back to tell them something is messed up with my order. I don’t avoid interactions in which I need to do or say something, but other than that, I couldn’t care less about basic human interaction. Give me a book, a bottle, or scalding hot bath, and I am completely content to not deal with anyone.

What the hell does that say about me? It’s not that I implicitly don’t care about other people. I do deeply care about most people. But in my daily life; the boring monotonous drudgery that is working in a cubicle for 8 hours a day in a state where going outside in the winter months can literally hurt you… I could not care less about the people around me.

“Stay warm!” “The day is almost over.” “It sure is cold out today.” “Boy, he is getting so big! How old is he now?” “It’s almost the weekend!” “How are you?” “Fine.” “Good.” “Did you have a good weekend?” “How was your vacation?” “Oh my gosh you looks so good! How far along are you?” “Good morning!” “Good night.” “See you tomorrow.” “Drive Safe.” And my new personal favorite… “Happy Friday-Eve!” All of this, I am happy to live without. I smile, I nod, exchange pleasantries, pretend to care, but really, if I disappeared to Alaska tomorrow, I would feel no sorrow. I would not miss this congenial pergatory.

I do understand that there are many other jobs out there that are perhaps worse than mine. Physically demanding and/or dangerous jobs, far more monotonous, thankless jobs, or no job at all could all have any person worse off than I. I’m not asking for pity. I am simply stating that this kind of job, for me, slowly kills my soul day by day. If I do anything else right in my life, it will be to get the hell out of this industry and find a job I actually give a damn about.