On Disillusionment, Forwardly

I’m sitting at my desk this morning, mind scattered everywhere but here, struggling to will my energy into my work, the lot of which is piled up around me, panic spread throughout the cubicle. I’m listening to some upbeat mix about wanderlust (I had entered “Rusted Root” in my search box this morning, attempting to find the right work music, but have thus far come up empty handed – currently it’s playing the song about the man Down Under, which is not in any way what I had in mind), and the whole discomfort at being caged is forefront in my mind.

I’m reminded of a book I started recently, “And Then We Came to the End.” (Love the title. If you’ve read my writing, you know that I adore beginning sentences with conjunctions…my inability to compress anything into a single thought must beget the need to ramble continuously, punctuation interspersed as a matter of necessity.) It’s about the fall of an advertising agency in Chicago in the midst of a recession. Of course, I’m halfway through. I haven’t finished yet, so I can’t tell you what happens, although if I had to hazard a guess, it might be that they come to the end.

The prose is slow, jumping here and there, relating stories I couldn’t care less about, and yet, I’m liking it. It’s a beautiful depiction of the monotony, of the meaninglessness that is the workday, which is somehow magnified to consume our entire existence. It’s heartbreaking and endless and realistic, all at once. I’m surrounded by the mid-toned golden pre-fab cubicle walls, lucky enough to have a window and 8 little plants. I have no decorations, other than a smattering of tea boxes and hand lotions. My existence is a mirror of theirs, although it’s not at all the same. And that’s the beauty of it.

I’ve been enjoying disillusionment literature lately. That’s not a genre, but it should be. I’ve written before about the letdown that was the realization that there is not this magic sense of resolve/purpose/justice/happy endings that we were sold in the literature of childhood…and I’m somewhat pleased to know that much of our adult artistic endeavors can be focused on puzzling out the muddling through that comprises the rest of our lives. Comfort in solidarity, I guess.

I recently finished “The Postmortal,” which is a haunting tale of a dystopian future in which science has discovered a cure for aging, and the population has fallen into near-anarchy. But that’s not the point of it, really. The story centers on a man who’s watched everything he loves fall away in part because of his own (in)action and in part because of this cure for aging. It’s a book that reminds us that all we have left in the end is love and the people with whom we share these experiences, no matter how small. After I read it, I forced the cat to cuddle with me while I cried into his fur and begged him not to ever die. I came away from it reminded that life wouldn’t be so beautiful if it didn’t end; that the temporary nature of it is part of the beauty. Things are, for their time, and then they aren’t. What they leave behind is the faintest whisper of their presence, memories of joy to be called up in dark hours, some legacy of interaction, hope.

I am an excellent beginner. Promise excites me. Much like the books that litter my life, half-read, consumed diligently for a few days before being discarded in favor of a new magazine, or a new book, or a Netflix show, I find myself struggling with the push to follow through. The beginning is bright, the future full of promise of the best things to come, and yet, when we get to it, there is always that looking forward and not so much realization that this present current now will stretch on endlessly.

There is consolation in the status quo, to be sure, and the complacency in repetitive routines is calming, reassuring. Yes, we rage against the things that can (or generally, can’t) be changed, but we take comfort that we’ve let it out, briefly appeased, forgetting that it will rise again unless we make the leap to change.

For me, it’s fear. The fear of the unknown; the fear of failure; the fear of that feeling of nervousness that comes with next experiences. Fear is the thing I’ve worked the most to fight in my life, and I’m sure the thing that will I will fight continuously for the rest of my own ever. Which is silly, because everything is new at some point. The swirling of anxiety pooling in the stomach will dissipate; all storms must eventually lose their momentum and die out, quietly. And yet, I find myself bound by those invisible barriers.

We are the sum of our parts (broadly; our memories, our experiences, our biology, our synapses, our hopes, our loves – reread that until “our” loses its meaning, because it will, and because you can), our power is internal and boundless. It’s a matter of harnessing that into moderately tangible progress, in accordance with our own end goals.

Damn. This means I need to reassess and cement some end goals. 2016 – Exploration, Visualization, Actualization. At last, we’ve accomplished one thing: a plan to plan (my favorite kind of plan), and some nice catchy words to go with it. And thus, we go. Onward. It’s like the Robert Frost quote that my brother had engraved on an iPod he got me when I graduated from high school (or was it college?) – “The best way out is always through.”

On Being Patronized, Stubbornly

Everyone has their own pet peeves, and mine are most certainly among the usual: toe-walkers, mouth-breathers, people who don’t signal when they’re changing lanes….

Lately, I’ve been struggling with “the crud” – some sort of nasty winter virus we all seem to be getting – and I’ve been forced to mouth-breathe at night to stay alive. Boyfriend finds it amusing to tell me how lovely and radiant I am when I’m mouth-breathing/sleeping.

Anyway, I recently started a new job, which I love and hate at the same time. I love the work. I get to interact with clients on a daily basis, I get to do semi-legal work, and I get to win. On the whole, I’ve really enjoyed the work and I think I’m fostering a wonderful, attentive relationship with my clients. I’m also kicking ass at getting stuff done, managing a million things at once, and helping others.

Whichever way you pronounce it, my biggest pet peeve, the quickest thing to push me from jovial to downright murderous, is being patronized. The biggest complaint I have about my workplace, far from the stress, is the indignity I suffer. I’m not alone, either.

I’m lucky I’ve worked with lawyers before, people who assume that a JD is license to denigrate, because in doing so, I learned how to temper the feelings of rage and do little more than supplicate to their delusions of grandeur.

Last week, I received an email from one of the account managers. He said that there was an issue with a claim that someone two people before me (that should give you an idea about the turnover here) had handled in September. I quickly rooted out the source of the issue, as well as the issue itself, and responded as such.

My phone rang.

It was the account manager. We discussed the issue, by which I mean that he told me exactly what I had told him in the email, except he elaborated further. He had me pull up part of our system, and then he proceeded to read to me, word-for-word, the contents of the screen. I can read. I’m well aware of what certain screens say. I did not need to be schooled about content or procedures in any way. I did not need to be told how to handle claims that I had not handled; I certainly didn’t need to be educated on how to read; and I certainly didn’t need to be spoken to like I am a kindergartner.

It took every ounce of willpower I possessed not to slam the phone down. I took deep breaths; I went to my happy place – I made one up; I struggled to choke out “yes, of course I understand.”

I attempted to explain to him the issue, and direct him to another part of the system, at which point he informed me that it isn’t his area, and that I should leave it alone. He’s lucky I’ve dealt with the J-D-elusionals before, because by the end of the conversation, he’d told me not to worry, it wasn’t my fault, and was assured that I’d handle it in the future.

I hung up the phone, seething. When I told my manager about it, she replied, “That’s pretty much how he is.” Yep. Par for the course.

This week, talking to one of our hearing representatives about cases that we should or shouldn’t appeal, the hearing rep asked me if I knew what hearsay was. I lived and died by murder mysteries and all things spy when I was little, and then progressed on to take forensic science and law classes; of course I know what hearsay is. Of course, he doesn’t know that.

I told him I did, in fact, understand the definition of hearsay.

He continued to explain to me what hearsay is. Had I not known what hearsay is, I wouldn’t have left our conversation with a clear idea in my head. Again, I struggled with the whole calm thing. How hard is it to understand someone when they say they know what something is?

There are two hopefully glaring examples, but they’re not the only ones. My takeaway is this: firstly, I have accepted that there are things I cannot change, like the world, my job, and the fact that there are men in better jobs who are seriously lacking the tools necessary to perform their jobs and even though I am not an idiot, I will be seen as one, purely because I am not a man.

Secondly, if you think you don’t need feminism, I invite you to spend a week in my shoes. Even the most ardent anti-feminist would cringe at something.  It’s sad how far we still have to go to earn respect and a decent wage. You’re so wrong about equality. I had forgotten that this was a thing. I was filling up my tea this morning and I heard two of my co-workers talking about it in the break room. I broke in, and we all agreed the gender divide is real. And surprisingly oppressive.

Anyway, this was just a rant about how much I hate being patronized. I am an intelligent, well-rounded human being, and being treated as anything but absolutely shudders me to a screeching halt. I can’t stand it. I would so much rather be surrounded by mouth-breathers, toe-walkers, and no-turn-signal users than people who don’t use some modicum of respect for others.

It’s 2015 people. Get with it. Intelligence is not gender-specific. I’m not struggling for anything weird here; I’m just trying to get taken seriously.