Small and Quiet

When I chose my profession, I didn’t do so because I thought it would be cool. I also forgot to actually choose it. It chose me, and some days I still understand why. I don’t have a job that results in celebrity encounters, cool photo shoots, platinum records or tv air time. My life is a small, quiet one and I’m OK with that. Most people’s lives are small and quiet. I don’t need Beyonce on my speed dial.

I just want to be able to pay my bills and have time and money left over for some fun. I want to come out of a work day feeling like I learned something new, made something pretty, or made something work or look better. When I am gone, my life will not be measured in money or media coverage. My life will be measured by the people I knew, how well I loved them and whether I answered the phone when they needed me at 3 a.m.

Half credit on that last one. If it’s any consolation, I’ll probably be awake by 6 to get your voicemail.

I didn’t go into web design so that people can be fascinated when I tell them what I did all day. Most people don’t even understand what I did all day. However, it would be nice to occasionally be with my own kind, as working from home can make one feel locked away like some nouveau fairy tale victim.

Instead, I am surrounded by people who mean well but don’t understand. They don’t realize that what they see took some serious photoshopping. They don’t realize that I made a non-standard font work online. They just see a picture, a site page.

They don’t realize that the navigation bar is pixel perfect. That the code is clean. That everything works on every browser. There’s an art to that, but people just don’t understand.

It can get a bit lonely. You can go through a whole day of work, work til your knees ache, and come away feeling really good about what you did. Then you show it to friends and they don’t care. Your boss doesn’t care. Your family doesn’t care. They’re not bad people, they just don’t understand.

“But all you do is sit there typing things and staring at that computer. I had a web site in school. It was easy. My mom made one with a template on Yahoo.”

And you sit there with your aching knees and your computer screen headache and your sore back and your stiff mouse hand claw and watch your feeling of accomplishment sink down into the floor. You’d try to explain how it was hard to format that text because someone’s jacked-up site uses 10 different style sheets, but that’s a lot of words and people won’t understand those, either.

So you say to yourself, “it doesn’t matter. I know. I care. I feel good about this.”

And you say that to yourself the second time it happens.

The fifth time.

The thirtieth time.

The hundredth time.

My job doesn’t result in celebrity encounters or platinum records. My job will never make me famous or filthy rich. My job is small and quiet.

And, no.
I can’t fix your email.

From Sunday, December 12

I have just gotten off the phone with my mother. I love my mother. She has made a hobby out of saving my ass. She’s a good person, a strong woman and a hell of a Euchre player. However, I can’t help but feel sometimes like she is talking AT me and not WITH me. I wish I could enjoy having entire conversations about weather and sales on things at TJ Maxx. Instead, I just sit on my end of the phone wondering why I can’t have a real conversation with the woman who raised me. I don’t even care what the conversation is about; I just want her to tell me something that matters, something that doesn’t make me feel like I’m at arms’ length. Tell me something, anything, that isn’t about the cute little purse you got or what your dog did today. Please. I’m dying. We’re all dying. I try to bring something up, try to pick her brain on some issue that could use some wisdom. I throw out a topic, and she answers with, “well, sometimes that’s how it is.” That’s the mom equivalent of saying, “tmi dude…I’m not having this conversation today.”

The friends I frequently converse with during the day are busy doing 100 different things because work has picked up, the holiday season is crazy and the World of Warcraft expansion has come out. I still see them. We hang out all the time. I am spoiled by my friends in 200 different ways, and I love them to death. They put up with my stupid bullshit more than they should. But, still. I can see things, invisible topics, sitting on their coffee tables, begging to be talked about. I don’t know how to bring up those topics. Instead, we watch tv.

Frustration.

I try to remind myself that there is no such thing as truly wasting time, that there is no such thing as truly meaningless conversation. Still, I want to grab the remote, turn off the tv and say, “I don’t care what we talk about…just please…something…I’m dying.” It reminds me of a relationship I had once where I found myself lying in bed one night, unable to sleep, crying for what I thought was no reason.

The reason, it turns out, was that I had been spending every waking second with him, and he wouldn’t talk to me. He was with me all the time, and I still felt so alone. I never saw my friends. When I did finally see them, I would just sit limply in a chair, looking drained and staring at the floor. I didn’t know why. They thought I was being verbally abused and I thought I was just really tired. I couldn’t tell them what was wrong because I didn’t know. If you don’t know what’s missing, you have very little chance of finding it.

I used to be very good at keeping my own counsel (as Sandman Morpheus would say). I used to run around, feeling my feelings, and keeping my fucking mouth shut. I never told anybody anything because I was afraid that I’d get judged for it. Or that the friendship would go south and they’d use my words against me. Or maybe the topics just never came up. Or maybe I was afraid of trying to talk and then being rejected. Or maybe I spent such a long time having feelings being a terrible tangle that I couldn’t even figure out one specific feeling to discuss. A tangle of wires. You give it five minutes, then just say “fuck it” and go buy a new cord.

Whoever my creator is made me a tangle of wires but he/she/it also made me creative. It kept me alive. In the same way that blind people learn to hear really well, my tangle of wires learned to peace out on reality. I didn’t have the words to talk about what was wrong, not even when I had to break down and call in the professionals. They sat there trying to help and I just spoke in metaphor and waved my hands around.

I didn’t know how to talk.
I held off the problems by playing.

That is to say, I played in secret. Whenever I had the house to myself, I was playing. When my parents left town for the weekend, I never threw a party. Never raided the liquor cabinet. I sat at my piano until I was finished. If the sun was down, I put the dimmer on low and played ballads in half-dark. I played with reckless abandon and horrible singing, safe in the knowledge that no one was coming home and I needn’t listen for the mechanical grind of the garage door. I would have died if they’d come home and caught me. There were a couple times I didn’t hear them unlocking the door, and there they were standing in the doorway of the dining room. It was only slightly less horrible than if they’d caught me masturbating.

It was that kind of playing where you can actually feel your brain shift into neutral.

I played because I didn’t know how to say, “I am pissed off…I am confused…and I hate you for bringing me to this town.” “I am frustrated.” “I miss my friends.” “I think about dying every day.” “I am scared.” “I feel alone.” That’s a lot of stuff to have to have swirling around in you while you’re just trying to take the SATs, avoid that guy who throws fries at you at lunch and write a paper about Crime and Punishment without actually READING Crime and Punishment. I didn’t have time to deal with “issues.” I was just trying to get through Calculus.

I eventually found my words.
Now, I can’t live without them.

On the need scale, it’s right there between air conditioning and music. I lose my shit in 4 days without air conditioning. Without music, roughly 9 days. Without someone’s hands in my brain (or vice versa), I start to wither and die in about 7 days. I start to feel horrible, lonely and frustrated and have no idea why. I start looking at my friends, just wanting to grab them by the ears, pull their forehead to mine and say “I need you to talk to me.”

Then again, it’s not always particularly socially acceptable to go around grabbing people (even friends) by the ears. You just have to wait out the busy times, the holiday seasons and the WoW expansions. Sit at your computer. Type all of the things you would have said.

I love you all dearly and I miss you.
Even if you are next to me on the couch.

Clydesdaleism

Clydesdaleism: noun. Medical condition. To define oneself by one’s work and work ethic. If left untreated, can lead to inferiority complex, over-committal, insomnia. Treatment: chilling the fuck out.

I have some behavior to explain.

I don’t know if any of these people are actually upset with me, but I’m upset with myself. Being pissed at myself is gnawing at me, and you know what happens when something gnaws at me. Yep, typing.

This is a blog, not a private email, because I feel like other people may be able to relate. Also because I feel like the depth of “I’m an asshole” that I feel can only be expressed through public admission of wrong doing. I have earned a scarlet letter, and now it’s time to wear the damn thing.

To my friends, on whom I flaked:
If you feel dissed by my having to flake on our plans, I’m sorry. It sucks. I feel like a dick. I didn’t want to flake on you, but I had to. I feel like I completely failed at managing my time for the last week, and that led to having to go into Damage Control Mode. I hate Damage Control Mode because it only becomes necessary when I have otherwise failed at managing my life. “Fail” is the 4-letter f-word.

I know you probably think it’s suspect that I did find time to spend several hours with someone else the day before. To defend that, I have this excuse: he is just damned easy to be around, adn I can’t work at night anyway. I am stressed out about one thing or another (usually 3 or 4 things at once) all day, everyday. I just wanted to go watch a movie instead of sitting in my house, staring at the wall, trying to sleep. I know it looks bad. I just wanted to go watch a movie.

To my client, whose deadline got pushed back:
I hate missing deadlines. It makes me feel like I have failed at time management. It’s freelance commandment #2, right after “thou shalt not pad timesheets.” However, I came to a crossroads where I knew that I was either going to have to push back the deadline or start half-assing. In my efforts to do my best work, I had to go learn to do some new things, and that ate up more time than expected.

I was cruising along pretty well, but then more hours came in at my day job. I had to take them. I haven’t had a 40-hour week since April of 2009, and I need the money. Also, I need to not piss off my boss. I have been clamoring for hours for a year, so to say “oh, I couldn’t do all that cause I had a freelance project” would almost definitely guarantee that I would never again see that many hours. After your project is done, I need my boss to not hate me. She’s long-term. Your project isn’t. My loyalties had to lie with the long term.

To my mom, whose visit is a day shorter because I have to work all the time:
You changed my diapers, you raised me, and in present day, you’ve saved my ass on at least two occasions. One would think that the least I could do is let you come down on Friday instead of Saturday. But Friday is billable, and it’s already driving me crazy to take Saturday off. I am doing this because I am trying to pay you back. I am doing this because I’m am trying to not ask you to save my ass for a third time. I hate needing my ass saved.

To summarize:
I’m doing the best I can. In most cases, my best is usually good enough.** My best effort hasn’t been good enough for the last month or so, and that is eating a hole in my brain. I hate it. My eyes fly open at 6am, with my brain obsessed by trying to fix a slew of situations it can’t fix. Yesterday, with my brain locked up from 4 days of only 3 hours’ sleep, I hit a wall.

“Well, you can’t do anything until you sleep. It’s been too many days. We are not thinking clearly. So, what do we have to do to be able to sleep?”

“Cancel tomorrow’s plan. Push back the deadline. Take a handful of Nytol.”

“Do it.”

“But couldn’t we just stay up extra this week and get this all done?”

“Dude, you can’t even type right now. What do you think your odds are of being able to build a site without spending hours fixing stupid mistakes? Your brain knives are not sharp, and you know it.”

“OK, fine.”

“Oh, and don’t forget to wrap that gift, sign that card, go to that wedding, and find time to work out.”

“Oh my god, shut up.”

So, yeah. Time management failure. I had to stop and reboot everything to keep the system from bursting into flames.

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**My best is usually good enough for other people. It’s never good enough for me. Self-satisfaction is the road to laziness.

The Red Shoe Diaries

I own a pair of red patent mary janes. I’ve never worn them, but I haven’t put them on eBay either. Each time I see them, I think “I should wear these or sell them” and I wonder why I bought them in the first place. For two years, I’ve been telling myself “those are from that Dorothy costume, before you made red sequin shoes.”

But the shoes that I bought before I made the sequin Dorothy shoes were knee-high red patent shoes. I sold them to a dominatrix from Arkansas who may well be using them to step on clients’ testes. (No lie; she said that’s what they were for. I wonder if she’s hiring.) Somehow, my brain rearranged my life, swapping years to fool itself.

I remembered all of this and resorted the years into their proper folders because I am tagging old blogs, and I hit an old post (newly de-friendlocked, cause three years ago is ancient history). I didn’t know it then, but October 2007 was when I started leaving my body more regularly. Amy’s Life isn’t 24 hours, like CNN. It’s more sporadic, like a season of Charm School.

Every so often, my brain is called upon to do things it doesn’t want to do, but has no choice to do. To protect itself, it disassociates. I never know when I leave my body and watch my life on tv, but I know when I come back because it hurts and I only remember pieces of feelings and events. Telling myself, “I’ll only keep 10 of the 300 mental pictures I took” is the only way to get me to come back to my body.

The longest was a week: the week dad died. I came back to my body somewhere on the highway between Lexington and Nashville. The only way to get me to leave town for 6 days is to leave my body; when I came home, I felt like I’d been gone for 2 years.

When Obadiah died, I came back to my body at Mt. Olivet, eating donuts where we sat and ate donuts the night we met. When Kris died, I came back to my body at Calypso Cafe, eating nachos with Jen in our funeral clothes. I do not lose my mind at funerals. I just leave my body.

This lost time and rearrangement of years would all be very troubling if I minded it, but I don’t. Long as I can remember where I live and don’t misplace my wallet or keys, I guess everything’s OK. It’s just how my brain deals with things, and I’m really trying to get along with my brain a little better these days. We’re stuck with each other, so we might as well try to get along. Besides, it tries so hard.

When it rearranged those years and made me think I bought those red shoes for a Dorothy costume, it was only trying to help. I had forgotten.

I bought those shoes because I was supposed to be one-half of a couples Halloween costume. The breakup happened when the shoes were in the mail. When they arrived, it was like they had come just to spite me. “Hello, we are the shoes with no purpose.”

I thought that I hadn’t been wearing them because they didn’t go with anything. Conscious brain thought they were just the wrong shade of red. Subconscious brain saw them as a symbol of lost hope, failure, disappointment and stupidity. Subconscious brain, for all its good instincts about sketchy neighborhoods and guys who wear too much jewelry, is sometimes like a friend who comes to a party bearing a photo album full of pictures from the year you were chubby.

(If you’re in the mood for ancient history and questionable poetry, the original posts are here and here.)

That Time Again

Today is December 10. In keeping with the tradition of the last 2 years, I’m running the poem again.

Other people have left over the last two years, but strangely, those sting less because the leaving wasn’t voluntary and misunderstood. It’s a special kind of nagging, stabbing between the shoulder blades when someone tells you to your phone’s face that nothing you can do would be good enough to stop the falling piano. Inertia, you know. The little spot between my shoulders will forever be sitting in a taffeta skirt at an airport gate, waiting for some flight that never arrives.

You can go weeks and months without thinking about that taste in your mouth, but it never completely goes away. In a sense, you hope that it doesn’t go away. If it does, it means you don’t care anymore. So, you roll it around in your mouth, get a good taste of it, then spit it out until the next time it bubbles up. The only thing worse than remembering his voice is the idea of not being able to.

For Diah

Memory reared its head it last night’s dream
I was at the airport with a flowering potted plant
Dressed in my finest clothes
Waiting for you

But your plane was late.
I slept at the gate, waking each time a stranger passed
Hoping it was you.
Days went by
My flowering plant wilted and dried to brittle brown sticks
My finest clothes became wrinkled and unkempt
I wondered whether you would ever arrive at all.

Then, out from the gate’s mouth, you came.
I squealed your name and ran to meet you
Swept up in a giant hug and spun around in circles,
I was so happy and you were there-

Then I woke up.

My Funeral/Job Interview Outfit is Getting Tired.

I never know what to say when people die. I suck at anything that requires some other response than sarcasm. Luckily, Younger Amy (when she was Amy and not “evil,”) bailed me out on this one. She never said much of anything to anybody, but she has a tendency to sit in a coffee shop and write poetry with a Pilot V5. We all kind of took ourselves too seriously then. We ALL wrote poetry.

Anyway, I wrote this (completely friend-wise, might I add), for Kris Bristow. I’m guessing I’m about to witness the world’s best-dressed memorial service. There will be goth folk and roller girls. The place is going to be packed.

Grey

Gun metal grey, his eyes reached into me
Looking for understanding
His curled smile spoke truth
Of my walls
Which, til now, have served me well.
After months of braind ead comfort
His words have shaken me awake
To look up at the angel before me
To hear this song
Of words
Which lodge in my rib cage
Inches from my skittish heart
Two inches more…
And the bullet would have claimed me
He would hold my reluctant heart
Thus adding another to his collection.
What is one heart to him, but a drop in the ocean?
Yet, still, he has reached me
Though my heart is still my own,
A chip has fallen from its wall
Shaken loose by the force
Of ammunition words
From a curled smile
And gun metal grey eyes.

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** Note to $_Deity: While you seem to be amused by killing my friends and family members lately, I appreciate letting my aunt and her friend survive that badass car wreck. Don’t think this gets you completely off the hook, though.

Whine and Cheese

*I will preface this post by saying that some cases I’m dealing with may be just misunderstandings and mistakes. However, I will also preface this post by saying that it really does piss me off when I have to beg and plead with someone to get them to pony up the money they were supposed to pay me. It is degrading and stupid. For the blog readers who have been listening to me whine for three months, it’ll be over soon. Continuing on.

Everyday, I check my mail, hoping that the check you owe me will be there. I sidle out to the mailbox in my flip-flops and pajama pants, saying a quick prayer before opening it.

“Please God, let the check be here. Let me keep a good relationship with this person. Let me not have to resort to bitchy behavior, bitchy phone calls, and threats to have a sit-in in someone’s office. Let me not have to say to this person ‘you will never get more work from me because you don’t pay your bills.'”

It’s so much easier to just be nice. Being bitchy is time-consuming, tiring and makes me feel icky. Unless it’s bitchiness for the sake of comedy, and then it’s hilarious.

The only thing my mailbox has brought me is bills. I don’t have the luxury of not paying Verizon, Regions, Bank of America, NES, and Metro Water. When I miss due dates, they charge me extra.

Thanks to you, I owe Citicard an extra 80 bucks. Because you haven’t paid me and I couldn’t pay them. That bill sits on my nightstand, looking at me each morning. Things like that are what keep me up at night and wake me from sleep. Last night, I had full-body restless leg syndrome wake me up at 3am. While I stood in my bedroom waiting for Nytols number 3 and 4 to kick in, I thought of you.

Each morning, you wake up in a house nicer than mine, put on shoes nicer than mine, and walk out the door with a Coach purse in your hand.

While you are walking around with your Coach purse, think of me. Each day, as my frustration builds, I come in from the mailbox and sit on my living room floor and cry. I cry because I can’t do anything else. There is no one to punch, no car to key. After I cry, I write. It’s better than getting drunk and it keeps me from throwing things.

While you slather yourself with Clinique products, I’m trapped in my house nursing stress breakouts and looking like a troll. While you grill up a steak, I eat Ramen. While you go get highlights, I watching my hair come out in handfulls in the shower.

It’s not even all about the money. It’s about me wondering how someone can look me in the eye and make a deal and then completely renege on it.

I hope, while you fall asleep at night with the help of neither Nytol nor vodka, you think of me. I am not a faceless corporation. I am a person. When you don’t pay your bills, you tell me that my work is good enough to use but not good enough to pay for. You tell me that everything you said when we met meant nothing. You tell me that you don’t care about doing what you said you would do. You tell me that you don’t have the character to honor your commitments. In my world, a person’s word is still worth something. The population keeps shrinking.