Thursday, January 29, 2009

Three Years

Randy died three years ago today. I'm not quite sure what to do with that information today. Three years ago I was inconsolable. Two years ago I couldn't bring myself to do much but mention it. Last year, I was able to reflect about that day and the days since in a relatively calm manner. Today, I feel like it is something I want to acknowledge but don't know how.

This year, I don't work with or socialize with the same people that knew Randy (except Deano, of course). I don't even work with anyone that I would feel comfortable with just saying, "Hey, my friend died on this day three years ago." But yet, I feel the need to do let it be known.

I know I've written a few times about how much I think Randy would have love helping me when I was doing cat rescue. I really think he would have ended up a cat owner even though he swore up and down he didn't want one, he just wanted to enjoy other people's kitties. But somehow, I suspect that he would have left my apartment one day with a scared little feral. They were a ragtag bunch - those kittens - something he and I (and frankly our whole group of friends at the time) could relate to. Some days when I think of Randy and I'm at home, I look at McLovin, the fiesty three-legged dumpster refugee, and think about just how much Randy would have gotten a kick out of him.

I've been playing his piano a lot lately. For awhile I wasn't playing very much at all. I went through a very long stretch of not playing where it seemed like a long uphill road to climb to regain my former skills and I'd look at it feeling sort of guilty wondering what he would think of his piano just sitting there gathering dust. But since we moved to Providence it has once again become a part of everyday life. It sounds good with the hardwood floors and open floor plan. And I'm slowly working myself back up to the more complicated pieces. Some songs I just shake my head at when I listen to them on my iPod while reading the sheet music. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get there, but it's the exercise of trying that makes you better. And of course Allie still enjoys the music, espeically the trills and the higher registers. She ends up either sitting next to me on the bench or rolling on her back behind the music stand.

I know that as the years pass, January 29th will more and more be just another day. For a few more years it will be like today. A little off, a little raw. A little like I just wish it were tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I want to thank all of you for weighing in on the crossroads I am facing with this blog. I took all of your advice and your thoughts very seriously and carefully examined my options. It seems that many of you less-than-anonymous fellow bloggers also at times wish you could be anonymous to get stuff out that you don't feel safe getting out now. That gave me lots of comfort.

Basically, I started this blog a few years back not for any readers I might attract but for myself and myself only. The reason I decided (after some struggle then, too) to let my family read it was because at my core I am an open person. I might not volunteer much information in person and I firmly believe in boundaries. But there is rarely a question I find too personal or information I am absolutely unwilling to share. It is precisely because of the close relationship I have with my family that I felt comfortable enough to let them read it. Honestly, even the stupid silly stuff I post is usually given a test drive with my parents and I have always discussed the bigger issues with them first.

But lately I have not really wanted to talk about the frustration I've felt with my job, the area, and the inevitability of re-entering the job market in the not-distant-enough future. I think my parents have given me a little bit of space and as always my friends operate on a "reveal only on your own terms" basis. I express these feeling in fits and starts, and for now that's good enough. But the fact that my willingness to open up about this in person and on my online journal has declined is an indication that maybe things have taken a turn and I need to straighten out to stay on course. I need to be more candid here and at the same time I need to feel like I can be more candid here.

There have been times here where I have really let my vulnerable side show. When we lost Randy. When I decided to let it be known that I have had chronic struggles with clinical depression and I don't regret those things at all. In fact, I was very encouraged by the responses I got in the comment section and in real life. So why should this be different?

I don't want to go anonymous. I really don't see how I could do so without shutting out both my family and some of my favorite people, my fellow bloggers. And what would I gain? As fermi put it, maybe a little restraint is a good thing. If you have a place where you just vent, that place can come back to bite you. I know that as spants said, she maintains some anonymity while letting some in on the secret. I don't feel like I could exclude my family in that kind of scenario. And besides, I get the feeling she still doesn't write anything online that she wouldn't say in person if pressed. Me, I'm still a little too scared of confrontation should I be found out. Plus, as I wrote earlier, I barely have time to keep up this one like I should.

So here's the revised pact I want to make with you. I want to open up more than I have been recently. There is a lot of discomfort with where I am in this stage of my life. But really, who isn't feeling this? Our country is not in a good place and I don't know a single person who hasn't been affected personally by it. We're no exception and Dean has been reassuring me endlessly we are still better off than many. That is cold comfort, but better than none. I have to trust you, readers. As my dad put it yesterday on the phone, I need to give my readers the credit due that they will see me as the complex person I am, not the one-dimension persona I've been putting forth recently. But to help me get back on track, you need to trust me too. Those of you who know me in real life have to respect this space for exactly what it is intended to be - an online journal. A peak into my mind and emotions. I am not one to keep things bottled up, and there might be times this is the only place I feel like getting it out. Don't take offense or see it as an affront. See it as me using one of the many channels available to me to work things through. When I wrote my depression posts, it took me days to write each one. Turning things over in my mind, finding exactly the right expressions. That might happen here too.

Anyway, enough rambling on about myself. How was your weekend?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The past several days have felt like a period of regrouping for me.

First of all, our country is regrouping. Yesterday was...indescribable. I loved every part of it. The ceremony was cathartic - the ritual of saying good bye to a leader and ushering in a new one. No matter how you felt about George W. Bush, the contrast of what we were letting go and what we were welcoming in was striking. And I can't even speculate as to what African Americans were thinking while some were old enough to remember segregation. I know this was special to them and those of all races and ethnicities who fought to end those deep injustices. But the thing I like about this man is that he doesn't belong to just one bloodline, everyone who voted for him can lay some sort of claim to his success. Young, old, black, white, hispanic, asian, old young, educated, blue-collar, we put him where he is. I don't kid myself that things will turn around overnight, but for once I don't feel like the president is only out for his own interests or the interests of the wealthy and those who graduated from the same class at Yale.

But I honestly wasn't thinking about the historic implications of Obama's presidency as he put his right hand up and recited the oath of office. What I was thinking with tears running down my face was "thank God we got this right." Like many of my fellow American's, I've watched the last eight years unfold in terror as our administration waged a poorly planned war against a country whose culture they never did understand all the while lying to us about why and accusing those who asked questions of heresy. These same people appointed their friends to important jobs, friends who proved completely inept while one of our greatest cities drowned. And then gave themselves a hearty pat on the back for doing a heckuva job. And lastly, these same people, who claimed to have abhorred goverment, robbed its own treasury to give to those going out of business because they thought rules and regulations were useless. In my opinion, these last eight years should have never happened. But they did and we'll be living with the fallout for a very long time. But the fact that this man will be sitting in the oval office manning the ship from here on out gives me hope.

Now, on to administrative business. I need to regroup my blog. I've been really unhappy with it lately and I'm not sure how to explain it to you in a way that will make sense. This blog is supposed to be my voice. And increasingly I've felt like it isn't. This isn't the real me. The past six months or so I've been blogging in one voice and living in another. When I went back and reread my New Year's post I noticed two things about the tone. One was that it was so sugary and upbeat that if I hadn't written it, I'd likely want to strangle the person who did. The second was that not once in that post, nor several others that I've written in the past several months, have I come out and said what I'm really thinking. Here's what I'm really thinking: I feel vulnerable. I feel scared. And a lot of the time I feel very unhappy. I don't think this is a bout of my previous struggles with depression, aside from the general blanket of depression and anxiety that has been draped over this country since the layoffs, the unemployment numbers, and the plummeting stocks. I know I have a lot to be thankful for. But some days those things are harder to think of than others. I don't know how to express these feelings and how much detail to go into. Some things I feel like I need to work through myself. I will be honest - there are lots of times I wish I were anonymous like many of my blogs friends. I envy you, keepers of anonymous blogs, for being able to share such deeply personal feelings and experiences. Please know that I have them too. I have thought about starting a second, anonymous blog but who the hell am I kidding? I can barely keep up with this one. So in sum, I'm not sure which direction this blog will take. I just know it can't continue in the same vein it is now. Any thoughts? Suggestions? I care what you think and any ideas are better than none.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Healthy Dose of Fear

Generally, I can be described as mild-mannered. Even-keeled. Reasonable. There are times I can definitely be described as a pushover. Living 22 years of my life in Minnesota, I tend to handle unsettling situations in a passive aggressive manner. You know, with a kind note hinting at why I am correct or justified in my actions and why someone who might feel the way the other feels might possibly be considered wrong or unreasonable. This is the way things are done in the Midwest. Indeed, it takes very much to piss me off to the point of direct confrontation and a special kind of anger to get me to raise my voice.

I am afraid the Northeast is changing me. If there is one very foreign thing I've learned about the Northeast it's that people here like confrontation. Good and bad. I've been asked at the grocery store where I found the garlic bread and then sought out and corrected when I "told them the wrong aisle" (in quotes because I told them the correct aisle, they went to the wrong one and then yelled at me about it). Dean has been hollered at by other customers for accidentally standing in the express lane with too many items. We've also had several complete strangers make fervent menu recommendations at restaurants and then ask why we didn't follow through on their suggestions. This type of style forces one to engage. And after a while it rubs off. I haven't yet done any of the aforementioned things, but I've noticed it takes less effort and less general pissing off for me to speak up. Where before I would endure an awkward situation to avoid dealing with people, I am starting to see the value in making your feelings known loud and clear.

For example, last week at work I noticed a piece of equipment in my workspace had been taken and replaced with a defective one. Unfortunately, I didn't notice this until after I ran the experiment with the faulty piece of equipment and got bad results, essentially wasting a good part of my day. Since I share my workspace with a grad student, I asked him about the defective equipment and he pointed out the fact that ours had been swapped out because all the equipment in our workspace has his initials on it to distinguish it in just such an instance. By this time it was late in the day and most everyone had left. So I poked around other peoples' workspaces until I saw the equipment with my partner's initials on it, plugged in and working beautifully. Turns out the guy who took it is already not one of my favorite people for some questionable work ethic he showed upon his arrival to our group. So I decided the next day I would confront him about it. Not in a mean way, just ask him why he thought replacing someone's equipment with defective equipment without notification was the appropriate course of action.

Well, the next morning when I asked him about it he got quite defensive. He admitted to taking my equipment without asking and giving me a defective one without telling me. I told him I had ruined an experiment because of this and he retorted that he actually replaced it awhile back and I hadn't noticed so I must not have needed it. I explained that that wasn't the point, he had no way of knowing whether I would be needing it or not and taking people's stuff without asking isn't cool. By this time, by voice was above my normal speaking voice and edging towards yelling. We are thankfully one of the better funded university labs that I know of. I have had to work in a lab where too many people are sharing equipment, where we have to fix our own stuff that isn't working, and make ends meet to the detriment of our productivity. That isn't the case here at all. If a $100 piece of equipment breaks, you buy a new one with your grant money. You don't need to ask Boss, you just place the order and a new one will show up a couple days later. If someone's equipment broke and they wanted to borrow mine for a couple days before the one on order arrived because I wasn't using it, that's fine. I'd be glad to help. But to me, taking without asking and failing to attempt to replace either of ours was simply unacceptable.

Unfortunately, either due to language barrier or culture clash, this never sank in with him no matter how much I hollered or how red I got in the face. But it did sink in with everyone else, who by that time had grown quiet to watch the spectacle. Ever since I have been treated...differently. A couple people have appeared slightly frightened to ask me for something. One girl, who I have always thought of as rather brash and bossy, has actually been sucking up to me a little. I have been as nice as possible, but in their eyes I see my shitfit replayed. And you know what? I think I'm okay with that. This is a temporary (1-2 year) appointment. I'm not looking to make lifelong friends with these people. I'm just trying to not have my workplace stripped for parts like a tourist parked in the ghetto. The Northeast me kicks butts and takes names.