It was my birthday and I was at work. I like to think of myself as one of those especially evolved adults who doesn’t require a #birthdayweek or (worse) #birthdaymonth worth of attention via social media comments and posts, strings of nights out celebrating, tiaras or gifts. Thus, I was absolutely appalled at myself as I heard myself beginning a whiny sentence to one of my colleagues with, “not to be a birthday diva, but…”
You see, the office “fun committee” had provided their annual birthday surprise of flowers, a card signed by the staff, and one’s favorite dessert, which they had gotten wrong. I’d been working there for three birthdays, and an on-boarding check box for new staff was the filling out of an “about me” questionnaire that controlled for preferences, filed in the employee’s HR folder. Mine clearly, explicitly said, I love all things chocolate, dark only, and all chocolate, only chocolate, all the time. Imagine my injured surprise when I followed the post-it note the fun committee left on my desk pointing me to the freezer and pulled out the freezer drawer to find a pint of vanilla gelato with my name on it. WHAT WAS THE MEANING OF THIS? I stormed over to the committee head’s desk to investigate. Continue reading →
It’s taken me what I consider a shamefully long time to put together some thoughts about Chris Cornell’s death in May. I awoke that morning to my husband gently telling me that Chris had killed himself the night before and immediately leapt out of bed to stream my hometown radio station, KEXP. In the shock of this terribly sad piece of news, I was transported back to April, 1994, when word came over the kitchen radio that a dead man who appeared to be in his late twenties had been found above Kurt Cobain‘s garage. Losing brilliant artists to suicide or drug overdoses or a combination of both is a devastating epidemic turned legacy of Seattle, my hometown. Andy Wood. Stefanie Sargent. Kristen Pfaff. Layne Staley. Mike Starr. Kurt himself. Hearing the news about Chris made me ache to be home, under chilly grey skies and dark Evergreen trees, so I did the next best thing–wrapped myself in flannel and turned up the radio. Continue reading →
I was in the fitting room at Nordstrom Rack trying on a random assortment of clothing, and in the quiet of that space on a Monday evening, a young girl’s running commentary in the room two doors down was clearly audible.
I’d seen her regarding herself in a full length mirror as I walked to my own room–door ajar, her mom standing with an appraising air over her as she wriggled into a swimsuit. What struck me was the tone of pure delight and body positivity that wafted from this young girl’s room as she tried on swimsuits. A task most American women speak and think of with something approaching dread, if not total dread outright. At what point did we change, focusing less on the promise of cool summer swimming and bright summer sun, and more on our perceived flaws and the inability of any piece of synthetic fabric to deliver us from them? Continue reading →
Months ago I wrote a post exploring how to cope with losing someone, but not through death. If there are great notes about how to grieve a “living loss” that’s not a romantic break up, I’m not aware. It’s not like there’s a greeting card series or shared cultural ritual for dealing with it. It’s just, someone decides to leave the relationship and you have to sit there and accept it and handle it mostly alone. There’s no bereavement leave or floral arrangements for losing a friend who yet lives. There’s just you and the void they left, soldiering on. Continue reading →
My mom, the public health nurse talked to me about sexual harassment from the time I started middle school, plainly stating its definition and harshly stating its wrong. She told me stories about the old days at University Hospital when male doctors thought they could do whatever they wanted to and with “their” nurses. It was the season of Anita Hill’s Senate Judiciary hearings, where Clarence Thomas, awaiting confirmation to the Supreme Court stood accused, and it seemed the term “sexual harassment” was repeated on every TV and radio station every hour on the hour. My mom seized this opportunity to educate me not only about how to spot it, but the gender power differential that exists in society, making it politically difficult for women to report abuse, and even more difficult for their claims to be believed. She wanted me, as an eleven year-old, to understand my rights, and how to assert them. You have to be assertive, she often reminded me. Continue reading →
Some of the most dazzlingly beautiful moments in life are when I’m making amends for past bad behavior. Perhaps because I was in trouble often as a kid (at school, at home, at friends’ homes, in public) I’m more comfortable with being in the wrong than others. Of course, this comfort has made me both terribly antagonistic and great at apologizing. I admitted in an earlier post that I used to be an incorrigible mean girl, treating my classmates horribly from elementary school on up through the grades. In fact, I only stopped the two-faced, shit talking, exclusionary cruelty when a colleague I was trying to make into a friend recoiled in horror when I tried to start a mean-spirited gossip sesh about our coworkers. I was twenty-two and getting much too old for that shit. It was eroding my soul, isolating me with my demons, leaving a trail of hurt feelings and broken friendships in my wake. Bad karma was everywhere, and my life was low-level, grinding misery, even when I permanently dropped the mean girl act. And then, I was unexpectedly presented with a second chance to do the right thing. Continue reading →
I’ve had a complicated emotional relationship with money since I became aware of its awesome power. As a kid I believed my family was on the brink of destitution. I thought this because I had limited perspective and because I wore hand-me-down clothes and my parents said no every time I whined for them to buy me things when we were out shopping. We were austere, eating endless leftovers, owning the same single car from the time I was five until I left home for college, rarely eating out, our vacations road trips.
My dad would sit at the dining room table elbow deep in papers doing our bills and finances. It was a soothing ritual for him, but I sensed tension. I lay awake at night worried about whether we were poor and what we would do. My perception was that we didn’t have the things our neighbors had, or my friends’ families had–new cars, new clothes, mountains of toys–and I reasoned it must have been because we were living on the edge of poverty. Continue reading →
I attached a strong stigma to feeling lonely, believing this natural human state of existence to be a sign of a major flaw–being unlovable. Or worse, “lame”, that defeated state all kids, from middle school to college so desperately try to avoid. Being unlovable was one thing, a terrible sense of inevitable isolation, but being seen as lame, and therefore uncool, stung so much worse in the short-term. I’m not sure I can accurately calculate the amount of hours I spent alone in my room, or later my apartment, doing absolutely nothing other than castigating myself for not having more friends and interests. Desperate for someone, anyone to assuage the crushing sense of emptiness; the reverberating ennui. Being lonely was my biggest fear, and avoiding that natural state caused me to do impulsive and mean things. It made me the worst version of myself, someone whom I could not recognize, which, of course simply compounded the problem. Continue reading →
I once read that there are two types of drinkers–the type without a family history of alcoholism and the type with. The type with history was known as sensation-seeking. I can’t help but feel like this phrase describes my life now. I feel like I am out there looking for sensation constantly, the next high. I’m not talking about substance abuse here. Since getting married I feel even less settled and certain about the future, in the most unexpected and delightful way. I’m reminded of a question we ask our survey respondents at work: did you want so much to engage in pleasurable activities that you ignored the risks or consequences? Every time I ask that question I see myself in it. It’s like I’ve connected with a part of me that I thought I lost long ago–the impulsive Kate who is always looking for a rush of some sort. It feels so good that I can’t help but wonder if there will be a crash. And when there is will I even care?
These words, written by my 28 year-old self in a facebook “note”, (if anyone remembers that apparatus), revealed itself to me in an fb memory from 2008, the year I married and took a nosedive off the wagon. I shuddered reading it, and remembered writing it. Continue reading →
As I wrote, read and re-read Tuesday’s post I kept having to step away and come back to it, because it was confusing and didn’t flow. I couldn’t get it to flow with better clarity. I was frustrated. Then I remembered that being gaslighted is inherently addling, non-linear and maddening. Naturally, trying to write about it might produce something just that.
People who gaslight are desperate to control others. They are desperate to be right and to have the last word. They are desperate to manipulate reality to conform to their image. They are very sick people who lack empathy and basic problem-solving skills. They are desperate because they lack a stable identity, and are filled with vast empty inner spaces that threaten to collapse on them, causing total personal disintegration. They are living, breathing black holes, and they are desperate to avoid exposure. The deeper the desperation, the stronger the need to manipulate and control. The greater the fear of exposure, the louder the grandiosity. Continue reading →