Thursday, April 30, 2009


People enjoyed telling me where they were from. How they abandoned the unfortunate weather and super-stressed people to live in an expensive, yet undeniably exotic, locale. After days of conferencing, staring at the Pacific, hiking and shopping, I found myself deep within a pout as M dropped me off with hugs and kisses and I ill-temperedly rolled my suitcase toward the agricultural screening point.

I found a spot at the airport bar, drinking a glass of wine fast enough that I felt pleasantly tipsy. Smiling when I wondered if there were any Care Bears to purchase, I wandered back through the humidity to my gate and waited to board my lengthy flight home.

Some 16 hours and two layovers later, I hurt. Whimpering softly on my third and final flight, muscles that had been massaged into happiness the previous day were distinctly angry at the moment. Feeling my stomach burn from a surfeit of diet soda, I focused on my novel and yawned one more time. My parents picked me up and I stretched as they offered hugs and kisses before I settled in the heated seat of the Jeep.

"I need to sleep," I mumbled after trying to catch up and realizing I was unable to follow conversations. "Wake me up by noon, please. Have to work." I called as I moved slowly upstairs, sighing blissfully as I curled into my mattress and pillows. It was difficult to get up and go to work for a lengthy meeting, but I made it.

I sat at my desk, arranging familiar files and items and smiled. Much as I'd been dreading my return, it was shockingly lovely to be back. I grinned widely when visitors continued to appear at my door, catching up and offering apologies for my appearance and thinking speed. I contributed to the meeting, standing several times to stretch sore muscles and avoid drifting to sleep.

"I'm useless," I warned when Adam attempted to ask questions upon the meeting's completion. "I need to go home. Eat. Sleep." He patted my shoulder, told me drive carefully and I soon made my way home.

I woke several times as late afternoon shifted into evening and darkness finally fell. Each surface from sleep held momentary confusion, but I came to enjoy the joyful glow that appeared when I realized I was home. That the warm weight at my side was Chienne and that there were plenty of pillows to cuddle as I slipped into sleep again.

The grass is a vibrant green and the spring bulbs have begun to bloom. There are people I know and love and the comfort of familiarity. So despite leaving paradise, I'm utterly thrilled to be back where I belong.

(I think, in my defenselessly tired state, I agreed to travel east rather extensively in May and June. But I'll try to wiggle out of that later.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hiking in Flats

"I didn't bring sneakers," I told M as we sipped coffee on the lanai. I was cuddling the puppy (!!) as I reclined on a chair and we were discussing our planned hike for the day. "I can either get some or try it in my brown flats." I grinned at her dubious look and argued convincingly that the flats were old and comfortable - they'd be fine.

It was after we crossed the stream for the fourth or fifth time that I sighed at my choice of footwear. Though I never claim any impressive level of grace, slipping off the rocks and into the cool stream was less than ideal. I swore when I tripped on a branch covering the tiny dirt trail. Stopping to pick up the shoe and place my foot back inside, I glared at the mud that had sucked the soft piece of suede and leather right off the end of my limb.

"So," I panted after we climbed another ridge, rubbing the scratch on my hand that some plant had left and swatting at the tiny bugs that buzzed about, "this is an actual hike. Like with rocks and this stream and all this," I trailed off and looked around and the lush vegetation that surrounded us, "jungle."

M paused, nodded and pulled the puppy closer to her side before opening her bag and offering me water. She paused again when looking down a steep descent that lead to an equally sharp incline. Already sweating from the humidity and muddy from slopes we'd taken on all fours, she looked back at me.

"I'm sure the waterfall is pretty," she offered, turning to look again at the path as it disappeared downhill. I peeked over her shoulder, reaching to smooth the puppy's coat. The tiny purple flowers covered one side and we could hear the stream murmuring below us. I was out of breath and getting hungry and looked down at my shoes, unsure of their ability to grip the ground with enough efficacy to make it up and down another set of rises and falls.

"Let's go back?" I suggested and watched her smile brightly before we pivoted to retrace our steps. We paused multiple times, trying to find the path across the stream or through the undergrowth, finally arriving back at the fence we'd had to walk around and back over the chain that notified us that trespassers would be prosecuted. Quietly made our way back down the hill to where we'd parked illegally and sighed once we climbed back in the car.

"That was hard," I offered, shaking my head at my sodden shoes and muddy legs.

"Let's get lunch," M replied happily and, eager for Greek, I slipped off my flats and wiggled my toes as we stopped for take out and proceeded to a beach.

Wish you were here.

"Secluded," I requested once we reached the water on the northern part of the island. The drive was spectacular, water sparkling in the sun as shades of blue varied depending on depth and some other magical factors I'm too tipsy to determine. "It's so pretty," I sighed multiple times, leaning my head back as I stared out the window.

I followed two friends across the coarse sand, wincing when my bare feet encountered rocks. The pain was worthwhile, however, when we found a tree to use for shade and spread a blanket on the sand so we could watch impressive waves crash, view unimpeded by crowds of people. "It's almost embarrassing for you," I told my companions, both of them local. "Locations like this - days like this - just don't happen everywhere. You're lucky."

They talked about how they really should make it to the beach more often and I drifted, watching the waves and clouds and wondering how cold the clear water would feel. We talked about work and told stories, giggling over some and frowning in thought over others. We spread sunscreen over noses and shoulders, coating skin liberally in an attempt to prevent turning pink.

We finally left clothing in piles on the blanket as we wandered toward the ocean, splashing in until we were breathless with shivers. Once submerged, I quickly adapted to the temperature, exploring the slightly slimy texture of the rocks under my hands and knees and floating in the shallow pool protected by rocks at greater depths. The waves tugged us back and forth as we talked, cooled by the water surrounding us but warmed by the sun as it shifted overhead.

Returning to the blanket, I wiped the water from the lenses of my sunglasses and sighed once again. Life somehow feels far away here - mundane responsibilities and frantic worries seem outrageously inappropriate in a place so stunning, colorful and distant. So whether splashing in cool water or smoothing on sunscreen while nestled on the sand, I let myself relax.

We had drinks, admired the view some more and yawned as we decided it was time to head back. I thought, watching the mountains instead of the water out my window as we reversed our path back home, that I wished everyone had the opportunity to let go for a few hours. To think of nothing but how wonderful shades of blue can appear. When the biggest worry is how much your nose will freckle from excessive sun and insufficient lotion. That you could laugh at stories and sip icy drinks while reclining on the sand or seated under an umbrella.

I'm happy. And I hope - wherever you are and however you occupied your day - you're equally content.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quieter, Simpler, Better

"Are those parrots?" I asked absently as we sat on the lanai, sipping coffee and looking down at the city and ocean below.

"Yep," she answered readily and I nodded as I thought there were a huge number of the bright green birds.

"I do not," I told her after she came to fetch me yesterday, "approve of the touristy area. It's too busy, too expensive." But all is well now - stresses of the conference and career pressures seeming far down the hill as we sit among the treetops in a lovely little house.

I woke when the sun lit the sky, generous windows allowing light to enter from all directions as I settled comfortable into the cushions on the couch. I curled on my side, under a brightly colored yet softly fluffy blanket that reminded me of my best friend from grad school, and listened to the birds as they began to chatter and sing.

I finally wandered downstairs, oversized shirt hanging at mid-thigh and feet bare, stepping outside to greet the puppy (!!) and fold laundry I'd done last night. I let M giggle at my Care Bears, was suitably impressed with her plans for their new house and we talked. She possesses a rather gentle logic that rarely fails to soothe me. She let me complain about work and expectations and exhaustion and then asked questions about what I liked and my alternatives should this not work out.

Feeling myself relax into the comfortable house and company, I let the puppy (!!) nibble my ear before scolding him for chasing the cat I met as a kitten.

"Dating anyone?" she asked lightly, smiling when I shook my head.

I opened my mouth to reply in more detail but found myself with the same dilema that I faced on my blog. I can't talk about it. So I shook my head again, shrugged and changed the subject, looking out at the water in the distance and listening to the wind whisper through the branches that surround us.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sleepy Day 4, Busy Day 5

"They're over there," Adam pointed with a straw after pulling it from the frothy drink before him. "Rather sad lot, actually."

"No," I protested, pulling myself out of my slouch to peer where he'd gestured, squinting as I tried to see the penguins kept on the resort. "They're not happy?" I frowned when he shrugged, shoving his straw back in his drink.

I examined them carefully the next day, thinking they didn't seem overly put upon. I grinned when I wandered past the nearby flamingos, balanced gracefully even as they tucked beaks into their feathers to nap. I tucked my own head into mounds of covers and pillows as I battled a vicious migraine. I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep or excessive drinking or unholy amount of talking and noise that seemed to surround me constantly, but I was unwell yesterday. Tossing fretfully, I frowned darkly at the television as it failed to entertain me. In full pout, I pulled out a novel from my suitcase and found myself completely distracted within moments.
I brought four books, not counting my copy of the Open Laboratory 2008, and made my way through three of them between noon and midnight, taking naps between some chapters. Tucking the novels into my suitcase this morning, I patted them affectionately - they were fabulously entertaining - and shoved at the skirts and dresses, sweaters and jackets and five pairs of shoes that made my luggage bulge at the seams.
I paused, hand on the only novel whose spine remained unbroken, but resolved to get some work done today. So I checked my overstuffed suitcase at the front desk and proceeded to the beach to answer email. Ordering a fruity cocktail, I began to wade through any number of people who were cross because I'd ignored them this week. I felt the tension invade my shoulders as a frown creased my brow. I tried to watch the ocean, but was unable to see it very well through the throngs of people. I tried to obey the music as it liltingly invited me to relax and nodded when the waitress offered another pricey, frothy drink.
"Lunch?" she asked as I closed my laptop.
"My battery ran out," I told her, blinking tipsily behind my large sunglasses. She smiled and soon set a salad before me as I watched people wander to and from the various sources of water around.
I currently find myself in the back of a Starbucks on the property, lured my power outlets and shelter from the sun. I'm so bad at vacationing, folks, but hope to improve my record in the next couple of days.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Three Bears

Drunk people made me nervous. Like most components of life that make one uncomfortable, prolonged exposure can sometimes make an aversion less intense. Given the amount of free alcohol available at any number of events, I'm with tipsy folks quite a bit and it doesn't take too many free fruity cocktails or glasses of wine before I join them in excessive giggles and wobbly gaits.

I've seen many people slur words, sometimes blinking in confusion as they try to think of the appropriate noun or matching verb. I've blinked in surprise at angry responses that were out of line with the inane comment that seemed to trigger them. I've watched women drape themselves over men or give horrified looks at overly suggestive remarks, depending on the lady in question.
I woke up cuddling Care Bears I only vaguely remember purchasing the night before.

Always my favorite of the cuddly creatures, I feel a strong familiarity toward great affection and extraordinary fondness. I spent major parts of the day with people - men, actually - who are startlingly brilliant and stunningly modest and kind.
I grinned across the table at one of such man, smile growing when he winked at me. We shared ideas and gave presentations, talked about next steps and discussed how to cure diseases and make progress and provide value to mankind. And while I offered insight and made plans, I felt amazingly privledged to be part of what we're doing. Problems with workload and priorities aside, this job is a huge opportunity to learn and network. And there were moments I felt profoundly grateful for it today.

Bedtime Bear
I'll be honest. I wish this hotel would shush. It's ridiculously anti-relaxing with the people and talking and flip-flopping and singing into the wee hours. Apparently people enjoy the performances as they drink their own fruity cocktails and enjoy the balmy evenings by the pool. To be fair, the singers and their (loud) bands are talented. But it is sleepy time!

"What?" I asked, trying to focus my eyes after I yawned at great length during a meeting. I turned to face the man sitting next to me and he opened his mouth to reply before patting my arm and letting me zone out again.

"I'm sleeping," I complained, "but I'm still so tired! I don't know if it's jet lag or time differences or just lack of my own bed. I only have five pillows when I could really use 8," I mused, seeing I'd lost his attention but not really caring. "Maybe I don't sleep as well when I'm tipsy."

So I'm perfectly happy tucking the soft blue bear under my chin, our eyes equally heavy lidded and curl into dreams.

Cheer Bear
I've always been suspicious of the pink bear sporting a rainbowed tummy and incessant grin. I glared at her, nearly asking if she was mocking me when I returned for the day today.

While there were some meetings that were Tenderheart-worthy, there were others that were tense and awkward - filled with demands we can't meet and anger that left us apologetic. I don't like unhappy people, hurt by anger and disappointment. But given the passion and energy that we put into our work, we're bound to start getting edgy after days of constant meetings and high expectations. And that tension suffocates me at times, leaving me wishing for escape and feeling anything but cheerful.

"You befuddle me," I told the happy pink bear as she perched on my nightstand. "Always happy - it's not normal." But I reached to nestle her next to the other two in my arms as I closed my eyes for just a few minutes, waking some half hour later with them scattered cozily under the covers with me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day 2 (in two moments)

"Hey," I offered in greeting after flipping open my phone when it vibrated on the nightstand. I paused for a moment, waiting for him to tell me why he called and finally asked what was up.

"I'm fine," I replied slowly, a bit confused, when he asked how I was. "How are you?"

"I saw you earlier," he finally stated and I raised an eyebrow.

"Are you drunk?" I guessed. "I know you saw me earlier - we talked."
"Not then," he replied and though I could hear his amusement, I was unable to discern its cause. Moments later, I found myself at the window per his request. Standing before the sliding doors, I peeked around the edge of the sheer drapes, letting the fabric pool on my wrist as I pushed it aside.

"Look down," he ordered and my gaze darted toward the lower floors of the building opposing my own. "Left," he suggested and I finally located him, his curtains shoved aside as he stood in an open doorway.

"Hi," I smiled, feeling my stomach flip pleasantly as I lifted a hand to wave. "I didn't realize we were balcony buddies," I commented when he didn't reply, seeking to put the conversation on more familiar levels.

"You weren't wearing anything," he said, looking up at me as he said it. I blinked, forgetting to breathe and felt myself blush as I frantically tried to think of what to say in response.


"Breathe," I reminded myself, inhaling deeply and pausing before slowly exhaling. The speaker with the time immediately before mine was finishing up and I braced myself against the nervous quivers. It's just 10 minutes, I told myself. You'll get up, climb the stairs to the podium and tell people what's on the slides. Your voice won't shake; you will look confident and intelligent. And even if you don't, it will be over soon.
I remember few details of the actual presentation, mind focused exclusively on the task at hand and not on remembering how often I looked at the audience and how much I moved my hands. (The answer to both of those is likely 'a lot.') I took compliments afterward with modest smiles and hurried to my next meeting after escaping the meeting room.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Compare & Contrast

There are any number of conferences with varying degrees of relevance and quality. It is a now time for The Meeting, a lengthy ordeal - seven days jammed full of sessions and meetings, lunches and dinners and special events. I tend to go, having only missed a single opportunity while completing my graduate and postdoctoral work.

But, if you reference last year's meeting, you'll note that I spent very little time learning. I chose to mope instead. I would never find a job! I was so sad! I must comfort myself with lengthy naps in a lovely hotel. Massages. Long baths that left me splashing happily until I remembered I was likely to be unemployed in the near future. I would dutifully slump in the sudsy water, cheered by the bubbles despite myself.

So ingrained is that habit that I arrived last night, skin soaking in the humidity and hair frizzing alarmingly, I tossed my suitcase on a bench and flopped on my bed. I arched into a delicious stretch, muscles aching from 8+ hours on airplanes and opened one eye to glance at the clock as I relaxed into the fluffy bedding. I sighed, tempted to curl into a nap rather than dress for one of the three activities for which I had invitations. It doesn't seem like something I'd do, I thought, closing my eye again.

Motivated only by guilt, I quickly pulled off traveling clothes and shimmied into a dress. Briefly admiring the color, I forced myself to don heels and make-up, tucked my hair into some vague semblance of a style and set off to find one of the gatherings. I walked, heels clicking oddly against a background of flip flops. Smiling at people in swimsuits and beachwear as they ate ice cream or wandered off to find some suitably fruity beverage, I checked my cell phone for the room number again and frowned at signs as I tried to navigate the area.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it - people know who I am and stopped to chat. I drank free cocktails and nibbled complimentary treats, reminding myself to mingle after I'd lingered with one group too long. After a couple of hours, I declared myself exhausted and retreated to my room.
I started the day with a walk and am taking a break to eat a container of fresh pineapple. I took care of five items on my list of things to do before 9AM (local). But, sitting in a huge ballroom telling myself to focus instead of wishing I was napping, I realized conferencing isn't all that different than it always has been.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


"I'm getting it!" I told Mom when she leaned forward from the backseat to motion wildly toward the open parking spot downtown. "Good gracious, you people are driving me nuts," I muttered and turned to see my parents sending matching grins in my direction. I laughed at them as I opened the door, walking up to the second Hallmark store we'd visited in the last 15 minutes.

"Excuse me," I sheepishly interrupted the women at the counter of the first shop. I glanced around at the figurines, scented candles and aisles of greeting cards before facing them again. "Do you stock any of the Webkinz Juniors?" They replied that they didn't, though both were interested in buying one upon their arrival.

The taller of the two, dressed in a pink turtleneck and quilted pastel cardigan, began calling other shops in the area, triumphantly announcing she'd found a location that had the plush toys. "I want one for Little One," Mom told me earnestly. So, with a nod of acceptance, we set off to find a tiny shop stuffed full of toys. After pulling neatly into a parking spot, we headed straight for the desired display, selecting a Pink Puppy that would allow my eldest niece access to the site with games aimed at ages 3-6. I petted her head softly, wondering what name would be bestowed upon her.

"Beary, Tigey, Dolfie, Goldie," Mom recited of the last four Webkinz Little One obtained. "Guess what animals they are," she invited and we giggled. I can't judge though - I purchased the goldfish after admiring its pretty fins at the airport on some trip or another and said I thought Goldie was a fine name.

"What'd you get?" Dad asked, reaching for the bag after we returned to the car. He'd taken a single look at the tiny storefront and colorful array of its offerings before deciding he'd wait in the Jeep.

"She needed a bird too," Mom told him when he pulled out a small cardinal in addition to the larger dog. "They have treetop rooms." I blinked at him in surprise when he nodded with understanding rather than scoffed in response.

"She wants to see the treetop rooms," he told me and I patted his arm fondly while giving my own nod of understanding. He approved the toy we selected for Smallest One and tucked everything back in the bag before handing it to Mom.

About an hour later, I glanced over Mom's shoulder when she called to ask a computer question. She was in my office, perusing handheld video games and offered that Little One had asked for one. A girl in daycare brings hers and Little One's cousin taunts her with his. I narrowed my eyes at the latter and helped click the proper buttons to bundle a package - selecting a pink system, pink accessories package and My Little Pony game.

"Your dad is going to kill me," Mom fretted, glancing across my staircase to where Dad sat in my living room, watching cars drive very fast for short distances. He used to do that - I remember standing with my hand in Mom's at the drag races, watching Dad drive the car we'd load up and tow home. They promised me a Care Bear if he won, and I still recall standing between them as we approached the display at Sears. The bears, colorful as the display we'd seen earlier at Hallmark, had their boxes arranged in a tower and I quickly pointed to the one I wanted. (I'd given the matter careful thought on the way to the store.) I go in sometimes and look at the bears as they smile from shelves on one of my guest rooms - it's oddly comforting.

"I'll get it," I decided easily of the game and waved off her protests. "I can afford it," I insisted, "and I want her to have it." I tapped the keys as I entered my information, having the items shipped here so Mom and Dad could take it with them when they went home.

I puzzled a bit more over what to do for Smallest One. I've not seen her for a couple of months but I hear she's much wilder than her older sister. She's bright and funny, demanding and energetic and a bit rough. Evaluating the durability of the Leapster systems, I decided on one I thought she wouldn't immediately break, told myself she'd at least enjoy pushing the buttons and told amazon to send that too.

Pleased with myself, I rested my head on Mom's shoulder while we all watched motorcycles go very fast for very short distances. "I wish I had pie," I sighed. "Coconut cream."

After they set off to find me some, promising to return soon, I grinned and wrote a blog post. I'm inheriting all sorts of crap - going through family history at medical appointments is ridiculous. Heart disease on both sides, cancer on Dad's. Migraines and various respiratory problems on Mom's. Depression is officially maternal, though I think it comes from both branches. I don't see well - that's from Dad. He also shares my struggles to fall asleep easily. My appearance is all Mom - eyes, hair, facial features.

But I also love intensely and give generously to those I consider mine. Given recent medical concerns, it's wonderful to remember I've inherited a number of traits I'd never trade. And now, as I watch cars drive in circles and await their return even as I prepare for my own departure tomorrow morning, I'm happy.

It's almost as good as getting a Care Bear.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Slow Ascension

It should have been lovely.

The morning was warm and still, silence disturbed only the rustle of brown leaves on the ground and gentle songs by fluttering birds. I stood on a small deck, thinking it seemed an odd place to build such a structure though it was often occupied by someone pausing to watch the water. The sun, continuing its steady rise, cast long shadows of trees over the river whose flow was slow enough to offer faithful reflections of the trees lining the shores.

I captured my own shadow while tucked into a corner, resting lightly against the warm wood and breathing in the earthy scent of spring. I stumbled a bit when Chienne grew bored, tugging insistently at the leash and turning to glance at me in encouragingly. I smiled at her, feeling it less of a burden to allow my lips to curve and slowly moved off the deck and back to the path. I took deep, soothing breaths as we eventually turned toward home, trying to remain calm as I packed my bag and climbed in the car.

People are nearly unbearable when I grow depressed. They create pressure and expectations, have judgments and criticisms. And I'm somehow incapable of tolerating their presence. "I can't," I wrote to Mom after I avoided her call one night. "Give me some time to settle and then I'll talk."

Powering down my cell phone - the first time in Industry that I've done so - made the incessant vibrations cease a day or two ago. I couldn't speak to a room full of people. I blinked at the realization midweek, feeling quivers of panic overtake me. They'd find me, I decided irrationally, going so far as looking for a place to huddle, hidden from people who might seek my attention. I tried to soothe myself, taking a sip of water before focusing on breathing patterns. Failing, I scurried from the office, breathless by the time I reached the safety of my car.

Climbing, for me, is graceless. I do what's necessary to exist, spending time staring at walls or into a television screen. I increased the dose of my antidepressants, swallowing them faithfully each night before I said prayers, asking for something to help me up. Pulled by gentle comments and increasingly concerned emails from friends at work, I wobbled a bit as I tried to adjust to being around people again after a couple of days spent mostly at home.

The interesting component is that it does get easier. It's still difficult to peer through the tangled worries and fears, especially since it seems so very dark when I'm in those moods. But the knowledge that it will get easier - just as it has before - offers some comfort. There is also less guilt and self-loathing. When I say I'm ill, it feels true. Allowances must be made so I can recover.

"Stop," Youngest demanded when she walked in my office this morning to find me looking at the newest set of fibroid data I have. "You're fine," she insisted and I blinked at her.

"You always sound so happy, Katie," Newest later called from her office as I giggled over something Best told me. I blinked at that too, poking my head around the corner after he left to say hello. "I miss you when you're not here," she told me. "Nobody else laughs as much."

"People are funny," I replied after thinking for a moment. I continued to ponder it as I worked through the day, bracing myself when I had to face more than a couple of people at once and working steadily until it was time to go home. I don't think I've yet figured it out - how to maintain balance and avoid the downhill slopes and subsequent climbing. But I do think - for this time - I'm emerging from the depths.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


If psyches were objects, mine would be looking a bit worse for wear. It's as if the darkest of thoughts and frightening of worries had been forced into a corner and tucked behind something pretty. Safely contained, I'm able to function. I roll out of bed and arrive at work, making any number of decisions and talking to all kinds of people. I can battle the random escaped thought - there are several beautiful, strong, capable women at work who have remained single at ages greater than my own. People - men and women - seem to enjoy my company and not find me unbearably neurotic.

I knew I was vulnerable. I acknowledged that the 40 minutes I anticipated spending at the doctors was likely to destroy the shaky control I had over the worst of my insecurities and, once free, I'd suffocate under them for a while. I find myself astonished that I'm incapable of telling you of the events that led me here. There were a rather interesting series of choices I made, each of which was brought into sharp focus by a specific moment - a question or expression or event - yesterday.

By the end, the urge to hide was unbearable. Hurrying to my car, five business cards containing names of referrals clutched in a trembling hand, I sighed with a measure of relief once enclosed in the vehicle. There were physical sensations - the growing headache at my temples, the heaviness in my chest - paired with the familiar emotions. Pathetic and afraid, I told myself today would be better. That I would answer my phone again. I would leave the house and go to work.

Upon waking, I knew I would not. Even answering the simplest of questions on phone calls I couldn't avoid was agony. I couldn't lose myself in work, the pressure of a depression I'd done little to prevent a sharp distraction. I spent most of the day in bed, listlessly watching pictures move across the television screen while huddled in a nest of soft pillows and fluffy blankets. I closed the blinds, loathe to let anyone see in and, for once, not even caring to see out.

Tomorrow, I promised when yet another friend called to check on me, I'll come in. I will try to talk to her. I forced myself to pick up the phone and speak to my parents, but failed at making my voice sound normal. I clipped a leash on Chienne's collar and squared my shoulders before stepping outside in the sunshine I'd wanted to avoid. I did feel better in the fresh air, nodding at neighbors until they started to grate on my nerves. Lured by the glimmer of light on water, I walked down a hill and through the park, ducking under and around branches as we made our way to the river.

Inclines are tough, I decided, having walked down several of them to stand and watch the water. I have simply let myself slip downward, unwilling or unable to dig in my heels or search for a place to grip as my mood grew increasingly poor. Now, finding myself in a bit of a hole, I'm stuck with the task of climbing out.

I stood there until I shivered, glancing at the sun as it dipped lower in the sky. Chienne had grown bored so I wandered over and untangled her leash before starting the slow climb toward home.

Monday, April 13, 2009

No comment.

"It's OK," Pretty Hair offered, tucking a perfect lock behind her ear when she bent over to speak to me quietly.

"I know," I replied. My expression must have given me away for she perched on a chair to give me a gentle pep talk. "I'm fine," I assured her and exhaled with relief when she left.

I declined a colleague's offer to go with me, promising I'd call if I changed my mind. Looking around to make sure nobody else was coming, I returned to paging back and forth through my images, fibroid lurking at the bottom edge, near the base of my spine.

I swallowed a sick feeling of dread when I looked at them with the doctor. She was kind and gentle, regarding me with enough sympathy to elicit tears when asking if I was married or in a relationship or thought I'd have children someday.

I'm very near a state of despair over this. Stop, I order myself firmly, but I think of the mass of tissue and how it probably doesn't matter because I'm unlikely to find someone who loves me and I can't breathe. I swallowed hard, fighting back nausea, as I lay on the table, paper crinkling beneath me when I winced and shifted. I hurried my mother off the phone, telling her I didn't know anything more and I'd be fine and I didn't want to discuss it.

I've returned home to huddle in quiet safety, grateful for the gentle rain and gray clouds that offer a suitable environment for moping. I'll speak of other things, I decided as I understood I can't seem to get perspective on this for some ridiculous reason. But, for today, there isn't anything else.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Over past months, weeks have passed between trips to my mailbox. I could offer excuses - the orientation of my house offers convenient entry on one side whereas the mail is deposited all the way on the side street and would take a whole three minutes to go outside to get - but, in truth, I was tired and it was cold. There were some days when, in hopes that a package had been delivered, I would drive the tenth of a mile from my garage to the mailbox to fetch the papers stuffed inside.

We huddle inside for a majority of the bitter winters, avoiding frostbitten fingers and numb noses by hurrying from heated vehicles to warm buildings before shedding layers of protective gear into colorful, puffy piles. It is, therefore, a joyful occurrence when I can see that a package was delivered yesterday and think that it must have been after 11AM since that's when I was last outside to check. I wake easily of late, sun streaming in the patio doors at the foot of my bed and leaving me to stretch out of dreams in a warm glow. Chienne and I have reinstated walks - she sits and stares at me when I don't ready myself early enough.

We wave at neighbors and greet the others who walk and bike the paths through the forest nearby. Feeling rather fortunate that I can walk from home rather than parking in the convenient lots, we spend time along the edge of the river before selecting a new route and weaving through bare trees and over soft earth.

The bravest of the trees, either immune to or unafraid of the lingering threats of frost, boast buds at the tips of their branches. I tend to stare upwards, admiring the graceful branches against a bright blue sky, while Chienne's nose is rarely far from the ground, rooting through soft grasses and nearly touching mossy paths as she explores emerging scents. Neither of us are particularly concerned with what's ahead, content to feel the warmth of the sun contrast the mildly cool breeze.

Though we were not alone on the paths, the park was mostly quiet. We stayed on the pavement, traversing the route an order of magnitude slower than the bikes that often share the space, but never startled by a quick "passing on the left" warning. I sometimes envy those speeding past, much as I do the joggers in their fitted clothing and steady breathing patterns. I glance down at my loose clothing, often with a bag of poo in one hand, and shrug. Slow paces allow me to snap photos and have Chienne prance happily at my side. I pause at forks in the paths, peering down each option before selecting the most promising. I move closer to the pile of mulch in the park, breathing in the complex aroma of earth and pine and wood chips.

It's Easter so I spent moments in prayer and reflection. I allowed guilt to tug at me for not going to worship, but continued to walk. I threw up at church one Easter, overwhelmed by my acolyte robe and all the people and the stuffy sanctuary. I'm typically distracted by all the rustling chiffon as the girls twirl and tug at their pastel dresses. The hymns are always rich and full, I remembered wistfully, supported by a church-full of voices, some unpracticed but strong nonetheless. Quiet prayers count, I told myself gently, arms swinging at my sides rather than clasped before me. Head up and eyes busy rather than, respective, down and closed. But my mind focused and, for a moment, I felt peaceful.

I returned home, muscles pleasantly warm and tired, and tugged the mail from its box. I toed off my shoes while unclipping Chienne's leash, both of us searching for water. I undressed to shower while she joined Sprout in a sunny spot on the floor. Pulling the camera from my sweatshirt pocket, I downloaded pictures once I was clean and dressed in different pajamas. I'm debating the remainder of my plans. I can stay awake and go to brunch then work. Or I can send my regrets and curl into a nap amidst preparing for a week ahead. I can open the books that have, in fact, arrived and sort the papers that were tucked beside the box. And I can look out the door as people emerge from their houses, similarly appreciative of the end of hibernation season before the summer version begins.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The coast, the desert and the three day trip

We flew west with Rudy, the raccoon. Jake, the white tailed deer, had a mechanical problem and left us waiting in a mountain city while they worked on him. While Frontier (a whole different animal!) checked to see if they had the right part, we shifted our weight, looked in our bags and looked expectantly at the gate agent.

"I wonder what part it is," Best offered. Adam and I shrugged.

"It'd be funny if we went out and there was a United tail on the plane." Adam replied after a moment.

"But there'd be no animal on it," I protested, rather fond of the wildlife photos (and television offerings, actually - well done, Frontier).

Adam grinned. "We'll go out and there'll be a marketing person up there with a can of black spray paint," he predicted. "Draw a circle, a couple of triangle ears and some whiskers and rename this plane Alley, the cat." And we laughed before being called to board (Jake remained the graceful figure on the tail and wingtips) as we continued farther west for a few days.

Had this been my first and not my (I've lost count) corporate travel experience, I would have been utterly enamored of business trips. We were in three lovely cities, housed in rooms that were luxuriously spacious (kitchenettes, separate living space, king sized beds and the requisite eight pillows in each), ate incredible meals (enchiladas, steak, fresh salads full of local vegetables) and started late enough in the morning that I continued to feel reasonably rested and sharp through lengthy meetings. We laughed a lot and were reasonably productive. And my moments of extreme stress were few and far between.

I was consistently shocked when people apologized for the weather - calling it too rainy or dry, cool or warm depending on our location. "It's lovely," we assured them, reminding them of our home state and watching them blink in horror at the idea of snow. The Midwest...making you feel better about your weather through 90% of the year. The three of us walked all we could, standing outside to chat and breathe fresh air. I lingered in the garden of one hotel during a break in the rain. The air was heavy with sweetness, flowers looked vibrant and healthy, and I sighed happily as I arranged colors and shapes on the screen of digital camera before capturing the image.

Between luscious chocolate torte and perfectly rich carrot cake, we traveled to the desert. I glanced out the window between tapping the keys of my laptop and blinked at the desolate scenery. Mountains and desert turned an odd shade of brown in the dimming twilight and I shivered with a sense of foreboding since my last glance out the window had revealed the blues and greens of the Pacific crashing against sunny shores.

After circling yet another airport, impatiently waiting to land the damn plane already, we secured a driver and soon checked into another set of large hotel suites. After placing a room service order, I hurried to the shower to wash my hair and rinse the smell of plane down the drain before hastily dressing to answer the timely knock at the door. The next day contained more meetings, a bit of lab work and talking to men who are as brilliant as they are friendly.

"That's my cover!" I said upon walking into the director's office. A young man, he's oddly lacking in ego and embraces my direct approach to collaborations. I like him very much.

"That's why I kept it out," he said and I nodded at its removal from the stack of journals on his desk. He handed the bound pages to me and I brushed my fingers fondly over the cover, blinking when he handed me a pen. "Would you sign it?" he asked when I continued to wear my inquisitive expression. I smiled, glancing at Best before returning my gaze to our host. "Seriously," he said. Ducking my head over the glossy cover after glancing around his office and admiring the multiple awards tucked discretely between books and between family photos, I scrawled my signature in the lower right corner, very flattered and feeling rather enamored of a job that allows me to meet such amazing scientists.

I returned home in the first moments of Friday morning and smiled when Dad came into the garage to greet me, proudly displaying the baby gate they added to the Wall of Awesomeness so that Chienne could not continue to escape. I heard Mom calling upstairs, telling my sleepy canine I'd come home. I walked inside, giving hugs and kisses and having a piece of Easter chocolate as I caught them up on travel news.

The house was lovely - kitchen counters wiped clean, laundry folded and properly put away. I declined the offer of dinner and thanked them for all the work they'd done while I'd been gone. We had breakfast when I woke, having caught a mere five hours of sleep.

"Stay here," they advised when I debated going home for Easter. "Get some rest and relax." I offered more hugs and kisses with my offers of thanks and expressions of love as I headed off to work. They'll return on Saturday in preparation for Longest Trip Yet - a 10 day excursion to a familiar island that one of my favorite people calls home. In the meantime, Chienne and I took a walk and napped at great length. I've cuddled with Mr. Sprout when he curls into my side and giggled when he tries to attack my hand when I rub his belly. It's wonderful to be here - quiet and mellow - so I'll enjoy the time until I must depart once again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Incidental Finding

I have dark hair and pale skin. Rather large freckles appear sparingly on my skin. I’ve a tendency to worry excessively and take medication to prevent depressive episodes. I’m dramatic, but mostly kind unless cornered into being vicious. It is easy to make me laugh – I often find myself in fits of giggles over something or another. I have a Mittendorf dot in one of my eyes and the ankle I sprained never healed quite right. My left knee has a tendency to dislocate and I have severe headaches rather regularly.

“But I don’t want it,” I said quietly, staring at the screen. I nodded when assured it wasn’t dangerous, patting her hand when she rested it comfortingly on my arm. I couldn’t look away from the shapes appearing in grayscale – the curve of spine that contains an extra vertebrae, the pleasing symmetry of kidneys, the appearance of anatomy that is normally safely hidden under layers of skin and fat and muscle. “It’s ugly,” I noted of the circular mass on my uterus.

Another woman peered over our shoulders before clicking on a tool to measure the fibroid they’d found by accident. “No symptoms?” she asked as the small line appeared on the screen and noted it was about 5 cm in all directions. A sphere of grossness, I decided, wrinkling my nose even as I shook my head. “Cramps, bleeding, pain?”

“No,” I replied. “Nothing out of the ordinary for me. I’m very regular and do suffer a bit, but it’s nothing Advil can’t fix. But I still don’t want it,” I concluded, still looking at it and trying to figure out what part of my abdomen housed the fibroid what part of me should hurt. I'm bad at relating blurry images to the pieces of body they represent.

“It looks like it’s in the very outer layer,” one of them noted, zooming in and looking more closely. “That’s probably why it’s not hurting you.”

“I have a follow-up on Monday,” I reminded them, having made the appointment after learning of this abnormality while traveling.

“I’m sorry,” my traveling buddy for this trip replied when I mentioned the news at breakfast and I blinked at him. “Don’t be sorry!” I wanted to say. “It’s not a big deal. Nothing scary or bad or worthy of sympathy. It’s fine.” I even rolled my eyes at myself, good-naturedly abashed over my immediate assumption that each twinge of discomfort I felt on the long plane ride home was due to my fibroid.

We landed after midnight and in the last moments of Thursday, I blinked back tears over worst case scenarios. I don’t know what my childbearing plans are – it’s likely that I won’t have any given the way life is currently going. But the thought that this could be something other than benign and the subsequent necessity to remove the organ that contains it, left me mourning the loss of possibility.

“I’m not even married,” I told the women and swallowed against a sob when they regarded me with quiet sympathy. “I don’t want surgery or an impaired ability to have a healthy pregnancy. I don’t want this.”

“You’re fine,” one replied gently. “We'll look at it some more. Since it’s not bothering you, monitoring is the most likely outcome. It’s not that uncommon – many women have these and some never know.”

I looked at the screen again, burning the image into my mind. Knowledge is good, I reminded myself. It offers options and early detection is vastly positive. Ignorance, I sighed as I forced myself to rise and leave the room with thanks for their time, was a bit blissful though.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


"Well," I asked as Chienne leaped and whimpered in greeting when I returned from breakfast yesterday, "shall we go for a walk? Together this time rather than me chasing after you?" I took her prancing to the door and pawing at it as agreement and tucked Kleenex in my pocket before clipping her leash on and setting off toward the woods nearby.

I paused to take photos a couple of times, admiring the overcast afternoon and enjoying the brisk wind rustling through the amber grasses. Having been firmly instructed to take time for myself by the women at breakfast (I will, I wanted to say. I even wrote it on my blog!), I decided that exploring the paths Chienne had uncovered during yesterday's escape (part 2 of 2) appealed.

"This way," I called and Chienne followed me up a strange path, diverting from our usual route along the river but familiar with the short command. She soon took point while I climbed and tried not to stumble over randomly exposed roots. It was pleasant, I decided. Dead leaves crackling gently under my sneakers, looking around the bare trees and listening to the branches creak under the strain of the wind. I hadn't seen another person - it was quite chilly for an afternoon stroll - and savored the quiet as we continued to walk.

"Huh," I murmured upon reaching the crest of the hill. I frowned and turned in a circle, finally deciding I'd turned left into the park then left at the uphill path. I should continue to turn left, I reasoned, but continued to stand still, familiar with the sense of disorientation and flawed logic that lands me lost more often than not. I looked down at Chienne as she sniffed the ground, half blind but completely content, and thought she was more likely than I to get us home. But I was ready to head that way now and I wasn't sure what her ideal schedule was.

Unwilling to trust the puppy with our path, I thought through it again and decided that going left made sense. The park was surrounded by houses, I reasoned. If going left wasn't correct, I would eventually reach a neat line of houses. Wondering if this was like my strategy on the coasts of using oceans as landmarks - which always seems like it should work but never really does - I looked around and realized I was growing cold. I'd been out for a little over an hour and there was a snow storm coming. Growing worried that I'd be trapped in some sort of fast-moving blizzard, I took a breath and tried to enjoy the time as I made my way in what I hoped was a homeward direction.

I kicked off my heels when I entered the house this evening, some 30 hours after I made my triumphant return from our exploration yesterday. "Hey, pretty girl," I offered and bent until I could kiss her head and offer cuddles. "How goes it, Mr. Sprout?" I asked when I noticed the stripey cat observing from a distance. He waited until Chienne paused to grab a toy before moving gracefully toward me and purring while I smoothed his coat.

"I," I told them, "need to shower and pack. The flight tomorrow leaves at 6 - that's eight hours from now - and I'm not at all ready. Well," I corrected myself as they followed me upstairs, "I did check in and print my boarding pass. And laundry is done so I just need to pick outfits." Ceasing my monologue as I stepped in the shower, I made mental notes.

Snuggled into pajamas and tucking folded fabric into my suitcase, I sighed. "I'm always trying to get home," I told Chienne as she sat next to me on the floor, sad that the suitcase was being filled. "It's just three days," I whispered, sighing again.

"I can't take her for walks," Mom said when she called to check in. "She'll have to wait for you to get back. But we will be there all day! So that should be nice for her and Sprout."

I agreed easily, wishing I had more time to spend. "But I need to go," I told my parents. "Dry my hair, finish packing, decompress enough to sleep. I'm back late on Thursday - near midnight - but I need to be at work by 9 for meetings." Wincing at the idea of them visiting and not spending more than a few moments with them, I smiled over the comments some of you left yesterday and decided I still have some work to do.


As I was driving to work one day last week - events in the last 7 days have merged together somehow - I realized something odd. Sleep-deprived, frustrated and otherwise dismayed, I looked around at the emerging sunlight sparkling on the river as I crossed a quaint little bridge, beheld the gently rolling hills where grains are grown and felt happily settled. I belong here, I thought, and even given my current salary and my post-doctoral workload, I would not return to Former Institution.

"It'd be interesting to do a study," Adam decided as we sipped beer and nibbled chicken wings one night. "Since we all left rather luxurious careers to come here and work our asses off."

"Adrenaline," Best offered simply and I peered around Adam to send him an inquiring look. "We'd do this or heroin," he elaborated and I shook my head at him fondly. "Seriously," he said when Adam and I exchanged dubious looks. "We're people who can't stand being bored - who need constant stimulation and stress to feel engaged. It's not good, but I think that's why we're here - to prove we can do insane amounts of work and please incredibly difficult customers."

I paused to think, staring into my beer before taking another sip. I do not enjoy beer as a rule, but my head felt satisfyingly woozy. "I do feel really good when things go well," I decided. "A near-euphoric relief that I used to only get after I'd give seminars. Now I feel it at least weekly, but at the cost of intense stress otherwise."

Given that I do seem to like this - despite pages of complaints that indicate otherwise - and plan to stay for at least the next 18 months, it seems wise to set some limits on what I'm willing to give.

The 7PM rule
If I pull into my garage after 1900, the laptop remains on the passenger seat. I have worked enough for the day and require rest to be productive tomorrow. (If I arrive prior to 7, the laptop may come in and likely consume my evening.)

Accept invitations
I have this weird tendency to assume I'm somehow incredibly unique and only I suffer from these stresses and problems. I then feel isolated - either in a superior or inferior way - and am unable to see alternate solutions from within the spiraling panic. I did very well in the beginning - making time for lunches and breaks with colleagues - but have since reverted to old habits of unceasing work. When invited out, work can wait. So I'll slip off campus for coffee if asked. I can spare 30 minutes to sit in the cafeteria rather than working through lunch. I'm joining the group for breakfast in an hour to decompress and socialize.

Check Sanity
Given that we all tend to enjoy the drama, it is important to step back from heated arguments and passionate discussions and think about the goal. Is this truly important or do I just want to win? Adam and I bet $10 over a rather trivial question after spending some 20 minutes arguing about it. I lost so he often teases me, offering to bet on any number of issues. Before I start to yap at him like an provoked terrier - gesturing as I talk about flawed data and skewed samples and how I still think I was right (!!) - I pause to decide whether I actually care. So I sometimes (pretty rarely, but I'm working on it) shrug indifferently and return to what I was doing.

There are thousands of customers. Our academic partners are incredible - I consider meeting with them a major perk of my job description. But, as research folks, they are smart, intense individuals and sometimes get very angry. In those situations, I panic. I respect status and understand they are Very Big Deals and hate that they feel disappointed or frustrated. But there are too many of them. And I am not the sole source of their negative feelings, nor am I the only one who can fix the problem. We try to delegate appropriately, but - given some of these folks - it's tremendously difficult to read email updates and not chime in when I think there are mistakes. There's one site in particular right now and I think our strategy is wrong and their demands unreasonable and it infuriates me that people are making asinine comments as they work through this. But it's not my problem. I must let it go.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Perhaps from undergraduate courses, I have this aversion to using old material for new purposes. I tend to remake presentations (using pieces of old ones) rather than just calling it good enough and using what I have. I lose a lot of time tweaking documents when changes are highly unlikely to be noticed. I'm not a perfectionist at all - I can easily call something good enough - but after being here for quite some time, I have a lot of material. I need to be OK with just using it.

Volunteer Sparingly
If everyone in the group is to be assigned a task, volunteer for the piece you want. If it appears that only some people will get additional work, sit quietly and hope you're not one of them. When awarded a project, immediately note conflicts and problems with meeting timelines. Hope someone else has to do it instead or at least provide major assistance.

Keep Records
If I'm working very hard and can't articulate what I've been doing, there is a problem. Save old revisions - especially if material is getting cut for time/space - to indicate you knew a lot more than was presented. I also keep a spreadsheet with new columns for each week - listing items to do and accomplished. There is a notebook on my desk where I detail customer interactions. When consumed with many, tiny tasks, I can lose track of progress. So I keep notes.

Devise Sleep Strategy
I'm tired. Perhaps I need vitamins to perk up. But feeling like I'm desperately stealing time to rest is not working out. I'll see if my breakfast companions have any suggestions.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


"It wouldn't be so bad," I replied, gritting my teeth when I grabbed for and missed Chienne's collar again, "if this wasn't the second time she got out of her yard this morning." After sleeping for twelve hours or so, I got out of bed to start laundry and dressed to spend the morning in the labs. Chienne had managed to get through the gate when I did, but I followed in my car and she hopped in when I called.

I returned home to grab different clothes since I wasn't going to wear my jeans or bra during an experiment and happen to be rather modest. Upon repeating my departure, Chienne repeated hers but headed for the woods this time. Cursing with every step, I followed her and reminded myself that she is my most favorite of creatures as she continued to evade capture.

"I've chased my dog up and down the street several times," the rather attractive man offered as he held his leashed dog at his side. I managed a distracted smile before scrambling over a hill and jogging after my erstwhile hound again. After coaxing her back to me, I removed my sweatshirt and looped a sleeve through her collar before tugging her toward home.

"Katie?" my colleague said when I answered my phone about 20 minutes after arriving at the office, "the lab is down. Everything's torn apart for maintenance."

"Crap," I replied after a moment. "I'll be back there in a moment - I'm on my way." A quick glance assured me we'd not be completing our experiment anytime soon and we looked at each other and sighed. I then paused, abashed at my lack of manners, and introduced myself to her husband who'd tagged along for our weekend session.

"Well," I chirped, determined to complete the other of my major weekend tasks, "can you hang out and do my thing with me?" Beaming when they agreed, we had everything 90% prepared when we discovered a glitch. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to work around it and my shoulders slumped.

I edged my lower lip out and blinked at her, cheered when she mirrored the expression. "I hate being thwarted!" I whined and she nodded sympathetically before packing up, reaching for her husband's hand and waving a farewell. I finished packing up and felt my mood dip dangerously low when I went back to my desk.

Bella called while I was fetching my keys - I'd sent a frantic message when I realized both projects were screwed - and she offered to help tomorrow. "Thank you!" I replied, offering to buy breakfast before we got started. Having made suitable arrangements, I walked out to the Jeep and headed home. Mid-commute, I decided to stop at the store. I could cook something if I obtained groceries, I reasoned and devoted a majority of my attention to making a list. Unloading my groceries at home, I came in and made a quick sandwich for lunch before flopping on my loveseat and wondering what to do with the remainder of my day.

Determined to make it a pleasant Saturday, I decided to take a bath, sniffing at the bath fizzie until I decided it smelled of lime. I wrinkled my nose when unable to remember shaving my legs this week, but kept withdrawing them from the water to admire once smooth. I relaxed, growing drowsy in the silky water scented a gentle citrus. When the water cooled, I emerged to dry off and snuggle into loose pajamas. I'm pondering dinner options and am in the mood to cook so I'll do that next. I have laundry to finish and a nap in my near future.

And Chienne is sunning herself outside, locked safely in her yard.

Friday, April 03, 2009


I put coffee and cream into a travel mug and headed off to work before dawn most of last week. Upon rising one morning, I stared - befuddled - at the empty pot and shrugged before deciding to stop for a coffee en route. I repeated that routine - same time, same spot, same order - for the most of this week.

I ate sandwiches for lunch. I varied the source of said meals, but always had meat and cheese between bread.

I had burritos four nights this week. I would depart work, exhausted, and consider it simplest to return to the same Qdoba, consult the menu and find something with suitable cilantro levels that I would consume before bed.

When invited, I went out. Drinks with Adam one night in a German bar, sipping beer (it was what he'd ordered) and giggling at his jokes. A sunny shop with PrettyHair, sipping iced tea (it was what she'd ordered) and commiserating over aching heads and overwhelmed brains. A soda with a colleague as yet unnamed, following behind her as she selected a cup, filled it with ice and fizzy liquid, settled a lid atop and poked a straw through the hole.

I answered my phone. I replied to some email. I attempted to keep track of all the work I didn't have time to do, hoping I'd get to it later. And I worked and met and talked and revised. I slept, curled into pillows as I arranged myself on my side, and blinked myself awake each morning.

I winced upon hearing Adam's voice midway through the afternoon. I didn't want to work on this project anymore. I was tired and unmotivated and ready to be done. Briefly contemplating hiding under my desk, I sighed instead, waiting for him to take a chair across from my desk and giving him my attention.

"I think you're done," he announced and I blinked at him.

"I can go home?" I asked, afraid to be too hopeful. "And sleep?" He grinned and nodded, telling me to do what I had to do, but to escape the office a little early. "Only 9 hours today," I breathed. "It's luxurious!"

Finishing the task I'd been doing, I soon shoved my laptop into my bag and scampered from the office before someone forced me to stay. I must return tomorrow - the postponed work demands completion and I'm traveling again next week - but, for tonight, I may rest. Tomorrow I might not have to spend the whole day in the labs - maybe I'll take Chienne for a walk.

I rather like the idea of driving home during daylight hours and hope that's a pattern that sticks.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A compliment sleepily recorded

“So you finally figured out how to answer your phone,” he greeted me when I flipped open my cell and said hello.

I realized I forgot it when I was nearly to the office. While my commute is short and easy, I didn’t feel like repeating the 15 minute drive to go fetch the device though I did feel a bit lost without its weight in my pocket throughout the day. Nothing tickled my tummy with vibrations and I made multiple mental notes to replace the battery in my watch when I couldn’t consult a phone for the time.

I paused, unable to feel proud of my excellent parking space since I’ve obtained a very close spot all week, and watched the sun peek over the horizon past a patch of trees. I wandered past the company logo, polished and gleaming on a wall in the lobby, and arrived at my office before opening a phone line for a conference call and beginning my day at 6:30.

While I listened, I wrote a quick note to the group and informed them that I left my phone at home but would be around all day. We spent most of it together, checking numbers and walking through the life cycle of diseases. We continued to revise and perfect, trading documents and merging sections, until Adam joined us in the late afternoon.

“It all changed again,” I said flatly after glancing at him. “All that work,” I trailed off mournfully, feeling terribly sorry for the words and images that had been discarded for various reasons. Realizing I was exhausted – 5 hours of sleep each night is simply insufficient – and growing cranky, I took a breath and asked what we needed to do now.

Several hours later, and just over 12 hours since I arrived, we called it a day after reviewing tasks due by 2AM. Dragging myself toward the car after packing my laptop and slipping my bag over my shoulder, I stopped to get a burrito and tiredly drove home. I greeted Chienne, finally sitting down on the floor so we could cuddle while she whimpered in frantic happiness, climbed in the shower to wash my hair, remembered to eat dinner and began to work again.

I must have been in the shower longer than I thought, I decided when I picked up the phone and noted that Adam had called twice. I jumped when the phone buzzed in my hand and wondered what required multiple attempts to reach me in 30 minutes before placing my ear to the device and asking what was up.

“I wanted to compliment you, actually,” he said and I blinked in surprise. “I’ve been very impressed with you lately – you see topics very clearly and are asking good questions and offering valuable insight. I’ve seen a lot in you the last few days that surprised me – I think you have a lot of potential we need to develop.”

I laughed.

“Not that I don’t expect you to perform well or am surprised when you do,” he sighed as I giggled. So I apologized and indicated I was very tired but equally flattered that he was pleased.

“I know it’s been stressful,” he concluded, “but it was good for me to see your capabilities in this setting. I’m very impressed.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “It was very kind of you to tell me that – it’s been hard lately, but I love the group and like working for you. Mostly.”

I tried very hard, after hanging up, to assess the possibilities. Grow better at industry or endure until I’ve done enough that I can escape with pride intact. But my eyelids were heavy and my brain tired. So I opened my laptop and began to work, losing myself in the revisions and new information and yawning by the time I sent my slides and logged off for the evening.

Hair almost dry, bag already packed for my 8AM arrival time at the office tomorrow (Yay for sleeping in!), I considered curling up on the floor downstairs to rest but climbed the stairs instead, arranging myself on my side of my big bed with copious pillows and patted Chienne when she flopped on her side.

“Now we sleep,” I told her, but decided to write something since I’m reasonably certain this week will become a blurred memory, unable to properly encode in my sleep-deprived brain.