Sunday, August 30, 2009

Light & Shadow

I took it as a good sign when the sunshine failed to irritate me. What yesterday would have been a horrid insult is acceptable today. I believe I am beginning to recover.

After reading my post yesterday, it struck me as non-ideal to continue to swallow sleep medication so I stopped. Unfortunately, that left me awake most of last night, tossing and turning until Chienne sighed heavily and flopped on my legs to keep me still. I napped more than anything, waiting rather comfortably for night to end and came downstairs to fetch coffee when it was officially time to be awake. The main floor is clean, which helps, and cool air slipping past doors I'd left open left it comfortable to snuggle under a blanket.

Testing my feelings much as one would a sore tooth - pressing very gently for just a second, then using a bit more pressure, then holding for a moment longer - I decided to take another walk. Once in my depressed hole and protected by the numbness, I feel OK. It's facing people that frightens me and, knowing my neighborhood, I was certain they'd be outside on their bicycles, jogging the paths or walking their dogs. So it was back in my sweatshirt and flip flops and with a happy Chienne on the end of her leash that we set off in the sunshine.

I'm slow, I realized upon gasping at the man who sped by on his bicycle. I put my hand to my chest, severely startled, and looked down at my faithful canine. She'd taken the opportunity offered by my standing completely still to begin eating grass, like a brindled and very tiny cow. I stood, feeling simultaneously warm from the sun and cool from the breeze and watched her. I wondered if grass offered some essential nutrient missing in her kibble. Perhaps unkept lawns offended her on some profound level, compelling her to gnaw at them until grasses were of a proper length.

"You're silly," I told her when she looked up at me and I smiled when she wagged her tail before returning to her project. We finally set off again, nodding and returning the wishes of good mornings as needed. I reminded myself not to stare as I grew lost in forgotten thoughts, knowing I often look in the same spot as I try to regain my mental balance. I no longer feel sad, though confusion and an odd sense of guilt linger. I do retreat into the vague lack of connection at times, but it's easier to ease back into life. I just linger at the periphery since it all seems to fast and loud right now. But I've left the television off for the morning as I linger at the back of my pretty house while the bushes that smell of pine guard the front porch.

Chienne's nails tap the deck as she keeps watch out back, prancing across her yard to the fence as people walk by. Youthful chatter drifts by as kids enjoy the last bits of summertime, making me wonder when the buses will begin to rumble through the mornings again. I think I'll do some laundry after I shower - maybe I'll tell you my basement story tomorrow. But I believe I've successfully poked my head out of my sad, little hole and can continue to slow struggle back to reality.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I thought, mistakenly as it turns out, that I'd escape this episode without any severe lifestyle change. I'd made it through weeks without missing a work day and had, in fact, continued to work weekends and long hours. Pleased with myself and the medication, I wondered if I was congratulating myself too soon.

I did little but sleep for the past two days, needing to take sedatives when I stopped being tired. (Not Katie-recommended, by the way. I want life to go away for a little while - not permanently. Do not take sleeping meds when depressed. It is not smart.) I talked to my parents again - they're coming up on Tuesday to check on me, though I expect I'll be somewhat better by then. I let emails go unanswered and hoped problems would be solved by a colleague. I held the covers up so Chienne could curl next to me and lifted my fingers when Sprout nuzzled my hand.

"OK," I said this morning, forcing myself to walk to the kitchen littered with cereal bowls and spoons and water glasses and make coffee. I sipped some while I put together my plan for next week, capturing items on my trusty list that had to be addressed. Closing my work laptop, I shuffled to the kitchen to put my mug on the mound of dirty dishes and frowned at them. I began to load the dishwasher, staring out the sliding door onto my deck at the comfortingly gray morning.

Pulling on a sweatshirt against the chill and slipping on flip flops, I clipped Chienne's leash to her collar and wandered outside. We moved in fits and starts as she sniffed and pranced, pleased with her outing. I decided to watch for pretty weeds as we entered the park and moved counter to the river's flow, pausing to snap pictures and smile weakly at passersby. I picked up the mail before walking back in the front door and somehow convinced myself to do a little light cleaning before flopping in the corner of my loveseat yet again.

I napped a couple hours later, kitchen clean, floors vacuumed and plants watered. After that, all forward motion ceased and I became still. After waking, I wandered downstairs and was conversely listless and restless. I tossed a book to the floor when it failed to interest me. Clicked on news stories but was unable to recall what I read. Took a bath but felt only vague disappointment when I didn't feel relaxed or sleepy as I splashed in the silky water. Instead, I stared out the octagon window above my bathtub and attempted to complete thoughts I'd started this morning when I stood and watched the river rush by.

It seems a rather sad prospect to never let another person in again. But I was never good at it - I can't remember a single instance where I easily made a friend. And I've grown to the point where I'm instantly suspicious of anyone new. It's not even a question of if I'll be hurt. Rather I wonder when and how badly or intentionally.

Unable to reach any conclusions this afternoon or morning, I examined my hands and found them pruney. I snuggled into clean pajamas and decided that at least I smelled nice. For now, there's not much more than that.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I'm having trouble composing email. My thoughts aren't always linear and logical - I stare at what I've written and find myself incapable of correcting it so I stop and hope I can return to it later. I had some 25 drafts open in Outlook for work before I accidentally knocked the power cord loose and lost them all. I merely blinked when I saw the little lights weren't glowing on the closed computer and decided it was likely better to start from the beginning anyway.

I've therefore not attempted responses to your comments and emails. I do read them - more than once, actually - and they provide a warm reminder of what truly exists past my currently sad perceptions. So thank you. I will get better and remain very grateful for your thoughts and support.

When, however, faced with the reply of "Of course you can," to my statement of "I can't," I was torn between horror and rage for a moment before all went blank again. As I curled on my side and cuddled into a pillow, I wondered that someone could read what I've written, to know about an illness and to react with such...insensitivity? ignorance? Regardless, as I waited for sleep to claim me again, I decided that I'd not taken this opportunity to be clear. I've been thinking about it and while I'm not sure I'll do the topic justice, I can at least make an attempt.

Depression is not an indulgent state of sadness.

The best parallel I can draw is after Mom had her knee surgery. For weeks afterward, she would vomit at regular intervals. The incessant sickness stalled her recovery to an alarming degree and, after multiple nights tending to her, I was beyond exhausted. I had few resources left to answer her calls, help her to the bathroom or clean any messes. I wanted her to stop. I was frustrated and tired and I didn't understand what was causing the problem. Mostly though I was worried and helpless and I remember thinking, supporting her as she heaved, that she needed to just stop and begin getting better.

We never discovered exactly what caused the lengthy reaction - we changed medications, we took anti-nausea pills, we suffered through it. I found the energy to answer every request. I spent hours on the phone with doctors, ordering them to figure something out. And she improved.

Smallest One was actually born during this period of illness. And when Mom sadly announced that she couldn't manage to make it to the hospital, we did not say "Of course you can." With complete honesty, she could have. We could have drugged her heavily and arranged a wheelchair at the door. She could have thrown up at the hospital while looking through the window at her youngest granddaughter. But when she evaluated her desire to go versus the toll it would take to accomplish that, she said no. And if you think that makes her less loving or warm, amazing and enduring, then you're wrong.

What's going on with me can be loosely compared with Mom's reaction after surgery. I don't know why I'm reacting so badly to a small trigger. I've told myself for weeks to just stop and I can't. I spend inordinate amounts of time wondering what's wrong with me, feeling it morph into deep suspicion that everyone I know is just waiting to hurt me somehow.

It's pretty illogical. It's certainly not a good guiding philosophy. But it's what makes sense to me. I don't let many people in. And those that I do are good. This process of harming my overly-fragile psyche is utterly unintentional. But that makes it all the more terrifying. I never predict it - I think things are OK and then slowly realize they aren't and can never identify the moment where I messed up or something unrelated happened and then people are just gone.

I am currently unwell. And if you think it's "not contagious" then you've never dealt with a depressed individual. I remember Grandma sitting in a corner at Christmas just after she'd been released from the hospital. And she tried - I could see her effort to appear warm and engaged and could sense the frustration and exhaustion when she couldn't quite manage it. It made all of us deeply sad and frantic with worry. I'm quite good at bringing others down to my level, engaging them in some level of pity or sadness or concern.

So there will be presents. And hugs. But not now. I'd never planned to attend because of some travel plans and given that Smallest One is already have two weeks of birthday parties because of her divided family dynamic, she can celebrate with me when I'm better. When it's not so painful to talk to people. When I can sincerely smile and laugh and enjoy her. And - of course - that's OK.

I will respond to the other comments later. It's just easier to fixate on the awful right now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not Yet

"Katie!" Adam called as I moved toward the lobby at a near-trot yesterday afternoon. "Halt!" I turned, hurriedly trying to muster some energy to return his grin and hating myself when I failed and his expression shifted from amusement to concern. "Are you OK?" he asked and I made myself nod.

"I'm just not feeling well," I told him. "I need to go home."

"That's fine," he replied, frowning. "I'll see you tomorrow?" He mimicked the gesture when I nodded at him and I raised a hand to wave as I finally escaped into the fresh air. I breathed through my mouth on my way to the car, trying to ease the awful pressure in my chest. I drove home, swallowing against nausea and wincing at my headache, and barely made it into pajamas before crying myself to sleep.

"You'll call back tomorrow?" Mom asked, impressing me with the job she'd done to mask her worry. "Then I'll call the doctor for you if you don't get to it?" I spent nearly an hour talking to her and my dad. I felt OK. Not great - still queasy and unbalanced - but better. Congratulating myself on only losing 3 hours of work to this episode, I prepared to feel increasingly peppy today.

I did not.

I wasn't as sad this morning, feeling instead that terrible disconnected sensation. I frankly cared about nothing and no one and welcomed the ease of the weight. I pulled my laptop toward me, looking up the number I was to call at 7AM. Then I blankly watched the clock located on my digital cable receiver show that it was 7:00. Then 7:05. Then 7:10. And I never called, unable to manage even a twinge of guilt or duty or energy.

I did open a conference I'd arranged three hours later, having emailed Adam and telling him I'd be in later. The exquisite relief I felt when nobody called in pierced the numbness enough to make me cry again.

My trigger is rejection. I know this, so I ask very few people to like me. I have no personal friends in town - everyone knows me professionally and I'm completely content with that. It's far safer than the alternative and offers the option to socialize and share meals without risking anything very real. I'm a peripheral entity and there I will stay.

But when someone I do know on a social level withdraws - even though I've done the same thing before for reasons having nothing to do with my friends - I get locked into this horrible spiral of how I'm unattractive and unlovable and can't figure out what I do to make people who initially liked me turn away. I have faults and, selfishness being one of them, I've taken more than my share. But I try to be up front about them, neurotically warning any new people about all the ways I screw up relationships so I can avoid growing to love them if they're naturally annoyed or repulsed.

Yet it happens - people get to know me and then stop wanting to do so and it triggers episodes a lot like what's happening now. And even as I realize it's ridiculous, I get sucked down into it.

"How bad is it?" Mom asked, not able to contain her worry tonight after she took the phone from Dad.

"Bad," I replied. "I'm taking a double dose of pills and I left a message for the doctor today. So it'll get better." And I listened as she told me about Smallest One's upcoming party.

"I can't do that," I interrupted. "Be with strangers and socialize for hours with Brother's friends from the bar." I paused, shuddering as I pictured it. "I just can't."

"I know," she replied softly and I brushed at tears that had started to fall. It's horrible to know that I have to avoid my niece's birthday party because I'm ill. My breath caught as I remembered visiting Grandma in the hospital, waiting to be let in through each set of locked doors that protected the psychiatric ward.

I don't want this. And while I know I will get better, it's not helping at the moment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I almost told Sibling. We've been together nearly constantly the past two days and I've been picking her up and dropping her off to avoid paying twice the parking fees. As we drove through a quiet evening back toward home as the clock ticked past 9 on its way to 9:15, the pain was so immense and the suffering so acute that I nearly begged her to help me.

"Molly," I said, for that's her name. Then I stopped, swallowed against the rising sickness and closed my mouth. "Never mind," I said when I was able to force words past my lips. "I lost my train of thought."

It feels odd - this sense of secrecy in a time when I could dearly use some support. But Industry, for all the opportunity offered and challenges presented, is not the place to admit weakness. In positions of power, I've think saying that my brain doesn't work quite right may not be the best move. Given our affectionately competitive relationship and overall gossipy environment, I decided the benefit wasn't worth the cost when it came to Sibling.

It was after she thanked me and grabbed her bag from the backseat that I drove toward home and released the words choking me.

"God," I said, knowing He was there but unable to access peace or comfort or joy, "I'm so sad." And though I made it home without crying, greeting Chienne and Sprout before moving upstairs to remove my pretty dress and tug on pajamas, I rested on the bed for mere seconds before tears started to fall.

It's very odd, I decided as I continued to cry while moving downstairs to fetch my anti-depressant. When I meet people with loved ones who live with mood disorders (and there are a lot of us. Did you know depression is projected to be the world's leading cause of disability by 2020? True story.), I try to explain what it's like. How it feels when I'm sick. What it takes to get better. How absolutely frustrating it is to not do anything for days and to feel so miserably guilty about it. How the pain is so huge that it surrounds me, smothering any efforts to escape and wanting only for time to pass. For the misery to ease, if only for a few moments so I can catch my breath.

The saving grace during each of these episodes is that I know I'll get better. There are triggers that still catch me - minuscule problems that spiral outward until the twinge of discomfort morphs into an encompassing cloud of depression. I don't know the trick to prevent the fall into a deeper state of despair. Even when I identify it early. Despite the fact that I continue to get up and go to work, operating at whatever levels of productivity I can achieve. When I force myself to interact with people - taking and making phone calls, attending meetings, engaging in conversations I can't avoid even when it's excruciating. Even in moments where the misery does ease - where I laugh or relax or lose myself in work. I still end up slipping ever downward until I reach bottom.

All I can tell you now is that the fall is awful. Feeling bad and realizing it's getting worse. Bracing for impact, dreading it even as I hope it comes soon so the trend can reverse. Maybe tomorrow. Please, God, tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

'Back to School' Quiz

Since I'm not returning to campus after a summer break, I thought I'd honor the occasion for many of you with a little quiz.

A. I'm considering password protecting the blog. Your advice is __.
  1. Don't do that.
  2. Sounds smart! Start a new blog, invite people and protect it.
  3. Seriously belated - keep Minor Revisions, pull it all behind a password and let people ask for access.
  4. Good idea only if there are plans to post photos and stop with the pseudonyms.

B. Chienne ran away before 4AM today. My reaction most closely resembled ____.
  1. Happiness - the puppy is no longer injured!
  2. Annoyance - I'm up before dawn and now running late because I didn't close the latch.
  3. Deep sadness - another creature I love has run from me and if I chase her she'll only go farther.
  4. Inexplicable deep sadness even after she returned.

C. I almost missed my return flight this evening due to a colleague being late. My reaction was ____.
  1. Normal - I'm always irritated when someone is late, but it's not a big deal.
  2. Hormonally-motivated rage - I was furious and offended, but settled on a glare to express my displeasure.
  3. Irrational panic and fury. Which I expressed at great length to everyone around.

D. An exchange student sat next to me on the flight home. Our conversation made me _____.
  1. Nostalgic - I remember being 17 and eager to learn everything even in the uncertainty of where those lessons would take me.
  2. Awed - I can't imagine being brave enough to go to a foreign country for 9 months, live with strangers and immerse myself in a new culture.
  3. Scared and frantic with worry - What if he's homesick? Doesn't make friends? Nobody finds his backpack of maps and dictionaries and books charming? What if he has to sit by himself at lunch?!
  4. All of the above.

E. Unpleasant email from work and mildly bad personal news made me feel the same way this evening. That way could be described as ______.
  1. Petulant. People should always let me win and tell me only good things.
  2. Resilient! I can do all things through God who strengthens me.
  3. Overwhelmed. Chest tight, head ache, stomach cramped - it hurts to even breathe.

F. My mood at night compared to how I feel in the morning is _______.
  1. Worse, but that makes sense - I'm a morning Katie.
  2. Sleepy - too tired to think past the exhaustion of another 18 hour day.
  3. Pure Misery - nightmares when asleep, worse when awake.
  4. Equal to or better than.

Extra Credit: Tomorrow - in addition to the list of phone calls I need to return, I should add ______.
  1. Meditation and prayer.
  2. Any friend - it sounds like I need to talk to someone.
  3. My doctor - it sounds like I need a little more Celexa.
  4. Screw it - skip the calls and meetings and work, curl up on the floor and hope this goes away.
(I will be OK. I promise. The suffering is just hard right now.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Timing is Everything

"Now I'm irritated," I muttered, glaring at my computer screen. Feeling utterly self-important, I canceled my entire trip because one of our scientists was suddenly unavailable to take our day-long meeting. When he suggested I was overreacting, I gasped with indignation and set about ignoring him.


"Can you come by noon?" Adam asked the other day.

"No," I replied, wishing I was faster at texting while I focused completely on finding the correct letters on the buttons of my phone. "Have meeting at 1230." Sighing because I'd worked very hard to create the simple message, I jumped when the phone vibrated in my hand and opened it again.

"No," he had immediately responded with his full Blackberry keyboard. "Need you at noon. Call me."

"You could have called me," I muttered - it's becoming a habit - as I pressed send. "But, no. I always have to do the work - Hey," I interrupted myself when he answered. "I have meetings and calls and stuff to do! It's very difficult when you say 'drop everything' 20 minutes before you decide I have to be somewhere!"

"So you're coming?" he clarified, sounding amused and I sighed, bag already on my shoulder as I headed out the door.

"On my way." And while I drove to where I was ordered to appear, I made several phone calls to reschedule and apologize for being unpredictable and annoying. I vary widely between finding the power structure comforting - it's easy to do what you're told - to wildly ridiculous - when what you're told to do doesn't make much sense. But I remind myself that I'm a tiny working cog in a gigantic machine.


"Ah," I murmured, pulling neatly into a space at Target. Having arrived just after 7PM, the parking lot was far calmer than normal. Selecting a bright red cart and moving through the brand-new store, I consulted my list and picked up necessary items. I barely remember the last time I grocery shopped for more than a few essential items. When the basket was full and everything neatly crossed off the paper I held, I pranced back to my car with everything I needed.

I'd planned to go for well over a week - unable to stop after work because it was too late or I had urgent tasks to handle from home. I missed last weekend because I'd worked non-stop. But waiting worked in my favor - a nearly empty store, handful of coupons and time to wander and peer at the pretty merchandise. I returned home to refill Sprout's food canister and tell Chienne about my successful shopping trip. Time seems to have mended her injury as well - she jumps up on furniture again without sounds of pain!


I've never scheduled a day trip. If I go somewhere, I expect to take meetings for upwards of 8 hours, sleep in a hotel then return home. Travel plans have shifted such that I'm making trips with someone who very rarely books hotels. So I'm facing a 3:30AM to 10PM travel day tomorrow. Which is Not Good. I get very grumpy when I'm not properly rested.

This is why I'm going to be in bed before 8 tonight. One hour left to achieve proper sleepiness.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stating the Obvious

"No," I said simply, waiting for everyone to turn and pay attention to me. "It's an unreasonable request and we won't be supporting it." The other manager in the room blinked at me in surprise and I remained calm but firm.

"This is a battle of egos," I explained simply. "One wants Other to knock politely on his door and say something like 'pretty please, won't you give us more money? We so appreciate you and your greatness and can't bear to go on without you.' So all this work and preparation is pointless. We are not of great enough importance to say 'pretty please, won't you give us more money? We appreciate you and your greatness and can't bear to go on without you.' It hasn't worked. So we stop. One either asks or doesn't. But we are done wasting time on this."

"But," he said after a moment, swiveling his chair to face me fully, "we can't do the work without the money."

"There is other work," I reminded him gently. "This is one of many projects and I'd like to see it get done. But we aren't accomplishing anything other than trying - and failing - to convince someone to do as we ask. Look," I said, beginning to get angry, "they need this project far more than we do. If they don't want to pay for it, we stop doing it. Then Other can come to One and beg for assistance. But we're done here."

I stayed after everyone had left upon the request of the scientist who'd called the meeting. "I've been working on this for months," he said and I winced.

"I know," I replied, interrupting him. "And I'm sorry. I truly think you're doing an amazing job. And I'm frustrated that it's doing no good, and - "

"I wanted to thank you," he said. "It is all ego and I'm tired of running in circles and I didn't think anyone would ever say anything."

"Oh," I beamed at him. "Well. I'm happy to help."

I found myself slightly less happy to help when I was called away from a busy afternoon to head off campus to handle meetings.

"This is pointless," another woman offered when we found a spare meeting room to spread out papers and analyze. "They're not even going to use what we make."

"Probably not," I smiled at her, trying to be encouraging. "But I try to think of it as a learning experience - taking some information, identifying what's missing, figuring out who has it or how to get it, deciding how to present it in a way that best makes a point. Plus, my boss told me to."

"Mine, too," she sighed and I offered her half of the cookie I'd grabbed on the way to the room. I wanted the whole cookie, but I felt badly that my pep talk hadn't cheered her up.

"You're awesome," Adam said when he poked his head in to check on me before leaving for the evening.

"I know," I replied and smiled before telling him good night. "I do what he says," I replied to my new friend when she asked how I'd gotten my boss to like me so much. "Totally works," I confirmed when she asked if that was effective.

"You sound good," Mom said mid-conversation. I'd called as soon as I got home and she said she was doing well. Minimal bruising. The people were all very nice. Everything had happened very quickly after she was informed something might be wrong.

"I'm so happy you're well," I told her. And, while obvious, it's so completely and wonderfully true.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I took two Excedrin at 10. Another two at 2:15. Yet my head ached and hands shook when 3PM approached without word from home.

"Maybe," I replied when asked if I was joining people for dinner out. "If I get bad news from Mom then I need to be alone. So we'll see."

I wasn't alone in my office when she called, but my visitor took no offense when I pounced on my phone and immediately flipped it open. Instead, Sibling looked at me with concern, waiting to see my reaction. She smiled when I confirmed that the findings had been benign and patted my arm while I sagged with relief.

"OK," I said after telling Mom I loved her and hanging up. "Now we can work." So we did - talking and thinking and agreeing to touch base before leaving for dinner to make sure we were on the right track.

I know bad things happen to good people. I understand that not all prayers are answered in the way we want. But I'm tremendously grateful that all is well. And I appreciate so very much all your prayers and thoughts. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I listened without comment as we had lunch in the sunshine, watching the water shoot from one of the fountains on campus before falling in fancy patterns into the pool waiting below. I glanced at my companion as I took a sip of iced tea, remaining quiet as I considered what she said.

She'd been engaged when I joined Industry. Though we worked together at random and rare times, gossip spreads wildly throughout the ranks. So when I asked someone who she was and mentioned she seemed smart, I was soon told of the errant fiance and his horde of women. I replied with a 'long-distance relationships are hard' type of comment and learned that she was heartbroken when she returned his ring and ended her engagement.

"So how did you meet NewGuy?" I asked of her new fiance, admiring the way the diamond on her left hand caught the sunlight and sparkled. She told me, between bites of salad littered with peas and raisins, that she'd known him forever. They'd met in college but she mostly ignored him. "We got close when things started to go wrong with OldGuy," she noted and the flashing warning light that indicates transitional relationship began to blink insistently in my brain. "He was wonderful," she told me with a smile. "We talked for hours about my options and what was right for me. He was supportive and appreciative and wonderful."

"That's nice," I offered, deciding there was no polite way to share my concern and attempting to discard it completely. "You deserve someone like that."

"Yes," she said. "I know it's soon - we hadn't dated for 4 months before he asked me to marry him. And I wasn't really ready to leave here and move back there just yet. But what if I get pregnant? And he doesn't really want to live apart for the next two years."

"It's always hard to leave a place. To close a chapter." I commiserated. "Even when you're really ready and confident, I think it's natural to feel a few twinges of regret when you're preparing to leave a place - and some people - behind. But it's also exciting that you're moving toward something so promising - new job, new home, new love."

She nodded, looking far more bitter than sweet, and I busied myself with a cookie. I'm pretty fond of cookies so that worked pretty well until we hugged goodbye and hoped we had time to lunch again before she packed up completely.

On my walk back from her office to mine, I remembered a dinner we had last winter. She'd planned to spend time with NewGuy but canceled on him when she unexpectedly saw OldGuy and spent several days in his company instead. I squinted behind my sunglasses as I tried to remember more clearly and align timelines, becoming increasingly sure that I was right. NewGuy was TransitionalGuy. My friend - a lovely woman with enormous talent and innate kindness - was working through feelings of betrayal and insecurity with this man and I fretted that she wouldn't really be happy with him once she bounced all the way back.

"It's a pay cut," she told me today when she called to see why I wasn't at work. After telling her about Chienne and my mom and explaining that I just needed some space for a day, we chatted about her new job. "And it's less responsibility and pretige. So I'm sad about that. But I have to sacrifice to be near him, right?" She paused, waiting for me to agree and I thought frantically about what to say.

"Katie?" she asked, sounding concerned and I assured her I was fine.

"I don't know," I told her. "I think," I said slowly, "that there are some defining decisions that must be made. And I suppose it's rare that you can take very much without giving quite a bit in return. I want you to be happy," I concluded sincerely. "And I very much hope this gets you there."

It was her turn to be quiet and I fervently hoped she wouldn't ask if I thought it would, in fact, get her there. Because I don't think I do, but when it comes to love - especially operating from a terminally single perspective - it's extremely difficult to offer thoughts without seeming critical or jealous.

"I hope so, too," she said. After promising to call if I needed anything, I flipped my phone closed and returned to the couch with Chienne. She's slept all day and I believe the pain is coming from her right foreleg. Mom called to say the procedure had been uncomfortable but not awful. We'll know results tomorrow afternoon.

Until then, I'm waiting and praying, grateful for the thoughts and prayers directed our way. And quietly directing prayers of my own toward friends online and off.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


"I need to call you back," I told a colleague, frowning down at Chienne as she whimpered at my feet. "Are you hurt?"

"Hurt?" he replied, sounding confused. "No."

"My dog," I snapped at him, annoyed that he was talking to me even as I sank to my knees and smoothed my hands gently over her back and up and down her legs. I tossed the phone to the table after hanging up and crooned softly to my pet, asking what had happened and how badly it hurt. Finding no suitable answer, I fretted as she moved slowly - but without a limp - to the corner and curled up on the floor. Wearing her most pathetic expression, she regarded me sadly until I came upstairs to shower and change into pajamas.

Deciding it would be best to just go to bed - despite it being just shy of 6PM - I winced when Chienne finally jumped on the bed, yelping when she did so. I arranged pillows so she'd be comfortable and closed my eyes, feeling my mind quiet and body relax. Some 90 minutes later, it was easy to ignore the ringing phone and hug the pillow tighter to my chest.

I blinked, feeling some stomach clench with dread when it rang again 2 minutes later.

I reclined once again after I spoke briefly to Mom. I'd known her last mammogram showed an area of concern. I'd known she'd gone back for a follow up exam. Yet I was still surprised to hear they wanted to do a biopsy tomorrow.

"It's probably nothing," she said and I agreed. "If it is something, they said it's very early."

"OK," I replied. "I'll say prayers." If you wouldn't mind doing the same, I'd appreciate the thought.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I led my first meeting today. We have a special place we go for retreats - it's about 30 minutes from campus and has large meeting rooms with windows so you can see the sun. There are snacks refreshed constantly throughout the day and sodas and water, coffee and juices are always available. It's a lovely place - very pretty and elegant - and though I know it's painfully expensive, I always enjoy the focused work sessions that tend to happen there.

Having booked a day free of distractions, I arrived early in the morning, wandering around the room and figuring out how to make the screen descend from it's home in the ceiling and realizing the controls for the window shades were nearby. I attached the cable to my laptop, beaming proudly when the slides I spent all weekend preparing appeared across the screen. I hurried to my bag and withdrew neatly-labeled folders full of notes and printed pages, setting them carefully at designated places where my group would sit.

I folded one leg underneath me when I took my seat in the corner chair, tapping my fingers on the table for a moment before flipping through my slides. I went to get coffee. I returned to the lobby for coffee cake and a banana. After I tossed the peel in the trash, having finished my fruit, I depressed the button on the side of my cell phone, frowning when I realized people were late. I looked around at the room I'd prepared - papers stacked neatly, slides showing brightly and chairs ready to hold my colleagues.

Some eight hours later, the room looked quite different. Candy wrappers joined random piles of Gummi Bears on tiny plates from our afternoon snacks. Coffee had long since given way to soda and, tired of drinking glass after glass, we'd taken turns going fetching water from the cooler outside our room. Trays from lunch were piled inside the door and papers were strewn across the surface of the table, most of them bearing scrawled remarks or arrows or xs where something was meant to go away.

"OK," I said again. "So we need to recalculate two sets of numbers and re-do this graph. We need to check our individual reports and send the final versions to me so I can handle the final summary." As we defined action items and owners - something we do a lot - I looked around and sighed. Sibling cocked her head at me and I smiled.

"We're not done, which is disappointing," I told her. I've worked on this particular project for about 6 months now and while it normally gets only bits and pieces of my attention, I'm ready to wrap it up. "But we're making progress and I'm really happy with how this is turning out, so that's lovely."

"So you're sad and happy," she decided.

"More tired than anything," I corrected her, prompting Adam to say that we were done for the day. Everyone thanked me and I grinned at each of them, expressing my gratitude that they came to my meeting. I plodded past the lobby, deciding I was too full for one more cookie, and feeling my thoughts slow and drift rather than race and solve problems. I made my way outside some 10 hours after I'd arrived that morning - much as I felt yesterday when I left the office after putting in a similar amount of time during a quiet Sunday - and tossed my bag in the passenger seat.

I'm learning so much. About priorities and strategy, analysis and communication. I am not as effective as I'd like. But it's an excellent training exercise and I'm growing increasingly confident that I'm slowly improving on my defined growth areas. So despite recognizing I need to shove back and regain some balance between life and work, I'm productive. Thoughts of people needing me and actually wanting to do my job tug me out of bed in the morning rather than allowing me to curl up and wait until I feel better. I count that as a really good quality to have in a career.

Yet it'd be nice to be able to sleep a bit more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What you see

"I was nervous," I confessed, breaking a tortilla chip in half before shrugging. "I was halfway through a meeting this afternoon and wondered why I was so tense. Then I remembered we were meeting tonight."

"Like a blind date," she nodded and I smiled. I'd immediately accepted her invitation when I realized we'd be in the same general vicinity tonight and realized it wasn't all that blind. As the author of my first comment, we've been electronically acquainted for years. "I expected your hair to be lighter," she said, regarding me carefully while I frowned. She's not the first person to note my hair is far darker than imagined and I wondered what I'm doing to present myself as one with lighter hair.

We finished dinner and ended our conversation about work and progress, goals and objectives. It seems we're both rather happy, though I couldn't help thinking she seemed remarkably grown up while I still feel like I'm faking it most of the time. "That happens to me sometimes," I commented, finding common ground again when she took her glasses off for the second time to wipe one of the lenses. "Making it worse rather than better."

Upon her suggestion that we find another place for a drink but lacking a plan that included a second destination, we walked to my car. She waited while I tossed my bag from the passenger seat and glanced behind her. "That's the bag," she noted. "I clicked over when you linked to it."

"I really like it," I noted of the brightly patterned messenger I use for work. "Oh, and I loved your post about shoes - it made me laugh." As we found a place to chat some more, we discussed the balance between function and form when it comes to heels. We also discussed her phone's navigational system compared to the Garmin suctioned to my windshield. And, once we found a coffee shop, we sat outside to sip iced drinks and discussed our blogs.

"It's so hard to find energy," I sighed, torn between missing the frequency and content of her older posts and feeling the same way about myself. "I have stories - posts I'd like to write, thoughts I'd like to process more completely - but I get home and start posts and it sometimes feels so hard."

She said something about wondering about me when she stopped reading. I don't remember the exact comment though I was immediately amused. I tend to delete feeds from Reader when I'm annoyed or bored. As I get older, I find I'm less bothered by being annoying or boring, but smiled when I wondered which had made me slip from her list. Regardless, some people lose and regain my attention as well.

"I miss people, too," I finally said. "And I get this twinge of sadness when I realize that some of them have stopped writing - there's no opportunity to check in and make sure everything's OK. So I can't see stopping but I feel like nothing interesting happens. I go to work and come home. And when I don't write much, I feel like it should at least be good!"

"Does the farewell ritual take long?" I asked curiously after she said there should be one upon arriving back at the original parking lot. "Do I need to turn off the car?"

"Probably," she nodded so I giggled before turning the key and stepping outside. We hugged, exchanged final compliments and she took a picture of our shoes. She'd already granted permission to write about her, though I hadn't planned to bring it up or post anything at all.

Yet, given it's acceptable, I'll note that there's something wonderful about a community that allows one to know (and meet) exceptional people. And she was just as I expected - lovely and genuine, thoughtful and bright. Before I hugged her a second time, she said that she hoped her support, while not always expressed, was understood. And I realized that not only did I feel the same way, but that the support from this space was - and always has been - palpable even when invisible.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I am depressed. I'm not non-functional - I'm going to work, sleeping (too much), eating (also too much) and am able to laugh. But it's hard to breathe in some moments. Everything feels heavy and dark at times and it's excruciating to push past it.

We had a major meeting today and I stood in front of my colleagues and presented material. It was fine - I pitch so often now that my stomach doesn't remember to clench warningly and my voice fails to quiver. But when someone surprised me by saying no when I thought we'd settled on yes, I nearly wept. In front of a full room. And that's not normal or good.

"Wait," I interrupted a colleague when he insisted I leave my meeting so we could talk on the phone. "Are you scolding me? It sounds like you're scolding me."

"I am," he replied and I was immediately enraged. (Not annoyed. Not frustrated. Furious.) I answered his questions with single words and hung up on him before he said good-bye. He said he felt better before I hung up and that only made me angrier. I was shaking when I returned to the meeting, taking my seat in the corner and sipping my water as I sought control.

I came home, loathe to sit and think about anything, and took Chienne out on the deck to work on her nails. After 20 minutes with the Dremel tool and much petting and praising, we declared ourselves finished (read: she wouldn't come when I called anymore) and came inside. I paced for a moment before deciding I'd clean the laundry room! An hour later, I'd pulled up carpet and discarded it. I'd swept up all the litter that had scattered throughout the room and mopped the bare floor with bleach. I scrubbed the bathroom and only stopped when I was dizzy from the fumes.

When I remembered asking someone a question and realized she'd not answered me, I felt tears well and went from kneeling to sitting on the floor. I looked around at the clean bathroom, shifted so my back was against the vanity and shivered. I tried to remember if I'd been taking my medication and thought that I had. I realized I've been waking up around 3 or 4AM from terrifying nightmares and wondered if I'd get better or worse in the next few days.

It sucks to be sick. I don't like knowing that my brain chemistry is off. I go through periods where I'm bothered that I take a pill every day, though having tried to stop multiple times, I (mostly) faithfully swallow one each night. Apart from those glitches, it's a pretty good brain. Easily amused, efficient, mostly kind. But it seems for now that my brain is sadder than it should be.

The positive factor is that I'm (so far) capable of working through it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fun Facts!

I talk to salesmen in my underwear.
"Well," I said, sliding hangers along rods as I searched for a top and adjusted the strap of my bra, "it is complicated. So do you need X [brief explanation redacted] or Y [same here]?" I glanced down at my legs, winced at the stubble and picked a pair of pants rather than a skirt. "Sure," I said, setting down the phone since I wasn't really listening anyway and pulling on my shirt and slipping a button through a loop. "I'll get to it early this week," I promised and hung up. The time flashed on the screen - 6:42AM - before I flipped it closed and selected peep-toe flats to wear.

I go from 1 to 60 overnight.
I spent most of my waking hours (which, granted, were few and infrequent) this weekend answering messages. For the first time since I started, my Inbox contained a single, lonely, fantastic, lovely, wonderful message. It's a good thing I took a moment to sit and smile at the one email. In the time it took for me to sleep and Asia and Europe to start their weeks, I was overwhelmed once again.

I must be the secretary!
I attended two formal meetings today. At the first, there were 15 people from around the world. I technically outranked every single one of them. And, as the only female, I ended up taking notes. It was my decision, actually - I was reading several new emails when someone asked who was taking notes. I broke the silence a few moments later, absently offering to do it so we could get started. I didn't think much of it until later in the day when I sat in a different meeting, this one with about 50 people, and looked around while I wasn't taking notes. The only other woman in the room was taking care of it.

I am emotional.
The trailer for The Time Traveler's Wife makes me cry. And it's on all the time. I cry all the time. I am mostly peaceful about not having a baby. I was talking to a colleague today about our respective potential to reproduce (separately) and was very relaxed when I admitted I was unlikely to have a baby. I was flipping through files, looking for an old reference from my post-doctoral days, and found the tutoring material I'd once used. And I had this mental picture of a young girl coming home so I could help her with Math before dinner and was breathless at the sense of loss that overwhelmed me.

I can't think of any more facts.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Getting 'To Do' Done

Many people - and not just readers of this poor, neglected blog - express confusion over what I actually do. "I know you work very hard," they offer carefully, "but I sort of don't see the point."

As my group works harder to be transparent to everyone in the business, our roles have become increasingly clear to us. That's a happy coincidence if there ever was one. We are - at a high level - tasked with strategic planning. It is, quite frankly, the Most Fun Ever. I talk to important people and define competitive objectives. I think about diseases and how they change and trends grow. We try to combine marketing goals with technical capabilities. It's all rather sexy and engaging. So I more or less exist to make long lists of Things to Do.

I've noticed that since starting this job, my patience with blogs that incorporate lists has shrunk to nothing. I found it an odd reaction, frankly, and was thinking it over as I yanked weeds from the flowerbed next to my driveway. I used to live from To Do lists. I had a special little notebook where I kept them! It has a little cartoon of a high heel on the front! I keep an Excel document open all week that is named "To Do.xls" where I add tasks as I think of them and migrate some items from week to week so I'm sure to close loops and follow up.

I then realized that excessive planning prevents execution. When there are too many thinkers and too few doers, we end up just wasting a hell of a lot of time. Therefore, at home, I could spend 5 minutes making a list of crap I have to do or I could just go do the crap. I mean it's pretty obvious. I have 2 coffee cups and 3 water bottles on my end table. I could declutter. I haven't gotten mail in about a week - I could write down the fact or just walk around the corner to my mailbox. On my way, I stopped to pull weeds - another obvious need - and bring in my recycling tubs. I then remembered I wanted to vacuum my car when I was putting away my gardening gloves. So, after putting on the new license plate sticker I'd fetched from the mail, I cleaned my interior.

I felt rather proud of myself, frankly, since this week found me making an appointment I've long avoided, canceling my personal mobile service and demanding an item from AutoVantage (Do not promise an iPod you can't deliver, you fiends! I don't even want the blasted device at this point but I can't tolerate you owing me one!) These three items have resided on a post-it on my iGoogle homepage for months. Months. Finally, annoyed with the items and myself for not doing them, I called and made the appointment. I then called and disconnected my phone. Then I sent another angry email and muttered to myself for a bit.

Attempting to share my new knowledge that we should, you know, actually do stuff instead of just talking about it incessantly, I shared my vision with my group.

Sibling nodded. "On my list," she said, "I estimate the time it will take to complete each item so that if I have 5 minutes, I pick one of those tasks and if I have 30 minutes, I take one of those." I frowned in response.

"I color code my emails," Pretty Hair offered. "Then I can see what mosts needs attention and can reply to all of the same type in the same hour or so." I raised my eyebrow, wondering if I should color code my emails and firmly shook my head.

"No!" I argued, frustrated. "We're just devising more ways to waste time! I can glance at my list - unordered and messy - and know what's quick and what will require hours of uninterrupted work. If I keep up with email and file appropriately, I don't need to learn to color code. We spend too much time pretending we're organized and it means that we end up not doing anything! I spent 2 hours in the labs this week! And 24 in meetings where we talked about how to execute a plan that we originally defined 5 months ago! If we had just fucking done it, we could be talking about something else now!"

I glanced around and ended up with my sheepish gaze on Adam. "I shouldn't have said 'fuck,'" I offered quietly. "But I am right about this. We're trying to draw lines and divide tasks and say no to requests that are fair and important. If we looked at root causes, we'd see we're just spending too much time thinking about how pretty we are and too little time helping the business."

"So what do you suggest?" Best asked, looking amused at me.

"We don't need a plan!" I replied. "I'm just saying 'do more - talk less,' 'down with lists, up with productivity.' Then I think we'll all feel good about being here - rather than working really hard to accomplish very little - and everything will cycle through and be delightful!"

I don't think they believed me. So I'm going to lead by example. And then I'll probably make a chart to demonstrate the change it has made - old habits die hard.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I was elected to student council in sixth grade. I vaguely recall sitting in Mrs. Avenue's homeroom class, staring at my name where she'd written in white chalk on the green board. Ridiculously flattered when the other 11 students in my class elected me as one of the two sixth grade representatives, I nervously attended the first meeting.

I sat in the front of the room in seventh grade, acting as vice present for our small organization. I had won on a 'turn over a new leaf - Vote for Katie!' platform that incorporated a construction paper tree trunk hung in the corridor with masking tape. Said trunk contained 100 leaves with my campaign slogan.

"What does 'turn over a new leaf' mean?" Mom asked as she helped me print the phrase on the green bits of paper. I blinked at her and shrugged, adding an exclamation point after 'vote for Katie!' But, through no real planning, I ended up crusading for open enrollment in student council.

"Why have elections that hurt people's feelings?" I asked in a meeting. "We have these meetings on Monday and there's room for more people. We babysit at parent meetings and sell concessions at basketball and organize dances - we don't have enough volunteers so why not see if more people are interested?" Perhaps it was the memory of being crushed when I didn't make cheerleader, but I didn't like the idea that my student council brought others the same feeling of inadequacy and isolation.

I still find the concept of 'exclusive access' a bit ridiculous. If I have something that's more-or-less free to make and many people want it, I'm very likely to let them have it. I like people to be happy.

One of my counterparts very much favors limited releases. We should only work with a few sites, he insists. Nothing is free and it's not worthwhile to engage random people in projects. And he's at least partially right. Being inclusive takes a lot of energy and means I end up working with some people I'd rather avoid. But it also enables some interesting hypotheses and valuable feedback. I think we limit our inputs to our peril and rather enjoy hearing what new investigators think.

"No," said counterpart said simply during a converation this afternoon.

"Did you just tell me no?" I asked, incredulous. I'd had a long day of menial labored that required me to screw over multiple people to accomplish something I believed was mostly useless. I was tired and hungry. I had a number of things that had to get done - despite having worked most of the weekend - and due to my useless series of tasks during the day.

"It doesn't need to happen," he stated and proceeded to drone on about how he was right.

"I'm not having this argument with you," I finally said. "I know we disagree on this and accept that you're right in some cases. But I will not let you win this one. I'm too tired and frustrated to discuss it right now, but we will distribute this. Given that I absolutely refuse to lose here, you can waste your time arguing with me or you can find a way to give me what I want."

I reminded myself that I spent eighth grade holding a state office for our national student council organization. I was Best Leader in high school. And while my counterpart isn't completely convinced that I'll win, I'm positive. It's a core value. And just as junior high student council remains open to all interested at my alma matter, I will get my way.

(Not so cloudy yet - I'm working on it.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

White and Fluffy

Mom smiled when I told her the same story I told you yesterday. It had been lovely to have her visit. She is (mostly) a quiet, loving presence and I enjoy having her in my space. We were having dinner at a Chinese place we'd been meaning to try as I ranted over the way we treated each other at work.

"I worked for a man named Don when I was younger," she remembered, wrinkling her nose over a piece of shrimp in her fried rice. She carefully removed it from her plate and placed it on mine before continuing. "People would go in all the time and scream at him. I could hear them even though the door was closed. And I'd peek in the window next to his door and he'd be sitting back in his chair, arms at his sides and nodding as he listened. He never got angry. Never really reacted at all."

She took a sip of water, remarked that the food was quite good, and continued. "I went in after one of them left and asked how he stayed so calm. It made me angry that people talked to him like that and I didn't understand how he could just take it. And he had me sit down and said he pictured himself on a cloud. He was high enough in the sky that people looked like little specks. And he pictured some specks beginning to turn red and get agitated, sort of hopping around angrily, and it was vaguely amusing to him. But he hoped that after they hopped around in his office for a while, they'd turn a normal color again and begin moving in their normal speck patterns. And it helped him not take it personally."

I thought about it for a moment, chewing a piece of broccoli, and nodded. "I wish I had a cloud," I said and she smiled and rubbed my shoulder.

"You'll learn," she predicted. "You like and respect these people. You want to do the right thing. You just need to find a way to contribute without it taking so much from you. And," she added, "your dad and I are very proud of you."

"I know," I smiled at her and captured another piece of shrimp I saw on her plate.

I received a package yesterday. A colleague and I were talking a week or so ago and he asked if he could send me a book. I think I'd been yelling at him, so I grinned and asked if it was a book that would curse me.

"No," he laughed. "It's something I read that helped me cope with all of this. And I like you and I want you to do well." So I opened the package from amazon, pulling the little tab that allowed me inside the cardboard and turned the book over to read the cover. I curled up today to read Lead Like Jesus and began to nod and relax into the concept.

I've no doubt it will take considerable work, but I may have found my cloud.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

No Win

"Dr. LastName," he began as he walked through my open door and dropped into a chair near my desk.

"Dr. YourLastName," I offered in return, waiting to hear what he wanted.

"Where are we with Project?" he asked and I opened my mouth to answer, closing it again when he continued. "The responses I'm getting is that it's a critical need so we need to be moving on that."

I nodded, making sure it was my turn to talk before offering that a small team was looking at it.

"Why small?" he asked, frowning at me.

"Because three isn't very many?" I shrugged, frowning back at him. He continued to look unhappy and I sighed. "Everyone is stretched right now. We're trying to allocate person-hours so that we make progress, but it's difficult. Plus," I added as an afterthought, "Adam thinks Other is more important than Project."

"I strongly disagree!" he retorted and I nodded, promising that I'd relay the message. I had a moment after he left so I drafted and sent a quick note to Adam and relevant members of the team that there was increased chatter around the significance of Project. I then started on some documentation, punching the speakerphone button on my phone and dialing a colleague to talk through some questions he had.

"Can you hold on?" I asked a moment later. "That's the third time my mobile has rang in as many minutes." I thanked him for waiting, depressed the hold button and flipped open my phone to stop its angry buzzing.

"I'm in the middle of another call," I offered to the man who'd called all three times. He leads the team in charge of Project. "I'll call you back in 10."

I wrapped up one call and rang Project Leader posthaste. "What's up?" I asked him cheerfully, face falling as he started to rant about how priorities kept changing and people were questioning his priorities and who was I to say he wasn't working hard enough?!

Barely biting back a harsh order that he calm the hell down, I asked him when I said he wasn't working hard enough.

"You implied it!" he shouted.

"I Did Not," I replied, pausing between the words and letting my irritation show. "I'm looking at the email I sent and all it says - and all it implies - is that we heard feedback that Project is important."

"It is!"

"And the question," I continued after a heavy sigh that I hoped communicated my displeasure with him, "is if we can accelerate progress on Project by taking resources from Other."

"No!" he shouted again and I glared at the phone. I don't enjoy people yelling at me. "They're all important!"

"Let's say this," I finally said after reading an email from Adam that had just arrived. He told me Project was decidedly Not Important and I clearly didn't know what I was talking about if I thought it was. Deciding I was past annoyed and committed to being Angry, I directed my outraged attention to my problem on the phone and took a breath. "The next time I hear something relevant to Project and its priority, I won't tell you. Because I don't have time to be scolded because your feelings were hurt because you think I implied something."

"I want to know!" he exclaimed as I typed an email that told Adam we needed to talk. Call then, he replied and I scowled at the computer screen, feeling quite betrayed by my office supplies and the people they allowed to communicate with me. I'm arguing with Project Leader, I typed bitterly. I'll argue with you in a minute.

"I'm sorry I offended you. It was not my intention." Well, not my initial intention, I amended silently. "It's clear that we need oversight for the overall work and given Adam's recent email, there isn't agreement on how to move forward. I'll suggest a larger meeting, but I have to go now."

Then I dialed another number, furious that this whole episode was taking an hour that I didn't have to soothe male egos. Adam proceeded to explain why he was right and everyone else was wrong and I tried to explain that everyone else had valid points that needed to be addressed if we were going to go with Adam's proposal.

"Look," I finally said after we argued for 5 minutes or so. "I'm done. You said I didn't know what I was talking about? Fine. If you know so much, you do it. But I'll tell you this. I don't know your story so I can't communicate it to the team. Nobody else knows your story and when you say 'no' without explanation, it just irritates them! Then I hear complaints and get yelled at on the phone for defending your ideas that I don't even understand! So I'm Done."

"That's fair," he said, voice becoming soothing as he realized I was past the point of falling in line and doing as I was told. "Direct all emails to me."

"I will," I said haughtily. "You people no longer deserve my attention."

"16%," my first visitor popped in to tell me later. I was in the middle of another - more productive task - and was reaching a stopping point so I could go to a meeting. "That's a statistic that reveals Project's importance."

"That's nice," I smiled insincerely and moved past him as he lingered in my doorway.

And so ends an example of how my job is sometimes quite sucky and I'm sometimes quite bad at it.