Sunday, March 28, 2010


Perhaps lured by the cutesy bunny statues I have on my front porch, a furry brown creature with a white puff of a tail has taken up residence under my hedge. I expect she will soon have baby bunnies and now remember to hold the leash very tightly when we pass by that section of my path on our walks. Chienne often sniffs and desperately wants to chase, her white paws gripping frantically for purchase as the rabbit hops away, quick and graceful.

Once I've convinced my canine companion to stop yanking at my arm, she looks at me balefully from her one seeing eye.

"Elusive," I tell her before leaning down to rub her head. "But we don't hurt bunnies."

There are moments of relative clarity - when all is still and peaceful and I feel I'm doing something worthwhile. More often, the wind blows and disturbs the surface, leaving me with mere glimpses of what I think might be.

"I have a doctorate," I nearly said. "I'm smart and talented and focused. And I just spent an hour listening to you say, 'move that over. Change that font. Alter that color.' Are you fucking kidding me?"

Reminding myself that my job is stable and I'm making more than I would in an academic role and that I do rather enjoy what I do, I simply reverted to my "OK" and "Sure" that I use when someone is irritating me to an insane degree.

My performance review was at 6:30 Saturday morning. I am officially "excellent" and will be promoted to 'bear' from 'cub' and there's some chance I'll make more money. Never fear - I shall go attack HR as soon as I find time and energy.

For the moment, I'm feeling uneasy with it though. While I normally embrace quiet weekends in the office, I felt my skin crawl when I spent the afternoon at my desk yesterday. I screamed (literally - it was quite dramatic) when someone approached me from behind as I stood at the printer. But my thoughts were wrapped around an upcoming Event I'm hosting and I was idly drafting welcome letters to my VIPs while waiting for informational packets to emerge from the machine in color. The office was dark, only a few safety lights providing illumination, and I was leaning forward to peer at the pages when he came into our printing alcove.

"I'm sorry," he said, looking as shocked as I did when I replied to his friendly 'hello' with a sharp sound of startled horror. I shook my head, hand to my heart, and realized I was more creeped out than soothed by the quiet that held more hiding places for evil than opportunities for advancement.

I closed my laptop and climbed the stairs around 10 last night, I finished swallowing my anti-depressant and touched Chienne's head as she trotted past me to head upstairs.

"Elusive," I decided and hoped the bunny was warm enough before curling under the covers with my dog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I drafted a post entitled "No Change" on Monday. It is now Wednesday and my situation remains fairly constant. I work about 14 hours each day. I eat while reading email. I dream of arguments and tasks and meetings while curled comfortably in bed.

I have, however, adjusted in the remarkable way that people do. I have to do a tedious task? I'll complain but I will finish first and do it well. I have to organize an important meeting? I will draft documents and presentations, make phone calls and double-check arrangements. I made less money and get less credit than my colleagues? I continue to take shots at Adam and feel fragile and wounded, but I've continued to show up early each morning and stay late every evening.

"I may have to leave," I typed to Adam as we chatted today. He's out of the office and I'm a good chat buddy since I type so fast. "I don't see any other way to reset the baseline and I'll always feel like I'm being promoted into a job title and salary I deserved long before."

I rolled my eyes and responded with a sarcastic "sure" when he did the whole 'I hear and accept and empathize with you' routine.

"I worry about you personally," he typed and I nodded before replying "Most people do." I live to work. I take this really, really personally. I'm not in love and that's unlikely to change. I don't take care of myself and may have a nervous breakdown when my dog dies (Please, God, not for a long time.)

"How about you fix me professionally," I decided, tapping out the words, "and I'll go from there?"

But, like so many things, change is slow to come.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Foolishly Fickle

"I had so much fun!" I claimed happily, savoring the post-presentation high. It was exciting to argue and answer questions, to speak and demand attention. I'd done beautifully - the week of late nights and early mornings seeming worthwhile after my 90 minute presentation. I felt lucky to do what I do. And ready to put in a weekend of work trying to stay reasonably caught up.

"We get the bonuses on Monday," Sibling offered with a grin while we sat at a small booth for dinner many hours later. Cocking my head at her over our basket of bread, I tore of an end, dipped it in oil and paused before eating it.

"What bonuses?" I asked, curiously then took a bite.

"The bonuses," she repeated fondly. "You really need to start reading rather than skimming your email."

"I don't think I got one," I defended myself and watched her frown in disbelief before she shrugged and explained that all polar bears would be sharing in the profits from last year's excellent performance.

"Oh," I said, feeling suddenly miserable and blinking back tears in a gross overreaction. "I'm a polar cub, officially. So I don't get one."

"You're not a cub," she said, looking concerned and gentle at seeing my reaction. "You're a bear. Like us."

"No," I said, sucked into my self-pitying and pathetic state. "I was hired as a cub and haven't been promoted. Even though everyone else on the team is a bear. And I'm a fully functioning member of the team."

"You're the best of the team," she claimed loyally and while I agreed a little bit, I still shook my head.

"We're all good. But I'm definitely not so much worse that I need to be a lower paid, lower class member." I forced myself to eat and laugh and talk after I changed the subject, burying my miserably hurt feelings, and chided myself for being surprised. I work for Industry. We exist to make money. If we can accomplish some altruistic goal or make an employee happy, that's lovely. But it's hardly our purpose and certainly won't be prioritized over profit.

Older and wiser people (I'd say "friends" but these people no longer speak to me - see second adjective at the beginning of this sentence) have advised that I was a part of the corporate machine because they saw value in me. That there was potential for me to play some part of the plan - work harder for less money, convince customers to buy product, motivate others to allocate additional effort - and that selfish motive was the only real one that existed for paying me to be part of their team.

I knew this - I still know it - but in some oddly detached sense. I want to believe they care about me, at least a little bit - and so I do believe that. (This delusional capability has long been problematic - I should probably stop.) But when faced with the fact that I'd been denied something so petty - it's about $5K so a pittance to them but a rather nice bonus for me - I was quite upset.

"I'm not worried," I sneered when Adam took my call as I drove home. "I can't believe you think I'd be worried about my performance review! What I am," I paused to breathe through the sudden rage, "is angry. That I'm underpaid. Undervalued. And that you've done nothing to fix it!"

"I won't discuss this on the phone. We will have a conversation - soon - in a more formal setting."

"Fine." I paused and he paused with me. "I needed you to know," I told him. "That I'm hurt and angry and upset. Because it's going to consume my weekend that otherwise would have went to work. And I'll see you in Hell before I open my laptop before Monday morning."

"Fair enough," he replied and I hung up without another word.

"It is not fair," I murmured, swiping at the tears that had fallen. I don't want to yell at my boss after sitting shoulder to shoulder all day and whispering comments and amusing insults throughout the day of meetings. We had drinks together exactly a week before I'd called to complain bitterly this evening. I don't want to feel jealous of Sibling and PrettyHair and Best. They're talented and very deserving of the additional compensation. God knows I must get annoying with my awards and recognition and over-achiever little heart and power-hungry soul, but I don't begrudge them a single penny.

So I came home and read two books curled on my couch downstairs. I talked to my parents. When I told Dad I was angry, he asked if I was sure I was part of his family. I giggled, realizing that at least one of us is wounded or enraged or deeply offended about something or other at any given time. It is likely that draw toward passionate discussions and all-or-nothing work ethic that keeps me in Industry.

And I'm staying, even if they refuse to pay me more and continue to call me a cub as my percentage of gray hair slowly inches upward. For as I looked through job postings, visions of walking in with another offer and telling them how much they'd miss me when I was gone!, there is nothing that appeals. This is what I do. It's becoming who I am. And, on evenings like tonight, I find that more terrifying than comforting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Normal

I blink myself awake, always without the aid of an alarm, by 6. I roll from bed with a whimper or moan (I like to mix it up) and go to brush my teeth.

I stumble downstairs to consume coffee, watching the news and reading the most urgent of the emails that have arrived from Asia or Europe overnight. I pet Chienne when she descends the stairs, glancing at the clock before slipping on sneakers and grabbing her leash to take our morning walk.

I drive to work, humming hymns from church if it's early in the week or quietly cursing people in my way as I move toward Friday. I arrive, park and make my way to my office. And I begin to work, slipping on my headset to take phone calls, responding to the buzz of the phone in my pocket, answering emails, filling out forms, talking to people and making presentations.

About 12 hours later, I place my laptop back in my bag and make my way back to my car. I come home and eat dinner. I make a futile effort to catch up on email and requests. Then, exhausted, I fall into bed.

My stomach cramps around 1AM, a mixture of stress and late meals and nightmares. I'm awake, curling closer to my dog or cuddling into pillows, before sleep takes me again.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Travel buddies

"My girlfriend taught me a lot," he said. "We started dating while I was in college and she had just graduated. So I learned some important things - how to pay bills, grocery shop. You know." I glanced up from my book and across the cute-as-a-button girl in the middle seat at the man speaking to her from his seat on the aisle of the plane. I returned my attention to my book as he said it had been, like, a real growth experience, rolling my eyes so far I thought I was going to hurt myself.


"The fog is wonderful," he said from the passenger seat of my Jeep as we sped through a town on our way back home. "I read an article on how hard it can be to recreate that visual effect - how the light diffuses, how the shadows are long and soft. The physics is actually pretty straightforward but to recreate an entire scene is computationally intensive. So there are some tricks applied to speed the process." And I glanced from the road to my colleague, an expat currently living in southeast Asia, and found him comfortably interesting, attractive and accessible.


"My sister is pretty sick," she noted when he finally let her speak. "So I wanted to go home and spend some time with my family. She has cancer and it's spread everywhere so I need to talk to her after this latest operation. Help my parents cope a little."

"Yeah," he replied, sounding mostly bored. "So you want to get a drink after we land?"

"My dad is coming to pick me up," she said. "Otherwise, maybe. Thanks."

"So you'd go if he wasn't coming to get you?" he confirmed. "Call him and tell him I'll bring you home later."


"I get frustrated," I told him. "There's just so much work and it genuinely is hard and he doesn't seem to be trying!"

"My impression," he said thoughtfully, "is that he has a good heart. He cares a lot and is probably trying in some sense but he's not very effective. So he gets frustrated and complains."

"But that does no good," I pouted and he nodded.

"I guess I'd rather see someone ineffective because he cares too much rather than because he doesn't care at all."

"Yes," I agreed. "But I'd rather see that passion translate into something productive and helpful."

"Fair enough." He smiled, shifted in his seat so his shoulders were angled toward me and asked another question to start a different conversational exchange.


"While we're waiting," she said, standing very close to him in the back of the plane as we waited for the forward cabin to get out of our way, "why don't we exchange numbers."

"Give it here," he murmured. "I don't want just anyone here trying to call me."

I blinked at them in shock. Hearing any more of his ridiculous chatter was just under 'eat a bug' on my list of unpleasant things to do and I was beyond surprised that she would willingly listen to another word this idiot said. He'd interrupted and ignored her problems! Prattled on about how he was too good for his girlfriend and how she should forget about her boyfriend! And she wanted to see him again?


"So I'll see you tomorrow," I said, sighing with sleepiness as I pulled in front of his hotel. We'd spent 14 hours together and he'd not irritated me once - I found him pleasant and smart, easy and amusing.

"Yes," he smiled and paused for a moment before saying good night and placing the strap of his bag over his shoulder. I pulled out of the parking lot and made a U turn to head toward home while wondering why I'd not asked him for a drink. Made some flirtatious overture. He was lovely. And I'd been longing for bed, but didn't particularly want him in my way when I tried to sleep.

It doesn't make sense, I decided. In general, I don't want to be alone. Specifically, I found this man utterly unobjectionable. Yet if I never saw him again, that'd be fine. So have I given up? Can one go for so long without sex that it becomes a negligible concern? Am I just too tired to devote energy toward romantic fantasy rather than dreaming of how it might feel to finish some of my professional projects?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Red Line

"Katie," he warned, raising his eyebrows when I pouted defiantly. "No."

"It's not nice!" I cried, stomping my foot hard enough to make my ponytail bounce. "Who sends emails in bold, red font that are in all capital letters?!"

"They probably don't have a lot of friends," he tried to soothe. "And when you don't have a life, you don't learn how to properly communicate without irritating the hell out of people."

"Do I have a life?" I asked and watched him acknowledge my point. "Yet I don't write in all capital letters! It's condescending and offensive! I should tell them," I muttered, turning back to my keyboard before he grabbed the back of my chair and wheeled me away from my desk.

"We do not scold customers," he reminded me sternly. "The next time a colleague does it to you, I'll help you hurt them." Soundly thwarted, I continued to pout as I went about another intensely busy day.

I'm still not adjusting well to our new regime. I believe I have proved my worth and seem to be under less scrutiny and criticism than before. But I'm alienating my team by working 70 hour weeks. I'm putting forth insane efforts to keep up and do favors and while our new leader approves, my colleagues are somehow less than impressed that I'm contributing to them looking like they don't care as much as I do.

I was sort of OK with it. Of all of us, I'm most interested in staying. Attracted enough to power to want to move up and anti-social enough to not mind working evenings and weekends, I'm someone who'll do well in Industry through sheer force of will. Yet it was not my turn to go to The Meeting this year since I basked in the Hawaiian sun last year. I spared only a moment to be disappointed, thinking instead that I could take a break, rest and try to get caught up while others were off in Europe. It doesn't make sense for me to be selfish and expect to go abroad twice in one year.

Yet plans changed and invitations were rescinded. And I am once again being sent to The Meeting instead of others - others whose turn it is to go - from my group. And while we haven't spoken of it since the announcement, I'm feeling awkward and uncomfortable about the whole thing. (And not even the outwardly uncomfortable inwardly 'woo hoo for me!' feeling. Totally uncomfortable with the whole thing - I like and respect my colleagues and don't like being singled out like this.)

I'm also drifting into the realm of being so overwhelmed that anyone I don't like or respect is getting ignored and/or slapped back when they dare bother me. I don't like myself much when I sneer at people or scoff at their scolding when I miss their meetings. "I'm sorry," I offered today when a man I do like and respect approached me about it. "But I'm maxed out. I can do no more."

So when it was time to address the problem, I made a chart. There were little bars for all the tasks and only 4 of them made it below the 100% effort line. I looked, mostly befuddled, at all the tasks we used to squeeze in but that had multiplied so much that there was just no way anymore. Inserting the red line in my chart, I winced at what this meant - all the refusals it would mean, all the stress it would cause as we did what we could and knew it wasn't enough, and glared at the thought that we need help and aren't likely to get it.

I'd try to figure out what to do about it, but I need to sleep. I'm due at work by 7 tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Letter S

I am So Sleepy - that's why posts are becoming more gimmicky.
I have the Sesame Street Song in my head.
Sunny days, Sweeping the (wait) clouds away...
The Seagulls attacked.
It Sucked.
I had Sushi with Sibling.
Sprout keeps Screwing with Chienne. Batting at her ears, pouncing when she sleeps.
I feel Sorry for her.
And I Swat at him.
My Shoulder and neck are knotted with tension.
I think I'm Sleeping wrong.
Tomorrow, I'll sit on a plane for a long day trip.
I Shall face Pete for the first time since my defense.
I Still make faces when I think about him.
He's a Son of a... Sucker.
I Sigh with exhaustion.
So much So that I can't think of any more Statements.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Oh, flock.

"I have something for you," said the SalesBear as I rubbed my furry cheek to his and made a kissing sound. I cocked my head at him, frowning when he mouthed 'later' before heading to his place next to the visiting flock of seagulls he'd brought to our play pen. Still, I sat in my favorite spot, crossing my paws and placing them on my tummy, and listened as the gulls talked about what they wanted to learn, grinning when a fox eyed them suspiciously.

I was sleepy, wishing for nothing so much as a good bout of hibernation, but vowed to put my head down and plow through the day. I had put in a good 20 hours to prepare for the gulls during my 8o hours working last week and I was determined they would be suitably impressed. SalesBear did owe me, I thought, and I'd not been shy about informing him of that.

BossyBear told me not to help the SalesBear, I remembered, lip edging into a pout as I remembered my scolding. I said yes all the time, I remembered him saying. I didn't prioritize. I made myself sick by working too hard. I blinked when I realized I'd growled at the memory, adopting a friendlier expression for the seagulls as they explained their flight patterns and interest in our habitats.

I wrapped my paws around the bottle of champagne when SalesBear handed it to me, admiring its little cozy. I took it to my den, settling it carefully in the corner and thinking I'd never bought champagne before. But I do like the bubbles.

I settled in with the seagulls, their fluttering wings making me a bit nervous, until it was time to meet with the geese. They are just migrating through and have some very important business to complete while they are here. I have been recruited to help them, meaning that my schedule has gone to the birds, frankly.

"Hi, geese," I said, walking into their nest and catching my breath from the climb, finding a place to settle my bear body. "How are we doing?"

So they honked and I answered questions. They honked and I drew maps of migration routes. They honked and I nodded appreciatively of their stories of flying in Vs.

I lifted my head from our work after several hours, raising my paw for quiet. "I hear the seagulls," I noted. "I must go to them."

"How's it going?" asked a bear as I paddled past him in the pool, hurrying toward the seagull flock.

"Good. Fine," I called. "Geese. Seagulls."

They all had questions and requests, squawking over each other to be heard. So I fetched this and fashioned that, saying that they could of course use my ball and this pail and that bow to finish their project.

Placing my paw to my aching head, I asked the fox if he could finish up, spared a moment's worry that he'd devour a seagull or two, but shrugged and gathered my pretty gift and wandered home with only enough energy to get clean and snuggle into sleepybear clothes to rest.