Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dilatation Discomfort

"You're not going to touch my eye, are you?" I clarified, obediently placing my chin on the metal bar and resting my forehead in the proper spot. Finding her 'I'll tell you in a minute' comment to be wildly unacceptable, I frowned and decided how to protest.

"No blinking for 2 seconds," the doctor warned and while I was deciding how to politely decline that she touch my eyeball with the probe thingie, she did one eye. Then the other. Then sat back and confirmed that she had touched my eye. "Those drops work wonders," she declared proudly and I blinked rapidly and glanced at the tissue in my hand.

"My dog has glaucoma," I told her, having almost checked yes on the form where it asked if anyone in my family had eye diseases. I decided in time that Chienne and I have no genetic link and my paperwork need not reflect canine issues. "The drops she gets are yellow like this too," I displayed the crumpled Kleenex, stained yellow from the numbing drops I'd dabbed away.

I consented to having my eyes dilated, though I've not done that for years. My pupils are pretty large so other doctors have used advanced technology or made due with a darkened room.

"That's unpleasant," I told the doctor when my eyes burned as the drops soaked in. But I obediently left the room to pick out my frames and watched the assistant struggle with the insurance billing. I tucked my sample contacts in my pocket, having firmly refused the Toric lenses.

"I know I have astigmatism," I told her. "But I hated those lenses with a fiery passion. I could feel the edges of them. Constantly aware they were sitting on my eyes. I won't use them again." She attempted to argue but I insisted that my eyes were either too small or oddly shaped because they were miserable to wear.

When 20 minutes had passed, she peered into my eyes with bright lights, murmuring when I said it was hurting. It felt like the light was searing my brain, neurons wincing from the white rays.

"You're fine," she assured me, referring to my eye health, as I blinked at her with watery eyes and squinted against a headache.

"I'm sure I'll be fine," I told her, waving off the offer of paper sunglasses that would fit over my old frames. "I don't live far from here." But I took the plastic covered object, rolling my dilated eyes at the thought that I'd need them for my short trip home.

But once outside, I staggered back from the brightness of light, eyes chemically prevented from protecting themselves from the onslaught of bright sunshine. I lowered my eyelids, reaching blindly to find the precious paper sunglasses and fumbling to get them over my eyes. I nearly crashed my car when they slipped, body reacting to the miserable pain by closing my eyes before I recalled that driving required vision to avoid running into other cars and curbs.

Having arrived safely home, I kept my eyes squinted and found that even the computer screen was too bright to tolerate. As I settled in for a nice nap, relishing the relief of having my eyes closed, I realized it's much how I feel lately.

Abnormally, irrationally, vulnerable to emotional stimuli. I want to cry at criticism. Grow overly angry during arguments. Feel everything is unfair and overly difficult and absolutely exhausting.

"You just don't seem happy anymore," a colleague said, frowning at me yesterday in concern.

"Oh, for goodness sake," I scoffed, unable to help myself. "I'm so tired of hearing how people are worried or I don't look good or whatever is the matter with Katie. I'm fine. Relax."

She approached me later, asking earnestly if I was angry at her - if she'd done something to offend me. I shook my head, sighing in frustration at myself, telling her I was just off lately. And it really wasn't her. It was me.

"But I love sweet, happy Katie," she said gently, reaching to wrap her arm around me.

"Yeah," I agreed. "Me, too."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunny Side Down

"Katie Marie," my office-neighbor teased and I looked up to smile at him quizzically. "You said you weren't going to send the link."

I nodded, remembering that I'd noted my possession of a presentation he desired. I told him I'd put it on the standard site my group uses and if he hadn't taken note of my multiple emails directing him to said site, he obviously did not deserve the presentation at all. He'd made a face at my remark and I'd changed my mind by morning, sending a quick email to those interested with the direct link for easy downloading.

"I'm in a better mood this morning," I explained. "I don't feel the need to make others' lives difficult because I am unhappy."

"Say again," he requested, coming around the corner so I could see as well as hear him.

"Unhappy people spread unhappiness," I explained. "When I'm happy, I'm helpful. When I'm sad, I tend to spread misery more than I should."

"You're not an unhappy person," he corrected me firmly and I smiled at him.

"I try not to be," I replied, which is true. Even as I recognize that all people are complex creatures with varying moods and motivations, I hope that I end up - in the summary view - as being kind and thoughtful and happy.

"Why did she cry?" I asked Mom when she told me about Little One's birthday party.

"I don't know," she sighed. "She wanted to open presents but I said we should have dinner first and she got sad and went in her room. Closed the door."

I frowned, remembering similar reactions from a younger Katie who reminds of me of Little One an alarming amount. "You need to practice coping strategies," I decided. "Look online for sensitive children with a tendency to get sad. Find out if there are breathing techniques or visualization methods that can help her move through that without reacting so strongly."

"We should," she replied. "I will," she revised. "I should have done that for you. She's just so much like you, Katie."

"I'm OK," I reminded her. "I struggle sometimes, but I'm fine. It's just that if she can get more control over it while she's young, perhaps it won't affect her so much later. But don't make her feel sick or wrong." I remembered being threatened with the psychiatrist in my teenage years, much as she'd threatened me with daycare when I was a disobedient toddler. "There is nothing bad about her," I stated sternly. "She just needs a little guidance on how to handle criticism and unpleasant news."

"We'll look it up," she promised and I nodded.

"You'll get better," Friend told me when she was here last weekend. And, largely because she was here - I think depression fears her - I did start emerging from the dark apathy. This week was much better.

"Only to wait until the next time I get worse again," I replied in a chat window later this week. Perhaps it's time to develop better coping strategies of my own.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In 3 Parts

"They're in my room," I frowned, more than moderately annoyed at the disruption to my perfect plan. I had arrived 45 minutes early, ready to tidy and power on the various systems to host my guest. I had waited, quietly impatient, until the limo service called to tell me they were en route. I then interrupted apologetically, asking the group to wrap it up.


"Don't try to change the world, Katie," he advised. I had stopped to say good-bye, having heard that it was his last day and wanting to share my best wishes. "It seems like a great idea - exciting and meaningful - but it ends up with you all alone and failing."

"I'm sorry," I said, squeezing his shoulder in sympathy and affection as it shrugged. "You should be happier in this new job though, right?"

"Maybe," he replied. "I just know this isn't working and left before they made the choice to force me out. The funny thing? I can point to the decision that brought me here. I wanted to do something new and different. And it was far more difficult than I ever dreamed."


I walk Chienne each morning, waiting semi-patiently while she sniffs and snuffles. Of late, we've been skirting the corner at the bottom of the hill on which my house perches. It's where the neighborhood children wait for the school bus.

So when we emerge before 6:45 - me in pajamas and Chienne on her leash - the older group lingers in a cloud of perfume. It burns my eyes when we move past, so I blink at the younger boy who waits past the tree some 10 yards from the corner. His glasses perch on his nose and jacket hangs from small shoulders and he watches - but does not interact with - the older group.

He simply waits, standing there away from the corner, until they leave so that he can take his place at the curb to wait for the next bus. And, a bit of an early bird myself, I smile at him, feeling a mixture of hope and despair as I wonder if he worries - as I did - about being late. Being unliked. Embarrassed. Unsuccessful.


Upon asking a second time for them to vacate my conference room so I could prepare it for my very important visitor, I raised an eyebrow at the leader who motioned me out of the room.

"I'm sorry," I said, my tone indicating otherwise, "but I do have it reserved and our guest has arrived."

"I'm sorry," he replied with a glare. "But you should respect that these people have been let go and this is their final meeting about severence."

I blinked at him, unsure of what to say other than my 'then the room should have been reserved' which did not at all convey my sympathy and horror that it might someday be me in there - hearing some trite final words before being asked to leave before the rest of the staff arrived on campus.

I recalled that something like 12% of companies are planning lay-offs next year. And it all seemed hopeless - the travel and plans and documents and visitors. So I said brief prayers as they moved from the room and threw myself into the distraction of my guest for the remainder of the day, eager to forget.


"So what's the plan?" I asked my former colleague, looking around at his box of belongings. "If not to change the world?"

"Just make it through the next day," he sighed and I smiled and motioned for him to stand so I could give him a hug.

"Be happy as you're making it through those days," I ordered gently and with a final pat on his arm, waved farewell before leaving his office.


I returned to my house after making our typical loop and my heart was happy to hear him - the boy with glasses - laugh, surrounded by the group of girls who live nearby. He has a good laugh - lilting and happy - and I wondered if his mom made him come out early to wait.

Perhaps he's never worried. Always successful. Popular and fun.

Ready, willing and able to change the world.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I recognized the number when my cell phone rang, having stopped myself from dialing it last night.

"Please come," I wanted to beg Friend. "I've screwed it all up and I'm scared to tell anyone and I'm not well. The darkness is looming and I want to just let it wash over me until I go numb. But I can't. I can't let it all crumble now but I don't know how to stop it."

But, I thought after returning from work, blinking against the tears I'd held back all day, I did not deserve this rescue. No longer stupid and needy, I was now more selfish and needy and had missed multiple opportunities to be there for her. I would not ask her to be here for me.

Instead, I took 1000 mg of Acetominophen, 60 of Fluoxetine and 50 of Dipehnhydramine HCl and felt the frantic pace of my heart slow and mind - busy with loops of worry and fear and darkness - ease under the influence of anti-depressants and sedatives. And I eventually went to sleep.

"Where are you?" she asked when I answered the phone this morning.

"I'm home," I replied, glancing around at the brown furniture in my small living room. We don't talk often, though we do chat at times, so I was pleased to hear her sounding happy. Friend doesn't really do peppy, but were she someone else, I might have used that word. Anyway, she explained that she might be stranded tonight in a nearby metropolis after missing her connecting flight. And, if so, she wondered if I would want to come fetch her.

"Yes," I replied before she finished. "I would love to see you!" And so I hung up with the vague hope of delays and seeing one of my favoritest people.

"I could just ask if they'd let me go home tomorrow," she offered when she called again, en route to her first airport. And after some back and forth on plans, we decided I'd fetch her this evening and drop her off tomorrow afternoon.

In between? I'll tell secrets and get advice. And hope to God it makes me feel at least a little better.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


Had I been asked to identify the smallest space in my house, I'd likely have picked the powder room. Holding only a toilet and sink, it's cozy at best. It turns out that the section of the master bath - containing naught but a toilet - is the smallest though.

I realized this after I released my precious puppy from the latter space upon returning from work yesterday.

"She locked herself in," I told PrettyHair and she gasped. I nodded in sympathy, thinking of the poor, blind Chienne, stuck in a 3x3 foot space, unable to escape.

"How did you open the door?" she asked and I cocked my head at her. "It was locked?" she clarified.

"Oh, no. I used the wrong word - I do that. She wasn't locked. Just trapped. And she's fine."

"Did she do any damage?" asked another colleague and I shook my head, mentioning that the wind had blown closed the door of the bedroom.

"I think that when I got home and was calling her, she tried again to get out of the bedroom and ended up in the bathroom instead. She was pretty disoriented when she did get free - damn closed door threw her off. But she stayed close and we cuddled and had dinner and then slept. So all is well."

We completed mid-year reviews at work a few weeks ago. It turned out that my goals for myself had diverged from Adam's goals for my job. So, I thought with mild confidence, perhaps it was time to go a different direction! So when an opportunity came, I took it. Because that's what over-confident Katies do. (Plus, it was temporary and semi-official at best. Low risk, yes?)

I have started to dip my toes in the water - just the very tips of them - and I hate it. It's like I expected ocean and got instead this observation deck 100 floors above ground with a view of the ocean. And while some marvel at the vantage point (and I can even admit it's very nice), all I can think is that I'm afraid of heights. (Seriously - the people, the performance metrics, the mild annoyances and major problems - all Horrible. They're going to make me jump off the balcony - I just know it.)

"Let me know which of these you can't do," Adam scrawled at the top of this year's defined tasks for my current job. So I immediately set about starting nearly all of those projects, clinging to my current responsibilities with both hands and wondering if I could hide under my desk from the new ocean-view role.

Not locked in, I reminded myself when faced when I thought of it - facing tasks that will force me to grow in my skill set even as they worry me in terms of my performance.

Momentarily trapped isn't so bad, I've decided. Eventually, something will shift and I'll be able to choose what's right for me.

Still, I'm likely to whine and cry and paw at the door until I'm able to get out.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Pre-Dawn Panic

I emerged from my hotel - an adorable historic place I'd selected - into the pre-dawn heat of Dallas. I like the light in the morning - sort of gentle and blue between buildings in new cities. So I, in my shiny black flats and polka dot dress, pranced down the marble steps and into the warm morning.

One benefit of enjoying mornings is that I tend to be in the minority. I somehow enjoy seeing things others miss. Being able to snap photos of places without people wandering into the image. So I frowned when a group of men had arranged themselves on the steps to the very municipal building I'd hoped to photograph.

No matter, I told myself despite the worry that tightened my shoulders, and I walked on.

Breathe, I reminded myself upon spying the third rather large group of men lurking in the shadows. Head up - shoulders back - I adjusted my posture with my mental instructions. "You're fine," I told myself aloud but hastened my step and frantically wondered if it would be better to do a quick about face or continue around the block.

The latter looked intimidating and I was already afraid. But I peeked around and decided that the Walk signal on traffic-free streets was a sign. And I turned the corner.

I find myself in that moment too much of late. Like when I'm kissing someone and evaluating texture and taste and feel almost certain I want to stop but wonder if I should continue. That is how one gets experience, yes? And why one wears a dress that's too short and bright blue?

"I can't handle it," I told Adam, nearly hysterical when I read an unpleasant email upon landing back at home. "She's awful! Mean and...and stupid!" And after he'd talked me down and I'd greeted my lonely dog, I couldn't quite catch my breath.

My anxiety - in any of these situations - seems out of step with the actual severity. And overreaction - for me - is a sign of looming depression. Indecisive, anxious Katie is an unhappy Katie. And, much as I hate it, I'm retreating into it rather than battling through it. I'm way skilled at Solitaire of late. And can probably tell you how nearly any sitcom ends. I tend toward monotonous tasks to keep busy - and luckily have enough of them at work that I'm semi-productive.

I was obviously fine after wandering that small distance around downtown Dallas. I finished my hurried stroll with but a few pictures but arrived safely back at the hotel, literally sagging with relief at the bright safety offered inside the doors.

I declined hot sauce for my eggs and sipped orange juice before shrugging into a jacket and heading off to my meetings.

Eventually I'll obviously be fine from this little episode as well, but I'm weary of it. And sometimes the polka dot dresses and shiny shoes just can't save it.