anxiety, be a better human, books, community, coworkers, depression, empathy, librarians, strangers

Taking books out

Did you know that during summer, people like to read books? Vacations and breaks from school make summertime an especially high-checkout, high-return time, and many titles are in high demand. Since our library doesn’t share with any other library and don’t have a bajillion copies of everything, this tends to mean wait lists: placing holds, and waiting your turn in line.

Waiting is an art, and not all of us are artists.

Last week, all in one day, I encountered three women who did not want to wait. One reason annoyed me. One reason made me laugh. One reason made me sad.

For morale, let’s start with the situation that annoyed me, move to sad and close with happy. One of our adult summer reading categories is graphic novels, since they are a burgeoning genre and an accessible/inventive mixture of art and literature. I got very excited when a gentleman came in Friday evening asking for a graphic novel, and I recommended my favorite one to him (Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch). He was not overeager to read any graphic novel, so I hoped this one would at least make him smile, as it did for me–even though it is about the author’s struggles with anxiety, depression, and adulting. *

The following day, the woman in question approached me looking for a graphic novel recommendation, and I explained that some of my favorites were already checked out, but she should definitely consider putting them on hold. She flatly refused. Her tone told me she wanted to be able to take this book out TODAY. NOW.

Though I understand how exciting it is to hear about and have a title in hand, then take it home immediately and get started, when people straight out refuse to place holds, I get miffed. Unless you are leaving for vacation tomorrow, why can’t you wait? Logistically, with some titles (looking at you, Becoming by Michelle Obama), if you don’t place a hold and instead wait to serendipitously find it on the shelf one day, you will NEVER GET THE BOOK. EVERYONE ELSE IS BEING SMART AND PLACING HOLDS AND THE HOLDS CONTINUE ON AND ON INTO PERPETUITY.

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I digress. To summarize: she left empty-handed with several titles (including Sarah’s Scribblesalso checked out), and I sent my recurring plea back out into the universe that people will understand that libraries are a place for sharing.

The incident that made me sad was that a feeble elderly woman asked me to recommend several books for her. We exhausted the large print selection, and she had a lot of trouble hearing in addition to her sight. She had taken a bus to get to us (when I know of at least 10 libraries closer to her) and I still don’t understand why. Because, when I told her that we could place holds for titles currently checked out, she told me she didn’t have a library card. I told her multiple times that she is still welcome to use the books in the library, but that she couldn’t take them home. Because of her hearing, and because of her apparent mental state, I feared what would result, and lo and behold my fears were accurate. She filled a canvas tote with about a dozen books, and proceeded to walk out of the gates, setting off the security noise.

She moved slowly, but my colleague caught up to her and had to have the far-too-long, repetitive, awkward conversation reminding/informing her that she could not simply take the books. He patiently told her all about her local library, and copied the spines of the books she had picked out so she had the titles. He stood with her and responded overall in a warm and thoughtful way. Again, I don’t know why she had it in her head that any library, much less one a 30 minute bus ride from her home, would let her have a bunch of books. She had forgotten what a library is and does, and her deteriorated mental state made me sad, and at the same time made me hope I never forget what a library is for.

The last woman is our local celebrity. At 95 years old, she uses a walker but uses it often. She is easily spotted all around town because of her colorful hair and wardrobe. She currently has it dyed an emerald green with one chunk of magenta, and was rocking a lemon colored shirt. I handed her the book she had asked me to find and immediately went to help someone else. The man I was helping turned to me when we heard the security noise and said “she didn’t check that out!” as we watched her continue through the gates and out the door. I started to go after her, calling her name, but she didn’t hear me (or the security noise) and I decided to let her keep cruising on with her day. I realized I knew exactly what book she had, and her full name…all the info I needed to check the book out to her. I told the man who saw “it’s ok, I know her.”

That made me happy. I love knowing people, and I love even more the idea that if people know you, you can make mistakes and they’ll have your back. Above all, I love this library and community (the good eggs outweigh the jerks)!

*The cover image of this post is from this book, and looking through photos make me seriously doubt that the guy I recommended this to will like it AT ALL. lolol but who knows.

anxiety, career, let it go, librarians, meditation, writing

Time Off

It would seem I took an entire season off from writing… It wasn’t an accident, but procrastination took over any time I told myself to blog. Interestingly enough, at least over the past month, this lapse in writing has overlapped (overlapsed?) with a lot of time off from the library. But holy cow, has there been a lot going on. Time off from the library doesn’t mean time off from general life!

In June, I worked two four-hour shifts at the public library. Reader, I had Friday nights to myself! Those Fridays were great, and I spent them with dear friends.

However, with full appreciation of not having to punch the clock, let me say: I think working at the library is part of my self-care.

Over the past couple months, the seven-month period of temping has come to a victorious end. I am gainfully full-time employed, officially, permanently, in a department surrounded by awesome people who love coming to work every day. My 9-5 is everything I have waited for, and I feel so so so fortunate.

I would love to say that I was confident in my abilities and my chances at this job since the department knew me and invited me back (despite myself 🙂 to fill the position while the search went on. I would love to say that I did not stress myself out even though the job was probably mine from day one. I would love to say that even though the work is an exact match to my professional skills and demeanor, I was not chock full of terror that I would be rejected again and set adrift to continue temping elsewhere. For the several weeks in between when I applied and when I interviewed, any mention my colleagues made to “you’ll see in the fall” or “when we all do X/Y/Z in August..” I inserted “if I’m still here!” in order not to jinx it.

Because there is no time off from my brain. To me, the only thing worse than not getting this dream job would be to have expressed my sense of belonging out loud, on the record, and THEN not get to stay. I pulled apart any and every interaction with my supervisors to decipher whether they were implying that I would be sticking around. As professionals, they couldn’t just come right out and say “you are our first choice for this job,” but I’ve apparently become so uncomfortable with uncertainty that I needed someone to say that to ease my strife. On the occasions one of them did say something encouraging, I tried to hold it and internalize their praise for as long as I could.

Now, I have the security of a real job, and the comfort and immense joy that is belonging with these people.

So on the one hand, big things have changed on my time off. On the other, I still have the crazy monkey mind running around behind the scenes, not knowing what to do with herself when she does not have a task at hand. This week for the holiday, a full day off, I made zero plans and essentially online shopped all day. (Don’t yell at me, Mom! I yell at myself enough!) I haven’t been meditating enough, nor going to yoga enough, nor celebrating my accomplishments, nor going outdoors, enough, and I wanted to just zone out and hoard pretty things.

And this is why I will still work part-time at the library! Not only because I need funding to offset my love of and proclivity towards buying clothes, but also because I need to get out of myself and work in the service of others (which I do during my day job, but evidently I can’t get enough). I am not delusional to think I am saving lives as I sit behind a computer at a desk in an air conditioned building, but when I am there, surrounded by friends and community members, it feels like where I am supposed to be.

During my interview day, I met with a gentleman colleague, and he asked me one direct question about the position, but since he has already worked with me for a couple months and has seen what I’m about, the rest of the time, we spent talking about the library. He told me he was curious about where I ran off to on Fridays, and he complimented my hustle.

Maybe I shouldn’t need to hustle. Maybe I should take it easy, and take more time off. But at this point, I don’t really know what to do with more time off, and my work is more than a paycheck. All I know is I’m looking forward to the new normal, stabilizing and seeing what happens.

Stay tuned! Back to work.

anxiety, books, community, kindness, reading

Yes? No!

Inexplicably, on campus, there is a stone with the word YES! carved into it. It was literally on my path towards a destination I’d never visited before. Though I appreciate the positivity, opportunity and encouragement inherent to this three-letter word, sometimes YES just is not the answer!

I recommended a book to my BFF, which she is now listening to (yay for people taking my recommendations 🙂 and the subject matter, though dealt with in a humorous way, is dark. She told me the chapter about suicidality was particularly hard to listen to, and that it made her feel sick. I almost didn’t remember that the chapter existed, because when I got to it, I too started to feel sick at how detailed it was. As I recognized its negative impact, I said “Nope, I don’t need this,” and shut it down. I skipped the rest of the chapter, and considered it a successful exhibit of boundaries.

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This is How: Help for the Self in Overcoming Shyness, Grief, Molestation, Disease, Fatness, Lushery, Spinsterhood, Decrepitude & More by Augusten Burroughs

(This book is magnificent, and a truly helpful ‘self-help’ book. I recommend it wholeheartedly, but also suggest skipping the suicide chapter.)

Saying no is not always my instinct, nor does it come easily. One of my chosen ways of checking out of my problems is checking out online shopping. Because other problems seem bigger and more threatening and it’s not like another $30 (or $50, or $80) will send me directly to the poorhouse, why not embrace the “treat yo self” mentality and buy the beautiful items (read: clothes. It is always clothes) I want. They’re secondhand, so not as expensive as they could be, and besides, I need an infusion of color or newness into my wardrobe. I’m working six days this week; surely the extra hours will cover the cost.

No.

Setting aside that my income is not what it was at the job I hated, (which for New Jersey wasn’t even much) it is high time I started saving rather than living paycheck to paycheck and eating meals out all the time. I have never been late with a payment, nor do I make extravagant purchases, but nevertheless I need to act like my financial now will impact my financial future. Every $30, $50, $80 adds up. Often, my instinct is to say “YES! Why not?” when it needs to be “no. Shut it down.”

Last weekend when I had a bad day, avoided all human contact and was strongly tempted to bail on a friend’s invitation, my instinct was to say no, and shut it down. In that case, the answer was definitely to fight my instinct, honor my RSVP, and go socialize. I did this, and had a great time seeing my friend and meeting new people. YES! for the win.

Choices give me a lot of anxiety, so you’d think it would be best to boil it down to just the big two, but there is no blanket answer. YES! is only constructive some of the time. Universal NO: anxiety edition gets extremely isolating. My working mantra veers away from the dichotomy, and towards an ambiguous question: “what do I need?” This is not always in line with what I want, but I have to at least be honest with myself.

And this is what mindfulness is all about: slowing down to recognize these choices and the mental conversation behind them. My instincts are often wrong, so to indulge them is counterproductive, even self-destructive, and they require checking-in and rewiring. Do I sometimes ignore the rules I set for myself (like “no shopping”)? Yes. Did I miss out on something by skipping that suicide chapter? Yes, it turns out I did–but my BFF filled me in. And I’ll fill you in if you ask!

Teamwork! Boundaries! Progress.

anxiety, joy, let it go, stuff

Just DO It

There is a tingle of spring in the air, and I am celebrating by pre-spring cleaning. This is not, however, the millionth post you’ve read about Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Though I love that book and the whole concept, I just didn’t get into the show. Watching someone else throw away and organize all their crap just doesn’t do it for me. I want to DO the throwing away and organizing. (Seriously, if you are reading this and you are my friend/acquaintance within a 1-hour radius, I will come over and help you do this. No joke.)

Brief Marie Kondo diversion, now that I mentioned it: I get an immense pleasure out of culling possessions (my closet is frequently the target of this specific neurosis) and donating or throwing out items I truly do not need. It makes a visible difference, and I feel productive bringing bags of things to Goodwill, because someone else will use them more than I did. I also love consigning clothes, because, hooray money. Basically I’m all for keeping items in circulation or recycling. Some things, though, have outlived their usefulness or otherwise belong in the garbage, and I am all too happy to help them on their journey.

Ok, back to regularly scheduled programming. Over the past couple weeks, I have visited Home Depot* multiple times, despite not owning a home. Even so, I live in a home and spend a significant amount of time in it, and wanted to do some home improvement projects. (Indirect inspiration – my brother, who has made numerous pieces of furniture by hand! It is cool and brings him pride, which is also cool!) Nothing groundbreaking, or as impressive as constructing furniture, but I did take down the old and install new:

  • window blinds
  • bathroom etagere–the fancy way of saying “shelving over the toilet.”
  • floor vents in kitchen and bathroom

And folks, this was the least expensive of thrills. Spending approximately $50 led to total elation. I was overjoyed at replacing these household items and making the environs look just a smidgen brighter. Instead of looking at and lamenting the old, begging-for-replacement items, I exercised some control over my environment, and DID something. Not only did I DECIDE, a miracle in itself, but I had to physically DO: INSTALL and ASSEMBLE and RECYCLE pieces as I fulfilled my decision. While I was at it, I minimized and removed labels from some bathroom products, to reduce the “visual noise” of packaging.** I am happy to report that the bathroom is now beautiful!

In addition to DOING the home improvement projects, I also had a lovely crafternoon with some friends during which we made stationery. Again, the joy was simple and complete. My friend has a paper cutter, and I brought some fancy paper (joy for the low, low cost of approximately $10). Bing, bang, boom, I have a ton of stationery that I made myself! It was social, both fun and productive, and needs to be repeated, often. Penpals are the best pals.

Doing the things is better than not doing the things! Occupying my hands in a task with visible outcomes is a sure bet to decrease my anxiety and spark some intense joy. All that said, please invite me to your home to organize it.***

 

*This post sponsored by Home Depot.. I wish.

**Okay, so this did turn into a Marie Kondo post.

***IF I know you already.

community, empathy, judgment, kindness, librarians, strangers, talking

Smelly Smells

Forewarning: do not read while eating.

Additional preface: My olfactory powers are strong, and I can’t stand many odors. My sensitive shnoz recoils at old-lady perfumes, and sets off a deathly serious search when I think something has spoiled in the refrigerator. In the kitchen, my nose leads me to seek and destroy, and get rid of the offensive material, which is significantly satisfying.

This smell-aversion is harder to deal with when the sources are people and not products. Now, I am not heartless. I do my duty as I would want someone to do for me: I tell people when there is lipstick on their teeth, or toilet paper on their shoe, or their dresses are tucked into their underpants. However, over the last week, I learned I have a threshold for how much shame I am willing to intercept.

When I see certain customers, I hold my breath.

This is not related to the anxiety holding-my-breath. No. This is due to their foul odors. One older man who hasn’t bathed/washed his clothes/worn deodorant in a while. One woman who wears the same filthy coat with an accumulation of stink from many days’ (years?) wear without deodorant. Another bedecked with a cloud of mothball smell so strong it’s damn near visible. Another with terrible gingivitis.

You get the idea! My question remains, perpetually, how do these people not know?? And once knowing, then adjust?? It is my understanding that these folks all have access to a laundry facility, which may be correct or incorrect. Who knows! It’s not my business, so I don’t insert myself.

However, last weekend, an older woman I had never seen before walked past me and I instantly smelled bodily secretions. Definitely urine, but based on what I saw on the back of her dress, probably more. I froze. And then called our security guy on the walkie talkie. And made a mental note of what seat she sat in so I could Lysol wipe it thoroughly later.

He, angel of a man that he is, came right up and was the bearer of dirty news, and directed her to the bathroom. As if pooing one’s pants unknowingly wasn’t sign enough, I determined officially that there was a mental handicap at play when after visiting the loo, she sat down in another chair. As soon as she left, I took a wipe and went to town, lamenting that peoples’ minds and bodies betray them, and also that I was not compassionate enough to address it with her myself.

As Phoebe Buffet sings, “smelly cat, smelly cat… it’s not your fault.” Maybe someday I will advance from talking to people about toilet paper to talking about accidents, but all I know in the meantime is that I can empathize with nurses and other healthcare workers (who absolutely do not get paid enough).

anxiety, depression, information, let it go

Mistakes and fixing them

In the past couple weeks, here are a sampling of the ways I have messed up:

  • drove to the shopping plaza that has Famous Footwear and Hand and Stone, did an errand, then drove to the shopping plaza that has DSW and Massage Envy only to realize I needed to go to Famous Footwear, and that it wasn’t in that plaza
  • hung up with a customer 5 seconds before I clicked one more time, finding out that yes, contrary to what I thought and told her, Uber does actually offer a driving service to non-smartphone users, aka a regular taxi company
  • did not blog once per week as intended
  • went to the gym and only ran on a treadmill for 1.5 miles, left without doing any weights
  • ducked into Target to waste time and use the restroom, left without buying anything and felt successful, only to remember what I needed from Target on the way home
  • set my alarm for 7:02PM instead of 7:02AM, was 30 min late to work
  • (not in last couple weeks, but) bought a new car when my employment is on a temporary basis AKA not necessarily secure
  • got into bed, got back up and brought a bag of tortilla chips back to bed & ate them immediately prior to sleep
  • ignored red flags and continued to invest emotional energy in men/boys who are uninterested in or unworthy for a relationship
  • replied “adios!” when someone told me to have a good weekend (instead of the obvious socially accepted response “thanks, you too!”)
  • wore the wrong sweater/necklace/dress/boots combination and looked frumpy
  • ate eggs from the dining hall and didn’t notice that the sign said they contained milk
  • asked my BFF about the micro-details of when to text/how to interpret texts/what to say back so many times that she literally purchased me a magic-8 ball

These are the ones that stick out. That last one isn’t a true mistake, since obvs my BFF likes talking to and helping me, buuut it got excessive and probably annoying. The bad part was the overanalyzing/obsessing, BUT, bonus, I got a gift out of it!

So, that’s my brain. One of the joys of anxiety/depression is ruminating. Loops of thought that play over and over and over, generally focused on bad things that have happened or mistakes I have made. I’m getting better at accepting that I can’t control when bad things happen to me, buuuut I’m still moderately stuck on the letting-go-of-things-I-messed-up. The above are a hodgepodge of work, internal, health, and interpersonal. The running themes are things I have done that [I believe] will make people think less of me and times I disappoint myself (I suppose that is just me thinking less of me).

But what if I removed the “think” from thinking less of me?

Because, though some of the items on this list have caused me to lose sleep or increased my stress, none of them are crises. I can deal with them. (That thought in and of itself shows progress!) And progress is good. Slow but good. After all, I’m not going to end my lifelong trend of acting like every next guy will be The Guy all at once. (My–optimistic, if extremely naive–motto is “it could happen!”)

It’s the thinking-the expectations my mind builds based on very limited data-that hurts. I’m working on finding a way to fix mistakes in the real world, so they stop bouncing around my head. Walking around in and reacting to reality rather than staying trapped in my thought-fog. And letting mistakes go if there’s nothing I can do about it! And doing better (probably due to being more mindful) next time.

To be continued!

be a better human, depression, empathy, family, giving, reading, social media, stuff, talking

Lightbulb Moment

I don’t know about you, but the holidays do weird things to me. Maybe it’s the expectations, the build-up to the plans and alllllll the social media posts about gifts received, proposals accepted, pregnancies announced. I’m not alone in that I compare my life to others’ online depictions of theirs. Maybe it’s the fact that when an acquaintances asks how the holidays were, the mutually assumed answer is somewhere along the lines of “great! Relaxing! Quiet! Perfect!” And it is definitely the pressure of the societal narrative for New Year’s Eve. Overall, the holidays can leave me feeling single af, jealous and lame.

This one didn’t.

This season, there was plenty of weird. Plans that fell through, my underemployed status yet going to work for a few hours when family was in town… And then the sympathy cards.

Three people in my circle lost parents this holiday season. I knew none of these people, but I know the loved ones they left behind. I know that no sympathy card ever feels just right. Each one got closer and closer to me and my daily life. And as an empath, I hurt for these people. I hope that I can help share their sadness and pain, and that they come to find peace.

But despite being a little sad, I did not stay in my room during all of my downtime. I did not get angry at myself each time I slept past my alarm (often). I did not beat myself up about not having plans. I did not fixate on my closet (at least, not more than usual) or try to find comfort in retail therapy (JK JK I did both those last two, but in the interest of getting rid of things I don’t wear). So, some of my old habits sneaked in, in the form of spending money I don’t have and some social anxiety stuff, but overall I was more present.

Nothing drastically different than what I usually do, but this time I was nicer to myself about it. Just let myself do what I was going to do, without wishing I were somewhere else doing something fancier with more people, more fun, more photos or more gifts. In the interest of doing/getting more of what I need, I called people. I wrote and mailed letters, gave myself permission to watch Netflix, snuggled with my cats, and read some books. I enjoyed spending time with my mom and brother during their visit (and picked fewer fights than usual). I made my New Year’s Eve plan on New Year’s Eve and though I only knew one person there, it turned out to be great because that one person is a great friend. When I’m feeling like I don’t want to/need not to be alone, I only need to reach out to my people and be honest with them (hard for people who want to be self-reliant/independent).

My holidays may have been at times great or quiet, but they certainly were not perfect.  They were indicative of real life and the pleasures and pains that arise from it. While the rest of the world is feeling like “back to work, aka real life,” I:

  • a) don’t have to go back to work yet–don’t be jealous, as I would LOVE TO. Seriously, if you have something you will pay me to do, I am ALL EARS. Especially if it is cleaning out your closet, because that is one of my passions in life. I would also do this for free lol
  • b) never left real life.

The holidays were the affirmation and reboot I needed, proof that I am making baby steps towards being a better family member and less anxious, more fulfilled human (though still obviously have plenty of work to do).

As I mentioned, I frequently judge myself for not having plans/staying in. During these times, my room felt more like a cave. Yesterday, I happened to look up, and I saw that one of the bulbs in the light fixture had burned out. It undoubtedly has been out for months but I was too depressed/didn’t pay enough attention to investigate/find a solution.

There may not be a better symbol for 2018. The room (and year) is already looking a little brighter.