30 March 2007

Opossum Love

I know. Three posts in one day. I couldn't help it. When I was in the bathroom a moment ago, I saw my favorite opossum zipping along (in an opossum kind of way) in the yard two houses away from us. (The office is at the edge of a residential neighborhood.) I'm getting kinda attached. Uh oh.

Quandary in Crazy Land

I have a corner office. This is not quite as impressive as it may seem on first blush. My company is across the street from the former airport, on the other corner, there's an empty Budget car rental office and one of those day-rate hotels where armed police sometimes show up to arrest people for god only knows what goes on there. And yes, I so earned this corner office with two windows and two entrances.

Which brings me to the subject at hand. When I was actively involved with supervising and running things and being made crazy and sick by my job, I left both doors open. People needed access to me and I was a hands-on kind of manager. I was also a really fun manager and people dropped by to share in the fun from time to time.

After about a decade of frenzy, I ceased to be the hub of activity. By that time, I had had a stress-related illness for at least a couple of years. My doctors had that really worried look that you hate to see and that make you a little worried, too. But more about yourself, less about the job. The nurse gave me a lecture every time she saw me about being underweight. I did not own any bathroom scales. Weight loss was definitely not on my mind. My daily schedule consisted of getting up, being completely overwhelmed at work, coming home, eating, lying down on the bed, getting up to work out, then going back to bed. The next day it started all over again.

I now keep those doors closed. I am not friendly to those who hazard walking into my office without knocking. Doors are closed for a reason. Sometimes, like in this case, they're closed for many reasons. It's sort of a metaphor for my relationship with this company or, more accurately, with the employees of this company. They are, individually and as a group, the most dysfunctional people with whom I've ever worked. And that's saying something.

Anyway. I digress. Crazy Employee (mentioned earlier this week) offices right next door to me. She is not allowed to have closed doors. She's not high enough on what passes for a corporate ladder here and her job involves lots of coming and going. Crazy Employee is not so crazy that she believes she can just saunter in to my office via the connecting door. She only recently started coming through that door at all. Naturally, she knocks before entering.

Here's my quandary. I take things to her from time to time and it feels stupid to not use the connecting door, but if I make her knock, shouldn't I allow it? I'm an egalitarian at heart and I loathe being rude without provocation. So now I'm a little paralyzed by indecision. Lately, I've been going through the other door to get to her office. Wouldn't you think I'd have better things to worry about? I do.

I actually used the connecting door a few minutes ago. I did not knock. She was at the reception desk in the foyer, so I didn't have to worry about courtesy. Having said all that, it dawns on me that the Crazy Employee title applies to me every bit as much as it does to everyone else here. It's just that I'm really nice while I'm being crazy.

Bad Wife, Bad Dog

It's a stormy day here and, as I gaze out the window at the canopy of trees, I'm surprised at the various shades of green. It's a visual feast. I thought I'd better write now, because the black mood may be arriving any minute now. So far, I'm just feeling what's come to be my regular level of dissociation. Tell me anything. I won't be moved. I'm watching you from a distance and all is comfortably numb.

Hubby is taking a pre-employment, pre-interview test today with a company that published one of his books. Can't remember which one, though. Does that make me a bad wife? We have no idea what it pays; that seems to be all the rage with companies. Surely you'd like to waste your time applying for a job that, after the first interview, you'll find out the salary sucks and you have absolutely no interest whatsoever in even finishing the interview.

He would be happier in this job than the current job, but that's not really high on my list of priorities. Not like, for instance, replacing my Barney Rubble car. I've been in a funk about my own job this week, so I'm simply not very sympathetic about his distaste for his current job. Life's a bitch, now get on with things.

Andy the Demon Dog continues to beat me up every night. I have bruises all the way up both of my arms and about ten on my left thigh. That's mysterious; I have no idea why it's only that thigh. I made an appointment with his vet for Monday, but they called me back to tell me the doctor won't be in on Monday. Good god, don't they realize that by Tuesday I could just be a carcass lying in my living room? There's no time to waste here.

I'm sure all that's needed is an obedience class for me, with Andy along, of course. The Humane Society has one, but it's a six week class that costs $100. For two of the weekends I'll be out of town dealing with breast cancer. Of course, those two classes will be the ones that focus on keeping your dog from gnawing one of your fingers off. I just don't see paying the cash for a couple of sessions while he's at my house, tearing up the sofa.

Aside from work, I've been spending most of my free time reading the Primo Levy biography. I'm about 3/4 of the way finished, so when my mind isn't otherwise occupied, I'm obsessing about what to read next. I have to obsess about something, you know. Better this than how much I weighed 15 minutes ago and whether I need to go weigh again. I've been trying to branch out into fiction more, but I just bought another non-fiction book, so who knows.

One more thing before I go. I ate two cookies last night and a baked potato. Oh wait. Had to reschedule Andy's appointment until next Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. Perfect way to end my day. If I make it that long. If you don't hear from me before then, I'm probably just missing two or three of my fingers and can't type. Must be time for more cookies.

29 March 2007

Why I Should Never Own Bathroom Scales

"Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense. ~ Henry Miller

As I stepped on the bathroom scales this morning, I thought, "I should never be allowed to own one of these things." It makes me crazy. I need to gain weight, but every day I step up and note, with some satisfaction, that I haven't gained any more weight. (That means I get to have a cookie later on. Maybe two.)

I have absolutely no sense of perspective about weight. None. I've really tried hard to get comfortable with my body, no matter how much it weighs. I think of it as a political statement. Madison Avenue should not be allowed to make women feel inadequate. I don't think that was the cause of my weight obsession, but it probably exacerbated it.

Last year, I weighed more than I ever have in my life. I weighed 140 pounds. I'm 5'5 3/4" tall. (Oh my god, that was so brave to say that!) It was the steroids during chemo that caused it. Even knowing that, though, I was in a panic. As I started radiation treatment, all I could think of was that I had to get back to my target weight.

I actually got to my target weight a couple of weeks after I started radiation treatment. Having lost an additional 10 pounds, though, I'm entertaining the idea that maybe I could get down to 115. I weighed 115 forever, but it's been a decade since that forever ended. Why not be satisfied with where I am?

Because I'm just fucking crazy about the weight thing. I got the scales so I could make sure I didn't continue the weight loss trend. I know I shouldn't continue to lose weight. I guess the good news is that I haven't.

Somebody come over and take the damn scales away from me. As if anyone could. Or having taken them, as if I wouldn't just start to get even crazier.

Maybe I should go get a cookie now. Or two. It might not make me less compulsive, but I might feel a little better while I'm eating them. Mmmmm...chocolate.

28 March 2007

The Weight of the Opossum World

I just saw an opossum (does anyone ever really use the "O"?) ambling along the top of our privacy fence that separates the office patio from the small, evangelical (somewhat hostile) church next door. At the end of the fence, a big gray and white tom cat watched and waited. I couldn't really tell if the cat had murder in mind or if he was just as surprised as I was to see the guy up and about at 9:30 in the morning.

By the time the opossum (I can't help it...I have to use the "O") made it another foot in Tom's direction, he smelled something amiss. He paused and sniffed the air. Then the O (I'll just call it that) turned around and headed back into the opposite direction. Tough Tom sauntered along after him, not looking particularly dangerous. O. reached a crepe myrtle tree and began his descent.

That's when I gave up watching. If something bloody was going to happen, I didn't want to spoil my morning by intervening. It's hard to have the weight of the opossum world on your shoulders.

Hogging the Pity Vote

"We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one - the one we use - which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy, until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it. Look at it in politics." ~ Mark Twain

It's started already. My esteemed co-workers think Elizabeth Edwards' revelation about her cancer constitutes an attempt to get the pity vote. After I commented that I need to limit how much I think about the subject, they're off and running anyway.

Then they moved on to Tony Snow. I just had to tell them (more than once) that it was making me anxious and depressed to continue that conversation. Finally, I walked away. I came over to my side of the building where, for the moment, I don't have to offer up my opinion "as a cancer survivor" about any of this.

As if the anxiety and depression and fatigue weren't enough, I'm now having colon pain. Thanks, guys, for stressing me out just a little bit more. What the hell. It's important that you express your opinion to me. We all know I can take it, but it might just cause an eensy bit of pain in my stomach. What's the big deal, anyway? I'll stand here and listen to what you have to say, whether it's informed or relevant, whether it's less than generous or difficult to hear.

Apparently it hasn't occurred to anyone that I'm still struggling emotionally. Despite the number of hours I'm whiling away at the office and the fact that the girls are sporting a new bra, even though I regularly (though not always) expend the energy in the morning to actually put on make up. I'm still in free fall. On the inside, I'm still bruised, you assholes. Wake up!

Maybe I'm just being too demanding. Why should anyone get the hint when I tell them I don't want to talk about it anymore? Suddenly the words from an old folk song come to mind, "If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning..." right on the tops of your heads, you inconsiderate lumps of humanity with whom I have to spend my days. Jesus.

I guess I'm just trying to hog some of that pity vote.

27 March 2007

What The Hell Is The Matter With Me?

What's the matter with me? At first I thought it was gray day, black mood. Now the sun's come out and I'm still stuck. I even tried a sure-fire remedy: cinnamon mints. Not any better.

Maybe it's just fatigue. I'm up to five hours at work this week, which doesn't seem like much, but it's kicking my ass in a big way. I did yoga last night for the first time in months. Gentle yoga. So gentle it didn't even feel like yoga.

It's hard to discern the difference. Is depression causing fatigue or is fatigue causing depression? I reel from my own vulnerability. I'm hardly ever vulnerable, so it's hard to tolerate, even if no one else can see it.

Furthermore, I'm vulnerable at work. I stopped being emotionally available here many years ago. After the reconstruction surgery, I had a brief bout with it. Now it's back.

Maybe it was the long conversations I've had today with various people regarding cancer. That's hardly ever a good topic. That's doubly true when we're talking about breast cancer.

The day is almost over for me. I don't even want to go home. If I could disappear for just a little while, I'm sure it would perk me right up.

Oh yeah. I forgot that feeling emotion is a good thing. It's like honoring the present moment. I need to work on that, but I'd rather not do it today.

What the hell is the matter with me?

Elizabeth Edwards, Again

"If you're going through hell, keep going," ~ Winston Churchill

Owner of Company is on a rampage. He most definitely does not approve of the Edwards' decision to continue the Presidential campaign. He's been calling me all morning on the intercom, reading his own satires of news stories about them, asking me for synonyms, wanting definitions. He just called me while I'm writing this to tell me that "satire" was, indeed, the word he was looking for, instead of "parody" or "lampoon" or whatever. When Owner of Company gets worked up about something, he can get obsessed. This is a quality we share. I'm just not obsessed about this one.

He thinks that it's really John Edwards' decision to continue the campaign, no matter what his wife wants. I don't know. I don't think that's necessarily the case. Sometimes it's helpful, when you're battling cancer, to just try to get on with daily things. For them, political campaigns are a regular part of their lives. You certainly don't need to be sitting around with nothing to do but think about your diagnosis or how the chemo is making you feel or any of the other wrenching sidetracks you mind creates. Maybe you just campaign, if that's what you do.

Owner of Company thinks John and Elizabeth Edwards should spend their time, however much that is, being with their small children. I have a stepson I first met when he was 7. I don't feel qualified to judge. Owner just told me that they plan to take their children out on the campaign trail with them. I've worked on several political campaigns and they are incredibly grueling, even if you're young and healthy. I'm not sure how much time they'll really have to spend with the kids.

These are very early decisions, though. Those decisions may change as treatment and illness progress. I didn't have stage 4 breast cancer that metastasized to the bone, but early on in treatment, I thought I could maintain my regular schedule. That vision of my future was incorrect. That may be so with Elizabeth Edwards. As I said before, you deal with it however you can.

Everyone has their own way of coping with cancer and with death, I think. I'm reluctant to seem judgmental or be judgmental. It's a tough journey to even get through treatment. I know that when I was first diagnosed, I didn't know where I would find all of the mental, physical and emotional resources I'd have to call upon to endure.

Throughout my own treatment, people felt comfortable suggesting how I might deal with it. Many friends pushed me to confront my feelings about everything that was happening to me. I wasn't hurt or irritated by those suggestions; I didn't have the physical or emotional luxury of being offended. I just plowed through, hanging on until it was over. I know everyone has to find their own way. The path isn't always easy to see.

Owner will be working on emails about this all day. He calls me up and asks me how I feel, as a cancer survivor, about what he has to say. I'm not really the person to ask. I have a predilection for dark humor. I can be very sardonic. What he's saying is fine with me.

But then I don't have Stage 4 breast cancer that's metastasized to my bones. He might need to check back with me should that come to pass. (I'm superstitious about this. I'm knocking on my fiberboard desk.)

26 March 2007

Good News

I'm actually wearing a real bra today. Not my little velcro fastened-in-the-front breast vest thingy. Better yet, you can not tell the difference between the girls. That's right--we've moved on from "breast stump" to just one of the girls.

I'm not sure that this is necessarily good news, but I'm increasing my work schedule to five hours this week. I'll just have to see how close I am to crawling out to my BarneyRubblecar before I make a firm decision for all five days. Ultimately, the body's needs will take precedence over my need to get back to a regular schedule. Even if that means staying longer every day in Crazy Land.

I'm also going to try to start a very low-key yoga practice. I haven't done anything physical since my recent surgery. I think yoga will help me to learn how to stand up straight again. It also adds to my range of motion for my arm. Someday soon, I'll be back to cardio workouts and weight training. That will most certainly not be this month or next month. Soon, though.

Obligatory Elizabeth Edwards Post

On the Elizabeth Edwards front, I saw the Sixty Minutes interview and I'd be lying if I didn't say it made me uneasy. I don't like to think about metastasis or recurrence. Unfortunately, people tend to bring it up fairly regularly, so I don't get to completely put it out of my mind. Watching that interview was a gesture of solidarity; I thought it might be uplifting. It wasn't uplifting.

As for the continuation of the Presidential campaign, we all deal with this however we can. She can deal with it by campaigning and continuing on with her normal life as much as is possible. It seems likely to me that there will be some days (maybe many) when treatment will completely exhaust her ability to cope.

Would I do the same thing? Probably not, simply because I'm not strong enough to push myself forward while undergoing chemotherapy. I wasn't before and there's no reason to believe that I've changed in that regard.

I got an email on Friday from owner of Crazy Land railing against the decision. As for me, judging her or her husband is really none of my business. We deal with cancer (as with all life trauma) however we can, we get through treatment however we can. Sometimes you don't know how you'll cope, but eventually you just do it. Elizabeth Edwards is going to cope by getting on with life.

Speaking of Crazy Land, no need to bring a gun. I win. We have not discussed the database, neither with Crazy Employee nor Crazy Employee's Crazy Supervisors. We're not going to ever discuss it. Because I decided.