Normal is in the eye of the beholder.

Age of Majority

In Mouthy Broad on March 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

It’s almost like learning a different language, going to work in retail after the age of 30.

I never bagged groceries or stocked shelves, as a kid. My best friend did – he grew up in a retail household. His mom ran a bakery in the local independent grocer. He went to work there at 16: pumping gas, sacking celery, shopping for neckties to meet the dress code. But I didn’t have the first clue what he did while he was on the clock.

Before I started this job, I had a vague, almost condescending respect for the people who worked in the service industries I frequented. It’s shameful to me now, but it’s a common attitude for those who have never done it. “There, but for the grace of God,” for those who have gone from a comfortable upbringing to a comfortable education to a comfortable career. It’s seen as some kind of lesser option, a last resort.

It was that for me. A last resort, to feed my family. Now, it’s what I do every day. Well, kind of. The people I work with would tell you that I still don’t work in retail. As a senior manager, I’m the “them” in the age-old “us versus them” struggle of shelf stockers versus suits. I’m not an h0urly employee, clocking in to serve my time, and then clocking out again to escape. I know how to run a cash register and an inventory scanner, but I don’t have to. It’s not in my job description to spend eight hours a day defusing cranky soccer moms with screaming toddlers who need someone to scream at themselves.

Not a day passes that I’m not deeply grateful for that.

Working here has taught me, though, that I used to see the world through a very sheltered lens. It never occurred to me, when I used to shop at the neighborhood store of a national chain, that the people who were ringing up my cart were whole individuals with their own back story. I never wondered if the guy loading my trunk had another job, had ever lost a child, had done time and turned his life around. The woman who answered my questions about the availability of a product might have gone to college, become a teacher, and then found out that retail paid better. The teenage kid pushing the pallet was saving for a first car, but half of his paycheck was going to his parents to help pay the electric bill because dad had been out of work for a year.

The stories are breathtaking. A cross-section of a world that I barely knew existed until 2011.

Now, I see it from the other side of the lens. I see the friends from high school, and the family members, who look at me differently now that I work for a major big box chain. It doesn’t matter to them what my job actually is – all they see is the corporate logo and that girl who “ended up” in retail, when she had such a promising future. It would be funny if it weren’t so insulting. And it embarrasses me, because I used to look at it that way, too.

I didn’t expect to grow up and go to work in retail. But I’m not sorry I did – it’s given me the opportunity to do a whole different kind of growing up. Maybe more people should try it.

Terms

In Mouthy Broad on February 24, 2014 at 4:41 am

Is there any feeling worse than waking, in the middle of the night, from a nightmare?

I don’t know about you, but that gasping, frozen-inside feeling is hard for me to shake. It follows me out of bed, through the house to the coffee  pot, into the shower. I jump at small noises; I bump into normal things, like door frames, and think that they’re the boogey-man, finally come to collect his due from under my childhood bed. No matter how hot the water or how sudsy the soap, I can’t wash it away.

Two cups of coffee (and an illicit, forbidden cigarette) later, my heart rate is more normal. My eyes feel less gritty. But my day feels dirtied, tainted by the brush with whatever it was that I was dreaming and couldn’t escape.

Psychologically, I know all about nightmares. Don’t let’s forget the quantities of counseling I’ve undergone! I know that they are your mind’s way of processing information that didn’t get sifted, cataloged, and stored in the appropriate box during the day, as are all dreams. I know that anxiety dreams are precisely that, and commonly, the nightmares of adults are some variation on anxiety dreams. As if, once we reach a certain age, we somehow are too intelligent or mature for “nightmare” to be the appropriate term.

Bois and grrls, ladies and gents, I have nightmares. Sometimes terrors. I’m neither too old nor too proud to admit it. I woke at 3:08 AM today from the grips of a doozy, and it took me approximately seven seconds to decide that additional sleep was beyond my grasp.

From the distance of my third cup of coffee, I can think back to what I remember of the dream. (And why is it I remember the nightmares much better than I do the pretty pink and blue dreams? Seems unfair.) I can identify the moving parts that came together in that horrible symbiosis of the things I fear and the things I can’t control – and aren’t they so very often the same things – and I can pull them apart and deal with them individually. That doesn’t cure the ick clinging to my heart from the images my brain put me through, but it helps.

I can tell that the part of my dream where Sharkman got shot in the left wrist, and I had to pull out the bullet and stitch him back together was probably driven by the fact that he slept away from home last night, on a school night. That’s only happened a handful of times in his entire eleven-and-a-half years on this planet, and I don’t like him being outside of our routine and someplace where I can’t personally keep him safe.

I can tell that the part of my dream where Rhett and I were hiding, unable to get away from The Big Bad, was probably driven by nerves about buying a new vehicle this week – two long months before we were planning to start that particular process – and the fact that we’re relying on a rental car until that happens. Nothing like being literally stranded to force your brain into scenarios where you’re unable to get away!

I can tell that the part of my dream where all I could do was react to all the horrible things happening around me was triggered from the lack of control I’m feeling.

All that means, kittens, is that the dream sucked.

So I got up, and out of the dream, and scrubbed my skin raw in a too-hot shower. I’m purging with caffeine, and waiting for the last tentacles to unwind.

I think nightmares are the night version of bad days. Somewhere, in this contract we have with life, there’s fine print that includes the terms and conditions of getting the good days (or dreams), but you have to pay the fee. Call it the fates, the universe, the gods, God, or karma, but there’s a price tag attached to everything. I don’t mind paying the toll, but I do wish it were spelled out a little more clearly somewhere.

Strange for a breaking-the-silence post, maybe, but if I’ve learned anything in my months of being muzzled, it’s that life goes on. Whether or not you’re ready for it, braced for the twists and turns, it drags you along for the ride. This is where I am today, and who on earth knows where I’ll be tomorrow? For now, I have to blow out my hair, get dressed, drive 90 miles to pick up my Momma for surgery (outpatient, nothing too serious, thanks for asking), call to find out if I can keep my rental car for another few days without having to stop for arm-and-leg-amputation, and make some feeble attempt at being a civilized human being on five hours of sleep and far too much coffee and stress.

Happy Monday, dahlings. xoxoxo

Lonesome

In Mouthy Broad on September 18, 2013 at 11:03 am

So I miss writing.

I miss it a lot. I’m so busy right now, being mom and Scout mom and school mom, and senior management and career counselor, and money manager and daughter and breadwinner, and wife, that I have no time to be a blogger.

Plus there was that whole implosion where I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be a blogger again.

But I miss it. I look around at all the good in my life right now, and then I wonder why I’m still so dissatisfied, so itchy for more and bigger and… Well… Just more. It’s because I don’t have this anymore.

Where we live, where we are in life, what we have going on now, it’s all great. Sharkman is happy in school. Rhett’s the love of my life. My job pays the bills and keeps us going. But there’s no me in any of it. There’s no sassy femme snark, or spark, for that matter.

I miss the queer femmes who blew up the blogosphere and the battles for recognition and talks about things like gender and identity and transwifery. I miss debating invisibility and the merits of stealth life and the drawbacks of being femme in a still-too-mysogynist society.

I love my life, but I miss myself while I’m living it. So maybe I’ll work on that, sometime soon.

xoxoxo
~J

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