I had high hopes for 2012. 2011 was such an unbearable year, I thought that it could only get better. Briefly, it did. And then it all went to hell, for me and mine.
The death toll of 2012 rivaled the first five minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Loved ones and loved ones of loved ones were lost to accident, suicide, illness, and just shitty, shitty luck. When I wasn’t powerless with regard to my grief, I was powerless in the face of grief suffered by people I love deeply and dearly.
My attempts at finding love or even a halfway interested lover failed repeatedly, and early 2012 brought me a very badly broken heart and an utter loss of hope, not to mention a great deal of frustration and confusion. Many of my friends were unlucky in love and went through relationship strife as well.
There were a number of friendship upheavals about which I remain unsure, and I believe 2013 will involve some restructuring.
Things began to turn around for me toward the end of the year. Slowly, like the Titanic attempting to avoid the iceberg.
- I finally got a full time job at an amazing organization, working with phenomenal people and the best office dog in the world. I love my job. And it almost pays me enough to live on.
- As part of a last-ditch attempt to find somebody I might want to date, I showed up to a bar one evening with a book and a thirst for Scotch, and hoped that the woman I’d messaged on OKC wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Since I was pretty much over dating by this point, I wore the same unwashed jeans I’d been wearing for the past several days and a shirt I never checked for stains, and I didn’t bother to wait to start in on the whisky. I’ll go ahead and skip to the end of this one: She’s wonderful, hysterical, loving, caring, and has the prettiest, smiliest eyes. We just finished moving the rest of my possessions to her apartment in SF. She likes my cooking. (ETA: She has corrected this statement to make sure I know to call it OUR apartment.)
- My cat Thumper is in good health and happy in our new apartment, which is much smaller than our house in Oakland, but cozier and has many soft and warm things for him to sleep on. He even has his own chair, from which he can observe his neighbor cat girlfriend, Foxy. He and my lady absolutely adore each other.
- I opened up about a very serious topic in a very public forum and was rewarded by a show of love, support, and trust from individuals known and unknown to me.
2012 still sank, but I and many of my friends ended up on life rafts, paddling toward 2013.
I don’t think anybody expects 2013 to be amazing. But I am hoping that we all have the space to recover from losses, strengthen new and old foundations, and remind each other that we love and care for each other, that we are there for each other, and that we may occasionally want to give up on everything, but that we won’t give up on each other.
I can’t help but be a little optimistic; I’m in the best place I’ve been since maybe 2008. I’ve found love and employment, I have a roof over my head, and my cat has the most adorable mitteny paws in the world. Things are not easy; I don’t know if they ever will be. But it isn’t all difficult, and for the first time in a long time I really feel like it’s worth it to keep working, keep fighting, and keep pushing through. I am not in a place where I can say, “Bring it, 2013, I can take whatever you have to throw at me.” I am, however, in a place to say, let’s do this.
So. 2013. Let’s do this.
Uh uh, Right Foot. No. No fucking way do you get to fall asleep while I have to work. I got up at 6:30 this morning so I could take care of business, and that business does not end until 5:00 PM at the absolute earliest. You know that that means? No naps. No naps for me. No naps for my hands. No naps for my goddamn feet. You are one of those feet, Right Foot.
Speaking of which, you don’t see Left Foot falling asleep, do you? Left Foot is on the job. Left Foot is happy to support me in my walks across the office and to the corner store for provisions. You won’t catch Left Foot snoring. Why can’t you be more like Left Foot, Right Foot?
It’s a Monday, Right Foot. That means I really need us all to be working as a team. I understand that you are undercaffeinated, but guess what? We are all undercaffeinated. We all have gone without coffee for over a week. We all are trying to make do with tea and the sleep we are able to sneak in before the girlfriend starts snoring and after I manage to find my earplugs in the dark.
I need to work and I need to walk and I need your help to do it. So, wake the fuck up, Right Foot. Wake up and get through this day with the rest of us. I promise you, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.
Let’s work together on this, Right Foot. I really don’t want to have to outsource your job.
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter or pay even the slightest bit of attention to my (personal) Facebook posts, you know that at my new job, we have an office dog. He belongs to Toni, the founder and executive director of our organization. His name is Guinness, but I tend to just hash him as #officedog. For those of you who have the good sense and taste not to follow me on Twitter or Instagram, this is Guinness:
Guinness is not always content to hang out on the couch and watch me work. Sometimes he has to tell me just exactly how bored he is and just exactly how much attention I am not giving him. Now, he’s a Rottweiler-German Shepherd mix, so he’s not just a relatively large dog, he’s strong. His method of getting attention from me involves shoving his nose under my arm and flipping my hand over his head. Repeatedly.
Note: Guinness only speaks Dog, but he speaks it A LOT. He’s a talker.
Me: *working diligently*
Guin: Arrrph. *nose on arm*
Me: Hey, Mister. *pets dog, goes back to work*
Guin: Hrooo. *armflip*
Me: Okay, okay. *pets dog, goes back to work*
Guin: Ahroo. HRF. *armflip*
Me: Guinness. They aren’t paying me to scritch you. *pets dog, goes back to work*
Guin: Yes they are. *armflip*
Me: WTF, you don’t speak English.
Guin: ROOROOOROOO. *armflip*
Toni: GUINNESS. LIE DOWN.
Guin: HMPH. *curls up directly behind chair* *heavy sigh*
Me: *quiet sigh*
Of course, I’m completely in love with this dog. I’d happily put up with his armflips pretty much all day if I could. I think the love is mutual:
Twitter is, among other things, a forum for people who think that they have the ultimate definition of life, love, and friendship. Most of those tweets make me sigh and shake my head. Every once in a while, one resonates.
This tweet, which somebody RT’d, is one of them: “The best way to see who your real friends are? Lose your job, lose your BF, lose yourself[...]and see who’s left standing beside you.” — @Ms_Moneypenny_.
In 2010 I lost my job. I lost my girlfriend. And over the course of the next two years I lost myself. And you know who stood by me? My friends. ALL of them.
For two years of unemployment and being constantly on the edge of losing everything, my friends showed me consistent and unfailing generosity with not so much as a hint that they expected anything in return. Loans (of not insignificant amounts) were forgiven, dinners and drinks purchased, groceries subsidized, shifts at clubs found and arranged for me, computers, Scotch, and other necessities and luxuries crowdsourced. My best friend has covered my rent more than once. The very computer on which I am writing this post, and which I use at work, was purchased with money donated by my friends. I posted a link on FB to a guitar I desperately wanted and couldn’t afford, so my cousin made me one.
For two years of decreasing belief in my ability to find gainful employment and eventually get my shit together, my friends have sent me leads, passed on my resume, and expressed repeatedly their belief that I would find a good job, one that I deserve. Even when I wanted to give up, they wouldn’t let me. And their faith made it impossible to give up.
For two years of anxiety, stress, depression, and decreasing buffers from my anger and frustration at my situation, my friends have provided advice, love, patience and comfort. They’ve endured my increasing negativity and what I am sure amounted to quite a bit of self-involvement. They’ve helped me work through various issues with regard to relationships, work stress, money stress and just generally trying to make it through.
For two years of failing to find a healthy, steady relationship with a woman who loves and respects me, my friends have been encouraging, supportive, and satisfyingly outraged and confused whenever a woman decides not to keep me around.
For two years, I have been at my worst and not a single friend of mine has given up on me. On the contrary, their love, support, and faith in me has been nothing less than stunning and humbling.
For two years my friends helped carry me in so many ways without once showing fatigue, frustration, or a desire to drop me and have done.
I know who my friends are. And you know what? My friends are fucking magnificent.
Okay, so the very first thing you have to do is spend 30 seconds watching this video. Yes. This post has a video component. Watch it. Waaaaatch it.
Okay. Done? Now, this is what happens when C and I are allowed to:
- Run rampant on YouTube
- Think we are very clever and hilarious; and
- Text each other.
For reference, I am Ed. C is Bob. For this convo.
My dear friend Sasha pointed out that my blog composition has settled into a sort of triangle of topics. And I’m cool with that. It’s just not the topics I thought they would be. Witness:
Once again, the cats have won the internet. Resistance was futile. We’ve all been assimilated. And with that in mind, prepare yourselves for the most recent conversation with Otto, a guest blog from the abovementioned Sasha.
The very first thing I did in 2011 was wake up, shower, and go to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make Raspberry Crack† for Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman.
At the time, I thought: holy crap. I am leaving a year filled with pain, anxiety, emotional abuse, misery and more pain. And I am leaping into a year that begins with one of my favorite authors and one of my most beloved musical artists, as well as some of my best friends in the world (Hi Whitney and Alexei!). Around a kitchen table. At which I will be sitting. Wow.
What could possibly go wrong?
Ultimately, very little. Very little had to go wrong. 2011 was a year of trying to convince myself that I could survive the status quo. Little secret between me, you, and the rest of the internet? Almost didn’t happen. Survival, I mean. 2011 brought me the closest to suicide I have been in a decade.
Sounds dramatic, right? I guess suicide is dramatic, but I don’t intend to make a splash with the idea.
I mostly mention it to give you some context, Gentle Reader, for my mindset coming into 2012. I have spent 2011 trying to put my head and my heart back together. I have been questioning and trying to come to terms with who I am and the choices I have made. I have been wondering what my place is in this world, and if I even have one. I have been lost, personally and professionally. And with regard to 2012, I am not as optimistic as I might like to be. I see SOPA and NDAA and the economy. I see my empty bed and my empty wallet. I see my grad school loans only overshadowed by my law school loans. I see an election year that is terrifying in its lack of viable candidates and a surplus of terrifying candidates. I see rage waxing and worry that my strength is waning.
I have found strength in myself that I didn’t know I had. I have friends who are so phenomenal that it’s a little overwhelming. This blog has a nonzero number of readers (that nonzero? That’s you. You are not zero—not The Zeppo [that's Xander]. Mazel tov). I have things to work toward in 2012 that aren’t just about trying to find reasons to keep living. I’m still funny. My cat remains adorable.
So my resolutions for 2012 are:
- To remember that I am loved by amazing people.
- To come to terms with the decisions I have made to this point.
- To consciously and carefully let go of as much of the baggage I’ve been lugging around with me as I can.
- To stop carrying the world on my shoulders.
- To practice guitar more often.
- To try at least five Scotches I have never tried before.
- To find a hottie or two to hang out with/hook up with.
What, you thought they would all be emotionally intense and interesting?
My biggest resolution, and one I hope to keep more than anything is this, though: I want to live. 2011 was about survival and subsistence—emotional, physical, and economical. It’s time to find ways to live. I wish that were as easy as it sounds, but it’s without a doubt worth working and fighting for. So I guess 2012 is going to be less about just trying to hang on, and more about climbing.
Happy new year, Gentle Reader. I hope your resolutions are wonderfully easy (or nonexistent). I hope 2011 has been amazing for you, and that 2012 will be even better. I hope there is no climb for you. I hope when you look around at the world in the new year, that it’s either a world you know you can live with, or a world you know you can change for the better (or both). I don’t yet know what the world has in store for me. I guess…let’s all hope for the best.
†Raspberry Crack is something I make, that my friends named, and that appears to be fairly addictive. The look on Neil Gaiman’s face when he first tasted it will be something I hope to use to get some incredibly nerdy and hot girl into bed some day.
- Finally returning all of Olivia Wilde’s phone calls and going out on a date (naked in bed by midnight).
- Smoking weed and playing video games with Mila Kunis. Always a fantastic time.
- Flying to Melbourne to see The Dresden Dolls.
- Partying with a small group of good friends.
- Hooking up with random hottie.
- Working floor (trash, bathrooms, puke, urine) at a club filled to capacity with drunk/high sweaty half-naked men and marina girls.
Yeah. You know which one I just had to go with:
Finally returning all of Olivia Wilde’s phone calls and going out on a date (naked in bed by midnight). Smoking weed and playing video games with Mila Kunis. Always a fantastic time. Flying to Melbourne to see The Dresden Dolls. Partying with a small group of good friends. Hooking up with random hottie.
- Working floor (trash, bathrooms, puke, urine) at a club filled to capacity with drunk/high sweaty half-naked men and marina girls.
Yesssssss. YES. You know what I’m talking about. *high five* Unh.
It’s important to remember that, when everything has gone horribly wrong, and your night has gone to shit, and all the communication about all the things has failed, and you are frustrated in every goal you may have had—
It’s totally fucking okay to stay up until the wee hours of morning eating ice cream, drinking whiskey, watching tv, and fervently hoping that, after you do finally fall asleep, everything will be better, fixable, or possibly nonexistent when you wake up again.
(If it isn’t okay, I’m in trouble.)
Gentle readers, some tips on taking constructive criticism:
- Remember that it isn’t personal. Seriously. It really really isn’t. Nobody is insulting your hair, or your mother, or telling you that your fluffy little bundle of Pomeranian would fit nicely in the microwave. Nobody is telling you that you are a bad person, or dumb. It’s. Not. Personal. If you have to put a fucking post-it up with a reminder of that, then do it.
- It doesn’t matter whether constructive criticism is coming from a superior or a peer. It does not make it any less valid if it is coming from your peer. If you would do it without question if a superior suggested it, don’t get bitchy because somebody in the same pay grade mentioned some room for improvement. It’s petty, silly, and unprofessional.
- Smile. It’s never fun to receive criticism, constructive or not. It’s difficult to give, as well. It doesn’t have to be unpleasant for anybody though. Smile, and always thank them for taking the time to discuss things with you—even if you disagree. I will smile and thank people for criticism for shit that isn’t even my fault. “Thanks, I’ll remember to do that next time, and although I am pretty sure I wasn’t even at work that day, it’s a really good thing to keep in mind.” FYI, I hate doing that. I gladly own my mistakes and conversely will fight to the death when the mistake was not actually mine. However, for the purpose of professional communication, I deal. It works.
- If you disagree, before you argue about it, consider what your constructive critic might be asking you to do. Unless the answers to the following questions are respectively and holistically Yes, No, No, No, you are going to have a hell of a time arguing your way out of it.
- Is it really much more work?
- If it does make more work for you, will it make less work for the next 2-5 people who are handling things after they leave your desk?
- Is it designed to create an overall better product?
- Is it generally designed to make life easier for your teammates and coworkers?
- If you disagree, but do not have a valid argument as to why you should continue to do things the way you are doing them, there ain’t no point in opening your mouth to argue. You have already lost the argument and will merely look immature, whiny, and lazy. “I think I am doing enough” and “That’s how I’ve always done it” and “I feel comfortable with how I do things” and “You’re not my boss” (in the event that it is your peer and not your superior offering you such criticism) are arguments that have failed before they have even been given breath.
Nobody likes criticism. Whether it is constructive or not—we want to think that there is no actual need for improvement in what we do on both a personal and professional level. Even those of us who to love to learn, and love to improve may have moments where we are truly disappointed that what we have done was not simply awesome.
Those of you who have been paying attention know that I currently have a day job. And those of you who have seen me recently know that my back seized up this weekend, leaving me more or less incapacitated and in a great deal of pain. But none of you know how this played out during my medicated, underslept, insufficiently caffeinated, post-injury Monday back at work.
Note: all italics are what’s going on in my head, all non-italics are spoken out loud.
Manager: Okay, this is your introduction to evaluating stock option plans and…
M: …amendments to stock option plans.
WP: What? Whaaaaaat?
M: So the first thing blah blah blah file and access the blah blah blah via the blah yadda yadda. Every time you do this you need to use this spreadsheet.
WP: Rice crackers! No. Stock options. What?
M: Now that we’ve highlighted the relevant sections of the PDF…
WP: What? Wait, when did that happen? Shit, I was just asleep.
M: We take the information from burble slurp monkey yadda and enter it into these fields. You absolutely cannot waaah waaah waah or it will not alpaca llama properly. How’s everybody doing?
M: Okay, moving on.
Coworker: Do you know what he’s talking about?
M: So I want you all to pay special attention to this, because it will make this task much easier in the end.
WP: Open your eyes, Whiskeypants. Open them. OPEN. OW. What the hell is that? Sun? Also, when did we do that? What document does he even have open? Fuck, I fell asleep again.
M: utinam barbari spatium proprium tuum inuadant!
WP, to coworker: Did he just say what I think he did?
Coworker: Yeah, we should bookmark it just like we bookmark the EOD proposals. Why?
WP: I…uh…it seemed different, is all. AGH! Somebody set my back on fire! I’m out of rice crackers! …Is it 5 yet?
M: Okay, now for the write-up.
Coworker: No. It’s not 5 yet. It may never be 5 again.
It was 11am.
Riding home on the Muni 5, especially near midnight, is bound to have some interesting results. It’s a long route, and a long ride home—and lots of people take this particular bus. In short, the crazies abound.
It’s technically Friday, now. But just a few minutes ago it was Thursday. More specifically, it was Thanksgiving. So I was uncharacteristically full of food, good cheer, and a general sense of well-being—mostly due to turkey and whiskey.
Two stops after I got on the bus, a woman with three bags full of stuff joined us. One of the bags appeared to be a purse. Two of the bags were filled to—and over—the top with clothing. She was muttering to herself, almost as if she were arguing with somebody not actually there. Her face was attractive, tired, deeply lined. Her eyes were simultaneously fierce and concerned. Deciding where to sit on this mostly empty bus was apparently difficult, but she eventually sat down. She dropped her cigs and her lighter. She muttered about that, too.
I watched her, guarded but curious. I’ve lived in cities most of my life—I know better than to engage. It’s uncharitable, but it’s a common survival method. Watching her fold and re-fold those clothes, watching her repack her bags, watching her buff the worn Doc Martens that kept falling out of one of those bags, I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was. Is.
Her clothes were worn and stained, but clean. Her shoes did not fit. The jackets in her lap were far nicer than anything she was wearing. She looked many square meals short of an ideal weight. Her bearing was not that of somebody who had made all of the wrong choices, but that of somebody who was never given that many to begin with—but that’s just conjecture, of course. Regardless, this is a woman who was clearly in need of…something.
I began to write her story in my mind, and then realizing that this was probably just pretentious bullshit, I stopped. And I began to think about my own situation.
It has been difficult, being unemployed. I have never before felt so without purpose, so lost. I have failed—all this education, all this intelligence, and nothing to show for it. I am about to lose my house, lose all sense of stability and place. There are so many things I want to be able to do, make, give—all of which cost money I do not have. I am in incredible amounts of debt, and I owe money to friends that I don’t know when or if I will be able to pay back. Some days I feel like I am drowning in my own failure.
In some ways I have felt like I am in whatever part of Purgatory is closest to Hell.
Some part of this must have been on my face, because the woman on the bus stopped muttering to herself, stopped folding her clothes, stopped buffing her shoes and said, “Are you okay?”
Pulling myself out of my self-flagellating Trent Reznor-inspired downward spiral, I said, “Yeah. I’m okay. How are you?”
It was an automatic response, the kind I give before I think about how I really am. But then it hit me that I was, in fact, telling the truth. That for just this moment I was okay. I was filled with turkey and whiskey, I had just been surrounded by friends I adore, and I was on my way home to two adorable cats.
Our conversation did not last long. She muttered to me about the clothes in her bags and how she needed to keep them nice so she could sell them, and then she went back to muttering softly enough I could not hear her.
She got off the bus not long after that, wishing everybody a happy holiday. I glared daggers at the couple who laughed at her and the difficulty she had getting her bags up and off the bus (help unwelcome), but they didn’t care. I did. She had managed to get out of her head long enough to be concerned about me, which was more than I had done for her.
I spent the rest of the bus ride reminding myself—not that I could be her, nothing as trite and holiday-Lifetime-after-school-feel-good movie as that—but that I really am okay.
The big bad wolf may very well be about to huff and puff and blow my house down. But I have friends looking after me. I have the keys to six houses (beside mine) on my key chain, and not one of the residents of those houses would begrudge me the use of them if I needed it. A dear friend of mine has been helping me get asthma meds—it ain’t a great solution, but we are all doing what we can.
My concerns are ultimately 1st world concerns. And even when the 1st world is sucking, even when the economy won’t let me in, even when things feel like they are getting flushed down a dirty toilet in a 1970s slasher film highway gas station—I am actually okay. I have to remember that when I start down that downward spiral, or I won’t be coming back up again.
Somebody recently observed that I am good with kids and good with words and that maybe I ought to write books for children. I think this is a spectacularly awful idea, but just in case I change my mind, I have come up with some potential titles.
- Let’s Count Empties, 123
- Three parter: Making Manhattans with Mommy, Helping Mommy Find the Bed, Finding the Aspirin for Mommy
- Why Is It So Bright In Here?
- Why Is This Empty Bottle in My Shoe?
- Whiskey Helps Daddy Think
- Puppy Loves Beer
- The ABCs…of Whiskey
- Jameson Turns 18
I have one question and some observations for you.
Were you raised by angry mangy starving rabid wolves with mullets?
If you were, please stay at home from now on until you learn some manners. If you were not, then I am sure the rest of this post will be old news to you.
1. When you walk into a club, do not assume that the staff is in any way less intelligent, less well-read, or less educated than you are. What we are able and/or willing to do with our intelligence and education is our business. Assume instead that we are intelligent people who recognize and note when we are being condescended to by you.
2. In that vein, show some respect to the people around you. The bartender is not some drinkmixing robot. The coat check person is not just a trained monkey. The floor staff and barbacks are not just there to inconvenience you. When we say ‘excuse me’ or tap you on the shoulder, move. Don’t look at us like we insulted your shoes. Everybody who is working around you is working to make your experience better and safer. Try to remember, these are other human beings with whom you are dealing.
3. TIP. That tip jar ain’t just there for show, kids. That extra buck for the bartender, coat check, kitchen staff–ain’t gonna kill you. Show some appreciation for the service, security, and tasty food and drinks being provided to you. I find that people who have never been in some part of the service industry tend not to realize the difference that tips can make and how much we rely on them. I was always a good tipper. Then I became a bartender. Now I tip double what I used to.
4. Know thyself. Do you really want to be that asshole getting carried out of the bathroom and through the crowd covered in your own vomit? Do you really want to be that person starting fights with the security staff and being an embarrassment to yourself and/or your friends (if you still have any by the end of the night)? If the answer to either or both is yes, please stay at home. It’s fun to go out and get tipsy. It stops being fun when you have not only poisoned yourself, you have poisoned the experience for those around you. Pace yourself and take note of your condition. It will make the drunk that much more fun, believe it or not.
5. Trash cans: use them. For real, people. And not just to throw up into when you’ve had too much to drink. Or pee in when you are too drunk to find the bathroom.
6. If the music goes off and the lights come on and you are one of the 20 or so people who insist on clapping and dancing like it’s the end of Strictly Ballroom while we try to close the club and go home–please die in a fire.