It has been an unusually mild November so far. Granted, looking back at my blog posts, or at my Facebook Memories, the past five or so years have been all over the weather map in November. Yesterday though, was gorgeous.
I’ve only been off work for two weeks, though I am finding myself a little lost already. I am lonely for one. As much as I say I don’t like people, I miss people. I miss the social element to being out in the working world. I have applied to a couple of jobs, one being seasonal work at the bookstore near me (and I am really hoping they call me, because I MISS that job!), but I haven’t heard anything from anywhere yet. I’m enjoying being on the south shore. I am enjoying being able to focus on my school work and not have to cram discussions or assignments into the limited hours I am awake between working hours. So that’s been lovely. I have more time to be creative, and crafty. I am trying very hard to keep that sort of thing up because I know it makes me feel better, and keeps me motivated.
But I am also getting stuck in the “hide-in-the-house-and-live-on-the-couch-in-my-sweats” rut. I don’t want this to happen at all. But it’s so easy to get swallowed up by laziness and agoraphobia. It’s also a bad, bad, BAD idea for me to be stuck in this rut when I am so easily prone to depression and anxiety.
Yesterday I followed the dogs outside, and sat on the deck. Still in my sweatpants and baggy sweater. The dogs bounded around me playfully, and gave me kisses. I took a deep breath.
It. Was. Gorgeous. Outside.
“I should really be outside, walking.” I said to myself. “It’s too nice out to just hide indoors all day.”
You have no idea how difficult it was for me to get up, go upstairs, and change into jeans so I could take the dogs on a walk. It should not have been that difficult but it was.
But I did it.
And holy cow was it nice outside. I let the dogs take their time sniffing everything. I sat on a bench in the nearby green space and just enjoyed the colours around me. The sunshine. The leaves. The warmth. The happy dogs. The squirrels. The breeze. The sounds. Nature. Everything.
I was out for almost an hour. It was warm when I was home. Sophie was in a panic because she had to suffer through both NATURE and EXERCISE. It was good for her.
It was good for ME.
I get into this gloomy headspace. I don’t want to do anything, or talk to anyone. I don’t want to go anywhere, and I feel like there’s absolutely no meaning to my life. It’s all pretty Emo and melodramatic, but it’s a downward spirally whirlwind of negative thoughts that is difficult to pull up from.
It wasn’t fair to the dogs to be cooped up inside on such a beautiful day. It was good for them, it was good for me.
The sunshine yesterday made me feel better. Watching Yoshi play-bow, and then try to bound after a squirrel in the park, made me feel better. The exercise made me feel better.
I even put reminders in my phone to prompt me to do little exercises during the day, so that I get off the couch and channel something else other than gloom into my body.
And I was outside, in a t-shirt, on November 15, 2016. It was that warm. I had the windows opened. I cleaned some of the house. I got outside and walked. I enjoyed how happy my dogs were as they sniffed every single blasted leaf on the ground. I smiled through the entire walk.
And I got out of my head for a while. And yes, I felt as though someone should give me a bloody trophy by the time I got back inside. Just for getting dressed and walking around with the dogs for 50 minutes. A freaking trophy of accomplishment! I didn’t get a trophy, but I am happy with myself TODAY that I did that. So, yay me!
It’s been a week since my final day at work. I have noticed a change in myself both physically and mentally because of this decision. I feel lighter. Though I have my “WTF DID I DO?!” moments. Those seem to happen in the middle of the night. And last Friday I was pretty lonely and sad out of the blue, so I know that it was just me coming down from the adrenaline of my last day in the office, and making this huge decision.
So now what?
Who am I when I am not “Cat, the girl who works at McGill, and assists the Dean and Dean’s office”? How did I become my job? When did I become my job? What do I do now?
I like the idea of being a student right now. Only school work to worry about, and some free time to do things I enjoy, like crafting and reading. But I can’t just be a student. I need to find another job. We need the income. It is not feasible for me to not be working.
But I’m not quite ready yet, and to be honest, I don’t know what I want to do. I have ideas, but nothing feels right.
And I don’t want to be an administrative assistant again. I know I could kick butt at that type of job, because I do (did?) my job well. But I don’t like that kind of job. But I have been Me in That Job for so long, I’m not sure who Me in A New Job is yet.
I was my job for such a long time. I identify as a McGill employee. I identify as a Schulich School of Music employee.
I’m not sure what my identity is right now. It’s a work-in-progress I suppose.
If my dogs have any say in my identity, it’s pretty obvious that I am destined to be Yoshi’s pillow for the rest of our lives. He’s been quite pleased that I have been home the past week. I was out for six hours today and you’d think I’d left him for years. Whether I am on the couch, in bed, or even in the chair at my desk in my craft room, Yoshi has to have his head against me. He’s like a security blanket that follows me around. If I could get someone to pay me to stay home so I could be Yoshi’s pillow, I think it would work well for many of us in this household.
Meanwhile, I went back into the office today to return my keys, sign my termination papers and clear the rest of my stuff out of my space. It was way more real today. Last Monday was fun, all costumes, candy, and parties. But today was… strange. Surreal. Sort of like watching a dream unfold. I no longer have 5lbs of keys at the end of my lanyard. What even is that? I don’t understand this.
I don’t want to stay home and not work. It took a while for me to figure that out. (Hi, 6-month medical leave for PTSD.) But working from home would be nice, or something part-time, and most importantly working at something I enjoy and makes me happy. I’m just not sure what that is right now. I’m all for applying for work at the local Indigo (I miss that a lot), but I… I don’t know. Something is stopping me. I think it’s the fear of the unknown, and the fact that I have been my job for such a long time, trying to see myself anywhere else is like trying to look through a foggy window.
So I’m having this odd existential crisis about myself and my future and it’s pretty annoying. I know it will all sort itself out and I’ll be able to see Me in so many other things than just the job I had. But it’s kind of scary to have this huge blank canvas in front of you waiting for you to choose the right colour to begin filling it in with.
That’s what I’m trying to sort out! (Random epiphany as I type.) My colours! I feel them all returning, the grey is dissipating, but right now the colours are just out of reach. An entire Crayola box of possibilities (the one with the sharpener in the back of course), and I just need to reach out and choose one.
The Third Lie’s the Charm (The Liar Society, #3)
by Lisa & Laura Roecker
Katie Lowry knows she could’ve stopped Alistair from doing something stupid if only she’d picked up the phone. Now she has to live with the guilt. She’s sick of the lies, sick of the secret societies that rule life at Pemberly Brown Academy. But there’s only one way to take them down: from the inside… (goodreads.com)
Ok, so maybe it’s been three years since I read the first two books in this series. And maybe I spent a good chunk of that time checking to see if my local library had this third, and final book. (It never did.) And maybe, just maybe, I had zero recollection that I had BOUGHT this book on my Kobo at some point in time. And maybe, hypothetically speaking of course, I discovered I had this book on my Kobo after about a year of not even knowing where my Kobo was, or having it charged. And finally, maybe I noticed I had this book on my Kobo when I was trying to load some library books onto it before a flight out East to visit my cousin, and those library books didn’t actually work on my Kobo but I had this here Liar Society book all loaded up on there and ready to read.
And maybe (yeah, I lied about the finally part) even though I read this book at the end of September, I am still thinking about it enough to blog about it.
This is all possible. Not saying it isn’t.
I went back and re-read my blog posts about books one and two (linked below) and sure enough, I was as enthusiastic about the novels as I thought I had been. I’m rather bummed I’d forgotten about having bought the final book (allegedly). Then again, my life changed a lot a few months after I’d read the other books. I haven’t been reading much at all. And I do not like reading e-books. It bugs me so much reading on a screen. Even with e-ink. Bleh.
I’m not really going to review the book much though, even though it was awesome, and I did love it. (Check out this series if you haven’t. GREAT mysteries! Secret Societies! Woo! Scandal!) I need to talk about something else in the book that’s been sticking with me for over a month since I finished it.
Katie’s loss of her friend, and the sort of frantic, anxious, paranoid, lung-crushing emotions she has throughout the novel are so, so spot on. People tell her she’s in shock, and experiencing symptoms of a trauma (the murder of her friend, and well, others) and she’s certain she’s not crazy though everyone tells her she is. She gets sent to a therapist, and has even her closest friends question her sanity about even more conspiracies and secret societal shenanigans. And all I could think while reading this was: woah. The authors GET IT. They captured on page (er, screen?), in words, what it feels like to spiral out of control over the loss of something, someone, in a traumatic way. You don’t know if you’re up, or down. Coming, or going. You spend your time trying to focus and breathe, and you’re scared, angry, sad, confused, lost.
And Katie was all of those things as she tried to get to the bottom of the latest mystery at Pemberly Brown Academy. Her struggle was almost palatable to me. My heart raced, but not in a trigger sort of way, but in total empathy for the character. I understood. I could have been her (if I were 15+ years younger).
In reading my original blog posts about the first two books, I see that I was all about the authors’ grasp of the teenage voice, and point of view. They got it. And they still do, but they also got that out-of-control feeling that Katie was experiencing and they expressed it so well in this book. The mystery, the suspense, the sarcastic humour and quips, they were all wonderful as well, but what truly stood out to me was the way Katie’s emotional crisis was portrayed.
I love well-written, and engaging novels. I love being able to recommend a series like this to young readers because I know it will be appreciated and enjoyed. I don’t think you can lend e-books (I’m old, I don’t get the technology of the youth) but I might just toss my Kobo at my niece (and sister) and tell them to read this series. It’s not very salty or risqué, and my 10-year old niece has a pretty high reading level (if she can get through The Hunger Games this series might seem like Sesame Street to her). And I said it before, but there aren’t too many mystery novels in the YA field that aren’t paranormal in some way. At least not that I have found. That makes The Liar Society a delightfully refreshing series to devour.
The Liar Society
- The Liar Society
- The Lies That Bind
- Third Lie’s the Charm
We spend most of our lives trying to figure out who we are. Life is a never-ending path of discovery and questions. Some get lucky and figure out who they are, and what they want to do, early on in life. Not everyone is so lucky. Some take decades to finally feel at home in their own skin.
It took me over 30 years to be comfortable being myself. Being me. Embracing all that was quirky and odd, accepting that I don’t always like what everyone else likes. And then one day the sky fell and I got lost again. Suddenly, I realized, I didn’t know who I was anymore. Nothing I used to love to do was holding any interest for me. I was apathetic to EVERYTHING. I wasn’t reading. Wasn’t crafting. Wasn’t happy at all.
Going downtown five days a week wasn’t helping. After March 27, 2013, I really didn’t want to be in the city anymore. I never liked the city much anyhow, I love seeing the sky. There’s little sky viewing in downtown Montreal. All tall buildings. And as much as I love the people I work with, the job itself was making me feel…grey. Blank. Drained. There was no joy in staring at my computer all day scheduling meetings, or coordinating meetings, or taking minutes.
And so this summer I had to think. Think hard. What needed to change in my life? What could I do to stop this downward spiral into sadness so strong I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.
Months of pros and cons lists happened both mentally, and in my journal. I spoke about what I could do with my husband, and my therapist (the same one helping me through all the PTSD stuff). There were sleepless nights where I just felt so lost and trapped that I couldn’t even close my eyes. The darkness was too bright and too deep.
At some point I looked at job postings online and saw something closer to home, not in town. And it was as if someone had filled me with air. I could breathe again. I didn’t feel weighted to the ground with lead. Something clicked – I needed to be out of downtown. I needed to eliminate that part of the equation. That’s when the epiphanies started, of course my job is downtown, but what if I quit my job? What if I took this opportunity to actually stop doing something that was draining the life from my soul (dramatic sounding, I know. But I wasn’t even READING anymore!) and turning me into a drone, and started to do something I loved? Suddenly the people I had worked with for almost 11 years weren’t enough to keep me going into a job I didn’t love anymore. But leaving those people? People who had become as close as family? THAT wasn’t an easy decision.
Even more so, leaving meant I had to leave my boss. A woman I have wished was my own sister for years. A woman I adore, and learned so much from, and admire and just…adore. It was like breaking up. It was not easy. It is not easy.
But I did it.
The first week of October I gave notice. I think my heart was in my mouth. My hands shook, my stomach clenched, and my head was spinning. But I did it. One of the hardest things I have done.
Leaving the security of a place I have been for 15 years isn’t easy, and it wasn’t a whim. But it was time. My last day of work was Halloween (because, of course it was!), and my 15th anniversary at McGill was October 28. My first four and a half years were at the bookstore, and then the last 10 years and seven months were in the Dean’s office in Music. I literally spent a quarter of my life at that faculty, in that job (though it did evolve over the years).
They had a Halloween party for me on my last day. My heart was overflowing with emotion. I don’t like emotion. I was shaking like a leaf, but I managed not to cry. I cry at night as I try to fall asleep. It’s how I roll. There was so much love though. And I’m two days into being home and I miss everyone so much.
However, I am ready for new challenges. I am THIS CLOSE to finishing my Book Publishing diploma at Ryerson University, and I am desperate to work with books. I miss books. SO MUCH. I want to sell and publicize children’s books. My entire being vibrates with the desire to do that. To talk books. Read books. Sell books. And if I didn’t make the leap and change now, I’d have chickened out over time and just become resentful of missed opportunity, wasted passion, and bitter about a job I wasn’t getting any joy from. I couldn’t live like that. I can not live like that.
So I made this big, terrifying, life-changing decision and I don’t know what’s next. I just know that it needed to be done. Once I realized this what what I needed to do my entire body relaxed. I read 11 books this month – and I hadn’t read nearly that much yet this year. You have no idea how much stress and anxiety dissipated once I realized what I needed to do. Instead of being anxious about not knowing what’s NEXT, I lost anxiety I didn’t realize I was holding on to about staying as is.
No one who knows me would ever claim I was a fan of change. As a child I couldn’t handle the smallest of change. I remember having a clock-radio that I loved that died and I couldn’t sleep for a few weeks once I had a new one next to the bed because it WAS NOT THE SAME. The world was off-kilter. The air was too sharp and jagged. The cocoon of my room was DIFFERENT. And that was not good. And I’m pretty sure my parents would have bet cash money that I’d never move out of their house, and my room. And that I’d likely still be living there even though they sold the house. Change was not something I was ever able to handle. It’s amazing what a trauma and some other life-altering events can do to a person.
‘Cause, this is a Big Change, yo. This is me leaping into unchartered territory. This is so very un-Cat that it’s astonishing that I chose to make this decision. Astonishing that I even came up with this decision.
But I knew I needed to figure myself out again, and I needed to take a deep breath and make some Big Decisions as part of that. I can’t live in a grey world. I need that Wonderland that Alice found, as confusing and scary and dangerous as it might be at times. I can’t allow myself to shut down by mindlessly going through motions because it’s what’s expected of me. I need to do something with my life that I have passion for, that brings me joy. Books bring me joy, so that’s the path I’m following.
As for right now? I’m going to finish this copyediting course and look for another job. It might be a temporary one as I figure stuff out along the way, but temporary is just a blink of an eye and it’s easier to digest than “forever”. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m hopeful.
I’m feeling like someone I used to know a little better. Almost myself again. And that’s one step closer to Wonderland.
erin walker :: august 6, 1977 – october 23, 1994
when i close my eyes
she’s too young to be forgotten
her world has only just begun
her future is an empty slate
waiting to be filled
and i see her
when i close my eyes
dancing in the sky
over moonbeams, around clouds
starlight in her eyes
angels in her hair
and i see her
when i close my eyes
child of the sunlight
daughter of the day
sleeping on bed of roses
with flowers in her hair
the wind it softly kissed her cheek
the raindrops fell like tears
and i see her
when i close my eyes
a thousand white candles
their flames dancing with the air
as rocks play tag with ocean
she’s fast asleep
never to be woken
and i see her
when i close my eyes
© catherine healy
October 23, 1994
I have been reflective on October 22 and 23 for twenty-two years now. I have been blogging about this memory since 2004 (sadly the first posts were lost on a since-deleted blog). Whenever the dates fall on a weekend, it’s harder.
I remember sitting in the Church, during choir practice, waiting for Erin and her brother to arrive. We’d just seen each other the day before at school, and I was ready to start gossiping and giggling about all sorts of things in-between songs. But they didn’t show up.
It was a rainy, miserable October day. Just like today. The Church was damp, humid, a weird combination of too cold, and too warm. You can’t dress comfortably for this kind of weather. The sky was dark, grey. The day was gloomy and glum. Just like today.
I often see women around campus who remind me of Erin. I remember one year there was a student in my Faculty who looked so much like Erin, and whose name was Erin, it made my breath catch. I take the bus home to the South Shore from in town and I think about how Erin did that every day while in high school. A time I rarely ventured into the city. And I remember her, in her school uniform, talking about the bus, and the commute, and how confident she was about the trip. I was terrified of public transportation back then. Sure I would be mugged or worse. Always afraid of the people around me. But Erin was fire. She was flame. She was a spark that would shine bright and confident, even if maybe she didn’t feel that way all of the time. I admired her. I envied her. I loved her.
When you lose a friend while you are still young yourself, I think the loss and emotions stitch themselves into your entire being. Right into your bones. I have lost many others since 1994, but the loss of Erin and her mother are possibly the biggest imprint on my life. I can still vividly recall the smell, sounds, sight, and atmosphere of the Church that Saturday. I can still see myself watching the front doors, waiting for the arrival of my friends. I recall the whispers, the anxiety, the feelings that I can almost taste in my mouth.
And so this weekend, I remember. And I mourn. And I fondly remember all the laughs and good times. Because life is short, and you want to be a spark in the gloom. Remembering Erin always makes me remember to be that spark. For others. For myself.