Friday, February 25, 2011

Saving Me From Myself

Guys, I am burned-out! Maybe it’s that end of winter blah feeling we all know so well. Maybe it’s my 6 days a week work schedule. I haven’t had a day off for more than a month. Or, maybe it’s the 1 full pound of sugar and 100 fluid ounces of Diet Coke I consume daily (they say that both are just like mood-altering drugs). Whatever it is, I just can’t be happy.

My first sign of burnout is deep fatigue. I drag myself around – drag out of bed, drag through the motions of getting ready for work, drag myself to the car and then to my desk. It’s all a drag. Fatigue is followed by crying. I’ll be on the edge of tears all day long without knowing why. I just walk around with my eyebrows pulled together and thinking, “I want to cry.” Sierra used to announce her crying, back when she was little (and this last Christmas when I beat her soundly at Apples to Apples). Little Sierra’s eyes would well up with tears and her face would scrunch and she’d say, “Crying. I’m crying Angie.” It was cute. It’s not so cute when I do it.

It doesn’t take long to realize that all of the tears are because I’m tired, and then a good nap or long night’s sleep will do the trick, maybe a weekend of naps. If that doesn’t work, if the burnout is determined to get me, then I slowly digress into the next step – grumpiness. It starts with periodic mild irritation and grows to all out, uncontrollable anger. I’m mad about everything – going to work, going home, people talking to me when I’m not in the mood (which is always), nothing good to eat in the fridge… it doesn’t matter what’s going on, I’m mad about it. This morning some of the guys were standing by my desk just having a friendly chat, and while doing the blank stare and nodding I was thinking, “This is boring. I don’t care about anything you’re saying. This is intolerable. I’M BORED TO DEATH. GET OUT! ” By the way – that’s another sign of burnout. Everything is so, so boring.

That’s where I’ve been for a couple of weeks now. I need a break, a vacation, a yacht on the sea. Luckily, my birthday is coming up, so I’ve scheduled a few days off. No plans really (and certainly no yacht) but just some time away from work will be nice. And, today I took a walk up by City Creek and saw green grass alongside the water, and a bunch purple crocuses blooming in someone’s front yard. I almost cried again. It was a sign of hope. Even though the wind was cold, there in the patchy snow was evidence of change and a new season.

So if you’re wrapped up in your house fighting off the cold and a deep desire to quit your life all together, or maybe to kill people, don’t despair. It’s almost Spring.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentines and Ten Dollar Bills

My mother with my Grandma Ruth, circa 1953.
When I was a little girl, my Grandpa John and Grandma Ruth sent us cards on holidays. We each got our own card, and inside were two dollars. We got them for Valentine’s Day and Halloween. I don’t remember now if she sent cards for other holidays, but I definitely remember those two. I have a clear picture in my head of opening the card and seeing the two bills, so exciting.

They lived in Wichita Kansas, in the house my mom grew up in, and we’d go visit them at least once a year. They’d visit us about that often, too. On those visits they’d give us each a ten dollar bill to spend during the time we were together. Grandpa John was a recovering smoker. He carried hard candies in his pocket because having a candy helped him when he wanted a cigarette. He’d put his hand in his pocket and pull out a bunch of candy and offer me one. I usually picked butterscotch.

Grandpa John died in 1983, when I was 13, and Grandma lived on her own in their house for nine years. By then she was getting close to 90 years old, and realized that she needed to be close to family who could help her. So in 1992 she moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area where we were. She had a little apartment and took care of herself. Mom visited her a couple of times a week, took her shopping, etc. I saw her as often as I could, too, when I was home. I was in my early twenties then, and it was good to spend some time with her as an adult. When you’re young grandmas are for playing and fun and the ten dollar bills, but when you’re older you realize how interesting they are. Grandma told about her family when she was young, and about meeting my grandpa. She said he had style, wore nice clothes and always kept his car very clean. She talked about extended family who’d I’d never met but who had some great stories. One time she showed me three old pottery bowls that she’d gotten in Mexico. They’d been in southern California on a vacation, and walked across the border to Mexico. She bought the bowls and carried them back again. After telling me that, she got thoughtful and said, “I’m not sure that that was legal.” I laughed, and still get a kick out of Grandma carrying contraband over the border.

Grandma Ruth died in January 1997, at the age of 93, fourteen years ago now. When Mom and my aunt Beverly were going through her things, they found an envelope with ten dollar bills in it that she was saving to give to the grandkids when she saw us again. There were enough for each of us to get one more. I still have mine tucked in an envelope at home. I also have the cedar chest that Grandpa bought her before they were married (in 1929), and the clay bowls from Mexico.

This morning I was signing and addressing Valentines to send, and it made me think of Grandma Ruth. I’ve wanted to carry on the tradition of holiday cards with nieces and nephews, and have actually succeeded some years, but I’m not as good and Grandma was.