In the Thick of it

Allow me to pickup by saying:

Life has utterly worn me into the ground in the past two years.

I graduated school, got my degree and moved on to post-college career jobs. I’ve had three of those, all involving animal husbandry as my primary function. One was working for a fish lab at the University of Michigan. The part time, second job was taking care of cockroaches for a neuroscience company. This all took place in the beautiful city of Ann Arbor, MI. I was living a good life, though my animal projects mostly stagnated. I met many beautiful men and dated often and casually while taking in the surroundings. There was never a lack of things to do or places to check out. I drank it in. Then, in January of 2018 (nearly a year ago), I found out my primary job was being cut at the university. This sent me spiraling, desperate to find the next thing and cling to it. I could never stand to be unemployed, this I knew. I needed job security. So, when the job I applied to on a whim came calling, I became conflicted. I had two job offers by March, one with a saltwater fish wholesale business in Lansing, MI, the other with a fish lab at the Harvard Medical School (the whim). I had no savings to speak of, so I knew the move to Boston would be brutal, if not impossible. The cost of living and moving my zoo drew an immediate stress response in me. I finally settled on the “safe” option, out of necessity. I had no idea how much this would flip my world upside down.

Tonight, I am typing on a refurbished laptop after months of missing my charger, being broke beyond words and finally getting a friend to fix the cracked screen. I’ve felt the need to write on a therapeutic level for months, but have been unable until now. So here I am, writing. The truth is, I’ve felt the depths of a dark depression creeping in ever since taking on the “safe” job. I cried in my car for weeks starting out, feeling unable to perform. My anxiety-induced eating issues cropped up. I flat-out left work one day after having heart palpitations after a month of damn near starvation. I was 95 lbs on that day and I hit what I thought was rock bottom. Gone were the days of setting my own schedule and calmly going about my business surrounded by fish in a basement science lab. I longed for that, but I didn’t lose my job in academia by any sense of fairness. I got screwed over, simply put. No communication. I lost a game of musical job chairs I didn’t even know I was taking part in. I was promoted and forced to put in my two weeks in all of a month’s time that wretched new year. Then I had to move back to Lansing, after moving my zoo a year and half prior. With 60 fish tanks, 50 reptiles, a cat and many more exotics and supplies, I always have my work cut out for me. It is only now, in November of 2018, that I am with all my animals under one roof again. It was been eight months of spreading myself thin, sometimes driving to Pinckney, MI three times a week from Lansing and back just to make sure my animals didn’t starve while I tried moving them first to Lansing, then to Charlotte with my father. I didn’t see an end in sight for months. Six months, to be exact. I had to wait for my sister to move out to take my place in Charlotte (my hometown) with my father. It is my only option at this time, and I’m thankful for it even if aspects of it depress me profoundly.

I’ve started therapy. I’m back on my meds (well, some of them). I’ve got a relationship which has in its own way altered my life forever. I’ve yet to determine if this is positive change or not. Even on “good” days, I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that my body is just in a state of decay and my life in a state of defeat. I feel this even now, as I type with a roof over my head and a basement full of wondrous creatures. In the thick of it, I think to myself…

Where do I go from here?

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I get bad, too

Existential dread: The feeling you get in the car, when it’s just you and you’re using your muscle memory as autopilot, and suddenly the world doesn’t make sense.

Of course, most days it makes perfect sense. I am Heather. That is my name; no question. I love keeping fish as a hobby. I do what I do because it comes natural and because the world is the way it is. But why is it?? Why is the sky blue? Why is my hair that dirty blonde that shines golden in the sun? I get bad about this, sometimes.

People like to presume I’m in the prime of my life. I’m in my mid-twenties with a career/degree oriented job for a really well regarded university. I travel and gives talks. I’m trim and in good physical health. I have so much going for me. On weekends, when I’m all alone…I get bad, though. I get real bad. I think we all do. I know I do.

Sometimes I become listless and wonder over my purpose. An animal dies and I can only think to replace it. To keep on the way I’ve been. The way I know to live. My identity is wrapped up in husbandry. I look after animals and that is most of what I am. However, when energy drains of my body and I stop and my mind is dizzy, I question it. I question every detail of my life and there isn’t an answer. Things just are, and you can ask why and still they remain. I fear death and I cling to the fear of never accomplishing enough before I go. I want to be remembered for my influence and not my woes.

Humans invent religion and all sorts of ideas to fill this void that comes up when we cease to move and act. The existential dread is why we march on. To forget.  To swat away that invitation to the abyss. The strain and the rift. There’s so much at stake and so much to lose.

I know you get bad. I get bad, too.

 

Stormy night

Spring has arrived, and as they say, April showers have begun to buffet the Midwest. It is thundering now, and I can hear the sudden downpour.  It is a time of contemplation.  It is a time of meditation and purging and cleansing…

It is time to write again.

It struck me that I haven’t written in months, yet my mind has been many places worth writing about.  Physically, even, I’ve been many places. My life as a guest speaker in the aquarium club circuit has taken off, and so I’ve been traveling. Not to terribly exotic places, yet, but even engagements around the state have me on the go enough to be exhausted.  So much to see and to do; always. I’m…terribly exhausted, in general.  On top of my usual mental woes, I’ve discovered a nasty OCD habit worsening.  Now, I look at my food wistfully, as if it weren’t actually in front of me and ready to consume. As if it were in the pages of some 50’s cookbook I scanned once upon a time. There’s this mental block, and I struggle to get around it to stay alive at times.  Which is highly detrimental. I require my energy reserves now more than ever.  The brain can be a fickle thing.

It strikes me in my quest for human contact, a particular thought this evening: I am a stubborn woman.  I am incredibly stubborn.  I know I should look after my basic needs above all else, yet here I am, all ambitious and junk.  Choking on an oreo cookie, because the nerves have gotten to me. I feel like the walls are closing in and I’m running on fumes, at times.  At other times, I feel so happy and accomplished and fulfilled.  That is not now.  Right now, like any other stormy night, I am lonely.  I’ve a trusty cat companion, who provides sweet kisses and not-so-sweet mischief.  But I’m stubborn, and stubborn women rarely submit to men.  It’s a shame, too.  Because I really thought I liked men.  It is a manly thing to be dominant, and I refuse to submit to even my own physical limitations.  So why would I submit for a lover??  I won’t, though nature almost dictates I must.  Human nature cannot evolve fast enough…Not on this night, and probably not ever.

I ponder what my life will be one day. I never imagined it would be what it is now.  For instance, I never thought such basic things like eating would be a challenge or that I would be on a wait-list for anxiety treatment while simultaneously booking talks and trips.  It may be telling, however, that I often think I wouldn’t be alive if humans weren’t so prone to saving their weak.  I think my body is frail, and my genetics not the best. Though I consider myself weak in many regards, I am not the slightest bit reserved in my convictions.  This is apparent. There was a time I might’ve changed myself for a man, but I didn’t. Now I know I couldn’t.  Though women being strong willed and empowered is encouraged nowadays, it still doesn’t solve a residual dominance men expect to exert. They subconsciously desire dutiful women who look pretty for them and bare children. The reality may be that I scare men off with my convictions and stubbornness without even trying. If that’s the case, I suppose I could imagine more cats in my future….

Stubbornness will be the death of me.

 

 

 

 

Adrift

The menagerie has moved.  It has been a bumpy ride for months; my graduation, losing two jobs and gaining one, the presidential election. It is December now and the year is coming to a close… I can’t remember the last time I’ve written.  It doesn’t matter anyways.

I feel compelled to write.

I work in another college town now; a more urban one. I pass by countless faces, and so many of them are full of life.  I don’t know anyone any more.  I suppose that is what happens when you move away. Some days that gets me down- to know I’m so close to human beings but yet so far.  I walk perhaps a mile or two a day to get free parking, and I see so many faces along the way.

But my own face…I’ve lost the last of my youthful plumpness.  It’s gone of my face entirely now. My cheek bones; prominent.  My neck is slender.  My body has been sculpted by years of adult strife and learning curves.  It is not lost on my mind that I’ve become prime real estate to men looking to settle down.  In any other era, I might have been married off at my age and in my state.  I’m 24.  Perhaps, I’ve reached the peak of my attractiveness.  It’s a precarious time to be alive.  At once, I want to be alone and free but also internally long for belonging and a family of my own.  I’ve become very split and indecisive.  Suitors have presented themselves and I’ve turned so many down.

So it is striking that I have the audacity to feel wronged in life.  To feel….cast aside and overlooked.  I do, and I can’t shake it.

As a child, I was very serious.  Very bossy.  I had so few friends.  That carries into my life today.  I don’t know who my truest friends are.  I’m still what some may call “uptight”…My definition of fun, though, simply differs from that of so many.  I struggle to reconcile those differences as I wish to connect.  Simultaneously, I feel myself building a wall. I feel I am putting on a show.  A failed show, which knows and is painfully self-aware and that is why it fails.  I entertain company from time to time, and think what a terrible bore I must be to them…lost in my own world.  I look away.  My mind wanders. I push them away.

Sometimes, as I go through trying to fulfill work, personal, and family goals, I feel distinctly adrift.  I feel like my sense of well being hinges on whichever way the wind blows.  I come home, exhausted, achy, sore.  I get messages from men and it feels so meaningless.  I find myself ignoring them.  Thinking, if I please everyone, I displease myself.

The secret is, I want to make so many people happy.  I want to be that girl to that boy, and it amplifies 10x.  But it is my duty, to myself and to the world, to choose only one to love. That is an insanely impossible task.

So I drive home, through the back roads.  The headlights of oncoming traffic flash by, and light my face.  I instantly tear up, thinking of what I am not and what I will never be.  I feel adrift in an emotional sea.

 

Attention to Detail

It’s quiet now, I think.  I’ve dimmed the lights and drawn my breath.

A creaking rodent wheel sings in the night.  The bubbling of fish tanks serves as tempo.  It’s a concert; a symphony, but it’s all white noise to me.

The mind, like the animal house, is never truly quiet.  It, too, is often just unintelligible jargon.  But when it’s coherent, it stings.  It is searing in its clarity and punishing notions, just as…after a while, the sound of the rodent wheel grows irritating.  Today is the passing of that while.  Today, my mind is restless with the irritations that have plagued it far too long.

I’m sad now.  I’m sad and angry and aware.  The attention, the analysis…the core functions of the thinking brain have betrayed me.  I’m so upset.  I’m growing more upset by the minute.

Why is this?

I’ve lingered over details. I’ve replayed every word.  I’ve used the best computing device I’ve got, but I’ve been unable to prevent the inevitable.  I know why this is.  I’ve thought far too much.  But then there I go, thinking….The feedback loop just pushes me deeper and deeper into distress.

I want to stop.  I think to stop and then those thoughts intensify.  STOP.  STOP. BREATHE. BREATHE.  STOP.  STOP BREATHE.  STOP BREATHING.

That thought trail is unsettling and I do ground myself.  Life is a weird thing.  When you’re estranged and alone and your thoughts isolate you and you can’t trust yourself….that is the hardest path in life to walk.  I’ve walked it all along and wondered what purpose it must serve.  Why do I over-analyze?  Why do I dwell and prove detriment to my own progress in life?  Why?  WHY. WHY. THINK. THINK. WHY. WHY THINK.  WHY ARE YOU THINKING.

I’ve this unappealing fixation on details.  I know this.  I thought I had this figured.  Yet, in the night it stalks me.  I personify it as the enemy.  And I as not it.

Foolish, I think.  This demon and I are the same.  I’m it.  There’s simply nothing else to blame.

What is significant in this moment is that I know quite intimately that my struggle with the demon isn’t over.  In the quiet, the mind narrates. The inner monologue is saying things constantly.  It’s grabbing at the reins and when it pulls me in it rides me to utter exhaustion.  It’s insanity.  It’s what I am vs. what I want to be.

I used to take pride in my attention to detail.  I could pick the tiniest spiral shell from a bed of clam husks on any beach day.  I’d squint and analyze and process and find my prize.  In adulthood, it has become my weakness.  My focus is shot and I’m finding not prizes but reasons to worry and stress and attack myself.  Ok, and sometimes prizes such as the single wiggling fish from a dish of detritus.  I can’t gut the redeeming from the trapping of a quality.  I take it all and I’ve really no choice.

 

The question becomes.  Can I find beauty in this?  Can I exploit the strengths and embrace the weakness?

Not with the strangers I dress up as my kin.

Oh mind.  What a predicament within.

Cat Problems

My friend and I have made up (sort of), but my cat and I are on newly tumultuous terms.  Eh, scratch that.  We’ve always kinda had an issue.  That issue lies in my desire to keep a vibrant menagerie of living things and Kronos’ desire to ….murder everything.  Today marks the death of the fourth lizard at the paws of my purebred Bengal cat.  That really bites, especially since I’ve only tried my hardest to amp up security and safety with every casualty.  I should be at the top of my game.  But I’m not, and the cat cannot be blamed particularly since he only does what comes natural.  This sucks more so because, like the human friend, things were going so well earlier.  Kronos was being cute, and I felt like my day was so accomplished.  I thought I could trust him and that I had a handle on things.  I thought it was gonna be a pleasant Sunday for the books.  However, instead of going to bed contented, I’m still wide awake at nearly 2 AM, pointing a laser to the floor to amuse and exhaust the cat.  He’s an engine for destruction, after all. I’m not all that with it, but I’m processing things better now that a few hours have passed and the body buried.  Out of sight, out of mind… or so they say.

I shake it off so easy now.  When something dies, I cannot really find reason to mourn for long; its passing is not something I can change.  For practicality and survival reasons, I move on quick.

“That was quick.”

He always said that to me, when I’d pretend I’d moved on.  Oh but that statement betrays great jealousy, and I always hone in and pay attention despite knowing nothing will ever change.  Why do I mourn him, then?  I don’t try to.  We’ve reconciled.  We are…just friends now.  We always were, but now it is much more precisely defined.  I must truly move on here, too.  I struggle with being social and I always thought he “got” me.  I’m still isolated from humans, but my animals, it appears, play no nicer.  They toy with my emotions, too.  There’s really no winning, is there?

I don’t know what I want and there’s no one to really tell but this blog.  So I’m awake still and trying to move past another funeral. I can only move forward, of course.  Life is not sacred, and I will repeat that often in my writing.  When a creature perishes, no other animal can afford mourning without suffering great detriment.  It is replaced.  It is forgotten in the sands of time.  We assign importance as necessary because some things play greater roles in our lives than others.  They are deserving of respect because the loss is recognizable. But those who adapt survive and surviving is all we know how to do.  My defenses are up.  I must forget about you, beloved lizard.  Lest the disappointment ruin me.  Otherwise, I can only think of how I let you down.  There will be other lizards.

Will there be others of myself?

Will there be others of you?

How silly.  I really must get to bed.  These cat problems might kill me.

I’ve got a Migraine

The entire day has plagued me with this troubling pain just behind my temples.  I think I’ve been staring at screens far too long; the back-lit kind with the pixels.  My work at the library demands high attention to pixels as I carefully photoshop the bad spots on images.  Five hours straight of that and two days in a row ought to explain the pain that is the migraine.  However, I’m not convinced.  I haven’t felt myself in quite some time now.

Friday is a glorious weekday in that I get paid.  I almost immediately have errands to attend to at week’s end, and this week proved no different.  So I set to work picking up some necessities after that library gig which left me with a terrible migraine was through.  I wandered around a pet store and a specialty grocer and the supermarket in total.  I had ensured there was food in my belly beforehand, and as I walked down aisle after aisle of delectable food items I was struck by just how much I didn’t care.  I looked at the scrumptious things before me and thought of my budget and then thought of my needs and concluded I didn’t know what I was doing.  So I wandered aimlessly a while more.  I felt on the verge of tears, flooded by memories of my friend and I as I was.  There were couples picking out cheese at the dairy counter and grabbing alcoholic beverages for the weekend.  I couldn’t stand it.  I felt so sad, because I’ve not had that true couple experience in years.  And what I might have considered couple behavior was always a lie.  So naturally I blamed my apparent inferiority and tried to move on and make some good of the effort I expended to get to the store.  I set my mind to a few projects.  No one likes a hopeless girl.

It hardly helps any that I tried to have a casual sexual encounter just before this.  I like to think fuck buddies can be a viable thing, but more and more I think it’s just the lying cherry on top of the sundae of lies.  It didn’t go as planned and the guy bailed as he always does.  Leaving me for better things; things that suit him more.  I can hardly blame him.

I want to believe it is the migraine that’s getting to me.  I don’t like to throw pity parties where the cake is a lie. I’m doing just fine.

Yes.

I’ve just got a migraine. It’ll go away in time.