I Could Have Been a Softball Legend

At work today, I was furiously concentrating on a project, zoning out to The Decemberists while my coworkers chatted. It was around lunch time, and past the time I should have taken a break, but I hadn’t gotten to a decent resting spot. In an effort to start drawing myself out of the zone, I took out an ear bud to listen to the conversation around me. “Did I ever tell you about the time I shut down three volleyball games because I biffed it so bad that the refs couldn’t even talk?” “Nope.” “Oh my god…it was so funny.”

I had never heard that story, but its introduction reminded me why I don’t participate in group sports. I admire people who do, but I just don’t understand the motivation. Failure in group sports is so public. The entire audience knows what you have to do and they get violent when you didn’t do your one job: catch the ball, block the person running your way, etc. I consider myself a fairly confident person, but I’m just not willing to risk that level of embarrassment just for the right to say “Yeah, my team won.” If I’m going to win, it’s going to be because of my own work. The same goes for my failures. Sure, I get embarrassed about things momentarily, but I have no problem moving on. It’s because I’m smart about what I do. I don’t do things that people would talk about years later if I failed. Few of my failures have been theatrical.

Once, when I was living in Milwaukee, I was walking down Oakland in the rain. I had no umbrella, just a coat with my hood pulled over. I was listening to something beautiful and sad, most likely (it was just what I did), and I had my arms crossed tightly over my chest when I saw that a good-looking boy was walking towards me. Feeling girly and oddly confident, when we passed, I locked eyes with him and smiled. His eyes lingered for longer than I expected.

“He’s going to go home and daydream about me,” I thought contentedly. I was feeling pretty good about  myself as I rounded the corner to my street. “I should always wear ballet flats when it rains. It’s so practical,” I probably also thought, because I was 19 and an idiot. When I got home, I put my things in my bedroom, then went straight to the bathroom to take a hot shower. In the mirror, I saw why his eyes had lingered. Black streaks of mascara stained my cheeks. “I don’t think he’s going to daydream about me,” I thought aloud.

image via ObviousState Etsy

image via ObviousState Etsy

I’m not an athlete. I just don’t really have faith in my body. I don’t run fast. I have no arm strength, core strength, or any physical strength now that I’m listing it all. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m clutsy, but I’m only aware of my body movements enough to not injure anyone. I don’t trust myself enough to be on a team where people are counting on me to throw myself in front of a ball or another human who is going a place my team doesn’t want him to go.

In school, kids who were good at sports were also the cool ones who weren’t very smart. I took a personal pride that I read better books than they did. You know how teenagers are always beefing about that. My one athletic moment took place my junior year of high school during a softball game in gym class. I took my usual spot out in left field, as close to the batter’s opposite wall as I could get without the gym teacher telling me I had to pretend to participate. I was zoning out, probably thinking about which emo lyrics I was going to write in the margins of my algebra notes, when I realized the ball had been hit high and far and was headed straight to me. Not knowing what else to do, I just stuck my hand in the air. I didn’t think I would actually catch it. But I did. I caught the damn ball.

I was so impressed with myself. I actually considered it when my gym teacher encouraged me to go for softball. “Maybe I’m a natural athlete whose ability is just now surfacing at 16,” I thought. Then I remembered the time I tried running around the block without stopping, and I decided to just play violin for 2 hours a day instead.

This isn’t really about Bob Ross.

My last post was about two months ago, so I figure it’s about time that I get back on my game. At least until another two months passes and I remember I should get my money’s worth while I own this domain. Since I’m sure you read and reread my last post just to see if it was a new one, you might recall that I was last dealing with stress.

Like all other breathing creatures, I’m still dealing with stress. But the once incredibly high levels have become my normal. I’m sure there’s something new just around the corner. My job title has changed twice since March, and I’ve spent most of the last six months learning. Though I’d easily be able to give you a list of what I’ve learned, I won’t bore you with the details of explaining how to audit an MVR to see if a driver self-certified correctly or what it’s like to navigate the various state requirements for tax-exempt ownership transfers of vehicles.

This Bob Ross clothespin doll you can buy on Etsy doesn't have anything to do with my work stress, but you click the picture for the link and buy it for me to keep at my desk and make this sort of make sense.

This Bob Ross clothespin doll you can buy on Etsy doesn’t have anything to do with my work stress, but you click the picture and buy it for me to keep at my desk. Then this would sort of make sense.

(I really just needed to create some mystery to keep you reading past that last sentence. It’s called creating tension and it’s a writing technique.)

Anyway, I’ve found that the most stressful part of my day doesn’t happen at work. After 8-12 hours of operating at my highest mental capacity, I come home and have little energy to do anything for myself. Things like working out, journaling, going through old journals for Throwback Thursday Posts, reading a few chapters (or compelling essays about brain disorders) before bed each night, or cooking a meal to share with friends. The few moments before I doze off after reading only 2 paragraphs of a novel are the worst of my day. That’s when I reflect on my day and realize I completely skipped over things that enrich my life. I absolutely love my job, but the sudden realization that my Me-Time has all but evaporated sometimes knocks the wind out of me. Fortunately, consciousness doesn’t last long. My sleep is usually heavy and dreamless.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made the deliberate choice to not accept vegging out with mindless television as the only way to recoup from the day. A year ago, I used to really look forward to my near-daily runs. I felt enormous pride knowing I could run a few miles after a full day of mentally-taxing work. It was a mental restart button for my day. Whatever I had dealt with earlier would lose its saturation by the time I started cool-down stretches. I read plenty, slept soundly, and awoke renewed. Knowing that better sleep and higher quality of life is just switch of willpower away is such a stupid problem, but my apathy made me powerless.

I’ve probably said it before, but the problems that frustrate me most are the ones over which I feel I have no control. These make me feel as if all my weaknesses and insecurities are a meme I can’t escape. I see my ineffectiveness everywhere. When I was really freaking out about a car, all I could see was evidence of everybody else successfully owning cars. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow one of my parents’ cars for a few months, but my insecurity about it was terrible. See a gas station? “OH MY GOD. YOU DON’T EVEN OWN A CAR THAT RUNS RIGHT NOW. YOU CAN’T EVEN PUT GAS IN YOUR OWN CAR.” Pull into the parking lot at work? “EVERYONE KNOWS YOU DON’T DRIVE A DURANGO AND THAT YOUR CAR DOESN’T WORK. ALSO YOU CAN’T FIX A CAR.”

I’m not really sure why it took me so long to change my approach with this problem (Foolish optimism? Fear of the salesman? Fear of rejection? All of the above?), but eventually I decided my dad’s time could be better spent on things other than trying to fix a 19 year old car I wanted to set aflame. I started car searching and I found a great car that was made in a year in which I have vivid and fond memories.

Seeing that I could eliminate that stress was satisfying. I was hooked on being in control. To prepare for the added expenses of a car, I created a really awesome budget spreadsheet (I only update TWO TABS with my debits and credits of a 15-tab spreadsheet. It’s uploaded to Google Sheets so I can access it on my phone and know exactly where I stand for the month). I got a Fitbit and started tracking my steps and sleep patterns. I started to meet with a health coach to set goals and hold me accountable each week. I took a Saturday off and spent six hours reading a book. SIX. It was incredible.

I feel like I’ve been complaining about my work/personal/sanity balance for a while now. I swear there’s more to my life than this. I have many more entertaining stories to share. Like the Sadness Parade I took part in with my dad and older brother (taking my old car across town for a mechanic friend’s opinion), what a food scientist packs for an evening picnic date, my realization that sports bars are not my natural habitat (weird, I know), what it was like driving my new car home the first night, or how I wish I would have handled a construction worker sort of sexually harassing me while we were both stopped at a red light. Spoiler alert: it’s not half-smiling and asking myself if that really just happened.

With time, you’ll get those stories. For now, I’m making the deliberate choice to read. I just had to share more complaints with you. Just one last time. Probably.

Defending One of My Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms

This thing I found on Wikipedia defines a maladaptive coping mechanism as follows:

a coping technique [that] will just reduce symptoms while maintaining and strengthening the disorder. Maladaptive techniques are more effective in the short term rather than long term coping process. 

I define maladaptive coping mechanisms as awesome.

I feel like I need to preface this whole thing by saying I’m not complaining. I’m just venting. Because there’s a difference, connotation-wise. Complaining is just going on and on about your problems and never dealing with them, just hoping that somebody will poof all your problems away. Venting is thinking aloud until you come to a plan of action that you and your audience agree on. Even when I complain I’m venting, so keep that in mind next time you hear me say something negative. You might not hear my action plan, but you’d agree with it if I bothered to articulate it.

The last few weeks, I’ve been dealing with an unusual amount of stress in my professional life and my personal life. My stressors are as follows:

  • Navigating new territory of more responsibility
  • Excel. The bane of a young professional with only a liberal arts background
  • Supporting a friend through a difficult period
  • My possibly dying plants: my ivy is getting dry, one sprig of a festival-purchased peony plant has turned black, and I have no idea if my bamboo has grown over the last 13 months
  • My constant deliberation over the pros and cons of living as a lazy slob
  • My not-so constant deliberation over the pros and cons of living as a productive human who eats more than a bowl of granola for dinner
  • The slow realization that I am no longer in my prime
  • The knee-jerk reaction to the previous point (RUN TWO MILES BEFORE WORK EVERYDAY! NEVER EAT PROCESSED FOOD! NEVER DRINK SODA! STOP DRINKING COFFEE! DON’T EAT THAT BREAD UNLESS YOU WANT TO GAIN 5LBS IN YOUR SLEEP! DON’T WALK – CROSS GROUND IN LUNGES ONLY!)
  • Working to pay off some debt to make room for new debt (ie, a car that was made within the last decade) & the realization of the fruitlessness of adult life
  • Wondering where I’ll be when my 19-year old car finally decides to die
  • Only being in Season 2 and not wanting to miss when someone finally kills King Joffrey, but not really liking anyone other than Tyrion

Without going into too much detail about any of the above items, I’ll summarize by saying that I feel like I spend 80% of my week being stressed. While I enjoy being challenged, I reached my point a few weeks ago where I was like, “COME ON, UNIVERSE. DON’T BE SUCH A JERK.” Then the universe was just like, “LOL NOPE. HERE’S MORE.” I expect that as I become more accustomed to my responsibilities, my stress level will plateau until the universe decides it’s time I have more excitement in my life.

Today happened to be a particularly stressful day (despite my better intentions, one interaction early in the day clouded my mood for the next 9 hours). After working for 9.5 hours, I came home and announced to my roommate, “I’m just going drink the leftover wine in the fridge and bake cookies. I’ll probably just eat cookie dough for dinner.”  I’ll defend it by saying this: Some days you just need to feel that you’re able to complete one thing from start to finish. I knew that there were about three glass of wine between the two bottles of wine (moscato and chardonney) in my fridge. I knew that I could follow a 7-ingredient recipe, set the oven timer to 8 minutes, and remove the cookie sheet without burning myself.

To cope with my stress, I really just needed to be reminded that I was able to complete something from start to finish without interruptions. I now have five dozen cookies to prove it. The same issues will still plague me tomorrow, but at least I’ll have cookies.

Don’t judge me.

Oh yeah! Still here!

Last you guys heard, I was having a miserable winter. You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve moved on to having an okay winter. I know it’s April and I should be calling it Spring, I don’t call it spring till I’m tiptoeing through tulips. I’m sure you’re all dying to know what’s happened between posts. Here’s a quick overview:

  • I got a promotion. Since I keep this space free of work talk, I’ll just say that in my new position, I have many more responsibilities and a TON to learn. I’m excited for the challenge.
  • I went on vacation and returned yesterday. I spent a week in sunny San Diego with an old friend and her 3 year-old daughter. Much to my surprise (and my mother’s), spending a week with with a 3 year-old didn’t completely eliminate the possibility having kids some day. I actually think it would be pretty cool to have someone tiny to hang out with and dress up. I’d want some help paying for the tiny companion, so I won’t be doing it solo any time soon, but if the circumstances were right, I would be okay with having a child. Other highlights of my vacation include: sunburn, an overpriced drink at a rooftop nightclub, delicious bruscetta, witnessing the public’s eagerness to buy STAR MAPS in Beverly Hills, appreciating days that pass without caring about the time, and reading a Meg Wolitzer novel (The Wife) in two days.
  • I registered for an improv class. You know, like Whose Line is it Anyway? That sort of thing. It’s going to go one of two ways: I’ll succeed immediately and be on SNL next year or have an epic fail and experience a huge ego check.
  • I started online dating again and after a half dozen dates I disabled my profile again. After outlining an essay about online dating and I read a Nora Ephron essay that is making me rethink the essay entirely. All I can confidently say now is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to dating and that I’ve sworn off several types of men (musicians, dudes who say “I don’t know” constantly, and those in search of an identity).
  • I registered for a 10k and promptly stopped training. Then one night my roommate and I accidentally ran 6 miles. I haven’t done much since then, so on May 18th, I’m banking on a repeat of the spontaneous endurance level.
  • After a 15 minute discussion with a friend one night, I got seven inches of hair cut. Felt like I lost thirty pounds and was disappointed to see I was mistaken.
  • I got obsessed with Chris Thile, listened to Punch Brothers for three straight months, freaked out and bought tickets to see Nickel Creek two minutes after I realized they were playing nearby. My parents and I will be seeing Nickel Creek on May 10. Kick Ass Daughter Level = Expert.
  • I turned 26 and threw myself a party. It was fairly lowkey, though I did wear a sequin-covered dress. I’m not sure if the latter statement negates the former, but I don’t really care. I had fun – great friends with lots of food, lots of wine and coffee Patron, and DJs who vibed the party perfectly.  Check them out here. I hear they accept payment in burritos, but don’t quote me on that.
  • I bought a new couch. Like a real adult couch. Like I went to an actual furniture store and picked out a piece on the showroom and paid to have it delivered. It wasn’t on clearance and it cost the better part of a paycheck. I’m sitting on it now.
  • I crocheted a lot. I don’t want to talk about it.

I’m making a goal to spend less time with yarn and more time with people. That’s a pretty good goal, right?

Oh, also, after realizing I had let the Customization Packs for my theme expire, I decided to revamp my blog with a new theme and picture.  My roommate helped me with the photos by goofing around on our stairs in gorgeous afternoon sunlight after I spent last night being sick from an airport deli sandwich.  We got some good shots that included the ones below. Credit for any perceived glow goes to the sunlight prisms or post colon-cleanse.

This is my "I'm Scared, Feed Me" face.

This is my “I’m Scared, Feed Me” face.

Slight variation of the previous face, but with less "I'm Scared" and more "Feed Me".

Slight variation of the previous face, but with less “I’m Scared” and more “Feed Me”.

Next time I do online dating, this is totally going to be my profile pic.

Next time I do online dating, this is totally going to be my profile pic. I’m sure to get some classy men with this one.

Sorry you guys read the blog of someone so weird. I’d tell you to hope for something different in the future, but you probably know that’s a lie.