Sunday, March 25, 2007

Debbie Downer...

March 23rd, 2007

Have you ever come so close to the brink of utter and absolute exhaustion that it almost feels good? The kind of exhaustion that overwhelms when you collapse onto the couch or bed and your fingertips and toes begin to tingle with glee as they anticipate finally being able to just stop. No more squishy and hot interiors of the latest uncomfortably adorable Macys 50% off Steve Madden platforms, no more keypads to clinker and tinker on. It’s as if they’ve been screaming all day in sickened torture “Please leave us alone!” and now finally the silence of the absence of movement emerges victorious. Ahhhhhhhh. It’s that amazing feeling right before you slip into real sleep, entering the zone of semi- consciousness. Somewhere in between, “Gosh, I’m so tired, I’m glad to be finally going to bed.” and drooling. You know what I mean.

This is the kind of exhaustion that every new mother can definitely relate to. And don’t worry boys, I’m not excluding you here. I’m sure you’ve felt it t on occasion…say, after a long and tiresome night of endless basketball viewing while jumping up and down vigorously on the couch screaming at a television. Screaming to referees whom I’m sure will be taking into account your “Ridiculous! What is this?! Why don’t you take your whistle and blaaaaannnnnnnnnkkkkkkkkk!!!!!”opinions on their latest call.

Exhaustion like this is usually pleasurable pain, when it finally comes to an end. However, during the storm of daily activities, it’s not so pretty. The day before yesterday, the exhaustion of emotional, mental, and physical events began to combine- forming a tornado in the form of a terrifying, dangerous and unsightly little monster: Me.

In high school, my good friend Katherine, a.k.a. The Wise One, once built a brilliant analogy based on a brick wall. She said, “It’s like there a millions of little bricks building a wall, each one representing something small, yet thorny and bothersome in your life. As the wall builds and builds, it finally falls. Ladies, my brick wall is falling.” (In which then she, or I, or whoever was having the colossal and catastrophic meltdown of the typical 17 year old drama queen, would sit and sob).
It is something each of our girlfriends has referred to ever since the wise one spoke such clarity. It was months ago that I felt the beginnings of a wall begin to form, and knew that it would only be a matter of time before it would crash. Crash isn’t even the right word, because that would imply the large wall simply falling down. Explode is a better term….as the bricks shoot out into the surrounding landscape swiping everything and everyone within a 1,295,896 mile radius in their way.

I run my Dad’s office for his plumbing company. And let it be known, I realize what one might think when hearing of a daughter “working” for her father’s company, all of you jealous and doubting other employees out there, imagining the special privileges of the bratty little offspring. I’m here to set the record straight to all of you judger-faces: you are absolutely right.

I get free lunches from anywhere I choose, I come and go as I please. Day one, I began working at the same wage as the person who had to train me was working for. I get to meddle into every little private affair of the business, and occasionally, my opinion is actually heeded. In fact, as rarely heeded as it is, it will always be two steps ahead of your opinion, and this queen of the hill status is safe in the genetically bound relations of father/boss to daughter/employee. So there.

However, among this myriad of privileges comes a deep sense of loyalty and desire to protect this family owned operation. It is because of this I am proud to say that I indeed find my motivation to actually work, and work hard. This is no job for me, it is my family. (Enter Country Time Lemonade commercial background music…excellent speech Rachel…and cut.).

During a usual day of ho hum, bookkeeping business, it was my responsibility to keep tabs on getting payment, a rather large payment, from our contractor, whose name I will refer to as Big Jerk Constructors. The timing was getting crucial as they were stringing us out for payment, nothing out of the ordinary. I put in a call to Sherrie, whose name I will refer to as Sherrie ( because if she ever were to stumble upon this blog in a chance of 1: 89 billion I would want her to know I mean every word of what I say about her). The conversation played out something like this:

Me:”Hello, this is Rachel from Hansen and Sons Plumbing, may I speak to Sherrie?”
Receptionist: “Let me see if she’s here.” Pause. “She’s on another line.”
(Note: She’s ALWAYS on another line. Convenient, given it is time for payment to all subcontractors.)
Me: “I don’t mind holding, thank you.”
10 minutes later
Sherrie: “This is Sherrie.”
Me: “Hello Sherrie, this is Rachel. I’m sorry to bother you during a busy day, how are you doing?”
Sherrie: “Fine.”
Me: “I was just checking to see if a check is ready for pickup.”
Sherrie: “No.”
Me: “Any word on when it will be? Payments are due by the 15th, and it is now the 30th.”
Sherrie: “No.”
Me: “Okay, well thank you so much for your help.”
Sherrie: Click.

What a sweet heart. What is even more pleasurable is when I arrive to their office when payment is finally ready (45 days late) and she throws in a million loopholes before I can pick it up.
I arrive at Big Jerk Const. , and notice a giant GMC suburban lifted with the license plate “SHERRIE.” Ooohhh, Sherrie is the “big dawg” on the corporate ladder of middle class American women bookkeeping, still earning a salary typically below the annual poverty level. Congratulations. You can just see the other women in the office cringe and half hide under their desks as the boney, 95 pound, 4’3” Queen saunters out of her private office
(You know the old joke that men in big trucks are trying to make up for something else? Apparently, it isn’t just men). She fake politely tells me my lien release must state something other than what it already states to receive payment. Of course I bow to her majesty’s request, seeing that she is holding multiple thousands of dollars at will, and do what she says. After stepping back into the office with the correct lien release, she sends one of her ladies in waiting to deliver the check. She only graces us with her presence when she gets to withhold the check, not to deliver it.
As I drove away, I thought to myself. What is it with us women? Was that money Sherrie’s? Did it have anything to do with her actual salary level? Was it going to make a difference to her whether we were paid or not? She works for a giant corporation, she isn’t the owner. The money simply passes through her computing system, she clicks a key, prints it, and sends it down to her supervisor and has him sign it (I’m imagining male supervisor, as women can’t seem to elevate above the glass ceiling in construction business management). Did it make her feel better today to be able to remind another nobody that she was a least a somebody slightly above their nobody? (Did that even make sense?)
So, why the hateful voice? Why the Queen of the bees attitude among women that are just doing the same thing she is….attempting to stay afloat in a world of ever shrinking martial success, ever increasing financial burden, and eternally tiresome attempts to be the perfect working mother, the Victoria’s Secret clad sexy and mysteriously playful wife, the diligent soccer mom, the corporate business leader in a fabulous suit, and yada yada yada. I don’t even want to play this game. I am not vying for the slightly upgraded black pleather chair that serves as the throne of the Big Jerk Constructor's book-keepees. Give me a pb&j sandwich, Lily Lu, and the park for the rest of my life and I’ll be content with my role as simply and beautifully: “Mom.”

Another day, as I arrived home to greet my beautiful baby Lily, she was not necessarily returning the pure delight that I felt at seeing her lovely little face. She was especially grumpy and whiny. I’ll even admit with some additional justification to follow: she hit me a few times when I took a no-no toy away from her. Justification: we must remember that before children can communicate they tend to hit as a way of expressing verbal frustration that they cannot yet speak. So stop judging! Oh wait, it’s me who is judging. I am judging myself. This is the speech I give myself as the other side of me says, “She is actually expressing repressed hurt and anger at a mother who leaves her four days a week to go to work. Why don’t you get your priorities straight? Oh, and by the way, good job at feeding her macaroni and cheese and green beans for dinner. Planning on adding protein any time soon, or are you willing to accept that your child’s possibly future mediocre I.Q. level can be traced to you neglecting to add a hog dog to tonight’s main entree?”

A few weeks pass, and Tyler and I are pouring over future job options. Tyler does not want to stay with his current company, even though the pay upon graduation will be substantially more than we have lived on, making it possible for me to stay home in six weeks! Hooray! Finally!
Hold that shout, not quite so fast. Turns out we have decided the job he is currently in simply won’t take him where he wants to go. We have to consider other jobs, jobs which will merge him onto the highway of engineering success a few miles (years) ahead. Problem is, these jobs start at a much lower salary. I guess I’ll be working two days a week. Still, much better than four. I am still sad.

My Dad and I met about a week ago today, to pour over financials and figure ways to cut back on overhead. Business has been currently tight as we are in between contract jobs. Difficult lay offs have occurred, and debt is racking up as we wait on payments from our ever wonderful and loyal majesty, Big Jerk Constructors. In the past few months, I have been able to catch a glimpse of what my Dad has dealt with my entire, mostly blissfully unaware life. Constant battles over obtaining money that is rightfully owed by contract, sly and devious contractors ready to weasel their way out of any possibly dime, dishonest employees, incredibly obnoxious and difficult customers, substantial debt as you float payroll while awaiting payments, safety inspections, tax audits, bidding and hoping and fighting for the next job, the next contract….it never ends. If my Dad was adding bricks, he’d have rivaled and surpassed the Great Wall of China in about 1987. For the first time, I was losing sleep while worrying about my Dad losing sleep over all the issues we had to lose sleep over.

It was on this day, after a phone call, he called me privately into the back of the office and told me, amidst some very red and sad eyes, that my cousin had just been admitted into a psychiatric hospital, possibly due to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Chills literally ran down my spine as I thought of my completely normal, upbeat and fully functional 19 year old cousin sitting in solitary confinement, limited to visits of one hour a day from his parents, while blabbering nonsense. One day he was fine, the next he was convinced of false conspiracies and voices. To say that this was a heartbreaking and terrifying experience is an understatement. Suddenly his parents, who had just been dealing with a typical college age son coming and going from school and planning future life events, had to confront the possibility that it was all gone now. How does this happen? As I looked at Lily later that evening, running around in her diaper on a warm spring day, with all the wit and wonder of a beautifully mischievous little doll, I thought about my cousin. He is my aunt and uncles first born, their little Lily.
Luckily, after confronting such a scary possible diagnosis and after days of observation in the hospital, it was determined he was suffering from bi polar disorder. Although it is still a disorder, it is like a cold vs. cancer in the spectrum of mental disease. He will be able to manage. Hopefully, and prayerfully, he should be able to manage.

Today I went to a very pleasant lunch with my Uncle Ryan. He, Lily and I enjoyed our favorite Vietnamese noodles and then went to further indulge in Baskin Robbins ice cream. As we drove to the joint of heavenly, creamy caloric enjoyment we were discussing my Aunt Patty, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She has been confined to a wheel chair for around 10 years now, and every year deteriorates worse and worse. He had mentioned that he wanted to see her, but she has refused all visitors lately, including my mother. This can only mean that her bed sores are getting worse. Even in the middle of crippling and lethal disease, she still clings to her sense of privacy and dignity. Having people around her witness the degradation of the human body under such conditions must be somewhat humiliating, I’m sure, even if the situation if far out of everyone’s control. I realized that her attempts to preserve her last few shreds of physical self respect wrenched at my heart strings even more than the actual disease.

Do you suddenly feel as if I’ve used my ultra talented literary skills and morphed you into a live script of the SNL skit “Debbie Downer”? (You know, the skit where the whiny, ugly girl shows up and rains on everyone’s parade by talking incessantly about everything that goes wrong, instead of right…) So sorry, I’m not meaning to depress anyone, the least of all myself.

The Secret would be ashamed. Quick…take it back. Rewind…..La La La. Flowers and kittens and Reeses peanut butter eggs. White cottony socks and sunshine.

Naaaahhhh. No thank you. Not right now. I am a huge fan of the Secret, but I insist that it is necessary for my brick wall to build, because how else would it then be able to explode and vanish, allowing me to see the distant and glorious horizon? I need to have a “this simply and quite utterly, literally, so wholly and completely sucks.” day. It is on this day that I honestly admit that the problem is with me. As Dr. Phil so correctly states “And the common demominator is YOU.” However, I must warn that although the problem is with me….the monster that I am might attack you. And if this horrid gremlin crosses your path someday, please accept my apologies now.

After Ryan told me this sad information about my aunt, I had such a “this sucks” moment. Brick wall begins to lean, then tumble, then BOOOM….and suddenly I’m am silently screaming “God, I am reeeeally trying to understand, but you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do if I’m going to plan on trying to enter into your world, cause from where I’m standing right now, I don’t even want to talk to you at the moment! In fact, I'm not even sure you're there in this sick, infested, infinitely expansive and dark universe.” (I know, the monster is ugly). I am tired. I am exhausted. I am tired of being tired and exhausted. I am sad and I am doubtful. I think this is all just awful. I know that there are women in Africa that walk miles each day with packages on their head only to earn 20 cents to feed their children mush, and yet I feel like I trump them all at this moment.

Later, we were sitting and watching as Lily ate her very own, first ice cream cone. She was entirely covered in vanilla goo, and waving her ice cream around in pure squealish delight. Her three little teeth shone through, and she suddenly and completely voluntarily leaned over and kissed Ryan with the most ooey gooey globbery wet open mouth. Covered in slop, Ryan’s face lit up instantly, and he said, “Oh! You are just an angel from heaven!” And he really meant it.
And suddenly, it dawned on me that I really believe it. As I feel my brick wall falling and vanishing away, I can even see it in the distance of her greenish eyes. It’s a little soul of a pure being, smiling and fresh outta heaven. She is like a little representation that what is there is good, and as willing to love you back as you desire to love it.
Okay Lily, if you and what you are is what is actually there…I’m not sad anymore.

1 comment:

MOM said...

You go just let those Big Jerk Contractor's and their BIG RIG secretaries have know...the way I let sister strawberry (code) have it...You tell um!