Beach Bummer

My husband didn’t come on this Sunday evening car ride. He had to work. So when my parents stopped in, I felt free to accompany them to the beach to just sit and watch the water move.

“We need you to come up with some different words.”

“Why?”

“Because you always resort to saying, I’m good, just tired.”

Because I’m always fucking tired, mom. I thought as loudly as I could in her general direction. But then I finally blurted out:

“Well would you rather me tell people the truth when they ask me how I’m doing? Would you like me to tell them that the existential crisis is crushing me and my depression is exhausting?”

She said nothing. Her most direct way of mentioning her discomfort was silence. I was used to it by now. So I leaned back in the seat as the breeze met my lips and kissed them and my breath mingled with the summer air. I pretended that my breath alone was the reason the air was becoming more humid. That summer came directly from my mouth. I mouthed the word summer, just to feel a sense of power over nature.

My eyes closed, all I heard were the seagulls on the water honking their loud songs, and my mother shifting in the front passenger seat. Dad was outside the car, talking to an acquaintance of his, who had greeted us only moments before, and to whom I responded when I was asked how I was doing with I’m fine, just tired. Like I did with everyone, including my mother and father.

I had no motivation to get out of the car, neither did my mother. So my father ventured alone into the waves after wishing said acquaintance farewell. As I watched him walk further into the lake, I wondered how long it would take me to drowned if I went out to far and quit trying to swim. I wondered if I would be able to quit swimming if I tried hard enough, or if instinct and discomfort would save me.

On days like this…it felt as if nothing could save me.

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Sage Leaves and Dirt

When was the last time my feet had touched the ground? Like, the real ground? Dirt? It had been two weeks at least. Maybe three. So I wandered out to the garden, barefooted and spirit trapped within its own internal war, but he moment my feet hit the grass I felt all that stress and anxiety release. There was sage for picking in the garden. I would start there.

I did not start at the sage, but rather in a desperate moment of anxiety I laid on the grass and stared at the sky for a while. Why? Because I wanted to be reminded that I was so small in so vast of a world. That problems of mine were just as fleeting as my own life, and would soon drift away as time passed. That feelings were just feelings, no matter how strong they are, and that they too could fail me just as my own body could.

I needed to be reminded that I was finite. That a hundred years from now it is unlikely that I will continue to exists in the physical world, and all my emotions and problems would too.

I found comfort in this. As I laid on the ground staring into the sky, watching the clouds change from gold, to pink and purple hues, I found comfort in knowing the sun would also set on my stress, my sorrows, my anxieties, and my whole life. Maybe not today, but one day. I let that comfort wrap around me as the sky deepened in its blue.

I picked my sage and smelled it as I walked back to the stone steps of my tiny porch. Putting a soft leaf in my mouth to chew, I took my last deep breath of fresh air before entering and closing the door. Who knew I could feel so much better with just sage leaves and dirt?

Hospitals

I never really enjoy going around them, even if it’s for minor checkups. There’s just too many things wrong with them. Waiting room seating is uncomfortable. The furniture and floors everywhere are ugly. The television programs are really boring. The smell. The atmosphere. Everything about them seems to be uncomfortable.

The people are usually pretty friendly, as well as the coffee, which is not terrible as some might tell you…at least at our hospital. Because so many people rely on that coffee for so many things.

This time around it’s not an appointment for myself that I’m sitting in a hospital for. My mom needed someone to drive her. She’s getting an MRI for what she thinks might be another bulging disc in her neck, but of course you never know unless you get heavily sedated and shoved in a tube. She hates that part. I’ve never had an MRI before but I can’t imagine they’re very comfortable. Especially if you’re as claustrophobic as my mother is.

Recently a coworker of mine had their father-in-law pass away in this hospital. Which makes being here a little eerie. While I know hospitals that are associated with life and wellness, there is always that little shadowed part of the hospital for people who will not be getting better, and probably will not leave…and being so close to my late sisters birthday and the anniversary of her death, as well as the death of said coworker loved one…that shadow feels like it whispers a little louder than usual.

My coworkers father-in-law was not an old man. He’s younger than my own mother and about the same age as my father. Which puts life a little more in perspective and gives me somber and realistic realizations of the kind of deterioration I can expect for them in the years to come. Time that is flying so quickly it seems.

Sobering thoughts.

Thoughts on “Boring” People

“I hate working on the assembly line. It’s so boring!” I shook my head as I overheard the conversation. Despite trying to curb my habit of eavesdropping I’m a sucker for a good story in the workplace, so I end … Continue reading

Empathy

I have this interesting emotional attachment to this spider who has been living on my drivers side mirror for a while now. It’s been nearly a month since I gave up on removing its web and decided not to kill … Continue reading

Age Spot

At first I had thought it was a smudge of something on my hand, but upon several attempts to wash it off and a moment of staring stupidly at its resilience, I realized what it really was.

It was an age spot. My very first age spot.

It’s a very faint light brown color, just like my mothers had started, and of course on the very same hand, just like her mother before her. I recalled when I first noticed my mothers hands changing and I recalled how my grandmothers hands changed too from my mothers account. Now it’s my turn and I’ve got it where they all seemed to have theirs start. Dead center on my left hand…only a faint shade of discoloration and half the size of a dime. Kinda shaped like the silhouette of that famous image of the Lochness monster.

It’s strange to think about getting age spots, since I’m only 27. Still, it isn’t a surprise either. I’ve been fortunate enough to have clear skin, few breakouts, and decent coloration most of my life and I’m sure it has run its course by now. My health isn’t all it could be. Diabetes is no laughing matter and has a habit of taking its toll on skin. It was only a matter of time before they would form. My grandmother’s started around the time she turned 35. My mother in her 30s. Both of them started out this way, on this hand, in a very faint shade of brown. My grandmothers had turned very dark blackish brown when she turned 60 which sent her to consult a physician only to find out it was nothing more than an ugly colored age spot. My mothers darkened, but not unattractively, when she turned 55 and has not changed much since. I only hope to be so lucky.

The reality of growing old strikes unexpectedly, and as I look in the mirror I find I haven’t really noticed my aging ever, and other than this age spot, I still don’t. I still have a very childlike round face and big eyes. My skin is still fair. My hair is still curly as ever and still it’s same color. Not much feels like it has changed, and yet emotionally I’m reminded that I am so much older than I once was. I know so much more. I’ve experienced so much more. I have witnessed so much more.

And there is still so much more to do.

At Work

Today was not all it could have been. While I was paying attention to our task list at work before July 4th, others were requesting their vacation time for the rest of the week, including the higher ups who were more focused on their time off than realizing we needed direction on a package design that has artwork due this coming Tuesday. So without direction, with myself and one other designer in for the rest of the week, and employee photos to do all day today and Friday…I can feel myself panicking a little.

I actually stand corrected. I’m here alone for the graphics team tomorrow. And I have a list a mile long for employee photos and other things that need doing, but require approval from my management…who are all on vacation until Monday. When I am not here.

On Monday, I’ll be at the doctors office in the morning and taking the rest of the day to recover from the doctor appointment…which exhausts me to think about. So, I, team member who is doing the food styling and photography for the panel images, is not going to be around to even start the project. Which means that the day the packaging is due…is the only day all of us are back from our vacation time and can actually talk about the design and process, much less get groceries, do the shoot, and finalize the images in photoshop.

It wouldn’t be such an issue if the images did not require food styling. I was never trained in food styling, and my boss and coworkers are satisfied with my work, but because I am not experienced in it, I feel like I take such a long time to do things that my photo shoots for the front and back panels of our packaging take me all day to do. So of course my anxiety is higher than ever knowing our time crunch and many obstacles.

My coworker has been doing her best to calm me down. She keeps telling me “How can we move forward without a direction from the higher ups?” And “It really isn’t any of our faults that everyone took vacation on us without prioritizing tasks.” Not that it’s really helping. Because normally the graphics team is the last brick in the wall, and until that brick is placed, the wall isn’t complete. Us being behind, no matter who held up the process before the graphics team was even involved, means production is held up…and it ends up being our fault. So we get shafted. Which sucks.

So as I sit down here, waiting for employees to come to the photo studio for their photos to be taken, I cannot help but sit in a puddle of sweat, both from the heat and anxiety. Especially when the employees don’t show up for their photo and I have to fight with myself over if it’s really worth it to be doing the shoots today. Especially with so many people unexpectedly on vacation.

Here’s to hoping today and tomorrow go quickly.

Unhelpful Criticism

“I don’t mean to use such harsh words, but this look like something our China team would come up with.”

Please tell me what in this phrase is a helpful direction? What does that even mean? I guess you would have to be a racist to know.

Clearly, my boss really struggles with giving constructive criticism.

This particular phrase really bothers me, firstly, because it speaks badly of a team that the owners of the company chose to work with overseas and that we are trying to have good communication and relationship with. I haven’t ever seen our China team come up with a design, and if they work for us and were chosen by our leadership, why are you insulting them? Aren’t we all working for the same goal? Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side? Saying things like this puts a bad taste in the domestic team’s mouth and just makes you look racist.

Secondly, “don’t mean to use harsh words,” is not an excuse to then use the harsh words. You do mean to use them. We all know it. It only makes people more aware of how much you actually mean to use and are going to use harsh words. It means you are aware of how you sound. It means the words you have chosen to use, were selected and intentional to be harsh and you know it. Foolishly, you are trying to remove yourself from your own responsibility, which is an indicator of bad leadership. To be a leader is to have responsibility, and to show you wish to remove yourself from the responsibility of your position and the tact you know you ought to have while holding it lessens your dependability.

Constructive criticism doesn’t use “I” or “Me” statements. It explains why a design or photograph does or doesn’t work based off of brand goals and statements. It doesn’t use insulting analogies. It builds up where it needs to and it makes helpful….emphasis on helpful…suggestions to give a better direction.

Consider this a public service announcement.

Victims

My car was in the shop a few days ago, and since my husband and I get off work pretty close together, and our jobs are only a couple blocks away from each other. I told my husband if he dropped me off at work in the morning, I would walk over and meet him at the car in the parking lot at his place of business.

Big mistake. On the way, I got cat called not once, not twice, but 5 times…as well as followed.

The first one was pretty usual. A honk and some lewd yelling. I flipped them off and they sped up. The second was immediately after them, a small piece of the chain reaction, only this one was a man with a young boy no older than eight or so in the passenger seat. I kept walking and mumbled curses under my breath for that one. The third one was just a honk, and when I ignored it and kept walking, they made a u-turn and started back my way very slowly. That really freaked me out so of course, I ducked into the nearest business I could. A hardware store within the block of where my husband worked, and sharing a parking lot. I told the manager what happened, and asked him to forgive me for loitering for a while. He offered to call the cops. I told him I didn’t get a good enough look at the car to really have that be useful. Only that it was a blue car, darker blue, but not navy and not quite royal either. When we looked out to see if any blue cars were around, and saw none, I finally was ushered by the manager to exit the building out the back door to get to the shared parking lot faster.

When I got in the parking lot, and half way across nearly to our car on the far side (where employees are directed to park), I got cat called again. Twice. One guy hollered and I increased my walking speed. Then another guy from another car did too just as I reached for my door handle. I yelled back some vulgar words, remarking on the kind of trash I thought the guy was, since he was nearer to me and I had just about had it with cat callers for one day. He was older too, not like the previous four who were all probably under 40 or so I guessed. I got a better look at him than I did the others since he was closer and moving slower as he was leaving the parking lot.

Of course, when safely in the car I locked myself in, and turned on the AC full blast. The thermostat claimed it was 87 degrees. I felt like I was out of breath and melting. It had been a hot walk in my bootcut black jeans and blazer. What pissed me off was that nothing I was wearing was provocative. No makeup. Wearing all black with a company t-shirt underneath. Which also made me super aware that people who catcalled me on my way to my husbands workplace might now know where I work and watch out for me.

After a quick moment to catch my breath I called my mother to look busy in the car in hopes people would leave me alone. While recounting my tale to her, my mother remarked “I always worry about that with you. You’re so small. Anyone could just grab you up and throw you in a trunk.” Thankfully I’m pretty strong which I half heartedly pointed out to her, but she wasn’t wrong either. On a hot day wearing all black and exhausted by a long workday, I was probably a tired target…which might make me an easy one.

My mother had even asked what I was wearing on my walk after I had recounted my tale and calmed down, conditioned by the culture she grew up in, and every fiber of my feminist being was outraged and I got wound up again. Then I had to calm myself down once more as my heart raced in anger, disappointment, and fear. I was not alone, and how many other women had worse experiences on the matter than I? Too many. It made me angry for them. For the women who were asked the same questions. For the women who were victim blamed.

Why does anyone want to victim blame? It’s rude and insulting to the victim, and it doesn’t call-out the perpetrator for their harassment. II’ve thought about it for a while now. Why do people victim blame? The more I think about it the more complex the answers or reasons become. Part of it is I think people want to give others the benefit of the doubt to make their worlds feel a little safer. Cat callers mean no harm. They would never act on their catcall. It’s just a compliment right? Besides it doesn’t it take two to tango? Then there is the justification issues. Lot of people do it (apparently) so anyone might feel justified in asking how the victim may be asking for it because they have catcalled women before thinking outfits and mannerisms are some kind of justification for it. They want to justify their own actions so they don’t feel badly about it, or worse, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.

When I was harassed, I felt objectified and upset, and when I was followed for a while by the blue car, it didn’t really feel like I was being complimented as some might think. It felt like I was being intimidated. Maliciously targeted. I was afraid. I hated it. Worst part? I got cat called walking to my car (which I had gotten back that afternoon from the shop) in the parking lot the next day when I left work.

So what do I do about it? I can’t go back in time and call cops or come up with better comebacks. So as an artist and letterpress printer, I decided to make posters. A weird response I know, but it was more or less to release my anger as well as an act of public service. Because letterpress printing has its therapeutic qualities. The result:

It’s a pretty great feminist work if I do say so myself. I also like how the image shows the rectum as well, so you can either think it says don’t be a dick, or don’t be an asshole! Or both! You can pick your part! This poster was also a really satisfying way to use my newly purchased gold ink, which looks beautiful on the black hand-cut card stock. Not bad, for my first truly feminist work.