That Hardcore Work Ethic

Last week I had to call off of work.

Somehow, in my sleep, probably due to being over 40, I threw my back out.

Now, here’s the thing. Prior to breast reduction surgery, my back was rarely ever in. However, when it would go out, it was always my lower back and I was so used to it that I could cope. I rarely have issues with my upper back. So I was wholly unprepared to sit up in bed last Thursday morning and quickly realize that I could not sit up straight. The only way I could be upright was if I hunched over.

This made standing -and walking- a real challenge.

My first thought was “Holy shit, this is really fucking problematic.”

My second thought was “How am I supposed to work like this?”

Because of course I wouldn’t think about calling in. Not me. That’s not what I do. Work sick. Work hurt. Don’t complain. Just get the work done. (Okay, I often get the work done while complaining, but still.) Be reliable. Until last Thursday, I hadn’t called off a job since the mid-aughts. I might have left early a couple of times, but I always went. Bad ass sinus infections, sprained ankles, bad ass sinus headaches, stress fractures, colds, jammed elbows, the flu, patellar tendonitis, I showed up.

And last Thursday, I didn’t.

You would think that being unable to stand up unless I was hunched over, struggling to walk, unable to lift either one of my arms above my head, unable to carry anything at all in my left hand, unable to sit up unless I was hunched over…all things I have to do at my job would be a clue that I needed to call off. The thought of shelving anything was ridiculous. I’d be limited to maybe two shelves that I could reach and I’d only be able to carry one book at a time and I’d be moving slower than a snail out of slime while looking like Lon Chaney and making the most unsettling noises. At that point, I had no idea how I was even going shower or get dressed, let alone work.

And yet!

I still tried to figure out how to make it work. Or at least how to make my back work enough that I could power through and get by with my library partner in crime picking up my slack (which she would totally do without hesitation or complaint because she is the best). I laid on flat on the floor and did an assortment of stretches before I finally conceded that I wasn’t going to be able to work.

And even then when I contacted my boss, I told her that I was going to keep trying to get my back to be work ready before it was time for my shift.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I spent most of the day in bed. My back gradually improved which just added on to the guilt I already felt about calling in.

I could have gone to work.

That’s why I’m writing about this. It’s not me bragging about how bad ass I am because I can work no matter what and it took extreme pain to the point of being unable to stand to knock me down. It’s me explaining the absolutely bonkers way my brain is wired to feel guilty about calling off when I legitimately need to call off of work.

I feel like I’m letting everyone I work with down by calling off. I feel like everyone feels like I’m faking if I call off.

I feel like there is no legitimate reason for me to call off.

Even when there absolutely is.

I may have spent the day feeling guilty, but I also spent it resting and at least the latter helped my back feel better.

Sundays Are for Self-Care

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to write about it again because I’ve been doing really well at it and I feel the urge to be all “Go Team Me!”

I am one of those people who are mundanely self-destructive. I destroy myself in little ways, usually through neglect of some kind. This usually presents as depriving myself of sleep, eating mindlessly or not eating at all, and overworking myself. The latter I am particularly bad about. I will schedule myself to the point of stress and then berate myself for not being able to handle the schedule/stress because other people can do it/I used to be able to do it.

A few years ago, I made the purposeful decision to give myself Sundays off. Unless absolutely necessary, I don’t do chores, I don’t run errands, I don’t leave the house, I don’t work on any writing or podcasting projects, I don’t exercise, nada. All I have to do is my Duolingo lessons (because I have like a four year streak going and my ego is way too big to lose it), a beauty routine, and exist. That’s it. Anything else is a choice. There are no have-to’s unless absolutely unavoidable (think NaNo when I write every day).

I give myself this day to be a potato. To place no expectations of any sort of productivity on myself. To be a human being, not a human doing.

This is a mindful choice that I have to make every Sunday. Some Sundays I feel like a lazy piece of shit and I think I should be doing something and it takes effort for me not to give in to that thinking. Because that’s definitely a sign that I need to take care of myself and rest. Other Sundays I actually feel really good and I choose to do a little bit of yoga or a little bit of writing or a small To Do List project. And I let myself do those things because in that case it’s a want-to, not a have-to.

So, yes, there are some Sundays when all I do is eat and binge-watch shows or movies and play online games and be a complete potato. Reading is too mentally taxing on those days. And there are some Sundays when I still lounge, but I read and journal and do little crafty things. And there are some Sundays when I switch out my closet and purge my clothes and reorganize my shit and make new To Do Lists. But everything I do on a Sunday is a want-to, not a have-to.

I have enough have-to’s the other six days.

Sundays are for self-care and self-care is a must for me.

Resetting My Mindfulness

I am self-destructive.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me because I’m not classically self-destructive. I’m not a big risk taker. Never was one for drugs. Not much of a drinker anymore. I’m not going bareback in any rodeos, if you take my meaning. I wear my seatbelt.

My self-destruction comes more in the form of apathy and neglect. Which makes it hard to detect sometimes. Because some days it’s too much work to give a shit. Some days are meant to be tossed into the trash. Some days you’re just supposed to say “fuck it” and drive on without exercising or properly hydrating and eating like a raccoon raiding the dumpster behind McDonald’s.

Okay, you’re not supposed to, but you do.

Okay, maybe you don’t, but I do.

And sometimes these days blend together to establish a kind of norm and one day something comes along to rattle the cage of my existence and I realize, holy shit, I’m slo-mo blowing up again.

The really tricky part about this is that sometimes this self-destruction focuses itself on one smallish aspect of my life so I really don’t notice it until the behavior sprouts little roots that burrow into my existence and then that weed of destruction becomes even harder to yank.

For example, right now I’m having trouble with my eating habits.

What I mean by that is that I’m eating by habit. I’m not eating because I’m hungry. I’m eating because I usually eat at this time of the day. Managing my depression leaves me somewhat routine dependent, so I do tend to do things at the same time most days. I get up at the same time, exercise at the same time, shower at the same time, eat at the same time.  And while this is very useful, it also leads to mindlessness. It leads to eating my snack at three because it’s three and not because I’m hungry.

More troubling is my response to realizing that I’m doing this.

It’s nine o’clock. Time for my evening snack. I’m not really hungry. Oh well. I’ll eat it anyway.

What? No! Bad self!

Aside from the fact that eating when I’m not hungry isn’t a good idea in general, I also have a couple of digestive issues, including GERD, so eating when I’m not hungry is EXTRA not good. It’s particularly distressing that my response to this is, “Oh well,” and doing it anyway.

This behavior is tied directly to the apathy of my self-destruction, the neglect of my self-destruction, the utter not-caring-about-myself of my self-destruction.

So, I must be mindful. I must reset my behavior back to mindfulness. Depending on the situation, it can be quite a task.

In this case it means doing the thing I absolutely loathe: tracking everything I eat. I’ve written before about turning food into math and the guilt that comes with it, so there’s some natural apprehension that I’ll become obsessive about every food particle I put into my mouth. However, this time I’m approaching it a little bit differently.

The point of this very conscious food tracking isn’t to restrict my calories, but to be aware of what I’m eating, when, and why. The point of this is to be mindful about my eating. The point of this to reinforce the idea that I don’t have to eat a snack at three o’clock because it’s three o’clock.

The point of this is to re-educate myself on LISTENING to my body.

And then responding with something better than an apathetic, “Oh well”.

Those Self-Destructive Weeks

mushroom cloudI have a bit of a self-destructive streak that I try not to indulge actively. It’s not a seriously overt thing, really. I don’t take risky gambles with my life like challenging biker gangs to duels or riding a unicycle along the edge of a cliff or attempting to bake. I just actively don’t care about myself.

I did it again last week.

Most of the time, these self-destructive days, or in this case a whole week, aren’t planned. One thing sets it all off, like lighting the fuse on a string of fire crackers, and I’m just like, “Fuck it.”

What set me off last week was a Cubs playoff game on Monday night that went into extras. The regular nine innings didn’t get over until midnight and four more innings were played after that. The game didn’t get over until quarter til two in the morning. Had this been the regular season, I would have bailed long before midnight as I was looking at working both day jobs the next day. But this is the playoffs, man. If the Cubs would have won that night, they would have clinched the NLDS. It was important that I stay up and watch this game, grown-up obligations  be damned!

But they didn’t win. They lost. And I didn’t go to sleep until 2:30 that morning.

Fuck it mode engaged.

Because I knew I wasn’t sleeping Tuesday night either because I work until midnight for floorsets, if I’m lucky. I got out of this one late. And then had to drive home. Another two in the morning bedtime.

These two sleep-deprived nights were used as an excuse to self-destruct for the rest of the week. It was the excuse to eat like garbage, to continue to not get adequate sleep (except for Wednesday night when I slept a solid 9 hours because exhaustion couldn’t be beat), to drink way too much coffee, to not exercise (outside of my hour-long walks; somehow I still managed that), to drink more beer than I should when I shouldn’t, to basically just wreck myself.

And I knew that’s what I was doing, too. I knew that I shouldn’t, but I did it anyway. I looked at it and went, “Well, I already started this shit show on Monday, so I may as well just finish it out.”

I don’t recommend this tactic. By Sunday night I was feeling like hot garbage and eating Tums like they were my favorite candy. I also didn’t like myself very much for not hitting the emergency stop on like Wednesday. I admit that I could stand to loosen my grip on my control issues once in a while and let things flow, but this is not one of those issues. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about not being able to get my shit together in a timely fashion and instead just gave in to the chaos.

So, this week comes what I like to think of as the hard reset.

This week I have to go to bed at a decent hour (this is an ongoing struggle of my life, though, so…). I have to mind what I eat closely so my gut can recover. Ditto minding the coffee intake. I have to make every workout. I have to put off finishing that six pack. I have to get back into the regular, boring-old groove.

Build myself up again in time for the next spontaneous combustion.