Tag: Deep Thought

All I’ve Got – A Pensive Interlude With Little or No Humor

“Still, I know of no higher fortitude than than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds.”
– Louis Nizer

Being sick at home makes you think and I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends recently.  All of them are spectacular and, on the surface, fantastically together.  But the truth is this glittering sheen can be a facade and beneath the great hair, fabulous clothes, and scarily sharp brain, there lurks the occasional demon.   I have friends in bad marriages, friends with eating disorders, friends with crippling depression, friends with addictions…and I stay almost entirely out of their problems.

Let me be clear.  I care very deeply for my friends, many of them are surrogate family members to me, my parents, and siblings.  All of them are men and women of extraordinary ability, skill, depth, and intelligence and I am supremely lucky to have them in my life.  I often feel like the odd man out (being neither a genius nor an prodigy and not extremely talented at any one thing) and wonder if I would have any connection with the galaxy of brightly burning individuals I’m privileged to call friends if not for my three only remarkable attributes: my sense of humor, my loyalty, and my tenacity of will.  Not to say pigheadedness.  All I have is irony and words.

So how then do I justify staying out of their dark, sometimes life threatening situations?  I ask this of myself a great deal, but the answer I always come back to is that I, C. Small Dog, have not the smallest right to interfere.

First of all, I often don’t know how to help.  I am not a therapist, dietitian, police officer, parent, court of law, or psychiatrist.  And my life experience (if not my job!) has taught me that good intentioned idiots can often cause just as much or more damage than badly intentioned masterminds.

Secondly, I have limited experience with many of the trials my mates are going through.  I came close to an eating disorder once a couple of years ago but I was able to 1) recognize it and 2) order it off the premises before things got bad.  I’ve never been in a traumatic car accident and required years of surgery to recover, I’ve never had a miscarriage after several rounds of in vitro fertilization.  I have never contemplated suicide.  I have experienced depression vicariously through a family member and have seen the overwhelming darkness it smothers everything else with, and I know that I have probably inherited a predisposition to it.  Indeed I also came close to falling off the edge into the blackness at one point in my life…but again, I was able to decide not to.  After a major internal struggle, I might add.

Not everyone can decide that.  All the willpower in the world can’t dispel some problems, choice is sometimes just not available.

This is difficult for someone like me to process.  I believe, bulldoggishly, in free will and choice.  I literally cannot comprehend a situation where my ability to choose has been taken away from me, thus I am utterly ill-equipped to advise friends in the grip of hormonal imbalances, psychological struggles, and medical challenges.  I’m very much from the tough love school of friend therapy, which anyone could tell you is often the worst possible thing someone could do.  Occasionally, though, it’s the best.  You don’t come to me for sympathy (because I’m bad at it), you come to me for action.

And that is how I justify my position.  My brand of help isn’t always required.  And when it isn’t, I stand by a silent witness to their struggles, reaching out when they reach for me and backing off when they snap that they are fine.  I will make no commentary, pass no judgment, and tell no one of what they are going through.  I do not feel entitled to intrude on what is often a deeply private pain without an invitation.

But once invited in, you will not get rid of me without ordering me out.  I will camp on your floor to make sure you eat, drive to your house at two in the morning to take the bottle out of your hand and dump whatever is left down the sink, or wrap my arms around you to keep you from hurting yourself.  And I won’t let go.  Because that’s what I have to offer: stubbornness.

Something Has Happened…Notes on a Scandal

Responsibility without power, the fate of the secretary through the ages.
– Ariel Dorfman

Tomorrow I’ll finally (hopefully) have that long-awaited talk with Chief about this big to-do that went nowhere.  The whole experience has been more than a little ridiculous, a lot of drama and politicking for next to nothing to show for it, and I feel that I may be on the chopping block for it.  Now, Common Sense is arguing pretty solidly that Chief isn’t going to fire me for trying to accept an offer that would have bettered my long-term work circumstances…but Paranoia is hinting darkly that he may for no other reason than he feels I tried to betray him and the department.  Which isn’t true in the slightest, but I know by now that if someone wants to think the worst nothing will dissuade them.  

That'll teach you to not to use your spell check!
Little known 11th plague, whch wiped out all the scribes and secretaries.

The truth is, Dr. F’s offer meant the one thing that the Police Department cannot give me: a promotion.  By moving to the IS office I would have become the office manager and supervisor (what Susie is to me now).  Promotions in the PD are hard to come by.  Something truly biblical would have to happen, at least three other people would have to die suddenly in order for me to receive a new position, and as those people are my close friends the whole situation would probably prove traumatic.  Even Wise, when she left my position for her current one, didn’t move UP the proverbial ladder at all, her new responsibilities didn’t come with a higher grade or more money or more recognition, if anything it was a big step sideways.  Now although Dr. F implied more money for me (certainly with the upcoming University annual raise), the reason I wanted to accept this position is not so mercenary as that. 

J. and I have no idea where we will be next year for his graduate program.  California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Massachusetts, Utah, or Gibraltar, for all I know.  And we won’t know for several months yet.  But there is a good chance that we will be moving and now is the time to start brushing up my resume.  I’ve been encouraged to take IT training classes to fill my free hours during the Spring/Summer, but I’m also taking them to add to my list of hireable skills.  I’ve been reviewing past projects I’ve worked on to see what else I could do to make me appealing to potential future employers.  And when Dr. F offered me the chance to move up to a manager’s position, I wanted to accept it because the additional experience and responsibilities would have made me more desireable in the workplace (because, if you haven’t noticed, it’s a cold, cold, dark hiring situation out there and a girl needs all the help she can get). 

I hope I’m not going to be punished for trying to improve my situation, but I’m forced to entertain the possibility that I might.  My dark humor cannot help but picture me at job interviews, “So, why did you leave your job at the PD?”  “Well, I wasn’t trying to…”  but I don’t totally expect it.  Que sera sera.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole event from a new perspective and I’ve come to some conclusions. 

First, there is no way that being a secretary is going to make me perfectly happy, fulfilled, or satisfy the immortal longings of my soul.  It is, in many ways, an utterly thankless job and acts of recognition are few and far between.  This irks me because I am a pretty ambitious woman, I like to move forward (and hopefully up) and dislike doing good work and receiving no credit for trying to be a good employee.  However, that is the nature of the beast.  I’m extremely well-educated but not at all qualified to do anything.  Margot and Venice are trained teachers, Janssen is a trained librarian, Brando is a trained stockbroker, Dad is a trained lawyer, Mum is a trained scholar…most of the people I know are a trained something.  What I’ve got (besides an encyclopedic knowledge of useless facts) is a good brain, common sense, and organizational skills, and these are apparently in pretty high demand because not everyone in my office has those. 

Second, I get frustrated, annoyed, and downright furious sometimes at how ridiculous my office can be and what I really need to learn is to let that go.  I can’t fix it, I can’t make the powers that be see sense, and things are not going to change.  I often feel that I’m smarter than my job, and I don’t think I’m entirely wrong.  In fact I think I’m positively right, but dwelling on that fact doesn’t change my circumstances and usually only serves to make me angry at my situation.  And hey!  I’ve got a job!  That’s a lot to be thankful for. 

Third, my job does not challenge me.  And I need to be challenged, as anyone who knows me at all will attest.  But it doesn’t and won’t and I need to stop fighting that fact.  What I need to do is adopt an Edwardian attitude towards it and make my life, as a secretary, my art.  Being an office monkey isn’t difficult, but being a class act and making it appear easy…now that’s a challenge! 

While I'm confessing, though, I think what I really want is the sense of value she gets. It's subtle but it's real. I'd love to be called into a meeting and have someone's reaction be, "C.. What a good idea."

In fact, while working out with Margot, it came to me in a flash of brilliance.  What I need to be, is Joan Halloway.  Er, minus the having salacious affairs with the men of my office (shudder).  Joan doesn’t necessarily want to be a secretary, but she enjoys being good at what she does and likes working.  She’s impeccably put together.  You don’t mess with her because she will take you apart (classily, but viciously).  And if you’re making an office coup, or some guy’s foot gets chopped off by a lawn mower, or someone is out because they’re having a baby and didn’t know they’re pregnant to begin with – Joan will locate your files, make a tourniquet out of a scarf, and step in to take over your correspondence.

I don’t have to adore being a secretary…but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a damn good one anyway.

Free the Kraken: Victim of Over-Marketing!

“I’m having a little trouble concentrating.”
“Oh, well I could sell you some of my Adderall if you want.”
“No, thanks, I’m off pills.”
“That’s a wise choice because I knew this girl who like had this crazy freak out because she took too many behavioral meds at once and she like ripped off her clothes, and dove into the fountain at Ridgedale Mall and was like, ‘Blah I am a Kraken from the sea!'”
“I hear that was you.”
“Well, it was good seeing you, Su-Chin.”
– Juno, 2007

I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve decided that the stupidest line that could ever possibly be shouted out at any given time is, “Release the Kraken.”

For one very good reason: it’s overused.  Which is too bad really, it’s a potentially great line completely slaughtered by pop culture.

There are the hordes of annoying people trying to celebrate this year’s remake of Clash of the Titans, by trying to make “Release the Kraken” happen.

This phenomena is not new.  One of the oddest utterances of this phrase occurred in 2004, during a pre-season friendly between Liverpool and Celtic held in Connecticut.  Max Bretos on the Fox Sports commentary team shouted the following…

In fact, the only time I’ve ever heard the word “kraken” without its seeming obligatory introductory “release the-” has been in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series (which is also, incidentally, dying the slow death of cultural over-exposure).

I’m shallow enough to admit that the constant barrage of this phrase, overheard in grocery stores, at malls, on campus, and in parking lots (in the last week alone), is the main reason that I have no interest in seeing this movie.  Also, I remember seeing the original at some point in my childhood and, being something of a wunderkind with mythology (read: nerd), feeling absolutely disgusted with the creative liberties they took.  Mechanical owl?  Medusa spitting scorpions from her decapitated neck?  Acidic blood?  Please!  I’m a purist.