Sometimes when I’m in a stressful situation or a difficult conversation, I catch myself playing strange little mind games. I’m sure they’re some type of coping mechanism, and hey, they’re a lot healthier than, I don’t know, drinking. (In case I need to clarify this in a public forum, I don’t drink as a coping mechanism.) I might hone in on a pattern, like the fiber striations on my pants, and find myself tracing it with my finger, or I might start creating constellations with the veins in my hand. If I’m holding something in my hands I might start to build something. I’ve been known to create various temporary works of art, for example, with hair bands and my fingers. Yesterday, however, took the cake. I was facing an uncomfortable chat with a glass of water on the table in front of me. The way the light was filtering through the glass created a really intriguing hydro shadow on the table, and after a few minutes of blank staring, I realized I was pondering how I would screw the glass to the table with a power drill.
I have been in a relationship with Mr. Brain for 10 years to the day. (We count today as our official “we got together” day.) We have been married for 5 and a half of these years, though we’ve lived together for 9 years and 7 months, so I think we’re a fairly seasoned couple. Over these past 10 years, I have gained a much more mature understanding of what a real, committed relationship looks like, and while I’m both grateful and nostalgic for our romanticized, whirlwind of a beginning, I’m much more impressed with our grit. I don’t think true, committed love is really so polite, and without some real tenacity it’s possible I’d be writing a different sort of reflection 10 years later. This is my love letter to the down and dirty.
It’s Friday, and today I mean it’s more like Fryday. It’s been a long week of dealing with other people and frustrating situations, and as I’ve been sitting here marveling at the assholery that abounds, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the other crazy ass situations I’ve encountered in my professional life. So, in the spirit of preventing office fires, I’m compiled this handy Office Etiquette 101 guide for you, which includes things you shouldn’t do as a boss, things you shouldn’t do at your desk, and reasons you shouldn’t piss off the “quiet” team member. As a bonus feature I’ve also included appropriate times for: giving the stink eye, crying silently under your desk, and going ape shit crazy. Enjoy!
I walked into my office this morning to find this gentle reflection of the week, one lone bud that was too heavy to bloom. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect symbol.
Welcome back to Life Crisis Week here on Middle Name Brain. It’s me again, Sarah, your muddled, sometimes confused, host. As I mentioned yesterday, my lens color is tinted stepmother, and you can further deduce from yesterday’s middle-riddled theme that I do not have biological children. There is a moniker for my breed, the ever elusive “childless stepmother”. This time of year is a little touch and go, and perhaps a large contributor to the general feeling of lethargy that seems to be plaguing me lately. My least favorite day of the year is arguably Mother’s Day, and then of course we barrel right into Father’s Day. If you are neither a mother nor a father, it’s possible that you will want to fast forward through these pronatalistic festivities, opting instead to sit in a dark room, hugging yourself, and rocking back and forth. Too dramatic? Okay, maybe you’ll want to avoid all media (social and otherwise), go for a hike instead, then lay in the grass, imagining you are a meerkat and that your situation is a simply a result of cooperative breeding.
Hello, I’m Sarah. I’m 35, which is halfway between 30 and 40, also arguably between the end of my twenties, a first attempt at adulthood, and the beginning of an age that sounds much more mature. I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat bookish, and if you had asked me what I liked to read a few years ago I probably would have said something like “contemporary lit”, mostly meaning books/writers I plucked off the Booker Prize’s long list. These days, however, I seem to have a much shorter fuse with fiction. Unreliable narrator? Been there, done that. National identity mirrored by one tragic underdog? That’s so 2003. Similarly, if you had asked me what music I liked to listen to I could have rattled off a list of go tos: Beck, Cake, New Pornographers, Jenny Lewis. Now my musical curiosity seems to be limited to the stadium anthems that power me through my runs. In my professional life, I have always held positions that involve many facets and a random toolbox of skills, which really just means I sort of know a lot of things, but would have trouble specializing in any of the individual pieces. I am also a stepparent, which makes me a kind of, sort of, a parent, i.e. not a parent, but also not not a parent. Hell, at 5’4” I’m even in some middle zone of short and tall.
The other day I was engaged in something like water cooler chatter with co-workers (minus the water cooler). We were gathered around a basket of goodies someone had sent my boss as a thank you, and included in said basket was a bag of lemon drops. One of my fellow scavengers commented that she had to have them because they reminded her of her grandmother, who always carried an infinite supply of them in her purse. There was a brief round robin exchange of everything we could mentally pluck out of our grandmother’s purses (Tums and hand wipes for me), before we moved onto something more meaty: weird ass food that always made its way to family gathering spreads. You know what I’m talking about, that dish that no one likes, but for some reason has became mandatory, and let’s be honest, we’d be disappointed on some level if it ceased to make an appearance. I think these dishes are actually designed to be terrible to create a shared sense of loathing and heightened camaraderie.
Not so much that (but I’ve had the song stuck in my head all morning). More like this:
I’ve stumbled upon an odd little pocket of propriety in the most curiously small place: the elevator in my office building. During my first couple of months as a rider, I thought the niceties were a fluke attributed to a handful of cheerful ladies, accidental encounters with people who happened to be having a good day. But the longer am I here, and the more trips up and down I take, I have slowly come to realize that the elevator has created its own ultra-polite subculture with very clearly defined etiquette. Perhaps someone forgot this essential piece of my training when I came on board, but I’ve slowly caught on. I know what you’re thinking. “Maybe the people in your building are just really nice people.” This would be a logical conclusion, and while I wouldn’t disagree, per se, I am not afforded the same courtesy elsewhere. For example, it is completely optional to acknowledge a pleasant smile and hello in the hallway, but the elevator? You might as well get off on the first available floor.
I am a runner; the kind that likes to train for long distance races, gets excited about tempo runs/PRs, and looks forward to Sunday mornings when I join the ranks of my fellow weekend warriors to do my longest run of the week. If you were looking for an approximate time of the sunrise for any given period of the year, I could give it to you because I’m usually up running pre-dawn and anxiously start to await the return of natural light around February. The internet is not devoid of people blogging about running, and while I’ve tried to go there in the past, and on some level kind of, sort of, want to go there now, for some curious reason, I just can’t. “Now wait, a second,” you’re saying to yourself. “Sarah, you are writing about running, darn you!” What an astute reader you are. Yes, I am writing about running, but only to tell you why I can’t write about running.
Until this past January, I was your typical office worker, complete with a long commute, a cubical, weekly meetings, the whole nine. While I haven’t ditched the desk job or the meetings, my situation has changed drastically; instead of commuting 90 minutes each way in my car, I am now walking 0.8 miles each way. Additional feature updates included with the new gig: a shared office (no cube) with a real window that lets in real natural light, and a flexible schedule, complete with a laid back boss who doesn’t keep tabs on my exact time of arrival or departure. Today I took and hour and fifteen minutes for lunch. I am a liberated woman.