Reflections Upon Leaving (Or, I Swear This Is The Last Time I’ll Bitch About My Job)

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The last buckets have been washed, the last petals swept, the last hostile critiques and disapproving stares weathered with a nod, a smile, and a silent fuck you.  At 6pm on Friday, I walked out of my job knowing I would never again lay eyes upon my boss–her cruel visage thinly veiled by the comely disguise of flowers–and a giant, stupid grin broke across my face.  Freedom!

Before I began this job, I held such romantic notions of working in a flower shop.  I think most people do.   It evokes dreamy visions of chic, vintage furniture blanketed in seas of fresh blossoms with kind-faced shop women wielding gardening shears and carrying bouquets bundled in craft paper and ribbon–and those visions aren’t wrong.  But people think only of the the sweet perfume of roses and lilac–not the stench of rice flower, like pungent weed and the must of old books (a smell I’ve admittedly grown to love), or the peonies that sporadically stink like hot sewage. They think only of the jeweled hues of hyacinth, with petals of amethyst and sapphire blue–not the strands of mucus that cling to its stems, reeking of onion.  They fail to notice the shop proprietor silently judging them from behind her dazzling display of blooms.  It’s easy to be distracted by such beauty.

Lurking beneath the romance is reality–the ugly, the mundane.  I wouldn’t have minded the drudge work one bit–it is a job, after-all, and I’m no stranger to manual labor–but labor of any kind becomes unbearable when carried out beneath the hawkish gaze of a boss whose palpable disdain permeates the air, mingling with the scent of geranium and muscari like an odorless poison.  And while the flowers that line the shelves of the coolers—ranunculus and freesia, dianthus, tulips, and arabicum— might be the same species as their wild counterparts, they seem a sad specter of their former selves.  There’s a certain melancholy about cut flowers—plucked in their prime from sun-drenched fields to languish beneath the flicker and buzz of artificial lights.  It is a stark reminder of the finite nature of living things and the fleeting essence of beauty.

But there is relief to be found in the knowledge that, just as beauty is fleeting, so too is horror.  Life contains both in infinite magnitude and it is this study in contrasts–this interplay between light and dark, cruelty and kindness, rose and thorn–that imbues the world around us with such wonder.  A monotonous world would be a boring one.  All things perpetual are destined to be taken for granted and even beauty and joy would grow indistinct and unappreciable if not balanced with hideousness and despair.  There’s a reason we find ourselves captivated not only by the delightful, but by the macabre, as well.  We’re drawn to nature in all of its incarnations, arrested by splendor and sorrow in equal measure, and all the more awed by the surprising harmoniousness of the two.  To discern value in each of these qualities is the means by which we’re able to fully embrace life.

So, am I relieved to be rid of this aesthetically pleasing horror-show?  Of course!  But I won’t discount the experience.  I can appreciate the beauteousness of flowers while recognizing that they are all the more exquisite for their ephemerality and occasional repulsiveness.  I can denounce my boss’ scornfulness while also admiring her commendable qualities–her design talent, her business acumen, her intermittent moments of kindness.  Humanity is a form of nature and no one is bereft of benevolence, nor malignancy.  To forget that people are an intricate mix of all things, great and terrible, is to deny them their humanity and to deny yourself the clarity and compassion to experience relationships unmarred by ingratitude and ignorance.

With this insight in mind, I chose to leave on good terms.  Ever the gracious doormat, I thanked my boss and coworker for the opportunity and offered praise for their spectacular artistry.  (Their work really is amazing.)  Then I pushed through the front door without looking back and said a silent prayer for whoever takes my place (here’s hoping they have a superhuman capacity for speed, or maybe a functional coke habit), before skipping all the way home.

So Long And Thanks For The Crippling Self Doubt

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I quit–the two most freeing words in the English language.  Just the sound of them–I quit. I quit. I quit!–like music to my ears.  If I were holding a football, I would spike it and do a celebratory dance.

After eight months of dealing with passive aggressive jabs and a boss whose rapid fire mood swings left my neck aching from the whiplash, after eight months of trying to be a diligent, hard-working, considerate employee, wanting so badly to please her, but always falling short in her eyes, after eight months of micromanagement, of being told I wasn’t sweeping fast enough (it’s called being thorough) or stacking and carrying boxes correctly, or that I really ought to use six staples instead of five, after eight months of keeping my head down and trying to anticipate what was expected of me only to be told I should do something differently, or work on something else entirely the moment I began a task, and then, when I dared ask what she’d like me to work on–just hoping to get things right, to make sure I was giving her what she wanted–being told I should already know despite the fact that she changed her mind on a daily basis–after eight months of this mishegas, I am finally free.  I could go on and list examples of this insanity, of the cutting remarks and ridiculous one-eighties, but why waste any more time on this cluster-fuck of misery?

The thing is, maybe there is someone out there who’s a better fit for this job, someone naturally suited to working at break-neck speeds and handling constant critiques with patience and a can-do spirit.  Maybe, despite my efforts, I was actually falling short. Who’s to say?  I’m certainly biased toward my own experience and, as with all things in life, each party has their own view of the truth.  So I’ll be gracious and admit that it’s possible–maybe I wasn’t the employee they were looking for, maybe there were ways in which I could have been better.  But even without assigning blame (or going so far as to assign it to myself), trying to force your square peg of a self into a round hole of a job until it chips away at your edges leaving you fractured and small is as good a reason as any to say, That’s it–I’ve had enough.

I started this position during the fall of last year, just after beginning ketamine treatment.  I was a new person at a new job and boy, was I excited.  I was buoyant, I radiated positivity, and I felt exceedingly capable and eager to work after years of being too ill to have any real capacity to achieve.  I went into this job with a killer attitude and, for the first time in my life, I felt such a sense of accomplishment and pride–I was finally the hard-worker with the sunny disposition that I had always dreamt of being.  Because things started out on such a high note, you can imagine how the aforementioned trials and tribulations of this job and my tenuous relationship with my boss came as that much more of a slap in the face.  It wouldn’t have stung as much when I knew that my capabilities were lacking, that I was sick and it was affecting my work, but for once that wasn’t the case and my self confidence took a real hit.

I have a nasty penchant for second-guessing myself, for ceding the high-ground to others for fear of laying one ounce of unwarranted blame.  “I can handle the heat,” I tell myself. “Even if this person is mistaken, even if I’m correct in thinking I’m the wronged party, let’s play devil’s advocate and grant this person their version of the truth.”  And in this way, I allow myself to be stripped down and I hand over the knife that does it.  It’s trying enough to be dressed down by your boss on a regular basis, but when you don’t have the faculties to stand tall and remain secure in who you are–when you’re a dedicated and competent employee, but the moment someone suggests otherwise a little voice in your head pipes up, “Are you, though?”–it cuts that much deeper, and the mental gymnastics involved in parsing it out in your head are enough to make anyone cry, Uncle.  (You would think the fact that I’ve always had excellent relationships with my former employers and coworkers, despite my illness previously preventing me from living up to my full potential, not to mention the wonderful relationship I currently have with my employers at my second job, whom I love dearly, would be an indicator that maybe it’s not me–but obviously my mind isn’t capable of such rationality and clear-sightedness.)

I’m a firm believer that there is something to be gained from every experience, no matter how positive or negative that experience may be.  This job had its good moments, its moments of beauty (how could it not when you’re working with flowers?), like, um–well, I’m sure I’ll be able to recall them once this cloud of rage and resentment obscuring my recollection has receded.  In the meantime, I will try to leave this job grateful for what small joys it has provided me–an abundance of free flowers rescued from the trash, a deeper knowledge of plants and a more passionate appreciation for their diversity and splendor, the ability to remain mindful in the face of adversity and contempt, and the ability to staple boxes and wash buckets really, really fast (though, not fast enough, apparently).

So, was it irresponsible to quit my job six weeks before I had planned to?  Was it fool-hardy to give up that (admittedly small) chunk of change with no other plans for income in sight?  Of course it was.  But, my god, does it feel amazing.  Good fucking riddance.

What’s That Smell?

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Eight years ago today, I moved into my first and only apartment. I was excited to be living alone for the first time, but I was more than a little hesitant—okay, I was downright petrified.  I wasn’t escaping an unhappy home or the oppressive rule of an over-bearing parent, I was leaving behind the comfort of a home that my mom—my best friend—had created for the two of us.  I had grown up in that house, at first with my mom, dad, and brother.  Then my parents divorced and my dad moved out and, soon after, my brother went off to college, and it was just the two of us–my mom and I, along with Tillie and Zeus, our dog and rabbit–in our cozy, little bungalow, each room painted in wild and wonderful colors like a Mexican casita.  The first few weeks, even months, in my apartment felt strange and unsettled.  Every challenge I faced seemed insurmountable now that I was on my own.  When the pilot light on the stove blew out I called my parents in a panic, convinced that striking a match to reignite it would set my apartment alight in a blazing inferno.  (In fact, I harbored a pretty concrete fear of the oven up until three years ago when I started baking.  I guess I really took that whole “Oven–hot! Don’t touch!” lesson to heart as a child.)  Each leaking faucet, jarring sound, or peculiar smell felt like a personal affront to my independence, signaling that maybe I just couldn’t hack it on my own.  I’m sure my parents cringed every time the phone rang. (My mom just read this and assures me they did.)

I look back on myself during that time with compassion and no small measure of amusement.  It seems like a lifetime ago, now.  The other week I came home from work at ten in the evening wanting nothing more than to take a hot shower, scarf down some dinner, and collapse in bed, but upon opening the front door I was met with an unidentifiable odor foul enough to wipe all thought of food from my mind.  Instead, I was forced to play a thrilling game of “What’s that smell and where is it coming from?” that had me crawling all the way through my kitchen cabinets into the spider-infested Narnia that exists in the eaves beyond.  I almost lost a pair of my favorite underwear on a low hanging drain pipe in the process, but when hunting weird smells it’s best to do so sans clothing so you don’t end up having to burn them later.  I never did find the source of the smell, but the extra square footage back there was a nice surprise should I ever find myself in trouble with the law and in need of a place to hide.  And from the smell of things, there might already be something back there to eat!  (Not that I eat meat, but at least consuming something that died of natural causes is more ethical–a silver lining in this bizarre life-of-crime fantasy.)  Eight years later, who would have thought there were still surprises to be found in this place?

It dawned on me later how different this response was to the one I might have had after first moving in.  There was no panic, no paralyzing fear, just a nonchalant resignation that it was time to strip down to my underwear and fish a dead animal out of the crawl space.  The situation hadn’t changed, but I had.  I realized that the trials I’d confronted all those years ago weren’t intimidating in nature–minor home-repairs, dead animals, and the like were all tasks I had handled before and was quite capable of–they were merely a surrogate for the real fear I was facing, the fear of standing on my own.

While I may never be as handy as my parents (let’s face it, architecture is one of the handier professions), after eight years living on my own I now possess a well-earned sense of confidence and capability (and such charming habits as muttering to myself and forgetting to put on pants).  I won’t pretend I’ve outgrown, or will ever outgrow, the need for the occasional panicked phone call to my parents (aren’t you glad you had kids?!), but the idea of moving half way across the country doesn’t seem so daunting to me, now.  In fact, though a recent email I sent to my mom might suggest otherwise, it seems pretty damn manageable.  So yeah, (poisonous insects, aside) I think I’ve got this.

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Another year older.  I don’t know that I’m any wiser (though I hope so–isn’t that what this growing up business is about?), but I’m certainly more self-assured.  It’s not that I’ve evolved into some well-adjusted, together, enviable human being (not by a long shot!), I just find that I’m no longer so concerned with being that person–the kind everyone grows up imagining they should be.  I worry less about appearances and decorum now, more concerned with satisfying my own metrics for happiness and respectability.

Take my birthday, for example. In years past I’ve felt pressure to celebrate, to put on a nice outfit and go out with friends for drinks.  Isn’t that how it’s done?  I thought I’d give that another shot this year, but when Friday night rolled around and the temperature plummeted, a bleak drizzle dampening the air, I messaged my best friend and said, Fuck it, let’s stay in.  We watched the shittiest horror movie we could find, drinking vodka smoothies and bombers in our leggings and sweatshirts, only leaving the couch for refills.  It was far better than any night out in a noisy, crowded bar with expensive drinks and all those pesky people milling about.  On Saturday the rain continued and my tiny, grinch heart leapt with joy when I heard our neighborhood art fest was cancelled.  I stayed in and made dinner for the family, thrilled to have once more evaded small-talk, forced cheeriness, and putting on real pants—all those supposed trappings of adulthood. (Can I brag for a moment without it being too unseemly?  Of course I can, it’s my birthday!  I made sun-dried tomato and basil focaccia with caramelized onions baked into the crust, herbed cashew ricotta, and a baby romaine salad with sliced apples and dried figs marinated in maple balsamic vinaigrette, topped with toasted walnuts. Restaurants—who needs ’em?)

The truth is, all these years later and I’m still no different than the person I used to be–the child who cared only about birthday cake and shiny decorations, the antisocial teenager huddled in a corner at the few parties she dared attend, the young adult with a penchant for drinking in the comfort of her own home and embarrassingly bad TV–I didn’t outgrow a single one of those things.  The difference, now, is that I no longer feel I should.  What I have outgrown is the nagging insecurity that I’m doing this whole life thing wrong, that my path looks a bit wonky and my colors are spilling outside the lines. Maybe that’s what growing up is–not changing who we are, but accepting who we’ve been all along.  Or maybe I’m on the fast track toward being one of those crotchety old women with zero filter and a penchant for bizarre outfits, who the neighborhood kids whisper about in hushed tones of fear and revulsion.  And you know what?  That’s okay with me.

Drug-Life Balance

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While it’s well documented that intravenous infusion of ketamine is, by far, the most effective route of administration for the treatment of depression, there’s been some debate on the efficacy of intra-nasal ketamine in maintaining ketamine levels between infusions.  My doctor falls in the camp of believing these interim doses are beneficial, so I take intranasal ketamine three times a week, as prescribed.  Having never gone longer than a week without the interim doses, I have no real basis for assessing their efficacy at prolonging the effects of the infusions, but I certainly believe they have their benefits.  Sure, I won’t deny the appeal of legally permissible psychedelic drugs, but the real appeal of these interim doses is the grounding effect they seem to have.  With my mind’s tendency to veer off course, to spiral downward or become stuck in a rut, taking a dose of ketamine interrupts that trajectory and brings me back to center.  It’s kind of like a reset button.  I don’t take for granted how useful this effect is in stabilizing my mood and preventing relapse, but I will say that mild, four-hour long drugs trips three times a week can sometimes be a bit of an inconvenience.

Ketamine is a drug that lends itself well to mental endeavors.  It elicits contemplation and introspection, it invites you to recede from the physical world and take up residence in the vast, inner-workings of your mind.  Because of this, ketamine highs are well suited to creative and intellectual pursuits.  That worked wonderfully in the winter when there was an abundance of time spent indoors (can you say cabin fever?) and I wiled away the hours writing, studying, and drawing.   But spring has finally sprung (after taking its sweet, fucking time), and now I want nothing more than to spend every waking minute outdoors, being active and reveling in my ability to leave the house without six layers of pants on–and I want to be present in this revelry.

When strolling along the lakefront path, I don’t want to be this ethereal, disembodied orb of consciousness, untethered from my bobble-headed meat-suit as it drifts aimlessly behind me like a wayward dog on a leash.  I want to hike, bike, swim, and paddle with my brain and body working in tandem and all of my faculties intact–feeling every heartbeat, every twitch of muscle fiber, every droplet of sweat.  I want to connect with the world around me, to bask in the sunlight as it bakes my melanin-deficient flesh to a tender crisp like an oven-roasted butternut squash.  (Just kidding–in a total rookie move I forgot my sunblock and now my skin is an arresting shade that can only be described as “lobster bisque.”  And if you’re wondering how I landed on that particular produce, I will admit that it’s something of a childhood nickname on account of being born with a head shaped like a butternut squash.  My mother takes perverse pleasure in reminding me of this by posting pictures of my face carved, drawn, or photoshopped onto butternut squash in varying stages of preparation and cooking with comments like, “Oh my?  You’re beginning to look a little feverish!”  All the psychological damage is starting to make sense now, isn’t it?)  So, it would appear that mid-day dosing is no longer a viable option and night time dosing messes with my sleep schedule–what’s a girl to do?  Luckily, the answer came to me after a particularly agonizing day of work.

Last week, upon coming home from a job that has been slowly eroding my spirit and sense of self worth with the patient brutality of Chinese water torture, I blinked back hot tears of rage, feeling like the lowliest spec of shit in a vast, cosmic ocean of the stuff (a sub-atomic shit-spec, if you will).  I ranted, I seethed, I took a really, really long shower, which is kind of my go-to move when I come home foaming at the mouth (having finally subdued my previous go-to move of putting my fist through the wall), and I played every moment of my shift and every shift before that–every jab of passive-aggression and shred of confusion and uncertainty–over and over in my head, sputtering to myself through the torrent of hot water like a lunatic (no surprise there).  I lamented the steady stripping away of my joy and positivity– something I’ve discovered only recently after having spent the better part of two decades searching for it.  But, before I could descend any further down this precipitous road to hell, I gave myself a pep-talk.  I employed every cliche in the book–If you stoop to their level, you’ll only be hurting yourself.  Don’t let them win.  Take the high road.  Don’t let the bastards get you down!  Eventually I settled on a “nod and smile” approach to work.  I would get in, do my job, keep my head down, and get out as quickly and painlessly as possible.  And do you know what helps achieve that zen-like, level-headed approach to a tenuous work situation? Ketamine.  Here was my shining solution: I would enjoy my days of adventure and athleticism, take my ketamine dose before work, float through my afternoon shift, and emerge on the other side bright-eyed, hopefully not shaking with rage, and ready to greet the world once more.

Some of you might be wondering whether it’s ethical to take drugs before work (you bunch of narcs, you). But firstly, I’m not driving, operating any sort of machinery, or engaging in any activities that could remotely be considered to pose a risk to myself, others, or even inanimate objects, and secondly, ketamine isn’t like other drugs.  Its high (extremely mild at the dose I’m taking) doesn’t impair my ability to function at my job in the slightest, and to the contrary, it actually wildly increases my productivity, focus, and motivation, allowing me to stay on task and approach work with an incongruous enthusiasm for what is essentially the world’s most boring job.  Also, I wash buckets for a living so, really, what do you people want from me?  At least with ketamine on the brain, I can spend those bucket-washing hours when my mind would otherwise be void or contemplating making a break for the fire-exit, focusing on internal productivity–hell, I wrote half of this blog post while scrubbing scum from an endless tower of glass vases!

So, there you have it: drug-life balance.  It sounds like a joke, I know, but anyone who’s ever dealt with an illness that requires medication can attest that finding a routine that works for you and allows you to make the most of your time while still managing your health is no easy feat.  I’m just thankful the medication that works for me has pleasant side effects and the super useful ability of allowing me to maintain my job without quitting in a blaze of foul-mouthed glory and Kool-Aid-manning it through the plate-glass windows to sweet, merciful freedom.

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Half-Baked and Wholly Impatient

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Making a life-altering decision is one of the most difficult things a person can do.  The second most difficult?–waiting for that decision to take effect.  I’ve seldom been mistaken for a patient woman.  It’s something I’ve made a concerted effort to change over the years.  But while I have evolved from someone with a penchant for whipping up batches of cookie dough and grabbing a spoon, unable to wait ten minutes for the oven timer to ding (and also possessing a voracious appetite and lack of discerning palate comparable to that of a particularly undisciplined Labrador), to the kind of person who delights in baking breads that take not hours, but days, it’s not a skill I’ve mastered when it comes to life’s more important events.  (Not that dough isn’t important–in fact, it might be my chief joy in this world.  I certainly devote an inordinate amount of time and energy to thinking about it, making it, consuming it…  I get tunnel vision when there’s a a pan of cinnamon rolls or a nice loaf of bread around.  I’ve made three different dough-based meals in the past twenty four hours and it was the highlight of my week, maybe even my month.  Though, I suppose that’s not saying much because my life is very, very small and mostly revolves around cleaning up after people and partaking of adult coloring books while high.  Still, dough rules.  Wait–what was I talking about?)

It’s not so much that I’m dying for the end result of any given decision to transpire–I’m equally impatient whether facing the good, bad, or anything in between–it’s just that I can’t stand living in limbo.  The anticipation eats away at me until it’s all I can think about (other than dough) and my mind runs in dizzying circles like a hamster on a wheel.  Maybe this is why I haven’t yet definitively said, “I’m going to school, I’m moving to Prescott–it’s certain.”  I always qualify any discussion of the future with such noncommittal phrases as I’m pretty sure or most likely.  And while my fear of commitment is something of a defining characteristic for me, I think the real issue here is that I have already committed, but I can’t allow myself to say so because once I do the gears are set in motion and I’m left scrambling along in that hamster wheel until moving day arrives.  

Without having officially set anything in motion, my mind and my laptop are already filling with endless to-do lists and notes jotted down in the middle of the night after waking in a blind-panic.  Sign up for Amazon Prime–if you end up moving.  Don’t forget to fill out that health insurance waiver–if you decide to attend.  Buy lots of alcohol–no qualification necessary, just buy lots of alcohol. Make sure your new apartment has decent counters for working with dough and a solid oven–should it come to that.  This obsessive rumination is only mildly tempered by my stubborn insistence on continuing to frame things as hypothetical.  I really ought to quit mucking about in the shallows and dive in–transform these thoughts and lists into actions–but despite that being the courageous and more productive option, I find myself continuing to toe the water with no small amount of obstinance and trepidation.  I guess it’s a bit like revving your engine at the starting line–sure it’s noisy and chaotic and you know all hell’s about to break lose, but at least for the time being you’re secure in the knowledge that the race, while inevitable, has not yet begun and you can delay the responsibilities of driving (and the prospect of a fiery crash) just a little while longer.

It is for these reasons that I find spontaneity and snap decisions so appealing.  If I have time to stop and truly think about a decision, weigh the pros and cons, examine all possible outcomes, sift through the details with a fine-toothed comb, I find myself completely incapacitated by such an abundance of options and uncertainty–I’m incapable of making the decision.  However, if I can manage turn off my brain, act on intuition, and make a decision seconds before it comes to fruition, I’m no longer paralyzed by that torturous chasm between decision and action.  No forethought or anticipation required.  Unfortunately, organizations such as universities don’t really jibe with the whole, “I know it’s the night before term begins, but I’ve just decided to return to school and I’d like to start tomorrowbefore I have the chance to consider all the ways this might possibly go wrong” approach to life.

And it’s not just the worry of something going wrong that prevents me from being decisive. There’s also this nagging fear that I’ll finally settle on one thing, only to discover that there’s something better out there.  How can I possibly make an informed and final decision without researching every potential option the universe has to offer?  How can I truly know what’s right for me without first taking a stab at omnipotence?  But that sounds prohibitively exhausting so maybe it’s best to avoid the dilemma altogether.  As you can see, it’s hard to get things done in my world.  (I suppose the term FOMO could be employed here, but while succinct and apropos, I find it detestably trendy.)  

Whenever I work myself into this frantic, obsessive, indecisive state of anxiety-riddled hamster-wheeldom, it’s best to remind myself of my mom’s sage and oft repeated advice: “You can always quit!”  This may not sound like your typical parental advice–it may sound like the irresponsible wisdom of a slacker or a flake, but my mom is no such thing.  (Me?–I plead the fifth.)  What it really means is that you shouldn’t allow the fear of something not working out prevent you from trying.  If it’s not right for you–it’s not a life-sentence.  This mantra has saved me time and again when I’ve been paralyzed with indecision, unsure of which way to turn.  I invoke it like a magical phrase, an abracadabra, that–poof!-vanishes all those niggling doubts.  Just pick a direction! it says, If you choose wrong, you can always 180 it back whence you came.  You can always leave school and slink home, reeking of failure with your tail between your legs and your head hung in shame.  See?  Like magic.  No worries at all.

So yes, I’m going to school, I’m moving to Prescott–I said it.  All my cards are on the table, no hedging my bets.  Now I just have to ride this thing out until August while trying not work myself into a state of panic in the meantime.  I’ll try to think of it like a long, slow rise: the end result–the ripe yeasty flavor of a well-proofed dough–is well worth the planning and patience it takes.  But who am I kidding?–higher education and the potential for a fulfilling career can’t hold a candle to sweet, delicious bread.  Perhaps I should become a baker or, better yet, a competitive eater, instead.

Fasten Your Seat Belts, It’s Going To Be A Rough Landing

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Today was an infusion day and returning from that long, strange trip comes with a bit of turbulence upon landing.  The ketamine come-down is something of a rude awakening–like being yanked from the midst of a pleasant dream before you’re ready.  You come to, blinking into the harsh light of reality, and it dawns on you, “Oh yeah–this shit.”  As I teeter out to the car, the landscape swimming disconcertingly before me, melancholia sets in (and the demonic trees that populate the parking lot of my ketamine clinic, covered in a profusion of five inch spines and looking like they’ve grown straight up from the depths of hell, certainly don’t help matters).  I find that I’m weary and vulnerable, lacking in the armor and fortitude necessary to withstand the inexorable barbs and stings of existence.  There’s nothing to take the edge off–the whole damn world is edges–and I feel like a newborn foal, stumbling unwittingly into the jaws of life.  I like to refer to this cluster-fuck of feelings as jet-lag.  If you think the effects of intercontinental travel are a bitch, try disembarking from a trip that spans time, space, and any number of astral planes.

Because of this jet-lag, the post-trip period is a critical time to practice mindfulness and self-care, to strive for compassion and positivity.  It’s important to take it easy, indulge in a little rest and relaxation, veg out on the couch for a few hours watching a light-hearted TV show and–oh shit, this is the real world, time for work!  Ketamine treatment is expensive enough and taking time off work isn’t always feasible, so if you must return from your stroll through the enchanting world of psychedelics only to plant your feet squarely in the pile of dog shit that is low-wage, unskilled labor, make sure to treat yourself with kid gloves (or at least plastic-bag hands if we’re going with the dog shit metaphor.)  

When, ten minutes into my shift at the flower shop I find myself succumbing to exhaustion and dizziness, leaning further and further over the utility sink at dire risk of collapsing into a pile of half-washed buckets, I try to be understanding of my inability to handle the most basic of tasks.  I offer myself gentle words of encouragement and support.  It’s okay that you can’t stand of your own volition–standing can be tricky!  Today let’s settle for inconspicuous leaning, make it look like you haven’t surrendered the will to remain upright.  Really sell it with the eyes–mimicking the wide-eyed, maniacal stare of a Tarsier is a great way to feign liveliness while expending minimal energy.  You look totally sane, I promise!

In this state of rawness and fragility, it’s especially imperative that I be mindful of my interactions with others.  When my boss sees fit to correct the method by which I’ve chosen to stack and carry cardboard boxes, I remind myself not to take this as a personal affront to my intelligence.  And though her way is, in fact, wrong and would result in an inability to carry more than one stack of boxes at a time (compared to the six I’m managing, which, even with the two boxes I’ve fumbled, is still far more efficient, thank you very much), I don’t point this out to her.  Instead, I commend myself for the abundance of maturity it takes to refrain from rubbing her flawed logic in that smug face of hers.  (I now forfeit my gold star for maturity as a result of the previous sentence.)  

And when my shift finally ends, though I fear I must be losing brain cells at a rate inverse to the number of cardboard boxes I’ve made (so, nearing a thousand, then), I remind myself that the mere ability to show up to work each day, and furthermore to engage in these menial tasks with a pride and positivity of spirit previously unthinkable, is not something to take for granted because before ketamine, managing a steady job (let alone with a smile on my face) wasn’t exactly in my repertoire.  This reminder to be grateful ought to be tattooed across my body Memento-style for how easy it is to forget and how essential it is to one’s course of living. 

As I make my way home from work, the side effects of the infusion continue to recede and the antidepressant effect begins to take hold.  I notice color creeping back into the world like the first blush of spring after the cadaverousness of winter.  Instead of rushing back to my apartment, I stop to browse in a used book store (one of the aforementioned jobs I couldn’t manage to hold down in the midst of the depressive episode known as my pre-ketamine life.)  I decide to take the long way home along the lakefront and for this I’m rewarded with a dramatic sweep of nimbostratus clouds framing a small window of amber light on the lake’s horizon at the heart of which glows a rainbow.  (I could form some grand metaphor from this fateful trick of the weather, but that would be a little too on the nose, wouldn’t it?)  By the time I make it home and step beneath the warm spray of the shower, I find that I’m grinning like a fool for no apparent reason, other than a dawning weightlessness that wasn’t there this morning.  The hard knot of dread and dispassion has been cleaved from my gut leaving a tender spaciousness in which the first inklings of joy and wonder take root.  The ketamine has worked its magic and now it’s my turn to tend to this budding potential, to make use of this miraculous feat of chemistry–at least for another six weeks until the ketamine wears off and I finally achieve that perfect cocktail of apathy and heedlessness required to tell my boss that I could sweep faster, as she so helpfully suggests, but the resultant dust storm would be counterproductive to actually cleaning the floor, so, you know what?  That’s fine–she can just choke on it.

(All kidding aside, I’m actually quite fond of both my job and my boss and have a great deal of admiration for her–we just occasionally differ on what constitutes constructive advice and what I feel are certain tenets of human decency and respect that might prevent others from unnecessarily micromanaging their hardworking, perfectly capable employees in tasks that a trained, or even untrained, monkey could do.)