“Remember you came from dust, and to the dust you will return.”

I’m stuck in a loop and I’m having a hard time breaking it.

I joke about my misanthropy at times. I joke about how I go through periods where I don’t really want to answer the phone or do anything but read and kill Murlocs1. There’s nothing wrong with me, per se. I’m not depressed, just in a funk. When I go to work, I love my job. I’ve been doing all right at it too, with the exception of some grading delays and illness a couple of weeks back. Point is: I’m not failing at work. I’m not in the clutches of some life-breaking depression. I just need a big change.

This happened a few years ago when I was working at a nonprofit near Austin. I loved my job. Found that I was all right at it, and that there were places to move up. But I wasn’t happy. Not in any particular way. It’s funny, after I left the job for Pittsburgh, my favorite boss called me about some phone calls I had made from my work cell to the US when we were running a program in Mexico, and roaming. She’d called the number I’d called most and found out it was Pete. You can’t do that, she said, not on the work dime. I gladly paid her back the roaming charges (via some freelance graphic design work) and didn’t point out that the only reason I’d called Pete so many times was because I was throwing up blood due to the job. My first ulcer. The doctor said my body cannot process stress. Find something that doesn’t stress you out, he said, find what makes you happy.

Pete’s been something of a rock these years. Off-and-on, through ins and outs, he’s at the very least the most consistent part of my life. He’s who I call when I start coughing up coagulated blood (sorry, I know it’s so gross). Who do you call?

These days, I don’t call anyone. Work, although awesome on a day-to-day basis, has its detractions. Right now, the reality that 250 people will be applying for my job, along with me, is slowly sinking in. How do I measure? Do I apply for the permanent position (which will allow me to really develop some projects I have in mind) or the temporary position (which means I go through this again next year, with worse odds, and no fallbacks)? Or both? And then what happens if I don’t get the job?

I’m scared. Because I’ve been treading water for two years, waiting for Pete to graduate to really start my life. And he hasn’t. But he’s moving here when it’s over and if he gets a job, it’ll be a 2-3 year position. And if I don’t have a job? And if Pete doesn’t either? And if, as is our pattern, we fall apart when I do, what will happen? And then what?

So many stupid, yet totally important questions.

The premise of this blog, started as an offshoot of my livejournal and now just a place where every blue moon I decide to post about football, was that I could answer questions. I’m still, believe it or not, apt to give advise2. But what I need right now is some calm. Some books. Some Murlocs.

I don’t mean to be a neurotic mess.

Find what makes you so happy, you cannot stress out about it so easily, the doctor told me in Austin. Well, I thought the answer there was writing. I loved to write. Those of you that used to read me on livejournal know this, I wrote all the time, too much, and too personally. And when I left for Pittsburgh, my writing became focused, book-and-project oriented. My writing started to matter. And I was told not to give it away for free. Which meant I did less of it in the forums that focused me most. Which means I barely blog and when I do, it’s usually about football or futbol.

I’ve lost that love. That impulse to just put all my feelings down on public paper. Mostly because the stakes are high. Even writing this, I’m worried about who will read. How will they interpret this? Is this going to make me look weak if a student finds it3? Isn’t that the lesson of facebook-firings and twitter-contracts? That everything you write should be controlled, and that this blog, like every other place, is as subject to scrutiny as my C.V. And what happens if I admit to the dull weight that sits on my chest as I tread water?

I would not have been a good Borgia. Or a good Medici. There’s a schemer in me, don’t doubt that, but that schemer is the kind that gets caught and hanged4. Probably for her insolence. Probably for telling too much too quick. Who am I kidding? I doubt I’d make it an hour in the dungeon.

So to whom is my duty? My parents, of course, want me home. My boyfriend wants me stable. My boss wants me productive. My friends want me to answer the phone. And I want…

That’s the problem.

I’m working on a solution. I went to mass today, in honor of the dust from which I came. As the priest rubbed ashes on my forehead, he reminded me of this. And that I’ll be going back to that dust. During the homily, he pointed out that Lent is a time to reinvent your better self. To craft the better you through sacrifice. To not be a Hypocrite. Lent is forty days of sacrifice and fasting, while still being true to yourself. There’s some Jesus stuff in there too, but Lent to me is about ruling my impulses. About self-denial and self-reflection.

I’m a lower-case hypocrite, of course. Even my going to church today reflects this, as I’m mostly Cathgnostic5. My inability to ever get in shape or give up my bad habits reflects this as well. I am forever smart enough to know what I should do and too lazy and unfocused to get it all done. I point to my guitar gathering dust in the corner. My bicycle in someone else’s basement.

I need to work on follow-through. To break out of this loop of lazy self-absorption.

So the challenge? To be my best self for forty days. To exercise, eat healthy, avoid distractions, be a good friend and daughter, concentrate on what used to make me happy: writing, performing, teaching, making, doing.

Now is the time to write the thank you note, the priest said, to visit that friend, to call those people back. Like he could read my mind. Now is the time to follow through.

It’s time to stop joking about my misanthropy and actually work toward changing it.

You know, before I bite the…

terrible pun.

  1. Yes, Murlocs. []
  2. Especially when no one has asked for it. []
  3. Hi, student. []
  4. I wrote “hung,” but then I realized I was not a painting. []
  5. Culturally Catholic, but tending more toward doubt and questioning. []