Free Falling

Saturday morning at 5 am was my last work shift. I quit my job. I had just had it with the hours, the arbitrary schedule changes, being treated like a recalcitrant three-year-old whenever I asked a question, literally being told “STOP TALKING!” when I was trying to answer a question that I had been asked. I could go on and on. How a company could manage to create a hostile work environment when you work from home is a mystery but this company did it. I had been dreading going to work for a long time, and I was lucky…I worked when all the big bosses were off (nights and weekends), but after I got off work on Tuesday mornings, I spent most of my down time worrying what I had done wrong (that I didn’t know of) and how hard I was going to get yelled at when I came back to work. Miserable.

I was professional. I put in a two-week notice. I thought about writing long, ranting letters to the powers that be, but that would have been a complete waste of energy. They don’t care. It’s a corporation. The next warm body was in the seat five minutes after I left and all will carry on. That’s been the same since there have been companies and I don’t even need to think about it. Time to move on.

The decision to quit was a confluence of many factors. About a year ago, I decided to make another trip to Scotland (which would have started tomorrow). I put in my request for time off a YEAR in advance, because one of the other things my former employer is notorious for is not allowing you to have any time off. Oh, you accrue the hours, but trying to actually TAKE the time is an entirely different story. So, I put in my request and checked up periodically to see if it had been approved, which for the most part got no response. Finally, I had some back and forth with my boss and I got the hours/days nailed down. I made plane and room reservations, etc.

Then COVID hit. Days and weeks passed and Scotland was being firm about quarantining, etc. My boss asked if I was still planning the trip. I said yes. Then, I found out my daughter needed major hip surgery the week before I was supposed to leave. That started things teetering. In the meantime, I had a long conversation with my oldest friend about how lost I was feeling and she, out of the blue, said, “Come live with me. My house is paid for and you won’t have to work for a while if you don’t want to.” I was stunned. I honestly didn’t know what to say, but simply having such a generous offer suddenly took a huge weight off my shoulders. Then, I got an e-mail from Icelandair, where I had booked my direct Denver to Glasgow flight, stating they had canceled my flight on Sept. 8 and were moving it to the same time on Sept. 7. The utter despair I felt at having to talk to my boss to let her know that my flight had been changed sealed the deal. For three years, since I started working for her, every time I needed to make a change to my schedule for a personal reason or had any kind of Internet or computer problem, I always felt she thought I was lying. Like I want to go through this misery with you just to have a night off? I don’t think so.

I can be slow to make up my mind about things, but once I’m certain, I act fast. I decided it was time to leave the soul sucking vortex of a “job” and take my friend up on her offer. But first, I will be helping my daughter get back on her feet and actually be available for a change. She won’t be able to drive for 6 weeks and will be going to lots of appointments and her husband has to continue on his job, so now I won’t have to try to juggle work, sleep and trying to help out. Once she is up and about, I will be packing a truck or a van and taking myself to Texas for the next chapter. My daughter, roommate, grandsons and a couple of other friends know, but I had to keep it close to the vest until I was actually done with working, since you never know who will say what to whom. I was a success because the busy-body coworker who reports every WORD you say to her to my former boss knew nothing when asked. I learned my lesson about her early on. Talk about food and TV shows only!

For the first time in my life, I have no real plans going forward, other than to get to Texas. In nearly 48 years of working full time, I took a month off when I had a baby and about a month off when I moved from Atlanta to Pueblo. And in both of those cases, I knew I had to work soon, and so the time was about as far from relaxing as it could be. Now, I just want to get to Alice’s house and set up my sewing machine and chill out for at least a little while. She lives on a nice piece of land out in the country and her brother lives in a small house behind hers. She also adopted her granddaughter (who just turned 18) a few years ago, so we have that in common, too. I went to visit her for Thanksgiving week in 2018, so have seen the area and it’s lovely. Of course, I’ll be in a red state and I can’t say I’m thrilled about that or the fact that they seem to be fairly anti-COVID precautions, but, again, I will be in a rural area and not doing a lot of socializing. But her house is open and airy and I also realized that living in this dark apartment has affected me more than I realized. It’s just time for something entirely new and it’s time for something that is entirely about ME for a change. I honestly have no idea what will happen, but I will figure it out. I’m going to try to embody the words of my favorite mantra: Relax, nothing is under control.

Here’s to free falling. May the parachute open when it’s supposed to.

Cold Feet, Pinkeye, and Learning to Sleep on Cue

So, now it appears that I have to fear for my life because I sit too much. I saw an ad the other day for one of those treadmill desks, so you can walk and work at the same time. I’m sure that’s a great thing, but whoever invented that probably never gave a medical transcriptionist being paid on production a second (or even a first) thought. I type for a living, therefore, I sit. Deal with it. Enough about that, except that sitting in pretty much one position for a long time exacerbates my cold feet problem. Now, I know a lot of you are going to say it’s age, it’s creeping deconditioning, it’s incipient diabetic neuropathy or PAD, or PVD, or the latest popular diagnosis, but I can assure you it’s none of those. The fact is that I’ve suffered from cold feet all of my life. As a teenager, I remember nights having to get up and run hot water over my feet in the sink before I could go to sleep. I cannot fall asleep when my feet are cold. Given that, I think that the dual-controlled heated mattress pad is one of the best inventions ever. Also space heaters under the desk. Let me tell you, those are two things worthy of a lot of gratitude. These last few months have been a real challenge, because the last thing I want to do at 5 a.m. when I get off work is to be kept up even later by cold feel that won’t let me fall asleep.  When your feet are really chilled, it takes a while for them to re-warm, and that means time awake that I would really prefer to spend sleeping. Sleep has become quite valuable to me in recent months. More about that in a moment.

In addition to cold feet, I’m also apparently prone to pinkeye. I don’t get colds, haven’t had the flu in years, stave off most other transient illnesses that drop people for days at a time, but pinkeye…wow. I guess everyone has their Achilles’ heel, and that’s mine.  For the past few weeks, I’ve felt like I was just on the verge of getting it–that itchy, gritty feeling, eyes runny in the morning–and most of the day, just an all around “muzzy” feeling when I tried to focus on anything.  A few weeks ago, I had a pretty comprehensive eye exam from my favorite optometrist, and I finally splurged out on new everyday glasses (after 10 years). I got my computer glasses (that I now refer to as my indoor glasses) a couple of years ago, and they’re still great, but I knew my old glasses were actually too strong, as I could not focus my left eye on anything closer than nearly a football field away. Sure enough, my left eye had “improved” yet again, by nearly a diopter in power (whatever that is).  I mean, given my uncorrected vision is 20/400, it’s not huge, but it is noticeable. Basically, it meant that my right eye had been doing all the work because my glasses were simply too strong to allow my left eye to focus on anything. So, now I have a bright new shiny pair of outdoor glasses, and a clean bill of health on my eyes. No glaucoma, no retinal problems, the tiniest bit of a cataract, but per the doc, nothing to be concerned about at the moment.

Given that, when all this other stuff started happening, I figured pinkeye, so I went to the eye doctor I’ve been to in the past (an MD) in case I needed a prescription. Well, turns out it was just environmental irritation, for lack of a better term. It’s been massively windy here for weeks, with dust and anything else you could imagine in the air. Plus the trees are starting to bud, and the elm trees really set me off. I was happy to hear that, but not so happy that the doctor wanted to prescribe me some $100 antihistamine eye drops (“my favorite”–I bet). I politely declined. I’ve been using a couple of different OTC drops, alternating between the two and they did all right, but weren’t really cutting it this time. So, I was at the grocery store the other day and stopped at the pharmacy counter to see if they had anything different. After looking at the various selections, I took a chance on a brand I had not heard of before, Similisan Allergy Eye Relief. It’s a homeopathic formula and the bottle was about $6.00. It does say to discard after 30 days, but it’s not a large bottle, so it will probably be done by then. Let me tell you, these are by far the best eye drops I’ve ever used for this type of problem. These things work! I’ve been putting them in every day, usually just once a day, but maybe twice if it’s really windy, and I have had almost 100% relief from the itching, burning and watering. I was flat out amazed the first time I used them. First, I don’t like putting stuff in my eyes. It’s a quirk. I can’t even look at someone putting in eye drops or contacts without my eyes starting to twitch and water. I don’t know why, it’s just a reflex I guess. These drops do not sting, in fact, feel very cool and soothing as soon as they’re in. If you’ve got those spring (or other seasonal) “allergy eyes” I can’t recommend them enough. They also have a dry-eye formula and even one for “computer eyes.” So if you’re having trouble, check out the site above and give one of them a try. At under $10.00, even if they don’t work, you won’t have lost much.

And now, to sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub, all right. Sleeping has been problematic for me over the last several years anyway. Call it aging, call it menopause, call it whatever you want, but sleep and I have had a rocky relationship that was just starting to settle down when this new job came along. Man. I am pretty much useless to anyone for the four days that I’m working. I think I’m finally getting into a routine, and learning to sleep when I must, which I guess is a good thing. Working 10 hours out of 12 is kind of weird anyway, but especially challenging doing it overnight. I’ve got a pretty good routine going by now, but it involved me learning how to snooze on cue, which isn’t the easiest thing to learn, especially if your body is resistant to sleep anyway. I work from 5 pm till midnight, not all that different from my old schedule. The trick now is, that I have to keep working until 5 am, but get a break in there somewhere. At least my boss and coworkers understand that working overnight IS a bit different. So, I take my break at midnight and try to sleep until 2 am. At first it was hard because I just went into my meditation room, lay down on my makeshift bed and tried to close my eyes. Didn’t work very well. One, the room was cold, two, my feet were cold, three, I was too hyped up from trying to be on top of everything with this new job.

Then, I changed it around a bit. I started coming up to the bed in G’s computer room (I’m afraid to go to our bed because I worry that I’ll fall asleep TOO soundly and not wake up). It’s just a twin bed that we picked up at a garage sale for a day bed/guest bed. That was pretty good. Then, I realized I wasn’t going to just fall asleep in a snap, so using the timer on my phone, I now read for 15 minutes, which gets my mind off work and usually gets my eyelids drifting in the right direction–down over my eyes. Then, I set the timer for an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half, and firmly close my eyes and do my best to blank out my mind.  Now that I’m getting a bit more familiar with the job, it’s easier. I set the phone alarm and put it up by the pillow so it only wakes me and no one else. I use eye shades to block out the light (that room doesn’t have the light-blocking shades our bedroom does) and so far, so good. I’m still worthless on Tuesdays, when I transition from nights to days, but I’m getting better.

And now, my feet are warm, my eyes are clear, and while the sleep situation isn’t ideal, at least I AM sleeping, and managing to remain more or less coherent during the day. I guess you’d call that a win/win all the way ’round.