1 June 2012

An Alien in the Office

‘You’re glowing’, said the receptionist at work. I cringed. It’s not the first time that someone has said this to me. Even though I’m more tired than I’ve ever been in my life, my skin is robust and glistening. Of course this isn’t remotely natural. The radiation is still working its way through my body and is turning me into a microwave oven. I am emitting something that has nothing to do with my DNA, and it has turned me into an alien.

Get Me Outa Here!
Of course, that’s exactly how I feel. Someone who has landed on earth but is not quite wired like the rest of them.  I’ve been plucked up from normalcy,  rebuilt (mentally and physically), and then put back down into my life.  Sort of like the Bionic Woman, but without the supersonic hearing and extra strong right arm. Rather than Lindsay Wagner in her high waisted jeans, I’m a little lost space person from a foreign land, wearing Janet's clothes,  and hiding under a smart little hat.

Only one man at work knows my true identity, and I only told him out of necessity. I couldn’t think of any other way to explain why I was going to be doing the least amount of work possible. He’s my direct boss, and I barely know him, but figured he had to know.  Anyway, he’s been very nice about things and incredibly un-demanding.  We’ve haven't chatted much, but I’ve already learned that he’s adopted. A detailed he volunteered, I think, because he thinks he thought he owed me something. It’s funny when you tell someone about your inner alien, they want to show you their inner alien too.

Most of my other colleagues just want to comment on my hair. Even though I always wear a hat, the drastic change is obvious. Everybody has an opinion, and like a good alien, I stand politely while people decide whether or not my hairdo meets their approval (reviews are mixed).

This is a far cry from my life at non-work, where everybody knows all about me. My friends, my family, my nurses, all take everything in stride. Nobody questions why I wear the same clothes everyday or go to bed at 9. Also, amongst my people my hair is never a big deal, and every itsy-bitsyy baby step is met with applause and approval. This is my planet; the cozy environment that is my home, and the loved ones that support me. But for now I am back at work. And everyone is friendly and seemingly happy to see me. But just as I feel like I might start to feel like I almost fit in, someone has something to say.

‘You look radiated!,’ was the last comment of the day from our accountant.  I stopped for a minute. Of course, what she was saying was ‘radiant.’ And I of course what she meant was that I am the medium for a bunch of energized particles. But I didn’t correct her.  Outside I may be glowing, but inside I just want to go home.

29 May 2012

Sucky Baby

When I was six, my parents announced that my sister and I were going to spend a week at overnight camp. I was horrified. ‘Why?!?!’ I cried. ‘Why are you making me go?’

‘Because it’s fun’, they said. But I couldn’t imagine anything fun about sleeping in a bed that wasn’t mine, having ‘friends’ that were not mine, or having to eat a hotdog that wasn’t made in my kitchen.

But the decision had been made, and I found myself being driven up to a campground hours from home. Of course I cried all the way there. My parents, who were chatting happily under a cloud of cigarette smoke, said ‘You’ll love it!’  My sister Sue, who was thrilled to be busting out of the house, had her head out the window and was singing her heart out. She’d only pull her head in long enough to smooth her hair, look at me scornfully, and call me a ‘sucky baby.’

Once we arrived, my parents had to pry me out of my seat.  I begged to go home with them in their smokey car, but after seeing that there was another adult to take the reigns, they couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I watched them as they drove off, my mothers arm sticking out the window, a cigarette resting lightly in her fingers.

That first night we sat by the fire. Sue was having the time of her life. Leading a sing-song, clapping her hands, and pretending that she didn’t know me. Meanwhile, I was huddled under a blanket, silently trying to digest a burnt wiener. I caught my sisters’ eye for a split second, just long enough for her to mouth the words ‘sucky baby’.  I prayed that someone would come and get me. Which they did, the very next day.

As I was getting ready for work last night, I had the same feeling I did as when I was being sent off to camp.  Having been close to home for the last eight months, the thought of going back to work with a crowd of people I hadn’t seen in a while was not the least bit fun. I couldn’t imagine walking into the office with my inch of hair, my hat, my lopsided boobs, and eight months worth of emotions. Not my old self at all. And, I’d have to eat a sandwich that wasn’t made in my own kitchen.

But I did what I could to get ready. Gave myself a pedicure. Did four loads of laundry. Cried. Then my sister Sue called to ask how I was doing, and I cried some more. She asked what I was so worried about and I said that I don’t feel safe at work -  I only felt safe at home. There was a short pause.‘But honey,’ she said, ‘You were never safe at home this year. You had terrible things going on in your head.’

And she was right. If you don’t feel safe in your head it doesn’t matter where you are. So I got up the next morning an listened to my old friend Belleruth and her Guided Meditation. Together we conjured up some magical friends and special protectors to help me through my day.

And so I drove myself to work. Instead of my family by my side I had my magical buddies and some well loved ancestors who were ‘nodding their approval’. And instead of a cloud of smoke I had my soft air pillow full of love, which is much less ridiculous than it sound, and healthier than cigarettes.

And I got to the office, and pryed myself out of the car.

27 May 2012

Under my Hat

‘You cut your hair off,’ my neighbour announced to me this morning. I was standing on the sidewalk, watching Jed pee, and he was on his way to the streetcar.

‘Yes I did,’ I said. As usual, I was wearing my hat to cover my very short hairdo. I’ve been wigless for about a month, and fully expect people to be curious when they see me again for the fist time.  I don’t enjoy these moments, and I brace myself for these the times when I run into someone who’s curiosity get the better of them. I actually like this guy, but he was a perfect specimen of the nosey acquaintance. He stopped in his tracks and stared. ‘Take your hat off.’ I said no. He persisted, ‘Come on. Take your hat off. I want to see your hair.’ I told him that I didn’t want to show him. ‘Come on!’ he laughed.

I had two thoughts. Firstly, I thought – how very f*cking rude. Secondly I thought that he would never be satisfied until I show him, and since I see him most days in the park, he wasn't going away. And I also know the routine.  After the big reveal, the nosey acquaintance take a second to digest the hair, and then coughs up a fake compliment. So even though I don’t like exposing myself, revealing seemed to be the path of least resistance.

So I took off my hat. And his eyes roamed around my scalp, and he waited a second too long and told me it was cute. I put my hat back on, and watched Jed roll around the sidewalk. My neighbour smiled, wished me a good day, and headed down the street. I hated moments like this. What I can never figure out is if I have a thin skin, or if people are just stupid.  And I think it’s probably a bit of both.

My neighbour was about three houses away when he called my name and said something I didn’t understand. It sounded like ‘ Janet. Same game in’.

‘What?!’ I yelled impatiently.

‘Gamine! Your hair! C’est trĂ©s gamine!’

Hmph. Well that was better, if only a little. I'm a sucker for anything French.  But still,  I kept my chapeau on for the rest of the day.