As I allow my mind to snap back a few months, a disturbing gnarl of bother settles into my gut. It’s been a tiring few weeks. It brings me back ten years, to a time when I felt that as a worker, as a widget used by the owners of a company to produce results, I was whipped and cracked. Not much has changed. I can remember back then feeling as if management were dog mushers, and I was the dog. The intensity with which I attempted to keep up with my pack and pull the heavy load remains with me today. Just a different pack, and a different musher. But basically same track, same destinations. And for the most part, it has felt that those around me have basically no clue at the break neck speed with which I attempt to run the race, at times avoiding any breaks (bathroom, food, water) in order to get to the finish line faster. How many tasks can I wrap up in one day and still deliver an exceptional product? That’s the trial. That’s the run. And, that’s my burden.
Of course I know intellectually that doing this kind of race without nourishment (body, mind and soul) will only result in a crash. There will be a time when my energy and stamina can’t take it. And in the meantime, I must pay close attention to that heaviness in my chest- the one that seems to live behind my breastbone. It really just lives there- this push, this ache that never seems to go away.
I have gone to the doctor about it and the doctor has done tests and then, the doctor has said it’s nothing. So, I can’t very well go back in and say it’s still there because essentially I have been told it’s not there, it’s just not. There. Not there. So, why can I feel it?
Women of middle age, overweight- have different symptoms for heart attacks. I read that the symptoms can be similar to heart burn. Well that sucks because I basically have heart burn all the time … I manage it with Tums. And Prilosec. And, I just keep plugging along. Sometimes, the heart burn feels different- like a pulling of flesh and sinew behind the breastbone – an annoying reminder that there is something there. Angst? Stress? But that’s it? Perhaps.
There is a lot of joy in what I do. I do enjoy some satisfaction along with a feeling of accomplishment which pours over me when I get those emails that say that the trip went off without a hitch and that the multiple stops on the trip throughout the UK and Scandinavia (for example) were all marvelous, lodging perfect, ground transport on time and guides charming, kind and so informative. It’s a great feeling. A small 1-2 sentence paragraph is all I need to propel myself further forward on to the next itinerary. These accolades; however, do not stop the overwhelming stress that accompanies me each and every day as I head into work.
As I face my desk at work, I sink into a pile of folders for a voluminous host of travelers going everywhere from Alaska, to Greece, to Hiroshima and Huntsville, Alabama. At times, in the middle of a complex booking with payments and vendor requests, I must drop everything and push all folders aside (more specifically, pile them all up and shove them into a drawer that may have some space)- make room and clean up fast as there is a person at the front desk who needs help with an air ticket. On my screen, the cursor waits for me to finalize the payment and if I don’t finish it- it will time out. But walk in traffic is a part of the business – so exit that screen, shove everything aside because someone needs an air ticket to Hawaii- right this second.
There are so many new requests – and thankfully lately these have mostly been repeats and referrals- combined with equally as many confirmed bookings that demand follow up tasks- many of which are critical to the success of the trip. And then there is also the recent administrative push to update our marketing database to ensure we have a full picture of who has done business with us in the past and what those folks may wish to hear about for future trips. There are the much belated trip reports which I have yet to finish from the last few months.
I feel as if I have been pulled down a rabbit hole and that I ended up in a maze of tunnels for which I have no idea where I might find the exit.
Escape is futile.
This is your reality.
My writing has been put on a brief sabbatical. Partly because in the very tiny pinch of off-time that I have these days, I sit down at my new keyboard to plunk away at old classical tunes from childhood. A few Sonatas, a handful of Adagios, some lilts of musical lace which cover me up in moments of bliss.
Last night when I arrived home, I walked in the door and put on an apron. Mom was having a dinner party. All the trimmings and all the courses. The guests would arrive in just about 2 minutes. Do I have time to pee? I rush downstairs, take care of business, run a comb through my hair and freshen my makeup. I come back up and they are already arriving in the hallway. Mom has been working on dinner all day and I can see she is fried. I will be hostess, drinks anyone? I go to the kitchen and the food is almost ready. I urge Mom to go into the living room to entertain her company while I finish cooking the food. I hear them chattering over wine and Brie and smoked salmon. About a half hour later, the food is ready for plating. I quickly fill glasses with ice water, light the candles and encourage them all to move to the dining room, where Mom has set a beautiful table. Tonight we are serving from the kitchen- plating the food for the guests- no passing of serving dishes tonight- an executive decision! The beef was tender, the noodles perfect. Oh my god! There is a smell- it’s the bread. Mom had placed croissants in the oven and I had not noticed. They are very crispy but not burned. I acknowledge the over-done croissants to the guests and recommend we skip it. No, no- we must have the croissants. So, I leave the table and gather the croissants into a basket with liner napkin and pass the bread. “Very crispy” says one guest. Ya, you think? I am sweating, exhausted and out of breath at this point. But we press on. Light dinner conversation. Then, it’s bus the table of the dinner plates and corresponding accoutrements, and make the coffee, cut the lemon cake and serve some more. Mom and Dad enjoy the break and entertain their guests. Finally- I pull emptied dessert plates and offer more coffee. No takers. It’s getting pretty late for a Tuesday night- my Mom offers me an out- ‘go down, honey- you have an early morning’. Indeed, I do. I wave to the guests- goodnight, great to see you- until next time. And, I take my leave.
The truth is, Mom entertained her whole adult life. Parties were her thing. Cooking culinary masterpieces and offering a full blown hospitality cornucopia is her speciality. Why should that change as she approaches 80? I only wish she would give me some warning – more than a couple of hours, so that I could brace myself for the second evening job that follows my full time job and two hour round trip commute: evening food server and host. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay I suppose for their enjoyment and happiness and – a feeling of continued full throttle involvement with society.
After that tiring evening, I woke this morning at 4:40am and couldn’t sleep. So, I pulled myself out of bed and rolled through my normal morning routine. Except this time I was out the door by 5:30am instead of 6:50am – heading towards the freeway and into work. I stopped at a local coffee house with my tote bag in tow. Time to write.
People have been asking about my novel. It’s on a short hiatus. Taking my head out of the narrative and characters could help me when I return to it once again; a fresh perspective.
As I write this, I wonder whether I should post it. It’s too much of a dear diary entry. Which on reflection, a lot of my posts are- diary entries. A hodgepodge of conversations with myself on my current – at the moment – state of affairs. And perhaps these are of interest to others. It’s what connects us, I suppose. Reading how other people’s lives unfold – well, it interests me. So maybe- this drivel will interest others? Maybe?
For the most part, these writings are the way that I organize the chaos that exists in my head. And with several weeks absence, it’s a bit of a loose snake slithering here and there- seemingly without purpose. By writing it all down, I can have a better perspective on whether the noise is legitimate or if I just need to balance the speakers of my mind. Increase the treble, decrease the base. The path becomes clearer. I evaluate and I prioritize and I find ways to discard or reorder. I receive some grounding advice from my inner wise owl.
Ah, yes. Much better now.
It’s all relative.
Time to head in to take care of that trip to Spain for the family of four that plan to travel Madrid, San Sebastián & Barcelona over the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays- complete with a day trip to Toledo and El Escorial, a walking tour with Tapas, a visit to the Prado & Bilbao Museums, trains, guides, dinner reservations- much to do