Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Old Beliefs, New Year

If you've been paying attention at all to this blog, you'll realize that I've been having a bit of a rough year.  Adversity always makes me contemplative, and I've realized that I have an extremely strong, almost codified, system of beliefs (not religious beliefs really, I'm still a bit on the fence there).  I live by these, they are who I am, and so when I fail in one, I feel like I've failed as a person.

No Excuses.  There is No Try.  Only Do: This one I had all but beaten into me, so naturally it's the first one that comes to mind.  I was in a volleyball gym from the time I was a week old on.  I grew up knowing the game and so, when I started playing, I knew exactly what I was doing wrong; and that was true pretty much always.  It frustrated me when coaches corrected me and I frequently let it show.  My response to a correction was frequently something like: "I know what I did wrong, leave me alone." or "I'm trying".  Their response was always: "If you know, then why didn't you do it?" or "Then do it next time". That always angered me even more, because I knew exactly what I'd done wrong, but I couldn't always make my body do it correctly.  It took me a long time to find the words to explain that concept and by then it was too late.  I remember having an hours long talk with my mother in the car and I just sobbed the whole time.  She explained that to the coaches, it didn't matter if I knew or not, I'd still done it incorrectly and to them, I was just making excuses.  So I learned to duck my head, say "okay" or "thank you", and move on.

It took me years and years to truly believe in what my mom told me, but it worked, so until I did believe it, I followed her advice.  Now though, I understand why the coaches were so frustrated with my response.  When I made excuses, I was trying to push attention away from my shame of failing.  I would say: "I'm trying" but they didn't want to hear it, and here's why.  The word "try" inherently means that you've failed.  If you're successful in your endeavors, you say: "I did it".  If you fail (most people) say: "I tried".  The full sentence though is: "I tried and failed."  By using the word "try", I was trying to weasel out of my own failings.  And that seemed dishonorable to me, so I don't use the word try anymore.  If I fail at something, I'm going to own it.  "I'm sorry, I failed," is fucking hard to say the first hundred (or so) times.  But the more I've said it, the more I've accepted it, the more I've owned my actions.  I respect myself more for admitting my failings and moving on from them.  And, the fact that I can receive a note and say "thank you" and honestly mean it (although there are still times where I don't mean it), has earned me respect from my peers.  I've actually had a boss commend me for always taking a note with a "thank you", even when he knew I probably disagreed with him.

Lead by Example: This one is rather less specific to me, but like the other one, I know exactly how it came about.  As established above, I hate being told what to do.  It irks me, and even though I know people are trying to help, to this day, it is still extremely difficult for me to accept that they aren't being condescending.

By nature of my personality, and despite of my relatively young age, I end up in charge of many situations. I was a shift supervisor at my Starbucks 22.  I assistant stage managed an equity show at 23.  I'm props lead for a prominent theatre and have been since I was 22.  It's not the authority I'm seeking, honest.  I just look to do my job the best I possibly can, but that, I've found, leads to having authority. And so, how does one lead without condescending to people?  How do you lead people decades older than you?  This is the problem I have faced since I graduated college.

My solution (and it has been my solution since before I graduated, but it's become more important since then)?  Do, don't tell.  I read a lot, and so often, the hero becomes disheartened when they try to live by this principal, but fail, but I've surprisingly found a lot of success.  At Starbucks, hardly a week would go by without a coworker mentioning that I inspired them with how hard I worked.  And let me tell you, those words are heady and I never got sick of them.  When I left my first store, one of my coworkers flat-out told me that she thought I was effective because I lead by example.  It made her and other people want to work harder.  And so, despite my expectations, sometimes people do notice.

Moments like that are why I always work my hardest; even when I'm exhausted or hurt or sick, I will always give everything.  And if I can convince even a few people to follow my example, then I count it as a success.

You are your Own Worst Enemy: This belief came about in college.  My entire life, I've always taken failing hard, particularly when I'm letting down other people in addition to myself.  My freshman year of college, I got a stomach virus.  I had a fever of 102 at it's highest and the illness lasted about a week.  People covered the concerts I was supposed to work, but when I was finally feeling better, I completely spaced and missed a show.  My boss (who was also my professor) could have fired me right then and there.  He had all the cause he needed.  I went to him, sobbing and terrified.  He just looked at me and said: "Nothing I have to say will make you feel any worse than the things you have already told yourself." and he dismissed me.  I couldn't stop thanking him.

His words were ones I had never heard before, but they were life changing.  I vowed that I would take that approach in the future.  When people fuck up, they don't need your derision, they know they fucked up; it's only hurting, not helping.  And so I've found myself repeating my professor verbatim over the years and the grateful looks I've gotten for that have been nothing but rewarding.

No Regrets: This one I don't have a story for.  I suspect it was something that happened when I was really young, but I couldn't tell you what.  My whole life though, I've lived mostly without regrets.  I'm not sure how I manage it, but I'm grateful that I can.  The few times when I have regretted a decision, I've been utterly miserable and so I've sought to avoid it as much as possible.  To me, regrets do nothing but cause you to question yourself.  I try to have confidence in myself and trust that I've made the right decisions.  I think in almost every case, it's worked out for me.  I only get one life, I'm not going to waste it on what might have been.

Expect Results and you'll Get Them: This belief developed slowly while working with children and I'm so glad it did.  I've found that if you tell a child to do something and have no doubts that they will object, then they'll do it.  I don't try to take advantage of this; I don't want to abuse my authority over them.  However, having absolute faith in what I say and how it will affect their actions, has proven key to me.  If they have a question or concern about it, I'm not going to force them to do it.  I'm not demanding or requiring they do something; I've just found: expect something reasonable -> they will oblige you.

This result was curious to me and so I've tested it over the years.  When I first began to train my dog, I was curious if it would apply to him and it does.  If I tell him to "Sit" then he's going to; I'm not uncertain about it, he will sit (it might not always be prompt, but because it's my expectation, he will meet it).  People (and apparently animals) seem to naturally want to meet expectations.  I think this is another reason that I'm able to be in management positions even when people are 10, 20, 30, 40+ years older than me.  I don't care their age, I wouldn't be asking something of them if it didn't need to happen, and I have no expectation that it won't happen.

I think this whole method wouldn't work out for me if I was unreasonable.  I'm not ever trying to be manipulative or demanding and people tend to get that.  If you're not demanding, people tend to also be more willing to accommodate you.

I don't think I did a particularly good job explaining this one.

Trust Yourself First: I don't have super high self-esteem in many ways (though this post would seem to belie that statement), but I have always be confident in my sense of self.  I know who I am.  I know when I do something, I'm probably not going to fail.  If I do something, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability, even if I do fail.

When I was attending college prep school we read a poem called "The White Man's Burden" (it's about Imperialism) and the question my teachers asked of us when we finished was, "Was the author serious in his intent or was it satire?"  They asked us to move to one corner of the room if we thought it was satire and another if we thought it was serious.  It was a co-taught class of 50 or so high school sophomores.  By the time everyone had decided, I was sitting alone in the corner of the room designated for the author being serious.  Twice my teachers asked me: "Are you sure?  You're all alone."  And twice, I assured them that I was positive I didn't want to move.  The teachers then went on to explain that I was right and commended me for being firm in my decision.  If the teachers had said move to this corner if you think you're pretty, or a good weight, or likeable I would have never stood firm in my belief of those things, because I didn't believe they were true.  But in this area, I knew, unequivocally that I was correct.  Every now and then, a situation comes along where I know in my bones I'm correct, even when no one else believes me.  This was one of those.

My junior year of high school, I was in chemistry and my teacher was trying to explain a concept and the class was just not getting it.  I did understand and eventually halfway through the class period, I raised my hand and asked: "Is it like this ______?"  I was hoping to lure her on to a more understandable path. The teacher got so upset she asked me: "If you think you're so smart, why don't you teach the class?"  She gestured toward the board and I shrugged, got up, drew a few diagrams, made a brief explanation, and the class all nodded and expressed their thanks.  I can be a shit at times...

What I mean by all of this isn't that you should trust yourself and not other people, or even over other people.  It means, for me at least, that's it's really really hard for me to trust other people if I don't trust myself.  And I want to trust other people, so trusting myself is also a must.  Know when you're right and have faith in it.

Show Consideration to Everyone, but Respect is Earned:  When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be a grown-up (now that I am an adult, that desire still doesn't seem foolish).  I hated being treated like a kid.  I hated not having a say in my own choices.  I hated that people seemed to think that I was incapable of reasoning.  I hated that I had to respect my elders, even when they didn't deserve it.  I hated that I seemed to be somehow sub-human.  I just said hated a lot in reference to my childhood, and in truth, I really didn't care for my childhood.  I was mostly miserable.

As soon as I turned 18 (or rather as soon as most of my friends did and I demanded the rights they were receiving) everything changed.  I was suddenly capable, responsible, etc.  But what changed?  Nothing, not really.  I resolved, then and there, that I wouldn't treat kids that way when I interacted with them.

When I was a kid, my dad (and occasionally mom) was constantly telling me: "Don't be disrespectful."  It got so I clenched my jaw and ground my teeth at the phrase.  It just made me so angry.  "Respect has to be earned." I would say (or usually shout) back.  And despite everything, I still think that's true.

Consideration means everything to me.  Having written that and looking over that sentence, I still don't quite find it hyperbole.  If you are inviting people over, you need to tell everyone you live with.  If you said you'd make dinner, then you need to make dinner (or at least tell everyone who's eating it that you're not).  If you're planning on a event, invite everyone you would normally invite, even if you think that person is probably busy.  Consideration is how you show people that you care (there are of course other ways, but this is my primary way).  I don't mind going out of my way for everyone.  It doesn't hurt or really affect me.  I don't mind being inconvenienced at all, because as people, everyone deserves my consideration.  I feel like it is a thing people should receive by right of being people.  I will be considerate to everyone I meet and again, to me, that means treating everyone courteously, politely, kindly, and (at least initially) believing that they're competent.  This applies to kids, the differently-abled, people of different races, of different religions, of different genders, of different orientations, hell, I apply it to domesticated animals sometimes.

But for me, respect is different.  When I meet someone, I will be considerate of them, but I'm still assessing them (maybe they're not competent or intelligent or friendly (etc), but that doesn't mean I should be mean or impolite).  However, there are very few people I honestly respect in the world (I can name maybe 15).  For me respect is something I almost cherish and it is definitely earned.  People have earned that in difference ways.  For me, being completely competent and astonishing at your chosen profession is a really good way to earn my respect.  Being an incomparably good human is another way.  Having put up with my bullshit from childhood is another.  I am always seeking to earn everyone else's respect.

Anticipate Problems and You'll Prevent Most of Them: This whole post seems to have turned into me bragging, which isn't what I mean or want.  These are just tenets that I live my life by and so I have devoted everything I have to trying to be good at what I believe.  All that being said, I do feel like I am extremely good at anticipating what other people want.  My boss (and other coworkers) have a tendency to turn to me and go "Kaylee, could you get..." and I'll hand them the tool they needed before they finish the sentence.

It's such a useful skill as a stage manager, so it's one I've cultivated daily.  If something goes wrong on stage, I have a 70% chance of being the one who will notice.  And if it's minor, I'm just going to take care of it, but if it's major, I can tell my superiors and they can troubleshoot.  If I say something ill thought out or the phrasing is off, I will tend to notice that the person I'm talking to is upset and trying to smooth it over and apologize immediately.  If someone is hurt or sick, I generally hand them a bandaid or a cough drop, or whatever, without them even asking.  I want to be a person who notices that your drunk friend went to the bathroom awhile ago and hasn't come back, so that you can be there for them

It's not mind reading, but the more I observe people the better I get at anticipating, and the more people seem to think it is.  And I'll admit, it's not totally altruistic, I feel awesome when I'm able to anticipate someone's needs without them asking.  I'll admit, I'm occasionally rude and cut someone off with a "Yeah, no problem" before they finish their sentence and they get mad (I've played the: "Well, what was I going to say?" game with people who are upset at being interrupted quite often (I frequently make them more mad, by finishing the sentence correctly)).

For all that I can take a note with a "thank you" it's still hard to not think that I've failed since I got the note in the first place.  This means that I expend probably more of my energy than I should anticipating what people want or need, so I don't have to take a note in the first place.

Let your Best be Good Enough:  This is my newest held belief and it is still the hardest for me.  Growing up, I have always been competitive.  People often think that I want to win at all costs.  It's made more than one person not want to play board games with me anymore.  For a long time, I bought into it.  I'm competitive, I'll get upset if I lose, I just shouldn't play.  That was still preferable for everyone than when I played and got upset, and I really do enjoy watching almost as much as playing.  But recently I came to the realization that I don't hate losing.  I hate not doing my best.

At Nationals for volleyball, we faced the number one ranked team in the nation and went a full 3 games (best of 3) with them and only lost but the minimum 2 points.  And I didn't feel bad at all.  In fact, I felt proud of  how my team had played.  It took me a long time to realize, that I only got upset when I lost and I felt I could have played much better.  So now that I recognize that feeling, I can generally play most games even when I don't play well.  But it's still very hard for me to lose when I played badly, and it's going to take a long time to truly accept that sometimes I will do badly and that is still good enough.

There is an Optimal Solution: I figure I'll start with a belief that's fairly unique to me and end with one.  I feel like many people believe that compromising is often the best solution.  For me, I find that a compromise is rarely even remotely satisfactory.  I have a hard time believing that there isn't an optimal solution where everyone will be happy.  And the thing is, I can find that optimal solution just often enough (sometimes in situations where it really seemed like there wasn't an optimal solution) that I have a hard time shaking myself of this belief.  This is a belief that has gotten me into trouble, when I get so stubborn about looking for the optimal solution, that I don't want to accept one that's adequate.

Similarly, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when someone takes an inefficient route to somewhere.  I understand that their route (or solution) is perfectly valid and I shouldn't malign that, but I do have a hard time (at least in my head) not looking for a better one.  This is a belief I'm not convinced I should necessarily hold, but it does keep me constantly thinking and looking for better choices and it has helped me out so so frequently, that I have a hard time abandoning it.


My Goal for Existence is to be a Better Person Every Day:  I feel like this whole post feels like I'm bragging or: "Look at me, I'm such a good person", but that's really not what it's intended to be.  This is what I believe and I hold my beliefs because I believe they are correct.  If they're not, or if there's a better one, I'm going to reassess.  I'm constantly evolving, constantly changing.  Maybe I am a good person, maybe I'm not, but I'll tell you what is unequivocally true: I strive for competence and courteousness always, but no matter how good I am, I can always be better.  So maybe my belief tenets disagree with yours, but it could well be that yours are better, and if they are, I'm going to borrow them.

Happy New Year everyone. 

A Year in Review

I haven't blogged much in recent years, that's been no secret.  I'm so busy, it's hard to find time and it's not like I'm really writing for an audience anyway.  But I guess I just want to take the time to go over my year.  Since my party plans were spoiled by a mild concussion, it's something to do (though it's made harder by a dog and a cat and a laptop trying to fit in my lap).

January- Working one of my favorite shows. It was tough show just because it was so mechanically difficult, at this point, I'd already been working the show for almost two months.  The city transfer was super rough, but I got through it.  I had the flu for the first time in my life, but managed to get it while everyone seemed to be busy, so I suffered through it alone.

February- The show from before finished up. I went to Canada for Valentines Day, which was really fun.  I started rehearsals as stage manager for two shows: and original staged reading and a famous Disney kid's show.

March- Kid's show continued, keeping up with two rehearsals is tough.  The stage reading went over great! I was super impressed with the musical the teenagers who were writing it managed to create (certainly better than another new work I saw in March).  I adopted a six month old puppy named Argos.  He's Italian Greyhound/Chihuahua mix and is the speediest thing on the planet.

April- Three tech weeks in a row: the staged reading at the end of March, the kid's show which ran for three weeks, and then another show as props at the theatre I normally work at.  On opening of the kid's show, a scenic element managed to break my pinky finger...that was fun. The last of those productions was probably the toughest track that I had ever run (and certainly the toughest up until that point). The crew was absolutely amazing. I miss them.

May- Opened the show.  Boyfriend broke up with me after six and a half years.  I'm fine now.  I was mostly fine then.  The hardest part was actually the schism that was created between my other friends and I, made worse by the fact that I wasn't sure what I'd done or how to fix it.  I moved out of the apartment, taking Argos with me.  My parents were incredibly gracious and supportive and let me stay with them for three months (the rest of the show run plus a bit) till I found an apartment.

June- Continued running the show in the first city.  Tried not to mope too much.  I spent a good deal of time biking.

July- Transferred the show to the second city.  I was only there for the first week, during which time I was training my replacement.  I got pulled to asm a small Equity show (my first as a stage manager), so I wasn't available anymore.  I did get to fill in for the asm the previous show one day though, because the normal asm was sick.  That was fun.  Started rehearsals for the show I was asming.  Became rather close with one of my coworkers, he's still a good friend.

August- I nearly amputated my left index finger and crushed my middle finger.  I managed to slam it in a heavy metal framed window that was propped open and shouldn't have been (see a previous post).  I ended up with five stitches in my finger.  I was lucky that for once, as asm, I wasn't allowed to touch scenery while backstage.  The production process for that new work was a bit of a bitch, but I loved the show, and it turned out pretty nicely.  I moved to my new apartment at the end of August.  I now live with more fish than I care to admit, my dog, and my cat (who had been living with my family for two years because of my roommate's allergies).

September- I had no shows immediately, which hadn't happened to me since I started theatre.  I refereed high school volleyball, though it wasn't the same.  This month was really hard because theatre had been my buffer since my breakup.  As long as I kept busy, I didn't have to think.

October- I stage managed a small fundraiser, which was high stress, but low time commitment and continued refing volleyball.  The last month of October we started flight rehearsal because in my current show, we're flying people.  I'm props again, but since our crew is small, I help with almost all the flying (it is both a cool and as dangerous and as difficult as I expected).

November-  I basically ran the show.  I don't get along with the crew on this show as well as most at this theatre, there are a bunch of new people.  I have a very difficult track, but it's fun, and keeps me from getting bored (which is one of my least favorite things ever).  I started hanging out with my coworkers more.  We go out the the bar after the last show Sunday.  It's fun.

December-  First, the good: I'm applying to a production management job with the children's theatre company that I work with frequently.  Now, the bad: My youngest sister ended up in the hospital with terrible head pain.  They thought it might be something life-threatening.  I think that's probably the closest I've come to missing a show.  Luckily, it ended up being a terribly migraine (which she'd never had before).  She didn't have aura (the black spots and neurological symptoms) so doctors were extremely confused.  But hers manifest the same way mine do.  Migraines suck, but I'm so glad it was relatively minor. Exactly a week later, my dad ended up in the hospital.  A massive bloodclot in his leg, broke off and made it's way to his lungs causing a pulmonary embolism.  At first my family told me it was relatively minor, but the more the doctors probed, the worse they realized it had been.  He was lucky he didn't die.  It hasn't exactly been a good month.  Today, I managed to minorly concuss myself while running a complicated props handoff sequence.  

So, here I am, sitting at home on New Year's Eve, not able to drink.  It's not that big of a deal honestly; it's just so typical of this fucking year.

Here's to a better one.  I hope with everything I have that it will be better than this one.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Aegism in Volleyball Officiating

I talk about ageism more than many other things.  I think it's mainly because growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be treated like a competent human.  And then suddenly I turned 18 and magically adults finally started treating me like one.

It particularly frustrating at my job right now.  I am in between shows for the theatre (minus a small fundraiser I'm working).  It means that I've actually had a chance to ref volleyball this fall, which I love.  The sport is elegant and I miss it (though not the horrible politics that come with it).  In my refing association, I'm the only one under 30 and the association is probably 15% women.  I'm not a huge fan of either statistic.

It would be easier to overlook it though, if everyone didn't behave so stereotypically.  All the elderly men are patronizing and ready to put a hand on your shoulder and tell you not to worry about things too much, etc, etc.  And whatever, it's horrible sexism that I don't put up with when they do it to me, but what's more frustrating is their patronization of the athletes we work with.

In volleyball there is a head ref (generally called the R1 or up ref since they're up on the ref stand) and a secondary ref (generally called an R2 or down ref since they're on the ground).  There are line judges for two corners of the court who each have two lines of the court to keep track of.  There's a scorekeeper who keeps track of that complicated piece of paperwork.  There's a libero track who only tracks the libero (a defensive only player).  And finally, there's the person who runs the scoreboard and clock.  At each match, the home team provides a score keeper, scoreboard person, libero tracker, and two line judges (if they didn't pay for officials to do lines for them instead).

Frequently, girls from the JV and C teams ref the Varsity (Varsity girls ref the other two teams, etc).  And there is no end to the condescension almost every ref treats those girls with.  They say things like: "Well they're not really paying attention anyways" or "They're only kids" or "They're not real refs."

Now, here's the thing most of our referees never played volleyball.  Most are basketball or football or softball refs who wanted more work and said: volleyball, that's easy and doesn't require running.  Well volleyball has an extremely complex set of rules and watching new refs work in invariably painful for at least their first year.  In contrast many (probably 50%+) of the girls who are working matches have been playing since they 11 or 12 and so frequently will have quite a few years of experience with the game in comparison to new refs.

There are some leagues that require schools to provide adult support officials (score keepers, line judges, etc).  This is even worse than new officials.  At least the new officials have a couple weeks of training before they start refing.  I would say about half the parents have at least watched their daughters play for a few years, but the other half of the parents generally haven't seen more than a match or two in their life.

Now tell me, who do you want as an official?  A girl who knows the game or a adult who doesn't?  I would pick the girl every single time.  In fact, I will almost always pick the girl who's only played on C team, because even if she doesn't know the game that well, at least she's playing it 5+ days a week for two months.

Most of the refs, including ones who have been working for years, can't scorekeep properly.  The score sheet is (probably overly) complex and it's important to get right.  Once again, I would prefer a girl who's been scorekeeping for years to an untrained parent or even official.

I don't understand why these girls aren't treated competently!  I'm no more competent at score keeping or line judging than I was ten years ago.  There was nothing more frustrating than being treated poorly when I was scorekeeping or line judging in high school.  By my senior year, I'd played for eight years.  I started R2ing club matches (every team is expected to pitch in and help ref on the rounds they aren't playing) when I was 11.  I started R1ing when I was 15.  By my senior year, I had as much experience as probably at least half the officials and I was unusual but not a complete anomaly.  In this case, age simply doesn't matter.  Knowledge of the game and skill level, however, do!

The other day I was working a junior high match so the oldest girls were no older than 13.  I was given two line judges who'd done lines once before and so were nervous.  I walked them through my expectations and the rules, as I do with all line judges, and then we started the match.  At first they were hesitant, but after they'd made a few calls and I'd nodded at them encouragingly, they got into it.  They actually even understood some of the technicalities some officials don't understand.  They would come up to me at time outs and apologize for missing some technicality and I'd explain what it was.  Both girls even caught foot faults (where the server steps on the back line before contacting the ball).  My R2 was surprised that they'd caught them, but I wasn't.

If you expect people to be competent, if they actually possess the pertinent skills, they will meet your expectations because they don't want to let you down.  This isn't necessarily always true, but I've found it works with most everyone: dogs, kids, actors, coworkers.  The fact that someone is younger doesn't mean they're stupid or even less competent.  It does generally mean they have less experience and practice, but even that's not always true.  I just wish we could treat everyone like capable human-beings until proven otherwise.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Own Place

If you've read my last several posts, I'm sure you've realized that something is very different in my life.  I don't really want to talk about it, even here, but I am currently living alone.  I have a one bedroom apartment with my dog, cat (who I'm finally living with again after two years), and four fish tanks (two of them are very small...).

A friend of mine assured me that I would love living alone.  I was skeptical, but it turns out that she's right.  I have certainly been happier in my lifetime, but there is a lovely freedom to not having roommates.  I can make whatever food I want, I can leave things out and it's not the end of the world, I use my space however I want.  It's invigorating.  That all being said, I have never kept a living space so clean (aside from dog toys on the ground, which is a battle I just can't win). I can leave dishes in the sink, no one's going to bug me about them, so I do them promptly.  I can leave jewelry out of the table, so instead I put it away.  As a child, I was extremely contrary, as an adult, I do my absolute best not to be, but it stills come through sometimes.

I was rereading my early posts on the blog (there were some horrendous typos and grammar errors, sorry) and was realizing that living alone this time is nothing like it was back then.  Back then, I was living in someone else's space.  I only had a room to myself and it chafed on me.  Here, though there are times when I'm so lonely I can hardly function, at least the space is mine.

I miss people a lot.  But having my own place is nice.


And now, in the less distraught world...

I've been injured fairly seriously twice in the past year.  I tore a tendon in my wrist and I nearly decapitated two of my fingers on my left hand.  Oh, and now that I think about it, I broke the pinkie on my left hand (in an entirely separate accident).  Physical pain is almost trivial at this point, I practically forgot that I broke a bone.  Which is not to say that I've broken many bones, but over the course of my relatively short life, I've actually had a lot of physically painful injuries.

When I was younger I sprained my left ankle three times in one summer and my right ankle twice.  I was out for less than a week for sports each time.  I iced, took advil, taped my ankle and was back a few days later.  That's just how I handled pain, even from a young age.  I think I was eleven that summer.  I did end up wearing ankle braces for several years after that while playing soccer, because my ankles were weak, but it wasn't a big deal.

I think my first truly serious injury, at least in my mind, was I had a second degree tear of my right MCL, which is the medial ligament in your knee.  I was a freshman in high school and playing on both junior varsity and varsity for volleyball.  During practice with JV, I went up for a block and the middle hitter on the other side of the net went up to joust with me .  As we came down, she came under the net and bumped into me.  I landed on the heel of my right leg, which hyper-extended and twisted, tearing my MCL.  I went to the trainer, she told me the probable diagnosis, gave me some ice, and wrapped my knee.  I think I was one crutches for a day, maybe two.  It was my first and only time on crutches.  I wore a borrowed brace that entire time.

It took me nearly two weeks to recover.  Never in my life had I sat out for so long.  In fact, I think that's the only time I ever just couldn't practice.  The pain was always completely manageable, but what scared be was the instability in my leg.  I would sometimes just take a step and, even with a brace, my knee would start to buckle and hyper-extend.  To this day, that tendon still gets sore in I spend too much time in a position where my knees are bowing in (for instance focusing lights in box booms).

Playing club volleyball that winter, I cracked ribs on the right side of my body.  I dove, got the ball up, but landed too hard on my ribs.  I didn't hear them crack the first time, but even breathing was painful.  I, being the stubborn idiot I am, never even missed a play that day.  The last vestige of pain from the injury I remember being fall of my senior year.  I re-cracked them at least twice.  I know at the Reno National Qualifier I re-cracked them.  They were almost healed, but then, sophomore year, shortly before I injured my shoulder, I was passing a ball and the teammate in front of me reached back to play a ball that wasn't hers.  Her fist went right into my ribs and that time, I actually did hear them crack.  I think that was the only time I ever swore on the court or field (not that I think anything of swearing these days).

I have an entire post devoted to my shoulder injury.  But in short, during practice my sophomore year of high school, I came down from a block and then my teammate came down after me and her elbow collided with my collarbone.  I ended up with impingement from that immediate encounter (which again, the trainer at my school diagnosed correctly (it took orthopedists 5 years to believe me)).  I think my grandparents were the only ones who realized quite how chronic my pain was.  There were times when I couldn't jump serve, particularly after a long tournament, it was just too painful.  I abused advil to no end.  I think at it's worst, I was taking five advil to cut the pain.  I switched to another pain killer and still couldn't get a doctor to believe that I was in pain from a serious problem.

By the time I convinced an orthopedist I wasn't faking, I had not only impingement, but bursitis, a torn labrum, a 33% tear of my rotator cuff, and multi-direction instability in my tendons, meaning they had to shorten them all.  I was in a sling for two months and then not even close to recovered until two months after that.  I am daily thankful that the surgery fixed everything.  I knew I was in constant, chronic, relatively severe pain, but I didn't realize what a drain it had been on me till it was gone.

From there, I didn't have any injuries for quite awhile.  Stage management isn't exactly the most dangerous profession.  A few months after I started at Starbucks, I developed carpal tunnel.  It wasn't painful at all, but my hands went numb, which is mildly terrifying when serving boiling beverages to people.  I got a brace and that seemed to fix matters, but then, nearly a year later, I was working 80-90 hours a week between the two jobs and, during an easy pull (bringing in scenery on the counter-weight system), my wrist was just suddenly agonizing.  I taped it immediately and then added more tape and more tape.  It helped, but not nearly enough.  I added my wrist brace over my tape and that seemed to help.

I couldn't do anything without that brace.  I slept in it, I worked at Starbucks in it, and when at the theatre, I taped, used a sleeve, and a brace.  I started developing problems with my right shoulder because I was trying to compensate for my pain and limited mobility.  I'm fairly certain, that if I hadn't found a solution, in relatively short-order, I would have torn my rotator cuff, this time in my right shoulder.  It was affecting my work enough that my co-workers were starting to worry about me.  Completely honestly, the pain and repetitive strain on my wrist and shoulder is why I quite Starbucks.  Like my shoulder, the pain was chronic enough and severe enough that I was worried this injury wouldn't heal on its own.  I went back to my orthopedist and he sent me off to do a nerve conduction study, thinking it was still a strange version of carpal tunnel.  I doubted his diagnosis (surprise), having done a little research, but off I went.

The study revealed I had moderate carpal tunnel, but not enough to account for my pain.  When I went back to my orthopedist I finally convinced him to focus on the ulnar side of my arm, where the pain was (as opposed to the radial side, where carpal tunnel usually manifests).  He realized I had a major tear (I could stick my index finger in the gap between my carpals and metacarpals, one of the tendons was basically severed) in my TFCC (triangular fibrocartilage complex) and gave me a cortisone injection in the joint.  For two days, my wrist was virtually unusable (I also had the flu that weekend, so I was just completely miserable), but after that, my wrist clearly started to heal and now it's completely better (I thoroughly appreciate ligaments and tendon that can heal, even when basically severed).

The wrist injury was November to February.  In April, I broke my pinkie finger while moving a set piece.  The stupid actor I was working with knocked a heavy ship's steering wheel off the piece and it fell on my pinkie.  I didn't hear anything break, but I looked down and saw it was crooked.  I straightened it, threw on a pair of gloves, and finished my last six curtain pulls of the night (unfortunately, I was literally the only person who could do them).  The pain didn't really kick in until the curtain pulls, I think it was entirely shock up until that point.  Again, I'm an idiot, and didn't go to the doctor.  Ultimately, they wouldn't have done anything for me that I hadn't already done.  I splinted it, iced it, took pain meds, and drove myself home.  When I injured my left hand later in the year, xrays confirmed that I'd broken my pinkie.  I don't really regret my actions too badly.  My pinkie bends and straightens normally, with only slight stiffness, which is increasingly less.

I got through my entire next show without an injury (two minor pulled muscles, but those hardly count), which is fairly amazing because I've never worked so hard in my entire life.  It was the show that I was assistant stage managing (my first actor's equity contract), where I almost lost the tips of two of my fingers.  I came into rehearsal and started my usual prep, I needed to make coffee, hot water, make copies, and fill up the water pitcher.  Someone had propped one of the heavy 4'x8', metal framed windows open with our water pitcher.  I went to reclaim it, vaguely wary of the window, having dealt with them before in the other rehearsal room.  Well, in the other rehearsal room, they don't just slam shut when unpropped.  This window did.  I went to hold the window up with my right hand and take out the water pitcher with my dominant left hand.  As I'm sure you've guessed, the metal window slammed against the metal frame, and caught my left index and middle finger.  I'd had time enough to pull them back a little (probably what saved them), but not enough.  I remember yelling wordlessly, not because it did hurt, but because I knew it was supposed to.  I stood there for a second, clutching my fingers, instinctively applying pressure before I even realized I was bleeding.

I think I scared my stage manager and director more than I scared myself.  My director was screaming "Oh my god, are you alright?! Are you alright!?!"

I remember managing something like, "I think I'll be okay. I just need a second."  It was then that I looked down at my finger and realized that no, I really thoroughly was not alright.  Blood was all over me, mostly contained by my right hand which was still applying pressure.  I ran to the bathroom, going through the stage management office, to alert the sm, to get there.  The stage manager and director followed me from a distance, completely shocked and unsure what to do.  I got to the bathroom, grabbed paper towels and clamped down on my fingers as hard as I could.  At this point the full pain had kicked in.  As it turns out, when I'm in that severe and acute of pain, I cry.  I can't help it.  It's like getting hit in the face with a soccer or volleyball and your eyes start to water.  Except in this case it was more than watering.  Having dealt with a hand injury before, I knew that I would probably pass out if I stayed standing, so I knelt by the sink, so the blood that seeped through the towels would only get in it and not on the floor.

The stage manager called my mom, who immediately knew something was wrong when my voice wasn't the one she heard at the end of the phone.  After a few minutes, I had the bleeding stopped mostly and was able to talk to my mom.  I remember my voice shaking and hating it, but not being able to stop it (much like the crying).  I tried to wrap gauze around my fingers to bind the paper towels in place, failed miserably, and the stage manager finally had the presence of mind to help me.  The director had gone off in search of our boss, who wasn't on the premise, and when he came back I informed them that I needed to go to urgent care and he took me.  I has prepared to drive myself.  I would have done it and I'm fairly convinced I would have been okay, but it was smarter that he took me.

I had the world's worst receptionist, who tried to make me fill out L&I paperwork with my non-dominant hand while in the the worst pain I'd ever experienced (which was saying something).  Needless to say, it didn't work out so well.  I finally dictated to the director what needed to be written.  While he was filling out the rest of the paperwork I was called back and had a nurse look over my fingers.  Now, understand, the pain was radiating, it was extremely hard to tell which fingers exactly were affected.  I'd wrapped the index, middle, and ring fingers; turns out the ring finger only had a minor bruise.

But, when I got in there my conversation with the nurse went something like this: Her: "Nice wrap job...." (extreme sarcasm I will swear to the death I did not imagine). Me: "Well I had to stop the bleeding and it's what I had on hand!" Her: "Well it works I guess.  What fingers are hurt?"  Me: "I don't know. It's hard to tell.  The index and middle fingers.  Maybe the ring."  Her: "Have you have a tetanus shot in the last seven years?" Me: "I don't remember."  Her: "Well I need you to remember." Me: "I'm not in the best condition to remember much right now, I'm sorry."  Her: "Well I don't care what kind of condition you're in.  I need you to remember."  Me: "Look, I'm sorry, but I don't.  Just give me the tetanus shot."

The dull ache of the tetanus shot reminded me that I'd had a shot five years previously, but oh well, no harm done.  In retrospect, I should have had them do the tetanus shot in my left arm, even though it was dominant, because it's not like I was going to be using my left hand any time soon.  Luckily that nurse left at that point and didn't come back.  My mom showed up and they gave me some numbing gel, which helped some.  Then they gave me pain pills, which I swallowed dry, because I was too impatient for them to fetch water.  They took an xray and shockingly, nothing was broken.  They cleaned the deep cuts on both sides of my index finger, which (aside from the cut itself) was the most painful procedure that I experienced that day.

On my index finger, I had a cut that ran to the bone on my palm side and a cut running parallel to the other one, almost to the bone on the back of my hand.  As the doctor told me, I was extremely lucky that I didn't lose the tip of my finger, which would have been awful, because it would have sliced diagonally through the joint.  I got five stitches on the palm side of my index finger.  She would have stitched the back of my index finger too, but there wasn't enough skin to work with.  My middle finger was more crushed than cut.  I had a very shallow cut, but more painful was the blood blister that formed under the nail.  The doctor burned a whole through the nail and let the fluid drain, which also immediately relieved the pain.

It's been almost two months now and my fingers are mostly healed.  I had bad damage to the nail matrices of both fingers, so the nails are growing out a little weirdly.  Surprisingly, the cuts to my index fingers barely have visible scars.  There is a lot of scar tissue present that I'm trying to loosen as time goes by.  But unless something strikes the scar just right, there's pretty much no pain anymore.


So why all these stories?  I don't know, really.  The other day at costco I saw a mother just wailing because her small son had fallen and skinned his nose.  At first the little boy wasn't even crying, but as his mother flipped out, he got more and more frightened and was shortly inconsolable.  It mostly reminded me how some people just freak out over minor injuries, and I guess it makes sense.  If you've never had an injury, if you've never had sports medicine or first aid training, then I guess it makes sense why you might freak out.

I tend to underplay my injuries and pain, not really because I'm trying to be macho, but mainly just because I need other people not to freak out.  I function well while in pain, but I frequently still need help from other people.  And also because I have an extremely high pain-threshold (in case you haven't noticed).  This is helped immensely by the fact that I don't swell almost ever.  I get some heat in my injuries sometimes, but not always.  No swelling means I heal quickly and much of the pain people feel is caused by the inflammation in the injury.  I think it's part of the reason that my fingers were so shockingly painful, because I got the full brunt of the nerve damage and actually injury, inflammation didn't really play into the picture.  So, coming from this perspective, it's fascinating to watch and help people with their injuries (and from treating all my own, I'm pretty decent at treating injuries).

I don't think of myself as clumsy, though probably more careless than necessary would be accurate.  I have had a lot of injuries...10+ sprained ankles, so so many pulled muscles, pulled hamstring +2, pulled quads +2 (in a different category because hamstring and the like are more debilitating), pulled gluts, pulled hip-flexor, countless jammed fingers (every joint at least once), 5+ sprained wrists, rotator cuff tear, impingement, labrum tear, bursitis, tendon and ligament instability, torn ulnar tendon, torn MCL, cracked ribs, broken pinkie, severely cut and crushed fingers....yeah...we'll go with careless.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How do I move on?

I wish I could stop crying.  It's not every day anymore, but that's mainly only because I've learned how to keep myself so busy that I don't have time to think.  Well, I've had time to think today, and as it normally does, that's led to tears and a break down.

I have never felt so trapped in my life.  The advice you always hear is: talk to them.  Well fine, yes, that's all very good, but what about when talking is more destructive than constructive?  What about when you go to someone, put yourself on the line, and say: "I'm hurting", "I'm broken", "I don't know how to function anymore".  And they tell you: "you're overreacting", "you're taking it too hard", "it's not that big of a deal", "just move on", "you shouldn't be feeling x".  Well yes! In an ideal world, I'd accept this all and just walk away!  Don't you think I want to?  If I could move on with my life, I would.  If I knew how, I would.  But I don't know how!  And worse, I don't know how to get to that point.

I don't know what I did.  I genuinely don't.  We used to get along.  And now we don't.  We didn't drift apart.  That I understand.  That, I've been through before.  That's not what this is though.  "What did I do to bring this on?"  I don't understand!  I've asked and asked, in those exact words, but I've literally been told: "you didn't do anything".  If I didn't do anything, then why am I being treated differently?  If I did do something wrong, why didn't you just tell me so I could fix it?  So what if I'm upset?  How is that even relevant to me needing to know the information so I can become a better person?

I need comfort.  I just want to be held and reassured.  Maybe I shouldn't need reassurance.  If you're secure, you're not supposed to need it, right?  But I do.  I don't care if I'm not supposed to, I do!  I need people  Life is too lonely without them.  I need people to care and hug me and tell me it's alright, they love me.  Why is that wrong?!  Why is needing other people wrong?  And why are people going to tell me: it's wrong to need reassurance instead of hugging me and telling me it's alright.  How does that reaction help anyone?

So what do I do?  I've tried to talk to them.  I honestly have.  I can't be the one who reaches out anymore.  It's killing me.  So I walk away.  But how do I do that?  I don't know how to walk away.  I have a deep need to understand my life.  And I don't.  If I understood, I could walk away, would know how to walk away.  But I don't understand.  And the understanding doesn't seem to be forthcoming.  Every time I try to talk to someone, every time I try to put myself on the line even once more, some how I never come away with more information.  And afterwards, every time, I break down a little more.  I need to understand what I did.  I need to understand so that I can get better and be a better person, so this never happens again.

Maybe I was too reliant on you.  Maybe it was unhealthy.  Maybe it was codependent.  I don't know!  But loving people isn't wrong.  It isn't!  And being hurt when someone you love no longer seems to care for you isn't unreasonable.  I'm hurt.  I'm broken.  And I just need a friend to throw me a lifeline and say: "I do care about you, despite everything, I do care about you."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shoulder to Lean On

It's been a very long time.  Looking at my last post, it's been almost exactly a year.  A lot has happened in that year.  More than I can possibly get into now (and more than I am possibly ready to deal with emotionally).

Professionally, I have learned more in the past year than in any other year I can recall.  I don't think I could ask for better coworkers.  And oh, the stories I could tell.  I've reached the point in my career where I should probably stop sharing them indiscriminately with the internet for fear of compromising the theatre I'm working at however (that isn't to say that I might not post some carefully edited ones later if I feel like it).

I'm not sure if I'm actually going to return to blogging or not.  It's an amazing outlet, but there's a lot that I'm not in a head-space that I can deal with right now.  That being said, I recently had a set of experiences that made me think of why I started blogging in the first place.

It's been a rough couple months.  I hesitate to call them the roughest months in my life, but that very hesitation really informs me how difficult they've been.  Recently, one of my coworkers (let's go with Jed for a pseudonym) and I have gotten to chatting.  During my latest show things went from: let's exchange hilarious and sometimes terrifying theatre stories for hours, to: let's talk about literally anything for hours.  I talked about my whole mess and he talked about his.  And I found that sometimes there is just that selfish relief of: Oh thank god, I'm not the only one with baggage.

But one day we were on our dinner break and Jed casually mentioned being poly and I remember my mind just stopping, while my mouth went on talking like he hadn't just given me deeply personal details as though they meant nothing.  I've never met someone who has told me they were poly, let alone one who used that exact terminology.  And so, in a similar manner I said something along the lines of: "oh, yeah me too" and we moved on with the conversation.  It was certainly the most casually I've told someone that particular piece of information.

But later that night I somehow managed to plunge myself into a world that I desperately want, but is so far outside my experience that I had trouble finding my balance.  Jed's ex-wife had come to see the show and then invited both of us over to her house afterward for tea and dessert.  When I showed up, her babysitter (she has a son under a year old) was just leaving.  She kissed her babysitter on both cheeks, the lips, grabbed his ass, and he went on his way.  Jed commented something about him being one of his ex's boyfriends.

So I sat on the couch with them and chatted, while the baby sat on her lap and waved his arms happily and threw toys for the dog.  She's a lovely person and the most openly affectionate I've ever seen.  And despite their history, there was an ease between Jed and his ex, I'm not sure I've ever seen.  It was all incredibley surreal.  After I finished the tea, I headed home, head spinning.  My night certainly wasn't a picture I had ever envisioned existing as a child, but what struck me was how thoroughly normal the three people treated the situation.  The next day, I met Jed's girlfriend, also a lovely woman.

There's a lot to the story I just can't tell, because it's just not my story, but I can tell you that I sat and talked with Jed for a half hour after the next night's show about his relationships and about how he'd realized he was poly and about the various relationships he'd had.  If truth be told, I kept my family waiting while I talked to him.  I shouldn't have, but what he had to say was something that I needed to hear.  I know rationally, that there are other people who identify as poly, but I guess since I'd never actually met one, it didn't really compute until this week.

Being poly hasn't really played into my life recently.  I'm aware that there are frequently many people I'm attracted to, but since I haven't pursued any of them, it's almost been irrelevant.  I didn't expect having someone to talk to with actual experience in the matter to make such a huge difference.

I wish I could say more, because I've truncated this story rather severely, but it's a relief to finally have someone to talk to who's speaking from personal experience.