I AM A SQUIRREL IN A CHAIN…
“Modeling is the world that I feel most welcome in.” ~Brooke Shields
AMBER LOVE 13-FEB-2015 Sure, I suppose I should’ve been a tad more suspicious about Friday the 13th than normal since I’m certifiably insane and paranoid. Somehow, I hadn’t given it much thought when I woke up at 4 A.M. even though my alarm was set for 6:20. I turned on the ABC News on NY channel 7 as always and listened to the perky news woman point out the three Fridays the 13th we’ll have this year. It didn’t matter. I had a modeling job to get to and was filled with anxiety. While typing out this diary of a mad rural woman, Enigma’s “The Gate” is playing and the nightmarish track is the perfect musical arrangement for this day.
Here’s the stupid fucking thing about anxiety disorders: they make no sense.
I was going to duCret School of Art in Plainfield which is my regular (aka, most often booked) modeling job. I have such a fondness for the decrepit building and the sweetheart instructors. I’ve only ever had one “bad” experience there and it was simply a matter of a shitty bunch of kids. The class I’ve been working with since the fall has been quite lovely. They’re quiet for one – not all classes are, some of them cannot be reigned in no matter what the instructor says; they’re a diverse group of kids which is something duCret always seems to be. I live in a pretty white bread world in the boondocks where, when we had first moved here 30 years ago, there was still Klan activity. So when I go to duCret, it feels a lot like New York City to me. This is one of the schools that I dream about donating millions of dollars to when I win the Powerball. Someday, there will be models staring up at the ceiling and it won’t be a starfield of water stains.
There was some anxiety sourced back to concerns about my physical ability to model. A few weeks ago, I hurt my back yet again, but it’s fine today. I’ve also gained so much weight that I’m uncomfortable at times. And being sedentary has really affected how long I can hold a pose; plus, ones that used to be easy for me, are hard now.
The space heaters were blasting on me from either end of the elevated platform. I didn’t feel cold at all during the gestures. I normally don’t since they’re basically a yoga routine. There’s no clock in the giant former gymnasium. It was 10:15 though when I saw a phone call lighting up my phone which was luckily set to silent. I figured it was another telemarketer. That’s gotten RI-DAMN-FUCKING-DICULOUS since I signed up through the ACA marketplace for insurance. My email is filled with uncaught spam every single day and I get calls all the time. I was shocked that someone was genuinely trying to reach me and left a message.
Speaking of health insurance, that’s who was on the phone. It was the one human being that has actually been able to help me. Jeanette from Horizon, you deserve a raise. No one else has ever been able to help me there through the numerous problems I’ve had that go all the way back to the healthcare.gov website. Every single website has been a piece of shit. They have more bugs then a Hell’s Kitchen walkup. I was only supposed to be breaking for a minute to stretch and the 15-minute break was scheduled for 10:30. I took the time anyway to listen to the voicemail and check emails.
Lo and behold, one email was from a temp agency contacting me about a 3-4 year contract (when I first read it, I thought it said “months” so I was thinking if I fucked up at the this, I wouldn’t do much harm). The sender gave some of the details about the job for which I apparently applied.
Here’s the deal with job hunting: you just send out resumes even if you barely qualify for the position since the odds of getting an interview are slim and the odds for landing the job are even worse. I read through the message and was stricken cold. I mean stricken. I was shaking and felt tears welling up in my eyes.
It was for a job that I would have been quite good at 15 years ago when I was laid off from an international company doing the same type of work. I have not looked at the fucking software since. I did have one job for 3 months in Pittsburgh where I used Excel, but it was a similar situation. I wasn’t qualified. I didn’t know Excel the way accounting people do. I have no idea how I got the temp job anyway and I wasn’t surprised that, after 90 days, they said they weren’t going to make me permanent. Here I am, years later, even more out of touch with the skills and I have to figure out what to do.
“Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, ambitious men still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top.” ~Robert Browning
Well, the first thing to do is obviously let my body go on autopilot. I don’t really have a whole lot of control in the confines of a panic attack. I kept myself together enough to send my mother and one of my best friends text messages about the anxiety and the job from the temp agency. I know my mother pretty well and was truly surprised at her reply. Normally, she’d tell me to wait for the right job. I’m not homeless. I’m insured (finally). I socked away enough money to pay for said insurance for a year. She normally believes that unless you’re already committed to a job, there’s no reason to stress over something. She had been through some major league stressful work situations like when the pastor of the church where she worked was having an affair with a director or deacon or whatever-the-fuck the woman was. It was years of Hell in a Christian setting for my sweet mum, so she knows what it’s like to hate going to work everyday. When my mother said following up on the assignment might be worth it, my heart tightened under the crushing grip of my chest. My friend responded in a similar way, but at least she added some empathy.
Oh, wait. There’s more.
ANXIETY & ITS BFF, YOUR PAST
When I dialed into my voicemail, it said my mailbox was full and I had to delete some messages. I walked out of the main studio and began listening to some old messages. Really fucking old.
One ex-paramour has been on my mind a lot this month and I really wish his memory would die in a fire. It was his birthday and I deleted it off my calendar otherwise I would never have remembered. Then he and a publisher sent out stock emails about a new Kickstarter of his and clearly neither cared to remove my name from that mailing list. So one day, then the next, I had to see his fucking name in my inbox. Then today… stressed, modeling for 24 people, and generally hating all of life, I heard this voice in my saved messages.
It was actually strange at first, because I couldn’t figure out who it was. We had been at that point where we didn’t need to say our names when the other answered or when leaving messages. We had known each other’s voices from hours upon hours of phone and Skype calls throughout several years. There I was hearing it and not being able to place it until the second message played through.
Fuck. Now that asshole lying sonofabitch was on my mind. I did not need that.
“Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” ~T.S. Eliot
I hung up the phone after deleting another six messages and returned to the stage. I had to get through one more 15-minute pose before the session could take a break. On the break, I spilled my guts to Christine, the lovely Friday instructor that is super easy to talk to about everything – she also plays much better music than the Thursday instructor.
The final hour was three more long poses and I had no blood circulation at all. My limbs were tingling, my joints weren’t moving how I wanted, and I could feel the bitter cold everywhere on my body. Even in reclining and seated poses that should be relaxing, my legs were shaking. I was probably scowling unintentionally too. I usually try to think happy thoughts so my RBF (resting bitch face) is less of a problem. They’re artists. They want to draw pretty things, not miserable people.
It was time to go and I had two objectives when I left Plainfield: find the CVS pharmacy and a branch of my bank. I had been to the pharmacy several times. Do you think I could get my ass there today? You’d be incorrect if you thought I could. I made six wrong turns and finally gave up and got on Route 22… heading east instead of west. I got into CVS eventually. I walked through the automatic sliding doors where I pretend I’m on the Enterprise each and every time (in my head).
And then I forgot why the fuck I was there.
MY SERVANT TOOK THE DAY OFF
“Intelligence is the wife, imagination is the mistress, memory is the servant.” ~Victor Hugo
I decided to start walking across the front aisle to read the signs overhead until my memory was jogged. “HAIR PRODUCTS”. Okay! I know I wanted to get something that had to do with hair products. I finally remembered that I wanted an $11 bottle of bleach to fix my Rogue highlight. I needed a couple other things like an industrial bottle of Benadryl for when my hives get itchy and I just want to sleep through the discomfort. I ended up finding the store brand knock-off in a quantity of 365. I had never before seen 365 as a quantity of pills. They had to be mine.
Since I already exhausted myself getting lost in a neighborhood I sort of knew, I used my phone’s maps to locate a branch of my bank. You’d probably think would work, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong again. Stop having faith in me, Reader. Stop it right now.
I also stopped feeling remotely good about how I looked today. Last night, I slept with my hair in a French braid so that it would be cool and curly and wild today. It was. It’s also better to have it up for this kind of modeling. I decided to wrap up my wild hair in a nifty hairnet my mother crocheted for herself but hated. I thought I looked kind of cute, like the Ren Faire wenches. And there I was, not at the Ren Faire, not even in SoHo. I was in Plainfield where they probably don’t know what a snood is. I took a couple selfies in the car to see if it looked all right since I had removed it for the final hour at the studio. It took me a while to figure out who I resembled: Old Mother Hubbard.
Needless to say, my navigation system was wrong. It was sending me to a Quick Chek. Okay, so being a native Jerseyan I am aware that the Quick Chek strip malls are numerous and if they aren’t standalone establishments, there will be: a Chinese take out place, a dry cleaner, a check cashing bodega and other places that come and go because they don’t have that kind of resilience. I’d been to the Quick Chek before, but didn’t know my bank was in that plaza.
That’s because it’s not.
I drove through the parking lot and it wasn’t there which meant my never-fucking-useful GPS was probably directing me to an ATM. I headed home and stopped in Clinton where I used to work because I know there’s a branch there. I had been through early that morning to get a bagel so I knew the branch hadn’t mysteriously closed like 50% of the Clinton businesses (so sad to see).
COOKIES SHOULD BE MY FRIEND
After a day of anxiety and being lost in places I go all the time, I said FUCK IT and went to a bakery. I got a whole bunch of gourmet cookies for $12.60. It was luxuriant. The baker put a piece of scotch tape on the lid and asked if I needed a bag. Ha! No fucking way! Those suckers are getting eaten in the car! But I didn’t tell her to remove the tape. I’d save myself that struggle with dignity.
Real butter. Processed sugar. Bleached flour. Fuck yeah, I was gonna have cookies for lunch in my car for the last 25 minutes of my drive!
I ate a giant gingerbread one. I assessed it. I was a bit harder than I like in my cookie quality. It was the size of my favorite store-bought vegan cookies by the Alternative Baking Company, but it simply was subpar.
Dammit. One cookie down. Okay, try a different one.
An Italian butter cookie with red jimmies. (Yes, we call them fucking jimmies not “sprinkles”. It’s baking, not feeding forest fae!) The cookie didn’t remind me of my childhood. It wasn’t even as good as the cookies like it that I’ve gotten from the supermarket. It was just “okay.” And this was not good enough. I had a shitty fucking day with my anxiety and my body and getting lost.
I drove passed the liquor store where I should have spent the cookie money on a bottle of sweet vermouth so I could make a badass fucking Manhattan when I got home. But NOOOOOOOOO. I went for cookies instead.
THE CHURCH OF MINDY KALING, THE WISE & NOBLE PROPHET
During my commute, I was listening the audio book of my best friend Mindy Kaling. So maybe she isn’t my best friend, but my real BFF’s novel isn’t out on audio yet, so Mindy was going to have to do. Plus, she talked like we really were having the best conversation anyway. Mindy was there with me, in my car the whole time while I was lost and out of my fucking mind. “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” made me think about a lot of things including one of my only regrets in life: not going to art school when I should have.
Mindy’s memoir came out in 2011 and in it, she discussed several movies that she would like to reboot herself: VAN HELSING was one I remember and GHOSTBUSTERS was the other, but she specified she wanted to make an all-female GHOSTBUSTERS. It was only about a month ago, January 2015 when Paul Feig announced he was doing that. Sadly, Mindy was not mentioned in casting nor writing.
At least I got to hear how Mindy accomplished all the things I only ever dreamed of and she made it sound kind of easy. She was from Boston, went to a great university, moved to Brooklyn with a friend and worried about money for a little while. Eventually they decided their unfulfilling jobs needed to go. If they wanted to have creative lives, doing things like being a nanny wasn’t going to cut it. They wrote their own play. They were a huge New York success and eventually opened it in Los Angeles. Mindy got a job as a production assistant and eventually became a writer for THE OFFICE. Lucky Mindy.
Dear Mindy: How the fuck do you actually do it? You’re what – half my age? And perfect? While I’m making myself sick over a contract job? Why, Mindy? Why were you blessed with the sense to think clearly, do well, and get good jobs and I wasn’t? Why am I fucked up? Xoxo, Amber
Mindy’s memoir did make me chuckle in between minutes where I don’t know if I was actually breathing (the tight chest thing and watery eyes still happening). I was close to home and all I could think about was getting in the door, getting in pajamas and crawling into bed with the cat to keep me warm. That didn’t happen, Reader.
WTF IS WITH MY ROMANTIC LIFE?
“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” ~Anais Nin
“The only abnormality is the incapacity to love.” ~Anais Nin
I did get a special Valentine’s Day care package with chocolate and some much-needed candles. I only have spellcasting candles left and need some regular ones for masking the stinkbug/litterbox scent. And then the card made me sad. It didn’t say “Love, ___” Nope. Just the name. I don’t even warrant a long-distance closing that shows any intimacy at all. But, I was thought of and that’s not nothing. It’s something.
THINGS THAT MADE ME LAUGH TODAY
Getting home to check Twitter to see that someone has added me to their list of [username]/influential-people. I don’t think Neil Degrasse Tyson has yet discovered the celestial body where I’m considered “influential.”
That awkward moment when you’re finally home checking Twitter and your ex-husband’s girlfriend accidentally sends you and a writer friend a blank tweet. How does she even know my friends? You have my husband now so go the fuck away. You already got my friends that I lost in the divorce. You do not get my writer friends too. kthx