I Don’t Have Epiphanies, I Have Escape Hatches

You know how life fucks with you and sends you down a rabbit hole?

You don’t get to fall like Alice, though. You hit every root and rock on the way down. You get scratched, torn, and bruised. Sometimes, you get broken.

You climb out of the hole. You might be sore and need to heal, but you are free and stronger.

Then, before you can take a few steps, your clumsy ass trips and you go right back down the hole.

After this happens a few times, you look around the hole and think, “Fuck it. I live here now.”

I’ve been living down in that hole for a long time. I’m not saying I haven’t had glimpses of sunshine, but I’ve been down there a while. For longer than is comfortable to think about.

I had an epiphany today.

Not a huge one, but a good one. I don’t know if this is going to give me an easy escape hatch from the rabbit hole or not, but at the very least it’s convincing me that I can make that climb out again. Even if I need to rest along the way.

The epiphany happened at the end of a long ass day at work. You guys, I was in a meeting all day long. I have to be in a meeting all day tomorrow as well. It’s like torture.

Anyway, my involvement nearly all day was minimal. Answered a few questions, queried some data. Mostly, I just sat there drenched in sweat because the conference room temperature felt like the seventh level of hell. I spent most of the morning surreptitiously checking email on my phone and eating the fun size candy bars that were within arm’s reach.

My friend, Mountain Girl, gave me this advice once: “Always don’t talk.” This advice was given to try to stop me from babbling or saying stupid awkward things. I want to take her advice. It just I don't have epiphanies. I have escape hatches.seems I am incapable of taking her advice.

This part of the story has nothing to do with my epiphany. I just thought it was funny.

Anyway, the whole morning, REM songs were running through my head. Then, I realized why. One of the project consultants looked just like Michael Stipe.

We were pausing for a break and I started to say something to the consultant about who I thought he looked like. At the same moment, the new VP of operations asked the consultant a business related question.

VP: Oh, I’m sorry Michelle. I interrupted you.

Me: No. It’s not important. Please continue.

VP: Seriously, please ask your question.

Me: It wasn’t business related. Not important.

VP:…

Me:…

Me: I’m not talking.

VP:…

Me, turning to the consultant: Fine. Do you ever get told Β you look like someone famous?

Consultant: Yes. All the time.

Me: Who?

Consultant: Anthony Edwards.

Me: Oh. No. I don’t see that. I see Michael Stipe.

A few hours later, my boss who was sitting to my left, asked me why I was keeping hash marks in the margin of my notebook.

Me: Every time someone says something that freaks me the fuck out, I make a hash mark.

Side conversations had been going on and I didn’t mean for anyone else to hear my response but my boss. There was a lull in the conversation. Because there is always a lull in the conversation when I say something that is intended for only one person.

Anyway, the rest of the meeting, people were prefacing their remarks with “I don’t want to give you a hash mark, but…”

So, always don’t talk. I have all day tomorrow to not put myself in an awkward conversation in front of management and strangers. I think I can do it.

My part of the meeting wasn’t until the end of the day. I was tired, bored, and resigned to the fact that I was working over at least an hour past my normal quitting time.

The more I spoke with this consultant, the more I felt my self-confidence swell. I haven’t felt this confident at work in years. Way too many years.

Two jobs ago, 9 years ago, I was the director of IT at a manufacturing company. It’s not like I didn’t scrape my elbows a few times, and in some fairly material ways, I was a terrible manager. But I was good at managing projects, vendors, and negotiating contracts. I was confident in my decisions.

I wasn’t fearless, but I had moments of fearlessness.

I left that job because the company was sold and I could see the neon sign on the wall. We were all going to be out of a job soon.

I left management and went back into programming. I spent seven years working for two bullies and dealing with a douche twizzle, narcissistic bully co-worker.

Being an adult child of a narcissist, it had taken me years to build self confidence. I was in my early 40s when I took over an IT department. It was the first time in my life that I wasn’t tormented with constant self doubt and fear.

It wasn’t long before the misogynistic, toxic environment at that next job chipped away at the confidence I had worked so hard to gain. I spent 7 years at that next job. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to spend another day either being angry or feeling dead inside at work.

My new job is so much not like my last job. The people are nice. My boss is friendly and reasonable. I should have felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders.

I didn’t, though. My self-confidence had melted away. I found fear my constant companion, once again. Improving my environment was a good decision, but that did not fix the damage.

Then, I sat through this long ass meeting today.

I listened to myself talking with management and consultants about hurdles, ideas, plans, and I was confident in that voice.

I felt good driving home. My end of the day anxiety spiked a few times, but then settled down. I felt light in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time. Years.

I feel sad that I’ve been missing that lightness for so long that I forgot that it missing. I am also hopeful that maybe I’m taking a step forward.

Perhaps, my epiphany isn’t an escape hatch. Perhaps, it’s a foothold in my climb out. Maybe it’s fleeting and won’t live another day.

It feels like relief right now.

I’ll take it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Add your comments below. Profanity is encouraged, but not required. ;)
  1. Lisa K says:

    Whew. That felt good πŸ™‚

    Reply
  2. Billie says:

    Like they say, the gift of a narcissistic, bullying family is the gift that keeps on giving.
    I can so relate to your problems of managing people but not projects. I guess it comes from the scars that take so long to heal. I hope your eternal meeting today is lighter still…..

    Reply
  3. Diane says:

    What you said speaks to so many people in today’s workforce.

    Yesterday a couple of us had to stay back in the office to ensure, “adequate staffing” instead of going to a lunch and learn with a bunch of lawyers.

    They came in first o introduce themselves. I said that I was sorry I wasn’t attending but a coworker and I drew the short straws and had to stay behind.

    He said I think you have that backwards.

    Stay strong. And yes. The meetings are brutal and that, “quiet voice” is important. I will remember the hash mark though! A new coping tool.

    Reply
  4. All of this. Absolutely all of it. I have a feeling you will reap the benefits of being known as “the one with the hash marks.” Subconsciously those people will think “Don’t fuck with her…she keeps hash marks” from here on out.

    Reply
  5. Terri Lee says:

    Removing ourselves from toxic environments and relationships is definitely the right start, but ultimately, the place where it all resides is within us. “Wherever you go, there you are”, that kind of thing. I found the Michael Stipe situation and your overheard remark about the hash marks to be wonderfully refreshing! You are the zest to an otherwise boring and dull meeting. Celebrate that! πŸ˜€

    If you guys don’t hear from me for a week, I may be without power. Hoping that doesn’t happen (I HATE when the power goes and stays out!!!!!) but I’m shuttered up with my cats, waiting for this asshole Matthew to get here. If I’m able, I’ll let you know how we fare. I’ve already broken the little toe on my right foot, just trying to get things ready. HAHA! I saw Paul’s heavy, metal tape measure sitting on a shelf in the utility shed and for some ridiculous reason, I thought I’d HAVE to have that inside the house after the storm. Why I thought that is anyone’s guess. I picked it up and promptly dropped the damned thing right onto my foot. Man, that hurt! Now, the tape measure sits on my kitchen counter, I look at it and think, “Why did I think I’d need a tape measure after a hurricane?” HAHAHA!!

    *waving wand around like MAD, trying to push the hurricane out toward the ocean*

    Reply
    • Lisa K says:

      *waves wand with Tink*
      Shit, Girlfriend!
      And I thought I had troubles.
      I wish I could sit in a meeting and watch Michelle, too. How awesome would that be, knowing she NEEDS to say ‘fuck’ but has to content herself with hapless hashmarks.
      You know EVERYBODY there loves her πŸ˜‰ Why else would they preface their sentences with, “Please don’t hashmark me…”
      Stay safe. Cuddle the kitty. Type when you can to let us know you’re still riding out the storm!

      Reply
      • Terri Lee says:

        Thank you, Miss Lisa! I’m on edge, since this is my first time going through one all alone, without Paul. Gee, my bag o’dicks brother in law texted me last night around nine-thirty, saying that although he’s been “sentenced to 90 days away from me”—haha! try FOREVER—he wanted to ask if I need anything. Yeah, he asks late at night the day before the storm is due to begin rolling in and everyone has run out of stuff and is closing down. We’ve known this was hitting for DAYS. I did not respond to the text. (But now he and my sister at least have a story to tell their friends that makes them look good—“we asked if she needed anything and she didn’t answer us!” No doubt, they will conveniently leave out the day and time of the text. Can people get any phonier?) All these people who live minutes away from me, always told me to “just ask” if I ever needed help came up with all sorts of bullshit excuses why they couldn’t and my genuinely good friend and her husband, who live about a half hour away, are the ones who were alarmed that I had no one helping with my shutters and they came through for me. These same people told me that if anything happens to the house or anything else, they will be there with me to get it all repaired and taken care of. I guess it’s true that you find out who your TRUE friends are when the shit hits the fan. I will NEVER forget the people who were TRULY there for me during this time. Why, I seem to be having my OWN epiphanies, one after the other! HAHA!

        Thank you again, Lisa! By the way, what kind of natural disasters are in Oregon? Is it safer than Florida? :::wink, wink::: πŸ˜€ XO

        Reply
    • Terri Lee says:

      Thank you, Miss Lisa! I’m on edge, since this is my first time going through one all alone, without Paul. Gee, my bag o’dicks brother in law texted me last night around nine-thirty, saying that although he’s been “sentenced to 90 days away from me”—haha! try FOREVER—he wanted to ask if I need anything. Yeah, he asks late at night the day before the storm is due to begin rolling in and everyone has run out of stuff and is closing down. We’ve known this was hitting for DAYS. I did not respond to the text. (But now he and my sister at least have a story to tell their friends that makes them look good—“we asked if she needed anything and she didn’t answer us!” No doubt, they will conveniently leave out the day and time of the text. Can people get any phonier?) All these people who live minutes away from me, always told me to “just ask” if I ever needed help came up with all sorts of bullshit excuses why they couldn’t and my genuinely good friend and her husband, who live about a half hour away, are the ones who were alarmed that I had no one helping with my shutters and they came through for me. These same people told me that if anything happens to the house or anything else, they will be there with me to get it all repaired and taken care of. I guess it’s true that you find out who your TRUE friends are when the shit hits the fan. I will NEVER forget the people who were TRULY there for me during this time. Why, I seem to be having my OWN epiphanies, one after the other! HAHA!

      Thank you again, Lisa! By the way, what kind of natural disasters are in Oregon? Is it safer than Florida? :::wink, wink::: πŸ˜€ XO

      Reply
      • Terri Lee says:

        Okay, the submit thingy didn’t seem to be working, so I submitted twice! SORRY!!! HAHA!

        Reply
        • Lisa K says:

          OMG… I’ve been reading the news πŸ™
          The only ‘Natural Disasters’ in Oregon are the ‘land terrorists’ who sat on the Game Refuge in Malheur County and are now on trial in Portland…
          No earthquakes, hurricanes, … maybe wildfires in Summer.
          Coming?

          Reply
    • BarbaraM says:

      I’m here in Plantation, waiting also. Hope you’re not in Palm Beach – that’s where they said it’s going to make landfall. I’m helping with the pushing, and the tape measure will come in handy for measuring the broken window(s) after the storm. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Terri Lee says:

        BarbaraM: Hollywood here! There shouldn’t BE any broken windows with the shutters! HAHA! If the electric goes out, I can play with the measuring tape, measuring stuff in the dark to pass the time. The cats will probably avoid me like crazy. Stay safe! πŸ˜€

        Reply
      • Michelle says:

        Stay safe, sister. I hope you don’t suffer any damage.

        Reply
    • Michelle says:

      OMG I am thinking of you. Please stay safe and let us know how you are when you can.

      Reply
      • Terri Lee says:

        So far, so good, but they’re saying the worst won’t arrive until the middle of the night, into tomorrow morning. I have my fingers crossed we keep our power and I am researching real estate in Oregon! HAHA!!!

        Thank you for the positive vibes! I’ll let you know how this craziness turns out.

        Reply
        • Michelle says:

          Crossing all my digits for you. xo

          Reply
          • Terri Lee says:

            Well, we were basically spared everything, for which I am extremely grateful. Knock on wood, the power never went out and the rains and winds were not much more than we get every afternoon during the summer, when the huge thunderstorms roll in from the Everglades. In the immortal words of Yoda: Fucking lucky, we are. HAHA!!! Michelle, when you cross your digits, your power is mighty impressive! XO

          • Michelle says:

            Thank you so much for the update! I was worried about my Florida peeps.

        • Lisa K says:

          I got a 1/2 acre right here with your name on it, Tink πŸ™‚

          So Relieved and Grateful for you and your feline. First thing I WANTED to know, today πŸ™‚
          Mwah.

          I LOVE the power of Michelle’s crossed fingers!

          Reply
        • BarbaraM says:

          Well, the only thing I learned from this particular hurricane is that my sliding glass doors leak like sieves! But that was the worst of it. Here’s hoping when it does it’s “u-turn” it doesn’t come back looking for revenge!

          Reply
          • Terri Lee says:

            From what I’ve heard regarding that “U-ee” that Matthew may take, he’s supposed to be dying off—weaker and weaker until he peters out. (No offense to any of the Peters out there! HAHA! Yeah, you know who you are! HAHA!) Leaking sliders are a pain in the ass. I discovered that I may need a section of roof redone over my utility room. Not sure why that was not one along with the house roof a year ago, but the only man I can ask about that is not here. So, we move forward and carry on as best we can! We were LUCKY s.o,b.s, I will say THAT! πŸ™‚

            Thinking very hard and seriously about that 1/2 acre with Think engraved in it! Hell, where can I get a nice Airstream at a decent price? πŸ˜€

            Thank you for being concerned about us down here! XOXO

        • Randy says:

          Terri Lee…I’m quite happy and relieved you weathered the storm.

          Reply
  6. Cecilia Leon says:

    Meetings – ugggh. I either fall asleep or my mind wanders during the hashing and re-hashing, speaking of hash marks. Some people should have hash marks tattooed on their forehead.

    All I can say is – You Go Girl. You’ve gone far and survived more than most. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the good feelings. I seem to be climbing out of a pit myself lately. It’s been a rough couple of years. But the light does shine through eventually.

    Reply
  7. Troll says:

    I ha an epiphany once. It had to do with my illness. It worked out well, leaving out the details. Ever tell you about the bumblebee?

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      No, I don’t think you ever told me about the bumblebees…unless you did and I forgot?

      Reply
      • Troll says:

        Previously posted at TR:

        I had a bizarre encounter outdoors with a fuzzy bumblebee three weeks ago at night. I was bare-chested when I had one land on my arm and instead of sweeping/flicking it off I just let it be. It was sticking out/withdrawing it’s stinger as if to show that it COULD sting me but I just let it walk around. It walked up to the base of my skull at the back of my head and I reached up and covered it with my right hand. (I can be really gentle.) All it did was buzz it’s wings so I took my hand off and it walked back down to my bare left forearm I thought the entire episode so bizarre that I went to find my wife in the house who virtually freaked right the fark out as I’m extremely allergic to stings. A sting at the base of my skull so close to my brainstem may have killed me but who wants to live forever. I do, but that’s beside the point.
        I told my wife not to swipe at it, showed her that I could touch it and not get stung and she made me walk back out of the house with the 3/4″ long fuzzy bumblebee still walking around on my forearm.
        The bumblebee was on me for over an hour as I paced back and forth outside wondering what I should do. The BB walked up to the top of my head and seemed to enjoy my pacing. I eventually put my moccasins on and started to walk towards my neighbors house (I don’t know why) and when I got close the bumblebee took off from the top of my head and flew into his yard. I guess it lost it’s way and just needed a ride back home.
        Now you KNOW I’m crazy but… That all REALLY happened and I have a great witness who is still ticked at me for trusting a “bug”

        Reply
  8. Laura says:

    This is why I can never quit therapy. I’m never done. I think I have shaken it off (Florence and the machine song, now on head space radio) but having been my parents narcissistic supply for so many years has worn a groove in my brain.

    Besides, my therapist serves coffee.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Damn..I didn’t know about the coffee.

      I need all kinds of therapy, there is no doubt. However, mental health is not covered by my insurance, so I have to wing it. And write about it. Writing helps a lot.

      Reply
  9. Mary-Anne says:

    Not just an escape hatch – I think your epiphany is one of those drop down ladder thingeys that you can climb up and out of that rabbit hole.
    I love the hashtag idea – I will try that in the faculty room today – make a mental hashtag! Might help. Can’t hurt.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I hope it’s a ladder. It doesn’t feel like one today, but today was terrible. All my good feelings went poof. There is always tomorrow. And the weekend. Yay for the weekend.

      Reply
  10. I’ve heard that when you’re at the bottom of a well you can look up and see stars even in the middle of the day.
    Maybe you’re not out of the well yet but at least you’re looking up and seeing stars.
    And if it helps it sounds like you contribute a lot more to meetings than just job-related insights.

    Reply
  11. Haralee says:

    Congratulations! It is refreshing when we really know what we are talking about and people are listening.

    Reply
  12. Haralee says:

    Congratulations! It i refreshing when we know about what we say and people listen!

    Reply
  13. I often find myself singing a song and having to look around to figure out why I am sing this particular song. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a street sign with a name similar to the song.

    Once I found myself shimming the bass line to Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” and only later realized the person I had just been introduced to was creeping me out.

    Reply
  14. Doug in Oakland says:

    Well, first here’s wishing Terri Lee (and everyone else) makes it through the storm O K.
    It is a very satisfying feeling to have your end of the deal held up at work, and to be able to contribute to the advancement of the business, but man, meetings sound annoying.
    Your epiphany reminds me of a New Pornographers lyric, for some reason, from “The Bleeding Heart Show”:

    We quit the room
    Quit so our thoughts could rest
    Rest them, I’ll never move?
    That’s when we grab a hold
    Of whatever it is we fell into
    Lousy with your content
    With what the majestic cannot find
    In business of your lives
    The perception, it is wrong, mile after mile
    The phantom taste drinking wine from your heels

    Reply
  15. Me says:

    YAY for that moment of lightness – may it not be too fleeting and hand around longer xox

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Unfortunately, I had a horrid day today and my good feeling slipped away. BUT..I am not willing to admit defeat. I fully expect to start seeking them out and grabbing them as I can.

      Reply
  16. michele says:

    always don’t talk…..gonna have to write that one down…..all over my fucking desk…..and hands and up my arms……where my skirt ends above my knees down to my toes…inside my eye lids (should see it when my eyes roll, right?). another phrase I like, I learned in al-anon: think, in moderation…..oh, and: you can’t control what thoughts come into your head, but you can control how many hours your going to ruminate on them!!

    Reply
  17. Gilly says:

    That’s the best thing I have heard in ages – always don’t talk. I am going to keep repeating that to stop me from saying really stupid things when I am nervous. Can’t say if it will work but I can try! Why do we do that? Why do we call attention to ourselves in such negative ways when it’s the opposite of what we want?

    I have never managed people and I take my hat off to anyone who has ever tried. The one thing I love about getting to the ‘later years’ is being able to spend as much time alone as I choose. I spent years playing the ‘team player’ game and had to waste so much time with corporate bullies and competitive co-workers who would eat their grandmothers to get ahead in life. Choosing exactly who I spend time with now is the biggest luxury I have ever had and I feel for anyone who is still forced to be around shitty co-workers who like to cause misery.

    Reply
  18. Maria P says:

    Always don’t talk, eh? Couldn’t do it…. Unless I didn’t give a shit… Then it would be easy peasy.
    And “Because there is always a lull in the conversation when I say something that is intended for only one person” :)))

    Reply