Saturday, January 26, 2008

Work, Stress, Exhaustion, and Shul.

Note: This is a long post, but it's meaningful. To me, anyway. I hope you read the whole thing. And if you don't? Well, you've saved yourself a slice from my life.

Yesterday -- that's Friday for those of you keeping score but not a calendar -- will go down in history as the Worst Day Ever in my Career as a Minion to Some Guy Who Thinks He's More Important Than Everyone Else. I've complained about my job in the past, but at this point I'll say I've hit my threshold. I've never in my life been thrown under the bus (I'd never used that expression before this job) or walked all over like a ratty Thrift Store rug this many times. I've never been treated so poorly, nay, treated like a complete waste of space, before in my life. I have also never met a human being in my life as ungrateful as the person that I work for. Every detail of my job basically comes down to kissing ass, bowing down, and doing it all without breaking into tears and/or telling said boss how I REALLY feel or what I REALLY think he should do with that thing HE misplaced, not me.

So I left work early yesterday, around 3 p.m. I went straight home, and when I got there, I checked my e-mail, paced around the room, and at 5:15, took an Ambien CR and called it a day. My doctor prescribed them for me months ago, but after taking them two or three times, I realized that the CR (controlled release) was a myth and that I was left feeling like complete crap for a full 24 hours AFTER waking up. But for days like yesterday, when you want to go into a coma and sleep at least 12-15 hours, it's perfect. It'll zonk you out enough so that when you do wake up every hour or so, you feel so horrible you have to close your eyes and force yourself back to sleep.

I know this isn't a healthy philosophy on life or sleep or a job. And I get that. I really do. I never expected to be working as someone's administrative assistant for as long as I have been, not me, not the girl with a bachelor's in journalism who spent some time at two of the nation's biggest newspapers. Life doesn't always fit the magical plan though and I blew it by not heading to Michigan and declining acceptance last year. But I'm in the process of righting that wrong. It's all the bullshit I have to put with to right that wrong that is slowly killing me.

People ooo'd and ahh'd at Heath Ledger when he died. Sleeping pills, they said. He couldn't sleep. He was strung out. He was tired, he was exhausted. He had too much on his plate. He once took two Ambiens and woke up an hour later. And I get it. I get how that feels. Where every little thing you do just feels like this gigantic weight placed on your head, like you're balancing it all and at any minute it's going to all crash to the ground and you'll have nothing but a pile of broken stuff at your feet. And you cry. And then you hit the wall, take some pills, and hope for the best. You hope to sleep. For once, to really sleep. To really feel like you've slept. Not the nights where you wake up constantly or are semi-conscious the entire time.

I now GET why my dad is so worn out. I get why that glitzy star was worn out.

I'm too young to really allow myself the pain of sleep deprivation. I'm too young to allow myself to be so stressed out about a job I don't even care about. But all of these things just hit me yesterday, and as I sat in my supervisor's (technically my "boss" isn't really my "boss") office with the light glaring through the mini-blinds at me, I realized I was done. I started bawling. "I can't do this anymore," I said. The thought of having to search for another job just to pass the time until I get those acceptance or denial letters haunts me. I don't want to job search. I don't want to sit in stale offices and interview for something I don't care about. Something "just to pay the bills." I want to save some money and finally pay off that last bit on my credit cards, I really do.

I'm just tired of being treated like shit and feeling like a zombie (sans brain consumption), day after day.

So there's that. The past two days have been absolutely miserable and I forced myself out of bed this morning, despite the urge to just stay there, all day, staring at the ceiling. I was awake, wide-eyed at 7 a.m. So I hauled my heavy body out of bed and got a peach from the crisper. I sat in the dark, in my bed, in my pajamas, and ate the peach. Ian would have killed me for that. He never let me eat in bed; but Ian's a part of that past of those things. So I ate my peach, threw away the peach pit, and got on the computer. My far-away friend Thom was there, thank heavens, and as we exchanged e-mails about whether I should or shouldn't go to shabbat services this morning, his final "just gos" were enough to put me in the shower, into some fairly decent clothes, and out the door to 9:30 service at the nearby Conservative shul.

Before I left home, I was examining the possibilities. There were a dozen different services at the synagogue today, and I didn't know what half of them were. I saw that the 9:30 service included a bar mitzvah, so I figured it was the most "normal" of the Saturday sabbath services. I didn't want to encroach on a minyan, because, damnit, I just don't get the Conservative service yet. I love it, because it feels more full, it's more filling than the Reform service, but I don't get the rhythm of it.

To me, Conservative service is like organized chaos. And it's beautiful.

I was at shul for THREE hours this morning. It wouldn't have felt like three hours, but the entire row of pre-teens behind me yapping for the entire three hours kept me aware of the time; they were keeping tabs, that is. It was the first bar mitzvah service I've ever been to where the bar mitzvah doesn't feel like a sideshow. I try to avoid such services because -- in the Reform movement anyway -- the kid typically sputters through a few things in Hebrew and gets blessed and all we have to talk about at the end of the day is how squeaky his voice was. At the service today, the kid LED the service. The integration was impeccable. Now, this kid was particularly well-spoken. His d'var Torah was about Jethro, not the decalogue. He talked about how leaders cannot do everything themselves, about how it is our responsibility as a community to assist and it is the responsibility of the leader to ask for help. Nothing can be done alone.

This kid's a fucking genius, I thought.

It took me a while to get into the flow of the service, but I magically always figured out where we were on the page. It's like the words glow and stick out and say "yo! we're here!" The sanctuary -- which, might I add, was beautiful -- was pretty full for what I'm used to and the bouncer at the door was shoving yarmulkes on the heads of everyone coming in late. People came in and out the entire three hours. This is something sort of foreign to me, as I show up early, and leave when it's over. Though, the next time I might have to step out for one of my Weight Watchers-prescribed snacks, lest my stomach start participating in the responsive reading. I also loved how there were many different aliyas for the Torah portion. How different people read and the bima seemed like it was exploding with people wandering about, singing and chanting and talking. When the Torah came around people filled the lower aisles and I just stood there, not wanting to fight the rush for an encounter with the scrolls. The best part, though, was that the chumashim were Etz Chaim, my chumash of choice. I liked having the full-size version; it's better on the eyes.

I guess what I'm trying to say is -- I felt like I was at shul.

One of the things I notice right away about the Conservative service is that everything is read so quickly. You can go through two pages silently in 30 seconds. Even the responsive stuff is hard to keep up with. I'm going to have to master my Hebrew speed reading. Maybe this is why the Reform service feels like it lags and drags and moves at a snail's pace. But then I wonder, are we missing the quality, for the quantity? Maybe there's a middle ground I haven't found yet.

I was glad I went, though. I'm glad I went out in the cold and trudged down to shul and sat there with those obnoxious tweens behind me talking about haircuts and only chiming in with their tone deaf voices when it seemed like parents were glaring back at them. I'm glad I got to experience that kid's bar mitzvah, even if I might never see him again. I attempted to wish him a hearty Mazel Tov afterward, but he was busy. I'm glad that I got to experience the chazzan, who I can't believe I haven't mentioned yet. The man has the voice of thousands of years of Jewish chanting -- it's mesmerizing, and it makes me get how people can sit there for hours on end, even if they're not participating. It's like attending a classical concert, every week, mostly for free. I'm glad I got to experience all three rabbis. At least, I think the three guys who led the services were the rabbis. I'm glad I got to sit in that huge sanctuary, watching and listening the different way the people around me recreated Sinai.

I guess it was the perfect week to go. After the crap of the past few days, it fit. I gathered with the tribe and we stood at the base of Sinai and listened to this bar mitzvah read to us the decalogue, the 10 Commandments. In our hearts we were there, in our minds we were there. It was emotional, and I'm not saying that to be cheesy or to make it more important than it was.

So I think I've found a new home. I need to do some more exploring and figure out what all those people my age were doing up until the last hour or so of the services when they finally joined us. Then I need to do whatever it was they were doing. It's not so important to belong, but to figure out the flow of the 30 different services on any given Saturday and then fit myself in.

Until then, though. I'm going to settle in for a Shabbos Nap and hope that when I wake up, the snow has stopped and my eyes are unheavy.

Shabbat Shalom, friends.