Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hidden in Jest

Sometimes I half believe and almost wish that, were my skull to be opened up for some yet-to-be-determined reason, the doctors would find a fist-sized tumour in my brain. Not because I want to face a physically and emotionally agonising death, but because the discovery of something that shouldn’t be there, something that’s crowding my memory centre and interfering with the efficient rapid-firing of my neurons, would explain everything. Suddenly my embarrassing stupidity, my frustrating slowness of wit and my worryingly poor memory would all make sense. In a few short hours, the easily operable and completely benign tumour would be removed, and my former mental acuity would return. Perhaps I would also become beautiful and slim. Why not?

The sobering reality is that, as a non-super working mother with many demands on my paltry resources of time, energy and long-term memory, I may never regain the sprightliness of cognition which abandoned me around my third pregnancy like some deadbeat dad. Even more mortifying is the possibility that my brain power hasn’t changed at all; that I’ve merely sloughed the scales of callow, arrogant youth from my eyes and finally recognised my own stark inadequacies. Whatever the explanation, I watch in wistful envy as grads I saw enter the building barely out of nappies now outstrip me in a job that’s evolved past my abilities. Confronted with the esoteric challenges of the work, I see their minds leaping ever onward like mountain goats on the Matterhorn, whilst mine struggles feebly like an axolotl in the mud.

During my interview with the Department of Hippies, they laughed incredulously when I told them how long I’d been in my current job. They told me changing teams every couple of months was de rigueur in their department. If they’d asked me then, I would’ve said I stuck around for reasons that added up to me loving the work, and meant it. Obviously I loathe the peripherals – certain unpleasant people, the waist-high drifts of red tape through which I must constantly wade – or I wouldn’t be searching for jobs elsewhere. But I’d always felt I was doing something challenging, rewarding and important. In the last few days, though, reading through boring and meaningless documents on which I’ll eventually have to write boring and meaningless reports, the cogs of my slow and unwieldy brain finally ground into place, and I realised I hate my job.

I know I sound wickedly ungrateful for my health and employment. I know I should be doing the equivalent of pounding the pavement looking for jobs, CV in hand and hopeful determination on my face like a plucky character in a tacky ’80s movie about making it on Wall Street. Right now I don’t feel fit for much more than wallowing in apathy-inducing depression. It’s not all bad, though. I bypassed a nervous breakdown a few weeks back, perhaps I’ll revisit it and try it on for size. I may not be eligible for cure-all brain surgery, but mental health leave’s as good as a holiday.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons!

I’m not in the habit of inhaling the miasma of public toilets, but I can’t help noticing the ladies’ loos on my floor at work smell uncannily like toffee. I don’t know whether the unsavoury proximity to the kitchenette or some freakish accident of rodent decomposition is responsible, but it’s a smell I find somewhat unsettling. (Side note: my sister was changing my infant niece’s nappy when an unfortunate bout of projectile poohing struck. Arcing gracefully through the air like a ballerina executing a grand jeté, the erstwhile breast milk landed with a sizzle on the wood-fired heater. The aroma of cooking excrement, so my sister said, was a disturbingly pleasant caramel.)

It was for somewhat more than this trivial reason, however, that I applied for a new job some months ago. Feeling that circumstances were such that only a change of department would do, I limbered up my fingers for some fancy typework and bashed out an application to the Department of Hippies. Now, my diehard followers (cue the chirping of crickets in my abandoned corner of cyberspace) will know that I somehow fooled all the flowerchildren and passed unchecked through the Gates of Recruitment with the correct arcane buzzwords on my lips and suitably convincing referrals in my hands. My new job was a mere length of red tape away.

And so I was left to dither in an agony of indecision; I felt tied to the Department of Meat Products by a fear of change and the pleas of a harried boss who’d already lost too many experienced staff, but impelled towards the Department of Hippies by a new supervisor I rather suspect may be a high-functioning sociopath. For months, while the bureaucratic wheel – square, of course, and oft diverted for no explicable reason – made its slow revolution, I demanded career advice from family and friends, with varying and often unsatisfactory results. My resolve swung like a metronome counting out the beats of a funeral march, for either a significant personal era or my chance of escape would soon be dead and gone. But at last, I made a decision I was happy with: I would join the chanting, daisy-crowned ranks and kick my unpleasant supervisor goodbye.

And then the wheel turned with a final jolt to crush my foolish hopes. The faithless hippies had led me on with sweet-talk and smiles, only to reveal they liked someone else better.

So for now, as much as I dread work each day, nothing remains for me but to suck it up and handle my disappointment philosophically. After all, toffee-scented shit happens.