Awkward Office Interactions and Why I Have Toned Legs

stairs

I like my quiet time. Small talk is incredibly stressful for me. I’m so bad at it that I used to take notes about potential topics to talk about in case I had to chat with someone in the elevator. Otherwise, I’m not much of a spontaneous conversationalist.

stairs 2

I eventually read in some magazine article about workplace etiquette that it’s actually okay to not have conversations in the elevator. A smile, nod, or hello would suffice in most situations.

stairs 4

My dad is sort of the same way. After showing up at family gatherings and saying hello to everyone, he sneaks out and takes a nap in the car. He’s a really nice guy and always means well, but he’s a little awkward when it comes to socializing.

stairs 5

I do try to be more social though. I’ve been to the office parties. I try to mingle.

stairs 6

I’ve even managed to become friends with a coworker working with a different team in the 8th floor.

stairs 7

But that entire team was eventually laid off soon after the corporation was purchased by a private equity firm.

Last I heard from her, she got a divorce, had full custody of Muffin, and met someone at Burning Man.

Oh, and a co-worker invited me to a wedding once. But when we came back to work, I was told to be quiet about it because it turns out, another teammate wasn’t invited.

stairs 8

Well it was “weird” because she knew about it anyway.

I do know what it feels like to be in the position of not being invited. I understand that not everyone can, or has to be included in a gathering, and that’s absolutely fine.

stairs 9

It feels awkward though.

stairs 10

All the mental and social gymnastics of wanting to be accepted can be taxing, regardless of the setting. I understand that we need to connect. I just wish it were easier.

Awkward office interactions aside, I do appreciate the solitude of climbing the stairs to get the topmost floor so early in the morning. It can be meditative when it’s dead quiet in the stairwell, and all I hear are faint echoes, my heart racing, the strained grunts as I attempt the last few steps to the top, before having to put on a much more agreeable face.

stairs 11

Advertisements

Of Childhood Bullies and an Unlikely Hero

1

I was bullied when I was a kid. I won’t give his real name, so I’ll give him a generic bully name: Biff. But since this was in the Philippines, I’ll call him Bip.

Bip was a bit older. He would take my snacks, smack me around, treat me like a punching bag, call me names…that sort.2

I attempted to tell my teachers, but they they would only tell me to talk to him “peacefully”, and that he would listen if I told him that he hurt my feelings and that what he did was inappropriate.

3

He beat me up even more and stole my Spitball Sparky–the one my dad spent his meager salary on working a contract job in Bahrain, far away from us. Bip didn’t need that game. His parents were rich and could buy him whatever he wanted.

4

My parents couldn’t even afford home repairs. The ceiling in our house had a hole so big that it felt like Niagara falls appeared in our living room every time it rained. And it rains a lot in the Philippines.

I eventually told my mom. Mom was a bit more drastic.

5

She told me, “Okay, the way you do this is  when they start attacking you, I want you to spin really fast with your backpack in one hand, and your lunch box in the other, and scream something like, STAY AWAY FROM ME!!!”

“Like Wonder Woman?”

“Yes, like Wonder Woman! But crazier.”

giphy.gif

My mom has been an animator for over 30 years. In the beginning of her career, she worked on Hanna Barbera cartoons when they contracted out projects to studios in Manila. I think she was just projecting her imaginings when she talked of how to deal with Bip, as if I were an animated character in her mind.

6

I did just that. I spun around and screamed like a crazy person, arms flailing and all. But I got in trouble. I was reprimanded, and it was written in my progress report. Mom read it. Nothing changed.

7

At one point I told my neighbor friend about my situation at school. She told me that she once confronted a rabid dog and exclaimed, “IN JESUS’ NAME!” as she stomped her foot on the ground.

According to her, the rabid dog whimpered and ran away with his tail tucked between his legs because “the dog knew to fear the Lord”. So she figured that if I trusted in Jesus with all of my heart, and I invoked his name with “faith and conviction”, my bully would stop.

So I tried that.

8

It definitely didn’t work. Or maybe I needed to up my “faith and conviction” a bit more.

As a child, it is an excruciating and desperate feeling being on the receiving end of all that bullying. You have no one to turn to, and adults are practically clueless of how to deal with such situations. Being 7 or 8 years old and waking up with anxiety and stress and a knot in my tummy, knowing that I’d get taunted and beaten at some point during the day. That no one would listen. Hopelessness eventually sets in. How will it end? When will it end?

9

I felt so desperate that I tried to “run away”. I even wrote a letter saying something like “I ran away and won’t come back. Don’t look for me,”  and placed it on my pillow. After that, I went to my grandmother’s (who lived a block away) and hid underneath her staircase. I figured I’d stay there forever and sneak out for food when everyone was asleep. She used to store peanut brittle and wafer cookies somewhere in the kitchen, and I figured I could live off that. But she found me anyway because I hid where she kept her purse and shoe boxes. She gave me snacks, then I went home, and saw that no one even read my letter.

Moving up a grade, things were better. We had a new classmate who I shall call Ricky.

10

Ricky was a bigger kid, and he was charismatic and funny. He quickly gained popularity, and he was always surrounded by girls.

11

Outside the classroom, Bip attempted his usual after-school torment. Ricky, from the sidelines, starts tiptoeing towards us while singing “Proud Mary”. He grabs Bip and forcefully messes with his hair as he continued to sing, Rollin’, Rollin’ On The River. Then he kind of intentionally whacks him on the side of his head but not really, because he just looked like he was dancing. Without acknowledging me or looking at me, he tiptoes away to hang out with the other girls.

12

Ricky attempted to braid my hair once. But then he mumbled, “Ew, dandruff”. I don’t think he touched my hair after that.

Bip’s daily torments eventually lessened, though he still called me names and stole my snacks in the school van. But it seemed like he was no longer obsessed with picking on me. It all stopped when he transferred to another school.

13

His parents also returned my Spitball Sparky, and everything felt right again.

Well, almost.

14

Stretch Marks, Bloat, and Sagging Skin, or, The Beauty of Motherhood

1

Pre-conception
• 112 lbs, thin, smooth, had a flat stomach.
• Could fit through most nooks and crannies.

2
First trimester:
• Same.
• By the end of the first trimester, I looked like I ate a large, fully loaded burrito.

3

Second trimester:
• Back zits
• Linea nigra
• Light stretch marks appearing on belly and hips
• Started to “look pregnant”. So much so that:
– Random parents approach you and talk about their pregnancy stories and give unsolicited advice.
– Free stuff for some reason.
– People let you ahead of them when in line at a public restroom.

4

Third trimester:
• I dunno.

5

Postpartum
• Belly resembled a deflated balloon.
• Stretch marks were deeper.
• Boobs hurt.
• Everything hurt.
• Blood and clots still gushing out. My sister in law is a nurse, so she supplied me with an assortment of pads.
• Bloat everywhere.
• C-section wound felt like it was going to tear open whenever I moved, so I could barely stand.
• Constant exhaustion, with momentary bursts of energy.
• Bliss amidst chaos.
• Reality sets in that things are no longer going to be as they were before, and it’s totally okay.

 

When Working Hard Means More Work

Work 1

You often stay late nights while the rest of the team heads out. Sometimes you stay until 2am.

Work 2

You try to do the nice thing by sacrificing your own time and money, thinking that you’re helping others.

Work 3

You think that by going to work sick, this would impress your managers. Your co-workers find this annoying, and they avoid talking to you directly because you could get them sick. The stress has taken a toll on your health. The doctor says your blood pressure readings are scary, and your days are plagued with migraines.

Work 4

Despite your sacrifices, and other’s sacrifices, people are still let go, and THEIR work is added to your plate.

Work 5

Every once in a while, they’ll dangle the carrot a little bit closer to keep you on your toes.
Work 6

It takes a toll on your relationship. The stress builds up. You go from having sex several times a week, to once a month, to none a month.

Work 7

It always feels good when you excel in your work, and you see the company is making money due to everyone’s efforts. You also hope that you’ll see a bit of that trickle down into your pockets.

Work 8

 

You’ve become bitter and resentful. You see how little they value you and others. How little they value their own product and customers by pushing things to be made cheaper and cheaper, lessening the quality of goods. You wonder how much harder you’d have to work. Lip service and promises don’t pay the mortgage.

You eventually give your two weeks. And you wonder if you did the right thing. But despite that, you feel better about yourself.

Work 9

As soon as you hand in your notice, the company brings in a temporary worker to do all the work you’ve been doing, for less money, and zero benefits. She will work hard, hoping that she at the very least gets a full time position.

My Parents Are Polar Opposites of Each Other

mama papa 1a

My mother used to be pretty blunt. She wasn’t the most affectionate, motherly type. But I could always rely on her to give me straightforward answers.

mama papa 1b

My father was, and still is, always very pleasant, and not wanting to cause friction or worry with seemingly controversial statements. He’s very intelligent and book smart, so as I’d gotten older, I figured he was just trying to give me answers that he thought wouldn’t upset me.

I eventually ended up figuring it out from a book in my elementary school library. The book was Where Did I Come From, by Peter Mayle.

mama papa 2a

Ma had no time for sentimental or florid explanations.

mama papa 2b

Pop just wanted me to be happy.

mama papa 3a

Or get an STD. I sometimes had those guys double bag* it when I was overly paranoid.

*Yes, this was not a good idea. But at 16(?), I thought I was covering my bases.

mama papa 3b

My dad was right to warn me. Ex-boyfriend had something going on with an older woman–my high school teacher’s friend. And I found out about it through my high school teacher herself. Oh well. We would eventually leave for the USA anyway: land of Keanu Reeves, Johnny Depp, and that guy from Teen Witch.

mama papa 4a

Both my parents are hard working people who went through a lot. So I can understand the sentiment.

mama papa 4b

After more than 12 months of trying, I was finally pregnant. This is my birth story.

Birth 1a

At the time, I was in my late 30s, and my so-called biological clock finally caught up with me and started banging on my ovaries.

And like a lot of events in my life, things don’t always go according to plan. It would take a bit over a year to conceive as I had a couple of issues in my reproductive plumbing. But after help from an OB, a lot of scheduled unsexy sex and temperature monitoring, it happened.

I don’t remember much of the medical jargon, and I was in a daze half the time. But this comic is pretty much the gist of what went on.

Birth 2a

I had placenta previa. And based on my blood pressure readings, it was assumed that I was also preeclamptic. I was put on a schedule to give at 36 weeks and 6 days early — basically the same day I was scheduled for a routine checkup. It was expected that I’d be giving birth anyway as my placenta had barely moved. So I wasn’t surprised. I just wish I had my hair and makeup done that day so I’d look halfway decent in photos. I’d check Facebook and a lot of my friends who had given birth had crisp eyeliner, airbrushed skin, and blow dried hair. But not me. I looked like a marching band had trampled on my face in all of my photos. You bet I didn’t share those on Facebook.

Birth 2b

I’ve always dreaded needles because in my case, needles are rarely inserted successfully the first try. It usually takes a few tries in one arm, for example. If that doesn’t work, they’ll try the other arm. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll usually call another nurse in who, apparently, is THE expert at needle insertion — until they try me.

Based on nurse and nurse assistant comments, I may hold the record for “tiniest veins in the world”.

Birth 2c

I don’t know what’s more unpleasant: getting a catheter inserted into your pee hole, or a paper cut on your eyeball.

Birth 2d

Was I nervous? I don’t quite remember. I did know of someone who had to stay at the hospital for a month after giving birth. She was also preeclamptic. She had a seizure, and was “out” for what seemed a very long time. So seeing I could have possibly gone through that frightened me a bit. But it frightened my husband quite a bit more.

I just hoped the baby would come out okay.

I was eventually wheeled into the O.R., and I can’t recall if I was given a spinal block or epidural. All I know is that I couldn’t feel my bottom half moments after.

Birth 2e

My husband was a good companion as always. He comforted me. Caressed my head. Told me that I peed a lot upon checking the pee bag on the side of my bed. Apparently, it was a good sign that I peed quite a bit. I forget why.

Birth 2f

“You will feel a lot of tugging”, the doctor exclaimed. That has got to be one of the strangest sensations. That tugging. It’s like you feel like your entire bottom is being pulled apart, but you don’t feel any pain — until later, when the medication wears off.

Birth 2g

I gave birth to a beautiful, red-headed little boy. The nurses seemed pleasantly surprised. I, too, was sort of surprised. But not really, considering how genetics works. While my husband has light blond hair, green eyes, and skin as white as snow, I on the other hand, have black hair, brown eyes, and skin as yellow-beige as Nars Creamy Concealer in Custard.

Birth 2h

I had to stay at the hospital for a little while longer. The doctors and nurses seemed very concerned about my blood pressure not going down. It hovered around 200-something over 100-something, so I was given a combination of medications to help keep things at a normal level.

Birth 2i

My son didn’t latch on. And my milk output wasn’t Niagara Falls great. I was given a hospital-grade breast pump to draw more milk out. That, and I was given a supply of formula to supplement. Though I tried my best to feed the baby breast milk exclusively. Out of everything I’d been through, this is what caused me the most stress. It’s often said “breast is best”, and I felt like a failure every time I couldn’t pump enough milk, and my son was given a bottle of formula instead.

Birth 2j

Nights were a bit lonely because everyone was asleep. But the nurses would come in to check on me every once in a while.

Birth 2k

I loved my nurses. One gave me ice chips when I was feeling dehydrated. One wiped my bloody, clotty vagina when I was writhing in pain and couldn’t get up to the bathroom. And when things were unbearable, I was given lots of pain medications.

Birth 2l

Leaving the hospital was bittersweet. I felt like I made some good friends.

Birth 2m

But I couldn’t wait to bring our son home. And at that moment, I was happy. Everyone was happy.

Birth 2n

And my cat had something new to play with.

Birth 2o

timeline

 

*Side note: Yes, my car seat was facing backwards when we went home. This was just faster to draw.