March 2007


· The disorganised, draconian, incompetent management

· The cattiness of the staff

· The constant pressure to sell, sell, sell

· The shit pay

· The diva clients

This past Tuesday, I finished working for Bliss Spa, and gave my very last massage there. It was anti-climactic, given the grinding corporate machine of that place. I get no breaks because, as usual, they booked me solidly back-to-back with clients. This is the upside of spa work: they get you the clients and work, and you do with work and sell products. It sounds relatively easy, if you can numb yourself and have the physical stamina to slap body after body on the massage table. I worked for a marketing company basically, that happened to be a luxury, world-reknown spa.

I started at Bliss right after deciding to switch careers, from IT to massage. It seemed a good place to begin and gather experience, and indeed, I have built up a massive amount of self-confidence and physical endurance. I went from working in front of a PC, managing web development projects, dealing with code and web design to a small room where I, oil bottle in hand, interfaced with a person, who was naked, and faced down most of the session. When you’re faced with that, you had better know what you’re doing and perform well. The only thing that remained the same was crap management…managers that didn’t care if you had an issue, and just wanted you to be on time, consistent, and uncomplaining. Managers that just wanted to make the most amount in retails and service sales, and gave you a hard time if you called in sick or were late. Sickness was always an issue, but in order to save costs, the management did not have a back-up plan of therapists they could call upon in case of emergency. Such is the way of labour, supply, and production…translated into the spa world. This capitalist machine did not care to account for downtime, and strove to fill its schedule to maximum capacity every minute of its working hours. A discussion in Marxist labour theory – about worker’s roles, supply, and demand — can be examined for another time. (more…)

This morning, Chris and I enjoyed something rather new in our wonderful world of wedded bliss – we went for coffee.

When I first met Chris, he was the anti-coffee. Our two worlds, though mostly in sync, collided in a most uncaffeinated way. To him, my coffee needs were fickle. To me, his coffee hatred was despicable. For years, I tried to convince him of the virtues of coffee. Realizing the work ahead of me, I took the quiet, subtle approach on this one. Rather than force the cup under his nose day after day, I casually slipped in my coffee trickery from time to time. And though he’d enjoy a cup of coffee after a hard workout or an occasional decaf, it just wasn’t the same as having someone fully leaded and ready to hop on my wired wagon to ride off into a sunset of liquid brown Sumatra.

Coffee is quite literally the lifeline of my daily grind and I couldn’t be more happily addicted to its potent and perky properties. Sure, there have been times when I’ve thought about giving it up. Times when I feared it was staining my teeth, lining my liver with oils, and giving me the java jitters. But the powerfully addictive pull of coffee is no match for these fears. Like undertow in an angry ocean, it will not easily release you from its hold. Coffee has an insidious way of instantly drawing you in, tempting you like a siren at sea to sip and savor your way into its sneakily addictive and tenuous trap. It tricks you with sugar and cream, it’s milky froth and syrupy sweetness all merely disguises to distract you away from the plain and simple fact that it is coffee and it is indeed a drug.

Oh, you think you can stop. You think you are in control, that you can put the cup down at any time. But go ahead, try it – I double grande dare you.

I speak from experience on this one – I thought I was strong. I thought I could take a coffee break. It lasted about 3 days. Those were 3 of the most painful, unproductive, and pointless days of my life. I was like a wild animal that had been caged – and I was ready to roar. Each morning by 10 am, a fog would roll over my head, my vision would blur, and my brain would begin to pound like a giant drum keeping a booming beat. I was edgy, jumpy, short, snappy, and snippy (more so than usual). My co-workers still refer to those 3 days as ‘the time Liz tried to quit coffee’. We don’t talk much about those days anymore.

In my world, coffee is king and I willfully submit to his sovereign control. At night, I lay in bed thinking to myself that tomorrow I will drink coffee from the rooster mug or tomorrow I’ll get coffee at Joyful’s or tomorrow I’ll ride 60 miles then stop at Starbuck’s. In the morning, it’s not a matter of ‘when’ – it’s simply a matter of ‘where’ and ‘what kind’. So many places, so many choices; Joyful’s, Upper Crust, Kona’s, Starbuck’s, Caribou; flavored or dark; americano with or without syrup.

(more…)

wine

I could have posted about so many more meaningful things that I discovered this week but the underlining one that has stomped all over it is – I am over weight. Yes, I am fat and I live in LA.

Admittedly, there are many more important issues in the world – global warming, starving children and the animals being abused – these things too keep me awake at night. But selfishly all I care about this week is what my weight is going to be on Sunday. It’s been really hard for me to be good and try and lose weight this week – I think the most exercise I did was chasing the cat around our 600 sq ft apartment after she did something very bad. But the wost part is – all this laziness, being bad, has been for no good reason – its not like I had bad news, was told off by my boss, someone died, my favourite tv show wasn’t cancelled – none of these things happened. It was just a bad diet week.

I know, I know, lots of people are overweight, but right now that’s not much comfort. I am wallowing in self pity because I have to admit that this week I failed. I drank, I ate, sure I counted my points for the most part but when I went over my points allowance – did I care? Er no.

Sorry all this talk of points is undoubtably confusing – you see I joined Weight Watchers four weeks ago and so far I have lost 4lbs. Thats pretty good really – a pound a week – but when you have 65 pounds to lose – its a long way to go. I need to do this before I get old, my skin sags and I can’t get away with semi-sluttish clothes on occasion!

Okay enough self pity. One last glass of wine (2 points) before I watch CSI Las Vegas and stumble into bed. Tomorrow is another (fat) day.

Not Goth, 33, Redondo Beach, California, USA

Haring

My life is like a giant domino extravaganza. Not just in the obsession to find a match out there in the wide world like you do when you throw the bones in a game… but also like one of those huge, complicated, intricately set up domino designs where, with a seemingly insignificant … tiny… touch to a single domino, an unretractable series of events is set in motion.

Everyday is a new domino for me, and on the days when they fall just a little harder than I would like, I look back at all those other ones. Those days and weeks and months and years of dominoes that came before… I look for the answers, the explanations… but all I see is a lot of dominoes looking back at me.

Here is where I need to be able to run things in reverse and see if things make more sense in retrospect. I will start with a recent domino…

I am returning to Thailand tomorrow for my Easter holiday, which is only because…
I returned to Hong Kong last August instead of staying in the States, which is only because…
I met a boy who I needed to see again, which is only because…
I moved to Lamma Island from Kowloon City last winter, which is only because…
I met someone who said I could stay with them rent free while I sorted things out, which is only because…
I went to visit Lamma Island with a friend who came to visit me from Taiwan, which is only because…
I was in Hong Kong and she wanted to see a familiar face, which is only because…
I met her in a class in San Diego, which is only because…
I quit my job in the States, which is only because…
I was encouraged to try something different by those closet to me, which is only because…
They saw that I was struggling, which is only because…
I let myself settle for something that wasn’t right for me, which is only because…
I was afraid that I would never find what I was supposed to be looking for, which is only because…
It seemed like everyone else was so deeply satisfied, which is only because…

There are so many more inroads that have lead me to where I am. I am not sure if I should be thankful, vengeful, confused, satisfied… or just ready to set up some more dominoes. In the end, it is still just a beautiful design, a series of patterns and connections that defy rational explanation.

It is my life.

Steps... up

Amanda, 36, Hong Kong

 

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was on the dole (unemployment) :). I have been unemployed before, but never for this amount of time. It took me six months of trying every which way to get a position. I had some pretty crazy interviews. Some positions that I thought were in the bag were complete puffs of smoke, other interviews offended me so much that I scrapped off all communication despite the fact I may have had an offer. I have a pretty crazy background and I have a feeling that most companies didn’t quite know what to do with me.

However, this crazy stretch of time is now behind me as I can happily report that I am now gainfully employed. The company I am working for is well recognized and has been acknowledged for being one of the best places to work in the country. My role is something that I would never, ever, envisiion for myself, but I actually like it so far! The people are really nice and its a job that I’ll be able to go in, kick some ass, and then come home and enjoy life. This may be a good change of pace for me.

Some of my friends have noted that my mood has changed over the past couple of weeks and I can completely agree with them. Having a place to go every day does something good to your psyche. It’s a sense of purpose and I truly believe that I am the type of person that can get more out of life when I am busier.

Stacy Jill, 33, Chicago

I was just reading an article in the Chicago Tribune that reminded me how upset I am by the company that killed Marshall Field’s. That would be Federated Department Stores, which owns Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

I am not a Chicago native, and until a few years ago I really hated department stores. I didn’t get them at all. Marshall Field’s, with its rich history and its elegance and upscale brands, changed my mind. It was exactly what that kind of store should be. The truth is, I grew up in a town that had a Macy’s–and it was nowhere near as shiny and intimidating as the “real” department stores. I always thought of it as kind of cheap and crappy, and it’s not like I had that much shopping experience back then.

You almost can’t talk about the history of Chicago without mentioning Marshall Field’s. The first store was burned down in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. When I do volunteer work at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park, Illinois, I often mention that Wright had an account there and the plates his family used, which are on display in the butler’s pantry, came from Marshall Field’s. I always point out the fact that his son, John Kenneth, was a toy designer for Marshall Field’s and invented Lincoln Logs. Marshall Field’s, especially the store on State Street, was always a bustling and important part of city life. And that shoe department…well. I bought my wedding shoes there. And I enjoyed stopping by every holiday season to see the themed window displays.

I’ve been in the nearby Marshall Field’s since it became a Macy’s. They’d taken down all the original signage, leaving big gaping spots with nails in them on many of the walls. The ceiling was cracked. So was the floor. The silly little red star had replaced that rich green Marshall Field’s logo with the slanted script, and the place had become so bland and dingy I was actually shocked. I don’t usually notice things like that.

I was not a regular Marshall Field’s shopper, though I certainly respected its housewares department and the great high-end brands it always had. I liked the service, too. Going to Marshall Field’s always seemed like an Event. Mostly I bought beauty supplies there, or gift cards every Christmas. It’s hard to see now the private label brands and the downturn in quality that’s in evidence everywhere. Many people will point out that it has been a long time since Marshall Field’s was truly its own, and this is probably true. Frango Mints were outsourced years ago. But there’s been change, no doubt about it, since the store became Macy’s, and not for the better.

I will admit that some, if not most, of my feelings are due to nostalgia and the fact that I’m still smarting from the way Federated treated us Marshall Field’s customers. This is Chicago, and we are proud of our city. Bloomingdale’s got to keep its name, and to me that store isn’t half as important as Marshall Field’s is locally. The Macy’s executives (based in New York City, I imagine) kept saying really arrogant things about how we’d all change our minds once we walked into a Macy’s. They didn’t seem to care about us at all. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who decided that Macy’s was never going to get my business.

This issue bothers me more than it ought to. There are so many other things I should be worrying about right now–and many of those things have a right to my undiluted attention. But here I am, writing about shopping. I guess it’s about more than that to me. It’s about tradition and quality and how the priorities of today’s world continue to erase signs of a history worth remembering. I am not the type of person who normally pines for the past–I realize that there has always been bad along with the good, and I applaud many forms of progress. I still think this is a shame.

Helen, 34, in Glenview, Illinois, USA

…no more Bible, I will travel…

Today, is melancholy. Today, I am Coltrane – Kind of Blue, Blue Train, Blue Note. I’m wondering who they are, and how they do? And as the clouds roll in and winds howl & it feels like rain…I think about other things. Things best left untouched.

My month’s supply of meds (one of them) is $692. Hormone Replacement Therapy. I am 30, post-hysterectomy. unemployed, still on restriction, and waiting for Cobra to kick in. My savings are dwindling, I cannot work.

I am more terrified than I have ever been – even after the diagnoses. Either time.

Once again, I am absorbed in David Whyte. I am not interested if there is one god or many gods. I don’t know if I belong or feel abandoned. I keep examining these themes, because this time is the time.

Can I know despair or see it in others? Am I prepared to live in this world with its harsh need to change me?

Can I look back with firm eyes saying This is where I stand? Do I know how to melt in the fierce heat of living, falling towards the center of my longing? Am I prepared to live day by day with the consequence of love? With the bitter, unwanted passion of my sure defeat?

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of god.

This is my time – to make friends with the unknown. To remember everything that my psychic and my spiritual advisors and teachers have told me. To heal, even if the healing feels as if it is what is going to kill me (and that intuition is almost correct).

And yet, I find myself recoiling from it. From what I had learned, what I had known. The lessons that came through physical suffering and hardship, which caused transition periods that, opened me up to learning. I was ready for something different because nothing else worked. I was desperate, and in that desperation, I found my healing place. I don’t want to let go of that because I am in despair.

My psychic told me that it would take me longer to heal. That it would seem that I was healing well but that I would really take much longer. That I needed to learn patience. A reliance on the universe.

Most of what I know but am scared to admit is that I *don’t know* how to melt in the fierce heat of living, falling towards the center of my longing. That I am not yet prepared to live day by day with the bitter, unwanted passion of my sure defeat.

I know that I am okay now, with the world building me a home bigger than any that I can ever build myself. I am a nomad. A traveler. But it seems that the journey that I am struggling with is the spiritual one.

Like David again, I am thinking of faith now. And the testament of loneliness. And what I think I am worthy of in this world. Sometimes it takes darkness, and the sweet confinement of my aloneness, to learn that anything and anyone that does not bring me alive is too small for me.

I want to get back to where I was…spiritually. And physically, before disease and multiple surgeries and years of treatments and chemicals and medications. I want to find peace within my struggle. I want to find a place of comfort, where I am prepared to live in this world, despite its harsh need to change me, despite disease and castration and HRT and a future that includes monthly visits to my pain management team where yours has Menstruation.

I want to know …This is Where I Stand. If I belong or feel abandoned. I want to know me. I haven’t known me for a very long time. But, I am prepared to embark upon the journey to find me, through the layers of hormones and drugs and diseases and struggles that I have been buried beneath. And, I am ready to embark upon journeys of another kind again as well…

I am Angie. I am 30, and right now, I am in Los(t) Angeles…

…no more Bible, I will travel.

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