Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I'm not mental, I'm mentally hilarious.

I work as a crisis counsellor. Basically, people call me and I talk them out of killing themselves. Or at least, I hope I do.

I'm not really trying to make light of it. It's just that after months of hearing horrific disclosures involving all manners of abuse, sex crimes, broken hearts, abandoned children and lost souls, you're just not the same person and you do what you can to survive it. There are days when I come home and cry. There are days I come home and run myself a hot bath to cry in. There are other days I pour myself a glass of shiraz, run myself a bath, and sob as I gulp wine greedily. But despite these challenges (and maybe a tiny bit because of them), I love the work I do.

I even love the fact that I get to do it at night. People become desperate creatures at night and every time the phone rings, I know I have the potential to save a life. What I love a little less though is the toll that working nights takes on your social life. My schedule goes like this: I work 7 nights in a row, get 3 days off, work another 7 in a row, get 4 off. By the fifth night, you feel a little undead. It's been forever since you last saw the sun, you have no idea what the idea of "suppertime" is anymore, and you have a personal vendetta against all banking institutions which are open only in the narrow window during which it is imperative that you sleep. Mercifully though, I am right now enjoying my 4 days off, Sat-Tues, or as I refer to them, Saturday!, Sunday!, Monday!, Tuesday!

The Saturday and Sunday I reserve for what we counsellors have taken to calling "filling up the reservoir" after a particularly cheesy workshop, but really consists of making sure we don't burn out or wind up in need of crisis counselling ourselves (both happen with frightening frequency).

Saturday was a lovely day. I sacrificed sleep in order to be among the people, and I hit up an indie craft fair where I spent my money on such silk-screened gems as a pair of panties that say "Eat Local" and a tie that has a TV set admonishing the masses "Read a book you dipshit." These are the things you risk missing out on if you do the "healthy", "logical" thing and sleep when you're exhausted. Saturday night I went to Gatineau to visit a friend, play some poker, and eventually, when I was drunk enough, embarrass myself at Guitar Hero.

Driving home, we were already a fair piece down the highway when my girlfriend rang my cell and said Jay, you forgot your wallet on the stereo. Andrew was kind enough to turn the car around and allow me to retrieve it without laying on the guilt. Did I mention that having a fucked up sleep schedule really messes with your memory? It does.

Sunday morning I made my way home before the sun had even risen after spending the night not sleeping in Andrew's bed. I went home and crashed for less than two hours before springing back up in order to enjoy Another! Day! Off! Andrew and I spent a blissfully quiet day on my living room floor drinking wine and laughing.

On Monday I should have swung into high gear in order to get around to all those errands that are particularly hard for those of us who work the night shift: grocery stores, passport offices, postal outlets, banks, even the laundry room in my building, they're all open hours that are only convenient to the majority but sadly not the totality of the people.

But....I didn't. I had finally allowed myself a few consecutive hours of sleep before waking up and realizing that I needed to be getting ready to get to my friend's house if I had any hope of being in the vicinity of "on time".

And I was, barely, but still. And I had a great night. I am blessed with friends who hardly complain at all about my schedule. I knew that the next day would be crazy for me, now having to pack 2 busy days worth of errands into just the one, but I managed to put that stress out of my mind and just enjoy myself. I work hard, and I deserve some quality down time. I got back home quite pleased with myself, started steaming milk to make some white hot chocolate, ran a bath and realized....I had once again left my wallet behind.

I never do that, but I've now done it twice in three days and for all I know Sunday was safe only because I never left the house. I sat in the bath panicking. No cash, no debit card, no credit card, no gym membership, not even my lousy laundry card to my name! The Christmas shopping that so desperately needs to get done? Forget it. The stamps that need to be bought? ID that needs to be renewed? Arms that need toning? In fact, the whole damn list of things begging to be checked off? Nope, none of it.

It sucks.

And yet, I have accidentally given myself a gift.

I have nowhere I can go and no means to do anything. I will be forced to spend the day at home, alone. For the first time in a long time, I will truly relax. I will sit, and read, and eat cookies, maybe watch movies, maybe nap, probably open some wine and turn the Christmas tree lights on. I might even call my mother! It will be the complete opposite of the day that my to-do-list requires, but it will be the exact day that my tired soul has been longing for. Sadly, I all too often leave myself off the list (while scolding clients who do the same) but my unconscious has apparently identified the need and has worked hard to ensure that I treat myself to a real day off.

Thank you, dear wallet, for saving me. This act of deliberate sabotage is the most selfless thing an inanimate object has ever done for me.

Today I will shower in the dark with expensive body wash.
Today I will touch flame to virgin wicks.
Today I will go panty-less in order to preserve what clean laundry I have left.
Today I will savour every last minute.

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