At 0700 the alarm goes off on my phone. I stretch, turn over and hit “snooze.” As I rouse, my focus shifts to the sliver of sunlight that has slipped through our blackout curtains, which is now dancing across my closet door. An effect created by the trees outside of our window. I allow myself a moment to be entranced by it while my mind is numb, but as they say in show business, “the show must go on” and so must my life….
I slip out of the covers, ever so careful not to stir my sleeping husband and quietly enter the bathroom across the hall. Before switching on the lights, I glance into the mirror. It’s dark in here. I can barely make out the shape of myself, but I’d recognize my presence anywhere. I can cleary picture my appearance, even in shadow.
My auburn hair is unruly and messy from slumber. Despite having slept well, I know that I’ll have puffy eyes with unflattering purple bags underneath of them. Freckles will splash across my pale ivory skin, complimenting my large hazel eyes. My eyes… I see them every morning and yet every time that I look into them I feel disconnected from my own body.
My fingers hesitantly lay on the lightswitch as I prepare for the onslaught of lighting that will officially begin my day. The panic sets in for a brief moment, but I swallow it down and flick the switch.
The light stings, but after a moment my eyes adjust. The lights in the bathroom are warm in tone, and they don’t buzz. They’re safe, even if they’re currently painful. I stare at myself in the mirror. I look exactly as I’d imagined. My eyebrows need to be tamed, and my forehead skin is a little dry. I wasn’t expecting that. As I make eye contact with myself, my mind immediately starts buzzing with a list of tasks for today.
It’s Monday, which means traffic at 0800 will be a little lighter than usual. There’s a meeting I’m attending at 1015, as per usual. Lunch is at 1230. Routine tasks will include script writing for the week, setting up my daily video edits, and logging new footage. Currently I’m working on an additional project, so I’ll need to begin coordinating graphics, scripts and footage for this as well.
Note to self: I was very rude last week to my coworker. I’ve reflected over the weekend, I believe I should apologize. Face-to-face would be the most respectful communication. I must remember to use the words “I apologize” as “I’m sorry” is rarely sincere enough.
Traffic means that I’ll have 50 minutes before I need to be out the door. In order, I will need to: shower, dry off, dry my hair, dress, eat breakfast, pack lunch, feed the kittens, open the blinds, straighten my hair, apply makeup, brush my teeth, kiss Chandler goodbye, grab my bags, slip on my shoes, grab my keys and go.
The meeting at 1015 will include my entire department. We will be sitting in the conference room with lots of natural sunlight, mixed with fluorescent lighting. The lights in that room are a sharp buzzing blue, they’re painful. The room is of comfortable temperature, it usually rests at 76 degrees so no blanket will be required. There’s little probability that I will be asked to contribute any information this week as my current project status has not changed. If I purchase my usual coffee, that will keep my hands busy, so I’ll leave my fidget cube downstairs. Mmm… chai tea latte, I can’t wait. Hopefully Josh will be there, as the other barista’s always manage to make it taste watered down.
There’s been no notice sent out about visiting guests and since my day is clear after the meeting I’ll be clear to wear minimal makeup, and sensory friendly clothes that are “Jess Business Casual.” This means a simple dress and a sweater. Simple colors, simple fabric, with my usual black clog dress flats. Cotton is a girls best friend. As usual, I will wear my dainty sterling silver moon necklace, as well as my watch and a brown hairband. Nothing clunky or distracting.
Lunch will be at 1230, and I will call my husband. Note to self: Riot Games shared that they are going to release a new game. This will be relevant to Chandler. Study up on this release, and be prepared to share what I’ve learned with him, he’ll love this. It will probably “blow his mind.” Thinking also of Riot, maybe I can convince him to play some League of Legends with me tonight.
1730 will be the end of my day. Monday afternoon traffic is always horrendous, so I should be home between 1800-1830 unless if I encounter unusual patterns in traffic (ie: a car stalling). We have not gone food shopping so perhaps we will order in. I would like Shrimp Fried Rice. We will likely make a list tonight for tomorrows grocery trip.
I’ll return home, decompress, feed the kittens, and enjoy some silence before Chandler arrives. We’ll order food, play with the kittens, watch a show (my vote is Psych, as we haven’t finished it yet), then we’ll go our separate ways until bedtime around 2300.
This should be a relatively easy day.
And yet, I already feel hopelessly overwhelmed by it.
Because it’s Monday, there are coworkers that will want to speak about their weekends, and it will be rude not to ask if they bring it up. Because it’s Monday, I will need to engage more with people than the rest of the week as I plan ahead for this weeks “to do” assignments. I will be hugged, expected to smile, high-fived, extended handshakes and expected to offer up clever fun facts about my weekend if I bump into anyone around the coffee machine. Because it’s Monday, the typical person will be extra grouchy, and the general theme will be “Is Monday over?” Brace yourself for scheduled negativity. Prepare generic “It will soon be over” responses.
I will be dealing with a lot of loud, bright fluorescent lighting. There will be construction taking place all around my office, which has only become increasingly more intrusive sensory-wise. My noise-cancelling headphones no longer offer as much reprieve as I’d like from the noise outside, but I will manage. I should take my medicine to work just in case. I may be able to work from my private corner where it’s dim and away from the noise and outside traffic.
The key to success today is being extra patient, while downsizing the radius of my personal bubble. Unfortunate, but necessary. Maybe I should practice my greeting?
I refocus on my eyes while my hand grips the light switch. I smile, and say “Hi!” No… that doesn’t sound right. Note: I forgot to smile, and raise my pitch.
I try again. “I’m doing well, thank you.”
But I forgot to add “How are you?” Note: maybe I should tilt my head to show more interest in their answer.
Once more. “Hey! I trust you had an enjoyable weekend?”
No, that was too formal. Nobody likes formal…. Keep it casual Jess. I take a deep breath as my pulse starts to speed up from frustration, and that familiar headache of overwhelming emotions throbs in the front left part of my head. Stop. Breathe. Just remember the equation.
Confidence + Friendly Smile + Higher Pitch with Tone Fluctuation + Eye Contact + Relaxed Shoulders = Success
“It’s going to happen for you today.” I tell myself in a hushed whisper.
This is my personal mantra. Because of my social anxiety, I’m often battling pre-perceived hostility. It’s a reminder that life is for me, and people aren’t necessarily against me. The only thing that is after me, is my mind.
I smile once more, and I can see the mask slide over my eyes. I settle into it and practice my greeting once more. Nailed it.
My “mask” is one of a metaphorical nature, and somehow it’s also actual. This mask is a cascade of various equations that I have compiled to get through my day to day grind. The equations calculate for basic greetings, friendly interactions, business sense, professionalism, humor, kindness and more. The equations also help me to manage my overclocked senses as it relates to touch, smell and hearing. This processes filter out my blunt words, social anxiety, constant misinterpretations and fear of my environment. In turn, it spits out a functioning individual who is capable of simple tasks such as “Hey, how’re you this Monday?” and shaking your hand, while maintaining eye contact.
I inhale a final deep breath, let go of the light switch and snap back into the present. Shaking my head, I clear out the mental fog, look at the clock and note that the time is now 0750. 40 minutes have disappeared. Crap! I’m going to be late… and this is how my day begins. Total chaos.
~ To be continued.