Chaos Attraction

No More Smiling Beautiful Face

2020-12-01, 7:57 p.m.

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Cast list as of November 2019

Dear Holidailies:

Like everyone else in the world, I was hoping to come back a year later and have things be far more different and awesome to report to you than they have actually been. And then, pandemic.

On the good news side:

(a) I now work from home and the office has no plans to make us physically come back, so that’s a relief. I was so overloaded (see below) that despite impending budget cuts in a pandemic, my office actually got permission to hire new teammates for me, since I more or less lost all mine this year. We now have a team of three permanent people who are very nice--that would be Hope and Dianna.

(b) I have been in nine(!) online plays this year, which has been amazing. That’s been the best thing all year. I’ve gotten to play my dream Shakespeare roles, I got a lead dramatic role, and I’ve now done green screen acting. Very impressive!

(c) I have managed to make new friends online during quarantine, which is great.

(d) I'm off from work after December 18, so I get two weeks to detox and chill and only have 3 more weeks to go. This has been a lot of office drama and Lucy with the football crap about "you'll have to work" / "no, you won't / "now EVERYONE is being forced to close for the season" / "never mind, we want people to work during Christmas again!", but at this point, screw it, I'm refusing to work. I haven't had vacation all year and won't be having one next year, most likely, this is MINE.

(e) My mom got me an online subscription to Hallmark Channel movies off, so the Hallmark reviews around here WILL CONTINUE!...frankly, that may be literally all I have to talk about all month, to be honest.

(f) So far I haven’t gotten Covid. So far nobody I know IRL has gotten it yet (or at least nobody’s been confirmed), to my knowledge. (Though now I get to wonder about all of my coworkers who went to go see family on Thanksgiving.) I’ve met a few people online who said they got it/tested positive, but they seemed fine on Zoom. Healthwise I am fine and able to work.

On the bad news side:

(a) Spent the first four months of quarantine crying 3-8 times a day and I still manage to get in trouble at work off and on, albeit I think I've gone a month since I last pissed off management, so it's probably due any day now. I’m not having the nervous breakdowns so much any more since I stopped having to do 4-6 hours of training a day on Zoom, but I keep wondering if they are going to come back. I actively refuse to turn the camera on at work and won’t disclose to management why, since I will get in trouble if I cry on Zoom.

Also my hair looks pretty bad. I dyed my hair permanent pink last December and have been regretting it all year now since it’s not safe to go to a professional for an hour plus of hair styling, and so far I haven’t caved in and tried to dye it myself since I am not good at seeing the back of my head. At the rate things are going, I may have it grow out enough that I may hack off all the pink myself in another year. I miss hair dye but may have to give it up for life. I have wigs now.

(b) I am mostly agoraphobic now. I only started caving in and seeing people circa September/October, not sure if that’s a good idea to keep doing now under the circumstances. I saw my mom in person once for an hour and we are having debates about her safety since she goes out in public more than I do. I'm still hoping she cancels on attending a wedding this weekend, specifically. She lost her job due to pandemic, but is at least happily shacking up with her boyfriend Roger, so she’s doing pretty well.

As the song lyric goes, “I’m not sick, but I’m not well.” But could be worse. Could be a lot worse. My therapist is having a real shit time of it, so I don’t think I can whine compared to her, since her mother got cancer, she’s living on the opposite coast from her husband, her husband lost his job, her mother set the apartment on fire, and she just had kidney stone zapping.

(c) I miss people. I miss karaoke. I don’t hear from the theater crowd I hung out with outside of plays much, though the Winters group did do one play online this year. It really bothers me that I am going to lose that friend group without in-person group hangouts being an option (and none of them wanna group Zoom anything). There isn’t really much of anything I can do about it, but it bothers me.

(d) Scott has been constantly working in the family retail business with no time off all year except for Thanksgiving, and also his house burned down in the fires in August. At least he has somewhere to live for awhile yet and the insurance money has been plentiful, so there’s that. I was leaving him alone for most of the pandemic since like everyone else he has been distant, but after the fires I have been trying to work on connecting with him at a distance, which has had....varied...results, I guess. Sometimes it goes better than other times, and of late hasn't been going too great. I actually went to the family business and saw him IRL three times...and got hugs...I know I should not be doing that, but I swear my hair stopped falling out in clumps after I did some hugging. God, I daydream about hugging all the time.

So that’s the recap for the year.

As for today's news:

(a) My mom got me a Lego advent calendar this year. The "City" one (I'm not sure why *that* one....). I opened up today's and found a baggie of a bunch of random Lego pieces, with no instructions as to what the hell this is or any clue as to how to put it together. Seriously, what the hell is this? I wanted one of these things because I love minifigs and I thought these were minifig calendars, but....why no instructions? I do not get it. Anyway, I eventually deduced from the box that it was a... boat, a very rudimentary one. The box helpfully points out that "boat does not float."

(b) I had therapy today. My therapist is doing a LOT better since last week, which is a relief. She gave me props for actually attempting to bring up my issues a few days ago, even if I don't think it ended so well, and she said I didn't do anything wrong. She said that my friends are probably communicating as well as they can under the circumstances, maybe I touched a nerve while trying, who knows. I did ask her about when she got together with her husband, if she had the same issues as I did and she said yes, she had the same kind of feelings, freaked out if he didn't email her back, etc. Sigh.

(c) My new coworkers, Hope in particular, are deeply unhappy about not having a lot of vacation time left and being told that (a) they can't take leave without pay unless they use ALL of their vacation time first during December and this is a December-only policy, (b) they are never allowed to take vacation as leave without pay so they won't be able to take any time off for most of the year, and Dianna wanted to take off her birthday in January, or (c) they have to work during a time of year where there's actually not much to be doing around here on our side of things and they'd probably just have to answer public emails all day. And they were told they have to decide TODAY. on the work vs. vacation time situation. Hope was all, "where is the policy for this?" and I dug through all the HR documents I could find online and could not find them. I had Hope call HR and she got voicemail and "we'll get back to you in three days." And our boss was out today taking her kid to the doctor. Finally she just emailed BigBoss and asked for clarification, and BigBoss said she didn't have to decide yet and they'd look into it. I guess we shall see how this drama plays out.

One of the fun things of the pandemic is that everything had to go online, so I'm signed up to watch "TEDxMileHigh" this week. They had a vision boarding class after work today and since I am a sucker for collage (even if the whole "vision board" concept has never really done much of anything for me), I signed up. There were over two hundred people in this thing but it was mostly webinar-style in execution.

Okay, I'm gonna rant here for a bit. Remember how pre-pandemic (if you can remember pre-pandemic?) all the ladies of the world were all, "Stop asking us to smile! Stop policing our faces!" I actually didn't get a whole lot of that in the beforetimes. I have one story about this happening to me and it was a guy telling me to smile and I was all, "I just saw a dead squirrel," and he completely and utterly ignored everything I said.

But nowadays, almost every time I go to anything online it's "Turn on your cameras! We want to see your faces! Don't be shy!" It's either:
(a) "your beautiful faces"
(b) "your smiling faces"
(c) "your beautiful smiling faces"
(d) "your smiling beautiful faces."

(Also, any shy people out there ever magically stop being "shy" because some loudmouthed stranger told you to? Just wondering!)

Now, this isn't every single thing I go to, but it's probably at least 90% of them. I love it when I go to something and once in a great while they do NOT harass you to put on the camera, or actually ask you to turn it and/or the sound off. Look, it's one thing if it's some activity where you actually have to speak, but why the hell do I have to stare at my face for 2 hours to watch a Zoom play or a webinar lecture that I'm not having to speak or perform in? Why do I have to put my face on, because Zoom forces me to stare at my damn self for hours and I don't want to? I know there's a setting to turn that off, but if you're not always staring at your stupid face you start wondering if you're going to, I dunno, forget and do something stupid with your face ("are my bangs doing something stupid right now?"), so you end up forced to watch yourself anyway.

In the beforetimes, you didn't have to constantly stare at yourself in the mirror at the same time that you talked to well, anyone. God, it's narcissistic and exhausting and unpleasant. Seriously, that's your "Zoom fatigue" right there. Also, think about it: in the beforetimes when you had to be sitting in a crowd, did you, from the audience, pick out/on everyone's individual face in the crowd? I can say from experience that I sure as heck did not, especially in the dark. Whatever happened to the quiet of the faceless audience? But now, everyone demands you put on a show even when you didn't sign up to be in the show.

Because I was having sudden crying nervous breakdowns during the first four months of the pandemic, I put a moratorium on camera-ing up. I'm refusing to do so at work because I will get in trouble if I'm caught crying there--I know I haven't been having Those Breakdowns for awhile now, but just in case they come back..... I said I did not want to disclose why I won't use the webcam they sent me and that means they canNOT ask, so everyone's letting it go. I've had crying breakdowns on Zoom a few times--once to my coworkers during training, but at least it wasn't in front of management, which told me straight up a few weeks before the pandemic hit that I have to be happy at work at all times. One time I had the camera on and I started sobbing during a meditation class and the host kept on watching me do it, and it was awful. Another time I sobbed through a workshop and the host forced my microphone on and demanded that I talk about what had gone on, and I had to say I was crying through the whole thing, so heck if I know what was going on during it.

THAT, folks, is excruciating. You know what? MAYBE THEIR CAMERA IS OFF FOR A REASON, and it's not one they wanted to disclose to the entire class?

I don't really have the Zoom fatigue like most people do--for one thing, after spending 4-6 hours a day for months on Zoom having a not-great training experience, y'all don't know from Zoom fatigue compared to that. But also, it probably helps that while I probably have at least 3 Zoom meetings a day, I pretty much only turn the camera on if it's friends or if I'm performing or there's some reason I have to be speaking. Otherwise, I prefer to think of it as sitting in the back of the virtual room, not putting myself on display, being chill and quiet. What's so bad about that?

I admit it's easier to fake (as an actress, har) when I'm being in an online play, because I'm living someone else's life doing that. I'm focusing on my lines and being a Shakespearean heroine or at the county fair in the 1950's or being in medieval times (albeit on Zoom), not being just freaking me trapped at home alone. Being in online plays has saved my sanity this year and it gets bad when I'm not in one, since my last play just ended and nobody starts to do a play in the month of December.

But I'm so sick of being asked to show my smiling beautiful face. My face is not beautiful right now, my hair is dreadful to the point where I frequently put on wigs, I'm back to living in my bathrobe every day a la "The Dude" Lebowski again because it's cold in here, and I am NOT SMILING. I'm sick of strangers I'll never meet demanding to see my smiles, because I'm so HAPPY right now!!!! Fuck you and your smiling demands and your smile policing of me. I've been known to turn off the Zoom if someone gets really insistent--one guy I know in storytelling just keeps sending "The host wants you to turn on your camera and sound" messages OVER AND OVER AGAIN at events until I quit and logged out, because what the fuck? I don't CARE how desperate you are to see faces, there's television and YouTube and streaming services for that. Don't police my face, for god's sake. I'm not okay and I can't even fake being okay as long as I'm being "Jennifer living all alone in a pandemic," so stop bloody asking me to show the smiles I don't have to strangers I'll never know in this damn one-off event that I just wanted to watch from the back of the virtual room, okay?!

Okay, so back to the actual vision board thing, besides the face demands: They had a guy lecturing on the joys of watching eclipses (not a thing you need to argue with me! I've loved watching eclipses), followed by a three minute meditation in which you see your future self three years from now. My future self pulled me into a giant house party--I think it was a housewarming for Scott's family in a new house--and various theater people and his relatives and whoever else were just wandering around. (No masks, as the lady leading this pointed out.) And of course, hah, I was with him. And I had my hair redyed rainbow-style, which proves that things are back to normal because I feel like I can't dye my hair ever again now. It was lovely.

My vision board has theater stuff, romantic things, and pets on it. All things that are out of reach now.... maybe someday.

Tomorrow, we shall have some Hallmark reviews. The show I was watching crashed halfway through and frndlytv won't let me fast forward, so since Holidailies seems to run on East Coast Time (why?), I gotta get this up now.

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