Under My Skin

I’ve been here a week and I’m still sitting in a pile of boxes. I’ve unpacked so many, how can there still be so many left?

One of my forks has gone missing. I can’t find my coffee carafe. Or the clothes hangers, which I feel sure I packed in a box. There is a lack of places to put things, and when I do put things away I sometimes can’t find them again. Everything is too new and in all the wrong places. Sometimes I can’t unpack a box because I need to find something in another box first, and I can’t find that box.

I’m annoyed that I feel like I’m putting weight back on, I’m not running enough, and when I do it’s not as fast or as far as I’d like. I need to get back on a training plan. I’m thinking about buying a Peloton as well, but am irritated that there’s a monthly subscription plan on top of something that costs $1,500.

I may not actually be putting on weight, but I can’t find my damned bathroom scale to find out.


They say it’s lucky if a bird craps on your head, but I learned that I feel luckier when it narrowly misses me.

Wet leaves are fucking slippery.

Rainy days here do not preclude sunshine. With one very wet exception, every single day has had both since I arrived.

Unrolling the carpets in your new space immediately after moving will save your sorry ass from being tripped up.

The avenues in my neighborhood get larger in number as you move away from the river. The cross streets are in alphabetical order south to north, which is so freaking nice of this city to do. It’s really difficult to get lost in the northwest quarter. That’s not to say I won’t manage it at some point.

Don’t shop with a cart at the grocery store if you walked there.

High altitude deacclimatization syndrome (HADAS) is a thing, and it may be why I’ve been experiencing bouts of mild vertigo. Or I could just be falling down a lot because of all the wet leaves and carpets.

Other things: Portland feels old, like European city old, but it’s really only been around since about 1890 in any solid form. A building I visited today on a “ghost” tour was begun in 1880 and finished in 1893 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city, The Merchant Hotel. Compared to Albuquerque, with its 400+-year history of European occupation (though the city was officially founded in 1706), this city is a baby.

Maybe adobe feels younger. Maybe the collection of little mud huts in the desert that is the basis of Albuquerque’s old town feels ephemeral compared to the brick solidity and cast-iron detailing that makes up Portland’s downtown. Seafaring cities, ports, seem ageless.

Both cities areas are, of course, young compared to the history of human occupation in the Americas. The footprint of both cities have been occupied for thousands of years, and if we’re assuming an origin of humans in the Americas from Beringia, then it’s likely that occupation in Oregon is older than that in New Mexico.

On an unrelated note, but still on the topic of things I’ve learned this past week, in situations of stress I will find the nearest carbohydrate and consume it. I’ve eaten ravioli, flourless chocolate torte, pizza, a quesadilla, chicken fingers with fries, and I went through an entire box of water crackers even though there were healthier things to eat in the house. Dry. I ate the crackers dry.

It’s the kind of thing your body does in preparation for times of stress, and since I prepared for my stress by eating next to nothing, I’m now making up for it in spades. I hate this. I don’t feel good. I don’t like how sluggish I feel all the time right now.

I have such difficulty being patient with myself. I always want to push through. I tell myself things like: well, you’re not crying, so get up and do things. You can’t be that upset. It’s been a week now, surely you can bring yourself to empty the rest of your boxes. You’re not emotional, so get your shit together. You have to work Monday, why can’t you do the most basic things to get moving? What will your new employer think when you’re on camera in the WebEx new employee orientation and you look like a vagrant?

It’s a constant narrative. Instead, I should say something like: Wear your sweats to the WebEx. Just put a pretty sweater over on top and put your hair up, no one will ever know. Let’s set a goal of one box per day, and if you can’t do it one day, do two on a day where you feel better. Take a nap at 10 am if that’s what feel right. Then take another one at 3 pm.

Let yourself return to earth, let the constant top-speed sprinting feeling slow to a jog, then a walk, until you can stop and breathe. If the other shoe drops then, if you have the breakdown you’re anticipating, all you have to do is tell your supervisor what’s going on. Be honest, and ask for time off. You’re a federal employee, they can’t fire you for wellness issues. They may like you less, but who cares? It’s better to ask forgiveness later than have to apologize in advance.

They’re people. They will understand.

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