The first weeks of each year, my intro lab class learns how to measure an actor for costumes. This is what we do; we cast a show, we measure actors, we make costumes for them and pull shoes and such for them, and it’s all based on those measurements. There’s a lot involved–how do you best approach a person you may never have met before in order to measure their bust and hips and inseam? What is proper etiquette? How do you efficiently wrangle a 60″ vinyl measuring tape so that you can see the numbers and not pull anyone’s hair or get tangled in your own web?

Measuring physical attributes is much easier than measuring less concrete things. I am trying to measure less tangible stuff right now, like, “How hard do I push to have a wrong corrected that is actively impacting my job?” or “How disabled am I?” or “How sick is chronically ill? What level of chronically ill am I?” My FMLA paperwork came back today granting me up to eight days a month of leave. Last year it was four, and I never took them. I took an hour or two here, or there, a couple of half days. An entire day a week? Unthinkable. Thus, TWO DAYS a week? Ha!

A FB and real life friend posted something the other day asking at what point does one measure their job as too much? When they cry once a week? Have to start taking anxiety medication? Have panic attacks at work? Another friend posted that she once found herself driving to work in a snow storm, and thinking that if she just let the car slide a little ways into the guardrail, she’d be able to call in sick due to having had an accident. I have an extremely talented friend who said to me, about her job, “Part of the time I think I’m just really important to this job and then, suddenly, I think I need to resign immediately because it’s so awful to be here.”

Stress and a chronic disorder play off one another, and it becomes hard to manage. My facade gets better and better the more stressed I am, a trap I designed for myself long ago and have spent a lot of time trying to undo–sometimes with more success than others. Coming out of this particular summer with less than zero emotional resilience in the tank, it’s hard to measure which things are temporary and which are indicators that I am taking on too much and remaining in a toxic environment long past when it’s worthwhile. I can’t, yet, measure the distance between this and the next thing—which is why I’m stuck, at least for the moment.


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