“Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.”

I never intended to reveal that I am a military spouse, but I came home yesterday to the most devastating news.  He’s going to deploy again.  This time to Afghanistan.  Shock waves of pain shuddered inside of me and my whole world suddenly lost meaning.  What a life it is being a military spouse, where such bombshells are normal and expected to be obediently tolerated and accepted.

I have exams and reports due this week.  My car is in the shop.  And next month, my husband will be leave for six months and everything as I know it will fade to gray and quickly enter my peripheral vision.  Everything I have accomplished for the past two years, insofar as my mental health and it’s delicate stability, is deteriorating under my feet.  I will attempt to crawl from this dark place of mine, but it will likely be a slow process.

He is my best friend and the one who taught me what happiness is really like.  He is truly my rock and during meditation, my visions of inner peace are of him.

Forgive my somber tone.  Tomorrow is another day.  And assuredly it has the potential to be so much brighter.

Thanks,

Ze Tsarina

Trapped in My Skull

Something that frequently strikes me as odd… the comments I regularly get about how “calm,” “relaxed,” or “chill” I am.  To me, this is preposterous.  Insatiable energy, repetitious movements and random shouting seems to fit the bill better in my mind.   Imagine the robot assistant Gir from the Invader Zim cartoon, or the partially insane Kramer from the sitcom Seinfeld, or Dory from Finding Nemo.  We all speak the same language as far as I can tell.  Apparently somewhere along the line, there’s a mistranslation.

As a science minded individual, I can’t argue with the math:

Soo high tech, hope your computer screen has enough pixels to view this correctly!

Soo high tech, hope your computer screen has enough pixels to get a proper viewing experience!

Clearly I just somehow project a zen yoga master type persona.  And yet I feel as though if I had any more random energy, I would paint the walls with my guts in a glorious explosion.  It’s bizarre to me, but not completely unexpected.

For one reason or another, I have found that translating the thoughts in my head into what I call “the real world,” is buggy at best.  I occasionally run into problems with stuttering or speech impediments because, for reasons I can’t identify, it can be hard for me to move my thoughts out into spoken words.  Perhaps it’s an issue of thinking too fast or anxiety zapping my brain power, but it can lead to awkward social encounters and causes me to sometimes remain silent, even if there is something I want to share.  My best solution to the problem has been to take a deep breath, briefly close my eyes and deliberately organize my thoughts.  It is only at this point that I can speak free of impediments despite moments where it’s otherwise impossible.

The world in my head and the “real world” aren’t even in the same galaxy a lot of the time.  It leads me to often feel as though I’m imprisoned in my own skull.  Like there is an entire person in the “5th dimension” of my body poking and scratching to come out and say hello.  Someone that only the Zen Yoga Master has met and confers with regularly.  But these two people are the not the same, just acquaintances.

It used to scare me that I can’t quite extract that in my mind into entering the “real world” full time, that only flashes of Kramer or Dory are able exist, but I’ve made peace with that.  Now I just work on having an internal balance that doesn’t skew to resulting deep depression.  It’s not a bad life, but it can be trying and can be problematic in the field of science (half of the job is communicating effectively).  -shrugs-  I just work on it, apologize often, but most of all, I keep going and I don’t give up.

There is a sea of riots in my head, pounding and beating to break through my flesh.  Bundles of anxiety, loads of ideas, steam engines of thoughts, all that erupt simultaneously every second… which no one ever sees.  Only a petite woman with an inviting smile, a quiet demeanor and a thoughtful stare sits before her audience.  She’ll close her eyes and take a breath, then she will give you a short statement that may or may not make sense.  She has good intentions, but now and again, even that gets lost in the mix up.

But at least you now know what lies beneath.

It can be our little secret.

Yours,

ze Tsarina

The Phoenix Arises from Her Ashes

Two days ago, smoke whistled out of my ears and I shattered into cinder… For, by anyone’s standards, less than good reasons.

The first day of my Analytical Chemistry lab consisted of lab practical, where by the instructor says nothing and the students go forth and complete the assigned experiment the way they see fit. It was a very easy experiment that any veteran chemistry student can do without problems, yet for some reason I continuously bungled it at every turn! By the time that class was over, I had lost a substantial amount of points before thorough grading even began. It was heartbreaking.

I had done everything as carefully as possible, taking note of details, but Lady Luck was just not on my side. Such train wrecks are not abnormal for me, I seem to be plagued by random bouts of temporary brain death, however, such a mess on the first day was a big blow for me.

As I exited the laboratory, my ears whistled like a kettle and I shattered the moment I sat down in my car to drive home. My anxiety plumed like a mushroom cloud, and depression washed over me like an oil spill. I felt like I was at the bottom of my internal pit again. That old friend of mine. I pondered that maybe I could just drop this class and get a BA instead of a BS. I did have options.

I went home and cried.  Swallowed by depression, it was all I could do to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue the process of merely living.  Tears soaking the pillow, laying in a blackened place, I went to sleep to arise anew.  And that I did.

-cue Rocky theme music-

I awoke the next day determined that though that might have been the shittiest start to a semester possible, short of physical ailments or death, that that didn’t mean the rest of the semester was ruined.  I have four months to work off that bad grade, and gods be damned, I can do it!  I have aced “hard” exams before and I have bested some of the “toughest” chemistry classes.  This semester wasn’t going to be one train wreck after another!  Not on my watch, and not as long as I still have a killer brown leather bomber jacket and black combat boots to rock confidently.  ((please, God, don’t let me lose those tomorrow somehow!))  No, no, you see, I will put the Rocky theme on repeat, and I will begin pouring over my studies effective immediately.  I’ve done it before, and I can do it again!  I will claim my “A” in May, and it will be glorious.

Look out Analytical Chemistry Course from Hell!  Ze Tsarina is barging in!

Yours,

Ze Tsarina

My Pursuit of Graduate School Part 4

This will likely be my last post in this series for a good bit.  Things have been moving pretty fast (as they should considering the semester begins next week) and good things have rolled in like waves of water at high tide.  After some back and forth passages of emails, I have been given the green light to take my first graduate course this coming semester!  Though I’m not officially admitted into the program, it is my first official step into graduate school.  My extremities tingle in joy, I almost want to dance!  -cue Tingle from the Legend of Zelda-  If I do well in this course, my chances of admission raise considerably.

I will only be taking one graduate course (it was hard enough to accomplish that, and I didn’t want to push my luck), but it will be Fundamentals of Heterocycles, an online class.  Oh how I love online classes, I can be smelly and greasy sitting in my bra and panties while my mind feasts on all the wonders offered by a college course.  No judgment from anyone else except possibly my pets, but they don’t care either as long as I make sure they are fed timely.  What’s not to love??  As long as I score well enough on my assignments and test, it’s as anxiety free as I can possibly get.  Plus since I will still have to head in to school three days a week for my undergraduate course, I won’t get too lonely and cut off from the world.  How fantastisch!

This Monday I will need to head into school and get signatures from various people to get full permission to take the class, but that should be theoretically straightforward.  I’m so pleased with this turn of events, my skin feels luminescent!  It seems like all of my hard work has finally placed me exactly where I have aiming, the next trick will be not allowing my anxiety or depression to squander all of it (like it has been prone to do time and time again).  Perhaps if I increase my yoga and exercise routine, it can keep me on the straight and narrow.  I think I have that power within me?  I mean, after all, even if only by the skin of my teeth, I have made it here, haven’t I?  I would say that’s a hopeful enough sign of good tidings.

-puts on spandex and flowing red cape then thrusts right fist into the air-  “Onward!  Upward!  Onto the next big hurdle and beyond!  I CAN DO THIS!”  -billows of smoke pool around feet as I slowly launch into the air like a space shuttle-  “The next battle is ours to win!  See you in Valhalla!

Your Painfully Geeky Friend,

Ze Tsarina

My Pursuit of Graduate School Part 3

I am somewhere between laughing hysterically and sobbing, which undoubtedly is a bad state of mind when sitting down to write, but I was unable to resist the urge to update on my pursuit of graduate school.  I found out two hours ago via email that, the perpetual gnawing and gnashing of my teeth for the past four months, combined with numerous awkward moments with professors and administrators was basically for nothing.  Since I am still an undergraduate (with only one more class left), at my school, all an undergraduate needs to do to take grad courses is to simply complete a form that is approved by 5 or 6 people.  A form.  A formA FORM!!!  A form.

Here is a rehash on how this gross miscommunication even occurred.  My official academic adviser, who is a chemistry professor in the department, is a miserable prick who quite literally never gave me a single shred of valid advice in all of the years he “advised” me.  I could not switch advisers, and I had to meet with him in order to register for classes.  He considered the purpose of his job to be to look over my plans, assess that they were in line with my degree program, and that I didn’t schedule two classes at the same time.  Wow.  You see, I actually did pass general chemistry amongst others…  I think I can follow a fucking checklist.  I digress.

After a bad judgement call on my part, I met with another professor who explained out my options to me, and bluntly told me that I would be stuck right here where I am, Spring 2014, and shy just one class from my BS degree.  But he said there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  If I was a good little girl, and if I was accepted into the chemistry graduate program, I could take graduate courses Spring 2014, at the same time as my final undergraduate class.

Like an atypical “man on a mission” or a “dog with a bone” (probably more like the dog.  I’d like to think I’m slightly cute, but maybe a little furry too? I’ve been called a bitch several times as well) I went after this goal tenaciously.  I put my heart and soul into being a good girl and getting that chance to start on graduate courses.  Turns out, my terrific unofficial adviser didn’t have all the facts.  Consequently, I did all of the things I needed to do, or thought I needed to do, and I have had two administrators bend over backwards to help me, but it turns out it was all for naught.  Just a miscommunication.  I feel awful for all the trouble caused on my behalf, and feel like I need to get these two awesome people a small gift of some kind.  Otherwise, they may kill me in the school hallway or something else drastic.

Wow.  It’s a funny situation, in a fucked up kind of way.  I will sleep on this and hopefully, things will unfold even more favorably tomorrow.  In the meantime, I desperately need to hit the gym and release some of my steam.

Thanks for listening to my rant…

Yours,

Ze Tsarina

A “Sheldon” Approach to Fashion

A demonstration of how frightening my mind is at times.

Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory is definitely a fan favorite.  Outlandishly geeky and hilarious, he is simply a fictitious joke to most.  However, his struggles with everyday things are quite real for people like me who are too “analytical” for their own good. I can’t even tell you how many times my inner monologue has announced things like, “Hmmm… It seems as though my catalog of phrases appropriate for ‘small talk’ with strangers is lacking. I need to increase this to avoid future awkward encounters.”

Since many of my friends and family have got a kick from my story on how I learned to “dress like a human being,” I figured I would share it here to bestow some amusement.

It all began last summer.

I don’t believe in taking summer breaks off of school, like Bill Gates before me advised, the real world doesn’t have summers off. But being so close to graduating college, I simply had no more classes I could take! During this time, I decided to embark on a project.  Unlocking the mysteries behind the art of fashion!

Growing up as a girl with no mother around, all of these “woman things” such as hair, makeup, and fashion have always been very alien to me. After realizing somewhere along the line that despite my feeble attempts, the way I dressed myself never quite seemed to be up to par with that of the stylish, I decided I finally wanted to change that.  Apparently appearances mean a lot or something.  Who knew?  Anyway, this is what I did.

Over the course of one month, I researched feverishly. I discovered the websites of all the women’s fashion magazines found at the supermarket.  I combed through these carefully and learned about seasonal trends and made mental notes. I dissected what constituted an aesthetically pleasing attire. What looked sexy and what looked skanky. Though a lot was hard to quantify,very disturbing for my numbers driven mind, I identified that most of all, the key was to correct fitting clothes.  Don’t want that muffin top exposed, but you do want to show that you are in fact a woman.

At the conclusion of my literature research phase, I moved on to field observations. Perching in the mall and other public places, I people watched. Specifically, I observed the clothing of women. At least I didn’t have a huge notepad, or ask anyone to pose for pictures, but I made countless mental notes on what really looked good and why that was, and what outfits could use work. And stared like a creeper throughout.  In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t land myself in trouble.

Finally, after I felt as though I fully understood what constitutes nice looking clothes and appearance, I went boldly into my closet to try to reproduce my findings.  I went to work putting together a nice looking attire from head to toe.

I was not completely convinced of my results until I had it peer reviewed. Upon taking my attempt at proper fashion into public, the response was very positive! Apparently the project was a resounding success and in the time since, I have received numerous compliments. My friends and family feel like it was an overnight transformation, but it was much delicate research in the making.

Something as simple as dressing, to the Sheldon Coopers of the world, is still the same learning process as anything else.

Stay classy!  And don’t forget that military chic is in this season.

Yours,

Ze Tsarina

My Pursuit of Graduate School Part 2

I feel as though it has been ages since I last posted, but final exams roared through (So engrossed was I that rent had accidentally gone unpaid!  A first for this creature of excellent credit habits).  This was immediately followed by my graduation ceremony which was utterly surreal.  Since I am still one class away from my official undergraduate degree, the full effects of graduation were lost on me.  Oh well, it was nice anyway I suppose.  Finally, after much delay, I am able to return to my keyboard once more!  “Yippee!” *spoken like Irritating Small Child Anakin Skywalker*

So here is the situation, as played out by many tense stomachs, clenched jaws, and embarrassing flatulence on my part.  (Anxiety.  It’s just a bitch.)  Despite my application being one month late and without the final recommendation, I was able to play email tag with the graduate program coordinator and he told me that he would give it his full consideration!  This is such welcome news, and realistically, all I can ask for.  Now I just sit and wait on that letter in the mail.  My future will unfold from there.

I should be celebrating and utterly overjoyed at all of these wonderful things, yet I can’t help but feel weighed down by other considerations.  First of all, my final grades for the semester were dismal and brought down my already floundering GPA.  Usually I try not to sweat it, it is what it is, but I’m so disheartened that despite my valiant attempts for high achievement this semester, that nothing much came of it.  I accomplished copious amounts of studying, I did not sit on my ass the entire semester.  I just don’t know what happened there…  and I feel upset about it.  Every time I think of my final grades for this term, a dark sickness stirs at the pit of my stomach.  As if there is a real potential for vomit if I dwell on it enough.  Eh, I should just repeat my mantra, “it is what it is,” and think of kitties and other cute animals.  Seems to work well enough.

Secondly, after going through all the jumps and hoops to finally make it to graduate school, and obsessively researching every angle so as to be as prepared as possible for what is to come (my MO), I have come to realize something.  I am completely terrified of the prospect of graduate school.  With my anxiety, this is not unordinary, but it’s still a big hurdle I will need to pass if I wish to actually make it.  For the past four years, it’s all I have been seeking.  And I love chemistry and lab work so much, I know it would be a good fit.  But the prospects of playing nice, teaching undergraduate lab, achieving those perfect grades and not being an awkward mess sounds so daunting, I just don’t know if I can hack it.  In the end, I bet will force myself into it, shaking and resisting to the very end.  I assume I will thank myself later for it.

After I receive the ultimate news from this application, I have Plans B, C, and D lined up and ready to go.  I have this next and final semester to enact them and see how those will pan out.  And if everything utterly falls apart, I guess there is always this “housewife” gig I have going on.  But I think I would rather be one of those kids with a four year degree and flipping burgers full time rather than to resort to that.

Time is on my side and it’s just more of the waiting game at this point!  I’m so happy to have made it this far with such good fortune, but we’ll see where life takes me from here.

Yours,

Ze Tsarina