Imaginary jobs (series intermission)

I don’t know about you, but that last post left me feeling kind of hungover and weepy (another law firm: “Hung & Weepy” – this is a fun game). I still have much more to tell you, and I will, but I need to limber up and regroup a bit first, and also probably give you some space to absorb all that I am springing on you. (You: “Welcome back, Nicole, but oh my god…”)

Walking the talk is logistically harder than it sounds. There are so many moving parts.

So let’s lighten things up a bit. (And believe it or not, this does tie in to the overall theme of reinventing myself, or becoming who I was all along, or whatever the hell this transformation is.)

For years I have kept a running list called “Imaginary Jobs.” It is pretty self-explanatory. I am fairly certain they don’t all make sense outside my own head, and I don’t expect you to think all of them are as funny as I do, but I am going to share them with you anyway.

Here they are, to date:

In-Law Buffer: Hire myself out to attend various functions and keep the obnoxious person nobody likes occupied so that everyone else can have a good time. Test audiences have loved this one.

Hospice Circus* (Home of the Crying-on-the-Outside Clown): Founded with my friend The Fairly Godmother over drinks at The Blue Monk, where we laughed so hard at our own brilliance we drew a crowd of people who wanted to know what we were talking about (including one gross rando who kept trying to convince Fairly to go to a strip club with him), and then they either didn’t get it or were appalled when we told them our emerging business plan: “Three rings of Death Affirming Acts! Never a net! We will wear top hats!” Them: “WTF?” Us: “You look confused AND mortified! Perfect!” (Also, no, Fairly did not go to a strip club that night. If only rando had invited her to go to a mortuary in a clown car… – Ed.)

(*Variation, with a nod to Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) geeks: I am also developing Circus Vagus, based on polyvagal theory, which, you guessed it, will feature Fight!, Flight!, Freeze! demonstrations (that was too easy…). Also, souvenir Window of Tolerance squeegees.)

Biddy ’round the City: Based on actual events. Provide joy rides in a convertible sports car for residents of assisted living facilities, so that next time they sit in a circle of folding chairs to play “The Reminiscing Game,” they can talk about what a great time they had yesterday instead of something that happened forty years ago. I’d keep a selection of billowy silk scarves and aviator goggles in the glove compartment. Each ride would end with a stop for an ice cream cone, and I would follow up with a picture of us from that day with the caption, “In cahoots.” (CAHOOTS would also be my personalized license plate.) I already know there would be a waiting list a mile long.

Marzipets: Hatched in 2004, when my cube-neighbor and now-best-friend and I were still getting to know each other. She invited me over to watch an AbFab marathon one night, and we ended up sitting on her apartment floor playing with modeling clay for several hours and multiple episodes. An unspoken friendly competition ensued as we both discovered that we took our frivolous sculptures very seriously. Her not-yet-husband brought us drinks and snacks (“You guys are so CUTE!”). We decided people should send us photos of their pets and we would make them out of marzipan. We laughed until our faces hurt. That was the day I knew this was someone very special in my life.

Purse Dog Liberation, Inc.: Nonprofit occupational therapy program for small dogs with legs that are atrophied from being carried around in handbags all the time. (Note the acronym is pronounced “piddly.”)

Portable Soapbox: A heavy wooden box on casters that I would wheel to unlikely locations pop-up style (i.e. “How did you get that thing to the top of this mountain?”), and, for $1 per minute, invite people to stand on it and make proclamations about What Matters. For an additional fee I’d film them for YouTube. I would keep a shepherd’s crook handy to enhance the nomad aesthetic and also to yank people off in case someone was inappropriate. There would be a leather bound guest book, with gilded pages and an ostrich quill pen and an inkwell, which I would carry in an elaborate case. Imagine the Instagram for this one, not to mention the Portable Soapbox podcast.

Baby Shower DJ: There I am with headphones around my neck, holding one side up to my ear with my shoulder, spinning a Johnny Cash/Elizabeth Mitchell mashup of You Are My Sunshine. I notice a single mom across the room mouthing the second verse. We make eye contact. I wink, flash her a sly smile…

Atheist Martyr: Throwing myself on the pyre for no reason whatsoever.

Mime Your Own Business Neighborhood Mediation Services: Silently annoy disputing neighbors into breaking down (invisible) walls through pantomime, thus, facilitating their cooperation with each other through their mutual disdain of me. “SEE? You have something in common,” I’d gesture, following them around and pretending to capture them with an invisible lasso until they retreated to their respective homes. The Nextdoor comments alone would be totally worth it. A caveat is I am not entirely sold on the boatneck full-body leotard.

(Mis)guided Imagery Facilitator: With a soothing voice and a bamboo flute, instruct participants to close their eyes and “focus on the breath” as I take them into a deeply peaceful meditative state of openness and relaxation. Then, WHAM! “Oh my god that beach you are walking on!! You just fell in a sinkhole!! The tide is coming in!!! Get out!!! Hurry!!!” This is a form of forced empathy for those who think mindfulness is risk-free that perhaps only those with us with PTSD might appreciate fully.

Bobo the Geriatric Care ChickenAll the assessments and services of a Geriatric Care Manager, except I would do it wearing a yellow feathered chicken suit. If you’re telling someone they can no longer live safely in their own home, you should look as far from The Grim Reaper as possible. And we all know that The Grim Reaper would not be named “Bobo.” It’s about building trust – the importance of the therapeutic alliance and so on.

Grave Dancing Unfunerals: Officiant for events commemorating the Nearly Beloved and the Finally Departed. We’ve already talked about this one. I think there is a real market here.


Entrepreneurship, and where the hell have I been since May (series part 1)


entrepreneur: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise

The summer before fifth grade, I started a small business picking blackberries and selling them to the neighbors on our cul-de-sac for $0.25/pint. The berries grew wild (I did not know the word “invasive” yet) on the undeveloped property adjacent to the brand-new subdivision my dad was building, where we lived in an enormous house with a swimming pool. I had no clue what a bargain the neighbors were getting. Word spread quickly, and business boomed.

My mom would let me go pick alone as long as I would take our dog, Heidi, a Belgian Tervuren (bred for protecting sheep) with me. Heidi came to us as a former stray, already named, found by some customers of my mom’s dollhouse store, after my mom told them how our house had been broken into. Heidi was huge – she looked like a cross between a wolf and a bear, but was, as many large dogs are, completely tolerant and docile with her people. Along with chaperoning my blackberry picking expeditions, Heidi also let my sister and I dress her up in hats, tube socks, and moon boots (remember those?), and pulled us on our roller skates on the Promenade at Seaside. Once Heidi caught on that blackberries were our commodity – and delicious – she learned to pull her lips back carefully in order to not get poked, and would eat the low ones directly off the vine. My mom believed, probably correctly so, that nobody would bother me as long as Heidi was close. I remember her telling me, though, “If anyone comes after you, run into the blackberry bushes. You are smaller and they won’t follow you in there. Don’t worry about Heidi. She can take care of herself.” Nobody ever bothered us, thankfully. 

As business increased, I developed a system for picking efficiently. I would drag a sheet of plywood into the brambles to make an even surface for the 6-foot stepladder I would carry in, as well as a level place to keep the flats of berries from spilling. I wore old tennis shoes, jeans, and long-sleeved woven shirts to avoid being scratched, and tied buckets to my belt loops with rope so that I could pick with both hands. I wore my swimsuit under my clothes so that when I went home (which was usually only after it got too dark to pick), I could strip down and hop into the pool. The chlorine bleached away the stains on my fingers, and swimming around usually got rid of all of the little stickers in my skin, the kind you can feel but not see.

Despite the trauma, my childhood was, in so many ways, perfect. 

I loved picking blackberries. Yes, I did it obsessively, because, well, that is how I go about things. There were always more than I could pick, and the best ones seemed to always be dangling in whole clusters just out of reach. I loved how they smelled, earthy, warm, and sweet.  I loved how my fingers recognized the “give” of the most perfectly ripe ones as they would release into my hand. I got used to the spiders and bees that also love blackberries. I loved filling the pint containers from my belt loop buckets. At home, my mom always gave me free reign of the kitchen whenever I wanted, and I loved making tiny pies in those little aluminum pie pans. My mom used to hang loads of berries in cheesecloth, which she would suspend between two lawn chairs with a large bowl underneath, outside on our pool deck, in order to collect the juice to make blackberry jelly especially for me, because I did not like jam with seeds. 

When I’d close my eyes at night, I would see berries.

When I smell them now, I remember all of this.

Well, that summer when I was ten, I picked so many blackberries that I developed tendonitis in my wrists. My mom took me to the Urgent Care clinic that was close to our house, where I was given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory of some kind and told not to pick for two weeks. By the time I left the office, I had orders from the nurse and the receptionist for a full-flat each, which I picked and delivered as soon as the two weeks were over.

I’ve missed you. I’ve been missing me, too.

I am aware I haven’t published a new post since the end of May, and no, this does not mean I ran away with the homeless guy who made me laugh on my walk to the courthouse, although wouldn’t THAT be a great story? “You didn’t kill me, so I should probably elope with you” is **old** Nicole thinking. (See?? The affirmations are starting to kick in.)

The bad news is I have been in a funk. Or maybe more of a dither. And by “funk” and “dither” (btw “Funk & Dither” would be an excellent name for a law firm), I mean I have been in a cycle of extraordinary worry and despair that has made it difficult to concentrate on many things, especially writing.

I am rebounding, though, or at least finally coming up for air.

I have so much to tell you.

Over the next several posts, let me give you a bit of context about the buildup to this emotional crash that happened to me recently (and fine we can call it “crippling depression and anxiety” instead of “funk and dither” if you want to get technical – I say “tomato,” you say “mental illness”), and then I will be able to share some of the the weird and funny parts of what has been happening lately, too.

There are many.

It is lovely to see you again.