Peer Review

“Damn hell OW that’s bright and stings,” I mutter aloud to myself. The 8:26 a.m. sunbeam has blasted through my windshield and seared my retinas like tender tuna steaks. I make my way through the last few blocks of traffic to the office, vigorously rubbing at my left eye (because historically that has always proven to alleviate, rather than exacerbate, the irritation). I am a smart man.

If by some grace I manage to get to sleep before ~9:30 p.m. on any given night, without fail my body will choose some ungodly hour WELL before I need to be awake to complete its sleep cycle. Last night, this happened to be 3:30 a.m. Further helpful was the immediate onset anxiety that I would not be able return to my coveted slumber, despite a full 3.5 hours until the alarm clock was scheduled to ring.

Naturally, I did not get back to sleep until somewhere between 5 and 6 a.m. And so here we have me nearly needed a crowbar to pry my eyelids open today on my way to work.

Fast-forward a half-hour & I’m sitting in my manager’s office for our daily “huddle” to review tasks & priorities. I am focused intently on the list in front of me. Apparently my eyesight plays some sort of role in the process. My left eyeball is sending shooting lightning bolt pain signals to my brain and my involuntary reaction is to rub at it some more. This, unsurprisingly, agitates my tear duct.

My boss pauses, suddenly concerned. “…we don’t have to do this right now…why don’t you go take a walk…?” A kind response; we’re at the tail-end of a monstrous week, one rife with deadlines & internal politics. In that instant it becomes clear to me he thinks I’m having a visceral, emotional reaction to the mounting demands. This is how I chose to address that:

“Nah, I’m good, I’m just…getting my eye…started for the day.”

Another beat goes by. He replies, “Ah, yeah. I know what you mean.” Yes, that classic bodily function we all know and love: getting your eye started for the day. The next few minutes are stilted and awkward, but we get through them. I’m too tired to even jokingly try to play it off like I wasn’t crying but really, what would be the point? Nothing says “I was definitely crying” like saying “I just had something in my eye.”

These types of miscues/miscommunications are endlessly funny to me. Crying is an interesting one, because I think it’s generally seen as an expression to be held “privately.” In that moment you’re exposed as vulnerable, and you have no control over how others perceive that vulnerability.

Luckily for me, I didn’t get my eye started over spilled milk.

———

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