What It’s Like Getting The Worst News Of Your Life

All my life I’ve wondered what it’s like to get “the news.” The bad news. The scary news. The news that changes your life forever. The news you hope you’ll never have to hear.

I’ve seen it on the Lifetime channel and in plenty of films. The moment where a terrified person sits across from a doctor and his fate is sealed with one sentence.

“You have cancer.”

And I always carefully watched the face of the poor sap who’s getting the news, thinking, “How would I react if that happened to me? What would it feel like?”

Well, now I know.

I’ve been keeping a diary to chronicle my cancer journey and I wanted to share the entries from the week surrounding my diagnosis. I find solace in sharing my experience and hope that it may help someone going through the same ordeal.

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Thursday April 6, 2017

PANICKING. Was getting into the shower this morning, and something is very very very wrong. I’ve lost a little weight recently because I gave up dairy and was mostly eating a plant-based diet, but I looked at myself as I got into the shower and noticed that my abdomen had swelled up. Like, HUGE. Like, I looked 8 months pregnant. If I’ve lost weight and my pants are looser, why is my stomach this size? I’m worried.

Friday April 7, 2017

So I showed Jon my stomach, and he agrees that it’s not normal. He made some chicken noodle soup for dinner since I’m repulsed by most foods. But the soup tasted like dirt to me. He swore that it tasted fine, which I think means something in my body is seriously messed up, since my taste buds are now malfunctioning. We agreed that we’ll go to the emergency room tomorrow. Mom and Dad think it’s my gallbladder, so I hope they’re right.

Saturday April 8, 2017

Went into Cedars around 11am this morning. Didn’t have to wait long before I was in a comfy bed and watching infomercials. Bunch of tests during the day – blood, ultrasound, CT scan. The doctor on duty said it seemed like I passed a gallbladder stone, but they needed to make sure. After several hours, a nurse came in and said they needed to admit me into the hospital and I needed to go upstairs and put on a gown. But why? We were still waiting for the results of my CT scan. I didn’t understand and started to get anxious.

After I was admitted as a patient, I settled into my new room and sent Jon home to feed the cats. They hooked me up to an IV, which screeched a horrible alarm every time my arm bent. Ugh. I tried to get some sleep, but every time I drifted off, the alarm screeched me awake. I didn’t get more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time. And I STILL didn’t know why they were keeping me overnight. This sucks and I just want to go home.

Sunday April 9. 2017

At 8 in the morning, an awful woman came into my room and woke me up.

She quietly said, “We have the results of your CT scan, and you have ovarian cancer.”

Sorry, what?

Her face was arranged into an expression of sympathy, but I f***ing HATED her. What was she talking about? The doctor from the ER said it was a gallbladder problem. I saw spots. Everything went white, and I saw black spots. The air was thick and wet. I don’t have cancer.

She was still staring at me and continued, “I know this is a lot of tough news…” but I couldn’t pay attention. I only saw her mouth move. Her stupid malevolent little mouth that wasn’t making any sense. I had no idea what to say, and eventually she left, probably to go be malevolent and mouthy in someone else’s room.

I called Jon in tears, and he started crying on the phone, and said he would be by my side in 15 minutes. I then called my parents, sobbing. Alone. Terrified. How the F*** did this happen? How could I get the best news of my life a couple weeks ago (landing my book agent) followed by the worst?

Would I have 6 months to live? Would I die before my 50th birthday? My 40th? Jesus Christ, I’d never even been to Hawaii, gone skydiving, or owned a rescue dog!

Mom and Dad said they would come out next weekend to be with me. Between crying and hiccuping and panicking, I said they didn’t have to, but they insisted. Jon showed up and we sat together, scared and weeping.

That afternoon was a haze, but then the clouds parted and a magical man walked in. His name was Dr. Li. He was an ovarian cancer specialist, and he was my new doctor. His bedside manner was calm and confident. His voice washed over us like a soothing balm that we SO desperately needed. He said that yes, my CT scan did indicate that I could have ovarian cancer, but he was suspicious because I’m young and healthy, and there’s no history of cancer in my family, so it didn’t make sense.

SEE, you mouthy malevolent witch from this morning, IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.

Thankfully, the tumors had not spread to my lymph nodes, nor were they inside my organs. But those nasty little growths were on my ovaries, uterus,  liver and spleen (that explains those nagging pains in my upper abdomen), and scattered throughout my belly wall.

Dr. Li said that I would need to stay another night so that we could do a biopsy tomorrow, then we’ll know for sure what we’re dealing with. And that no matter what it is, he will help me get through this. What a relief to hear. I knew at that moment that Dr. Li is a precious gem and I started thinking about what to get him for Christmas. A framed photo of my ovaries, perhaps?

Monday April 10, 2017

Slept like garbage again. Every couple hours nurses were coming in and out, and I kept setting off the screechy IV alarm. Plus, I felt sick with nerves. And the worst part is that I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight. And anyone who knows me knows that I drink liters upon liters of water every day. I’m always kinda thirsty and water is my jam. But not being able to have any water was a new form of torture. My biopsy was supposed to be around 11am. So I watched the morning hours slowly tick by. Then it became noon. Then 1pm. Then 2pm. Then I was told that my biopsy wouldn’t be until 5pm. Ugh. My mouth was like sandpaper and not having water for 17 hours was (almost) worse than finding out you have cancer.

The biopsy itself was easy and quick. They told me to come back on Friday to meet with Dr. Li for the results. After I got dressed, I could FINALLY go home after two and a half days. What a freakin’ disaster.

It felt amazing to be home and smother my cats with love, but my mind was racing. Do I seriously have cancer?!

Tuesday April 11, 2017

I keep vacillating between, “There’s NO way I have cancer” and “Oh my God, I can’t believe I have cancer.” Work today was surreal. There’s a small bandage on my stomach where they took the biopsy, but the weird part is telling everyone what’s going on. I missed work yesterday, so they knew something was up, but reliving the past few days kinda sucked. I couldn’t even bring myself to say “ovarian cancer.” All I could muster was, “I’m hoping it’s not the big, scary thing.” But being at my desk is sort of helping me cope. Everyone is warm and sympathetic and we even cracked a few jokes. But my knees won’t stop shaking and I can’t eat anything and a thick omnipresent rope of fear has wrapped itself around my neck.

These tumors better be benign.

One good thing is that Mom, Dad, Rob, and Brian are all coming out this week! Thank God for my family. I’m beyond lucky to have them. And I’m so touched that they are all dropping everything to come be with me.

Friday April 14th, 2017

Armed with Jon and my family, we went to see Dr. Li for the results of my biopsy. While we were waiting, I kept praying that I had some strange new disease that made me grow benign tumors which could be cured with a lifetime of chocolate and whiskey. But alas, no such luck. Dr. Li came in and introduced himself to my family. He sat down and said that unfortunately, I did have ovarian cancer. Stage 3. I immediately broke down into tears, as did everyone else. No, no, NO!

Unlike malevolent mouth from the hospital last weekend, Dr. Li had a genuine expression of empathy on his adorable face. He assured me that I WOULD beat this. I have age on my side. I’m active and healthy. My cancer will respond amazingly to chemotherapy and I will be cancer-free after this is done.

OH CRAP. It hadn’t really hit me that I would need chemo. My hair will fall out. My teeth will turn yellow. I’ll have purple bags under my eyes and I’ll look frail and sad and bald and old and crackly like the people you see on those cheesy Lifetime movies. 

Dr. Li recommended an aggressive treatment plan, with 9 consecutive weeks of chemo, then surgery (farewell, ovaries and uterus and possibly spleen), then 9 more consecutive weeks of chemo. So….basically the rest of this year is gonna suck. I don’t want to be bald.

Hmmm…with no ovaries or uterus, it will be difficult to conceive a child. Well, impossible, actually. Huh. So having children is officially off the table. I guess this’ll just be yet another crappy piece of information to accept and eventually make peace with. I suppose I could adopt, but I heard that’s super expensive. Wonder if I can put a baby on my Visa Rewards card?

The nurse practitioner, Corinna, gave me about 10,000 pieces of paperwork on everything from the side effects of chemo (yikes) to info on their psychology services (maybe necessary) to a list of Los Angeles wig-makers (definitely necessary) to a marijuana prescription (YEAH BABY).

After the meeting, we zipped back to the hotel because Rob had arrived. We all had a cocktail at the hotel bar, then went to dinner. It felt great to have the whole family together now and we shared the news with Rob. My food smelled good but tasted like dust. I just couldn’t believe it. It was real now. I have cancer in my body. 

Workin’ It: Hail To The Boss·some Leaders

bosssome

Boss·some
an amazing workplace leader; an awesome boss

Bloss
a mediocre workplace leader; a blah boss

As someone who’s thrived in excellent job environments and slogged away at unpleasant ones, I’ve reported to wonderful bosses (the kind you want to hug and impress) and horrid bosses (the kind you want to accidentally-on-purpose spill coffee on).

I know it’s difficult to be the guy in charge – you’ve gotta make tough decisions, you’re constantly under different types of pressure, and the livelihood of your employees depends on you. You deserve props for taking on the challenges of running a business.

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If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to have a rad boss, you know how good it feels. You want to work hard. You don’t mind going that extra mile to get things done. Heck, you don’t even mind taking his calls on the weekend, even though you threw back a coupla cocktails and you’re uncharacteristically enthusiastic about metrics and KPIs.

One such gentleman, a former supervisor of mine, rocked his Boss·some·ness like a custom pinstriped suit. He was supportive, kind, encouraging, and his habits taught me a lot about great leadership. Let’s examine why…

Mr. Boss·some made employees feel valued.
He asked for our input and listened to what we had to say. The first time it happened, I was suspicious that we were on a prank show. Then I realized that he actually cared about our opinions. Weird, eh?

Mr. Boss·some offered constructive criticism.
He helped me become a better writer by giving me helpful feedback and solid suggestions. I lapped it up like a thirst puppy.

Mr. Boss·some rocked at communication.
He always let us know what was going on in other departments, which helped us see the big picture and gave us a better understanding of the company’s mission and vision.

Mr. Boss·some let employees know when we did things right.
It’s not that I need a gold star placed on my forehead each morning, it’s that unless you let me know that I’m doing well, I won’t know. One of my former bosses never said anything about my performance, so I never knew where I stood. And with his rigid expressions, it was impossible to know if you were kickin’ butt…or just floating along.

Mr. Boss·some let employees know when we did things wrong…privately.
Have you ever been berated in front of your colleagues? It’s not a good time. Mr. Boss·some knew the importance of discretion and dealt with delicate situations confidentially.

Mr. Boss·some didn’t micromanage.
If you’re going to hire people, why not trust them to do their job? Being hands-off, but available when your employee has a questions or concerns, just sets the tone for a healthy boss/ employee relationship.

Mr. Boss·some was realistic about expectations.
Remember that volcano in Iceland that exploded in 2010? My friend’s boss was stuck abroad, and was frustrated this his flight was cancelled due to THE VOLCANO EXPLODING, yet he called my friend at 6am on a Sunday to insist that she somehow find him a flight out of there. Apparently he thought my friend possessed magical powers. Thankfully my Mr. Boss·some was sensible in his expectations for deadlines, workflows, and volcanic hazards.

Having a Bloss is a total drag but it makes you appreciate the Mr. Boss·somes of the world.
We’ve all had a Bloss at some point throughout our careers. You fantasize about publishing their rude emails or snotty iChats across the internet so everyone can see how awful they are. You imagine setting their computer on fire. You think about deleting a very important part of their server files. But you don’t because karma. And because when you work for your Mr. Boss·some, and you are thanked and appreciated, the workplace universe equilibrium has been restored, and when the time comes, you know how to be Boss·some.

My Friends Are All…And I’m All…(Part 2)

Ok, it’s time to wipe away the dust from my beloved little blog, and pick things up with a little dose of Vitamin Truth.

My friends are all, “Woo, summer’s here!” and I’m all, “Woo, summer’s here!”

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My friends are all, “Got the cutest new suit!” and I’m all, “Capris & a tank count as a two-piece, yeah?”

My friends are all, “Time for a new car!” and I’m all, “Time for a new car!”

My friends are all, “Just got in on that new tech IPO” and I’m all, “Mah shiny savings account is immune to the market crash.”

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My friends are all, “Loving my new Neiman Marcus curtains!” and I’m all, “These vertical blinds really add a touch of class to my living room.”

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Vertical Blinds.jpeg

My friends are all, “Dinner party 4TW” and I’m all, “Who’s down for a BBQ?”

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My friends are all, “Finally Baby Chloe slept through the night!” and I’m all, “Princess Meow Paws woke Mommy up for nom noms at 5am.”

My friends are all, “#OfficeVibes” and I’m all, “#OfficeVibes.”

My friends are all, “#MondayMotivation” and I’m all, “Need to Google ‘Saving compooter from coffee death’ but currently have compooter dying a coffee death.”

My friends are all, “Abs Day!” and I’m all, “Plz to send halp!”

On The Prowl For A New Job? The Rumor Is True: It’s All Who You Know

job referrals

When you’re hunting for work, your instincts urge you to spend 24/7 on LinkedIn, to incessantly investigate every online job board, and to send out a billion resumes because “it’s all a numbers game.”

Sure, there can be some worth in the digital hustle, but I found the true magic sauce: referrals.

Get this: every job I’ve scored throughout the last 13 years has been through a referral.

No joke. Every employment opportunity, both staff and freelance, has been because of connections I’ve made. I only discovered this a few weeks ago, when I carefully traced a path along my career trajectory to investigate how I ended up at my current gig (aka heaven on earth…well, heaven in downtown, anyway).

When I moved to Los Angeles circa 2003, I needed a job as quickly as possible, which meant either waiting tables or selling fruit on Hollywood Blvd. I scoured Craigslist and found a post for some local catering company that needed servers. (Ok, fine, that’s the ONLY job I didn’t get through a referral, but I didn’t  know anyone at the time, so it doesn’t count.) I shudder to think about how I looked in those pleated tuxedo pants and cummerbund. Spoiler alert: I looked like a chubby panda bear sporting a ponytail.

During training, I met a cool guy from the east coast and we became fast friends. Casey and I laughed our way through countless shifts and I sulked when he quit a couple months later. He started working at an outdoor restaurant in downtown L.A and immediately got me an interview with the manager. Time to burn that cummerbund!

And so it began…

Exhibit #1 – HI, MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER?

For the next 2.5 years, I doled out cheeseburgers, greasy quesadillas, and forced smiles. I went through a few hundred pens, dozens of lost wine keys, and thousands of white collared shirts. The more double-shifts I powered through, the more I wondered what to do with my life. Eventually Casey moved on again, but this time he called with exciting news: the post-production company next to his new job needed a receptionist and he could easily get me an interview. I knew nothing about post-production, but I was desperate to hang up my apron and not smell like stale food scraps all the time.

Exhibit #2 – POST-PRODUCTION + THE 7 YEAR ITCH

Thrilled to toss out my putrid outfits and psyched for my new (albeit longer) commute, I started with typical receptionist duties like phones, lunch, errands and coffee runs. Over time, my responsibilities multiplied, and 7 years later I’d worked my way up to Business Manager. The steady employment allowed me a sense of stability, but I kept thinking I was destined to do something else. After some soul searching and tons of research, I decided to go back to school. I picked a certificate program at UCLA Extension and told my bosses about the plan. Though they assured me that I could attend school and reduce my hours with no threat to my employment, they let me go a few weeks later. I like to think that I got the axe because they wanted me to have more time for homework.

Exhibit #3 – PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN HIP HIP HOLLYWOOD

Suddenly unemployed, I panicked about my lack of income but loved every moment of school. I sat up front for every lecture and lapped up the lessons like a thirsty puppy. I even griped to my new favorite professor about needing a job. Amazingly, he knew of an opening at a cool branding company in Hollywood and said he’d put in a good word for me. The following week I met with the owner of the agency and BOOM – I began working as a part-time Project Manager. I handled website launches, oversaw design projects, dealt with clients, and learned tons about digital. As much as I enjoyed the folks I worked with, I slowly realized that I wanted to be on the creative side of things. I wanted to write. Later that year, I (dubiously) submitted my resignation in order to enter the freelance writing game.

Exhibit  #4 – FREELANCE PANTS + WAITRESSING 2.0

While I worked on building a solid portfolio, I needed supplementary dough, so I begrudgingly waited tables at the same downtown restaurant from 10 years prior. (How’s that for life coming full-circle?) Even though the apron came with a sense of contempt, this time I knew that waitressing was merely a means to an end, and only temporary. Now I had direction. I had goals. So I polished silverware, grinned through bad gratuities, and enthusiastically folded napkins. I took on side gigs from various clients (all referrals!) and developed a collection of writing samples that I adored. About 11 months later, that rad professor from UCLA got hired at a production company, and got me an interview for a position on his team. Fun fact: the CEO was intrigued that I had video jingles in my portfolio and during my interview he requested that I perform one live. I felt terribly awkward but he loved it and asked me to start on Monday.

Exhibit #5 – AN EXERCISE IN DIGITAL FUTILITY

As a Content Producer on the brand new digital team, I showed up with a shiny attitude and a yearning to utilize all the knowledge I’d amassed over the years. In the beginning, I got to manage a few website launches, write a bunch of fun articles, and interview hilarious comedians for the company’s syndicated TV show. Unfortunately, the company wasn’t really ready to go digital, so eventually my team dispersed in search of new opportunities. A sweet coworker knew that I was seeking a fresh creative opportunity, and set me up with an interview at a very cool tech start-up in the pet industry. The clouds parted. A golden ray of sunshine peeked into my life.

Exhibit #6 – PURRFECTION

Digital + writing + pets + tech = paradise. I’m happy as a kitten in a cargo of catnip. As a dog with a bucket of bacon. As a grateful gal at her dream job.

So therein lies the assortment of job referrals that brought me here. Word-of-mouth has been my best form of self-promotion. If you have the chance, I urge you to always recommend friends and colleagues for employment opportunities. And hopefully they will do the same. Because the adage is true: it’s all who you know.

Battle Of The Nighttime Nags – A Dialogue Between A Girl And Her Brain

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FADE IN:

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

Moonlight peeks through the vertical blinds, illuminating 3 sleeping cats on the giant bed. A frazzled, angry brunette lies awake, staring despondently at the digital clock beside her. 3:28am. A loud, annoying voice startles her.

BRAIN:
Oh hey! Sorry to wake you. But did you hear that noise coming from the living room?

KIM: (sitting up)
No. What was it?

BRAIN:
Probably the cat knocking something off the counter.

KIM:
But all the cats are in here.

BRAIN:
So it’s probably a machete-wielding lunatic here to murder you and kill the cats.

KIM:
Ohmygawd.

BRAIN:
Just kidding. It’s fine. Go back to sleep. You know, if you fall asleep right now, you can sneak in another 3 hours and 32 minutes.

KIM:
Good. Shut up so I can go back to sleep.

BRAIN:
Ok, ok….hey maybe that noise was your loud bodybuilder neighbor upstairs. He’s probably doing naked pushups in the living room.

KIM:
If I looked like him, I probably would too. But not at 3:30 in the morning. Now shut up!

BRAIN:
Fine, just let the sound of your fan drown me out. Having white noise is supposed to help you sleep. But have you noticed that the blades of the fan are spinning around kinda unevenly, and it’s making a weird scraping sound? Might wanna get that fixed. Or buy a new fan.

KIM:
Cool. I’ll be sure to do that next weekend. Please stop talking.

BRAIN:
But aren’t you insanely thirsty?

KIM: (groan)
Ugh. Yeah, actually I am. But I’m too lazy to get out of bed.

BRAIN:
Well, good, cuz the only things in your fridge are white wine and stale chipotle mayo.

KIM:
F*ck.

BRAIN:
Hey, speaking of wine, remember the time you got wasted at that cute restaurant on 3rd street and developed a drunken case of kleptomania?

KIM:
It was a candle. And I wasn’t that drunk.

BRAIN:
Still. Who goes into a bathroom, blows out the incredible-smelling candle by the sink, and shoves it into their purse?

KIM:
Please. It probably cost them a dollar. And I got wax all over my purse.

BRAIN:
Karma, betch. You sure you don’t want to get up and get a glass of tap water?

KIM:
I’d rather shrivel up from dehydration. OH SH*T…I forgot to pay the water bill last week.

BRAIN:
Eh, don’t worry. You’ll just have to pay an exorbitant late fee. Speaking of water, how much longer is this stupid drought gonna last?

KIM:
Yeah, it’s whack. I may have to move back to the east coast. Perhaps I can think about that tomorrow, PROVIDED I GET SOME F***IN SLEEP TONIGHT!

BRAIN:
I can’t believe how warm it is there. Hey, remember that guy Dan you dated in 7th grade? I wonder if he ever found out that you cheated on him with his cousin.

KIM:
Who cares?

BRAIN:
You should probably get up and find him on Facebook and see what he’s been up to.

KIM:
F*ck that. I’m getting up and finding Xanax.

BRAIN:
Fine, but good luck waking up at 7.

KIM:
I hate you.

Kim furiously whips off the covers and settles in front of the TV with a pile of cheese.

FADE OUT.

My Friends Are All…And I’m All…

adulting

My friends are all, “Can’t decide between the black granite vessel or Italian ceramic sink for our bathroom renovation” and I’m all, “Just watchin’ The Simpsons in mah underwear.”

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homer-simpson

My friends are all, “Crazy that my baby girl is starting 5th grade this week!” and I’m all, “Who’s coming to my kitty’s birthday party tomorrow?”

My friends are all, “So excited to make this garlic-rosemary-roasted-artichoke-chicken-and-pureed-leeks recipe I found on Pinterest!” and I’m all, “F*** you microwave for burning my frozen burrito.”

chicken

My friends are all, “5 year anniversary dinner with the hubs. #blessed” and I’m all, “I just used my sock as a napkin.”

candle dinner

My friends are all, “Poor Lillie is sobbing after she fell off her big girl bike & got a boo-boo on her knee,” and I’m all, “Moooooooom, I’m watching Rocky 4 and no one likes me.”

girl fell

My friends are all, “Just put in an offer for a 4 bedroom Colonial” and I’m all, “Better start claiming my cats as dependents if I wanna upgrade to a 1 bedroom apartment.”

house

pretty kitties

My friends are all, “Facebook check in: Boston to Bali via Amazeballs Airlines” and I’m all, “Guess who’s driving to Santa Monica and has two thumbs? This betch, that’s right.”

bali

traffic jam

My friends are all, “Beautiful roses from the hubs today for my birthday. #blessed #bae” and I’m all, “Cat barfed up my dying plant.”

kitty-plant

My friends are all, “So psyched to submit my film to Sundance!” and I’m all “I just wrote a blog post and my mom thinks I’m hilarious.”

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lisa

My friends are all, “Getting up at 7 to do yoga” and I’m all, “Stayed up til 2 watching informercials and eating cheese.”

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cheese

Sartronic: Anxiety Coming Up With New, Innovative Things To Keep You Awake At Night

Insomnia

Despite a recent surge in sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications, increased exercise routines, and healthy eating habits, local emotional trainwrecks have reported that they’re experiencing a flood of new topics that are disrupting their once-normal sleep routines. Even with remedies to combat nighttime restlessness, many anxiety-ridden adults have found that their efforts are a vain attempt to fight unrelenting mental turmoil.

Megan Rebart, an executive assistant at Hollings Realty, says that she used to be able to fall asleep right away, but now lies awake for 45 minutes each night freaking out about random sh*t. “It totally sucks,” gripes Rebart. “I’ll be reading a book in bed, trying to quiet my mind, when suddenly an explosion of adrenaline surges through my stomach and I want to barf.” Rebart claims the source of her newfound stress is natural disasters. “Sinkholes are freakin’ terrifying. Like, how scary is it that the ground can just collapse without any warning? Every time my boss sells a new house, I’m convinced their property is gonna cave in and get scorched by the earth’s crust.”

Ben Thompson, another basket case who works with Rebart, complains that his nocturnal freak outs are due to an annoying and pointless stream of consciousness. “My mind keeps jumping from one topic to another. It’s like WHAM, I sounded so stupid in today’s meeting, then WHAM, did I forget to lock the front door, WHAM, I just thought of the perfect comeback to that moron VP who insulted me from 3 jobs ago, and WHAM why has my lymph node been swollen this long, I probably have some deadly throat infection and need to check if that’s covered by my crappy insurance.”

Ben’s girlfriend Natalia suffers from relationship-related anxiety, but she recently discovered an untapped well of issues to fret about during bedtime. “I used to just bug out that he didn’t want to marry me. But the last few weeks, all I think about is how he doesn’t have a 401k, go to the dentist, own a passport, or cook his chicken all the way through. Our babies would be poor, toothless, and full of salmonella.” At press time, Natalia and Ben laid awake staring at the broken ceiling fan.