In Sanity


Anne Michael

I work as a trainer for my employer. My job involves conducting a variety of classes of the technical sort that teach people how to use equipment and software as well as the policies and procedures accompanying these things. Some weeks I train a different group of individuals each day and at other times I have the same group for a week as they learn what they need to know for their new responsibilities. I thoroughly enjoy what I do especially when I get to work with the same people through a week.

This week started out pretty much like any other, the usual Monday morning groans accompanying my awakening and realization there is no  more leisure left to the those wonderful days called “the weekend.” But once out of bed I was raring to go and looking forward to a relaxing, interesting and fun week with the same group of trainees.  

The first day is the usually the most difficult part as everyone is a “stranger” and there is a natural reticence. To pave the way toward comfort, a decent amount of time is spent on introductions in the morning before plunging into the material so that by mid-afternoon some common ground is found and the individuals start to become a team. By the end of Friday, they look forward to seeing one another at future classes or departmental meetings; sometimes friendships are born.

I have had weeks that didn’t follow the typical ebb and flow, but they are rare and generally caused by a single person who is there because they were told to be and not because they chose to be.  This week was the absolute worst I have ever had. The people in the class did not mix—not even as well as oil and water blend. Individually, they seemed to be fairly nice people, but as a group they became a kind of monster made of shards of glass and hot coals that seemed to evolve with a thunderous silence far louder than an air raid siren. It had 8 eyes that glinted with a venomous glare. It made for 40 of the most stressful hours you can imagine. I felt as though I needed to continually look over my shoulder to make sure that like all respectable monsters this one didn’t destroy its creator in good horror movie fashion.

Normally, I work through lunch to catch up on all the non-training things I have to do so I’m not working till 7 p.m. too many evenings. Usually that is enough of a break to get my energy flowing for the afternoon. I had finished reading my office book the previous week leaving me nothing to read on Monday, so I had a working lunch. But as I was leaving the house on Tuesday morning, I realized the thought of working through lunch was most disagreeable. My stress level mounted as I considered the day ahead. So I grabbed a book off the ever burgeoning stack in the family room, tucked it in my briefcase and went off to work. Its red dust jacket had caught my eye; it made it look festive and upbeat, which was why I picked it up.  Cheerful and happy was just what I needed so I hoped the color was the right indicator.

Tuesday, alas, was worse than I’d anticipated. Each hour was an uphill battle for my own sanity. My heart shriveled with anxiety. Each question I asked turned into cutthroat competition among the group members. Each chapter became an argument, the learning competing with the unlearning from a former life. Not one trick of the trade changed the focus or the flow in the training room. When the noon hour arrived I escaped, exhausted, to my office with a lunch that could have been caviar or cardboard—it would have tasted the same—and my book.  

The book turned out to be Dean Koontz’s The Husband. Instead of the cheerful and happy book I thought I’d snatched from the pile, I found instead a wild, roller coaster, scary book of kidnapping, murder, betrayal and terror. The tale was truly the stuff of nightmares. I wasn’t dragged gently into the story. Oooh no! Down I tumbled like Alice into a rabbit hole, but this was an unholy and evil Wonderland far different than the one Alice found herself in. I was utterly absorbed each time I picked it up.  

I owe Dean Koontz a lot. His book became the life preserver that daily took me away from the juvenile inanity in which I found myself, and dropped me with a thunk into something far worse. This nerve-wracking story made the room full of strangers seem benign in comparison to the sick, twisted and evil characters in his book. It was good to have that perspective.

There are many reasons for reading a book, peace, comfort, excitement, entertainment, education, reassurance, self help or research. I read a book this week in order to escape a dynamic I could not change or conquer. It, too, was a good reason. My sanity, that thing of patience and reason, had a slow leak; its hiss could be heard loudly. Reading The Husband turned out to be a great fix.

I got through the week by reading during the lunch hour and escaping each evening into sleep right after suppers I have no memory of eating. I can’t even tell you the names of the characters in the Koontz book, but its message of determination, hope and of rising to meet the challenge in dangerous situations will stay with me always, along with the mental picture of that jagged and red-hot monster that inhabited my training room. I hope I never have another week like this one, but if I do I know the cure—change the pace with a good book.

Oh, and having a husband to come home to that understands a week such as this is definitely a good thing too.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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