Single: Cubicle

In 1992 I graduated college right into a recession. I remember seeing a political cartoon in a newspaper where graduates were handed a diploma and a spatula (as in fast-food). That image stuck with me as I landed a temp job in a corporate office and continued working entry-level jobs through my early 20s. Within a year or two I had written this humorous, quasi-tropical take on life in the office – a raucous water-cooler gathering and happy hour filled with gallows humor about the rumored downsizing on its way.

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Hear a sample below on Apple Music or Spotify.

…or find Cubicle wherever you stream music.

Comic strips like Dilbert came along and confirmed my visions of this song. In 1996 I recorded it with producer Annie Virrill, who first made a 4-track acoustic demo with me in her tiny apartment. Then we went to Third Studio from the Sun and cut it with engineers Dave Meyer and Dan Jerram.

Annie brought in an absolutely killer rhythm section: Joe Howell on bass and John Hummel on drums. Annie’s own quirky musical sensibilities found their way onto the record, like her use of a jaw harp, water cooler and manual typewriter. Add in friends Joey McNelis and Steve Gadjisz on Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and happy-hour banter during the solo, and the result perfectly captured what was going on in my head for 40 hours every week of my youth while working in a cubicle and daydreaming of rock stardom.

The artwork was masterfully done by Russ Mowry of Brushfire Designs, who, as my other collaborators, found elements of my song to set him off on his own artistic riffs. Look in the cover artwork for “icicle, bicycle, cubicle!”

CD single artwork for Jason Didner's Cubicle by Russ Mowry, Brushfire Designs
Here in my cubicle
I try to get the project done
Until I get a visitor
Who starts me over back at square one

Here in my cubicle
The phone rings off of the ugly green wall
Whoops! Here comes the manager
I pray it’s not a personal call

I collate and I staple
I make the mailing labels
My degree is on their file
They call this entry level

I’m running into deadline trouble
It has to get done on the double
I type til I get carpal tunnel
In my cubicle

Here in my cubicle
I’m checking for the mistakes
Everything looks all right
Now I’ve got time for a five-minute lunch break

Here in my cubicle
I play computer solitaire
Whoops! Here comes the president
He’s talking to the engineer, he says…

This is our opportunity
I say we downsize the company
I recommend the strategy
Trim the office and the factory

Quick! Better close the file
They’re coming up my aisle
Gulp down my Adam’s apple (GULP!)
Methinks me job’s in trouble
(Water cooler/happy hour chatter)
WHAT! Reogranization?!? Reorganization?!!!?!?!

I can’t believe how swift
They canned the second shift
They gave us lovely parting gifts, but
Now I find myself adrift

I wear a nametag and a funny hat
Would you like some fries with that
I wish that I was back….
In my cubicle

Managing mental health issues doesn’t have to be a battle.

Managing mental health issues doesn't have to be a battle. It can be a humanitarian mission.

Early on in my marriage to Amy, we were dealing with the Type 1 Diabetes she’d been living with since age 8, and its progressive complications. We’d been dealing with the emotional insecurity that comes with accelerated wear and tear on the nervous system and the side effects of nearly a dozen prescription medications. She had recently moved from injecting 4 different types of insulin every day to a new mode of self-treatment – the insulin pump. I considered her a warrior, battling diabetes every day. Similarly I envisioned her battling depression.

At the time, I wrote the song “My Gentle Warrior” with my observations of her showing up every day to fight these battles.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the battle metaphor proved to do as much harm as good. When the perception is that you live in a constant state of battle, it sets up a wider sense of hostility within oneself and among loved ones. And it’s exhausting for the person living with the condition and for that person’s immediate circle – call it shell shock, battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Amy and I have been faithfully going to couples therapy for about 4 years at the time of this writing and, along the way, we’ve learned that in our case, these feelings aren’t defeated with a battle. Their power grows in a battle. Instead, these feelings are mitigated with self compassion, mutual compassion.

We learn “contrary action” – the skill to do exactly the opposite of what depression or rage is telling us to do. Depression says stay in bed, contrary action says get up and sit in front of the bright light – or hop on the treadmill. Rage says to tell your spouse off. Contrary action says to hold hands with your spouse, look him/her in the eyes and make an emotional connection.

Depression and rage tell us mental health is a battle. Contrary action tells us mental health is a humanitarian mission – to ourselves and to our loved ones.

In this light I more recently thought about “My Gentle Warrior” and wrote its sequel: “Battle.” The line that keeps coming back in reflection in the new lyric is “I thought this was a battle.”

I can’t speak for everyone; I believe there are people whose mental health is better suited to thrive in a battle; I’ve learned from experience and counseling that Amy and I are not among those people. So, what will you choose in creating and maintaining your mental health: a battle or a humanitarian mission? Feel free to comment below.

New Home Studio Video: “Battle”

I’m proud to share with you this very important song about learning to view mental health as something other than a battle – it’s the hard-earned vision of mental health as a journey toward compassion.

I’m inviting you to be among the first to see and hear me creating this track in my home studio via unlisted YouTube link via email when you sign up to receive my email newsletter.

Get an exclusive link to view my new song “Battle” when you sign up for my email.

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