Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Addendum to Life Unscripted


“I know not all workplaces feel assaultive. I secretly pray I will find one, but I cannot see this place yet. Maybe writing this story will help me locate it.”

As I wrote those words for a story about finding a new job, but feeling reluctant to enter "the workplace,"  the words sprang into action, taking on a life of their own. I could feel it happening. The power of writing is that great. A perceptible physical "lightening,"(as in weight lifted) occurred in me. It felt like I was sinking into a buttery soft easy-chair and taking a deep breath. Yet, at the same time a panic started to rise, I knew now that the words were written, answers were already being "sent out."

At once I felt free but also like it I was awaiting my turn, about to take a hold of the zip-line so I could fly above the tree tops, exhilarated, albeit at frightening speed.

Then an answer to my words arrived in my in-box three days later on a Monday morning.

I tell my friends this repeatedly: "I wish God would just ring my doorbell and tell me what direction to take with a job; then I will be certain." I once thought this happened when an art job opened up at a catholic school and I submitted my resume to a priest, but that didn’t pan out. Was this message in my in-box a ringing doorbell?

I can’t say for sure; I am awaiting more information and a phone conference. Meanwhile I am choosing not to prescribe expectations around what I will hear, but to keep an open mind instead. So whenever the little voices start to rain on my parade, I simply quiet them.
Yesterday I spent the day reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, a book I return to time and again, it is full of comforting wisdom about letting go of the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves based on what happened in our past.  Tolle explains when we remain unconscious we carry around a pain-body. The pain comes from identifying with past "stories" about our life to the point of limiting our choices. The stories shape our present moment in a way that is not helpful, and is instead painful and destructive.
I am reminded to face each moment with awareness when these stories try to infuse themselves into my day, claiming to know an outcome that is only imagined, and not even true. 

Tolle reminds us that the pain-body fuels our ego. Our ego is the part of our self which lives in the story, and wants the story to continue. The ego is always thinking, it is not being. The ego depends on our painful thoughts (story) to exist. The remedy to this negative spiral of thinking is to simply be present now. Sounds pretty simple, and it is once you get the hang of it.
I am surprised by just how ingrained my negative thinking can be. It is as if my default button is stuck on worry. But Tolle reminds us that there is not even a thing such as an outcome, really there is only the present moment.

The key: look at what you have right now, this is who you are, be as honest and open as you can and don’t tell a story about it, just accept it without judgment, or vice.

Sometimes this concept is so mind-boggling that I cannot look it in the eye for long. It "appears" counter to what seemed like the best advice: plan for your future. But life takes form from the present moment, what we do now. It is all we are certain we have, we cannot know what the future holds.

Here is my now: A 60° November day, a warm quiet house, a sleeping dog curled beside me, the soft hum of my laptop, clicking keys and the urge to stand and move, take a walk maybe.

Need I think more?

Addendum to the addendum: I received a card in the mail today (11/30) that had a cup of coffee on the front (my favorite thing!) and it says, "Good morning, this is God..." Then on the inside: "I will be handling all of your problems today. I will not need your help, so have a nice day." And it is signed God. It does look suspiciously like my brother's handwriting, but he doesn't read this blog! You don't suppose... :)

P.S. The job that appeared in my inbox was not for me, but it was nice to receive an offer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Life Unscripted


Yesterday over coffee a dear friend, a writer with a passionate soul, listened to my weary uttering about having no ambition, about wanting to "do nothing", and told me I needed to write a story about it.

Her advice caused my other dear friend to laugh at the thought of writing about doing nothing, which got me chuckling, a relief, because my state overall was somber.

I should clarify that my lack of ambition, resulting in wanting to do nothing, really boils down to one category, albeit a whopper sized one: a job. There is no workplace I can envision wanting to be sitting in, moving through, reporting to etc. Therefore, I have surmised that I want to do nothing for work.

Having little desire to report to work is something I may need to rectify at some point soon.

It has been a privilege to be able to parent full-time and still get the bills paid. Life as a mom has been rich with time spent developing a strong relationship with my son. I have participated in a plethora of activities with him that I might not have gotten to if I had reported to work by day and picked him up afterward. The only thing there is less of is money, but I can't think of anything else that has diminished by this time spent raising my child.
In a way, I gave him the childhood I wish I had. My mom worked many long hours as a RN and supervisor of an operating room, even being on call for holidays. She had to support our family. Looking back now, she is not happy with the toll her job took on her mental and physical health. She missed out on some stuff with us. She has regrets. I never wanted to have those. 
What does not help are the "war stories," pardon the expression, I hear from my spouse, my friends, family members, strangers even, about workplaces. I cannot bring myself to relish, for more than a brief millisecond, the thought of plunking my body down into one of them again. 
Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, here are some of the stories:

One friend has a colleague who for some reason has come at her out of the blue, and with a vengeance, declaring her work unfit; though he is of equal ranking to her, and does not work directly with her, he has decided to make it his mission to stay on top of her business even though their supervisor has made it clear that he should apologize and stop. Did I mention she has her Ph.D.?
Another friend has had all creativity and decision making autonomy taken from her after close to thirty years on the job. She is a teacher of young children and has been handed a literal script, which she is required to read from while being carefully monitored, and offered firm admonishments any time she deviates from it, though she is a master teacher.

Still another friend whose job is literally to fix everyone else’s problems, while accomplishing his own workload as well, (for a huge corporation that is cutting his benefits as I write) must hide with his laptop to have even a spare half hour of a day to get his work done. He eats lunch while working and people track him down and find him behind the see-through glass brick, office walls, on a mission to receive his answers rather than find their own. (He has a thought that the scripted curricula my teacher friend faces are impacting the young people he helps, since they do not seem to have problem solving skills of their own, instead they require the authority of [the teacher].)

Just reading the above gives you an idea about why I am reluctant to venture back to anything considered "the workplace".
So, I think, I want to do nothing.
I have another close friend who is quite successful and has her masters in a health related field. She tells me all the time, “Kellie, unless you HAVE to, don’t get a job.” She is emphatic that the lifestyle I lead is the one we all strive for (time for self). She warns me not to get sucked into the cultural norms that tell us the only valuable work is outside the home in some preconceived workplace. She reminds me of all the jobs I do have, and the value those hold, not monetary at all, of course.
Some of my jobs while being "at home" (art teacher, artist, book keeper), have earned a little money, some have saved money (sub at my son’s private preschool) and all provide my family with a certain convenience. (Chances are if you want to wear that favorite shirt it’s clean, the front door always reflects the season, transportation is never a question, a friend can always come here and will be supervised and fed, the school project will have the right materials, there will always be a clean hand towel.)
Can I have calm, comfort and a job? I watch my husband accomplish many incredible feats at home that involve being up on the roof more often than I would like and hold a full-time job. Yet every morning this week he has proclaimed his exhaustion from the job he "goes to work" for.

I have a friend who has four jobs including 'home' as one. She admits there is one job she would happily omit, which might eliminate the second, but bring her to the two jobs that she most loves. 

Why the ruminating over getting a job? It probably comes from spending too much of my life doing and not enough of it being, that got me into the habit of seeing a job as a half empty, drained really, glass. But, for the past blessed years I have written my own script and starred in my own screenplay. As it turns out, getting up most mornings and having the freedom to choose the time frame and order I will do my work in might be the antidote to malady. Sigh. The thought of dressing my body for a certain image I am supposed to portray, then moving myself out the door, and into a foreign, sometimes hostile, place for hours on end, to produce work, seems discouraging.


I cannot summon up the courage—right now.
(In fact, I’m pretty sure our bodies weren’t even designed for jobs, not the kind that involves an irrelevant workplace anyway.)
I know there are many other views and that not all workplaces feel assaultive. I secretly pray I will find one, but I cannot see this place yet. Maybe writing this story will help me locate it.

(For now I am off to paint, a portrait of a Great Blue Heron, a Christmas gift for my husband.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I confess, I am a wanna-be pie baker. For some reason that comes across as a great personal flaw when played over in my head, I cannot seem to motivate myself in the direction of actually baking a pie though. (I’ve tried in the past, but I lose interest when rolling.)
Yet, I simply have this nagging feeling that, if I were an expert pie baker, the type who can fill two flaky crusts with flavors so outstanding they melt in your mouth, all while heating the kitchen and sending out wafting smells of goodness into the neighborhood, I would somehow be a better person.
Maybe it is my desire to lure people in with my special, magical powers, of which I feel largely incapable of honing truthfully—so I envision baking a pie to be a good tool for that. Still, I only want to pretend to bake the pies. Sigh. The act turns out to be unappealing when actually performed. Maybe I just haven’t found my flavor yet.
The other day, I had a distinct and visceral memory of Samantha on Bewitched, the 1960’s television show about a good witch with powers she only used when absolutely necessary (every show!). She wiggled her nose right out of a predicament and right into the best solution every time. Oh how I desired to have those powers in that moment. I would’ve wiggled up a pie.
Maybe therein lies my problem, I am a product of being born on the cusp of the 1950’s coming to a close, and the 1960’s taking hold, an extremely split-off time for pie bakers in our culture, I would imagine. So part of me wants to be the pie baking “Hazel”, who always pleased the Baxter’s, or better, the mother with a smart sweater and terrific kitten heels who at least helped Hazel by attending the market with her to select the apples! Or maybe I want to be, Carol Brady, who was busy on the PTO but still had Alice bake those pies.
But the other part wants to be a rebel mom and declare, “Down with all pie!”  (Pie is a nutritional disaster by today’s terms anyway.) Honestly, if I was forced to choose which of those types I would really rather be, it would lean toward the fringe clad woman, standing up for a cause. Maybe this is great way to hone my powers.
No, this isn’t entirely true, because sitting on the edge of constant change never really allows one to sit with what is. But, what if “what is”, is just this woman who really doesn’t want to bake a pie (and who is allergic to gluten anyway!) and really just wants to be in the forest hiking with her dog? Well, there is only one way to find out…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Reluctant Walk

All at once I realized who the two parts of me are. It came to me. Clear as day. I am on a cusp, I realized, of a HUGE life transition. I have always known it was coming, (but sometimes secretly hoped it would pass me by, "Middle age need not apply here!")


I realized she, my missing other half, is revealing herself, and in a somewhat reasonable manner. Still, I try to push her away. I need to ''marry'' my two sides together I think.

Who is she, my other half? She is the wise woman, and from what I can tell, she is willing to speak clearly, and often. But am I willing to listen?

I try. Though sometimes my chattery, squirrel voice tries to drown her out with a mantra it squeaks, "You will never have enough, you will lose your store, don't stop, rush, rush, RUSH!"

I think that is why the wise woman held me back in this dream when a raging river and and sawed off tree came barreling for me; this was no place for an impudent squirrel to dwell. One must have their head on straight when dealing with natural forces, let's face it.

I am always amazed by the number of pieces a dream can offer up. My favorite book on dreams, Healing Dreams, comes from Marc Ian Barasch, a magazine editor turned author. He wrote it in 2000 . Before writing the book he discovered that he had thyroid cancer. It was being overlooked by doctors yet he knew, based on his dreams, that he had to be the voice of the illness that was taking him over and requiring attention, now.

Barasch talks about dreams having at least 8 layers, and he made it clear that ALL of the layers are significant and have meaning. ALL of them. And, if there is a layer that speaks to the present, you might want to examine it. Fortunately, examine can sometimes just mean heed the dream message. All the better then, listen!

I am not suggesting looking at your dreams is an easy path, at least not at first, delving into the ''person'' who resides in the hidden layers feels precarious to the point of wanting to retreat and call it a day sometimes, or run like hell, even. But the path is rich and is has more color than any human eye, even those not trained to see, will ever even imagine in their life time--if that makes sense.

Yesterday I walked...a short walk...a reluctant walk. For me walks are dreams. I fashion them that way. My dream was a brief one, yet vivid enough as I trudged along a frozen path, no wider than a foot, and snow covered on both sides, shaded by the mountain, and unfazed by the 60 degree fall sun.

I made my way to a leave covered patch above, that received light, where I stopped, no less awed by the beauty of the forest than I ever am. There stood the trees--my sisters, my family; they didn't seem concerned that I had been gone, they knew they would see me again. And off in the distance, a squirrel. In a flash it is up a very tall tree, a tree missing much of its bark and most of its branches...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sailing to Parts Unknown

So a lot has happened in the time since I posted Vulnerability one short week ago. Seems like the floodgates of vulnerability have opened, providing me a vast channel on which to sail. 
Vulnerability brings with it a lot of intense feelings, and quickly! I think it seems quick because you can be caught off guard by feelings when you allow yourself to be open; a particular feeling might feel like a direct hit, and often around the heart region. No wonder so many times I want to numb these feelings. I have discovered many ways of numbing: plugging myself in to my computer to the point of moving in, Real Housewives marathons, Halloween candy, and coffee until it is coming out of my ears. I have also found some positive vents though, friends, yoga and of course walking! And working with dreams A LOT!

In fact, vulnerability reminds me of this Big Dream I had 18 months ago; since its incarnation, it has provided me with keen insights. In the dream I helplessly watched a beautiful, twisted tree, stripped of its bark and missing its smallest branches (hands), and secondary roots--sawed off by human hand--rush by me in the brook in my back yard. It was so pretty, I was desperate to claim it but I couldn’t capture it, I hadn’t the means, and it was WAY too big. A wise woman stood alongside me and bade me, using her body language only, to let it go.

(Since that dream I have learned more about why the wise woman kept me from putting myself in the path of a huge tree and a great force that most certainly would have wiped me out; and yet, because it IS a dream, I secretly know that she didn’t mean I shouldn’t try to ride it—when I am ready, I understood her to imply. She wanted to remind me, I think, that I don’t have to leap off a bank unprepared, to receive grace.)


But nevertheless, that’s what vulnerability sometimes asks you to do, take a leap—of faith. This week has brought just that, some big leaps. For one, I looked teenhood in the eye more than once, tremulant as I felt at times (being a parent of a teen isn’t for sissies—it's about the big issues, the change your life, no turning back issues, that make falling off the monkey bars seem like nothing). I am preparing to go where I need to. (I never was much of an ostrich type, though it does seem appealing to bury my head, and I have had to resort to that a few times.)

Friday morning now here, I sit feeling jumbled and excited yet fighting an urge to sleep. My struggle: accomplish more or rest?

 Perhaps it is time to walk.