Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comfort is Subjective

If I were a cat, I would spend my days lounging on pillows and every soft spot in my owner’s house.  I would seek out the fluffy, soft and squishy parts of everything and then sprawl all over them.  My belly would hang out, my paws would trail over the sides of the bed/pillow/ottoman and I would wait leisurely for someone to come scratch my belly and pet my smooth, soft coat.

My cats however, do not share this fantasy.  They all spent part of their lives as feral cats, and they now occupy space in this house and tolerate my presence but do not rejoice in it.  Instead of lounging, they spend most of their days curled up under the bed, behind cabinets, under tables; anywhere someone cannot easily reach them.  I’ve caught them sleeping in the oddest and most uncomfortable spots.  Like on a pile of shoes, or in the litter box, or in a box of papers and odd shaped objects.  Nothing fluffy or soft.

There are times when I catch them on the bed or the sofa, and when I sneak in just to steal a peek they scatter just like a herd of antelope upon learning a lion is in the area.  I set up places for them to sit and sprawl and they ignore those obvious kitty places and instead opt for the less obvious, more uncomfortable ones.  Maybe there is a lesson in this, perhaps I should remember not to get too comfortable in any place, even if that place has unending treats and food. 

Or, perhaps the lesson is finding the perfect spot that will give you safety and security in whatever form that takes.  Perhaps a hard floor is more comforting than the fluffiest of pillows for some of us simply because  it is tucked away from prying eyes.  And sometimes, the most obvious spots are too vulnerable to fully relax in simply because they are out in the open.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Writer Waits

I have always had a fascination with words. I owe this, in large part, to the influences of Aunt Suse. Her real name was Ruth Estella Jean Bailey, my great aunt who was also a writer. Her primary work was children’s books but I think her love of poetry was her writing passion. She published two books, one of which won a children’s book award, which told the store of her father participating in the Cherokee strip land run. She would drive my sisters and me around town, offering us butterscotch candy as treats while she quoted poetry out loud. Her favorite poem to share (or the one I remember the best) is The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. As an adult I often wonder how appropriate it was for her to tell us stories of Bess the red-lipped daughter of the tavern owner and her affair with a highwayman, but I only remember fascination…not just with the story but the sound of each word rolling off her lips, as if she was savoring each and every sound.

As a child, I was a voracious reader who would go the library and check out stacks of books, only to read and return them within a week or two, hungry for more. I can understand the fascination of e-books and readers for their ease of use, the ability to store large quantities of materials, and the ability to download and read a book almost instantly. However, I doubt I will ever lose the love of holding a book in my hands, carefully turning each page, feeling the crisp paper edges, or peeking ahead in a story just because I’m feeling a bit impatient. Touching a book, whether it is hardcover or a paperback, seems to ground and center me.

Today I read fewer novels and fiction, and more non-fiction and reference books but I still love a story and I feel as if I’ve caught a glimpse of heaven when I walk through aisles of a bookstore or library. For me, this is a visual reminder of endless possibilities, worlds and dreams and people who are within our reach at any given time. On of my first treats after joining the ranks of the newly unemployed, was to head off to get my first library card as an adult. I had to actually visit three different locations before finding one open, however the same happiness I felt come flooding back when I stood in line at the library with stacks of books in hand. And today, feel that I not only write for myself, but also for Aunt Suse who helped fuel this love affair with words and writing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Renewed Dreams

I found this fabulous picture on Pinterest, but the original image is here.
 As long as I have loved to read, I have dreamed of being a writer. Once upon a time, Good Housekeeping (which my Mom loved) would publish three stories in each of their magazines. One was very short, one was a bit longer, and the third was the longest. Realistically, in a magazine…they were all short stories, but I dreamed of having one of my stories published there. I would even send in drafts, probably at an age where my chutzpah outweighed my sensibilities. I don’t remember what the stories were about, or if I even managed to type them…I just would send them off, and then receive the not-too-surprising rejection letter. It never occurred to me that I may not be ready to write professionally, or that I should have someone edit or review my work. Oddly, despite receiving rejection letters for my stories, I never really felt rejected. To me, I just needed to send another manuscript in, or find another place to share the writing. The idea of rewriting or critiquing my work, didn’t factor into my plans to be a famous writer.

At one point in time, a teacher suggested that I needed better background information or facts to support my stories. After a family outing, I remember thinking I should write a story set in a ghost town in Utah…before it was a ghost town (yes, we did live in Utah, and yes we did visit a few ghost towns.)  So, I wrote to some historians to get background information and I must have presented myself fairly well because one sent me packets of information and encouraged me to share my book when completed. It was all so adult of me, despite the fact I may have only been about 12 or 13. However, even with the additional information, I never seemed to be able to weave the magical stories that would make me famous, but I also never fully pursued that dream.

In college, my dreams of becoming a famous advertising copywriter on Madison Avenue were dashed by the reality that I was good at copywriting, but not great. After learning that tragic information (at least tragic to my 21 year old self), I seemed to lose any focus on what I wanted to become in this world. I stumbled into a job in retail that led to 12 years of long hours, little pay and lots of shopping. From there (after a brief stint in which I returned to college), I found that I could translate my skills into the human resources field and poured my talents into data analysis, communication projects, training and workforce related matters. Now, almost fifteen years after heading that direction I still wonder why I didn’t actively pursue my desire to be a writer.

Realistically I know that fiction is not my best genre, and non-fiction holds some wonderful opportunities and prospects but I seem to be filled with more ideas than actions, and that is where I sit today. I want to cultivate a regular practice, but don’t seem to have the discipline for it…yet. I have ideas for books, but haven’t taken the time to outline them and turn the ideas into an action plan…yet. I was sitting on the fence, looking down at a job that no longer fulfilled me, but instead frustrated me, and looking ahead to something better that must be on the other side of the fence. Then the universe pushed me off that fence when I was laid off, and like it or not I'm on the other side.  What lies ahead of me is still unseen, but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the tools or the moxie to get there…yet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Writer's Remorse?

I start to write and instead of letting the words flow out of my mind and onto the page I start to critique, to analyze and to ask: “What is the purpose here?” Social media, blogs and the internet have so me so flummoxed at times that I don’t know if I should write for something or someone, and if I write for myself what is the purpose? So I stop and I edit and come up with options, more options than I can deal with and then I become overwhelmed and just want to stop. My life is full of unfinished projects and outlines of ideas and plans, but little tangible evidence of all the musings and wanderings of my mind. At times I feel as if I am in a giant word problem where the universe gives me so many clues, but only with extreme focus and hard work will I actually figure out the ones relevant to solving the problem.

Case in point, driving home from work on a daily basis I would think of stories, ideas and plans. Then I would get home, go the bathroom, change my clothes, and grab some food. Poof, all of those ideas would disappear as if they were just part of an exhalation but nothing substantive. Here’s another confession: when I am by myself (or think I am by myself) I talk out loud, in that crazy conversational tone that would lead an observer to wonder if I was off my meds. Each day, in the car I secretly thank the technology gods for making so many types of phones with ear buds. That way, while I converse with the open space in my car, and gesture wildly…people may for a moment, think that I’m on the phone and not entirely crazy.

I’m not afraid of being crazy; there are certainly worse things to be in this world, so I try not to regret the conversations with myself because they are practice runs for all other parts of my life. When I talk out loud, the sheer act of forming each sound with my lips makes me think about how to structure or phrase a sentence that I will write, or a conversation I will have, or allow me to focus on a solution to a pressing problem. I have animated discussions on what to eat, where to go, who to call and I sometimes even allow for commentary on what I’m seeing while driving.

I like to think I’m not the only one doing this. For example, one night as I sat in traffic I watched a young man walk down the street, talking and gesturing to the wind. He did not take any actions to cover up the fact that he was not on the phone, but rather threw himself entirely into the imaginary conversation. I liked that bravado, that willingness to let it all hang out. And perhaps that is why I want to try and write everything down without edits and without a specific purpose in mind. What I write may end up in a blog or a post, and it may not. I just want a way to let the thoughts out, give them some actual form and structure and then allow myself to move onto the next thought, idea or inspiration. And I want to do this without guilt over what I said or didn’t say, or the structure or coherency of my paragraphs. I want no remorse.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing for the Unknown

Photography by Art-O, the site also has a really beautiful poem.

(Note: I wrote this as a journal entry two months before getting laid off. It is the first of many entries in which I keep asking the universe to get me out of that job and situation. Maybe the universe has a perverse sense of humor or maybe I should have been more specific in my pleas, but regardless my calls were answered and now here I am in a different place trying to figure out my next steps.)

So much to consider and weigh, and somewhere in the past few weeks, (or is it months?) I keep circling back to the notion that I am not living the life I should. It is that same nagging feeling that you get when you take a trip and know your forgot something, or you left the house and don’t remember if you turned the stove off. The feelings and thoughts cannot be simply pushed away, and it feels as if someone is tapping on your shoulder and the tapping gets louder, stronger and heavier until you open up the suitcase to take an inventory or return back home to ensure your house is not on fire. Call it the universe, call it God, call it…a calling, but everything inside of myself screams that I should not be here…in this job…in this house…in this place. That voice, that urging, that feeling tells me I need to start packing, preparing and moving forward. Call it my own rapture of sorts, but it seems as if I need to start taking action on my ideas because it is my responsibility and that someone is waiting for me to get my butt in gear.

So, I shall start. Not at the beginning, or the middle, or the end but rather this place here. I will start to tell my story, to set my course and to move. To where? Not quite sure, but I know that here is not the place to stay, and taking action is the only way I will figure out where “there” is. I must get all of these thoughts and ideas out of my head and onto a page, and as I purge and process all of this I will find my new place, my new home and my new life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Oprah Confessions

I have no doubt that if I was a guest on Oprah or invited as a keynote speaker at a major event, I would leave a favorable impression, inspire and uplift people, and make them laugh.  They would, beyond a doubt remember me.  But now, after Oprah has officially aired her last show, I know my dream of being her guest is gone.  I feel silly offering up this confession, especially since I have done nothing, nada, zip, zero, nil…to become a guest on her show.  It’s like dreaming of the lottery (which I often do) and never buying a ticket (which I have never done).  Although I have invested no time in following that dream, I do not doubt my capacity to complete it.  This makes me wonder…if I am capable of all that, or more, why do I stop myself from living out my dreams and pursuing those types of goals.  Is it the fact that the potential, the dream of making it happen is more enticing and powerful than the reality of it?  Or is it the required hard work and perseverance that becomes the obstacle to overcome?  Or is it just me, with silly dreams that sound glamorous and lovely, but are just fluff? 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Stars Align for a New Beginning!

I received the following in an unsolicited email yesterday, and it’s a bit eerie…hmmm, did someone give the universe my email address?  'Cause I'm wondering if the universe is now just f@*cking with me.  Just in case, I will be careful not to trip on Thursday!

Dear Christine,

The stars seem to recognize that August is coming to an end and they're acting accordingly: all the troubles you've had this month will finally end, and you'll be ready for a brand new start!

That doesn't mean there won't be a bump here or there. On August 25, Mars will meet up with Saturn and the side-effects include severe crankiness and becoming extremely accident prone. If ever there was a day to physically exert yourself to total exhaustion, this is it! Try rock climbing, a triathlon, repairing everything broken in the house -- any specific, strenuous task that requires all your focus is a must.

Fortunately, by August 26, everything will start to improve as Mercury goes direct. Technical problems, delays, and communication issues will finally be resolved. Then on August 28, the Sun will shine a gentle light on Pluto, indicating that you've overcome some major problem, learned important lessons, and you're ready to move on. This, paired with the New Moon in Virgo on the 29th, will provide you with an excellent opportunity for new beginnings!

Then, Jupiter will go retrograde in Taurus on August 30, and you'll have a chance to rethink what's truly most important in your life. For the next few months, you'll focus more on satisfying your internal needs than worrying about material possessions.

With all these planetary movements, this is an excellent time to evaluate your current career. Are you satisfied with your career path, or do you feel like you could do so much more with your life?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ready to write again

A little more than four weeks ago I was employed, in a job that I once enjoyed but had become miserable, yet I counted my blessings for having that safety and security. Now, after being laid off and recently surviving a break-in at my house you would think I was craving that sense of comfort that the job held. But I don’t. There hasn’t been one day where I wished I was back at my desk, trying so hard to fit in and tone down my personality, my ideas and my creativity. In an organization that had become so focused on compliance, following the rules, and not questioning authority I had become the rogue employee who startled people just with my laughter in the hallways, or my suggestions and ideas.

Two months before my last day at work, and without a crystal ball foreseeing my imminent future, I started writing again. It was a poring out of my emotions and frustrations, and I managed to accumulate almost two months of soul searching before I was shown the door, along with my ten boxes of files and binders that represented ten years of long, hard work. I’ve continued with the daily writing, but the soul searching is less frequent and I feel as though a huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders, which it has. I now realize that I was not living a life that was aligned with my beliefs and goals. Unemployment and an uncertain financial future actually seems easier to manage than working in a toxic environment.

That job almost broke me: emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Not in the first several years, when I was challenged, appreciated and happy, but in the last year and a half. There were days in which I felt like I was fighting for my very soul, and in hindsight I was. I’m not sure what the next chapter of my life holds for me, but I’m back on the blogging bandwagon and ready to share some of my thoughts and feelings.