Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Midnight Thoughts, November Musings

It may not be evident from the posts, which are somewhat scattered and bemused, much like the tumultuous thoughts that created them, but I am on a journey. Quest. Thing.

Hard for me to stay serious, and yet I am very much so. This week I received news that a good friend of my parents has esophageal cancer tumors which have spread to his lymph nodes. Previously we knew he had cancer, but of a different type and we believed him to be done with treatment. There's nothing quite like a shock to remind me that my parents, too, are aging. As are my grandparents, who are all still alive. I have yet to taste real loss and grief, but this is a reminder that it touches us all at some point. Suffering is part of life, and death is inescapable. Inevitable.

I hate to make this at all about me, but I have to say I am coming to terms with death. At this point I feel proud of my life thus far, warts and all. I know my husband, relatives and friends would do their best to protect and raise my children. I do not want to die! Neither do I believe in fate, or passivity in the face of it if it did exist. Aging and illness, on the other hand, still disturb me deeply. Suffering. I don't like to see my parents suffering from sadness and grief even as their friend still lives and gathers his spirits to fight for more time.

Like I said, I don't want to make this about me (even though I already have) because I am struggling now at what I very earnestly believe to at last be the turning point of a major path in my life's journey. No, not finding a new job. Not exactly to do with death or illness or aging, not exactly to do with age. Call this an intuition, or an epiphany.

I have been seeing a therapist for the past several years for what originally appeared as a vague anxiety and a procrastination block around grading student papers when I was teaching classes at San Jose State. The type of therapy he uses is called Narrative Therapy, and focuses on externalizing problems using language and then re-telling the story, using different choices and paying attention to things that the person is perhaps unconsciously missing. This is gross oversimplification, of course, but is enough to put what I am saying in the proper context.

Over the course of the two years, I have come to view this therapy as a journey that I am on from the depths of misery and loneliness, to the opposite place of happiness, inner peace, joy, and connectedness. Several months ago my therapist made some indications that he thought I was doing alright now, and asked me what I wanted to work on next, given that the original problem seemed to be gone. I have changed careers, no longer need to grade papers, and no longer suffer from the kind of fear, doubt, or shame about my job performance that originally drove me to seek help.

I surprised myself (and him, I think) by absolutely panicking at the thought that therapy might be over. Later I told my good friend, "Here is where I started. Here is where I want to go. I am only HALFWAY THERE." It's not enough for me to not be miserable. It's not enough to not be ashamed. It's not enough to be doing "Just OK." I downright, flat-out refused to settle for humdrum. I wondered if I wasn't just being melodramatic at the time, but at the same time I felt just the tiniest touch of pride. That's right, pride- the opposite of shame. Shame was at the root of my problem, and when I refused to settle for ordinary unhappiness, I think that was the start of truly changing direction. I am proud of myself for asking for help. I am proud of the work I have done thus far. And I will not back down halfway to happiness. No way, nohow!

So this was a couple of months ago, and yet, things seemed back to ordinary again. I'm doing my job, loving my children, staying connected to my husband, keeping up with my family. I've been reading books and writing in this blog and then in August I joined Twitter.

Nothing seemed to be happening. Nothing seemed to have changed at all, not for better, not for worse. Then something did start to happen, but it's been so gradual and imperceptible that I have hardly realized it was happening. The little touch of pride started to grow, and to turn a little more solid, day by day, week by week. It's like before I was standing on sand that kept shifting under my feet. Sometimes it would be still, and then without warning I would slip and slide. Now I feel like something has firmed up underneath me. There's this little bit of stability and every time I reach in and touch it, I touch joy, and peace, and happiness. Doesn't that sound strange? I can hardly trust it yet. I still feel a bit delicate, like I'm not sure any of this is for real.

But I was lying here listening to heartbreakingly beautiful music tonight, and something just happened. I looked back. I looked at where I was two years ago. I looked at where I am now. And I realized I am MORE than halfway there. I have successfully turned the ship and pointed the helm in a new direction. And you know what? I'm not afraid. Scared, but not bad scared, good scared. Butterflies in tummy scared. Stage fright scared.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that this is going to be easy! Wherever I am going next, it has taken me two years of hard, hard work to do this. This is what I am proud of. Not giving up. Not giving in. So I know the way ahead will be plenty hard. In fact, I think I am just about to start working harder than I ever have before in my entire life! Because I know now that this little fragile bit of stability is just the beginning. Now I have to take this little piece of self and jump right back off of it again to move past the self, through the pride, and on to reaching out to others. The sooner I have the full self the sooner I can find the strength to really change the world.

How's that for ambition? Good night, universe. If I'm going to start changing the world, I better start by getting  some needed rest!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Photo Moment 2: Story of a Mug

Well, here I am and it's a bit of a slow Friday afternoon. I was thinking of my realization that I might want to add in a few visual elements to my blog, given my tendency to use words only, and lots of them.

So, this is the story of a mug. The mug, pictured, is from Cooper & Chyan, a company that no longer exists, and was given to me by a coworker who has since left the company. Grey and unassuming, stained by daily use, it looks like an ordinary mug. It is. Even so, it's special to me.

Last year I was teaching summer school and working here at AATI as a temp part time. Working as a temp is always a strange feeling, being part of a company and outside of it all at once. What added to the strangeness was the fact that I had previously worked here as the front desk receptionist. In our old building, almost everyone came in the front door and walked past the front desk every day, and given that there were only about a hundred US employees at that time, almost everyone knew my face. I always felt like I belonged.

Working as a temp, on the other hand, I always felt like a visitor. My electronic key would lock me out of the building after hours and on weekends. I was half in and half out, and having to switch minds en route to each job. I would be teaching in the morning, on stage in front of lots of people and then in the afternoon would be here in a bare cubicle, alone with boxes of parts doing inventory management for the Engineering department.

I was also exhausted from stress and lack of sleep. My son was three and my baby girl was still only a year old, and I was breastfeeding at night. It was summer, and we lived in a second story apartment with no air conditioning. Our apartment kitchen had just been invaded by cockroaches, so we weren't eating meals at home, and we didn't have a washer or dryer, so we had to do laundry out at friend's houses or at the laundromat. Looking back, I don't know how we were holding it all together.

So because of the exhaustion, I was living on coffee. I would literally get up every few hours and get myself a free cup from the AATI kitchen, using the free disposable cups. One day I was in the kitchen filling my cup, when a fellow employee from my receptionist days asked me if I would like a real mug. He brought me this one from his cubicle. At the end of the day I washed the mug and brought it back to him, thinking it was a loan. He laughed at me and told me it was an extra, that he had gotten it for free and I could keep it.

It was a small act of kindness. But it also meant that for the first time since I had come on board, my cubicle had something in it that was mine, that belonged to me, personally. It made me feel like I belonged. It was a symbol of permanence in a chaotic time in my life.

Shortly thereafter I was hired as a full-time employee, but that's another story entirely.

It Really Wasn't Any of my Business, Was it?

A while ago I had written a post called None of My Business: A Friend Considers a Move in which I attempted to articulate the unexpectedly strong feelings I had in response to a good friend's decision about where to live. It's oddly comforting now to know that I was right at the time about being wrong.

My friend moved in to her new place this week, and loves it. I was given a tour of the empty condo last week, and I can see how well it suits her. So when I felt strongly that she was off track in the past, I think I was correct to intuit that my gut reaction said more about me than it did about her or what would be good for her, etc.

If you haven't gathered by now, I'm a person of rather strong feelings, and generally wear my heart on my sleeve. That said, I'm slowly gaining the ability to bite my tongue and let the other person have an opinion. Once the strong emotion fades away, it's funny to look back and wonder what the fuss was even about.

My husband would not doubt beg to differ on the biting the tongue bit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Random Photo Moment

I've decided there are too many words here and not enough photos. For today, may I please present:

A strawberry. False advertising!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zing, Zap, Zoom! Irons in fires. Too many?

Not all that long ago I saw a quotation about Aries [standard astrology disclaimer here]-- "Ready, Fire, Aim!!"

I have to admit that there is an element of this in my personality. I'm restless, and the more I feed the restlessness the more it troubles me. I'm just having so much darned fun with all these amazing people out there in the social media universe. But I had another couple of overwhelmed moments today, where I thought, "What am I getting myself into, exactly?" Too many irons... too many fires. Luckily, I am a fire sign!

My head is spinning. I have started reaching out, and the internet has taken my hands and grabbed me and pulled me in. I'm just waiting to see when the ride stops, and find out what the final destination will be. The weirdest thing is, I'm not sorry. Ever since I started hunting for a new job in a new way, my energy level has skyrocketed.

Here I am, the breadwinner of my family, the stable one, the one who can get and stay employed. I bring in the paycheck, run the finances, pay all the bills, plan for the future. My husband takes care of the kids and decides what we're having for dinner. It's like some kind of weird reverse fifties sitcom. Part of me worries that I'm gambling, now. I've thrown my lot in with a bunch of motley startups doing arcane things in the weirdness of a social media bubble. I can't even convince one of them to hire me, and even so, somehow I've gotten myself entangled in the middle of the network. I jumped in. I just couldn't help it.

Being a bit abstract, here, I know. It's just been a very odd week indeed. For example, I spent a deal of time today playing games with a total stranger over Twitter, in which we attempted to up my hit count so that I could climb in to the 250th spot on XeeSM's "wall of fame." Simultaneously, I arranged a phone call with a relative stranger (on the opposite coast, no less) who contacted me through twitter, and had a phone conversation in which I had to explain that I'm not actually a CEO-- yet. Yeah, that was interesting. I enjoyed it, but I'm definitely in uncharted territory.

Last night I had a phone interview with a startup so underground that you can't even find a shred of information about them on Google. Too strange to be made up. They don't quite have the funding to pay me yet, so we just kind of got to know each other. I found myself offering my husband's services as a film editor/creative artist.

This afternoon, I made arrangements to attend an event at [undisclosed mysterious location] to hear [interesting and intriguing person] speak about [past startup experience, mistakes, and successes] that will officially put me on my educational journey toward founding my own company. I even kind of have an idea about what it might be. So I RSVP'd to this event, only to have my RSVP email answered by [really cool CEO person of company I *really* would love to work for] That's right, the CEO answered my RSVP- and will be at this event. So I will have a chance to introduce myself in person, and *might* even be able to make a fast pitch. How's that for optimism?? If nothing else, I have his email address now... hmmm... haha!

Oh, and I haven't forgotten my calling to become a UU minister. That just comes later in the plan. My until-one-hundred-years-old life plan gets reworked this week. It's on my official toodledo.com list of things to do. (Along with reapplying to toodledo.com as a customer service rep :)

I'm on an adventure and I don't want it to stop. Am I just from some kind of alternate dimension, or what??