Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Cougar Saga

Dear Friend,

You may have noticed that I've been avoiding your phone calls.  Sure, I'll text.  I'll write emails.  And when I have to pick up the phone I will, and we'll talk.

But that doesn't mean I'm happy.

I don't handle conflict well.  No one in my family does, and we've all developed maladjusted ways of dealing with whatever conflicts arise.  Some of us are very "loud & proud," while some, like me, tend to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable.

The situation with you makes me very, very uncomfortable.  More than that.  It makes me speechless.  So much so that I had to use to find words to express the way I feel.  It seems that uncomfortable has some synonyms that I find apt: afflictive, agonizing, annoying, awkward, bitter, difficult, disagreeable, distressing, excruciating, galling, grevious, hard, incommodious, irritating, thorny, torturing, troublesome, vexatious, wearisome. Yes, wearisome.  It seems that a good portion of my day, try as I might, I just can't completely block the situation from my mind.

Part of the problem is that I like to explain things.  To me, everything -- the reason why The Teenager is sullen, why the dog is barking, why my house needs cleaning -- everything has a logical explanation.

Except this.

I do not understand Cougars.  At all.  Especially when the Cougar is preying on a Kid.

Hiding one's predatory tendencies may work for a while, but eventually there is a break.  And why even ask if I'm "okay with it" weeks after we've past the Too Late Now mile marker?  Does it even matter what I say...ever?  You've shown that you're going to do whatever you damn well please, regardless of consequences.

I don't have to like it.  And I don't have to stick around to see it, either.

You're on your own now.  Just remember that eventually the hunt draws to an end, and in that end someone always gets hurt. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Week Seven: Sense of Connection

Can it really be Week Seven if we're in the end of August and I was supposed to be working through one chapter per week of The Artist's Way?  I guess we'll call this a Marie Week, which means it happens whenever it's good and ready.  I have put off tackling this book -- and returning to consistent morning pages -- for far too long.  Even though I know it's good for me.  Even though I know I feel better and more reflective when I am consistent.  Sometimes I'm just stubborn.

Week Seven is all about connecting with dreams, goals, creativity.  This is exactly what I need at this moment: a connection to self...especially since I don't always really know who that self is.  I used to be hard on myself for this, thinking that other people were always reflective, always knew who they were, always knew what they wanted.  As I get older, however, I realize that most people move and live day to day but rarely take the time to sit down and think about who they are, what they really want, why they work in a particular way.

That was why going through the "branding" (self discovery and description) process with Jan last month -- and then walking through the process of discovering a brand of brilliance with teachers last week -- was so incredibly helpful.  It let me identify what makes me tick and why.  Now I just need to figure out how that turns into a goal and jobs.

The ironic part of all of this is that I am exceptionally good at listening to what another person says and then figuring out what they really want and how to get them to that goal but I am horrible at doing that for myself!  I  just wish someone would tell me what to do.

Morning pages and artist dates -- things that I have neglected for far too long -- are exercises in listening; listening for what our inner voice is really saying.

My inner voice is yelling right now.  Yelling at the world.  Yelling at people who betray me or hurt others.  Yelling to be heard.  I think it's time to return to pages and dates and give the voice a bit of an escape.  Perhaps if it quiets down I can hear the actual message.

As I worked through chapter seven in The Artist's Way, there were several interesting tasks: a jealousy map and an "archaeology exercise."  Julia Cameron's theory about jealousy is that it is really a message showing us want we want to do but what we are afraid to try.  Action will remove the jealousy.  So, for example, I was jealous (of a sort) of my sister's ability to sew beautiful clothes.  I decided to try that myself.  Can I sew?  Sort of.  It will never look like what my sister can create.  But I tried it, I figured out how to do a few things, and my jealousy is gone.

Jealousy Map
Who                                           Why                                 Action Antidote
SAHMs                          They seem to have flexibility                    Clean out the freezer & buy ice
                                     They can be appreciated for what       (a small task, but one that will be appreciated)
                                        they do even without a salary

TT                                 She always gets what she wants              Be more direct (while still polite) when I
                                    and so life seems very easy.                        want something

Manicured Yards          They seem beautiful & peaceful                Mow the lawn and create one pretty spot

Painters                         Artwork is beautiful                                 Paint something

Novelists                       People read their books                          Write another chapter in my novel
                                       They are known & admired
                                    Books are a great escape

Singers/Musicians       They bring enjoyment                                 Make a sing-a-long playlist for the house
                                       People admire them                              Get a piano (this is a long term goal -- gotta
                                                                                                     have money/space)

Chefs                         Make incredible food that nourishes          Cook a beautiful meal for the family
                                    the soul

Archaeology Exercise (uncover yourself!):
1. As a kid, I missed the chance to be a kid.
2. As a kid, I lacked much of a social life.  And sometimes food.
3. As a kid, I could've used an encouraging parent and a loving family.
4. As a kid, I dreamed of being a doctor in a far away land helping other people.
5. As a kid, I wanted a horse.
6. In my house, we never had enough food. Or time to sit and read.
7. As a kid, I needed more positive role models.
8. I am sorry that I will never again see my grandparents.
9. For years, I have missed and wondered about what it would be like to have had normal childhood experiences, a mother who took care of the family, a father who cared about his children, and adults who could've shown me how to navigate the system and get into college.
10. I beat myself up about the loss of many things because I always think that I could do better, be more.

1. I have a loyal friend in...
2. One thing I like about my town is that people are laid back, they enjoy their dogs, and most people garden (even if that means only a pot or two for tomatoes or kitchen herbs).
3. I think that I have nice...teeth?  No, shoes.
4. Writing my morning pages has shown me that I can listen to my inner self, I just need to do it consistently.
5. I am taking a greater interest in embracing art in all its forms, not taking BS from others, and finding ways to enjoy life.
6. I believe I am getting better at slowing down and enjoying a moment (although this is still rather difficult).
7. My artist has started to pay more attention to how items can be given a new lease on life if one just looks at them with a certain set of eyes.
8. My self-care is still lacking but I am getting better with setting boundaries.
9. I feel more self-assured.
10. Possibly, my creativity is...very powerful, just waiting to be fully realized.

This week's tasks:
1. Mantra: Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.
2. Listen to one side of an album just for joy. Doodle. Relax.
3. Go to a sacred space and enjoy the silence.
4. Create a wonderful smell in the house through food or candles or whatever.
5. Wear a favorite item of clothing for no particular reason.
6. Buy one thing that is comforting -- a wonderful pair of socks, gloves, or whatever.
7. Collage a pictorial autobiography -- take a stack of about ten magazines, set the timer to 20 minutes, and tear out all the images that appeal to you and then paste them onto paper.
8. Quickly list five favorite films.  What do they have in common? Does the theme appear in the collage?
9. Quickly list favorite things to read about.  What do they have in common? Does the theme appear in the collage?
10. Give the collage a place of honor (even if it's a secret place).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Money Can't Buy Happiness

So I'm back.  Back to blogging.  Back to housework.  Back to job interviews.  Back to being unemployed.  Back to trying to figure out what in the heck I want to do with my life.

I think I see a problem.  I've held a lot of jobs in my life: babysitter, office manager, test processor, curriculum writer, tutor, teacher, administrator and a bazillion other things.  However, I've never held a job for three or more years.  Never. Ever.  Not on purpose.  There were several jobs that I loved and would've gladly stayed in for years.  But most of the time in my life I end up being the person whose contract ends, the one who gets letters that says she's the most incredible worker and the best at her job and it's a shame she was RIF-ed.  And so this time around I wanted to find a job that I would be happy to stay in for at least three years, preferably five.

I don't know what that job looks like.

And the most difficult thing about being stuck in this place is that I don't know where I want to be in five or ten years and so I can't really plan what I need to do to get there.  With school it was different and I ran full steam ahead to reach the end of the road.  With students it is different because I can listen to them and then articulate what they want and the steps needed to get there.  When it comes to me I am stuck.

Someone once told me it was because I was good at doing a lot of different things and so I get distracted.  This may be true.

Last month, I went through an identity exercise, courtesy of my dear friend Jan.  She created My Brand of Teaching and designed a workshop called The Big Brand Build. Going through that process helped me define myself and my talents and see how I could utilize them in a number of fields.  It helped me see that I am valuable.  But now I need to figure out how that turns into a career and some income.

Today I had a job interview for a job I could do in a district I don't care about.  The job pays really, really well -- especially compared to my last job.  But it's a job with late hours at night so I'd never see my family.  There are other issues -- some major -- with the job as well, but the main problem for me is that I would never be home in the evening during the week (I'd get home around 10PM).  Now I do believe that a difficult job that leads to something better, something I'd love, is fine for short term.  But does this particular job actually lead to something better?  I don't see it.

Later this week -- on Friday -- I meet with a director of a new start-up about a possible job there doing something that I love and that I've been doing for the past couple years.  Being a new company, the pay might be low and inconsistent for the first year...or two...and so if I were just making a decision based on finances, I would choose the other job.  But I want some place where I'd be happy.  Some place flexible.  Some place where I can be effective.

And I still don't know where that is.

A number of people have told me "A job is a job."  But money can't buy happiness [and to my siblings, "Money can't buy knives."].

And apparently a doctorate still doesn't tell you what you want to be when you grow up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

There Are Cougars Among Us

Dear Thirty-Something-Dating-A-Teenager,

Please explain why.  That is all I ask.

I am a smart woman, but this is something that I cannot understand.  And I do not think that makes me a prude.

Thank you.


This summer we took a trip to Vietnam.  It was...interesting.  I will have to write more about it later.  Or perhaps I'll just stuff all my emotions and deny myself the much-needed release through writing.  I still haven't decided.  I did, however, have a general blog with daily accounts and photos, and that I am willing to share.

The trip reaffirmed my belief that it's best not to travel with others, even those you care about, and going on tours is always a bad idea.

The trip also allowed me to see more of Vietnam and to see Thailand for the first time so it wasn't all bad.

And I got to hold a baby tiger.  The end.
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