Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick Update

WOW! Where has the time gone? I didn’t realize it has been this long since I have posted anything, but with the summer I’ve had, that’s not surprising. So here is a quick update.

I am still jobless. And at the moment I’m not looking. Because a number of weeks ago I went to my doctor for a sinus infection and she saw a suspicious bulge in my throat. Three weeks, two visits to specialists, one CT scan, one MRI, and one biopsy later, I am scheduled to have the benign tumor that apparently started in a salivary gland and grew to amazing proportions removed on Monday.

This will be a fairly complex procedure. And I won’t be able to speak or eat solid foods for at least a couple of weeks. So hopefully I will vent my communications frustrations by resuming posts to this blog. After all, I still owe you the garter removal story.

So I’m going to take most of the rest of the year to focus on recovery. And I’ll just have to trust that the perfect job will be waiting for me after that. Here at home. Where I want to be.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Diogenes, I have your man

I thought I would take a few minutes out from panicking about getting a job and talk a little bit about how I met my husband, Lionheart. This came to mind because yesterday I listened to Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” which was our garter-removal song at our wedding (more about that later).

On the evening of Friday, April 4th, 2003, I went to a book-signing for author Laurel K. Hamilton at a bookstore about 20 minutes south of where I live. She writes the series “Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter”. Not everyone’s cup of tea. I got there early enough to snag a good seat (although referring to a metal folding chair as a ‘good seat’ is the height of irony) and, since I always have a book tucked in away in my purse, I pulled it out and started to read. I was vaguely aware of someone taking the seat next to mine but didn’t look up or pay any attention, since, for me, reading is an addiction and not something I stop doing for trivial things like food or people. This person turned out to be a man, a very persistent man, who insisted on conversing with me. I finally gave in and put my book away and we talked – about the author, her Anita Blake books, her other books, then other books we know and love, and so on, until time got close to the author’s appearance.

This happened to be a book signing where you show up and take a number, then get in line in numeric order. He had gotten there early enough to pick up his number plus four numbers for his friends who were supposed to arrive later. When the time got close and his friends hadn’t shown up, instead of simply giving away the four tickets, he stood up and organized a ‘number exchange’. If your number was higher than one he was holding, he gave you that number and then you had to find someone else with whom you could exchange your old number. Sounds clumsy and time consuming but he accomplished it quickly, many folks were happy because they had moved up a few places in line, and the book signing started on time.

He was in line ahead of me and disappeared after his book was signed (I found out later it was because his friends had finally arrived). After my signing I went up to the registers to pay for my other purchases. While I was standing in line, with about ten people in front of me and about ten people behind me, he suddenly popped his head around a display sign and, right there in front of all those people, asked, “Would you like to go out sometime?”

Now let me explain something: I have naturally blonde hair and big boobs, and I guess blondes really do have more fun, if they are so inclined, because I get hit on. A lot. Everywhere. Although I’m sure the boobs play a “big” part of it, too, pun intended. There is no flattery to me in this. The men who are hitting on me don’t know me as a person and probably could not care less – it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. Or some other reaction occurring below their belt, anyway. So I mostly walk around in a “shields up” mode (yes, as implied above, science fiction and fantasy are my two favorite genre) with this sentence at the tip of my tongue and ready to fire: “Oh, thanks so much for asking, but I’m not interested at this time, sorry.” Because I was just not into casual dating. I had been single for six years and loving every minute of it.

But something in my brain short circuited when he made his invitation and refused to let me fire off my standard rejection sentence, giving me, as my daughter calls it, a serious case of the ‘uhhb duhs’. You know, when you just stand there and say, “Uhhb duh, uhhb duh, uhhb duh” until your brain finally kicks in again and you can manage a coherent sentence. The sentence that did finally come out of my mouth was, “I’ll meet you over in the coffee area after I pay for my books and we can talk.” He said, “Okay, see you there,” and walked away.

I just stood there for a moment in shock. Then aloud I said, “He asked me out!” and a voice from the back of the line said, “Go for it!” Then I said, “But I’m older than he is!” and a voice from the front of the line said, “That’s okay. My aunt is seven years older than my uncle and they’ve been married for twenty-three years!” Wow! Good advice from total strangers! Who’d have thought?

So I paid for my books and met him in the coffee area and we talked for over an hour and at the end I told him I don’t go out with men I’ve just met, but that the next night was the weekly Parents Without Partners dance and he was welcome to join me there if he was so inclined. He said to give him the directions and he would be there. I was surprised and skeptical. It would be a long drive for him, since he lived about an hour south of the book store.

But now here is the part that I’ve spent all this time building toward. I think it defines the whole basis of our relationship. He said, “I’ll be there, but I have to warn you, I can’t dance.” And I replied, “Well, that’s okay, but I CAN dance, so I’m not going to just be sitting there hanging on to your shoulder all evening.” And he said, “I understand.”

Not in that pitiful, subdued, manipulative way, but in that game show host/announcer sort of way, like “Heeeeeeeeeeer’s JOHNNIE!” “Aaaaaaye understand!” Like it really was okay.

There it is. Total honesty. Are you listening, Diogenes? We say it all, we lay it on the line, and the other person takes it and is okay with it.

I had to be okay that he didn’t dance and he had to be okay that I would dance with other men and leave him sitting. And I did. And he did. Except he found other ways to interact – the monthly birthday cake ended up on our table and he cut and served the slices to folks as they came up, always with a quip or a comment of some kind with each slice. And I danced swing and cha-cha and foxtrot with other men, and some slow dances with him. And then we left the dance an hour early and went to the 24 hour diner next door and sat and talked for another two hours.

And the next day I called to thank him for coming up to the dance and he asked me out to a movie, and I said yes. And six months later he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

And he suggested “Paradise in the Dashboard Lights” as our garter removal song, and I said yes.

But that is another story.

Monday, May 18, 2009

So how is the job search going?

It has been 12 weeks and I have submitted 42 job applications and had zero interviews.

I am never going to find a job.

I am never going to find a job and we will lose our house.

I am never going to find a job and we will lose our house and end up living in our car.

I am never going to find a job and we will lose our house and end up living in a cardboard box because we had to sell the car.

I am never going to find a job and we will lose our house and end up living in a cardboard box and I will never see my grandson again because my daughter is already pissed because they were renting our house while I was working out of state and when my contract ended suddenly because the new CEO cancelled the project we had to unexpectedly move back into the house with my daughter and her husband and my new grandson and try to cope with two households’ worth of furniture and boxes and stuff and the garage is full and the basement is overflowing and my husband is sleeping in a little room off the basement and I am sleeping in the ½ floor bedroom in the attic with my cat who can’t understand why she can’t leave the attic because she is a cat and can’t concede the fact that my daughter’s two dogs would eat her.

And my daughter doesn’t think they should have to pay any rent at all now because after all they have lost their privacy and she can’t see the decorations on her dining room hutch because our baker’s rack is sitting in front of it holding the (very) few kitchen items that we have unpacked even though the amount of rent they are paying is only half the amount of the mortgage plus utilities and we were covering the other half and still are covering it with the pittance that is unemployment. Which means that most other expenses like groceries and prescriptions have to be paid with a credit card. But two of her Millennial friends have told her that she shouldn’t be paying rent now so she knows she is not crazy for thinking that she shouldn’t have to pay any more rent so by making her continue to pay rent we are forcing her to ‘keep us in the manner to which we have become accustomed”. So my husband reduced their rent by twenty percent and she said, “Big whoop.” She says we should be using our savings so they don’t have to pay rent.

Savings? What savings? Oh, you mean the savings that have disappeared while waiting four years for my husband’s Social Security Disability hearing? Four years that he hasn’t been able to work since his surgeon pronounced him “no longer able to perform meaningful labor”? Four years waiting because our Social Security system is so messed up that the court cases are backlogged four years or more?

Savings that were finished off when I first moved out of state to take the contract I got after I was laid off of the job I had for twenty-eight years? Savings that were already gone when, four months into a six month contract, I was told that they liked me so much they weren’t going to wait for the six months to end, they already knew they wanted me through 2009 and I could look for permanent housing and move my husband up there with me? But that was okay because working the rest of the year would pay off the credit card and put a nice little nest egg back into the savings? Which didn’t happen because my “all the way through 2009” contract was cancelled at the end of February so the move back home had to also be put on a credit card? Along with just about every else now?

When everything else went sideways, I always had my job. When my twenty-four year marriage spent the last twelve of those years dying a slow and painful death, I had my job. When my daughter blamed me for the divorce, I had my job. While I was ‘finding myself’ after the divorce, I always knew ‘who’ I was at my job. When my next husband had to quit his job due to a medical disability, that was unexpected, but I still had my job. When I was laid off the first time with a thirty day notice, from the job I had been in for twenty-eight years, in two weeks I had another job waiting for me – my last day at the old job was on a Friday and my first day at my new job was the next Monday.

This time it was unexpected – that Friday morning I had a job, that Friday afternoon they told me the project was cancelled and they had no other work for me. I moved home the next week and immediately developed bronchitis that lasted three weeks. The depression has lasted longer. Even though my husband is trying to run interference, my daughter still insists on taking her pissy mood out on me by crying and yelling at me and then not talking to me. We don’t unpack anything because, after all, tomorrow I may get another job in another state and we will move again and leave the house to her, and leave behind my new grandson, and I don’t want to move to another state. I want to stay home. And have a job. And see my grandson. Four people are depending on me to do that. Because my husband can’t work. And my recently graduated son-in-law also got laid off a few months ago which is a mixed blessing because he has been able to stay home and take care of my grandson but now his unemployment has expired and anyway any entry level job he could find in his field would only pay enough to pay for child care so what’s the use? So he stays home with the baby. And doesn’t speak to me either.

So out of four adults currently living in this house, only one of them is working. Work they get paid for, that is. And only one of them is talking to me. When we manage to get together, that is. And in the mean time I polish my resume and submit it and wait for the phone call that will never come. And try to remember what day of the week it is. Because something seems broken. And I don't know how to fix it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chicken soup, anyone?

Sorry I haven’t been posting as much lately. A lot is going on but none of it is productive – for some strange reason having bronchitis doesn’t contribute much to job hunting, I don’t know why. I will post again when I’m functional enough to actually generate a thought.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A response to a response...

Elisa Doucette at Ophelia’s Web posted a response to an article that appeared on Brazen Careerist. Here is the response I wrote to her post:

I, too, read the original post but chose not to comment there. My first thought on reading it was that another guy with man-boobs and a flabby gut wants US to look pretty for him. And I didn’t want to say that, since of course I have no idea what the author looks like – perhaps he is a ripped hunk! But…somehow I doubt it.

Your remarks, however, take the topic somewhere more interesting. The bottom line, of course, is that appearance does mean something, and expectations are often generated by appearance, whether we like it or not or think it is fair or not. My personal experiences have shown me this and I have altered my appearance because of it.

I have naturally blonde curly hair, big boobs, and am a software engineer who works in large office settings dealing with a multitude of people. I am generally a happy person and I tend to smile a lot. I also have a strong, decisive personality and don’t suffer fools gladly. I have no hesitation in speaking up, speaking out, and taking charge. If I am in a group that is trying to accomplish something and there is not already an obvious leader in place, I automatically take over and lead the group.

When I first started in my profession I wore skirt suits for a professional appearance, yes, but chose soft feminine suits, blouses, and accessories in my favorite pinks, mauves, blues, etc. And I had quite a problem with people. When I first met someone they seemed to like me and like working with me, but that would quickly change. Suddenly there would be discord and they would be unhappy with me, and there would be tension, stress, and so forth. My technical expertise was never in question (this wasn’t a “dumb blonde” issue), so it took several years for me to figure out why the change of attitude – it was because my appearance did not match my personality.

I believe that, in my case, our culture had set up a basic expectation that a smiling perky blonde dressed in soft feminine colors and clothing is someone who would be always pleasant and obliging and amiable and who would defer to whatever the other person wanted. Based on my appearance they were expecting this type of girl. When my strong personality made itself known they would be thrown for a loop, as the saying goes. Like petting a cute little kitten only to find out that it was really a tiger that just ate your arm.

So I changed my appearance. I bought suits in grey and camel and navy instead of pink and cream and mint green. Still skirt suits, yes, but more tailored in appearance and color. I bought silk tees and shells instead of blouses with ruffles and bows. And I kicked my makeup up a notch. Yes, I always wear a full face of makeup – I love being a woman - but a bright coral lipstick has a lot more punch than a pale pink lipstick.

I generally buy my clothes during one or two shopping trips, once in the spring and once in the fall, so I was able to make this change very quickly during my fall shopping trip that year. I immediately noticed an improvement in my dealings with people, and when meeting and working with someone new the relationship stayed on an even keel – no sudden changes because I no longer clashed with their perceived expectations of me.

So now I project an image more in keeping with my personality. I always feel very feminine but now I feel even more powerful. And frankly, I don’t care if someone with whom I am doing business thinks I am feminine or not. I don’t care if they think I am nurturing or not. I do care if they think I can do my job or not.

As for my personal life, I found that when I dressed “stronger”, I attracted men with stronger personalities. No more tiptoeing around some man trying not to crush his poor little ego, no more trying to hang back so he could maybe, hopefully, please show some assertiveness for once. I am happy to say that my husband has as strong a personality as I do and loves me for it. He is happy to have someone that HE doesn’t have to tiptoe around. We sometimes bump heads figuring out who is going to take charge in a particular situation but have so far resolved it without blood shed.

So, no, I don’t think a skirt is a sign of weakness, providing it is the right skirt for the job.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nine days

Well, it has been nine days since I was laid off. What have I done in those nine days?

I updated my resume. I started hitting the jobs sites most popular for technical jobs and submitting my resume to these sites. I have applied for nineteen jobs that I found on these sites. And I have applied for unemployment, which is a first for me.

I have already received a call for a job that is seven states away from where I am now. It probably won’t work out, but it makes me face a question that I have been avoiding – will I relocate for another job? A
posting on Anita Bruzzese’s site was very timely for me, and I posted a comment there, which she was kind enough to answer. Basically I said, I am the sole support of my family, so…

I suppose I will. My technical skills fulfill a rather specific need so I will probably have to go where the need is. Assuming someone somewhere needs my particular skills at this particular time.

But I don’t want to.

For the past ten months I have been living in another state, in a city that is 300 miles away from home. It’s a nice little town, with one mall and one movie theatre, with the next closest ones about three hours away. But since being told THE NEWS I have been feeling absurdly optimistic about going home. Where there are three malls and four theatres within a twenty minute drive of my house. And (probably) no jobs.

But little bubbles of happiness keep working their way through my brain anyway. Some part of me keeps thinking that, once I’m home, everything will be all right. Of course, the practical part of me has to chime in and remind the optimistic part of me that going home doesn’t mean I’m going to find a job there. And the fearful part of me, the part that keeps my stomach churning and the good ol’ acid indigestion going, doesn’t care either way; it just wants security. “Too bad, that doesn’t exist right now,” I tell my stomach, “get over it.”

So for now I have declared a moratorium on the job search to prepare for going home next week. Lionheart with stay here and handle the big move, in about two weeks, of everything back to our home. Which my daughter Bar (and her husband and their new baby – my first grandchild, which, since I am going to be Nana, I have been calling nana-baby. Sorry, I digress.) is renting from us. While we’re here. Living in another state. Which we won’t be, soon. Unless I get a job somewhere else, in the next three days.

I don’t want them to move from the house; after all, presumably at some point in time I will get another job and it probably won’t be within driving distance of home. So my daughter and I have discussed it and come up with a sort of way to divide the house into our own living areas. Although neither one of us had the courage to discuss the kitchen. It’s hard to divide one kitchen between two women. But I’m sure we’ll work something out. Eventually.

Until it’s time for us to move again. But I’m not going to think about that. I’m just going to enjoy the thought of going home again. And holding nana-baby. We’ll see what the next nine days bring.

What experiences have you had with relocating for a job? Did you actually own a home when you had to face this question? Was it hard for you to "leave home"?

Monday, March 2, 2009

My cat is my role model

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” Leonardo da Vinci

I am a cat person. Don’t get me wrong; for pure unconditional love, the kind that has saved my sanity in the past, you can’t do better than a dog. They are ready to come at every call and lick your face or play fetch or just curl up on your feet and keep them warm. Dogs are great.

But they are also obsequious.

And sometimes I just find that annoying. They seem to have no self-respect.

Cats, on the other hand, are the epitome of self-respect. Self-respect is defined as “having the proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character”. I think it should also say, “See CAT.”

Cats have such a bone-deep conviction of their worth that they have no trouble whatsoever maintaining eye contact with you. See, with dogs, eye contact has to do with dominance. If one dog wants to challenge another, he looks him in the eye. If the other dog breaks the gaze and drops his head, he loses. If he maintains eye contact a fight will usually ensue to determine which is more dominant. Dogs repeat this behaviour with humans (who are also pack animals). Either you are dominant over your dog, or he is dominant over you. Think I am kidding? Look your dog in the eye for any length of time and see what happens.

Cats don’t do that. They will look you in the eye for as long as they like. They could not care less if you keep looking back at them, or if you look away, or if you look back and forth. They don’t lose anything by looking away first; that’s usually just their way of saying you simply are too boring at that moment to hold their attention. I have a private theory that people who hate cats have low self-esteem and can’t tolerate this dismissal by (what seems to be) an obviously superior being.

With all that being said, in some ways my cats act like dogs.

They actually come when I call them. They learn their names because I use their names. I have a relationship with them. If the only time you see your cat is during the ten seconds a day it takes to dump food into his bowl, you’re not going to establish a relationship. When they come to me they know they are going to get loved and petted on until they stretch and purr, it feels so good. In my house, hands are for loving and toys are for playing. So I never flip a cat over on its back and roughly scrub my hand over its belly until its nature gets the better of it and it tries to disembowel my arm with its hind claws while holding on to my hand with its front claws and teeth. You know exactly the action I’m talking about. The one that people do, then take their cats to the vet and have them declawed because they scratch. Of course they scratch! That’s what they’re designed to do in that situation! If you do that action with a toy instead of with your hand, both you and the cat can enjoy the play and the cat can keep his toes.

So my Sassy Kitty serves as a prime example of a well-adjusted, self-respecting personality. She can show her affection without compromising herself. She can play with a shoelace dragged across the floor with the total abandon of a kitten. She has no problem standing up to the Cute Puppy that joined our lives a year ago when he misbehaves. And it boggles my mind that a creature one twentieth the size of an adult human can sit on the floor and gaze fearlessly into that human’s eyes.

So let me love, play, assert myself, and stand up to the giants in my life with all the self-respect and aplomb of my cat.

Aplomb – defined as “imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance”. It should also say “See CAT”.


What unusual role models do you have in your life?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lesson NOT learned, I guess.

I believe in looking at most situations and seeing what lesson I need to learn from them. Especially if it is a situation in which I repeatedly find myself. I have found that, if I can figure out what the universe is trying to teach me, the situation will usually resolve itself. Don’t know how it works for you, but that’s how it seems to work for me.

But there is one situation I haven’t figured out yet: during those times when I am in deep pain and dark despair, why does my ability to contact anyone disappear?

I mean that literally, so let me explain.

Yesterday I was laid off. From a contract that was supposed to last through 2009 and probably beyond. From a location 300 miles from home. Where I was told to look for permanent housing because this was a long term contract, so I signed a year’s lease and moved Lionheart and the family pets here to join me. From a large business in a small town surrounded by nothing – the large cities (and closest other employers) are 3 hours away in any direction. From a project unexpectedly cancelled by the new CEO. Gotta make your mark in the first 100 days, I suppose.

Needless to say, last night my mind was reeling and my emotions were in turmoil. I needed my “Support Infrastructure”. So there they were, readily available, or at least reachable – right?

Wrong. When I need them most the universe makes them disappear. Lionheart, who has some disabilities which prevent him from working (and we are fighting in the courts to get coverage for them, so no income there), was not doing well yesterday so he spent all day in bed, woozy and uncommunicative. No problem; I have friends, right? Who, for whatever reason, were not answering emails or cell phones yesterday. None of them. Granted it was a Friday night, but my friends are geeks and have families – they are not out partying until two a.m. in a loud club where they can’t hear their phones.

It’s kind of freaky. Twilight Zone freaky. Especially the cell phone thing. I even tried a text message – for which I immediately received a return message that said “Message Deleted”. WTF? Never seen THAT before! It reminded me of a similar situation, enough years ago that the majority of us still only had land lines and I’m not sure that Al Gore had yet invented the internet – I desperately needed to talk to someone – anyone – and the entire phone system for the area went down. No phones for something like 14 hours.

So, this only happens occasionally, maybe once every few years, when something knocks the stuffing out of me and I REALLY NEED a sympathetic ear. Then I am held hostage by the communication gremlins of the universe.

Why? What lesson am I supposed to learn here? The obvious would seem to be to learn to be strong on my own. Except that I think I have amply demonstrated over the years that I am strong on my own. So I have no clue. But I really want to figure it out, so I don’t have to go through it any more.

Any suggestions?

Camellia

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Short and succinct

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.”

---- Robert Frost


“Sometimes my education fails me.”

---- My Daughter

To cry or not to cry, that is the question.

I believe we cry in relationship to our greatest injury. I first saw this watching my daughter as she grew. When she started walking she might cry if she wobbled and sat down with a thump. Later, if she bumped her elbow on the coffee table she would cry, but not if she sat down unexpectedly.

The first time she scraped her knee she cried a lot, but no longer cried for other, smaller bumps and scrapes. Then, after the first time she spectacularly wrecked her two-wheeled bicycle and got those serious scrapes and that one good gouge (from the pedal – remember how much those hurt?!) she didn’t cry for those smaller injuries any more.

I think this holds true for emotional injuries as well. We cry over those first small hurts because that is the worst pain we have ever known. Then as we progress in the world, gain love and loved ones, lose love and loved ones, and suffer the pain and vagaries of life, we weep for the greater hurts we suffer, but perhaps not so much for the smaller ones.

Unfortunately, if we are hurt enough, we may eventually stop crying at all. This may be a survival mechanism, both since tears make us appear weak and vulnerable, and since they are often a ‘reward’ to an abuser, prompting or prolonging the abuse.

Do you know someone who you never see cry? It doesn’t mean they don’t, of course; they may just shed their tears in private. But some of us suffered so greatly that the ordinary ‘slings and arrows’ of life are just minor stings to us. But I don’t think this is a healthy state of being.

I spent a long time healing my mental and emotional injuries and I thought I was doing quite well. I didn’t consider the fact that I still rarely cried, and never in front of other people. Then I met Lionheart, the man who would become my (second) husband. Somehow, and I don’t yet understand it, he made it both okay and possible for me to cry again. One evening, quite early in our relationship, I spontaneously burst into tears. It actually frightened me; this was just not something I did, and to make it worse, I didn’t even know why I was crying.

Then this amazing man took me in his arms and gave me his thoughts on why I was crying. And as I listened I realized he was right. And that it was okay. Everything was okay. And the world didn’t end.

I still don’t cry very often but when I do it feels okay now – that it is safe to do so. And sometimes he still has to help me figure out why I’m crying, but that’s okay too. This is a journey he is willing to share with me.


Camellia

Do you know someone who never cries? Have you ever asked them why?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

CHOKE HIM OUT! CHOKE HIM OUT!

I tend to frighten the family pets when I indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship. This is a mixed martial arts (MMA) combat sporting event where opponents come together “inside the octagon”. In UFC the fighters employ a wide range of skills: boxing, wrestling, and a variety of martial arts such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muy Thai, and kickboxing. Each fighter brings a unique blend of skills, strengths, and weaknesses to the bout, and you never know exactly what you are going to see – ground-and-pound, stand-up fight, tap-out, a knockout in the first 14 seconds, or a call because one of the fighters is bleeding so profusely it is dangerous to continue.

I get very excited as the bouts progress. I jump up and down, scream and yell, and root for my favorite fighter (usually whoever is the underdog). In other words, I act like any other fan of any other sport. But this particular sport is different from any other sport I’ve ever seen in one important aspect: sportsmanship.

Most sports tout sportsmanship but in my experience it is rarely demonstrated; in fact I think the opposite is quite often true. But in the UFC something extraordinary happens after almost every fight.

The fighters check to make sure each is okay. They may hug each other or kneel together on the mat and have a few quiet words. The winner may bow to the loser (a sign of respect in martial arts). I’ve seen the loser actually grab the winner’s arm away from the referee and hold it up himself.

During one second, blood could be flying everywhere and one fighter may be pounding the other into the mat, or choking him out, or beating him into the side of the cage with kicks and punches. But as soon as the fight is called, they are grabbing each other and checking wounds and hugging and talking and in general exhibiting a concern and respect for each other that I’ve never seen in any other sport.

It warms my heart to see it. Quite a satisfactory ending to a pulse-pounding event.

Camellia


What unexpected action has warmed your heart lately?


Friday, February 20, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes

Has your son or daughter ever said something to you that resonated into your very bones? Served as a wake-up slap in the face? Broken your heart so badly you thought it would never beat again? Say something that you never thought you would hear them say?

For my daughter’s ninth birthday I went to the party store to pick up supplies. While I was there I ran into the store next door just to window shop. I saw the perfect Oriental rug for the living room and bought it on impulse. At home she helped me unroll it and get it positioned just right. As we were sitting on the couch, admiring how perfect the colors were, she said, “You make really good decisions when you’re by yourself.”

“Yes”, I thought, “she is right. I do make good decisions when her dad is not with me.”

When she was twelve and I told her we were getting a divorce she said, “It’s about time.”

“Yes”, I thought, “she understands.”

When she was sixteen she said, “I understand why you had to leave Dad, and I respect you for having the strength to do it, but I will never forgive you for breaking up our family and hurting him so badly.”

“No”, I thought, “she will never understand.”

One month before her nineteenth birthday I became engaged. On her birthday she cried all day and wouldn’t tell me why. Three months later when she was with my fiancĂ©, Lionheart, helping him choose tuxedos for the wedding party she told him she understood why I loved him so much but she cried on her birthday because she realized I would never get back together with her dad.

“No”, I thought, “she should be over this by now.”

When she was almost twenty she decided to go ahead and marry her fiancĂ©. She asked me for a guest list, and I gave it to her when we got together for her twentieth birthday. When she saw Lionheart’s mother and sisters on the list she said, “I’m not inviting HIS family! HE will be lucky if I even allow HIM to attend. You will walk down the aisle with my father and sit with him, the way it SHOULD be!”

“No”, I thought, “she will never get over this.”


When she was twenty-four she handed their first child, our first grandchild, to Lionheart and said, “Here, grandpa, do you want to hold him?”

“Maybe”, I thought, “there is hope after all.”


Camellia


What has your child said to you that will stay with you forever?

“I would die of fright!”

In this post I want to expand upon my theme of ‘Do it anyway’. In a prior post I talked about my philosophy of ‘do it anyway’ and a little about how it developed. I talked about having a yardstick by which I measure the risk, the danger, the threat of a situation. A measure that helps me to decide if I will ‘do it anyway’. In this post I want to expand on a particular instance in that development.

When I was somewhere in the 5-to-8-years-old time frame, my bedroom that summer was in what was called ‘the sunroom’. This was a room upstairs, in the southwest corner of the house. It had a series of tall windows that filled the two outer walls. They were hung with plastic curtains (Are any of you old enough to remember those cheap plastic curtains?). In many ways this could have been a pleasant room – but it wasn’t. It had one large defect. It was infested with wasps.

When I say ‘infested’ I mean that literally. Large wasp nests hung in each corner of the room and many smaller ones hung in the folds of the plastic curtains. During the day, when the sun poured heavy and golden against the windows, the wasps buzzed lazily in the warmth. After the sun went down and the room cooled, however, the wasps had greater difficulty in moving around and often fell from where they crawled on top of their nests.

My little bed was under the windows on the west side of the room. I have a
snapshot memory of a wasp falling down onto the bed covers near my feet. My mother, who was sitting beside the bed reading poetry aloud, reached over and, using the spine of the book, crushed the wasp to death against the covers.

So I know that, for at least a while, my bed was in that room. And my small cardboard box of toys was under the windows on the south side of that room. I have a slighter longer
‘film clip’ memory of begging the adults downstairs to get my toys for me from that box. They refused. They told me if I wanted my toys I had to get them myself. My next memory is of sitting on the first of the two steps up into that room, watching the wasps as they slowly flew through the air, those long hind legs trailing behind them as they flew. They were flying barely higher than my head as I sat on the step. I remember being horribly, terribly afraid.

I had often had encounters with and been stung by wasps around this house. I remember swinging on the swingset outside and somehow accidentally kicking a wasp as it flew by. I still have a freckle on the top of my foot where the stinger had to be removed – and wasps don’t usually lose their stingers when they sting, so it must have been especially deep. I remember seeing a wasp caught in the fuzzy material of my knee socks as I ran around outside. They also seemed to be magically drawn to getting caught in my long blonde hair. And goodness knows how many times I might have been stung lying in my own bed – thankfully I don’t remember if that happened. I also remember the pain of stepping on honeybees crawling in the dandelions as I ran barefoot through the yard. So I was very familiar with the agony that flying insects with stingers could inflict. And I was staring into a room literally buzzing with them.

But I wanted my toys. So I started crawling on my belly across the linoleum-covered floor as the wasps flew low over my head. I remember, about halfway across, looking back over the smooth shine of the floor to the doorway, so dark in contrast that I couldn’t see into the hallway beyond. I remember reaching the box, then being even more terrified to raise myself up from lying flat on the floor. I remember finally raising up high enough to peer over into the box. I remember exactly how my toys looked as they lay there.

That is the end of my memory. I have no clue what happened next. Did I reach in and retrieve the toy I was after? Was a wasp waiting in there to sting my hand? Did I manage to get out of the room with a toy at all?

No clue. But I do know that, at that young age, I looked absolute blinding terror in the face, and I did it anyway. And it didn’t kill me. So now I never, ever, let fear alone be the deciding factor in any decision I make. If fear is the only reason I have for not doing something - I do it anyway.

Camellia


The theory of relativity

It’s all relative. A matter of perspective. A determination of your point of view. In my last post I wrote about my attitude of “Do it anyway.” My means of making sure that I don’t spend my life huddled in a corner, paralyzed by my fear. I wrote how many years of practicing this have made many of my fears disappear and many others lessen in intensity.

Well, that sounds all well and good, but just exactly how did I arrive at this particular philosophy? How did I decide that I could “do it anyway”?

As a child I was struck by hearing so many folks say things like, “I could never give a speech/dance in front of people/fill in the blank of your particular fear; it would kill me!”

I thought that was so odd. It just sounded strange; not right somehow. As I grew older I realized that I thought it was odd because I was automatically thinking, “It will NOT!” You see, I knew about things that could kill you. I have been in situations of abuse that did kill my spirit and could have physically done lasting harm if not death. And these things that folks kept going on about were NOT in that category.

I had a yardstick by which I could measure the potential threat or danger of a situation.

Let me weigh the circumstances – give a speech, take a beating. Does the thought of making the speech make my stomach churn? Yes, it does. Will it kill me? No, it won’t. Does my churning stomach make me uncomfortable? Yes, it does. Will it kill me? No, it won’t. And even if I totally bomb, sound ridiculous, and have spinach in my teeth, there is nothing the audience can say or do to me that would even come close to what I endured as a child. So what is there, really, to fear? Do it anyway.


Camellia


P.S. As for my spirit? As the old joke goes, I thought it was dead. But it got better.


What yardstick do you use to judge whether or not you will pursue an activity?

Do it anyway

Nike says, ‘Just do it!” Some folks, like Leo Babauta on http://zenhabits.net/, say “Do it now!” For many years my mantra has been, “Do it anyway.”

If I gave in to all my fears I would spend my life huddling in a corner. Period. Totally non-functional. Paralized by fear at the thought of doing anything. But when I was seventeen I made the choice to not do that. No matter what it was, no matter what it took, I would do it anyway.

So - am I nervous about giving a presentation? Do it anyway. Meeting new people? Do it anyway. What about driving someplace new? Someday I will post about my relationship with driving. Suffice it to say that white knuckles, tight shoulders, and a churning stomach are the price I pay to drive. But if I don’t drive I am back to huddling in that corner. So I do it anyway.

Return an item to a store? Confront someone with whom I am having an issue? Buy myself anything? Yes, believe it or not, for the greater part of my life, situations like these and many others generated stomach churning fear. But I did them anyway. And over the years the fear has become less.

In some cases it has disappeared entirely. I can now return anything for any reason, because by continuing to confront my fear I have learned that I used to view the clerk as someone in authority, someone who could deny me what I wanted and humiliate me and make my life utterly miserable. Because that’s what the authority figures in my early life did. Now I view the clerk as someone who is there to provide a service for me, a service that I deserve and have every right to expect. That’s not to say, of course, that even now the occasional surly service desk person can’t, for one moment, make my stomach clench. Then I take a deep breath, strengthen my resolve, and do it anyway.

Camillia


What gets you out of your corner and into your life?

A rose by any other name...

A friend once asked me why I didn’t call my ex-husband, well, “my ex-husband”. Instead I always say “Bar’s dad”.

It’s simple. The term “my ex-husband” is too possessive for me. To me, he is not “my” anything any more. But he will always be our daughter’s father.

He was a good dad when she was growing up. He loved having her with him, whether he was working in his garden or going to the hardware store.


And while she has my face, my hair, and my personality, she has his ears, his hands and his teaching spirit.


Daddy’s Hands


"I don’t know why, but I like your hands the best."
Strong
Warm

"I know it’s broken. Just have Daddy fix it."
Clever
Square

"Pet my face ‘til I go to sleep."
Warm
Gentle

"Lift me up one more time."
Strong


"Swing me."
Happy

"Plant my garden right here."
Growing
Flowers
Children


Daddy’s hands can do anything
When you’re six years old.











Monday, February 16, 2009

Checkmate

I thought my first husband …

…had self-confidence and a high self-esteem, but it actually was arrogance from low self-esteem.

…was calm, but he was actually passive aggressive.

…knew how to sit back and wait for the right time to act, but he was actually a procrastinator.

When we married I was 19 and he was 25 and we had both just received our Associate degrees, and planned on continuing college for those all-important Bachelor’s degrees. He had served in the army and traveled extensively through Europe. I came from a tiny town and grew up with no family automobile – if you took me 5 miles down the road I was awestruck at seeing a new place. He was a ‘white knight’ who was supportive, nurturing, and a consummate teacher - everything you could want in a parent, er, I mean, husband.

In truth, he did ‘raise me’ as a parent would. He trained me and taught me and loved me – as long as I knew less than he did. As long as I was less competent than he was. As long as I didn’t know enough to stop asking ‘What do we do now?” and start asking “Why did you do that?”

We got our degrees and started our professional lives. My degree in computer programming (as we called it back then) led me to a large traditional business, the kind that can afford to buy the multi-million dollar IBM mainframe computers. And he continued to teach me. I had no clue how to behave in a professional environment and we constantly worked on ‘scenarios’ – if X happens, do Y. If Z happens, do A. And I progressed and learned and gained experience, both at work and in ‘real life’, taking on more and more complex assignments and situations.

And things started to change. The more I grew, the more he withdrew. If he couldn’t be the one who knew everything and could do everything, he couldn’t find a place in our marriage. I had developed into a strong, confident woman. His passive aggressiveness had grown to the point that almost everything in our lives was paralyzed. He would say to me, “I don’t like the person you’ve become.” And I would say, “I know! But I can’t go back to being an inexperienced 19 year old!”

And eventually I had to start saying, “I know! But I can’t go back to being an inexperienced 19 year old! That’s why we shouldn’t be together anymore.

Fast forward through the next ten years. I am a stubborn woman and when I commit to something I commit completely. I just knew that I could fix this if I could find the right thing to say or the right thing to do or the right therapy to try. But eventually I became so numb I couldn’t try any more. So, when our daughter was twelve, I moved out of our house. He didn’t say much about it. I took an apartment only five minutes away so she could stay in the same school and still be close to the house and her dad.

It took a year for my emotions to thaw** to the point where I could realize that divorce was the only option. When I told him, he said he didn’t want a divorce. When I asked him why then he hadn’t been willing to cooperate with therapy or any of the other things I had tried, he said, “I thought you were going through a phase and it was all your problem.” All I could reply was, "Ten years is a pretty damn long phase!” When I asked him why he never even protested when I moved out he said, “Because I thought you would fall flat on your face and have to come crawling back.”

Well. After all these years, he still needed me so desperately to be that incompetent little 19 year old girl, incapable of handling life on her own, that he simply could not see me for who I really was. All I could do was shake my head and go through with the divorce. I gave him the house, took on all the credit card debt, agreed to shared custody, and paid him child support (required in my state since my income was higher). I shook the dust of twenty-four years of marriage off my sandals and my friends told me they had never seen me happier.


Camellia


** About three months into the “year of thawing out” a friend asked me if I missed him. I was taken aback by the question; it had never occurred to me. I realized that, no, I didn’t miss him. There was nothing to miss. For 12 years I had done everything by myself. If there was a movie I wanted to see, I went by myself. If there was a restaurant I wanted to try, I went by myself. When I decided to take up martial arts I visited the dojos around town, by myself, and selected one, and started attending classes – by myself. So there was literally nothing to miss. Except the arguing. But I didn’t miss that. I just basked in the peace of my little apartment.



Have you ever spent years of your life trying to get through to someone?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wanted: Third Grade

Did you ever lose a year of your life? Sometime after my marriage I was helping my mother clean out one of her storage boxes. I came across a large yellow envelop full of childish drawings, done in crayon on that flimsy paper used in elementary schools, most of them folded in half like primitive Hallmark cards. As I flipped through them, reading phrases like ‘Get well soon’ and looking at names scrawled in staggering letters, I was completely puzzled. Where had these come from? Why were they in my mother’s trunk? So I asked. And she said, “Those were from your third grade class. Don’t you remember? That was the year you went to X Elementary and you had pneumonia that winter. Your class made these get-well cards for you and your teacher brought them by.”

Ahh. Puzzle solved. No, I didn’t remember. I experienced mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and have almost no memories of the first seventeen years of my life.

I have become somewhat adjusted to this condition. Since I can’t join in, I just smile politely when people around me start to reminisce about their early years. I do have some of what I call ‘snapshot’ memories, when literally the memory has no ‘before’ and ‘after’ context, but exists on its own, a tiny little film clip. Most of these I can’t place in time other than a very general period, and sometimes I can’t even place the place.

But this was the first concrete proof I had of this. For grades one through six I had attended, I thought, Z Elementary School. But no! For one whole year we had lived in another place and I had attended another school in another building with another teacher and with other children. Children who had drawn and colored get-well cards for me and a teacher who had brought them to me. And I had no memories of any of it. No memories of the location, of the building, of the bus rides every day to and from school, of the teacher, or of the children whose names I saw signed on the cards I was holding in my hands.

That was really freaky.

Most times I don’t think about my ‘lost’ childhood. But sometimes it rises to the front of my brain and I start worrying at it like a sore tooth. Should I get (even more) therapy? Should I try hypnosis to penetrate that blankness and retrieve my memories? So far my answer has been ‘No’. The memories I do have are not great (okay, awful) and frankly I’m not thrilled with retrieving any more.

But it’s a shame that the good had to disappear with the bad. What a kindness, to have taken the time to make and deliver those cards. It would be nice to have a memory like that to look back on.

Camellia


How’s your memory? Or the memory of those closest to you? Any gaps, missing information, or times you don’t want to think about/they don’t want to talk about? What, if anything, have you done about it?

An inward journey to an outward dance

“Working widdershins” is an expression which means to conduct a ritual starting in the West, then moving to the South, the East, and finally to the North to complete the ritual. However, this term can also be used to describe the process of self-work.

At the beginning of self-work we need to call upon our courage for this inward journey. As we continue this journey we need to burn away our masks so that we begin to see ourselves as we really are. Only as we approach our true selves can we begin to heal the wounds that life has inflicted upon us. As we continue this inward journey we see the death of our false selves, the birth and growth of our true selves, and we find our center, the home of our spirit.


The act of moving inward ultimately brings us back out again, to dance with the world around us in new and wonderful steps, sometimes sure-footed, sometimes faltering, until the circle of the dance leads us inward once more and a new journey begins.

As we journey onward together I will share some of the steps of my dance with you.

Camellia