Sunday, August 17, 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Make lemonade, they say. I think that I am about to disagree. In order to make lemonade one must add sugar, lots of sugar. Sugar rots your teeth. Instead, why not make a new drink altogether? After all, lemonade is over rated. As some may know I have been actively looking for a full time teaching position. One such position had opened in a community of which I was a part, my dream job with supportive people and kids I adore. I have worked part time in this community for three years now, and found out last week that someone with more experience and expertise was hired. Lemons...I could add a bunch of sugar. But does this rejection mean that I have been forcing myself into a world in which I do not fit? Sure, I could continue looking for that elusive position, even widen my search to schools within a two hour commuting time, but if I need to add sugar, why not just have a different drink altogether? If I cannot fit into a community of which I was an active participant, then maybe I am looking in the wrong places. I love to teach. I love working with young adults. I love literature and writing. But does that mean that I would love teaching literature and writing to young adults? There has to be something that I am missing.

It was 1am when I wrote this. I had found out the day before that I did not get my dream job. I had been crying and could not sleep. I had forgotten the greater purpose, forgotten that God never leads me astray. I had been trying to fit myself into that square hole again. Maybe because of fear, fear that I will continue to struggle financially, fear that  I'll never have enough. And they are valid fears, I have defaulted on student loans and I cannot seem to keep up with my bills on the income I have been earning.  I think that fear has blinded me to a world of possibilities other than that road which seems to be the right choice because others have taken it. If I were not afraid, what would I do? Would I be a writer who teaches or a teacher who writes? A year from now I will return to this post, and say, "ah, that is what the Universe was thinking." Today, not so much. But for that few moments when I sat down at the keyboard and typed, I was no longer the square peg. I think I am going to make a smoothie instead, much healthier.

What next? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Letting Go

Letting go, a very hard thing for me to do, be it letting go of a person, an outcome, money, time, or food. I
tend to keep my fingers shut in a childish way. And some of the things I hold onto are quite silly: my drawer full of milk chocolate after being vegan for a year and half; money that I have in the bank to pay bills; and extra time. I have Clenched Fist Disease. Letting go requires faith, faith that after I pay that huge bill another paycheck will arrive, or if I throw out that milk chocolate, the next time I have a craving I will have the money to go to the store and buy a bar of dark chocolate. It is almost as if parts of me are stuck back in preschool, "mine." We see this in our culture, people amassing huge amounts of wealth and keeping it (think Walmart and its billions in profits paying workers minimum wage). In this area of the country every time there is the threat of a huge storm we run to our local store and stock up, just in case. It is fine to be prepared, but fights have broken out over electronics at Christmas, and road rage (you are in my space, my way) is prevalent. Many of us do not wish to give our well-earned tax dollars to support needy families, and letting someone into the traffic flow is just not done.

Just how does one "let go?" I hear the phrase, "let go and let God" all the time, but easier said than done. Usually I can let go of the harder stuff: the divorce, the damaging fire, or a death in the family. But letting go of the day to day nuisances has me clenching my fists. I do still have a hidden drawer filled with non vegan chocolate, and I do worry that I will mess up that job interview next week and I do have enough money in the bank to pay the cable bill. But what if...what if I after I pay the cable bill my car will need repairs and I won't have enough money to buy food? What if I throw the chocolate away and I cannot transport myself to the store because my car is in for repairs? What if the sky turned green and pigs really did begin to fly and I was forced to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of my life? My fears can be ridiculous, but very very real. When  the fear has taken control I forget every single time that when I have let go of a situation and asked for help, help has come (maybe not in the form that I wished, but nevertheless it always arrives.)

Just last week I received a letter from the IRS telling this seasonally underemployed gal, that she owes $1,700. It was huge, and completely out of my control. I wrote the scenario down on a post it, and tucked it into my God Box. The situation was larger than I could manage. I then asked for help and contacted a tax accountant, and a few days later received an answer. I did do my taxes correctly, but I need to contact one of my reporting agencies. A solution, one that I would never have thought of on my own. By placing the situation in my God Box, I allowed my fists to unclench, I allowed my faith to begin working, reminding me that I am going to be ok no matter what. And if the end result is that I have to pay $1,700, I will make a payment plan. I won't be force to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of my life, while pushing a shopping cart around. Letting go goes against my nature, but when I accomplish this monumental task, amazing results follow. When I let go of my need for a particular job six years ago, I ended up attending Mount Holyoke College, which turned out to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. If I had held on, I would not be where I am today. Today I have an amazing life, a part time summer job I enjoy, a beautiful partner to share my life with, an amazing son and a group of friend I adore. When I can remember that these are the results of letting go, maybe, just maybe I can throw away that milk chocolate and pay my cable bill. If I choose to hold on, well, the consequences are there, just waiting. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back

The phrase derives from an Arab proverb, a cataclysmic event cause by something inconsequential. This saying has also lead to the phrase, "the last straw." Aside from the animal cruelty aspect, which is slightly disturbing, it is great wisdom. So many times we traverse difficult roads, I know I have, deaths, divorce, fire, debt, unemployment, sickness and struggle. While we struggle our friends surround us with love, support and we seem to make it through. There are times however, when something so small, so insignificant that it shouldn't really affect us, happens, that we take a nosedive into oblivion. The straw, that one final straw. I know it holds true for me, I will sail through hard times, with my family at my side, and then the dry cleaners are closed when I really need that shirt for a job interview...or that last check I wrote toppled my checking account into oblivion...that I fall. 

Why can't the camel just say, "back off?" Because we are not in control, and that is the hard part. I adore control, I love it when things go my way, when I am right, when I get the job I want, the man I want, and the jeans I want fit. I love it when my life, a theatrical event, goes off smoothly, when it calls for a standing ovation. But this is not the way of life, it is messy, complicated and doesn't always go our way. We muddle through the best that we can and hope that when the final straw falls, we have family and friends there to pick us up, give us a box of Puffs Plus, and send us on our way. 

My dog is at the vet right now, under anesthesia. She was clawed by another dog at the dog park. I do not have the money for it, and the other dog's owner can only contribute a portion. Last night I felt that helplessness as I laid awake at 1 am (I never have sleep issues) worried about buying groceries and paying bills, while looking for a job and keep my house in order. The vet bill was the straw, that moment when I lost control over my tightly budgeted life. I couldn't write it off, and it wasn't going away. The only thing left was prayer, and I prayed and fell asleep. It seems so simple this morning, prayer. Please help me juggle life, please help me with this personal straw. I know that I won't be underemployed forever. I know that my degree and all of the hard work I spent attaining that degree will be useful some day. It is just not today, not according to my time frame. Today I need to focus on the simplicity of prayer, not the please help me get what I want prayer, but the help me to go through this with dignity and grace.
Help me to travel this path with grace and dignity
Help me to allow you to guide me while I walk.
Help me to slow down and witness the beauty of the moment.
Help me to work with you and not against you.
Help me to love and to allow and to relax into this day.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Give me some space please...

photo credit:http://www.wyophotos.blogspot.comLately I have been noticing something about myself. I need space, physical space, psychic space and emotional space. I don't know if it is because I am one of those highly sensitive folk, but I become physically uncomfortable around loud people, or anyone either in a vehicle or in person, coming too close. I tend to pick up on what others are feeling (tailgaters and their anger) and get easily distracted (clicking of someone typing on a laptop in class). Is this the ramblings of a mad woman? Is it because I am a country girl, and grew up with a big backyard and the woods in which to play? Or maybe it is a personality flaw, that uber sensitivity that allows me to keep others at bay (black flies don't count!). 

I think as a woman, my culture has taught me to be small, to take up as little space as possible. Look at the passengers in a  bus or a train, the men have splayed legs, taking up more space than allotted, and the women usually cross their legs, in effect, making themselves smaller. I have issues with anything or anyone that comes too close, be it a black fly (mean little suckers that dive bomb and attack in Spring) or the man standing behind me in the grocery line.  

Elaine Aron has written many books about the Highly Sensitive Person, approximately 15 -20% of the population who notice subtleties, is very intuitive, is sensitive to pain and to noise, among other things. Here is a list of traits on Elaine's website. When I took the quiz on this site, I came up overwhelmingly highly sensitive. It can be a hindrance (I am scared of car horns for what they do to my nerves!) as well as an asset. I can "read" people's emotions, and that can be very helpful, saving me from many scrapes. 

Personal space is a huge trigger for many people. On her website, Dr. Juith Orloff writes about how to cope with space invasion. "Why can personal space intrusions make our blood boil? Aside from being obnoxious, rude, dangerous, or unhealthy, they violate a primitive instinct that we’re not safe or respected. When we experience such violations, our brains actually react as if we were still back in 50,000 BC. Research shows that personal space disputes such as neighbor feuds about overgrown foliage are evolutionarily prompted responses aimed at guarding resources and ensuring survival." She  has a list of personal space invasions on her website. These include: telemarketers, loud cars, air pollution, tailgaters and graffiti. Knowing these triggers helps us to let them go when they pop up. Why do people get so close? Are we programmed or is it a personal issue?

Time Magazine answered the question: Why is so uncomfortable to be close to strangers? "Evolution seems to have programmed this discomfort via a brain structure called the amygdalae, a pair of almond-shaped brain regions deep within each temporal lobe that control fear and the processing of emotion. It's your amygdalae that keeps you from getting so close to another person that he could easily reach out, gouge an eye, and then drag your woman off by her hair." So we can blame it all on our ancestors, something we, as humans, excel at.

So I am a highly sensitive person that has a highly developed amygdalae. No one will be gouging my eyes out anytime soon, just please, if you see me driving, cute little blue shoe-sized car, don't honk. I am off to the woods.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya, In Memorium

I wrote this in 2007, to my hero, Maya Angelou (4/4/28 - 5/28/14).


What could a mere poet be
who speaks of rivers
and rocks and trees?
To a young girl
who might not believe
she is sturdy, whole and free.
What if this poet told her
“Give birth again
To the dream.”
So this girl would know
how to touch the stars
when they appeared too far to reach.
If this poet rose,
and danced and sang
and prayed.
Would that young girl
see that she could
rock the world with her whispers,
To that dear poet
who pulled herself from beneath
and said to this young girl
it was all right to believe.
To that rock
that river
that tree –
it is with tenderness and love
that I take root and grow,
to be happy
to be joyous
to be free.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Writing Life

I was doing so well, writing everyday, at least a few lines...but then...but then. It only takes one day to put a kink into a nicely forming habit, and I know it takes 28 days to form a habit, I had been writing everyday for two months, been practicing my oboe everyday for four months. But that day arrives, that day when the outer world trumps the inner. The day when you just want to go to bed or eat more dinner, or watch mindless tv, and that healthy habit is put on the endangered list. For me, I cannot skip a day, because one day becomes two, and three and soon I am no longer (insert habit here). Is this a unique trait, or something we all do, once we jump off the train, we cannot get back on without really trying hard (aka running after a speeding train). This month, Runner's World Magazine is sponsoring a Streak, run at least one mile per day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. I will try it, after all I know that once I have the momentum, I will keep it up. Is there wiggle room though? I know from past experiences that when I don't practice my oboe or run, I lose the momentum. But when does the habit become an obsession, or an addiction? It probably has something to do with balance, and balance is concept I haven't quite mastered. I am an all or nothing gal.
The word balance originated in 1250 - 1300, Old French, meaning a pair of metal dishes (a balance). In order to balance one must have equal weight in each of the metal dishes. But how does one balance an entire life. There are many aspects, physical, spiritual, emotional and there are only 24 hours in a day, minus 8 for sleeping. This is all just a ruse however, I could sit here and write about balancing my life, having healthy habits in healthy proportions, but really, how long does it take to write a haiku? I am making excuses for my lapse. Excuses, which have taken longer to compile than it would have taken to pick up my daily writing habit again. So here we are, today I am back on the seesaw, and I will write a poem:
the wind is balanced,
the skies, the shore, the ocean tides
an ebb and flow
as if words, once spoken
could return and I
could float gently down
the river with open arms. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Am I a Republicanophobe?

I am scared to write this post. First I am afraid to admit that I am prejudiced. But more importantly I am afraid that you, the reader, might be a Republican, and Republicans scare me. Why? Because, like other people who are prejudiced, I have an all or nothing mentality. Now is when you might get angry with me. But please don't yell, I am attempting to come to the root of my prejudice and abolish it. This morning, on Facebook, someone told me not to go all "right-wing" on him. It was, to me, a staunch tree-hugging, animal rights supporting, pro-choice, educated woman, an insult.

When I picture a Republican, I picture a gun-toting, anti-woman, racist,  homophobe. And people with guns scare me, and sexist, racist homophobes scare me. Therefore, Republicans scare me. And it all really just comes down to fear, fear of the unknown. I have tried to understand Republican economic theory, but I am a child of the 70's and I watched as the trickle down never trickle down. I read about huge corporations paying nothing in taxes and hiding their billions in profits in off-shore accounts. I watch as so-called Christians ignore the poverty stricken in this country, "they should work harder, they are moochers." When I picture a Republican I picture a person, devoid of compassion for those less fortunate. I watch as Republicans vote against the Equal Pay Act, as they cut assistance for needy children, and as they demonize women and teachers. This is what I see, hence my all or nothing mentality. I am no better than a racist, I let fear of the "other" guide my opinions. It comes down to the fear of the unknown. As a woman living in a sheltered community, I do not come in contact with many Republicans.

How can I abolish this extreme prejudice? It all comes down to the "us against them" mentality. If I focus on the differences, how can I begin to find compassion for the other, that person who holds different beliefs than I? After all, the world would be a boring place if we all believed the same things. The first step then, is to find common ground. So, my dear Republican reader, kindly help me out, help me to find common ground. I am a runner, I know, left turn, bear with me. As I runner, I race. When I go to races I run with thousands of other runners. We connect through our mutual similarities. I have no clue what political party my fellow racers belong to, we come for the common joy of running. When I pass a runner on the road, I am kind, I connect, I wave, I move over or slow down, after all it is a fellow runner. Turn right again, what commonalities can I find with my fellow Republicans? If I can find this, I might be able to soften around my opinions, my fears and my Republicanophobia.