Sunday, December 26, 2010

Changing Destiny

If life gave us a map then we could not possibly discover the joy and surprise that accompanies a change in our destiny.

Last week I got my piece of paper. It was laminated perfectly inside of the red, official, book-like hard covering that validates your intangible academic accomplishment to the world. I've gotten two of these before-once when high school was over and once when I got a less advanced version of the same college degree. This time it said "with distinction"-a testimony to what I felt had to be re-written from the first attempt.

Before I received that piece of paper I felt pretty nonchalant about the idea of completing my Master's degree. At the end of two and a half years worth of countless twenty page term papers, essay exams, case analysis after case analysis and mid-term papers, I think my soul was just too exhausted to really care anymore. But when I opened it up and started to stare at that piece of paper with my name on it, I felt something I hadn't allowed myself to acknowledge-a sense of pride.

It wasn't a boastful type of pride or the type of pride that says "now I'm somebody." No, it was more of a sense of "yes, I did it." Yes, I did it despite the fact that at times I didn't think I could. Yes, I did it even though my initial reasons for wanting to changed midway through. Yes, I did it despite all the outside challenges and obstacles that could've prevented me from crossing the finish line. This time I didn't give up, I didn't stop, and I learned to accept something that the textbooks couldn't have possibly taught-that I'm still capable, validatable me with or without that piece of paper.

Chances are that I won't hang that piece of paper up on the wall in my office downstairs. I know it could find a suitable place next to the picture of Paris in winter, or the close-up of the white rose covered in a light mist of morning dew, or perhaps next to one of award plaques I received in my younger days. But like most of the downstairs space in my house, those walls are haphazardly put together at best. Most of it is still a random collection of boxed-up memories of dance recitals, early writing projects, forgotten letters of appreciation, and past choices and existences that still play out somewhere on reality's plane.

The other day I felt a sudden wave of sadness for no apparent reason. Prior to this wave of dichotomous emotion, I was reflecting on the possibility of change. Not just a little change, but a major one. The kind of change that ends one phase of who you are so that you can step into the phase of what you'll become. Sometimes we have to wait for that phase to completely fade into the background because we've created a situation for ourselves where there is no other choice.

I came across someone else's words that stated that "all changes, even the most longed for have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." Even though death seems like a sudden event, it never truly is. I think it's a process that goes on while we're "waiting." Life's choices and achievements are always a two-parter: we have to let go of one concept of who we are and what we want in exchange for another, even if it's only temporarily.

Sometimes while we're busy pushing ourselves towards that new direction- that longed for new change-we get the opportunity to reconcile those parts of ourselves that we never really let go, but needed to. Those parts of us come in the form of people, boomeranged lessons, obstacles that will challenge our ideas of who we are and what we can accomplish, and perhaps the answers to buried questions.

2010 has brought all of those my way and more. So while I sit out these last few months before I fulfill my company's tuition reimbursement waiting period requirement and contemplate a decision on the next available path to take, I think I'll also find a way to be grateful that I got a second chance at closure. A set of closures that needed to occur so that I could be pushed towards my indefinable capability.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Little Expectations

Tonight was the celebration for my five year old nephew's birthday. He doesn't really turn five until Wednesday, but with everyone's work schedules and Christmas on Saturday, my sister thought it would be best to have his party the weekend before. I haven't been around "R" as much as I would like, but I remember the night he was born. That was the year I was still in a "vacation relief" straight salaried position with my company. I had driven back into town for a few days, but had to leave again the next morning.

I remember that winter was unusually warm for us-still raining well into January instead of snowing. My sister was still married to her ex-husband, who had illegally attempted to start a new life in the States after leaving a life of crime in Mexico. Yeah, I know-for those of you who have been reading about my life from the get go it really does have the makings of the next daytime drama doesn't it? Perhaps that's why I've always thought they were a tad more realistic than most people. But anyhow, my nephew was a little bit of a stinker. Like his aunt he didn't exactly want to make an easy entrance into this world and my sister ended up having to go in for an emergency c-section.

My mom and I stayed in my sister's hospital room while she was in surgery, nervously hoping that everything would turn out ok. I tried to get a few hours of sleep while we waited, but with my mother's constant panicky conversations with the nurses and family friends over the telephone, I didn't have much luck. In the end everything turned out ok, give or take a minor complication or two that healed on its own with a little nudge of modern day medicine. "R" looked exactly like my sister did when she was born, with Hispanic coloring, so there was no doubt he was ours.

The hurdles, challenges, and domestic turmoil that my sister had been going through and eventually conquered could be a tale in their own might. It's a tale I think that only she could tell authentically, so I'll do her the justice of fast forwarding through that part of our lives. Some say that before children are born, they choose the individuals they're going to be born to. The higher self chooses its current incarnation's lessons, if you will. If that's true, then "R" made the right choice.

Far be it from me to know exactly what his life lessons are, but when a new child is born there are often a set of expectations about who they already are, who they're going to become, and whom they should be like. "R" is a quiet soul who is very picky about what he eats, who likes to give his mom and "Grandma" hugs, who can often be seen actively observing his environment, who doesn't like to share his toys, loves Sponge Bob, and knows how to pose and smile perfectly for the camera. He has an infectious laugh that is more like a series of giggles and will softly tell you what he wants to if you just sit back and let him.

Like his aunt he will never know his biological father beyond a few stray photographs, a few faded memories, and a word or two of caution mixed with small pieces of good that couldn't quite overcome the darkness. Like most of his family he can somehow sense what you can't always see. He knew who his grandfather was from a randomly placed photograph in my mom's house, even though my father passed two years before "R's" birth. I've often told my mom that dad still comes to "visit"-now I like to think that she has a little more proof.

I know it's still a little early and "R's" got a lot of changes he's going to go through. But when I'm around "R" he has a way of reminding me of the little girl I used to be. He even has the "Irish temper" at times and the perfect way of pouting in "rescue me" silence when he doesn't get his way. Yes, it's a little early, but I think we might have another hsp on our hands. No matter who "R" grows up to become, I'm glad he's a part of the family.

That's the funny thing about expectations. We always have this picture in our minds of the way we think something should be or how we think something should turn out. The thing is life surprises us a lot of the time. It unfolds in this sort of mystery of luck and beneficial growth disguised as temporary heartache. What we've conjured up for ourselves doesn't have to manifest to the "t" in order for us to be happy.

The only thing we can do is make our choices, sit back, feel lucky for what the experience gave us, and let the universe do the rest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Loving What Is

I think it is funny how we humans always seem to be longing for what we don't currently have or see before our eyes. Tonight I logged into Facebook and decided to actually attempt to scroll through some of those 300+ updates I receive on a daily basis. I've got a mixture of "friends" on there-some I knew in high school, some from my list of jobs over the years, some are friends of the family, some are fellow HSPs I've "met" online, some are just random people who share similar interests, and some of them are actual close friends whom I'm extremely grateful for.

Now quite a few of these people live in Colorado and we've been experiencing some "spring" like weather, if you can call it that. Mid 50's to 60's in the middle of December isn't unheard of out here, but a lot of folks don't like it. They'd rather see snow, cold, ice, and a little touch of "Christmas Wonderland." I can understand, sort of. Back in the 80's and early 90's Colorado used to get a lot more snow on the plains during the winter months, and now it's haphazard at best. I understand that's one of the reasons why people live here-they like the snow and everything that comes with it.

I, on the other hand, am enjoying this warm touch of "springtime." To me it seems silly not to. The snow will come and when it does we'll all be complaining for it to hurry up and melt. The majority of us will anyway. The majority of us that have to actually get up and drive around in the crap while we silently say "hail mary's" or whatever in hopes that we don't get into an accident.

I'm enjoying what is because I know that it doesn't last. I'd rather enjoy the good in today than worry about what I might be missing. I think if you do that then you actually miss what the universe is trying to give you-its momentary beauty that you're a part of.

Each morning I still witness the sunrise. I've been witnessing it now for a little over seven years, give or take a few "slept-in" mornings here and there. I'm not what you would call a "morning person" by any means, but I'm always glad I'm awake to see what can only be duplicated on the canvass of life. Not only is the light against the sky, the clouds, and sometimes a mountain range or a stretch of sand different each time, but it stops you in your tracks. Its vision makes you take a moment to be filled with the warm feeling of gratitude that something miraculous still exists.

Moments like these make you stop and just be. They can take your breath away, often leave you speechless, bring a smile to your lips. These are the type of moments that make you realize that life isn't about what you are but who you are.

Worrying about what will be or what isn't is senseless. I've found that tomorrow usually takes care of itself, unfolding in a mixture of our choices, circumstance, and a little touch of magic we can't quite explain. Somewhere, where time doesn't exist, we know different. What was will be again, what is will be what was, and what is to be has already been.

The true challenge is to love what is. Some say it's because it's not coming back. Others say it's because you never know when it might be the end. But I like to think it's because we're still learning to believe and embrace the whispers of who we are rather than the outer shell that shouts what could be.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Reminder of Christmas

As I child I adored Christmas. It was my favorite holiday-from the eggnog and "Newman" exclusive Christmas molasses/date/cherry cookies to the colored lights and promise of something "magical" in the air. It was as much a religious observance as it was a commercial celebration in my parents' household. In addition to the Santa cookies, Christmas tree and presents, there was the advent wreath, the church services, and a Happy Birthday Jesus cake. No, I'm not kidding. That cake was something that got made no matter what-complete with white icing, red and green sprinkles and "Happy Birthday Jesus" spelled out in red and green lettering.

I've never really questioned why I celebrate Christmas or why I love it so much. Even after I'd moved back to Colorado and took on a paper route as a part-time job so I could buyout the lease on my car, I took the time to admire the lights each dark, cold morning. Maybe it was the crisp air, the Country Club neighborhood's extravagant displays, or the cookies and generous tips my customers would leave for me. Whatever it was, it was a piece of magic and joy that made me believe in possibility again at the age of 27.

Somewhere between 27 and 34, I again lost what I did in my late teens-the belief in possibility. You could also call it a spark, a light, a hope for something we can't quite see, touch, or explain. But even though we can't grasp it yet, we can feel it. We can feel its warmth throughout our soul as it carries us to imaginary visions of how our world might be.

Across from my townhome is an assisted living center. There is often a lot of traffic from the RN's and CNA's who have to park on our street in order to get to work each day, the delivery trucks delivering the home's necessary supplies, and the ambulances that drive into the parking lot with their blaring sirens when a resident decides it is time to pass.

Despite the bleakness of the reality that exists within its walls, the facility manages to put up lights and decorations around its landscape. From my upstairs living room window and across the courtyard you can see a string of yellow, green, red and blue on an evergreen fir. Until this past weekend, I just glanced at that string of lights as if they were there year round-as if they were nothing special.

Well, if I've learned anything in the past year it's that life has a funny way of returning you to reminders of what was once subjectively important. It's kind of the Universe's way of getting you back on track if you've become lost, I think. So there I was on a Sunday, trying to write my third article for the week and I suddenly became extremely disinterested in divulging on why Generation Y has the least amount of employee loyalty and satisfaction amongst today's working population.

I decided to go upstairs and do what I do best when my mind is tired of trying to accomplish something-lay down in a "cuddle and snuggle" with the dog and find a movie or two to lose myself in temporarily. The first one I chose was so awful that I fell asleep about 20 minutes in and wasn't the least bit sorry when I woke up at the end, just in time to see the last scene.

But the second was a tale about seeing light within the darkness and finding a way to share that light with others so that they can see the true nature of who they are. It was a tale of spreading inspiration, helping each other when it's needed the most, finding the meaning of love and hope again-exactly the way it should be.

That's why I've always been in love with Christmas. Not because of the gifts, or the candy, or the traditions, or what we think it might stand for. I love it because of its light-that magical combination of love and hope that keeps shining until it finds a way to make a difference inside our hearts.

The same way that string of red, white, blue, and green became more than an everyday vision viewed across a courtyard from inside a thermal windowpane. Those lights became an outer reflection of the goodness that has always existed behind the eyes. The goodness that will continue to exist, even after that string has been taken down and stored away until we need a reminder of its possibility.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Light of a Star

There are people that will come into our lives somehow that end up needing us. There are a few people whom we might see, know, touch, or experience in some way that we'll end up needing too. I'm not really talking about needing someone in the sense of "I'm a damsel in distress stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and need someone to change it for me." Although I've been in that exact situation a few times in my life, today I'm referring to needing someone in a spiritual sense.

Some people refer to sensitives as lightworkers, and I think this can be true in many ways. Most of us feel the desire to "help," to "soothe," to point out the "good" in a "bad" situation, to even "protect," and stand up for the "right" principle when it goes against the grain of politics, greed, and the "way things have always been done." I think that we also literally have a sort of "light in our eyes" that goes deeper than a superficial smile, a random moment of happy, or a temporary display of kindness. It's a sort of deep compassion for humanity that makes us appear sweet, innocent, and vulnerable at times. It's a genuine feeling of appreciation that arises from within because we recognize the beauty in ordinary existence.

The description of lightworker can live up to its name when a sensitive fulfills a role they were meant to. The lower self, of course, doesn't always know why it is being "called" towards something, someplace, or someone. But when someone starts performing the "right" work and fulfilling the "right" role, a little something called the magic of anonymous spiritual inspiration starts to happen. That individual starts to help others through an intangible glow that provides both comfort and the desire to overcome the darkness of life. Not on purpose, not by intent, not by always knowing exactly what they're doing or whom they might be touching.

The act of performing the role may not last forever, but we can only hope that the results do. For a long time I've held the belief that hope, love, light, and triumph always find a way to sustain themselves in the end. I'd like to think that I won't be disappointed by this notion.

This isn't to say that a lightworker doesn't ever need a kindred spirit, so to speak. In my eyes there shouldn't be any shame or feelings of inadequacy when you view someone else as some sort of star shining in the distance. They're no better or worse than you. They're just a person, complete with their own talents and their own faults trying to navigate this tangible thing we call life. Yet inspiration and light are still exactly what they appear to be-a gift that promises something better than what we think we see.

Needing a reminder of that gift from time to time isn't a sign of weakness, a burden, or something to be ashamed of taking. Chances are that the source of that distant star doesn't see you as beneath them or too far away to touch. Your value is just as important as their own might be, because the star doesn't think of itself as any different. Not the slightest bit different from the rest of the lights hanging out there right beside it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Retracing Seventeen-The Epilogue

You could've promised me tomorrow, but you didn't. A dance of glancing eyes and gestures left to imagination's interpretation. A feathered touch across the knee in some sort of sympathetic understanding attempt at comfort left me questioning your intent. You spoke of your presence as if it were powerful enough to entice others into some sort of magical compliance. A man aware of the effect he had on the opposite sex-golden hair and blue eyes.

A world I didn't ask for, but I fell into anyway. A world of pretend built upon what we think we can touch. A world reflected on the stage, in the screen, on a painter's canvas, and in the words of a book or a script ready to be visualized by another's interpretation. A world colored by English rock bands, angry female guitarists, subtitled films that left your brain on speed dial, giant Downtown Denver bookstores, Colorado's version of Los Angeles, Impressionists, colored sticks of incense, a pack of illegally bought smokes, Sylvia Plath and Diane Wakoski. Writing of poets that you said reminded you of mine.

You could've said I was lost-a seventeen year old girl on a path of youthful discovery. I would've said it was the last time I felt alive. Yet, nothing that intensely good lasts forever. The delusion of promise can only be savored until it escapes into the forgotten plume of leftover ashes.

So you went your way and I went mine. You said you loved her, but you weren't in love with her. It was something that took me seventeen years to understand-a concept that became a shadowed reflection in the aftermath of chance.

I feel nothing for you now, as though our paths never crossed. As though words were never spoken and an eraser has taken to that corner of a young girl's heart. Still in this circled journey, I must credit those blue eyes with a piece of my existence.

The only problem is that I don't really feel the need to see why. The rose's petals were already wilted before it was time to say goodbye.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Two Mattresses

The two most comfortable beds I've ever slept on in my entire life haven't been my own.  One of them was in the boutique hotel I stayed at in L.A. about six months back.  Kind of strange because you wouldn't think it would be that soft and inviting to sleep in by glancing at it.  Not to mention I've stayed in slightly swankier places, but all the decorative fluff of those top rated hotels couldn't hold a candle to whatever type of mattress this place uses.  It was really hard to motivate myself to get up each morning-to go work out or even walk next door to the coffee shop for some breakfast.  If it wasn't for all those school appointments, personal mini-adventures, and knowledge of how long it takes to navigate through big city traffic, I probably wouldn't have.

The second is a little more complicated than the first-it's the mattress that belongs to my ex.  I'm sure he still has it because sleeping on that bed gives you the same experience that lying on a big fluffy cloud might.  Soft like a big pile of Charmin toilet paper, yet supportive enough so you don't fall through.  The man knew his mattresses.  He co-owns a local chain of furniture stores so he'd have to.  After one night on that baby I knew why he complained about mine.     

So why am I blogging about sleeping on really comfortable mattresses on a site that's supposed to be about high sensitivity and other thought-provoking stuff?  Simple-sometimes even hsps get tired of being so serious all the time.  Especially if you've got a high sensation seeker streak within your veins.  I'm sure I'll find a way to write a meaningful line or two somewhere in this post, so if that's what you're looking for today keep reading.

The real reason that I'm blogging about these super comfortable mattresses of course is because tonight I thought of him.  I mean seriously thought of him.  The kind of thoughts that make you almost pick up the phone and dial one of those numbers that you didn't program into your new cell phone, but that are still burned in your memory.  You almost call because you miss the friendship that you thought would always be there, no matter what.  You almost call because despite going six months without talking, he's still the one person on this planet that knows you the best and that you used to be able to talk to about anything.  You end up not calling because you realize that you no longer want everything that came along with that friendship and that it would be too easy to fall right back into it.

Then your thoughts drift to your former home-the warm weather, the lush green landscapes that don't turn brown in the winter, the later sunsets since you're on the end of the time zone not the beginning of it, the oceans, the white sands, an actual nightlife, and so on.  For a moment you consider the possibility of going back.  Then you open your eyes back up and see what's in front of you.  A beautiful home that you own, not rent.  A home that you've loved since you were 31 and still do.  You remember the battles that you fought to get here.  You realize that you're living with the results of your former hard work and choices.  You realize that you're comfortable, content, and happy.  You know how much stress you would have to endure if you ended up leaving, realizing that a part of you would rather stay put.

It would be kind of like staying in the world of those two mattresses.  So comfortable, so cushioning, so protective.  But a mattress is only meant to help you rejuvenate the strength that you need to conquer your daily battles.  You can't spend your entire life lying on it.  If you did, you wouldn't really be a part of existence.

Destiny would remain a vision, self-discovery a forgotten dream, and life an isolated delusion.     


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You're Very Normal (for a Sensitive)

"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold."-Helen Keller

Finally I have an answer.  After a few phone calls and voice mails to my doctor's office, his assistant left me a voicemail this afternoon confirming what I already suspected-"all your results were very normal."  No under active thyroid, no diabetes, no nothing.  Kind of a miracle considering how horrible I felt and the symptoms I was experiencing.  Maybe it really was nothing but stress combined with the heightened awareness that sensitives have regarding any minor changes in their bodies.  It could've all been a by-product of the fact that, like it or not, sensitivity means we just can't handle as many of life's demands in the same way that the rest of the world can. 

It took a lot of courage for me to go to that doctor.  I was scared.  I almost didn't go.  But something within me was convincing enough to have me put aside my fears and get an answer.  So, now I have it.  "N" was right.  It was probably just the stress of an MBA program on top of 50-60 hour work weeks. 

I'm lucky this time.  I still have a green light and the opportunity to keep living my "normal" life.  The only reminder is the $185 dollars that my insurance didn't cover because I haven't met my $700 annual deductible.  Thankfully my company's medical expense reimbursement account picked up the tab.  I'm not complaining.  I have a piece of intangible freedom in the form of a second chance.

A second chance that I've decided I'm not going to gamble with.  Destiny may be a choice, an achievement, and determined by the manifestation of our thoughts, but that doesn't mean it can't stand to be revised.  No more pushing.  No more striving beyond the limits of what my sensitivity tells me I can handle from day to day, month to month, or year to year.  No more ignoring the warning signs and telling myself to "toughen up" or "get through it somehow."

Tomorrow I begin another re-write, as I've done a few times before.  I might have to rip out a few of the draft's pages, let the wind carry away a few others, and add a few unplanned scenes.  Danger and uncertainty exist whether we choose to face it or ignore it. 

One relinquishes control and the other leads you to the creation of what you wish to see.  And the only thing I wish to see is a life that I don't have to look back on and wonder where it went.  

THE END (for now)..........

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Truth Behind Confessions

This week I discovered a great story in the form of a randomly chosen Lifetime movie.  Completely chick like I realize, but sometimes I find it amazing how our intuition can reveal the answers to our inner struggles through artistic expressions.  On the surface, Confessions of a Go Go Girl doesn't seem like a film with a viable message.  The title can give the impression that it's just another producer's chance to make a quick name (and buck) by highlighting the economy's best self-selling money maker: sex, or at least the promise of it.

Confessions is a meaningful surprise however, much in the same way that Jerry Bruckheimer's Coyote Ugly was.  The heroines are remarkably similar in some ways-both artists with a dream who become someone they're not in order to pay the bills while they pursue it.  In the process of becoming someone they're not they discover their true selves and grow an innate skill that they need to help them accomplish their dreams.  Violet is from a blue collar background who uses her sense of self-sufficiency and ambitious drive to take a leap of faith, eventually winning the support of her father.  Jane is from a background of privilege, who suddenly finds herself without the support of her family once she decides to pursue a career that they feel is impractical.

Both of these characters soon find themselves in worlds beyond their previous comfort zones.  They begin to hide the new persona they're becoming from those individuals in their lives who would find it shocking and unimaginable.  But more importantly they begin to use those new personas as an excuse to hide the truth from themselves, as those alternate identities become crutches that prevent them from becoming who they really want to be.  Violet and Jane could be any one of us.  We all use something to hide from ourselves.  We take on a new identity that is the complete opposite of the script that we've followed for so long in order to free a piece of our soul that can't seem to speak the lines.

Sometimes we end up losing ourselves in that "pretend" persona.  We forget why we tried it on for size in the first place.  We're no longer just pretending.  We are that image because it gives us a sense of something that we somehow couldn't give our former self.  That's when we're forced to be honest.  We have to sit down, look ourselves in the mirror, and ask why we created that persona in the first place.

For me the truth behind that confession isn't that hard to discover.  It probably isn't for many of us, once we take the time to take a look at the reflection we've been ignoring for so long.  I chose not to believe in myself because I placed more value in the opinion of someone else who said I shouldn't.  I created my persona and then became it in order to have a surefire means of achieving "success" so that I wouldn't have to face the possibility of failure.

But the person I failed was my true self.  Belief in who you are doesn't come from what others think you should be or the kind of life they think you should be living.  You'll be chasing after the wind forever if you think that's where your answers are going to come from.  You'll continue to sacrifice your potential in exchange for placing more value on what you'll never grasp.  Success by anyone's definition but your own feels exactly like failure.  It's empty and meaningless-a downward spiral that turns you into a dishonest performer.

Becoming who you should be starts with one decision and only one decision.  The decision that says I believe in the inner reflection that someday others will get to see. 



Sunday, November 7, 2010

2 am and Dutch Apple Pie

Last night I couldn't sleep.  This isn't anything new, especially for someone whose mind likes to keep thinking even when it's time to turn out the lights.  One of my good friends from the company I worked for before "Chips 'R Us"-a breast cancer survivor-is back in town.  She decided to communicate via her niece on Facebook that she wanted to meet at one of the watering holes we used to frequent.  Well, I got the message too late of course, but said that I would love to meet for lunch or "something" before she leaves.  It was 2 am.  Unfortunately in the backwoods the bars close by 1. 

Part of being a sexual assault survivor means that you have a tendency to develop an unhealthy relationship with food at times.  Earlier in the day I had baked a dutch apple pie for the upcoming week's possible dessert consumption and had left it to cool on the stove top.  I knew better to touch it, especially in the middle of the night, but I was bored and feeling empty so I ate a piece.  Or was it two?  It was good, but it wasn't the type of satisfaction I was really looking for.

This friend of mine, she's a fighter.  Courageous.  Funny.  Obnoxious at times.  We used to call ourselves "The Outlaws," along with another lady we became friends with.  "B," "S," and I were there for each other-through the difficulties we faced at our jobs, the difficulties we faced once we punched out each day, and through the life changes we would soon face.  We had fun making each other laugh, staying up late at each others' houses knocking back a few drinks, watching obscure movies, and gossiping about the people in our lives.  We even came up with names for all the bosses at our job-"Sponge Bob," "Toby Keith," "Stuart Little," and my personal fave, "Peppermint Patty."  We were a triad of smart, sassy, playful trouble and we didn't care.  The one thing we did care about was each other-something that hasn't really evaporated between the numerous moves and separations.

It's been almost three weeks and the doctor's office hasn't called yet.  Either the results of my lab tests came back inconclusive/negative or they're retesting my vials just to make sure.  I'm feeling a lot better.  No more exhaustive fatigue, only a slight chest pain every now and then when I get upset, and the hair is starting to stay put.  As "N" said a week ago when I told her, "oh, that's just stress.  It's good to go (to the doctor), but you've been doing too much with work and school.  C'mon you're active."  I hope she's right.  I think she is.  I'm leaving a message with the office to make sure, but I've learned to have faith in the judgment of strong intuition over logical reason.

Still I can't help but wonder.  Especially at 2 am with my slices of temporary comfort.  2010 has been a mysterious year.  A year mostly marked by a lot of reunions and a return of things I once cherished.  Some of those returns have revealed new mysteries, confirmed old truths, reflected what I've forgotten, and served as arrows towards a synchronized direction. 

"B" and "S" have returned for some reason.  Signs of change, "spiritual aid," and "endings" have been popping up all over lately.  I miss the carefree aspect of our former closeness, but I know these ladies are strong.  They know how to maneuver themselves through adversity and come out more than "ok."  Change may be inevitable, but you don't have to let it destroy your potential to become something more than what you were.

Support can always be felt, even if it's just a set of vibes that somehow wakes you up in the middle of the night, craving a few slices of dutch apple pie.            

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dealing With the Dark Side of Empathy

Empathy opens the door for a variety of energy.  A lot of it could be classified as "negative."  When I say "negative," I mean in the sense that an empath often notices and even attracts the suffering of others.  They often get people they know and even complete strangers opening up to them about what they think is wrong in the world or the complaints they have about their current situation(s).  We want to help and offer support and compassion.  Happiness usually doesn't need that.  It's already achieved what it needs to. Its feet have long since jumped from the springboard of support it once gathered inspiration from.

There are times that I still get frustrated when I hear nothing but "problems" or let myself be affected by the sorrows of the universe.  A majority of the time I don't though.  I actually find myself wanting to hear what's really going on beneath the masks of pretend.  If anything, I can at least listen, nod in sympathy and feel that the other person has somehow been comforted by just being able to express themselves.  Part of the frustration sometimes is feeling like you can't do or say anything that's going to make everything all right.  I think it's important to realize that you can't control someone else's destiny.  The important thing is to just be there-silent or not so silent-the same way that the sun always finds a way to keep rising and setting each day. 

Sometimes you don't realize that the energy that you're picking up or receiving isn't from you.  You don't know how to separate yourself from it, and so you internalize it as if you were going through the same exact pain.  You can begin to wallow in the negative, thinking that you are somehow a "bad person," have a "doomed existence," or can never achieve a real state of being thankful for your life. 

A few things I've learned to do is talk myself through those feelings, take a few deep breaths (sometimes only in my imagination), and find a way to release or shield the energy.  At one of my accounts, I have an Assistant Manager who is on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills.  She's a single mom, with three kids who have some medical problems of their own.  To say that she's the happiest, emotionally steady person on this planet would be a lie.  She's a good person underneath all that, who's trying really hard to make her life work.  I can read her uneasiness, tension, and emotional instability each time I see her.  She talks to me a lot.  The energy from her words and her voice is pretty strong.  It's the kind of "negative" energy that can make you feel as though you've been thrown up against a wall.  It's the kind that makes you feel as though your strong sense of self has somehow vanished and any voice you can muster is completely inadequate.

Sometimes she appears to be in lighter spirits, but seeing as how I have a "knack" for bringing out the "real" in people, she's usually on a complaining soap box during most of our encounters.  That energy can make me feel uncomfortable.  A few times it's caused me to be in a bad mood afterwards.  A few times it's made me wonder if she liked me and made me feel as though I was doing something wrong.  Those feelings are still there, but they're not as inwardly strong as they used to be.  I realized that I was picking up on her "negative" energy before she started expressing what she felt.  That energy wasn't me.  It had nothing to do with me.  It was hers. 

When she talks, I listen.  My eyes and facial expressions probably get sympathetic and understanding.  The few words I do get in might be encouraging or supportive.  I might be the only one she feels like she can talk to when she needs to.  I might be one of many.  To me it doesn't matter.  In my mind I've put up a self-made shield that allows me to still feel that "negative" energy, but to associate it with its source, not its destination.  That energy is still internalized, but only while it's attached to her words.  Then it's gone because I choose to release it.  I know in my mind and in my heart that I can relate to what she's feeling-to her energy-but not allow myself to become it.  After all, I'm not playing her in a theatrical production or an on-screen version of her life.  And even if I was, I would only become that energy while "in character."

Empathy is far from a curse.  No one who has made a difference has had it easy.  If that were the case, we wouldn't need kindness, compassion, or understanding at all.  Support and community would be non-existent. 

Without empathy, we wouldn't feel.  We wouldn't discover what is real and change things into what they need to be.  We wouldn't be capable of becoming the unspoken whispers of our hearts.    


Friday, October 29, 2010

Turning Off the Dollar Signs

In preparation for a possible change, I've uploaded a version of my resume explaining why I'm currently living in one part of the country, but searching for a job in a different industry in another geographic location.  I haven't really done anything with it yet.  It's just hanging out there, either waiting to be deleted if I get a stop sign or used if I get a green light.  A potential green light that can't happen until my last recommendation gets sent by a very busy lady and GRE test round #2 gets taken to improve my math score.  Of course I realize this action is really fruitless since an MFA program could care less about this section and it's only for one school.  But when I think I want something, I get competitive and it's for the one with the pretty, romantic looking scenery.  Hey, I admit, I can get a little "Cher Horowitz" sometimes.

So anyway, sometimes I get these recruiters who e-mail or call me with their b.s. speals about how they think I'm the "perfect candidate" for their open position.  The ones from third-party job recruiting companies are the most annoying since the only way they get paid is if the company who's secured their services ends up hiring the candidate they found.  Yes, I realize I'm a newly minted MBA and have worked for five years with the number one sales organization in the USA.  I know, on paper I look like the "perfect candidate" for a lucrative outside sales position with a "leading" advertising organization in Ft. Collins, CO.

But the fact that you're contacting me for this type of position Mr. Job Recruiter tells me that you didn't bother to read anything on my resume profile.  You know the part that says I'm not really interested in a sales position, that I'm in the process of applying to writing programs in a different area of the country, that I'm actually seeking a career change and these are the current skills that I have that would be useful in that industry.  The problem I have with these people is that I feel like I have to at least oblige them a little.  You know, play along, check the opportunity out, see where it might go.  They are, after all, just doing their job while trying to make a name for themselves.  I can understand that.  Any type of sales job is competitive, demanding, and all about "look at me in my 15 minutes of fame."

I've had this e-mail sitting in one my accounts for a few days and a voicemail message on my cell phone for about 24 hours.  I've been wrestling with the thought of actually pursuing this opportunity.  I mean, what if my sketched out plans don't work out?  This would be slightly better money for the first year, probably six figures by the second or third year, it would get me out of my current situation faster, and it's a way to break into the advertising industry.  Problem is I had to turn my dollar sign blinders off for a moment (the ones that are still lingering from my twenty something self).  I had to really ask myself, without that lucrative salary, is this something you want to do?  What do you really want?

Our lives manifest from our thoughts, our choices, and then our actions.  Just because you go down one path that looks appealing doesn't mean that you stop wishing for what you originally wanted.  I know.  I made that mistake at 19, in some ways when I was 23, and again when I was 28.  Last night I decided I wasn't going to entertain the thought of possibly making it again.  Last night I decided I wasn't going to feel guilty or obligated.  I chose to say "no" so that I can continue to open up the possibility of saying "yes" to what I think I should be doing.

All day I felt free.  Happy.  Not the slightest bit of regret or second guessing.  Today I witnessed several of the Universe's "random coincidences" that confirmed I did what I was supposed to do.

The twenty-eight year old would've made a pros and cons list and then chosen what made the most logical, sound financial sense.  The thirty-four year old, on the other hand, just simply followed her heart. 


Monday, October 25, 2010

Choices, "Destiny," and Resurrecting My 23 Year Old Self

This week I've been thinking about choices.  The choices I made in my twenties.  The choices I continue to make.  The choices I often think of making.  During all this "thinking," I realized something.  Or should I say re-realized something.  There really isn't any such thing as "destiny," per se.  Despite all the synchronized set of numbers I've been seeing lately, I still don't believe that it's one hundred percent pre-determined.  That's why there's free will.      

I believe "destiny," as some would call it, is self-created.  You make choices in life to put yourself in certain places and situations.  If you end up not liking it or run into difficulties along the way, you choose to either leave, continue fighting until you find a workable solution, or find another way to accomplish the same objective. 

For too long, I've been sitting here pondering about where I would like to take my life and what I would rather be doing.  Somehow during the past five years, I've lost my sense of self-esteem and self-value.  I've lost what my twenty-three year old self knew how to do so well.  She had a way of saying "this is what I would like to do," and she found a way to do it-regardless of the potential consequences.

Despite all the challenges that she ran into, and the things she let her future decisions be influenced by, she still has no regrets about those leaps of faith she took.  If she hadn't she wouldn't have learned anything.  She certainly wouldn't have gotten to live out a life in "paradise"-if only for a short while.

So, sick or not, I'm going to find a way to resurrect her.  She's set a deadline for jumping off drudgery island-boat or no boat.  She'll find a way to make her vision become more than a sketched out painting, because she's certainly done it before.  Life isn't about waiting for the "right" moment, the "right" opportunity, or the "right" set of circumstances. 

It's about believing that you have the ability to give yourself exactly what you deserve-the momentary happiness of becoming whatever makes you feel free.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm Sorry Honey, You've Got Really Thick Walls

"I'm sorry honey, but you've got really thick walls," said one of the lab nurses yesterday.  She kept having to poke the needle further into my vein in order to get enough blood to flow out and fill up the vial.  The vial that will be sent off to be tested, along with the cup of my "afternoon pee" to find out why I'm so fatigued, losing my hair, and having chest pains.  This after the hour and a half's worth of questions and brief examination from the doctors about my history of cold sensitivity, easy bruising, early stray gray hairs at 24 that have mysteriously not progressed, recent numbness/tingling, chin hair, brain fog, irritability, and so on. 

In a week, hopefully we'll have an answer and a possible solution.  Because I don't want to be dying or continue to go on living feeling as though I'm about to.  I've done the research, so I know from the "questions" that this could be a number of things-HIV, polycystic ovary syndrome, hypothyroidism, excessive stress, diabetes, excessive androgens due to female hormonal imbalance, chronic fatigue syndrome, or perimenopause.  I don't really care what it is (well, except maybe the HIV thing-but even that's not an automatic death sentence these days), I just want to be able to "fix" it.

Yeah, I've got "thick walls," alright.  So thick that I keep fighting against something that I can't change, instead of changing what I should or what I can.  Stubbornness-perhaps I got it from my "former self," one of my parents, from enduring early lifetime suffering, or because it's a trait that I either need to conquer my series of life lessons or to overcome in order to realize my main purpose.  I've got "thick walls" when it comes to people too, including knowing my own self.  Ironic, because high sensitivity sees through all that and works to get rid of them.

I was going to write yesterday, but I was too fatigued from the blood draw and developed a headache that lasted into the morning.  I almost couldn't get up for work, but I made it.  6 am instead of 5:30, but I still made it.  Besides the crying, the worrying, the fear, the deep breaths, and the massive amounts of multivitamins, B12, and natural "anti-stress" remedies I'm pumping into my body, all I can do is wait.  All I can do is try to breathe through the intermittent chest pains, fight the fatigue, and listen to a few wiser voices than my own.

Like my mother's that says no more school for at least a year.  The voice that's been there since I was small.  The voice that's made some mistakes, but whose heart has always been in the right place.  The voice that made the same mistake and ended up in the hospital last year, suffering from a mini-stroke, because she kept trying to fight against a wall that she just needed to walk away from.  The voice that doesn't want to see the same thing (or worse) happen to her oldest daughter.

Like that calm voice that often comes out of nowhere, when I'm busy ruminating in silence.  No one can hear it but me, but it's always very loud and clear.  Today it came over me while I was listening to one of my Amy Grant Christmas cd's on the drive home.  I was crying and worried again. Christmas makes me think of happier times.  It makes me think of childhood, freedom, magic, and togetherness.  Amy's music somehow always lifts my spirits-even if only for a moment or two.

The voice said I was going to be ok-there's a solution and I'm not dying.  It said, what is this getting you to pay attention to?  What have you learned?  What do you have to change?

I think I know.  I think I've known for awhile now, but I keep failing to take complete action.  Until I do, the lesson will keep repeating.  The number four rules my life path, according to numerology.  I don't know if I fully buy into the spiritual practice, but I can see how I need to let go of the idea of stability. 

Thick walls may give you the illusion that you're safe and protected, but they certainly don't allow you to breathe in the life that exists beyond their confinement.  A confinement that can be torn down, washed away, or broken through at any given moment.  Even the strongest steel can be melted and withered away by a hot enough fire.  Thick walls don't protect anything, because nothing is truly static.

The one thing thick walls will do is prevent you from becoming a part of what's changing outside of their imaginary existence.  And that is certainly not a life that one could call a "worthwhile dance."      



Saturday, October 16, 2010


When I was eighteen, I burned my left foot while working the closing shift at a fast food restaurant called Good Times.  For those of you who haven't graced the wonderful landscape of Colorado, it's a burger joint that tries to differentiate itself from the McD's of the world with "better tasting," "fresher," "faster" food.  That night I was lifting the meat warmer full of hot water off the preparation table in order to dump it into the drain on the floor.  My upper body has never been the strongest.  No matter how much weight I may gain or toning exercises I may do at the gym, I'll always have "chicken arms."  But, I'd somehow done this little procedure before and didn't expect that night to be any different. 

I guess I was a little weaker than usual that night, or perhaps worn out from the combination of my college courses, my work study position at the library, and my 30-40 hour a week job.  As I was lifting the warmer off the table, it somehow slipped, spilling the scalding water onto the floor and my left foot.  I didn't scream, even though the pain was unbearable.  I think maybe I was just in too much shock to have any kind of aggressive reaction.  But then again, my reactions have always been strongly internalized. 

My boss didn't know what to do.  She didn't know how bad it was because I didn't really either.  I tried to put on burn ointment from the first aid kit in the bathroom, but wasn't too successful.  I just tried to fight back the tears, ignore the sense of being on fire, and finish my shift.  I don't remember if I was still walking on that foot, but I don't think I was.  I was fighting my way through an obligation.  I was being stubborn.  I was attempting to ignore something that I didn't want to fully acknowledge.

Luckily, I was still living at home that year and my mom heard me crying in the basement bathroom, trying to somehow fix my own wound.  At least one of us had some sense that late evening.  She took me to NCMC's ER-second degree burn with some scarring likely was the diagnosis.  My foot was bandaged, I couldn't walk on it, I was given crutches and a prescription for pain medication.  I also couldn't work, couldn't go to class, and had to endure painful follow-up procedures with my doctor for a few weeks.  Believe me, that pain medication didn't work too well.  Especially that first night-my foot literally felt as though it was stuck in a pit of fire and all I could do was cry.  It didn't help that we were still living in that house-the one with the haunted basement.  The spirit or spirits that inhabited it weren't "Casper" by any means. 

I still have that scar-a somewhat raised keloid across the front portion of my left ankle.  It's not as purple or red as it used to be.  It's kind of a light pink now-sometimes almost white.  My left leg and ankle are still not as strong as they were before the accident.  At least it seems that way.  Maybe my right leg learned to be stronger while I was on crutches for those two and half weeks, and it's never forgotten.  Kind of a battle wound I suppose.  A reminder of an event that got you to pay attention. 

No one really sees that scar because it's easily covered by a pair of socks and shoes.  No one except me and those close to me, when the socks and shoes come off.  Of course, most don't even stop to look or notice.  You'd have to be a sort of pedicurist to do so.  A lot of times I even forget that it's there.  Life goes on as if that night didn't really happen.  Recovery happened-in its own way, in its own time.

I used to worry about that scar-what people would think, how I was damaged, how it made me feel less of myself, what I could have done to prevent it.  But it's silly to think that recovery means being able to take a magic wand and somehow erase the bad and rewind the pain.  We all have our imperfections-some of them are visible and some of them remain hidden inside our own souls.  Not even nature is one hundred percent symmetrical, but that's what makes it beautiful. 

Years later, when my mom was still engaged to "J" and we used to make the drive over Berthoud Pass to join him in his "mountain town" for a weekend of hiking and cross country skiing, I didn't think about that scar either.  I didn't let the remaining slight weakness in my left leg and ankle stop me from trying something new and dangerous. 

Dangerous in the sense that you could get hurt if you tried, but also in the sense that you could get hurt if you didn't allow yourself to be free.       


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fighting Negativity

Yesterday the weather was in a perfectly overcast, rainy state to match my really crappy mood.  I know it's common for sensitive people to be affected more strongly by their environment, especially stormy weather.  I started to feel a little better on my drive back to Ft. Collins as the sun started to break through and the clouds started to dissipate.  My Joss Stone music helped a little bit too.  There's something about Tell Me 'Bout It that just makes you want to sing and dance no matter what.  I mean, you absolutely have to do the hand wave whenever you hear "let's have a show of hands who's addicted to their man."  It's "Chick Code," even if a part of you would rather scream at all the bad drivers on I-25.

I know that I'm exhausted too.  The MBA is almost completed and since this last class is a team project, I get some lulls in my workload from week to week that I wouldn't otherwise.  Sometimes you don't realize how hard you've been pushing yourself until you get the chance to rest a little.  Needless to say, when you come home on a Tuesday, lay down for a nap, end up sleeping twelve hours, and wake up feeling like you've been run over by a truck, you know something's wrong.

Last night wasn't fun.  Crying isn't fun.  Doubting and berating yourself isn't productive.  Of course, this all could just be early perimenopause.  I have, I'm sure, prematurely aged my body since I was seventeen.  I've resolved to make a doctor's appointment even though I hate them.  Besides, I need to rule out anything serious and I can't go about my day being so irritable for no reason.

So, how do you fight through this?  Negativity.  Depression.  Irritability.  Exhaustion.  You can focus on something that makes you feel better-some source of inspiration.  You can reach out to friends or family and talk about it.  You can remove yourself from the world for awhile and hash it out privately until the feelings lessen.  You can acknowledge what's happening and try to self-medicate by talking yourself out of it.  There really isn't a single answer, except for the fact that you have to resolve to find some way to take care of yourself.

"M" told me last week that I was "one tough little girl," "I don't know how you've made it this long with school and work," and "you need to take a couple months off."  I think he's right.  Being highly sensitive means your energy gets depleted faster than others, especially by strenuous activity such as completing a Masters degree and working 50-60 hours per week for the past two and a half years.

I'm not sure I want to put myself through another round of this.  I'm not sure it is right.  I've set myself up for a seventy-five percent probability of having to make a major change.  A change I don't have to make if I don't want to.  Eventually I would like to be eighty-percent freelancer/self-employed, twenty percent employed by someone else at no more than 30 hours per week.  I'm tired, worn out, and I'm not even 35 yet.  Highly Sensitive Person or not, I don't recommend working yourself to death.     

I know I could jump now, with no promise of outside income for a year, and be ok.  Perhaps I should listen to "M."  Perhaps I really should reevaluate the ball I just pitched out to that sketched horizon.  Perhaps there is another way.  Today's tag of the day did say "Jumpn," after all.

And at the core of fighting negativity is paying attention to the warning signs that both your body and your inner essence are trying to tell you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Resolving to Take Care of YOU First

My co-workers were in a sort of "behind the scenes" uproar this week.  There's a mandatory annual benefits meeting next Tuesday and the rumor is that we're not only going to see an increase in our health insurance premiums, but that we're going to lose our yearly stock options as well.  They're worried that the next thing to go is the pension plan, which is really upsetting for those who have begrudgedly endured year after year of service just so they could eventually "cash in."

I've heard a few mumblings of "now I'm going to have to do the same amount of work or even more for less," and "they better not take away that plan-that's the only reason why I've been here 15 years and I want it.  What's 15 more?"  I say welcome to corporate reality.  It's like that almost everywhere.  Companies are having to do more with less and stretch themselves as far as they can to make a somewhat acceptable bottom line.  Not to mention, we're still lucky.  Those stock options aren't worth much anyway with the market's current volatility and what company still gives their front-line employees that benefit?  It's certainly been my first time getting them.

And really, our out of pocket health insurance premiums are currently some of the lowest out there-about $15 bucks a week if you're single with no dependents, including medical, dental, and vision.  While I was lucky at one time to have an employer who covered 100% of those costs, I'm certainly used to paying a lot more on a lower salary.  A pension plan still being there when Generation X and Y reaches retirement age?  C'mon guys, how realistic is that?  Don't let the illusion of that safety cushion be the reason you stick with a job (and a company) that you don't enjoy anymore.  I know when I came on board five years ago, I never considered the possibility that it would still be there when I reached 65 or 67.  That is, if I was even still with the company.  Most of us switch jobs or even careers every two to five years anyhow.

Personally, I don't count on someone else or some outside "entity" to take care of me, financially or otherwise.  That's why I have a separate IRA from the company's 401(k), an emergency savings account, and a few other personal investment accounts.  Why?  Because when it comes down to it, you're the only one you can be sure you can count on.  This doesn't mean interdependence doesn't matter and isn't valid.  However, before you go rushing out to meet everyone else's needs or lean back in your lazy recliner because someone else is dangling the promise of "I'll take care of that for you," you should stop and consider if your needs are really taken care of.

My father used to always say that material things in life didn't matter because you weren't taking any of it with you.  He was right, I think.  Learning simplicity and taking on the perspective that you have "more than enough" will release you from the worries that accompany materialism.  A little idealistic, sure, but not impossible to do.  My mother on the other hand, still has her "I like the finer things in life" perspective most of the time.  As you can probably guess, I fall somewhere in-between.  There are certain things that I go a little "la de dah" on, but there are a lot of things that I'm economical with.

Whether it's financial, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise, what's most important is that you ask yourself what you want and what you need.  Then you find a way to give it to yourself.  No one is going to give you a handout, nor do you deserve one either.  After all, the only way we're able to give back to others is if we create our own abundance-an abundance that is somehow more than what we need to depend on. 


Monday, October 4, 2010

Tolerance, Understanding, and Inclusion

"In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."-Max DePree

I grew up in a conservative home.  My adoptive father was a part of the World War I generation.  My mother's family was originally from California, but they were entrepreneurs.  Well, at least my grandfather was.  And we all know that business people-especially self-made ones-tend to lean a little towards the right.  I was mostly raised in the politically conservative State of Colorado and brought up under religiously conservative doctrine.  Somehow my mother turned into a self-proclaimed Democrat following the divorce, after years of backing up whatever my father said.  Go figure.  Maybe if you're born in California you never really lose your liberal streak.  There's got to be some reason why my grandparents, along with my uncle, returned there.  Some underlying reason besides the warmer weather, palm trees, the ocean, and the fact that an M.D. can probably charge more for his services in San Francisco than Chicago.  Perhaps I should ask.

Anyway, I've always considered myself to fall somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes I agree with the "left," other times I agree with the "right."  I'm a Libra-we can't really make up our minds so we choose the middle fence.  We're kind of like the Switzerland of life.  We're certainly not the ones you ask when you need a clear, concise, and quick decision made. 

But, like most people, I can get pretty adamant about a few topics.  One of them is intolerance of differences.  Maybe it's my sensitivity, but I just can't fathom why someone would think that it is ok to bully someone else because they have a different belief system or lifestyle.  Well, being an empath, I can understand it in a sort of vicarious sense.  You do it out of fear, ignorance, or because you're unable to wrap your mind around the fact that the world really isn't black and white.  You haven't considered the possibility that perception isn't in fact reality.

There have been many "minority" groups throughout history that have fought to have their voices heard, their perspectives validated, and their rights as fellow human beings recognized and accepted.  None of those "groups" are one hundred percent there yet.  Violence against women still exits, we hardly have "equal opportunity" and "equitable pay" when it comes to pursuing a career, misperceptions about what the role of women in society should be still exists, and we're still made to feel guilty and inadequate when we make certain choices.  Racism, whether we'd like to admit it or not, still exists.  This includes reverse discrimination as well.  Believe me, all one has to do is live below the "Bible Belt" for awhile to witness and experience it firsthand.  There are many other intolerances and misperceptions that I could elaborate on.  Too many, I think.

As evolved as our American society thinks it has become, we still have a long way to go.  I think that it's sad that in 2010 (almost 2011), we still have an unwillingness to not judge others.  Some of us still have some sort of inner drive to punish those who don't fit into the lines of the "majority's" molding.  I don't get it.  It angers me.  Everyone has a right to their own beliefs, their own choices, their own self-identity, their own path.  They have a right to be who they are and they shouldn't be afraid to do so.

There is a thin line between expressing your opinion about someone else's existence and attempting to impose your own set of beliefs onto them-by force or exclusion.  In my opinion, that act of imposition is what should not be tolerated.  No one has the right to tell someone else how to think, how to feel, and what and whom they should be.

I don't know what the answer is or if there even is one.  Sometimes even when you attempt to educate someone about differences and the fact that they're as natural or innate as the color of one's hair and eyes, they still don't get it.  They continue to believe what they always have.  They continue to uphold their perception as reality because to do otherwise would mean that they themselves might have to question who they really are.    

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unexpected Connections

One of the perks of a sales and service career is that you get to interact with a lot of different people.  Since I've been in a few different sales territories throughout my almost five year stint, I have to say that some offer a little more variety, spice, and colorful characters than others.  Yes, I've got one of those and I love it.  As with any experience though, there are certain people that we naturally bond with more than others.  So when it's time to let go because they're moving on, it can feel as though a hole is opening up somewhere inside of your spirit.

"S" and I have only known each other for a few months.  I remember the first day she started working at the Conoco station.  It's my second to last account on Mondays and Thursdays, so by the time I get there I'm exhausted, a little dizzy, and muttering my favorite on the job saying of "it's time for a drink" for everyone to hear.  Luckily, this account is one of many that lets me pick and choose "free" food and drinks if I so wish.  Sometimes you've got to forget about the girly figure and go ahead and indulge in those mini-pizzas and heavily caffeinated beverages.

I knew I liked "S" from the moment I laid eyes on her.  For starters, she was like a real-life version of Rory Gilmore's best friend.  You know, the one with the glasses, pigtails, and who liked to play drums and rebel against her strict, traditional mother.  Plus, she had on two different bright colored socks and when an awful rendition of Mellow Yellow came over the loudspeakers, she said "ok, I think I'm about to drown out his mellow yellow."  For the past two months "S" and I have laughed, joked, and had a few heart to hearts.  She's certainly brought some fun and life into what could be an otherwise dreadful experience.  I will miss her, but one can't work at gas station wages forever.  Especially when there's kids at home.  Besides, we'll still run into each other here and there at a few of my other stores.  I'm happy that she got what she wanted.

When I worked at Disney World under the College Program, one of my managers, whose name also began with an "S," quickly became one of those influences that you never forget.  She wasn't the direct supervisor I was assigned to, but she was one of five in "Merchandise Area 28," otherwise known as The Muppet Courtyard.  She was one of those managers that jumped in and did whatever they could to help.  She was also one of those managers that you knew truly cared about you, because she asked whenever she got the chance.  One night we were supposed to all have a nice dinner as a work group at the restaurant next door known as "Mama's."  As we were closing down one of the stores, "Stage One," she asked me if I was going.  I said "yes."  She said "good," as she passed by.  I didn't make it because I made the mistake of going back to the student apartments to change and the shuttle service couldn't make it back to MGM in time.  The next day she asked "where were you last night?"  She had been genuinely concerned, and it showed.

I had the opportunity to help her once.  It had been a busy day in the park, the stores in the area were a mess and she needed extra help.  She asked one of the other "CP" girls who was directly assigned to her to stay later.  The girl said no because she had plans to go out that evening to Pleasure Island.  I could see that "S" was upset, frustrated, and a little overwhelmed.  I told her I had finished what she had asked me to do and if there was anything else she needed.  She paused, and then asked "how about staying a little later?"  I didn't hesitate.  I replied firmly, "of course.  What do you need?"  Sighing in a mixture of relief and gratitude, the only words she said were "keep doing what you're doing."  She didn't know it, but for some reason, I would've done anything to help her.  She was just that kind of beautiful person on the inside that made you stop in your tracks and say "I'd like to get to know this soul." 

Before I left to go back home, I gave her a card expressing my appreciation for what she did for all of us on a daily basis, along with a small gift representing her alma mater of Florida State.  I still remember the smile of tears that welled up in her eyes, her voice saying "thank you," and "come here," and the hug that we gave each other.  She even offered to help me look for apartments in Lakeland when she found out I was going to move there.  I still have her number, but I haven't called.  I guess a part of me feels like it's been too long since we last talked.   

Although the passage of time can be a funny thing.  The other night I logged into Facebook and accepted a friend request from someone I went to high school with.  I recalled the name and the face.  It was actually someone I had thought about a long time ago, but just in one of those passing thoughts.  You know, the brief ones of "I wonder whatever happened to so and so."  The strange thing is, I think she remembers me a lot more strongly than I remember her.  She somehow found me, even though my current profile picture is of the sunset I watched go down along the shores of Maui over a year ago.  Most of my info is locked, so she must've had my name burned in her memory somewhere.  She said she was so excited to have found me.  I think she was one of the girls who got pregnant our senior year and ended up keeping the baby.  I also think she was one of the students that participated in a weekly peer support discussion gathering that we simply called "Group."  It was facilitated by a professional counselor, whom I recall was a great source of strength to all of us. 

I told "H" she has a beautiful family, and it's true.  Her daughter is all grown up now.  She has a wonderful life from what I can see.  I don't remember our high school conversations or what I might've said or done to affect her, but I'm humbled that I might have.  Maybe I was one of the few who listened or wasn't judgmental or offered some piece of insight she found helpful.  I don't know yet, but I'm sure I'll rediscover it eventually.  It doesn't really matter, of course.  I'm just grateful that I was able to help in some way. 

The Universe is funny in the way that it can bring us back to old connections that we might need, exactly when we might need them.  She told me she loved the pictures I took in May and that I would have to let her know the next time I'm in the area.  I told her I may be there soon, on a more permanent basis this time.  She said that would be wonderful and she's hoping that I get good news.

I'm just smiling at the fact that I may get to be friends again with someone that I shouldn't have lost touch with in the first place.  One can never really put a price on the value of rediscovered friendship or the gift of mutual support.          


Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Yourself

For some reason, the phrase "finding yourself" has been popping in and out of my brain for the past two or three days.  It kind of makes me think of two things: the character of Joey Potter from Dawson's Creek and the song by Daughtry called Home.  I heard that song for the first time as I was driving over the Howard Franklin bridge to go meet the ex, "D," off the Dale Mabry exit near downtown Tampa.  It was during one of the weeks that I had returned to Florida, and he didn't feel like driving all the way back to the beach condo from one of his stores in Lake Wales.  Can't say I blame him.  That's kind of a long drive-especially after working all day and especially in Florida's evening traffic nightmare. 

I remember thinking, what a great song.  It describes exactly how I feel right now.  I'm home-for now.  I have to find a way to make it back for good, because this is where I found myself.  This is where I'm happy.  This is where I'm free.  Love has that aphrodisiac effect at times.

Now, we won't divulge my love affair with Dawson's Creek.  Episodes are available for review on YouTube for those of you too young or too old to be acquainted with the show.  And really, it's just another example of how we gravitate towards characters (and actors' interpretations of them) that are in some way like our own selves.

What I've realized recently is that home isn't a particular geographic location.  Finding yourself isn't something that ever gets completed.  Well, unless you've achieved sainthood, buddhahood, grown a pair of angel's wings, ascended to the Source, or whatever form you choose to believe in.  But, while we're here on this planet-walking with our feet on the ground-we're never done.  How could we be?  It's somewhat ludricrous to think that what we think of ourselves is going to end with the next pit stop.

I fell in love in my early 20's for the first time really.  I was ready to give up anything and everything just to be with someone who couldn't decide what they really wanted.  Burned divorcees can be like that.  They've been hurt and they're afraid of being happy with someone else.  I worked for a company that I loved for awhile.  I had a wonderful initial four month experience that I wished could go on forever.  I soon realized that you can't duplicate what was in its exact form-even if it's in the same environment with the same people.

The reason is simple-we're the one that changes.  If not outwardly, we certainly do on the inside.  Each experience, each person we encounter changes us somehow.  We don't always know why or even realize it until it's over.  I don't think this change always happens deliberately either.  All I can say is that some of the best and richest experiences that I've come out of have all started with one thing-an inexplicable pull or gut feeling.

When you allow yourself to follow those, there are no guarantees.  There are no plans, no blueprints, and often no vision.  You just walk towards that pull and find yourself in the midst of an unfolding experience.  Somewhere within that experience you begin to realize that you're becoming something you didn't think you were.  You discover something larger than your own comprehension of who you are and who you should be.  You begin to realize what you really want, what makes you tick for the moment, and maybe a piece or two of your current journey's main purpose.  Finding out who you are takes nothing more than the willingness to listen to your own silent voice.  The dance of life begins within.

You just have to realize that nothing, not even our own soul, remains frozen.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Today's Rants and Ravings

I have a rebellious streak.  I'm kind of ornery.  I sometimes like to do and say things that are a little off-the-wall just to see what kind of reactions I'll get.  These "flaws," if you want to view them as such, I will openly admit to.  But, as long as I'm not doing anything grossly offensive or hurting someone else, then I think I should be allowed to fully express myself.  Personally, I don't view the aforementioned "character traits" as flaws at all.  I think they're part of being a creative person and they can bring a little fun and mischief into an otherwise dull atmosphere.  I realize that this is up for debate, of course.  Especially if you're one of those uptight lil' vanilla's occupying the halls of my company's distribution center.

I, being a lover of literature, words, language and poetry, among other creations, don't see anything wrong with quoting a few phrased lines from a lovely writer.  Now, I know I have most of my co-workers shaking their heads trying to figure out what "SLM" means on all the notes that I write.  Since I come up with nicknames for everyone, I figured I might as well give myself one too.  No, "M," it doesn't stand for "Sexy Lil' Mama," but I might have to consider trading out the "Sassy" with your suggestion.  I mean, after all, the rumor is that I'm really a lesbian, which I find to be hysterical.  Maybe I should start putting photos of my fake girlfriend on the walls of the bulletin boards in the break room downstairs. 

Is it wrong to try to loosen up a stale, dull, "let's not crack a smile," "do nothing but complain," and "ignore each other" environment?  Are you not the same company who preaches tolerance, diversity and inclusion, and "we have to make sure everyone feels like they can be themselves?"  Hmm, I guess diversity and inclusion doesn't include right-brained, artsy, creative, expressive, highly sensitive, introverted, and loose, rainbowed folks.

We couldn't possibly have someone poke a little fun at what we know to be true now could we?  We couldn't possibly let someone use a quote to express their need for freedom, even if it isn't out of line.  Oh, but maybe the mere mention of the word "wild" is a little too much for someone who has probably never even considered that there are some of us who don't want to be told how to think or feel.  Let's silence the voices and expressions of some of our employees who aren't staying within the lines of our cookie cutter molding. 

Because lord knows that we, stuck up in our little world of vanilla, colorless walls, don't know the first thing about having a free and cherished existence.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Almost Time

Currently I'm in the middle of trying to complete my MBA thesis class, realizing that in a short four and a half weeks I'll be putting an end to a major source of stress in my life.  Anyone who has gone through the rigors of a Master's program knows what I'm talking about.  The crazy thing is that I've been chugging along one class at a time, instead of the "normal" two courses at a time, and I still feel as though I'm carrying the workload of a full-time undergraduate student.  In roughly four and a half weeks, I will have a portion of my life back.  There will be more time for family, for friends, for that recently acquired freelance writing gig, for enjoying life.  The second crazy thing is that I'm thinking of putting myself through this again.  Is there some sort of super competitive, always have to be striving, overly ambitious streak within my DNA that compels me to do this?  Maybe I really can't ever be truly satisfied with the state of "what is."

I'm not really questioning the actions that I'm about to attempt.  The replacement Dell ink cartridges arrived yesterday.  I'm now ready to print out those writing samples and essays, request transcripts, hit up some of my MBA profs for letters of recommendation, and hit the "send application" button on those three online applications.  A good high school friend, whom I now realize is a fellow HSP, told me several weeks ago that I wouldn't feel fulfilled until I tried to pursue my dream.  She told me that I have to go down this path in order to know.  I know she's right.  She's been right about a lot of things, even when they didn't always make sense or scream out what was obviously beneath the surface. 

I'm not scared of potential change.  I'm scared of not changing enough.  This certainly isn't the only way to try to become a writer.  But it's a familiar one-the arena of academic rigor.  The arena of fighting to stay afloat by working too hard.  The arena of attempting to burn the candle at both ends, as my dad used to say.  He told me at nineteen that you can't do that forever.  I now sometimes wish I had the sense to listen to those words.  In a few weeks, I'll be 34, but I'm sure my "real" age is more along the lines of 54. 

So, here goes nothing.  Sometime over the weekend, I'll be attempting to go down this somewhat familiar path.  If it's the one I'm supposed to start walking on, I'll find out.  If not, I'll find that out too.  Then it's on to "Plan B," and then perhaps "Plan C."  But one thing I'm not going to do is worry about it.

Because in a short four and a half weeks, I'll have the chance (however short-lived) to spend my free time making up for all those moments that I didn't spend living.               

Friday, September 17, 2010

That Means You're Sensitive

"That means you're sensitive" is really a simple string of words.  A string of words that could be interpreted as either positive or negative.  "Sensitive"-a really simple word that can mean so many things.

A lot of us are aware of the negative connotations and the stigma associated with the label.  I mean, do we really have to go there and explore the societal image of ourselves?  I hope not.  At least, I hope that most sensitives come to a place of understanding about themselves where they feel empowered by the trait, rather than a sense of shame or inadequacy. 

While the word sensitive is simple, being one is certainly not.  Everything means something, everything is felt deeply, and a lot of boundaries and shields that others have don't seem to exist in our DNA.  But, would you give it up?  If you could somehow change things, would you?  Would you want to live life as a non-sensitive?

That would mean that you would have to give up a few things.  A few things that I think are quintessential to bringing a sense of light and balance into the universe.  One of the most important is that we sense what's beneath the surface, even if we don't always acknowledge it.  Intuition can be tricky after all.  It speaks in metaphors that we have to interpret and piece together.  Believe me, the last few impressions I received weren't all that clear until they were elaborated on by their sender.  Such a disappointment too, because I really was on a dead hit interpretation roll there for awhile.  Maybe my psychic shield was a little too active that week or something.  Trying to work 50 hours and complete a thesis class can make you concentrate too much on visible reality.  My apologies to the sender.   

Regardless of the strength of our individual intuitive abilities, without sensitivity, who would empathize with complete strangers?  Who would attempt to generate peace and understanding where there seems to only be conflict, anger, and destruction?  Who would create magic?  Who would foster imagination?  Who would notice synchronicity and act on it?  Who would recognize a soul mate within the eyes and help guide them towards their current life's purpose?  Who would help others overcome their inner obstacles without a second thought?  Who would attempt to change the world into something more than it ever thought it could be?

Being sensitive is a responsibility because it is an innate talent, not a weakness.  We are called to do what others won't and what others don't see as the more important things in life.  You could sum it up in another simple string of words-making a difference. 

We don't always get a medal for it or a tangible sign of validation.  But that's not why we do it.  We strive to make a difference because being sensitive means that you simply see no other choice.       


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Meaningful Encounter With a Stranger

Today I had a stranger approach me as I was finishing up in one of my accounts.  Well, to tell you the truth this happens all the time, but today's experience was a little different.  It wasn't one of my male stalkers offering their "business" card and asking me to call them for a "house inspection," or a Hell's Angel offering to whisk me away on a "romantic" adventure, or some misguided male trying to "help" me with my job so he could turn around and tell me that "damn, you're beautiful."  No, it was a woman who had an obviously strong urge to ask a few questions.  It surprised me at first that she felt so compelled to stop and ask a complete stranger about the company they work for.  At first I thought that maybe she wanted to know more about the organization and the job because she (or someone she knew) might be interested in coming on board.  Within a few sentences, I realized that she was looking for peace of mind and some sense of validation.

She told me that her husband had briefly worked for the company and had felt mistreated, unprepared to perform the required duties of the job, and disillusioned with the promise of the alluring world he thought he was stepping into.  She told me about how her husband's voice about valid concerns wasn't listened to, how he worked from 4 am to 9 pm sometimes to get the job done, how he lost a bunch of weight over the stress, and how he was expected to do things that he had never been taught.  She also told me how he had eventually just walked out and told them "they could have their job."  This woman wanted to know if the entire company was that way or if it was just all in her husband's head.  Luckily, this woman approached someone who would be completely honest with her-no spin.  Funny how the universe randomly brings the right people together sometimes, isn't it?

So, I told her a little bit of my story and of my co-workers' stories.  Yes, this company treats you like a number, voicing your concerns and opinions is typically pointless because it goes in one ear and out the other, the expectations are borderline impossible to impossible at times, they always find something wrong no matter what you do or don't do, how you sometimes have to go to extreme measures to prove yourself (like taking 181 pictures of your market and sending them to HR), and how the way they treat employees is a company culture issue (i.e. don't take it personally).  I told her that I've had a few other job offers.  One they talked me out of taking and being the too forgiving/understanding HSP that I am, I tried to give the organization a second chance.  The other was with a company that wasn't financially stable at the time, so I passed.  I also told her that I'm working on leaving soon-for real this time.

She expressed her appreciation and I could see that there was some relief in her eyes and her spirit.  She now knew that it wasn't anything that her husband did or didn't do.  It wasn't his fault.  He made the right decision by walking off the job.  I told her that happens a lot and that he shouldn't feel guilty.  At least he had the courage to do what those of us who are still working there don't.  Before she drove off, she said "I feel so sorry for you guys.  Good luck sweetheart."

I smiled, thinking this must be another one of those random coincidences.  Both for me and for her.  It reminded me that it's part of the reason why I'm here-to help shed light on some of my company's shadows.  At least I was able to help someone today and make a difference in the way they think about themselves.  It's also another validation of what I've felt about my company for years (not that I need anymore at this point) and that I need to truly follow through this time with my intentions to leave.  I'm not meant to stay here forever, like I initially thought I was.  And maybe, just maybe, I need to simply also just let go.      

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Brooke's Reflection

I don't have too much to say today.  Partly because I have that laundry list of other things to do from my life and partly because today is a day of reflection and remembrance.  It's a tradition I keep because nine years ago my inner life was so affected by that tragedy we've all come to know as simply "9/11."  My tradition of reflection and remembrance is simple.  I review the horrific recorded news coverage, so I won't forget.  Sometimes I watch the memorial service play out on television at Ground Zero.  But most of all I revisit that list of lives who passed on that day. 

That list shows us that those numbers are actually faces-with names, dreams, goals, lives, loved ones, and an inner purpose.  Some pull me in more than others-perhaps due to similar inner journeys, a past life connection, or a reflection that needs to be seen.  One in particular I've never forgotten-B.A.J.  Young at the time, only one year between us.  Ambitious, hard-working, intelligent, full of promise.  Beautiful, but not in the glamorous sense.  I speculate that she had stepped into a world that she thought she wanted at the time, but soon discovered there was something more important in life that was calling her.  She was in the process of making changes and moving herself towards that vision.  In this lifetime, we didn't know each other.  Yet strangely, I feel as though we do-somewhere, someplace, at some point in time. 

I like to think that's because we actually do.  Because nine years later, I don't have to look very far to see her reflection.  Nor do I have to dig very deep to realize the importance and meaning of the words that were the foundation of her efforts towards change.  Very simple, very profound, and very enlightened for someone who was only twenty-three years old.

"There are more important things in life than making money." 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Power of Unseen Dreams

Almost five years ago, I fought really hard to obtain my current position.  Yeah, I know.....funny, right?  Let me fill you in on my somewhat misguided twenty-eight year old self.  That is, if I can remember.  It really boils down to a few things: I was tired of having to worry about money and I wanted more, I was tired of having to work at least two jobs since I was seventeen to foot the bills, and I thought I wanted to be a business executive.  Now, some of these reasons are valid and others are just hysterically laughable. 

So I did what I usually do best when I think I really want something-become the ultimate schmoozing bull-shitter, annoyingly persistent in your face nuisance.  The thing is I should've stopped after the first shadowing experience.  My intuition was screaming "oh no, I don't think so honey," but I let my vision be blinded by the alluring promises of those things that I thought were more important.  In my heart and gut I knew this wasn't the right move or place for me.  Still, I lied.  I lied on the shadowing feedback form, I lied my way through three interviews, a second shadowing, and most importantly, I lied to myself.  Being rebellious and wanting to challenge yourself can sometimes mean that you disregard self-respect in exchange for going along with what you think others will approve of.  And by "others" I include societal standards and self-imposed standards based on a need for validation, in addition to the opinions of actual known peers or superiors.

I had a vision, or so I thought, of becoming a business leader (i.e. obtaining control and power) in a powerful company.  I had forgotten about writing and the artsy world.  I hadn't revisited it since 2003 and that was just a brief flirtation.  I got really frustrated when my ambitions didn't quite match up with my environment.  Being treated like you're incompetent, constantly criticized for your best efforts and ignored can do that to you.  Taking verbal abuse from some co-workers wasn't fun either and there were times where I would literally break down and cry during my workday (in secret of course).  But then I started to think that maybe my initial vision isn't what I'm here for.  Just maybe there's something else going on here.

Visions are like that.  They change because we change.  Some are recurring, sure.  But are they always identical?  I don't think so.  Sometimes when we step into one, those visions end up changing us.  Then it's time to wake up until the next one captivates our essence.  You can either give up and move on or you can keep fighting (especially if you're stubborn).  Or, my personal favorite-you can learn to appreciate and be thankful for the one that you're currently in.  Visions don't last forever.  They're not meant to.  Savor the good while you can.  Believe it or not, someday you'll actually miss it. 

Some of those visions are meant to be forgotten.  Some are meant to be remembered as a gift or a beautiful, rich experience.  Some help us develop ourselves or someone else into whom they should be.  Others lead us into another set of scenes that we didn't plan, but we end up loving more.  Some come back in a new form, reminding us that we're in the wrong picture; on the wrong screen; starring in a misguided montage.

But, no matter what they are or whether or not they match that blueprint we've so carefully drawn out in our minds, there's always a message there.  Seen or unseen, they need us as much as we need them.