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.       

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Sense of Inner Peace

For the past few days my mind has been drifting to visions of the trees that were in the backyard of one of the houses my family used to live in.  When I was a teen, I used to find a sense of inner peace and comfort when I watched their leaves rustle with the wind.  Especially when it got a little stormy in the Colorado summer nights.  I used to open up the window from my room in the basement and let the cool wind blow in with its masqueraded feeling of sleeping outdoors.  I suppose in a way I felt connected with this portion of Nature and found some sort of meaning in its imaginary communication.

This morning I took an hour and a half jog, starting thirty minutes before the sunrise, and ending just shortly after the eastern sky became fully lit.  Silence around me, except for the iPod's "Body Blast" and "Get Busy" mixes motivating me to keep going, scenes of white picket fenced Cape Cod like compounds, horses, fields, and a portion of the western outskirts of the city passing before my eyes.  Mountain range in the distance, city lights still illuminated, a few cars passing here and there.  I'm sure they were thinking there goes another one of those runner fools, up at 5:30 am on a Saturday.  But this morning that run in the cool fall air was my source of inner peace.

Life can be so chaotic, with its obligations and demands.  We're always rushing to get something done, to get somewhere, to make a good enough impression.  We're also always looking for something we don't think we have, but want.  What will it be today?  Where can we take ourselves or how many things can we accumulate in order to show the world that we made our mark?  Some of us are never really satisfied and I include my restless soul in that bunch.  In seven weeks I'll have completed a master's degree and I'm not really sure I learned anything that I didn't already know before-at least from the textbooks.

A sense of inner peace and satisfaction can't be reached by focusing on what may lay ahead, what we've already left behind, or our imaginary worlds containing "the next best thing."  No, I think it comes from a silent voice that realizes that your intangible self and its breaths are all that you really have in life.  All that really matters is that you're allowing yourself to be you, no matter who that you might be.  Nature is content and calm with itself because it simply exists, each piece living out the role it was meant to play.  What we want from ourselves and from others has always been there inside our own souls.  The only thing we've forgotten how to do is express it from within rather than from fleeting external manifestations.    

As one of my favorite songs so beautifully states:  "send me no more angels on a restless wind.  All I ever wanted were the simple things.  If a love like ours means anything, show me a sign honey, dip your wings."