Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Power Within

Whether they're strictly platonic or something a little more, relationships are certainly a part of life's challenges. At times the good can be beyond wonderful. It can give you a feeling of freedom and possibility. You may feel complete for the first time, thinking you've finally found someone else who is not only your best friend, but who truly understands and appreciates you. Even in your far from airbrushed moments.

What a letdown it can be when we find out that we don't really know someone as well as we thought we did. After the tears, the inner debating, the regrets, and the game of pretending that everything's fine, we're left with a sense of betrayal. Promises broken. Dreams stolen. Hearts steeled just a little bit tighter.

At the end of a fun night of dinner, drinks, and a movie at an old Hollywood style theater came the story. I'm easy to talk to she says, so it's almost a given that there's going to be a "girl talk" confession at the end. Complete with the type of held in tears that look like they're about to spill across the eyelids at any moment. The words spoken from behind another pair of eyes that stab through your own heart. The words of a story that find you fighting back your own set of tears because you want to help your friend erase this pain. The words of another story that you've played out on your own stage. This tale is just a re-write exchanging the characters involved.

I want to tell her that eventually you forgive him. You let it go just like it was one of yesterday's forgotten embarrassments. Your heart learns to stop aching and contemplating the why's and what-if's. You realize that he's just a person with his own issues to get past. Issues that you had nothing to do with. Issues that it wasn't your job to repair.

Someday you learn to smile back at the good times. You remember it for what it was and not what you wanted it to be. You take the lesson and move forward with a new discovery about a piece of yourself you didn't know. You learn to accept that no one can ever live up to all their possibilities. Promises change. Dreams get woken up from. Locked away hearts find the hidden key.

In the meantime, you always have the power to change. A story doesn't get completed without thumbing through the pages already transposed. New characters are created because an existing one has a need for them to enter the canvas. The blank pages are ours. We're the ones that have to create the sunrise. We just need to remember to pick up the pen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

All I Have to Be

With the start of something new comes a set of expectations. Those expectations come from a mixed bag that contains our own ideas, the opinions of others, what we think we're lacking, and what we think we've failed at or need to improve in order to feel complete as a person. Sensitives, I think, are especially vulnerable to this notion. Once we've concocted a vision for ourselves we tend to not only idolize it, but berate ourselves on a minute by minute basis if we're somehow not there yet.

I may have touched on this subject before, but for fun's sake I'm going to explore it a little again. When I started writing this blog I didn't have any expectations for myself at all. It was actually just a small idea in the back of my head that sat there for almost a year before I took action. It was an idea that was inspired by the efforts of one of my more social media savvy co-workers. I thought what the heck. I used to write. I've been meaning to start writing again since '07. That's why I finally broke down and bought that Dell desktop isn't it? Let's put it to use! Thank you "R." Not only for your sudden whim of inspiration, but for always being there to listen to my grovels about "you know where" without judgment and for your on the job avocation.

Some of you may come here out of curiosity. Some because you're looking for some sort of advice, guidance, or inspiration. Some because you're curious to know what I really think, because we all know I'm a tad more reticent and socially guarded offline until I've had enough time to get a feel for who you really are. Others might read to try to understand a part of themselves in a way that keeps that part of who they are private, as it should be. Some probably want to connect somehow with someone else who thinks the way they do and get reassurance that they're not "crazy." Whatever the reason(s), I hope that you don't have a high set of expectations since this is really more of a personal exercise/experiment. To be honest, I'm kind of tired of having to live up to them.

Part of life is letting go of expectations. The expectations that we hear from others and strive to become until it's a given that makes us wake up one day and wonder who we really are. Like the fact that I'm the "A" and "B" student and overachiever who's always expected to be on the honor roll, get promoted, be counted on to do the "good girl right" thing, have a "good decent" job with a fancy sounding title. The expectations that we impose upon ourselves because it's not who we really are but it sounds like the grass is greener on the other side. Like telling yourself that you're somehow inadequate for still being unmarried and childless when maybe you're perfectly content with the single life and random dating. And maybe, just maybe your life experiences have resulted in characteristics that have molded you for something else the universe needs.

We have expectations of others too. That they should react and behave a certain way or live up to a certain image that we have of them in our mind. That they should be a certain type of person for us because that's the way it should be. They're the kind of expectations that lead to misunderstandings, arguments, prejudice, bullying, and at the extreme end all out genocide. When my mom finally decided to call me about her reaction to my FB jest, I answered this time. After thirty-four years of being her daughter, I should have remembered that she takes her public image very seriously. Maybe it was last year's concussion or my own opinion that no dirty laundry is dirty enough to hide, but she has a different idea. To her, upholding the image that she's an upstanding Christian mom who has raised her daughters to never "go astray" is vital. And at the core of this is the fact that she doesn't feel like we spend enough time together; she doesn't know me, the adult me, well enough. A little empty nest syndrome that I think I might need to learn to at least meet her halfway on.

Growing up I had a few "idols," like most children do. Sources of inspiration was more like it, since I don't think it's fair to put a person up on a pedestal just because they give back something to society through their artistic talents. Their public side is part concocted image with a marketing objective in mind and part of the best side of who they are. But when the performances are done and the lights have been turned out, they're a human being like the rest of us. With struggles, inner demons, aspects of life they feel they've failed at, and challenges of finding their own ideas of hope and inspiration.

One of those inspirations produced a song that I still listen to occasionally. I revisit its lyrics whenever I forget that I don't have anything to live up to or a certain set of expectations to fulfill. While I would change some of the lyrics to reflect an inner dependence rather than a dependence on a spiritual being, the meaning still holds very true. We will always have our dreams and our visions. No matter how many people tell us what our problem is or what we should do, we'll still wonder if we can become what we're made to feel we should be.

But in those private moments of just being we discover that we can't simply strive towards an idea of completeness. And the reason for that is simple-we are complete. Complete in who we already are. And that's all we ever have to be.

Monday, January 17, 2011

For My Mother

I apologize in advance Mother, for the disappointment my existence seems to have caused you.

Most of my friends are at work this morning and I'm on vacation from my Chip Chick duties, so I have no one but my own self to bounce my frustration off of. In the midst of attempting to watch Katherine Heigel and Seth Rogen try their best to pull off a romantic comedy without a lick of on-screen chemistry, I'm resorting to what writer types do best-vomit out their thoughts on paper, or in this case the digital version of it.

I suppose it's somewhat fitting that I opened up one of my social networks this morning to find a rather curt message from my mother. No, she couldn't call or text me to start a real dialogue. Not even an e-mail, but a short message about how once again my actions, words, or lack thereof have (and I quote) "pissed" her off. What was my "offense" this time, you may ask? I called one of her FB comments "holy babble." Yep, that's right. All this drama is over a FB comment that was half joke and half simple request. And she wonders why I don't automatically answer her phone calls and like to move thousands of miles away.

In a perfect world, the 411 behind this should be drama free. I post spiritual, philosophical type statuses from time to time and she feels the need to turn it around into some sort of opportunity to "preach" her Christian perspective. There's nothing wrong with being a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or a Muslim, or a Pagan, or whatever it is that you choose to believe in. But that doesn't mean that you should constantly attempt to turn someone else's beliefs and statements into something that they're not, or in this case try to "re-convert" your daughter back to "the way, the truth, and the light."

No, I haven't de-friended her yet even though some have suggested that I do. It kind of goes beyond my spiritual perspective into all areas of my life. I'm too thin, and then I look like I've gained too much weight. I don't have enough of a life; enough fun. Then I'm acting like a complete fool at the bar, should be shunned, and don't know how to hold my liquor. I don't have a job in sales or one that pays enough. Then I get one and she doesn't approve because I might get raped by one of my male co-workers. I start to experiment with following my heart rather than her set of expectations and it's "what are you going to do about this and that" when I'm not even at the crossroad yet. And the strides that I am taking towards that goal aren't taken seriously and even made fun of.

Out of all people she should understand. She went against my grandfather. He wanted her to go into a profession that made a lot of money. She followed her heart and went into social work. Her sister became a nurse, her brother a doctor. She's now made the switch from running non-profit agencies to the medical side of the industry. Go figure. She's happy. Why can't she just let her own daughter do the same, without judgmental comments? Is it too much to ask?

Why can't her daughter (inability to censor herself at times aside) simply state that she respects her mother's adherence to her faith, but would appreciate it if she would cut back on turning everything into something about God, Jesus, and being "saved?" So what if it's on public stream? I have nothing to hide or a certain "image" of perfection to uphold.

The problem here Mother is that I don't understand why I'm never good enough or that you seem to dislike your own daughter so much. I don't remember asking to be here. I don't remember what I did that was so wrong other than breathing. I'm not going to be or become exactly what you want. I'm going to live my life the way that I want to, believe what I want to, become what I feel is important, speak up when I feel it's necessary, shout out my truth, and follow my heart despite the consequences.

After all, isn't that what you did when I was six years old? You married someone else, picked up and moved us across the country, and followed your dream. Despite the mortgage, the new and old bills in the mail, the family and crazy ex-husband left behind. It turned out ok didn't it? You eventually sold the house in Chicago, put yourself through two degree programs, had someone to raise your kids, reconciled with your family, and got to do the type of work you felt you were meant to do.

I can't apologize for who I am. Nor can I hide it either. It's not disrespect. It's not abandonment, disloyalty, or "losing my way."

I can only breathe if I allow myself to. And a moment or two of existence is not long enough to worry about disappointing anyone outside of your own vision. Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to return to writing a profile about Jane Campion-a writer, film director, and woman after my own heart. And yes, it's for one of those "writing gigs" you don't seem to take seriously.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Meaning of 555-URZ

As much as I've written about the idea of light and hope lately, the reality is that there are a lot of moments in life that are far from ebullient and lustrous. There are people who commit actions that aren't congruent with our own best interests, who will say and do things that will continue to inflict harm long after their initial impact. But once those actions have been committed and those words have been spoken, the responsibility for the after effects is ours.

Yesterday I was driving down I-25 in the early morning darkness, somewhere between the exits for Loveland and Berthoud. I had allowed myself to get into one of my "moods." The past two workdays had been spent with my local sales division's "Route Methods Expert." The current person who has obtained this position is everything my company's culture seems to like and reward. And yes, it's just about everything I'm not. So, while I'd rather go out and do my job the way that works for me, my company has a different idea. I'd rather move at a slower pace so I can be conscientious, enjoy the latest gossip at each store, make my customers happy, meet my own personal goals, and have fun. My company wants the job done as quickly as possible without error, to meet unrealistic maximum sales dollars per hour worked, and make sure that everyone operates under their ever changing policies/expectations like a robot.

So driving in the darkness, with the jovial music of the radio not helping, I'm thinking about why I've allowed myself to stay in a situation that isn't right for me. Why can't I just put in my notice early and pay back the remaining $1650 I would owe them in tuition reimbursement? That money's sitting in the bank anyway; saved just in case I decided to change my mind. Why didn't I leave when I had other job offers sitting on the table, despite the risks and the disadvantages? Why did I let the opinions of other people influence my own sense of self-worth and self-confidence? Why have I put up with emotional abuse and a hostile work environment for five years?

That's a lot of why's to float through anyone's head at 5:45 in the morning. It's a set of why's that probably aren't going to be fixed in a morning drive of self-evaluation and torment. It's a set of why's that contain a lot of anger, hurt, discouragement, fear, and an inner need to create harmonious change. It's the same set of reasons why people stay in dangerous abusive relationships and refuse to take a chance with the unknown, because at least with the familiar you know what lines you're expected to speak.

If I go a little deeper there's also an inner need to seek a little revenge. I don't want to pay back that small amount of money because I feel like they owe me. A little lesson in "you screwed me, so now I'm going to screw you."

That morning a job advertisement broke the chain of spinned out pop tunes, taunting me-"the listener," with the promise of yet another sales job whose minimum requirements I surpass. Selling for a local radio station-that could be fun. I just might be tempted to send in that cover letter and resume full of glossed over self-promotion and lies that could help me escape.

Then the 222's start flying by. Yes, for some unknown reason the State of Colorado suddenly seems to be minting license plates with sets of synchronistic numbers (and letters). Probable turnkey oversight aside, I was suddenly reminded of a work in progress that I'm not supposed to give up on. At least not yet. I still have a test to take. A test whose score doesn't matter because my former GPA is high enough for them to consider any outcome. There's still a set of possibilities hanging in the air. Some of them are dependent on someone else's opinion and some are changes that would be solely dependent upon me.

The past five years have shown me pieces of myself that I needed to see. Pieces that I didn't think were there. Pieces that were uncovered in preparation for something else. I haven't let go because I was seeking an answer to an unfathomable question. A question that doesn't have an answer because there simply isn't one.

Change is your own continual creation. An evolution of a collective thought process. A masterpiece of self-responsibility for the tools chosen, resulting in a paradoxical display that conceals the truth within the designer's soul.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Star Light, Star Bright

There's a saying (and a philosophy) that good always wins over evil. I've heard it spoken of numerous times and witnessed several examples of it through personal and vicarious means. Despite all that repeated rhetoric and witnessing, at times it's hard to believe that "good" truly overcomes the "bad" in the end.

I speculate that part of the reason why it's hard to have faith in this concept is that we fail to realize that there are no endings. Not really. Life, existence, and all of its occurrences are just components of a larger cycle we don't always see or grasp. Yet, when you stop to think about it, what causes us to continue despite all of the obstacles that we encounter? Even death isn't really an ending, but rather a transformation into a different type of existence.

This past week a friend of mine passed away suddenly, almost tragically. We met in high school, during those coming of age years most would rather forget but that I've always regarded as some of the best moments of my life. Like most high school friends we stayed in touch for awhile afterwards, but then lost the intensity of our connection as we allowed life's ambitions and choices to separate us.

He was a good friend. I'm sure we had some great conversations that I can't quite recall the exact details of at this moment. I know for certain that we must have had some good ones because I remember his spirit as kind, generous, understanding, and non-judgmental. I remember that he had a sort of calm smile in his eyes, a laid back approach to life, and a proud heart. His present journey ended at 32, leaving behind a wife and two young children. When my mom last saw him he called me "his sister" because in a way I was. I didn't really get to say good-bye, not the way I wanted to. Yet I have faith that he'll be remembered for his kindness, the appreciation he showed to others, and that his family will celebrate his memory.

Death reminds us of the good in people. Most of us don't go to a funeral or a memorial service to recount all the bad things that a person did or the circumstances that might've prevented them from becoming who we thought they should be. No. We go to celebrate their life, what they meant to us, their accomplishments, what they gave back to society, and the essence of who they were. Sometimes they're not even called funerals but rather a "homecoming celebration." You can view that as a "Christian" philosophy of returning to "heaven" and "God," or you can view it as a release back into your "higher self." To me it doesn't matter because essentially those philosophies are the same. Death is a beginning because we become our true selves again, released from our current assignment until it's time for a new one.

I have faith that my friend "B" is just fine. He's no longer just "B." He's more than a star, a part of the universe, or a spirit within consciousness. He's light. And probably a very bright one.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Circumstances, Choices, and Courage

"Endings" could be viewed the same way as one views the idea of "consequences." Whenever we're presented with a choice, each path has its own set of consequences and its own temporary destiny. I say temporary because I believe that destiny can always be changed in some way. Nothing is really permanent, even though we often equate certain things in life with the word's intended meaning.

One of my former college roommates, the close friend from high school who randomly resurfaced in 2010, used to constantly voice her opinion about my "choice" to work full-time while also attempting to tackle a full college course load. She thought that I should be like her and hardly work outside of class. Rather than see my strength and courage in attempting to do what was right for my circumstances, she chose to constantly label it as a weakness in the guise of "you'll have the rest of your life to work," "what's your gpa socially," and "it's not healthy to have me as your only friend." A false line she still tried to pull to "guilt" me into rescuing her twelve years later.

The problem was her circumstances were completely different and she chose not to understand the reality of mine. She had "mommy" and "daddy" supporting her and to fall back on if her "ending" didn't quite work out in her favor. They paid her tuition, they let her live rent free in our apartment that they owned, they rescued her financially any time she got herself in trouble.

My adoptive father was already retired when he married my mother, bringing in nothing but Social Security checks. My mother was ambitious, eventually earning her MSW and taking on positions with more responsibility. However, like most professions that actually give back to society rather than take from it, social work isn't exactly a lucrative line of work. My sister, brother and I have never went without enough because my mom worked hard to sacrifice her own needs for our own. She worked even harder at keeping a tight financial ship-a skill she had learned from my entrepreneurial grandfather. She did what she could to help me, but she also taught me the value of hard work and personal financial responsibility from the age of fifteen on.

I had to work as much as I did because I was the only safety net I had. Sure, my mom would never let me go homeless, but she wouldn't pay off my credit cards, give me one of her cars for free if mine suddenly became inoperable, or pay my educational and personal expenses in full. She taught me that decisions have consequences and while there are always a set of choices to choose from, each one has an "ending" that will end up affecting not only you, but those around you.

Granted she's been a little more lenient with my younger siblings, but now I'm glad she was so tough on her firstborn. Sometimes she tells me "you know, you've never really asked me for money." I always tell her "it's because you taught me not to." She smiles and says "yeah you're right. I wonder where I went so wrong with your sister." Then she'll go on to say "you know that's why you're in charge when I die. Your brother-you'll have to take care of him." I tell her "I know that Mom. Don't worry."

My nineteen year old brother is autistic. It's the high functioning form, but the reality is that he probably won't be able to fully support himself financially. He's able to do most basic things, he takes classes to help him expand his repertoire of "life skills," but he still needs support with many things that most of us take for granted.

Sometimes courage means more than a sense of reckless abandonment for how things might turn out. Sometimes you have to think about the ending. When embarking on one of life's decisions, you have to consider the potential consequences because they have the power to change you and those you're responsible for. It can be scary to know that if you fail, you could also fail someone else's destiny. Sometimes courage means sacrificing your own freedom so that someone else can have the outcome they need and deserve.

There's a saying about courage that I think is the same for everyone, no matter what their personal circumstances may be. It says that "courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear." It's what the individual decides is important enough to risk putting aside those fears that separates us.

Some of us don't have to worry as much about "bad endings" and can pursue our individual dreams, fancies and whims in an almost selfish manner because no one else is as important as their own existence. Someone else has taught us that they'll always be there to rescue us if things turn sour and we need a little help with that countless "second chance."

Then there are those of us who know quite well that no one else is going to be there to save us if we take a "wrong turn." We're aware that the "wrong turn" is really just a bend that we'll eventually go around. Still, we've been around enough of them that we know there are some bends that we don't want to have to travel around twice. This time there's someone else walking life's road beside us, who needs the guidance of our hand to steer them towards the sunset.

For us, not giving a thought to how that sunset might look is simply impossible. Our courage is the judgment that we have to make sure that it contains as much light as possible, even if that means somehow desiring less along the way.