I woke Sunday morning to my phone chirping that a new text message had arrived. It was from my radio show co-host, Steph Taylor inviting me to a vigil to be held in our local town… a vigil f…
Great post on the City of My Birth. You will be quizzed.
I hated New Orleans from the first moment I set foot in it. I hate Tulane for giving me a scholarship. I hate the Newcomb girls for being so ugly and overdressed all the time. I hate the all-night bar in the basement of the school’s university center. I hate that friends who stayed active in Greek life remained friends with ones who never joined it. I hate not attending a party school, and, more importantly, not living in a party city. I hate that my mom convinced me to visit and that my dad also fell in love with the city once he visited. I hate that my baby brother went to school next door after he visited during spring break.
I hate that I moved here over ten years ago, tried to leave, and came crawling back. I hate that it took me this long to write a…
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I’m about to shut down the laptop for the last time as a resident of Elizabethtown, KY. We will be spending a couple of days in Louisville before heading down to New Orleans, but I will be ridiculously busy getting the apartment closed up tomorrow.
It’s funny, moving out of a place you’ve lived in for so many years. Everything is familiar, but it also has this alien feeling. It’s like your soul has already moved on, but your body has to catch up. Kathryn and I drove around a bit tonight, just reminding our senses what this town looks and feels like, firming the memories in our brains.
The conversation turned to places we’ve lived and good memories we had there. No matter where we live, or who we know, we make our own lives. We make our own joy. We take out of it what we put in to it.
So, E-town, here’s what I’m taking out of my life here–
- You’re never really alone if you have friends.
- Nobody can take your integrity away from you.
- Just because people don’t agree with you doesn’t mean they don’t like you.
- There is no shame in asking for help.
- Always make friends with the servers…..
The next time I post will probably be from Arizona. Until then, I think I’ll just say what Kathryn’s been saying all night:
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Love to you all–
P. S. Road trip begins very soon, and I’m itching to get to a Stuckey’s!
I painted this cat several years ago. It sucks. It’s really, really bad. But I had fun painting it, and it served its purpose.
I love to doodle. I draw all the time–faces, little cartoon animals, aliens, even my happy little elephant butt (see below).
I come from a family of artists, some of them professional, most of them wicked talented. For years, I never “did” art because, frankly, I didn’t want to put it against the work of family members who were much better than I was. So I just scribble little cartoons in the margins of my notebooks and have a good time with it.
This week I donated a six-string guitar my father gave me to the local LGBT Community Center. The official reason was that we didn’t have space to bring it with us in the car to Arizona. The underlying reason was that in the two years I’ve had the thing, I never learned to play. I would start, suck, stop, start again, suck some more, and stop. (Sorry, Dad.)
Things have always come pretty easily for me. I did well enough in school. I can carry a tune to the point where singing isn’t painful for those around me. I can write stories and blog posts. Yes, I worked at these things, and yes that effort improved my abilities over time. And yes, I have failed tests and bombed songs and written excruciatingly crappy stories.
In essence, I sucked.
So why do I persevere through the suck on some things while letting it defeat me on other things, like art and playing the guitar? What is it that causes us to continue in some situations while we give up on the others?
I am not sure why it doesn’t bother me that sometimes I suck as a writer. Everybody sucks, now and then. But I keep writing. I know that, to a certain extent, it’s a numbers game. For every sucky story I write, I’ll probably write a good one to balance it out. I think my sucky song ratio is about five to one on the good side, and dude–try to stop me from learning. No, I will never be an archaeologist or an astrophysicist, but that’s not going to stop me from learning about both subjects.
I think what really matters is how much you want to do the things that you suck at. While I enjoy doodling, it’s not important enough for me to work through the sucking part. And it was cool strumming the guitar and actually getting a chord to sound right, but not enough to get calloused fingers and put in the effort.
To truly excel at something, you have to be willing to suck at it–possibly for a good, long time. You have to be willing to get bad grades, reviews, feedback. Hell, you have to accept that you might even be made fun of from time to time.
This sucking is the price you pay for becoming really good at something. Every C-minus, every rejection letter, every painful wince as you struggle to reach that high note is a due you pay to get where you want to go. Every crappy drawing you crumble up (or stick under a fridge magnet as a reminder of your suckitude) will spur you on, if that is where you really want to go.
If you are not willing to fuck it up, and royally, you will never get through to where you truly become a master.
So, let’s fuck it up, ya’ll. Let’s make bad art, and bad music, and tell really really crappy stories. Let’s share them with the world, so everybody understands it’s okay to suck. And when we’ve done that, let’s do it again–only a little better this time. And do it again, a little better, the next time. Until we really have something worth sharing.
I’m going to keep posting, and I’m going to keep drawing, and I’m going to keep singing. I hope you will, too.
Good night, Dear Souls.
I had a near panic attack today. I was driving along, happy as you please, and it occurred to me that…I was not earning money!!!!! Yes, it was a weekday. Yes, it was between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. Yes, I was healthy and able to leave my bed.
But I was not in an office, at a computer, doing work proscribed to me by a so-called Higher Up in order to secure an agreed-upon amount of compensation (less taxes, insurance, etc.) in return.
This hit me like a slap in the face, and I actually felt myself begin to hyperventilate, right there behind the wheel.
Mind you, our money situation is okay. Our bills are paid. We have food, shelter, transportation, clothing, and extra for little niceties. We are in no danger of SUDDENLY RUNNING OUT OF MONEY AND BEING FORCED OUT OF OUR HOME AND OMERGERD WHAT ARE WE GONNA DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO????
But I felt that way. Because I was not earning a paltry salary at a job that was killing me with stress, like I’ve been brainwashed to do my entire life. For a brief moment, I felt like the entire universe was going to collapse in on me, and it was all my fault.
Then I took another breath, and it went away. I took another breath and asked myself, why are you so freaked out about earning money? Yes, within reason, having money is a good thing–a very good thing. It allows you the freedom to do what you like without being a financial burden on your loved ones. It comes in very handy at the grocers and the laundromat and when it’s time to pay for the utilities.
But beyond that, why are we so freaked out over the accumulation of money?
Because we’re afraid. Because we’re taught to be afraid from very early childhood. Because money is set up as the ultimate Wooby, that go-to paper superhero that solves all our problems, makes everything possible, and keeps the streets safe for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
And because we’re afraid of just about everything, we reach out for anything that will comfort. We reach out for our Paper Wooby, because it’s easier than just being in that fear for the moment. Being in that fear takes effort and trust, something that isn’t all that easy to do when you’re exhausted from the constant grind of accumulating the MoneyWubby.
But give yourself a few days, maybe a couple of weeks to rest up, and it gets easier.
It gets easier being rational. It gets easier seeing the wholeness of things, how life fits together, and how we can relax even when we don’t have the answers. And that is pretty damned cool.
Good night, my friends. I hope you get a chance to relax and enjoy the uncertainty of it all.
The past few days have been pretty rough for me–I’ve caught whatever creeping crud has been going around. It’s amazing how low your expectations for life become when you’re cramping and running to the bathroom at all hours. I spent much of yesterday curled on the couch, listening to lectures by Alan Watts on YouTube.
It’s a strange thing, being sick while you’re in transition. I mean, if I were employed (like a responsible person ,says the evil inner critic), I’d still have insurance and wouldn’t be worried about if I have to go to the doctor and if she’ll want to run tests and how much that will cost. But if I were employed (like a good little do-bee, the wise inner counsel responds), I would be at work right now, adding stress to my already depleted body, because I have run out of paid time off and couldn’t risk missing the work. Instead of taking care of myself through quiet, rest, and self-care, I’d be making myself sicker with worry and stress and resentment.
So much of what we do as modern Western adults is done in the name of seeking security. If you study the concept of emotional branding, fear is the Number One motivator used to get people to everything from buy toothpaste to work a soul-killing job. Fear is a big money-maker for a lot of people, people who aren’t afraid of exploiting human nature for their own gains.
Kathryn and I recently had a conversation about the similarities between many jobs and abusive partnerships. Both use the same triggers, the same tired old threats and emotional manipulations to keep you in a situation that is ultimately bad for you.
- “You’ll never find another job/lover if you leave here/me.”
- “This job is/I am the best you’re ever going to get.”
- “You won’t survive outside this job/relationship.”
- “You owe the company/me; you were nothing before this job/me.”
- “Look at all the training you’ve received from this job/Look at everything I’ve done for you.”
There are other correlations between the two, like the enforced secrecy, the isolationist tactics, the periodic moments of generosity to distract from the more consistent abuses.
And we do this. We choose this. We dress up and fight for these jobs, these relationships, that treat us so badly and damage us so deeply.
We find ways to survive. We make friends. We form relationships with our coworkers and customers, because that’s who we are as humans. And we make the best of it. We tell ourselves we’re doing it for our future, for our security, in preparation for the Deep Dark What-If’s that lurk around every corner in this terrifying world of ours.
But why? What security is so strong, what safety so guaranteed, that we would trade our health, our dignity, our freedom and self-esteem for just a whiff of it?
Security is an illusion. Security assumes that something is wrong with us, that something is wrong with the world. Security also assumes, conversely, that there is something we can do to fix it.
Watts talks about cycles, and about the different viewpoints we have. He talks about perspective.
What I’m giving myself right now is perspective.
I’m pulling away from the fear and conflict and daily craziness to see the cycles, in hopes that I will gain a greater understanding of who I am and what my place in this cosmos really is. I’m physically uncomfortable right now. That is the immediate perspective. But in the greater perspective, I am free. I am whole. And I am joyful.
Peace to you, my friends.
I’m slowly adjusting to the newness of this life. I’ve been 9-to-5-ing it for so many years, this freedom to set my own hours for a while has been…almost unnerving. I keep waiting for the time off to end, for the dread to start growing in my stomach, for the clock-watching to remind me I have to go to bed in order to drag myself off to work for 8 am.
For the most part, it’s only been a relatively small thought in the back of my mind. I don’t talk about it much. I don’t think, “OMG, I’m not working!” at random points in the day. I don’t even feel ridiculously happy not to have to deal with the stress and BS that were a regular part of my day on the job.
Today, though, as I was driving around doing errands, there was a moment. It is a beautiful fall day here in Kentucky–the sky is blue and clear, and the temperature is just cool enough to be perfect. For a moment, just a moment, I was back in my desk at The Day Job™. It hit me, hard like a punch in the stomach. I could actually feel myself in the desk chair, a computer in front of me, white noise choking me, that trapped feeling all lab rats get when they become momentarily aware of their real situation.
From my desk, I could see out a window onto the parking lot in front of the Chinese buffet next door. Rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine, I would look out of that window countless times a day. My eyes would drift away from the screen and the work and the reality and fixated on that Outside place. Outside, where people were running errands and meeting friends and working in their yards. Outside, where time was just time, and not a weapon used against you.
And I remembered, like it was happening, the ache I would get sometimes, on days just like today, when I would look out and see the clear blue sky filled with sunlight and cool breezes. I called those days my Alpaca Days, because I would have rather been doing anything – even herding alpacas – than stay inside that cold, stale office. In my mind, I would just grab my purse and leave, without even telling anyone, without even turning off the computer. I’d get in the car and pick up my sweetie and we’d drive without stopping until we hit an ocean.
Today, I realized that I didn’t have to raise alpacas. I didn’t have to run away from home.
I was out there, in that sunshine, on that perfect day, doing what I wanted to do.
And I realized, “Wow, I don’t have to go to work for a while.”
Love to you all,
It’s 10:25 on Sunday evening. For the first time in years, I’m not watching the clock. There is nowhere I need to be in the morning. I have clean clothes, and my shoes are near the door where I always keep them. My keys are hooked onto my purse, but I will not need them as the sun is rising on the beginning of the week.
I had a panic attack today just before dinner. My stomach clenched in on itself like a knot, my hands began to shake, and I could feel my pulse begin to race. I was in free fall.
The story I’ve told myself for the majority of my adult life is that I’m not good at structure. I need outside structure in order to keep me productive. I need a time clock to punch, a schedule to be adhered to, an agenda to follow, or I will be useless. I need someone outside myself to tell me who I am, where I should be, what I want. I need someone to tell me how to feel and how to live.
My “job” for the next several weeks, outside of packing up and moving, is to clear my head. I need to get myself clear of this Stockholm syndrome that has taken over my life. I know this to be true, and yet for all the learning and growing I’ve done over the past few decades, I am at a loss at where to start.
I have been given an amazing gift, a gift so many people would kill for. I have time.
I have stolen silence from my life for so many years, edging peaceful moments in the nooks and crannies of my crazy world. And now, I’ve hit the jackpot, time-wise.
And I’m scared to death. That free time seems to spread before me endlessly, and yet at the same time I’m afraid I’ll blink and miss it. I’m afraid of wasting the gift, so I’m tempted to cram it full of tasks and activities and goals and lessons. Anything to avoid the aching, empty silence where my authentic voice can find me.
“Listen to that inner voice,” people always say. “Listen to your higher self.”
I’ve heard from my Inner Wise Self (IWS) before. But I don’t think this is the voice I’m looking for. I think this is a much deeper, more primal voice, one that has been stuffed so deeply inside of me I’d forgotten she ever existed. And she’s got a lot to say.
The conversation, I fear, will go something like this. “Who are you?” she will ask. “When did you become this person? When did you digest all this BS about who you are and who you should be? When did the act of making money become your sole criterion of self-worth? And what the hell are you going to do about it?”
I’d like to think that my authentic voice will be kind and patient with me as I go through the process of deprogramming my psyche. But I’m afraid she will not I’m afraid of her anger, and the anger that I’ve been swallowing for so many years. I’m afraid she’ll realize that it’s not society or religion that’s silenced her, but my own fear.
What havoc will she wreak when she finally lets loose? And will I be strong enough to weather the storm?
I’m in free fall right now. I don’t know where I’ll land or who I’ll be when the dust settles. But it’s okay. This is a gift. My authentic self is still where she has always been–waiting, more or less patiently, for me to shut up and listen for a change.
So I don’t have to worry about going to sleep tonight. The alarm is not set. I can wake when I choose and, aside from a list of moving-related tasks to accomplish, I have nothing at all I need to do. Nothing at all.
Wish me luck,
Background Music: Adiemus by Karl Jenkins
Today, I finished up my two weeks’ notice at the job I’ve held for almost nine years. I’ve always wondered about people who do and don’t work out their notice at jobs. I’ve known people who just said flip it and left after one day. Others didn’t give notice at all.
I worked my last day like any other Friday–actually, I was a bit more diligent than usual. I made sure all my email was tidied up. I followed up on issues I had been working on and made sure my replacements had all the reference documents they would need for a smooth transition. I said my goodbyes dutifully to both coworkers and customers, getting personal emails and cell numbers where appropriate. i cleaned out my desk and made sure to place all personal items in the canvas grocery bag I’d brought. I turned in my badge to the supervisor on duty.
When 5 o’clock arrived, however, I was struck with a sort of Stockholm syndrome. My feet dragged as i walked toward the reception area. I was actually afraid to walk out the front door. That feeling of euphoria I expected never materialized.
I drove home in silence, a mood of intense quiet filling every corner of the car until the windows practically rattled with it. i felt my hands shaking and, almost instinctively, my mind turned to safer ground. I began to review the slights of the day–the supervisor who never bothered to tell me she’d be on vacation my last day, thus denying me closure of an actual goodbye. The teammate who groused at me for sending “too many emails” to help her cope with my unruly account when I was gone.
It felt better. It felt safer. I understood bitching about work. I understood frustration and resentment. No matter how uncomfortable these things can be, they are a lot more familiar than this all-encompassing sense of now what? that was settling upon me in my nascent post-employment haze.
I got my first “real” job in college, and I’ve been working ever since. Despite all my efforts to fight it, I have been unable to avoid identifying with my job, defining myself by the work I do, basing my self-worth on how much I earn and what prestige I can garner from the status of my position. Every bit of introspection, every spiritual book read, every billable hour of therapy I’ve endured could not keep me from falling into this oldest of traps.
I am my job.
And for the next few weeks, at least, I am effectively unemployed.
This begs the question, of course, “Who the fuck am I now?”
Who am I without a job to go to? Who am I without a job to bitch about? Who am I without the bars around me?
For all my posturing about wisdom and spirituality, I have willingly put myself in a cage for the majority of my adult life. Bitching and moaning all the way, I embedded myself into the very jobs that were killing me. I became the jobs that raised my blood pressure to potentially stroke-inducing levels. I became the jobs that increased my stress levels and pummeled my self-esteem and shattered my ability to trust my own instincts. I became the jobs that, for all intents and purposes, were the work equivalent of an abusive spouse.
And now I look into the blinding glare of freedom, and I’m paralyzed by it. There is a lot to do. We have to pack up eight years of life in the next four weeks to prepare for our move cross country to Phoenix. I have to sign up for Obamacare and make sure I have enough medication to get me through the transition time.
But those things won’t take eight hours a day, plus two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour lunch. Those things won’t clock my time in and out, sending me nasty little reminders when I’m five minutes late in the morning or three minutes early coming back from lunch.
For the next five or six weeks, I am essentially a free agent. Unemployed. A ghost.
I have to resist the urge to start shoving things into the empty space. I am drawn to clutter, comforted by it, addicted to it. All this empty time and space is too frightening, too open and vulnerable to attack from self-doubt and backward thinking.
When I told people I was leaving my company, almost every single one of them asked me the same question, “What are you going to to?”
I asked Kathryn that same question, and do you know what she told me?
“You are going to putter. You are going to be. You are going to break free of the brainwashing that tells you your only value comes from the job you hold and the work you do. Because if you don’t, it won’t matter what kind of job you get when you get to Arizona. And if you do, it won’t matter what kind of job you get when you get to Arizona.”
So, dear souls, tonight I greet you as a caged bird no longer behind bars, held so long in captivity she’s almost forgotten that she can fly. But soon enough, I’m going to remember what those wings are for, and it’s gonna be an amazing flight.
Wish me luck–
Good night, dear souls.