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.
Driving to work this morning, I heard a piece by composer Aaron Copeland that was new to me. I’ve always had a wide-open space in my heart for Copeland, who along with George Gershwin, represents in my mind the quintessential American spirit. In contrast to Gershwin’s jazzy style, sometimes frenzied, sometimes languid, Copeland’s style always spoke to me of endless spaces, crisps lines, and the often-tense blending of harmonies.
It was an unusual start to the day, considering where I’d been over the past few days. The tenderness of the song reached out to me, lifting me from this dark place that’s been my home recently. Maybe it’s because when I hear Aaron Copeland’s music, my mind immediately visualizes the stunning beauty of the American Southwest, particularly the home of my soul, Arizona.
One of the biggest challenges, especially in times of stress, is to maintain an openness of soul. When times are difficult, my first reaction is to curl inward, clutching my life into a tight fetal position in order to protect myself from the harsh and painful elements all around. For a highly empathic person, I’ve never had great psychic shields.
The music of Copeland is like a shield around me, pristine and beautiful and big and open, creating a buffer space where my soul can rest and rejuvenate. This makes sense, psychically, if you consider we are all created of energy. Music, in its highest form, eases our energy into balance, softens our jagged lines, and soothes us in a way few other things can.
I week or so ago, I decided to create a playlist of all the songs I’d recommended as background music on this blog. The official playlist is almost exclusively instrumental. I’ve also created a supplemental playlist featuring more upbeat, popular music. I’ll keep adding to it as I go along. I hope you enjoy them both, and that the songs bring as much peace and joy to you as they do to me.
Good night, dear souls.
Background Music: Aaron Copeland- Quiet City (feat. Wynton Marsalis)
I feel as if I’m watching the world from behind sheer cotton gauze. I get so caught up in daily life and the grind of work that when I stop, sometimes my insides keep going without me. Things get out of focus, tilting from one side to another, completely off-kilter.
Inertia is a cruel task-masker.
Sometimes, I just have to stop, put my head in my hands, take off my glasses and close my eyes.
Sometimes, it requires concerted effort to breathe and be still.
But sometimes, if I can be still long enough, my insides and outside..merge. They come into alignment, and everything becomes clear.
I haven’t been getting enough of these clear, still moments lately I’ve been crashing through life like a human bumper-car, and it’s starting to take its toll.
My wife Kathryn is studying to be a life coach. She is quite wise and will undoubtedly be a fantastic coach. She hasn’t dubbed me The Family Guinea Pig™ yet, but she will put on her “Coach Hat” from time to time, if I ask nicely.
I asked her nicely.
I asked her nicely, what the hell is wrong with me? I asked her how I could find my balance again. What did I have to do?
She told me I got the questions all wrong. The question is not, what do I do? The question is, who am I?
“Start from the who,” she always says.
Always start from the who.
What the hell does that mean? There’s no paper you can read, no test you can take, no questionnaire to fill out that can answer the question of who you are..
This is where the real work starts, I tell myself. This is where you have to ask the hard questions. This is where you have to listen for the answers you’ve been avoiding all your life.
Civilizations crumble beneath the weight of questions like this.
And here I am, on a Saturday night, asking the questions that have no easy answers.
Who am I? What are my values? What does my authentic life look like?
I anticipate a few introspective days in the near future.
Sleep well, my dears, and dream of the truth.
Background Music: Mozart : Galimathias Musicum (Quodlibet) 1/3 : 1-7
If I were a Christian, this is the point where I would say, “Jesus, give me patience.” But since I’m an eclectic pagan polytheist, I can also add Hestia, Kwan Yin, and any other deity willing to help to that plea.
I am a true believer that kindness is always your best option. However, there comes a point where showing kindness to someone is not in yours or the other person’s best interest. Those of us who default to “helper” mode need to be careful that our desire to serve does not create dependence in another or allow another person to take advantage of our kindness in a way that harms us.
I have an older friend who is perhaps the most computer-illiterate person I’ve ever met. In fact, she’s downright phobic on the subject. The trouble is, she is also convinced that The Net is a virtual Willie Wonka’s of free stuff, just ripe for the plucking at any time, night or day. Any attempt to educate her on the realities and potential dangers (scams, spyware, etc.) is met with a blank stare and a repetition of the original question, “Well, can’t you just look it up on the computer?” She either does not comprehend, or does not want to comprehend, that my helping her might put my computer and personal data at risk. All she knows is that the stuff she wants is in the magic box, and she gets perturbed that I can’t give it to her.
Okay, I’m simplifying the situation slightly, but it serves to illustrate a point. There are some folks who really need your help. But there are also some folks who are looking to you to do their work–learning, choosing, etc.–for them. Any attempt to foster self-reliance is met with helplessness and resistance.
Dealing with people like this requires a balancing act. As in the case of my older friend, I really don’t think her helplessness comes from deceit or manipulation. I really think she shuts down in the face of anything technological.
It’s easy to put the stops on a person who is manipulating you or using you with malicious intent. It’s much harder to draw boundaries with someone who simply needs more help than you can give without causing harm to yourself.
Drawing strong boundaries is never easy, but in the long run it’s better for all parties involved. You don’t get the life sucked out of you, constantly jumping to the aid of someone who simply needs too much. And they, sometimes, get frustrated enough to push past their fear and limitations to learn something new towards self-reliance.
I signed my friend up for text coupons so she will not be so reliant on The Computer for all those wonderful goodies she so desperately wants.
Now, I just have to teach her how to read the texts on her cell phone.
Kwan Yin, give me patience.
Good night, dear souls.
Background Music: Sonata Quarta In D Major by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer
Writing this blog is, in some ways, one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done. I’ve set two challenges for myself with this project: (1) to say what is important, and (2) to speak the truth.
Saying what’s important requires a clarity of thought I don’t always pursue. Because speaking and writing have always come so easily to me, I can sometimes get lost in the mechanics without really focusing on the message I’m sending. Style without substance is something I need to be on guard against at all time. It doesn’t matter how cleverly you say something, if it’s not worth saying.
But the second part of that challenge, the speaking of truth, is by far the harder of the two for me. It’s not that I am inherently a liar (although my wife insists I’m a master of the well-spoken untruth). But telling the truth is not simply to avoid lying. Telling the truth involves risk. Telling the truth involves commitment. Telling the truth cuts off escape routes.
Without going into the dysfunction of my youth too deeply, let’s just say that I grew up in an environment where secrecy was encouraged. There is privacy, and then there is secrecy. There is discretion, and then there is paranoia.
One of the hardest parts of growing up for me was learning what was socially acceptable to talk about, and what was not. The social rules concerning this were (and remain) incomprehensible to me. It seemed that 99% of the trouble I got in as a child was because I spoke an embarrassing truth in front of the wrong person or persons. The trouble I got in was severe enough that I learned to guard myself fiercely, learned when to lie and how to do so eloquently and efficiently.
I internalized that the default setting on life was to hide the truth as deeply and carefully as possible, no matter how much you wanted to tell it, no matter how much better things would be if you did. Secrecy was the norm, and telling the truth was the aberration.
it took a long time for me to break out of that norm. I had to work hard to learn first how to recognize my truth and then how to safely speak it. it took a lot of pain and error and courage.
Recently, I’ve found myself in a space where I’m forced by circumstance back into that place of institutionalized secrecy and paranoia. And it’s eating me out from the inside. I’ve discovered that once I broke free of that type of life, I never ever wanted to go back to it. I’ve quit jobs to avoid it. I’ve ended friendships.
And here I am, back again in this space.
Sometimes, circumstance forces you to hold your tongue. But I will never hold my tongue on this blog. I will never hide my truth here. I am angry about my current circumstance, and I will get out of it. But I will keep this space honest, no matter what.
I thank you for reading, and I hope I earn your trust.
Peace and good dreams to you–
One of the challenges of opening myself up to the universe and my place within it is that I make myself vulnerable. Normally, I can handle that vulnerability. Yesterday morning, though, I got rattled.
When I walked out the apartment, I realized we’d forgotten to lock the car. Someone had rifled through our glove compartment and the compartment between the seats. They’d made no efforts to hide what they’d done–the contents were thrown all over the seats and floor.
Fortunately, nothing was taken (we never leave anything of value in the car), but my shields were shattered. I was in no condition to deal with the stress at work, which was at the usual pre-holiday high mark. Needless to say, I came home shaken and exhausted.
When something like that happens, I have a tendency to crawl back into my hole and sleep until I feel safe again. It’s a normal response. I want a cocoon, preferably of the steel variety, to protect me from Teh Scary.
As humans, we need a sense of home and safety. There must be a circle of space around us that is ours, incorruptible and pristine. When that space is breached, we feel lost and afraid.
So, how do you recreate that safe space when it’s been crossed?
I talked to my wife. I talked to my friends. I remember that I am more than my body and my house and my car and my job.
Whoever decided to trash my car was looking for something–money, a gun, maybe. They found nothing. But I will not let them destroy my security.
Tonight, I will sleep well, and my dreams will be sweet.
I hope your’s are too.
If you read my earlier post, you know I’ve been in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mode. Not a space I enjoy inhabiting, but that’s where I am.
In times of high stress and difficulty, self-care is more important than ever. Taking a well-earned nap, spending time with loved ones, getting in that workout that reinvigorates you – these are crucial to surviving the onslaught of modern life.
Too many of us get into a grind mentality when things get stressful. We put on our good little Pilgrim caps and tell ourselves to push through, hang tough, and fight until the bitter end. And if a brutal New England winter is threatening to starve your entire settlement, then yes, this is a great mind-set.
But when your challenge is a job that throws more and more paperwork at you, or a house whose clutter has almost TARDIS-like qualities, a different strategy might better suit your needs.
Sometimes you just have to say no. Sometimes you have to stand firm and cry enough. It doesn’t make you less of a person to draw strong, sensible boundaries against the forces that threaten to take over your time, your energy, and your life. Nobody gets an extra cookie in Heaven for workaholism.
So, take this long weekend, if you’re lucky enough to have one, and give it to yourself. Wrap it up in a bow, and let yourself enjoy it.
The grind will still be there on Tuesday. And hopefully, you’ll be in a better position to face it.
Good night, dear souls. Sweet dreams to you all.
Almost forgot–music to dream by – Nocturne In Eb Major, Op. 9, No. 2 by Frederic Chopin
Do you want to know what my favorite saying is? “Today I learned…” (with “This week I learned…” as a fair back up). To me, there really is nothing more thrilling than learning something new, being exposed to information or ideas I did not know about, and meeting people who share a different point of view with me.
In my pursuit of stuff to learn, I have sort of chucked away conventional common sense and glommed onto the words of William Butler Yeats: “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” That’s right. Despite all the training given to me in childhood, I talk to strangers. In grocery lines, in restaurants, at stop signs, the ladies’ room–pretty much anywhere conversation is possible. Strangers are infinite sources of knowledge–you can sometimes learn more from a stranger than you ever could from a friend. Strangers challenge your status quo and push you to move beyond your comfort zone.
One of the best friends I ever had, Renee, was met like this. I saw her in the hallway at college and she happened to be carrying a binder with an 8×10 photo of George Takei as Sulu on the back. Now, this was long before it was “great to be Takei,” when he was just an actor in a failed sci-fi show. But I saw that picture and my dealie-boppers twitched. I pointed and yelled, “Sulu!” at her. (Yes, I was in college….) A friendship was born out of two strangers bonding over a photograph. And while we shared a lot of interests, Renee was very different from me and challenged me to move beyond my own limitations.
So many of the wonderful, crazy, inspired experiences I’ve had in my life have stemmed from the fact that I don’t let not knowing someone get in the way of an intellectual or spiritual connection.
In this light, I want to point you toward a web-site called “I Talk To Strangers.” Robbie Stokes was working at the United States House of Representatives when he made a decision that would astound most people. Determined to not just change the world, but connect it, Stokes sold everything he owned and began a journey. He challenged himself to meet and talk to as many people as he could, and encourage them to do the same.
Imagine that for a moment. Dedicating your life to meeting people, and inspiring every person you meet to do the same. Can you fathom the ripple effect of such an act? Stokes could, and he’s bringing others into the wave. His site offers opportunities for volunteering and employment, as well as blogs and videos.
All because one guy wanted to meet people!
What could you do, if you were brave enough (and crazy enough, perhaps) to follow your passion? Where would you go, and who would you become?
What an amazing world we live in, and what amazing people for us to meet! I am going to volunteer, and I’m going to keep talking to strangers.
Sleep well, and dream of fascinating conversations, my friends.
Posting for Deb tonight. Oh, how crazy things get when she forgets to breathe! Today was one of those days I like to call…challenging. With each difficulty encountered, she allowed herself to get pulled further into the chaos.
That girl! If she’d just breathe, if she’d just quiet her mind, she’d hear me. And what would I tell my girl when she is embroiled in a knot of chaos?
I would have told her it’s okay. I would have told her she didn’t have to prove anything. I would have pulled her into my arms, metaphorically, and reminded her that all she needs to do is shift her focus slightly to make everything better.
I won’t lie–I’m rather a fan of the human brain. I think it is a nifty mish-mash of evolution and sheer random brilliance. But seriously, when the world is wobbling around you, the brain is not your friend. Your brain is a genius of creation, a story-teller extraordinaire that will never let facts get in the way of telling a great story full of drama and passion and treachery.
The human brain, however, will not always work with you to keep your cool in a tough situation. In a tough situation, your best bet are still your lungs.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
If I can give you any advise, my dear ones, it would be this. In times of stress, send your brain out for donuts. Let your lungs get you back on an even footing. Then let your brain tell a better story.
Now, drink some warm milk, snuggle up to your honey or your teddy bear, and let the sweet dreams commence.
Love to you all–
Deb’s Inner Wise Self (IWS)
Tonight’s background music
When I spend a lot of time in the Real World™, sometimes I get a little freaked out. Sometimes, I look around and see how much I am not like other people. It unnerves me that things that seem so obvious and true to me don’t necessarily resonate with others.
This sense of otherness can be distracting and even discouraging at times. it makes me question whether I am up to the task I set for myself. Sometimes, it even makes me question whether the task I set for myself is worthy and even wanted in this world.
Fortunately, I have a very practical wife who is perfectly happy to use me as a life-coaching guinea pig as she goes through training. She reminded me of something tonight, something very important.
The truth I tell is my own. I do not have to evangelize. I do not need to convert the masses. I do not need to save a single soul. All I have to do is tell my truth, because to not tell my truth is to let it burn inside of me until I am a husk of a human being.
I ask you, my readers, to join me on this journey of discovery. But participation is not mandatory, nor is agreement. I’m just sharing in hopes that I may reach the eyes and souls that need this message the most.
We are in the middle of a tumultuous time in history. We are all standing on shifting ground.
I send you love, I send you peace, and I send the wish that you may always speak your truth.
Sweet dreams –