Moving

I’m looking for a new apartment. I don’t really want to move, not really. The reasons for moving are by far financially motivated. We do have issues with this place, and my daughter is the most unhappy here, but nothing here would prompt me to leave if I could more easily afford it.

When we rented this apartment, we were in a different financial space. Or… I should say, I thought we were. A lot of things have come to light in the past few months that lead me to believe that most everything I believed was not, precisely, true. But what is truth anyway, but something perceived. So I won’t go too deep just now into what I thought was true versus what I now believe to be true.

Regardless, I am looking for a new place.

What I find really interesting is how that theme seems to be creeping across my life in all areas. It’s not that I hate what is, or that I am motivated to move on to something different or better. I feel like I am being forced out of where I am.

My job, heh. I was so excited about this new job. But, as with all things, what was billed is not what I got. And that’s okay. But I just can’t do the hours or the stress. I thought I would be working in a fast-paced, patient-centered environment. What I got is a pressure-cooker of over-worked staff, just trying not to kill people with the pace and strain of too much work and not enough bodies or time to do it. Maybe I’m just getting old, but running around for 11+ hours a day is just too much for me. And If I’d known it would be like this, well… whatever. So, I’m looking for an exit.

But, trying to move while trying to survive a poor job choice? Not so fun. And I have, literally, no support. I feel like my movements throughout the days are just me being forced into choosing the least worst scenario.

I feel the same way about my social media presence. Because I am pretty much a hermit unless really motivated to get out (or more likely, by some miracle, not too exhausted to get out) most of my social interaction is online. My husband likes to sneer at my love of Facebook, but honestly, it’s where my friends and family are. Whatever.

But, I am so drained by what I see in the world. I just want to shut it all off. I feel like, there’s so little I can do, and so little hope that things will go well regardless of what I do or don’t do… it’s incredibly depressing. And so many of my friends, to their credit, work so hard on our global future, and it hurts me to see their efforts being swept aside by our new administration. I feel like I am being forced to choose between interacting with my friends and not drowning in negativity. If I take a break from social media, my life will contract so much. However, perhaps I will feel less like the world is a terrible place. I just don’t know.

I talk to counselors, and I get a lot of the same kind of double-speak. If you don’t want to see it, turn it off. If only it were that simple. I’m supposed to reach out when I need support, offer support where it’s needed by others… yet… turn off the spigot of news that comes along with all of that? It’s really not possible. Unless I move to a commune… and that’s unlikely.

My kids want my support and interaction, but don’t want to know how unhappy I am. I get that. But I want their support, too. It’s hard being a mom with strong daughters. I raised them to be independent… and they are.

I recently joined a pen-pal group. I decided I needed some non-political, non-judgmental interaction. And it’s sweet getting a card or note in the mailbox from someone who doesn’t know me at all, telling me how great it is to be able to communicate. I like it. I know that my own offerings are also appreciated.

I also recently went to the local college to see, realistically, what I might do with my many credits, how I could forge them into a degree that could lead to a well-paying job. The advisor seemed genuinely surprised when I asked her what degrees they offered lead to the greatest success for students. She didn’t think they tracked that.

She said, “I go to work and go home. I don’t really pay attention to what’s out there for jobs. I guess we offer these programs ( a few I had mentioned) because there is a need in the community, but I don’t know if our students are finding work.” She went on to say that in their allied health programs, the students are waiting, sometimes years, to gain entry to advanced degrees because it’s so competitive.

You could say I was disappointed.

What good is an advisor who has no idea how to guide her students? She DID tell me she would be happy to register me, though. I told her I would think about it.

Do I need a career counselor? A life counselor? I don’t really have the energy to plot my own best course right now, yet treading water is getting harder.
The things I’m good at don’t (apparently) pay the bills. Or the rent.

So while I am half-heartedly looking for a new apartment, I am also considering moving out of my current life, too.

Perhaps I WILL join that commune.

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Pushmi-pullyu

Dr. Dolittle had a creature that made him a lot of money, a pushmi-pullyu. This creature had two heads and two front bodies. The benefit was, the animal cold both eat and talk at the same time. The drawback was, it couldn’t decide which direction it wanted to go. No matter where it went, half of it was uncomfortable walking backwards. Therefore, it spent most of its time standing in one place. But that creature, on display, was a source of some pretty good income for Dr. Dolittle.

I have felt kind of the same way most of my life. Not the Dr. Dolittle way,exploiting outlandish creatures for profit. No, I have felt more like the pushmi-pullyu, forever trapped between coming and going, and watching others profit from my efforts.

There is a battle inside me. Dramatic? Probably. True? Definitely. I want opposite things in life. I want adventure and I want stability. The adventure side of me wants to travel, write, take chances, jump off cliffs (well, maybe not THAT one), etc. The stability side of me wants a 9-5 job, paycheck every 2 weeks, and the ability to know what’s going to happen next week, next month, next year.

Now, some people do have both. They have a steady job that pays well enough so they can vacation and travel and jump off cliffs. They can pay their bills without worry and can spend their free time being adventurous. They can take chances in their work because they are secure in their profession. They enjoy their profession, and therefore have the emotional energy to pursue other passions in their downtime.

I would say not many people have both, but they do exist.

Far more people have the stability. They have a regular job with regular pay and they go to work five days a week to pay the bills. They spend their downtime “recovering” from drudgery. They go on vacation once or twice a year to escape their regular life.

Some people have the adventure. They travel, they backpack, they scuba-dive – all over the world. They don’t have 9-5 jobs, and their income is either based on the results of their adventures, or (more likely) they have some family money behind them and can afford to live without a steady paycheck.

Of course, then there are the majority of us. We don’t have “good” jobs. We struggle every month to pay the bills. Our life is a never-ending series of adventures in poverty. We take chances by playing the lottery, spend our tax returns on frivolous enjoyment, and continually make choices that keep us in the hamster wheel of the service class.  And for most of us, we stay in that wheel our entire lives. So, what does all of this have to do with a fictional creature in a children’s book?

Everything.

We all have within us a duality. A sense of conflict between doing what we think we want and doing what we think we should.  Most people go their entire life with this feeling just a slow burn of small dissatisfactions. Perhaps they act out as teenagers, but eventually settle down. Perhaps they blow-out with a mid-life crisis, but then meekly put the pieces back together.

Some people just never settle down.  They never lose the strong sense that there is something else they should be doing, some greater cause to pursue.  A very few reach great heights because of family circumstance, good choices made with good guidance, or luck. The rest of that group tends to stay in low-paying jobs because those are the jobs that don’t tie you down.

Not everyone who flips hamburgers is an adventurer at heart, but I’d bet serious money there are more would-be adventurers selling you your morning coffee than doing your taxes.

Me? I’m spectacularly good at making no money. I rise to the top of every low-level job I take, because I am driven, ambitious, conscientious, polite and service oriented.  I am the “lead”, the “shift manager”. I am the “boss”, who isn’t really, ever, the boss. The service industry loves my type of worker, and I have always increased my employer’s profits. But I’ve never made anything close to a comfortable wage for myself.

I have been termed “underemployed” because I have a vast skill set, yet little to show for it. I have no degree, but have taken classes in nearly every discipline. I have aced creative writing, trigonometry, psychology and anatomy & physiology. I have tutored students who have gone on to good jobs with good money.

I have traveled and lived in much of the US and in Europe. I have been asked to speak at conferences all over the world. I am published. I have been front-page news in my local newspaper and middle-ish news in the Wall Street Journal. I have an outlandish CV.

And yet, I work in a service industry job in a health care facility. I can’t pay my bills with the paycheck I make.  I am exhausted at the end of each shift I work, and I can barely muster the energy to write a grocery list on weekends, let alone anything else.

Why?

I know I’m not alone. I know there are many, many people like me who have tasted what it’s like to live a life of grand adventure, but who seem stuck in the mire of poverty.

I don’t have the answer, because if I did, I would act. It’s not college. I’ve tried that. I love school. But I have never been able to “nail down” a major, something I can see myself doing for “the rest of my life”. It’s not about taking chances. I’ve done that. I’ve lept off the cliff and soared for a while, before both my life and I came crashing down. Is it laziness? I don’t know. I work 50+ hours a week, on my feet. If I were lazy, would I be able to do that? Is it mental illness? I seriously ask because I think it might be a little bit of depression and anxiety that holds me back.  I think there is a lot of truth in the last one.

Which brings me to Dr. Dolittle and his pushmi-pullyu.  I want to break out and do great things, but I want to stay safe and small, too. I haven’t been able to keep going in one direction before my other half takes over and drags me back. I haven’t stood still, far from it. But I seem to end up in the same place, regardless of how far or how long I run.

The funny thing is, I’ve never liked the Dr. Dolittle books. Never. Even as a little kid with a voracious reading appetite, I just didn’t like them. And the character I hated the most?  Shocker: the pushmi-pullyu.

What does it all mean? I’m as interested in the answer as anyone else.

 

How To Find Your Art When You Are Stuck, Tired, or Uninspired

How To Find Your Art When You Are Stuck, Tired, or Uninspired

BarbieTheWelder's Guide to The Entrepreneur Universe

I sat in front of my workbench with my welding helmet on and tears streaming down my face. I had been working 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week for the last 2 1/2 years and I still was not making enough money to pay my bills, let alone eat anything better than spaghetti o’s.

I was tired, frustrated, angry, and depressed. I had created over $10,000 in art inventory but had only sold $425, and we are not talking profit. Before I quit my full time fabrication job to pursue my dream of being a metal sculptor I made more than that in a week.

I felt like giving up my dream and returning to the safety of my full time job. What the hell, I thought, I loved my job and I would still be able to create art after work and on the weekends. The idea sounded better and better the more…

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Little bricks of guilt…

Little bricks of guilt….

“That’s not to say I hear the voice of  others…the voices are my own…spoken with different intentions and distinguished by their tone.

No one will cut you deeper than the ones you choose to love.  They are familiar with your weaknesses and they’ll slice you with their tongues…”

Everyone has got a story…the foundation upon which the sum of their life is built.  Little bricks of guilt and fear bound together by the mortar of love, forgiveness and acceptance.  Over time, from birth to death, we build the structure that is our perceived persona…and this is how the ego is formed.  Ego being the facade you construct around your heart to shelter it from the stinging words of others and the cold of loneliness when no one else is around.  The static illusion of that which you desire to project for others to see when the scope of scrutiny zeroes in….every one has got a story and here is part of mine.

I was 12 years old when I discovered I wasn’t “retarded”….that’s what they called it back then.  Before the wave of political correctness washed across the conscience of society…leaving in it’s wake infinitely complicated definitions and labels to describe the others we see differently than ourselves.

It was the sum of conditioning over the course of a decade that had brought me to believe that my mental growth had been retarded and I was destined to operate on a level of diminished capacity for my journey through this life.  No need to relive the gory details or point fingers of blame as to the cause or the why…it was just that way.

I had been taught to believe that I was retarded and that others could see this immediately.  I lacked the grace and skill required to perform the most basic of tasks without “looking like a mongloid.”  As I grew older and developed dreams and aspirations of the amazing things I wanted to do and be…it was always with a bittersweet taste of regret, the voice that said…”if I wasn’t retarded…”

Part of me had always challenged this diagnosis…but then again,  who wants to be retarded?  I was sure that all the other poor souls in their varying degrees of mental retardation felt the same way too.

It was in the 6th grade, when the whole class took the Stanford Achievement Test, that I found out I wasn’t challenged, handicapped…or retarded.  We took the test as a class and in usual fashion I was the first one done…which gave me more time to daydream and wonder….never once did the profundity of that test ever cross my mind.  Weeks later, when the test results were returned, I was called to the office to discuss the score of my tests…I dreaded every step as I headed to the office to sit down with the principal and counselor….there was going to be another teacher there…the one that worked in the library with other children that couldn’t be in “regular” classes.

I was absolutely sure that my diminished capacity had become so obvious they were pulling me from regular classes and I was going to have to go to class in the rooms in the library.  “Being retarded sucks.” I thought, knowing the other kids wouldn’t want to play with me anymore…I walked slowly to the office.

The first few moments of the meeting were spent discussing things that didn’t make sense to me, “cross-section”, “median average deviation”, “top 1 percentile”….none of this made any sense to me, I blamed the retardation…until the word TAG was spoken, I was rapidly losing interest in trying to decipher their code.

“Do you know what TAG is?”  Of course I know what tag means to me…but, for some reason I was sure we weren’t talking about the same thing….

“No.” was all I said.

“TAG, stands for Talented and Gifted….it’s a program designed for kids you like you who score really high on the test you took.”

“You mean…I’m NOT retarded?”

“What?  NO!  Why would you say that?  You, young man, score in the top 1 percentile of the nation….you scored better than 99% of everyone who took the test.  You are not retarded.” said the suddenly beautiful teacher from the library.

I can’t put into words all of the trauma, emotions and epiphanies that simultaneously condensed and exploded in that one moment of a little boy’s life.  I was almost terrified to believe it was true and at the same time vindicated in my long-held belief of misdiagnosis.

I immediately became aware of the ramifications this had on everything I had come to believe.  I’d like to tell you that was a turning point in my life…I’d like to tell you that I took from that experience the fuel needed to excel in school and go onto to college…and live a healthy productive life…I’d like to tell you those things, but that wouldn’t be true….

What I can tell you is that it was truly the most significant occurrence on the timeline of my life to date…it is still the most memorable of the hammer blows struck…as the blacksmith forged the tools with which I use to stack the bricks of fear and guilt and lay them in the mortar beds of all my hopes and dreams.

How To Write Well

How To Write Well.

This is it. The post you’ve all been waiting for. No more tips, no more little tricks or techniques. No. This is the real meat and potatoes of how to write. The real deal. Ready?

Brace yourself…

There’s two things you need to do. Just two. The first is reading, and the second is writing. And I’m not kidding. I am one hundred percent serious. In order to learn how to write really well, you need to read a lot, and write a lot.

Think of it this way. Whenever you read, you’re looking at someone else’s writing. Someone wrote that. And if you’re reading a good book, then they also wrote it well. Don’t just enjoy it, learn from it. Analyze good writing to understand what makes it good. Try to understand what makes it funny, or easy to understand. Once you’ve done that, move on to part two. Writing.

I don’t mean that the next step is to write well. That would be step three, I suppose. No. What I mean is practice. Writing skill is like a muscle. Some people are born stronger – more talented – but no matter who you are, the more you use a muscle, the stronger it gets. And the more you write, the better your writing gets. So write a lot. Essays, ideas, short stories, novelettes, letters. Anything.

Your subconscious mind also plays a large part in your writing, supplying words, ideas and phrases automatically. So the more you write, the better your subconscious will get at writing. That’s why reading a lot is important too. Reading allows your subconscious to absorb, to take note of a clever turn of phrase or a good way to describe something.

So that’s it. Read a lot, and write a lot. That’s how to write well.