Random Thoughts

Lately I haven’t written as much because I found a new TV show that I’ve been binge-watching. It just goes to show that television really can be a soul-killer, because I’ve been going through a rough patch, with feelings of regret, irritability, and general blah-ness, which makes sense because I haven’t been taking the positive actions necessary for my spiritual growth.

This place that I’m in, I just don’t want to be here. So of course I’d binge-watch TV—well, technically it’s a computer screen because I don’t own a television, but it’s a show, an escape outlet. It’s not easy for me to find a TV show that I like, so I can get sucked in when there’s one as captivating as “Bloodline,” a Netflix original series about a family full of secrets and the ways in which they cope, with one of the sons being an addict, and how those secrets shape their future. Ben Mendellsohn plays a convincing addict, a man who leaves home for many years and returns only to ask for money or wreak some sort of havoc. I felt empathy for him in the beginning because of his tragic childhood, and as the show unfolds I see how each family member is responsible in their own way for what happens, and I feel empathy for most of them. The youngest son, not so much, because he’s a rage-aholic, and a general pain in the ass, but he has his own difficulties to endure. The dad is just a dick, but he looks like the dad everyone wants, playing his little ukulele on the beach. The oldest brother is Mr. Responsible, a do-gooder, but he’s easy to like in spite of his seeming perfection. The sister has relationship issues because no one is ever good enough for her, or it just doesn’t feel right. She’s played by the beautiful Linda Cardellini, who’s only one year older than me. The mother lives in denial. She’s played by Sissy Spacek, who was a teenager in movies when I was growing up but has now become someone in her 60s? How did that happen? I thought she was only a few years older than me. Time seems to go by so much more quickly the older I get.

Every family has their secrets, or things they don’t want to talk about. Why live in the past? But then sometimes we have to air those things out to get them into the open and move through them, maybe with the help of a therapist or a spiritual advisor. Personally I don’t like to think of the past. But sometimes those things affect the way we live today, and we find ourselves reacting to life in the way we learned as kids, in a way that reflects a thought-pattern that the world isn’t a safe place, or that I’m not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough, rich enough, physically fit enough, wise enough. We find escape outlets like TV, food, shopping, sex/relationships, drugs, and alcohol, to avoid thinking about it. This obsession to get everything I want—the job, the man, the house—it’s painful. Wouldn’t life be so much more serene if I were grateful for what I had? How peaceful it would be if I knew that I had everything I needed already, or more accurately, if I knew that I had more than I ever wanted, that life has turned out much better than I ever planned or predicted?

Gratitude. Acceptance. Those are the real goals in life. Not, “Life will be so much better when…” Fill in the blank. When I get my own place. Because if I had my own place I’d be alone all the time. My dog wouldn’t have someone with her during the day. Or when I find the right man. Because when I get into a relationship, new problems arise. Or when I get a good job, because when I get a job, I’ll be full of anxiety about whether I’m good enough or smart enough and when and if they’ll fire me. Not that I want to avoid those things, and they’ll happen anyway, but happiness can’t be found in external things or in other people.

Right now is the perfect opportunity for me to accept life as it is today. Today* I have an opportunity to help a friend with some home improvement projects, because she reached out and asked for help, which is something she doesn’t do very often. It will help me to get outside of my head and into the sunshine on this Memorial Day weekend that has gotten me to thinking so much about family, and how so many people spend this weekend with their families, while this year I have to work. Most years I’ve never cared to spend Memorial Day with my family, but now I’m finding myself wishing I was with them. The good news is that my sister is moving to a town a couple of hours from here in just a couple of months, and I’ll have that opportunity to spend with her and the rest of my family, and I’m looking forward to it. Now that is progress.

Life is short, too short to live with the belief that I’m not good enough. What would life look like if I were good enough? Who would I be? What would I do? I would take the actions of a person who believes she’s good enough.

To be continued.

*This blog post was written over the Memorial Day weekend and posted/published afterwards.

Advertisements

Besties

Historically my best friend and I have had the kind of friendship in which I’ve leaned too heavily on her at times, and in which she’s broken it off twice in the past twenty plus years we’ve been friends, and a couple of months ago it seemed as though we were heading for another falling out. The catalyst was a difficult conversation in which I changed my usual sweep-it-under-the-rug mode of communication by expressing my hurt feelings over her exclamation that she knew I couldn’t handle poverty after I conceded that I couldn’t. Poverty is not a romantic and cozy countryside cottage. It’s more like a drafty log cabin where plumbing doesn’t always work, and I haven’t adjusted to it that well.

In the beginning of this transition I thought I could live anywhere, do anything. The manual labor I performed at the grocery store in my mind warranted that I could get a job working on an organic farm, and live and work there. I’d be off the grid practically, and my dog could go with me. It would be rent-free, and I’d get a stipend for working the farm. What better way to live than off the land, working just for what I need? I didn’t need all of these extravagant extras. I could handle it because I’ve spent most of my life living with a low income, without luxury. I presented this epiphany to Kim, and her reaction was that she couldn’t see me doing that.

I’m the kind of woman who likes to get her nails done. I’m not frilly by any means, but I prefer not to leave the house without wearing make-up. When I travel, I take too much, including a different pair of shoes for every occasion. So it’s not a far reach for Kim to think I’m not exactly farmhand material.

But every time I’ve mentioned my career options to her, she’s had a similar reaction.

“I just don’t think that’s what you really want to do,” she’d said when I told her I was considering going to school to become a nutritionist. “You just don’t seem as excited about it as I am about my career change.” She’s studying to become an acupuncturist.

It was the same with my idea to become a personal trainer, which she couldn’t see me doing at all, which is understandable because when I lived near her in high school and college I spent my time drinking, doing drugs, and eating junk food. But I guess I thought she knew I worked out regularly and had my own personal trainer and thought it might be inspiring to help others, to show them they could turn around their lives too. Recently I’ve struggled to get a regular workout routine, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about borrowing more student loans to become a nutritionist, nor do I want to commit to a full year of farm work, which is what most farmers want. So Kim’s opinions aren’t incorrect. But does she have to be such a naysayer?

“I can’t handle poverty,” I told her.

“I KNEW you couldn’t,” she’d replied. My translation: You’re not strong enough. That’s not what she said, but it’s what I heard.

Upon my new decision to live a life of openness and honesty, I had decided to let Kim know that my feelings were hurt. This was over a phone call because she lives two states away from me. I can’t remember everything that was said, but I was careful about how I worded my feelings, in an attempt to avoid blame, using statements that begin with “I feel like.” Uncomfortable words were exchanged and I wish I could remember them but I can’t. A couple of days later (a couple of months ago) my dog was diagnosed with stage three kidney disease, so that occupied most of my head space, and I haven’t talked to Kim again since then.

In Kim’s opinion, friends should be open and honest with each other, and if I feel judged by her then I shouldn’t be her friend, which she wrote to me in an email afterwards. I replied that I was committed to the friendship, thinking at the time that I wanted to refrain from my usual cut and run attitude. She mentioned again that we shouldn’t be friends if I feel so shitty by the things she tells me, and asked if I really wanted a friend who’d just sit back and smile at everything. She said that I was playing the victim and that it was time I quit, and that she wasn’t going to take responsibility for something she didn’t do. She’d mentioned many times on the phone that she wasn’t going to take on what I’d told her, and internally my reaction was confusion. I wasn’t trying to make her take on anything, just trying to let her know my feelings. And she can go fuck herself. She’d also said she loved me and has seen me make so many breakthroughs, a statement that I found condescending. I think she’s trying to be supportive but there’s this part of me that feels like she uses it to gain control or power over me, some kind of way in which she’s placing herself above me, which could all be in my head, but I really don’t know.

I decided not to continue with the drama, the back and forth emails, and just didn’t reply to anything else. I thought, You want to end this friendship, then fine, let’s end it. I thought, I just don’t know what to say to you anymore. Maybe she was right and we should end the friendship. Because here’s the thing: I am tired. I find this friendship a lot of work, and none of my other friends are this intense. I want friends who support me in whatever I do, even if they think it doesn’t sound like me, because if that’s what I want to do, what the fuck do they know, and how is it their responsibility to tell me what they think is right for me? I can make my own mistakes, and I don’t know anyone who has listened to anything anyone else ever suggested unless it was something they’d already made up their minds to do anyway, because no one changes their mind after it’s been made. I felt like I was getting kicked when I was already down although of course I know that wasn’t her intention. She’d say she supported me, and I believe she thinks that, but the comments that she doesn’t see me doing that, and she doesn’t think that’s what I really want to do, these kinds of comments just add to my confusion, watering my own seeds of doubt. I’m not asking for someone to pretend everything’s great when it’s not. I’m asking for a friend who allows me to grow in my own way in my own time without negative input about how the paths I’m considering are so far off base.

In the process of trying to learn how to be more open, I’m not sure who to tell what, when, or where. I know not to talk to my mother or Kim about the men in my life because usually they have a negative opinion. When I break up with a guy, they tell me how wrong he was for me all along, confirming my suspicion that they didn’t approve, and when they don’t approve, I feel like I’m being judged. “You’re not being true to yourself,” is the message I hear, because deep down that’s how I feel, regardless of whether or not that’s what their intentions or opinions are. And while I feel that I’ve spent a lifetime of not being true to myself, I don’t know how to be different. I can’t change overnight, and find the right man and the right job. Of course I want very much to find the right man and the right job, but I can’t just be like poof! Here’s the most wonderful man in the world who I adore, and the fulfilling career. I am told that I don’t open up, that I hide, but when I talk about the men I’m dating or the jobs I’m considering, I feel like I get judged. My sponsor tells me differently, but it seems to me that no one ever says, “Wow, I can totally see you doing that! That’s so you!” I don’t hear anyone saying, “You two are perfect together—that makes so much sense!” I don’t feel like I get congratulated on my choices, and there’s a child inside me who wants those accolades, to get the gold star. Instead I get, “I can’t see you doing that.” At least from Kim. It’s fucking painful. To feel like nothing you do represents who you really are.

Because the thing is this: The choices I’ve made are the result of not knowing what the fuck else to do. It seems as though this is the path my higher power set for me, and I am just trying to stay open to that. I just try to do what’s in front of me. I can’t say that in my heart I know that it’s the right thing. I wish I could but I just can’t. Of course there’s still a child inside me who wants the world and wants it now, but at some point I have to grow up. I just don’t know exactly what that looks like.

Kim sent me an email a couple of weeks after the initial drama to say that she knew I might still be upset with her, but that she was thinking of me. It was a nice email, but I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know what else to say to her. I’d told her how I felt, she’d replied that I was playing victim. What else can I say to that without raging? I still don’t know what else to say. So I didn’t respond.

She called me a few days ago and while I wanted to ignore her I called her back a day or two later, grateful when her voice mail came on. What would we talk about when we talk? I’m not interested in arguing. I don’t feel like it’s fruitful to repeat the same opinions and feelings that we disagree over. I didn’t want to tell her that I’m now getting my MBA just to hear her shoot it down. Therefore I feel like we don’t have anything to talk about.

We finally got in touch yesterday and I ended up telling her I’m getting my MBA—technically I’m getting a dual degree: an MBA and a master’s in marketing. She’d asked right up front what I was up to and was I going back to school—I assume she’d seen my Facebook post asking about online MBAs. So I went ahead and told her in a way that I hope was without apology. I just told her that it seemed the next logical step as part of trying to stay open to what’s in front of me, that this seems to be my path so I’m embracing it. Period, end of story. She didn’t shoot it down, but instead said that as long as I was happy, and several times she said, “Wow, that’s huge. That’s a big decision,” a statement that I don’t know how to interpret, so I won’t. I just told her no, not really, just seemed like the next thing to do. The truth is that I’m just going to try it and see. I may not make it past the first class.

Our friendship is changing, and I don’t know if it can withstand this new dynamic, one in which I don’t apologize for my lifestyle or lament over my decisions, and I plan to practice honesty by voicing my opinions and feelings. Sometimes it seems like we don’t have much in common anymore. But I guess time will tell.

Procrastination and My Critically Acclaimed Mini-Series

As I’ve mentioned previously, I had hoped that my life path was to become the next Piper Kerman or Elizabeth Gilbert, author of an award-winning memoir that inspires millions and becomes translated into dozens of languages, something that prompts an interview with Oprah, and becomes a critically acclaimed mini-series that reignites Wynona Rider’s career as the starring role.

Ryder’s real life—one in which she was publicly shamed for kleptomania after having had failure after failure—will have echoed the role she plays on my show. In “real life”—the real life of my dream world—what followed was that Ryder became Buddhist, practicing yoga and meditation after living in India for a while, having called it quits in Hollywood. But then she read the script for my TV show which changed her mind about acting. It spoke to her in such a way that she felt it was meant to be, and now here she is, the most sought-after actor in Hollywood. But this time she looks at it differently; acting is her passion, and it’s not about fame or fortune.

In this dream world of mine Seth Rogen will play a rare serious role as the ex-husband, showing the world he can do more than just comedy, as a pot-smoker (because some things never change) and struggling retail store manager who eventually rises above it all to become a famous writer while my character struggles for longer, working at one corporate job after another, making six figures but always searching for peace. Ed Norton plays her crush, a man who can’t stay sober and who all the women love but he doesn’t know it or believe it, and eventually he commits suicide. Finally my character will understand that her higher power was doing for her what she couldn’t do for herself, which was to keep her from getting involved with a man who has an inability to be honest, in a relationship that would’ve had far more heartache than the rejection she’d have faced before a relationship could’ve happened. Idris Elba will play my character’s boyfriend, a man in which she has a brief love affair, and there will be lots of sex scenes, because no matter how critically acclaimed the show is, sex sells and helps ratings. Kevin Spacey will be a brief love affair until she realizes she doesn’t want to date her dad. Finally she realizes her love for Justin Timberlake, a man who she’s known for years but always dismissed to the friendship zone. When Ryder’s character finally realizes she’s madly in love with JT’s character, in spite of all those superficial reasons she’d given for not realizing her love for him in the first place, which were really just to cover up fear, the song “Not a Bad Thing” will play in the background.

This dream world is fun to live in. But the reality is that today I’m single. Eventually I’ll meet someone. Until then, for today, I am supposed to be working on a copywriting portfolio for a job I think I want. I don’t have much of a portfolio and I don’t want to work on one, so I’m procrastinating because I’m afraid of failure. If I don’t do it, I can know that I failed because I didn’t try hard enough. In my heart I don’t believe anything I can produce in one night—because the writing samples are due tomorrow—will be enough to land me a job. The few bits I’ve written in previous positions weren’t good enough in my opinion to save, but I do have a couple of pieces that I can submit along with a spec ad I wrote, and while I don’t think it will help me get an in-person interview, it will be something I can add to my skimpy portfolio that I’d planned on creating on my own time, which means never.

For some reason this path seems to be the one that the universe has laid out for me, and I can embrace it or fight it. So in this moment I’m going back to the real world and working on my professional writing portfolio. Because all I can do is just do it.

Staying Open to the Life Before Me

A new idea popped into my head last week which was this: Why not get an MBA—maybe even an online MBA? Like most people, I used to think online degrees weren’t credible, and after getting a “low-residency” MFA (similar to an online MFA) in creative writing, a degree that can help me get what’s basically the fast food job of education as an adjunct professor, and which only served to put me in more student loan debt, I felt resentful and mistrustful. But lots of people get online degrees now and they seem to be legit. It seems that the importance lies in the program’s accreditations.

An MBA will allow me to do what I want to do: learn more about marketing and business from a broader perspective. In short, become more competent in my ability to do my job—unless I’m deluding myself into thinking I can derive confidence from a degree when in reality I can only achieve that through inner work. But I have this idea that for once I’ll understand what chief executives and VPs are talking about when they throw around terms and acronyms instead of thinking my old thoughts that I have no idea what they mean and how I didn’t go to school for this. Why not just go to school for it? I’m doing the inner work anyway, so why not get some training for my career?

An MFA will allow me to advance into a higher role and I can learn how to create strategies and plans instead of doing the technical, tedious work I realize now that I don’t like. Maybe I can get a position doing what I like at a company I believe in, and maybe I can get an MBA while working. And who knows? Maybe I can pay for it outright, or maybe I’ll work for a company who’ll pay my way. Even if for a partial tuition payment, any little bit helps.

I never thought I’d consider getting an MBA. If you’d told me even six months ago that I’d consider an MBA I’d tell you you’re crazy. But it makes sense that if I don’t feel competent or confident at something, why not get some training? For some reason this is the path in front of me, and it’s a lucrative one that I should and can take advantage of. I always thought, or hoped, that a more “noble” path would be set for me, such as teacher or nurse or author of an award-winning memoir that inspires millions and becomes translated into 35 different languages, perhaps something that gets an introduction from Thich Nhat Hahn or Jack Kornfield or Tara Brach, which becomes a critically acclaimed mini-series with appearances from actors like Kevin Spacey and Mark Wahlberg and where other actors like Helena Bonham Carter make a comeback that recharges her career from her “Fight Club” days (and “Atonement”), catapulting her to a whole new level of stardom. Or maybe Wynona Rider, in such a way that everyone forgets those nasty little incidents with the kleptomania, after a brief interview with Oprah in which she confides that she’d been medicated by Michael Jackson’s doctor, and had a brief stint in the psych ward followed by years of living an ordinary life which was painful at times, after having been a celebrity, but it was also peaceful and life-changing. But I digress.

Online MBA it is—or maybe some kind of certification, like a project management certification, or maybe even just classes. Training of some sort. We never stop learning; the opportunity always exists. Because I can be a worker among workers, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I’m not special, unique, or important. I can and will be a valuable, contributing member of society. Even now at the grocery store I am a contributing member of society. It’s all in the way I look at it, and that doesn’t mean I’m looking at a tragedy and calling it a fairy tale. It’s a blessing that I get to learn how to promote a company’s services, especially when I believe in that service, and better yet that I get to use my intelligence, talents and skills to do so. It’s a blessing that I can be—and already am, actually—self-supporting. I’m a lucky person, and to recognize that is part of my awakening, my transformation into a better version of myself, my true self.

Not that the voice of doubt doesn’t echo in my mind telling me it may not work out. That doesn’t go away overnight. But I don’t have to listen to it or feed it. Instead I can know that I’m doing what I believe to be the right thing at this point in time, and to worry about a future that may never happen is futile. If it doesn’t work out, then I can try something else.

One thing I’ve learned about myself through all of this is that I am resilient. I persevere. All this time I thought I was beaten, that I allowed life to beat me down, that I lacked courage to change my life, and that I’d never change because I’m too weak. But in fact, I bounced back. I took action. I researched my options, I got a job to pay my bills, I downsized my life, I got a professional mentor (a recent development—more later), and I just kept going. This is what we all do—well, most of us, anyway—even in the midst of thinking we’re not doing anything, or that we’re not doing enough.

I think part of the reason that I have this old idea that I’m not doing enough is because the rewards of my work aren’t happening quickly enough for me. The rewards for me are to get my own place, work at a job I like, live near my job, and live a life I enjoy. Spend my free time on fun hobbies and take care of myself. It’s hard to see that I can do those things now—I can live a life I enjoy right now, today. Eventually I’ll get another job and my own place. So for now, I’ll stay open to the life before me.