Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Like No Time

Like No Time

Today I spoke on the phone with someone I consider one of my closest friends from high school. No surprise, it’s a guy. When I think about him, I think about the things we had in common: our love of Pink Floyd, Monty Python, and Dungeons & Dragons. The offbeat sense of humor we shared. Our general geekiness. I think about the times we hung out together, the concerts and movies we went to see, the times I came over to his house to watch television. The fights we had. I remember the plays we were in together, the hours of rehearsal and building sets. I remember the times we stayed up very late drinking coffee and discussing everything under the sun. Big conversations about God, and life, and love, and death. I learned from him that it was truly possible to be friends with a man, good friends, and that has been a great gift to me in my life.

The conversation we had today was one of the longest we’ve had in a very long time. Life happens, you know, and people drift apart. He moved away, got married, and had kids. I got married, etc. etc. I’ve seen him maybe twice in the intervening years. We don’t talk on the phone. We sometimes say “hello’ on Facebook, to wish each other a happy birthday or something, but nothing consistent. He hasn’t been part of my life for a long time now. He has a life that is full and happy, as do I. On the face of it, you wouldn’t think I have any reason to miss him. But I do. And it made me wonder.

You hear the notion that true friends are those that, when you see them again after a long absence, it’s “like no time has gone by”. You immediately pick up from where you left off, like you’d just left the room and come back – years later. What is that? Why does that happen? I’ve read some things about neurology, and from my limited understanding, memories create pathways in our minds, and when we are confronted with something from our past, our brains seek out those memories and we feel that the something is familiar, known to us. I get that, sure, but what about the people or places that we didn’t like, or are painful or uncomfortable to remember? Does the same “no time has passed” feeling happen then, too? I can tell you that it doesn’t for me – if I am confronted by someone I didn’t particularly like back in the day I don’t get that same feeling as I do from someone I did like or have a close friendship with.  Surely the disliked person created pathways in my brain as well (or I wouldn’t know who they are), but I can look at that person, remember them, but still feel they are a stranger to me. There’s no connection.

So I guess that must be the difference – the person I cared for is the one I still have a connection with, and the person I didn’t care for is still disconnected from me. It’s the kind of connection, not just the familiarity, which gives us that “timeless” feeling.

It’s Love.

Love is the only thing that survives everything – time, distance, even death itself. When we feel love for someone – real love, not possessiveness or the ego-centric self-reflective obsession that we often mistake for love – that love never goes away. It lives forever in our minds and hearts, and when confronted with someone we loved in the past, it’s that feeling of love that melts the time away. Love is eternal – it exists in the NOW – which explains the timeless feeling. Or that’s what I think, anyway.

My conversation with my friend today felt like that. When we were at our best, we had this effortless way of talking to each other, and we fell right back into that today. We didn’t talk about anything deep, just caught up in a general way on our lives and our families. But it was that sense of familiarity, that instant connection, that feeling that I just came back into the room and continued the conversation, that made me miss him. But I know that no matter how much time goes by until the next time we talk, it will be the same way again. The love we share as friends, good friends,  is as vivid today as it was all those years ago, and will remain that way for – well, forever, I suppose.

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photo credit: Emma Fierberg Fierberg_Photojournalism_1 via photopin (license)

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Need to Know

need to know meme

If you watch the news at all it’s easy to believe that the world we live in is a senselessly violent place where no one is safe. You aren’t safe walking down the street. You aren’t safe in your schools or your places of worship. You aren’t even safe sleeping in your bed. Danger is everywhere; the stories of death and destruction come at us non-stop on the television, in the newspaper, over the radio, down our Twitter feeds, through our friends’ Facebook posts. The unrelenting barrage of bad news often leaves me feeling hopeless and thinking that the world is spiraling out of control.

I hate feeling this way so I’ve thought a lot about how not to. I’ve tried finding my peace through faith and prayer, and while that helps, it doesn’t stop me from getting drawn back into the maelstrom of madness that is the “news”. So, as the above cartoon suggests, I’ve tried to limit my exposure to it. When I am successful I find that my mood improves significantly. But – and this is a big “but” – I often, so often, find myself seeking it out so I’ll know what’s happening, even though I know it will make me feel like crap.

So what is it that I think I NEED to know?

This is an extremely confronting question, and worth exploring. What, exactly, do I need to know about events in my own country and the wider world in order to live my life? What information is necessary for me to have to be a productive member of society?

Do I need to know about every natural disaster, devastating fire, missing person, or horrible murder that happens every day somewhere in the world? Do I NEED to know the details of these awful events, or is it enough to know that they happen every day?

Do I need to know every excruciating detail of every dumb ass thing our elected representatives say and do? Do I NEED to know all the latest scandals and outrages, or is it enough to know that these things will continue to happen as long as human beings are in charge?

Do I need to know every time some heinous act of terror is perpetrated somewhere on the planet? Do I NEED to know who these people are, where they came from, and why they did it, or is it enough to condemn all acts of violence carried out by people who want to hurt others and make all of us afraid?

When you put it that way, it’s pretty obvious that I don’t actually NEED to know any of this stuff. I’m not saying I shouldn’t be aware of world events, particularly if they will have a direct impact on my life, but maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to be quite so thoroughly consumed by it all.

Of course that’s easier said than done. Following current events as they happen is an addiction, and I don’t think I’m the only one hooked. I have tried to wean myself off of the minute-by-minute news cycle but in spite of my best intentions I keep going back to my dealer, the internet, for more of the drug I crave – and hating myself for it. Why can’t I go through life being blissfully uninformed? Would that be so bad?

I think back longingly on the years when we all got our information from a trusted anchorperson on the 30-minute nightly news. We all went about our daily lives, and then, after dinner, we’d sit down and have Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather tell us what we needed to know that day. And that was plenty. We knew what was going in the world, but we weren’t overwhelmed by it like we seem to be now. Sure, the coverage wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it is today – thanks to the miracle of the internet, we can know what some despot on the other side of the world had for breakfast – but dear God, do we really NEED to know all that just because we CAN?

I know that unless I move to some remote island or mountaintop retreat it’s unlikely that I will cut myself off from everything and everyone I would have to in order to achieve that level of disconnectedness. So I have to find another way to stay sane.

Here’s a radical thought, so bear with me. I think that the key to keeping  in touch with the world around me while at the same time keeping my sanity is entirely dependent on my own perception. What I mean is, I can either see the latest catastrophe – whether man-made or not – as a reason to panic, or not. I think we’ve gotten so short-sighted that we confuse what’s happening now with what will happen tomorrow, and the next day. We have lost our ability to look at the long term, to see down the road. We’re so focused on the information coming at us from those little screens in our hands that we’ve forgotten how to look up and really see the world around us. Beloved, the stars in the sky could give a fuck who’s president. We need to keep that in mind. Focusing on what’s eternal is a huge help in processing what’s temporary. This too shall pass.

We also need to see our neighbors with compassionate eyes. We need to recognize that we all want the same basic things – to feel safe, to be warm and dry and fed. To be loved. We sometimes have extreme differences about how to achieve these goals (and what is preventing us from achieving them), and we have a hard time understanding how someone who disagrees with us could possibly believe the things they do. It’s hard, I know. But we have to try. We have to try, with all our might, to love the people we believe are actively trying to do us harm. I believe with all my heart that it’s the only way through this current crisis.

So, when I call my elected representatives to share my concerns about something of real importance to me and my family I will not do so in a state of fear and panic, but in a state of love. I will approach the conversation with an open mind and heart, and I will see the “other” as someone who is capable of compassion. I know this approach doesn’t fit in with the concept of “fighting” the good fight, but I’m hear to tell you, it is the most powerful thing you can do. Look at Gandhi. Look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those men achieved real change, and they did it not meeting force with force, but by overwhelming the resistance with kindness, and gentleness, and with love. We have to do this differently, and it starts with you and me, right now.

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For Eric, on our 20th Wedding Anniversary

 

My husband of 20 years is kind.

My husband of 20 years is thoughtful.

handsome

My husband of 20 years is handsome.

My husband of 20 years is curious about the world.

My husband of 20 years is loyal.white face

My husband of 20 years is a good singer.

My husband of 20 years is so funny.

My husband of 20 years is a good friend.

My husband of 20 years is full of joy.

My husband of 20 years is cool.

st andrews

My husband of 20 years is a golfer.

My husband of 20 years is affectionate.

My husband of 20 years is honest.

My husband of 20 years is a world traveler.

My husband of 20 years is a fine actor.actor

My husband of 20 years is a music lover.

My husband of 20 years is a cunning linguist.

My husband of 20 years is tender-hearted.

 

 

with all catswith Juni

My husband of 20 years is liked by animals

and children.

 

 

 

My husband of 20 years is a loving brother.

 

My husband of 20 years is the greatest gift I have ever received.

trevi kissing

 

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The Middle Age

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I’m going to be 50 years old in a little over a month, and for the past few months I’ve been getting acclimated to the idea. Like on a hot day, when you have to ease yourself slowly into the cold water of the swimming pool. The feet go first, and it feels good, and you think this won’t be so bad. Then, when you step down deeper, the water reaches your knees and gives you a shock. You shiver a little bit but as you stand there you realize you can handle it.  But you know what’s coming. You put it off for as long as you can, but you can’t stand on the steps in the shallow end forever, so you take the next step, and the water covers your backside and all the air whooshes out of your body and you close your eyes and concentrate on how good it will feel eventually. The last part is the hardest – lowering yourself fully into the pool so that the cold water covers your chest and your head. Holding your breath, you force yourself under and hold there for a few moments. Then you surface and suddenly you feel fantastic! The water is amazing – silky and suddenly warm and lovely on your skin. You kick off towards the deep end wondering why it took you so long get in.

That’s how I feel about turning 50. I’m up to my knees, holding off the inevitable, but knowing that as soon as I fully embrace the idea it’s going to be amazing.

These big birthdays always bring out the contemplative me, and I like to look back on my life to see what I’ve done (and not done). This one is no different, but I find myself looking more at the small moments than the big life changing ones. If I had to guess why that is, my guess would be that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become far more interested in what lies ahead of me than what has gone before. This has been a gradual, but seismic, shift in my thinking, and one that I welcome. I read a quote on the internet today that was so true it made me gasp: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.” I have come to accept my past, the good and the bad, and now I’m looking forward to this next phase of my life with tremendous anticipation.

Life here in the Middle Ages has gotten really good. Not that I’m more financially successful than I’ve ever been – I’m not. What’s different is that I’ve finally stopped measuring my success by how much money I make or how glamorous my job is. And even more importantly, I’ve stopped listening to people who keep score that way.

I am, more than any time since my college days, figuring out who I am and what I want. I am becoming more myself as each day passes, and, what is more, I am learning how not to be afraid of that. I have opened myself to accept the love and grace that God/the Universe (or whatever you want to call the Divine Spirit that inhabits us all) wants to give me. I accept the gifts that are beginning to shower on me, and I embrace the unexpected miracles to come.

I am also meditating on the notion that I can have the life I want right now. There is no idealized past or unrealized future that is as tangible as the here-and-now of my life today. When I get that in my head and in my heart, I am free to fully inhabit myself, to love extravagantly, and to be truly at peace. If this is what it means to be middle aged, I’m good with that.

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Looking for the Truth

truth

I called my mother on my way home from work the other day, as I do at least once a week. She’s my best friend, and talking with her usually lifts my spirits and helps me see through the fog that clouds my vision sometimes. But this conversation was different. I found myself unable to stop venting about my feelings about the recent election, even though I had promised myself I wouldn’t talk about it when I hit the speed dial for her number. As I ranted and raved I could tell that all I was doing was making my dear sweet mother more and more uncomfortable – and she and I agree on most things. I felt awful when I hung up, because I knew my outburst had caused her grief, and that’s the last thing I ever want to do. She was upset because I was upset, and because there was absolutely nothing she, or anyone, could do about it.

I have struggled to find the words to express how I feel about the insanity that seems to have gripped me and almost everyone I know since the election. In the past I’ve been able to shake off those people who feel that they have to stridently voice and defend their political beliefs pretty easily – I simply ignore them. Being able to block people on Facebook has been a real blessing, as I’ve been able to keep certain people in my life who constantly rail against the evils of the “other side” because I don’t have to fucking listen to them. And I’m talking about people on both sides of these issues.

A few weeks before the election I unfollowed one of my oldest and dearest friends whose relentless political posting was driving me nuts. After I did that I found that my thoughts about this person, which had been trending towards the negative, returned to normal. I have since resumed following that person, but I’ve started to regret it as the rhetoric hasn’t chilled. This person has said that there is a certain issue that is totally unacceptable to them, and if any of any their friends support this particular thing, well, that that’s the end. They can no longer be friends with anyone who is on the wrong side of this line they’ve drawn. The thing is, I’m so far over that line that I wouldn’t make that cut, and I’m pretty sure my friend knows it, which makes me wonder if it’s not the having of the belief that is so offensive, but the sharing of it. I guess the only reason we’re still connected is that I’ve kept my online mouth shut about my beliefs. This line in the sand mentality from someone I have always loved grieves me more than I can say, and I’ve found myself alternatively wanting to put the ultimatum to the test – would you really unfriend me? – and doing what I’ve always done, which is disagreeing in silence.

We’re all so convinced we’re right. We’re all so convinced we know the truth. We’re all so convinced the other side is wrong that we’re refusing to listen to anyone who disagrees with us. And it is this conviction, much more than the actual differences of opinion, that will tear us apart.

The day you stop wondering if you’ve really got it all figured out is the day you stop growing and learning. It is the day you stop being able to empathize with people who are unlike you.

It is the day you make yourself God.

Not questioning why you believe what you believe is the height of hubris. If you are a person of faith, God does not require you to stop questioning; quite the opposite. “Ask and the answer will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” If you think you’ve got all the answers, ask yourself this question: Where are the answers coming from? Did another person give you the answer? Or did you, with humility and a genuinely open heart and mind, go to your creator, or the universe, or whomever you turn to for guidance – and ask? Or have you already decided that you know what God, or the universe, or whomever, thinks?

I try to question the things I believe and the assumptions I make. When I find myself taking a strong stance on something, I hold it up and I ask these questions:

“Why do I believe this is true?”

“Is it possible that I’m wrong?”

“Does this belief promote love and compassion for others, even those who disagree with me?”

If you won’t ask yourself these questions and accept the answers, whatever they may be, then you have chosen to deceive yourself. And just to be clear, that is a choice. But instead of pretending that isn’t the case, you should own your choice. You should proudly stand up and say “I don’t actually care if what I believe is based on misleading or false information or if what I believe causes pain to others – I’ve decided to believe it.” I see people on both sides doing exactly this, and it’s more terrifying to me than anything else that has come out of this horrible election.

I’m not asking everyone to gather in a circle and sing a song. We’re light years away from that. What I do ask – what I beg – is that everybody step off and take a breath. Stop feeling so self-righteous, and so determined to bludgeon the disbelievers into submission. Just stop. It’s not helping. It’s hurting you and everyone around you. And for what? So you can be right?

Is being right more important to you than your family and your friends? Are you willing to destroy lifelong relationships because you believe with your whole heart that you’re right and they’re wrong? Why?

Look, I get what’s at stake here, and I get just as caught up in it as anyone else – I’m not immune, or above it, or better than anyone else when it comes to things that are important to me that I feel are being threatened. I promise you that I will live my convictions and stand up for the kind of world I want this world to be.

But I’m not going to fool myself into believing that I have all the answers. I don’t. I don’t even know where to start on some of this stuff. So I will continue to hold my beliefs up to the light, and if they don’t pass the test, I will, with an open mind, continue to look for the truth. Even if I don’t like what I find.

And my friends, the one thing I am sure of is that the only truth worth knowing is love. And loving someone means you accept them no matter what they do or say. It’s the hardest thing you can do sometimes, but it’s the only thing that matters. Or so I believe.

Peace be with you.

 

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On Being Discouraged

courage

“Sometimes I wonder if this is worth the struggle. Sometimes I wonder if this is worth the fight. I never have made my mind up about it; I’ve just decided to let it all ride.” – Tom Petty, Deliver Me, from the album Long After Dark

I’ve had a problem concentrating lately. I can still get my work done, yes, but it’s a constant battle to keep focused on what I need to do and not allow myself to stare off into space, letting my mind roam around from topic to topic. This has been happening a lot, and one of the things that keeps running through my head is this song. It’s one of my favorites by Tom Petty, without whom I would have never made sense of much of my life. I owe that man a debt, and now I’m wondering why I can’t shake this song. It’s there when I get up in the morning, as I drive to and from work, and in the moments between active thought. So I finally decided not to let it ride, but to try and figure out what the soundtrack in my mind is telling me.

So I sat down and started scribbling the first things that came into my head. I listed them out, bullet-point fashion. I was as honest as I could be about how I’m thinking and feeling right now, knowing that my thoughts and feelings can change in an instant in response to either good or bad news, or an unexpected phone call from a friend, or having one of the endless plots I conjure for my own amusement pan out. Or not.

When I got down to the end of the list, I wrote “I am so discouraged.”

When I read that back to myself I hear a very loud voice in my head say “You don’t deserve to be discouraged. Look at everything that’s going right in your life. With all of the suffering and pain in the world, you have NO PROBLEMS.” Which is true.

Then another voice, which is yelling at me as I write this, is saying “And you can’t post a blog about how discouraged you are – think about the people who may read it! Your family! Your friends! They might get upset that you feel this way and even possibly get upset at you! How can you put them through that, for your own egotistical, selfish need for – what? Validation? Consolation? Commiseration?” But then I figure that y’all will get over it. So I press on.

I took a look at that word: Discouraged. When you break it down into its parts, the word becomes “dis-couraged”. Which, to me, means being robbed of your courage, of your ability to fight off the demons who would have their way with you. In the battle against fear, being discouraged means you’re losing.

“Cour” also means heart, which explains why a synonym of “discouraged” is “disheartened”. So in this context, losing heart is the same thing as losing courage. Does our courage come from our hearts? I always thought of having courage as having “guts”, which would put the seat of courage in the belly region. But now it makes more sense to me to think of courage as stemming from the place that holds our capacity for love. And if the opposite of love is fear, which I believe, then the idea of being “discouraged” is actually a lack of love and a prevalence of fear.

So I’m not discouraged after all. I’m afraid.

This makes more sense to me. Fear isn’t rational, and it doesn’t respond to pep talks. It is an insidious force that invades your mind and heart and squeezes out all the love and light, replacing it with things like anger, resentment, hopelessness, despair. And it mostly runs in the background, unnoticed, until a triggering event that brings it straight to the forefront, at which point you either give in because it’s been undermining your defenses for ages, or you fight.

So that’s what Tom has been trying to tell me. I’ve been giving in, letting it all ride, because the fear has convinced me that it isn’t worth the struggle. It says “You won’t win. You never win. Just give up.”

Well, anyone who knows me knows how I respond to messages like that. It doesn’t end well for the messenger.

I’m happy to say that this little dive into my psyche has been helpful. Having named my enemy I am better equipped to combat it. If I can get back to the sure and certain knowledge that whatever happens I am loved and not alone, I will win. And I will.

Thanks for listening. And stay strong. Don’t listen to the fear. Love yourself, love your people. It’s the only thing that matters.

photo credit: symphony of love Sir Winston Churchill Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm via photopin (license)

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Happy Birthday?

Candle

Well, hello there. It’s been a few months. I told you I probably wouldn’t be writing any more posts on this blog, but the need has been growing and I can no longer resist.

There’s a lot to say, and nothing to say. But I’m going to say it anyway.

My 49th birthday was yesterday. It was a great day for me. I heard from many, many friends and family during the day. I took the day off from work and spent it with my sweet husband, doing things I enjoy. Then we had a lovely dinner with some great friends, and my sister came, which made it just that much more special. So I feel prepared for the staring contest with 50 that officially begins today. Bring it, half century. I got this.

At the same time I feel a little weird about celebrating when there is so much awful going on in the world. As I sat in the crowded restaurant eating and drinking and laughing, thousands of my fellow citizens were protesting (peacefully, thank God) the disconnect between “All Men are Created Equal” and the unequal treatment a large percentage of these men and women are subjected to, every day of their lives.

I don’t believe that people should give up their celebrations when things like this are going on. It is as important to express joy as it is to stand up to injustice, and I don’t feel guilty about it. What I do feel is a terrible sense of helplessness, and of inadequacy.

I read post after post on Facebook, article after article in newspapers and magazines, and listened to all the voices raised in this collective howl of frustration and impotent rage, and I wonder if I should add my voice. I suppose this post is evidence of what I finally chose.

I don’t actually have anything to say that hasn’t already been said, and said well, by others. I don’t have any new wisdom, or brilliant insight, or magic words that will make it all make sense and show us the path forward. I wish I did.

What I do have is a renewed sense of the importance of saying SOMETHING.

So, this is what I have to say:

  • I believe that racism is real, institutionalized, and rampant in our country.
  • I believe that racism will never go away until the majority of white people who abhor racism actually DO something about it, and not just assume that because they don’t actively hate black people that there isn’t a problem.
  • I believe that denying racism is racist, and I have been very disappointed to see some of the people I know buying into this dangerous lie.

The thought that any of the black men I know – these smart, talented, creative, successful, loving men – could be shot at any time for no reason is intolerable.

I have to do SOMETHING.

There have been some good things written about what white people can do to help. This is one of those things – speak up.

I never engage in casual racist talk. Sometimes I even try to point it out. I can do better than that. I will be more vocal in the future.

I will look for other ways to help. I will start being part of the solution, however I can.

You hear the phrase “Be the change you want to see”. It may sound like a cliché, but it is a profound truth. We don’t often get to make the big gestures, but we can always make the small ones, and sometimes that’s enough to soften a hard heart.

This is me, a white girl, stepping up. For my friends. For myself. For everyone.

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photo credit: gc366day125 via photopin (license)

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Turn the Page

Turn the Page Large

I like to think of the story of my life in terms of chapters. There’s Childhood, which encompasses everything up to the start of 6th grade. Then there’s Junior High, then High School, then College, and then the Alliance Theatre (my one and only professional theatre job). Then came The Lost Years – that strange, meandering gap of time between 1990 and 1993, when I went to Paralegal school and did the only really serious partying of my life (and it wasn’t all that serious, not really). In the fall of 1993 began the IRT, Down Right, and Stage Door Players years when I was working full time during the day and doing theatre pretty much the rest of the time. Then in 1995 my husband-to-be entered the picture, and 1997 began the chapter I call The First Three Years of Marriage. 2000 – 2003 was Grad School, 2004 to mid-2005 was Recovering from Grad School and Looking for a Better Job, and in August of 2005 started the CoreNet chapter. There’s some good stuff in there, but in June of 2010 it came suddenly to a close. The next chapter was Trying Desperately to be Self-Employed, subchapters of which are called ATB Meeting Design, How We Work, and Moventus. You can’t say I didn’t try.

And now I’m here, at the end of one chapter and the beginning of yet another.  I don’t know what this chapter will be called, since I don’t know what’s going to happen or how it will end, but for now I’m thinking of it as the Going Back to a Regular Job. I’m hoping that early subchapters will be titled Getting Out of Debt and Going on Vacation for the First Time in Four Years. Certainly the themes of Remembering How to Get Up in the Morning, The Daily Commute, and Lunch – Bring or Go Out? are ones I’ve been exploring my first week at the new job. Also important has been Remembering What I Used to Know about Commercial Real Estate. It’s coming back to me, I’m happy to report. I figured it would, I just didn’t know how long it would take.

But before I turn the page on the last chapter of my life and start writing the new one, I wanted to look back at this incredible time and be grateful for what it has done for me. Yes, it’s been hard, and yes, ultimately it wasn’t sustainable, but I wouldn’t trade one moment of it. Not even the really bad ones. So, here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve learned:

I’m More Resilient than I Had Ever Imagined

I won’t say I’m “tough” – that implies that I’m not breakable. I’m not fragile, but I am breakable, and I did break, into a thousand sharp pieces that took a very long time to glue back together. In the process some of those pieces didn’t fit anymore, so when I came back together I was different. More able to withstand shocks. More comfortable with uncertainty. More secure in my own skin. Less needful of others’ approval. Much more patient. There were days when I thought I would never see the sun again, but I did, and I know now for a fact that no matter how dark it is today, no matter how overwhelming your grief is today, no matter how hopeless you feel today, that one day it will be better. You just have to hold on.

I am an Artist

I’ve written about this more than once, so please reference my published works for more detail if you wish, but for the first time in my life I have fully embraced the truth that in my core I am a Writer and a Theatre Person. Years ago I turned my back on the theatre to do other things. I will never do that again. I will also never not write. I am a writer. It’s who I am.

The Money Always Comes

My biggest fear in life is not having enough money to pay the bills, and I have stared into the gaping black hole of that fear over and over and over again these past years. But here I sit, in my house and not in a cardboard box under a bridge, and I think sometimes that it’s a miracle how that can be true. But it is, and I know that for reasons that have very little to do with the rational world, the money I’ve needed has always been there when I needed it. Can’t explain it, don’t want to.

If it doesn’t Make You Burn with Passion, Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I hung on to the dream of self-employment for as long as I did for a lot of reasons. Some of them were good reasons, some not so good. But the truth is I wasn’t trying to forge that career path out of a burning desire to do that kind of work. And it showed, in the end. I tried, but I know it showed. So, my loving advice to you is this: don’t try to go it alone for anything less than the pursuit of your life’s work. It’s too hard if you don’t love it with everything you’ve got.

I am Content

I’ve been a restless person my whole life. I still strive to be better at the things that are important to me – my work, my writing, the theatre, my friendships, my marriage. But for the first time since childhood I am completely content with my life as it is right now. I am overwhelmed with blessings. I have a wonderful husband who I love and who loves me. I still have both of my parents and I treasure my relationships with them. My sister is my best friend. I have a theatre family that is a constant source of joy and belonging. I have a snug home, affectionate cats, and a car that runs. And now I have a job working with some super nice people doing work I enjoy for a wage that won’t make me rich but will damn sure keep me from feeling anxious about my finances. I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning feeling grateful, and humble, and so very aware of just how good I’ve got it. I have more than enough.

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The title of this blog is “Every Day is Saturday: the Joy and Heartache of Working for Myself from Home”. Given that the title no longer reflects this chapter of my life, this will be my last regular post under this title. I may start a new one; I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. I have been so moved by your support and encouragement over the years. You are one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been able to see myself as a writer. I am more grateful than I can ever say.

So, I wish all the best to all of you on your own journeys. I hope you find your passion, and your contentment.

Amanda Taylor Brooks

January 31, 2016

 

photo credit: I, Right via photopin (license)

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting In the Mood

Christmas Cocktail

You know, sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I’m busy with work, I’m distracted, or I’m worried about this or that. I’m just not into it. No matter how much I know I’ll enjoy it once it starts, it’s getting going that can be the hardest part, you know? I have to grit my teeth and force myself to take that first step. I know if I could just relax it would be easier, but I’m having a hard time letting go.

I’ve tried, I really have. I wear the special clothes, I have the right accessories. The room is all done up nice. I’m going through the motions, but I just can’t seem to capture that special feeling.

I can’t seem to get into the Christmas spirit. Santa’s just not doing it for me. Not yet, anyway.

My tree is up. The stockings are hung. I’ve done most of my shopping (yes, online, I’m a horrible person, but Amazon Prime is the bomb!). The Christmas cards are all written and addressed and mailed. I’ve baked two batches of cookies that are so good I’m regretting that I’m going to give them all away (Scrooge much?).  I’ve even broken out my seasonal slop-around-the-house sweatshirt, the one that says “Noel” with the red ribbons on it that’s two sizes too big. You would think all that would be enough to have me humming “Holly Jolly Christmas” all day, but, alas, no.

Maybe it’s being stuck in the house that has kept me from catching the Christmas bug. I haven’t been much of anywhere except the grocery store for a few days, and the guy with the bell outside just gives me a headache. I did feel a twinge looking at the Starbuck’s Christmas Blend coffee – there’s something about that stuff that brings out images of crackling fires and warm blankets and good books and cuddling that is distinctly Christmas-y.

Maybe it’s the 70 degree weather we’re having here in Hot-lanta. But really, that’s not all that unusual here, not at all. We Atlantans know how to pretend we’re living in a winter wonderland in spite of the shorts and flip-flops temperatures in December!

I’m not sure what’s keeping me from feeling all goose-pimply and excited.

I love Christmas. I love the little traditions my husband and I have, the rituals we perform every year. I love giving presents. I love the plays and the concerts we attend. I love the annual parties, where we see friends we don’t see at any other time of the year. I love getting together with my family for a big meal and tons of laughter.

I suppose I could get out of the house and go to the mall. I could wander around and look at all the stuff for sale, and the decorations, and listen to fifteen different versions of “The Little Drummer Boy” playing over the loudspeakers in the department stores. But I don’t know – the older I get the more the buy-buy-buy frenzy turns me off. It’s out of control.

I miss my high school chorus. This was the time of year when we sang all of the Christmas music – sacred and secular – we’d been rehearsing since September. We went to the malls and sang, we had a school concert, and we sang in area churches on Sunday nights. The feeling of being a part of that group, making beautiful music together, was (and still is) a highlight of my life. To this day, nothing has made me feel more in the spirit than a rousing rendition of the “Carol of the Bells” or the quiet simplicity of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Such great memories.

And there’s this – it’s hard for me to get in the mood when I’m surrounded by so much suffering and endless need. This year, as I have done for the past few years through my church, I will buy a gift for a child who may not otherwise have any presents to open because at least one (and sometimes both) of their parents is incarcerated. The greetings the prisoners send to their children, written on the gift tags by someone else, probably a stranger, are heart breaking. “Daddy loves you!” The periods of personal poverty that I complain about are nothing compared to these families, and my contributions, while sincerely made, feel hopelessly inadequate. All I can do is this much, and I pray that it makes a difference, even if it’s for only one child. Surely that’s worth a few dollars. I’m just grateful that I have the means to do it.

That’s it, though, isn’t it? I’m not going to find the Christmas spirit under the tree or in my stocking. It’s where it always has been, in the gratitude I feel for what I already have. I have so, so much.  There’s nothing I can buy that will make my life any better than it already is now. So I’ll focus on the love and joy in my life and marvel at how lucky I am, and how blessed.

The rest is just gravy and trimmings.

photo credit: Holiday Cheer via photopin (license)
 

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On the Verge

Cliff Edge

Today is the day we prepare to launch ourselves head first into the “holiday season”, which, in my book, has always meant those weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending on the first Monday in the New Year when I pretend I’m still working but I’m really not. Not much, anyway. As little as possible.

Oh I know, we’re all still “at work”, but what are we doing, really? Between the increasingly infrequent emails, the meetings that suddenly get cancelled, and the conference calls that no one shows up for, aren’t we really shopping online or arranging lunches/drinks/dinner/brunch with as many friends as possible before Christmas, organizing our family get-togethers (who’s bringing the green bean casserole?), and trolling YouTube for funny cat/dog videos? ANYTHING but actually working. Well, ok, we have to do something work-related, if only to justify our paychecks, but out of a regular 8 hour work day maybe 2 hours gets spent on actual work – the rest is just filling time. Am I right?

Of course, now that I’m self-employed and work from home you’d think I’d have gotten over this mentality, right? Wrong. For some reason, even if there isn’t really anything to do (or anything that needs doing right away) I still find myself at my computer, standing by just in case I get an email from a client or a new task from one of my colleagues.  And while I’m waiting, I start “goofing off”, just like I used to do when I went into an office. And actually feeling guilty about it, which is beyond crazy.

I’m a contract worker. Once the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, I’m done. I can do what I please with my time. I get paid for the work I do, not a certain number of hours in the day. And I am extremely close to being done with my contracted work this year. A few odds and ends, and that’s it! There’s some non-client-related stuff we need to do before the end of the year, and we will, but honestly, unless something changes, I’m looking at a very quiet December, work-wise.

So what will I do with my time? Hmmm . . .

  • I’ll bake a lot of cookies and give them as gifts. I did that last year and it was fun.
  • I’ll get my house in order. There are some cobwebs in places that have been there way too long.
  • I’ll read books.
  • I’ll work on stuff for my theatre company; we’ve got exciting plans for next year!
  • I’ll do things that make me happy, like listen to music and look up new recipes to try.
  • I’ll go to parties and concerts and movies and plays with my sweet hubby.
  • I’ll spend more time with my family.
  • I’ll do some writing (see, I’ve already started!)

Mostly, I’ll try to find the quiet in the middle of the holiday frenzy to be present, and to acknowledge how astonishingly blessed I am. I am loved, and I love. In this harsh world we live in, to love and be loved is an extravagance that millions of people can’t even imagine. When I think about that, my “problems” become very small indeed, and the simple joy of baking cookies or sitting down in the peace of my home to read a book seems luxurious.

So here, on the verge of the madness, stop and take a breath. Close your eyes. If you have love in your life, be thankful for it. It’s the only thing that matters, because it’s the only thing that will endure. Everything else can be taken away, even life itself, but the love you have given and the love you have received will always be there, waiting for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

photo credit: Cliff via photopin (license)
 

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