Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Deck of Fifty-One

    Have you ever had the feeling that you're playing solitaire with a deck of 51? Yes, I know the old song, "counting flowers on the wall..." but that's not what I mean. It feels that no matter how many times I shuffle and deal the cards I have, I can't seem to get the game to play out. I get so close, and think I have won for sure, but then I am stymied by a few undisclosed cards. Granted, I am still enjoying the game, trying new hands, new strategies, new angles. I am not giving up despite my rather glum record. I guess it does come down to managing to enjoy the game whether I am winning or not.
    I have even tried different games, reshuffling and dealing time after time. But no matter the game I play, without that missing card I feel I will always come up a bit short. What I need is a whole new deck. One that is still sealed in shrink wrap and guaranteed fresh for my safety. A shiny new deck that is still crisp and waxy, not worn and faded. A complete deck, all the cards, even the jokers (because every game needs a few wild cards).
    I think the time has come for me to seek out this holy grail, fountain of youth, city of gold, Full Deck. Not that I haven't  been trying to find the missing card, that vital component that will let me win a game. I really just want to win one game. Is that asking too much? For as often as I shuffle and re-deal I wouldn't think that I am asking too much of  Lady Luck to grant me just one win. It's not like I'm playing for big stakes, or expecting a huge pay-off. I would just like the personal satisfaction of knowing that the concept of winning is not out of reach. I just need to find the missing card. Maybe it is in the sofa cushions with the loose change and remote.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Life is at it Again

    Aaargh. Why does Life have to fuck with mind and spirit? It seems that Life is not content to let me make a decision, work towards a specific goal, and achieve a sense of balance and accomplishment. How so? You may well wonder. Very recently, after too many disappointments to count, I managed to realign my priorities, set new goals, aim for fulfillment of a lifetime dream, started getting things rolling towards a new, balanced reality, and generally found a sense of peace within myself. How did Life manage to mess with this? I got a voicemail inviting me to interview for a job that until my recent realignment epiphany, was what I thought would be ideal. Now, I'm not so sure. As a matter of fact, I am hesitant to even return the call.
    Part of my realignment/peace realization was just how much freedom my current job allows me. I am unsupervised more than 50% of the time, and even when the boss is sitting ten feet away he lets me do my job mostly unmolested and at whatever pace I so choose. This is because he has never had anyone as reliable and diligent as I am, and I have worked up to this point over the course of five years. Yes, my job sucks on several levels. It is mind numbing and depressing at times, but then what job isn't? The job that isn't is me being able to spend my free time creating artistic pieces and actually marketing them to the public. That is the lifelong dream that I am inches away from making a reality.
    Do I pursue the altruistic job with a potential for higher pay, better benefits, and definitely higher stress and the potential for burnout? Or stay put, enjoy my freedoms and easy work, and quit whining about the emotional black-hole of a work environment I am in now? Will my current job even be around in 6 months? With the state of the economy and the sluggish industry, the company may close it's doors mid-winter. I hate having to revisit this quandry over and over.
    My immediate reaction is to stay on the path I have only recently discovered. Stay true to my dream of  making a living (at least a supplemental income) with beautiful things created by my own mind and hands, and let go of my ambitions for a higher paying, government job. I have to ask myself, can I even be a government drone? Can I go down that path knowing the resstrictions that would be placed on me? I don't know if I can do it. I don't know if I should do it.
    I guess I will call back, get set up for the first appointment, that will give me several days to really think about it. I can always call back and say I can't get the time off. But my heart is telling me that I should follow my dream.

Monday, August 15, 2011


    Life is unpredictable, shifting, chaotic, stressful, exciting and ever-changing. I constantly slip down new pathways to alternate realities, willingly and willfully. I can't seem to find the straight, reliable road to a pre-ordained destiny, but doubt I would tread it even if I were to find it. As much as I like a structured life, and say I don't like change, the reality is that I seek out change, force it upon myself, chase it down, and crave it like a drug. Change makes life exciting, exhilarating, inspiring and invigorating. Lack of change is stale, dessicating, cloying, annoying, boring, insipid, and mind-numbing. Change is terrifying, but the lack of it is even more so. Change forces us to confront our weaknesses and overcome them. The staleness of no change makes us weak. To seek change requires courage and boldness (whether real, forced or faked). To avoid change only requires the simple act of doing nothing, inertia, laziness, submitting to fear, committing to lassitude.
    I have been pursuing change. Trying to change most aspects of my life; job, house, status. All with very little end result. I have concluded that I am trying to force changes in areas that I have very little real control, such as changing jobs. This wouldn't have been an issue a few years ago, but now the jobs are few and far between and competition is beyond fierce. I am not shying away from the job market because I fear change, or because I feel defeated and unworthy (although I will admit that the constant rejections gave my ego a real beating). The reality is that I would most likely be trading one set of stressors for another, drop in pay for a while, lose benefits during the transition, and most likely lose a lot of the freedoms I have gained in my current job. In other words, "same shit, different office." So instead of burning energies and beating my head against the brick wall of a floundering economy, I will redirect those energies into my life-long dream/desire/pursuit of making money through my various artisan skills. I am an excellent craftsman and have been producing beautiful pieces for quite some time. I just haven't made any money at it. I have pondered so many potential ways to actually make my art pay, but have been unable to find the path that leads to a real potential income. Now comes the really hard part; making it a dream come true. 
    I have decided to try and combine my love of ancient art, my knowledge of differing styles, my hedgewitch nature, my enjoyment of working in different mediums, and my desire to create original pieces that step outside the lines. My mind is racing with ideas, plans, shopping trips for materials, researching outlets. I will have to make myself follow through; make the items then actually put a price tag on them and get them out into the real world.
    This is where I usually fail, I am not a good self-promoter, but I will learn. I will learn, and I will make myself change. I will step off that ledge and slip into the unknown. I have found an area of my life that is in my control, that I can change, a change that will be totally up to me. Chances are, this will lead to other changes, some terror, more exhilaration, boldness, greater creativity, panic, chaos, accomplishment. It has potential for pain and joy, failure or success. I am not unfamiliar with the risks, having faced them many times before. But I will face them with tenacity, stubborness and bravery (real, forced or faked), because without change I am nothing, I am the same person I was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and that would mean I have wasted my life. To live a  life without change, growth, challenges met, mountains climbed, is to live without Living. I can't do that, it is not my nature. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Soul Searching

    I am having a day of doubt, impatience, and frustration. It is causing a chaos of inertia and wild energy. The need to act dampered by a sense of futility. A driving desire to move forward hampered by no where to go. I keep veering onto different paths, hoping to find the one that will lead me to my heart's desire. But now I am having doubts of what I really desire. No, that isn't quite right. I know my heart's desire. What I am doubting is the paths I am trodding in search of that ideal job/occupation/career that will finance my heart's desire and still feed my soul. The age old, "what do I want to be when I grow up" dilemma.
    I know what I want to be, my heart's desire. I laughingly refer to it as "Hermit In The Woods," my way of labeling my dream of having a small, rustic (not too rustic mind you, I like running water, electricity and internet access) home on the edge of a small patch of farmable land, with a cool, serene forest at my back. No neighbors in sight. Just me, my animals, and solitude. The freedom to grow a garden, have a few chickens, maybe a cow. A small home with a large, airy, bright studio to create works of art and to write my fiction. I don't set my sights on creating great works of art, or the next great American novel, just the freedom to spend my days creating what I want, how I want it, when I want to do it. The freedom that feels shackled by my current situation.
    So where does Soul Searching come into this? Because it is more than obvious to me and anyone who cares to ask, that I do know what I would love to do "when I grow up" but I know that it won't make me any money either. At least not enough to provide even the most basic of essentials. And it definitely would not give me insurance benefits. The Searching is pointed at the reality of the workaday world. I must have money to survive, living in freedom would have very little to recommend it if it came with zero dollars, no home, no food. I have been searching for an altruistic career, a job with a sense of accomplishment, the ability to "make a difference." My current job barely covers my cost of living, but the hours are easy as is the job itself. It does give me enough mental down-time to ponder my next project, but it is also a soul-sucking drain of emotional energy that makes me want to pound my face on my desk. The jobs I have been applying for would have better pay, better benefits, actual PTO accrued on a regular basis, the potential for regular pay raises, but they would also have random hours, sporadic schedules, and require all my brain functions to be on the job at all times... no more daydreaming, no planning next project.
    Where does this leave me? I am not sure. Am I wavering because I have been faced with rejection so many times on the job front? Am I trying to justify throwing in the towel and continuing as a malcontented office drone? Or am I realizing that the advantage of the easy job and easy hours is that despite the stress and emotional black hole that I work in, it does give me a lot of free time, and I really don't take work home with me. Am I looking for fulfillment in the wrong place? Can work be just work? Just a paycheck to support my arts? Can I allow myself to give up on the dream of a "fulfilling" workaday career and focus my energies  on my fulfilling, yet not-for-profit arts? I am not one to give up on A Plan, and I have had serious concerns that my current employment could go down the drain with the economy, but couldn't that be said of almost any job with any organization at this point?
    My life seems a jumble of mixed emotions, crossed signals, and confusion in nearly every aspect. The only thing I feel certain of is that my dogs love me. Everything else is totally up for grabs. I will continue with the Soul Searching, trying to keep moving forward, even if I don't know where I'm going. I sure as hell have no idea where I will end up.

More on the Haves and Have-Nots

    Driving to work this morning in my beat-up P.O.S. van with the glaring "check engine" light staring me in the face, I pull up alonside a new Cadillac Escalade. My first reaction is envy at the pristine white pearl paint,  glistening chrome, vanity plates. Beside it my van looks just that much older and shabbier. I look over at the driver and my envy diminishes: soft, pudgy hands with immaculate French manicure; glittering diamond charm bracelet dangling from a plump yet delicate wrist; hair bleached blonde to within an inch of its life; make-up too thick and still unable to diguise the wrinkles, eye pouches, chronically down-turned pout, and unhealthy pallor from years of a decadent lifestyle. Yes, these are just my biased observations and there is no foundation or fact to back my opinion of her general health and happiness. But after the first visceral reaction of envy, the realization that her Escalade probably did very little for her happiness and/or self esteem, and the fact that I knew at a glance that I could easily take her best 4 out of 5 falls, my envy disapated to be replaced by a glimmer of superiority.
    A little further up the road I see a man walking on the shoulder of the road. He is at the city limits, walking in towards town. He is grey haired, scruffy, wearing slightly grubby and tattered clothes, and I have a feeling that he probably sleeps under the bridge that is a mere hundred yards behind him. I think of the pampered woman in her white-pearl Escalade, and this fella probably heading to the store to spend a buck or two on something warm to fill his belly, and the thought strikes me that I would be more likely to enter into a conversation with the man in the tattered pants.
    Apparently, I am a bigot. I am heavily biased against the Haves. I make the assumption that they most likely came about their money either through dubious business dealings, taking advantage of the little guy, and dicking the IRS on taxes, or they came about it through family money (most likely also earned through dubious dealings). It is hard for me to believe that anyone has made even a small fortune through honest, hard work. I know, many will argue me on this point, and I also know that there are people out there who have made their money in an honest endeavor. But you will never get me to believe that the majority of people out there in the million-dollar-club got there by the sweat of their brow, or clever use of brain power. So, you see I am a bigot. I make assumptions about a person's character based on their external trappings. This is a bias and bigotry that I am actually okay with, and have no plans to educate myself in the ills of my ways, or seek out the wealthy in order to have them sway my opinion (as if they would want to hang out with me anyway). I will remain staunch in my prejudice of the Haves, from the lowly viewpoint of a Have-Not.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Not Me, It's You

    It's not Me, it's You. Seriously. I was struck with this epiphany as I was out walking, berating myself for not meeting others' expectations, feeling inadequate, disappointing, and depressed. Then I realized that all these feelings are being generated from external forces, not from within. I feel battered by so many outside influences, so many people with expectations of how I should act, what I need to be doing to "succeed," how my feelings aren't appropriate, how much I have changed over time. And this doesn't even bring in the battering I am taking from the economy, job situation, housing. But I realized with near blinding clarity that really, It's Not Me, It's You.
    How do I mean? There is no shame in being upset by failure. Even repeated failures that gnaw at my self-esteem like a hungry rat. There would be shame if I didn't learn from each failure, pick myself up and try again. I cannot expect to be eternally cheerful during these trying times, but I can find ways to bolster my own sense of self. That is a key word; "Self." Self is Me, it is Who I Am. Self is how I act and react, how I cope, how I perceive myself... My Self... not someone else's Self, but My Self. I am Me, like it or leave it.
    Who am I? I am stubborn, self-reliant, optimistic, creative, solitary, calm, mercurial, manic, depressive, messy, neurotic, strong, fragile, athletic, tomboyish, empathic, empathetic, callous, carefree, careworn,  caregiver, reckless, cautious, searching, finding, exploring, experimenting, honest, guarded, secretive, open, shielded, protective, protector. I am calculating, but willing to leap before I look. I plan and scheme, but am no stranger to U-turns in life. I shield myself, protect myself from injury, but am injured often. My shield often appears as anger, hostility, pride, sarcasm, unconcern, stubborness. Which are all ways of saying, "I can't care about what you think, feel, do, and can't let it affect me."
    Where does this epiphany lead me with it's blinding light? To the knowledge and understanding that although I may change over time, mature, learn, grow, adjust... I cannot change who I am, how I act and react. And I don't have to. I have a strong sense of Self, I know who I am, what I am, what I want, and shouldn't have to feel wrong because this doesn't jive with what others think of me, what others expect. This Is My Self and I will do with it what I want. Like I said, It's Not Me, It's You.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Short Circuit, Cataclysm and Purge

    I am beginning to wonder if I am short-circuiting on all levels. It seems that lately when I make a smart-ass, cynical comment I am taken seriously and then get shoveled a huge mass of philosophical psychobabble. On the other end of the spectrum, I make a serious statement and am treated as though I must be joking (or maybe I am the butt of the joke? the punchline?) or insane. I am not quite sure what is going on, but I guess it does seem to fall into place with the chaotic, topsy-turvey unreality of all other aspects of my life. Why should my opinions and conversations not be included into the absurd confusion of the rest of my life.
    Maybe it is another sign that Life As I Know It is coming to end? No, I don't mean my life (I feel I had better quickly clarify before that too, is misconstrued and I have a suicide crisis center calling me), just Life As I Know It. Let me explain, before misunderstandings run rampant and I am being analyzed, philosophized and ostracized; I feel that I am heading for a cataclysmic change, an event or chain of events that will turn my life upside-down, shake me like a rag doll, and drop me in a manky heap in a stark, new reality, a new Life. Much of what I know as my Life, the day to day living, the trappings of my personal reality, seem to be crumbling around me, deflating, eroding, collapsing, as insubstantial as a zephyr.
    I will say, I was reminded today of a quote by Henry Beston, "It is only when we are aware of the Earth and of the Earth as Poetry that we truly Live." It is from his book, "Herbs and the Earth" which he wrote in the early 1930's. I used to have that quote painted on the wall of my kitchen, a lifetime ago, and I looked upon it every day and knew the truth of it then. It spoke to my inner Hedgewitch, spoke of truth and dream, past and future, reality and fantasy.  I think maybe I have lost my way a bit since then, but beneath it all I still dream of having my own little patch of earth, my own Herbs and the Earth, my own inspirational garden to harvest the gifts of Gaia. I have been trying to reach the point of having my little piece of the world, a piece of heaven on earth, but feel continually thwarted by the aforementioned short-circuiting.
    Maybe I do need the cataclysm, the massive event, the epic failure of Life As I Know It in order to begin from zero, to rebuild on a clean, flat surface instead of the debris pile of previous incarnations. But that is beyond frightening, it is panic-inducing. I know that it isn't like the movies, or gentle tales of redemption. Instead it would be a vomit inducing agony. Pain tantamount to giving birth to a 50lb baby with no medical assistance. A gut-wrenching, gruesomly glorious purge. I don't know if I can willingly inflict such anguish upon myself. I see that future and feel my pulse accelerate, my blood pressure crescendo, my brain throb with the tempo of panic. And then I breathe. In with the good, out with the bad. And I think. And I know deep within every muscle fiber that the end results would be worth every shed tear and every drop of sweat. But it is stepping off that edge, into an abyss with no visible bottom, no way of knowing how long and how far I must fall before hitting the bottom. Or how much damage I will sustain on impact. How much must I pay in suffering to earn my dream? I will never know if I'm not willing to test my mettle. No one else will do it for me. No one will hand me my dream. It is a lone pilgrimage to prove my worth, and worthiness.
    Nothing truly worth having comes easily or cheaply.      

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Einstein, Rainbows, Hurricanes and Sanity

    Is it wrong to be focused on life and survival, sometimes to the exclusion of play? I feel like I am the only one reading the news, absorbing the information (incomplete though it may be) and taking it seriously. The rest of the world complains about the issues, gripes about inflation and unemployment, but they are continuing on in their same day to day routine, as if by ignoring the pending apocalypse it will just pass them by. Einstein said it best, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results." Maybe that is not true insanity, but it is the insanity that infects the majority of the population. Where does that leave me though? I keep trying different things, and still end up with the same result every time; Failure. My consolation in this is that many of the world's most successful people have long track records of dismal failures, followed by another attempt, failure, attempt, etcetera, until they finally succeed. Granted there are more people in the world who just continue on with failure after failure, with no rainbow at the end of their road, people destined to vanish into obscurity and poverty. I'm hoping to someday reach the rainbow.
    Sometimes I think that my problem may be that I give up too easily, possibly out of fear of success and the responsibilities that go along with it. I have expended vast quantities of energy chasing dreams, only to finally stop as the dream disappears over the horizon. Is this giving up? Or cutting my losses? I like to think that I am relatively intelligent when I see diminishing returns, intelligent enough to let go of the emotional attachment to the dream, and find a new path. Too often I see people clinging to an ideal, idea, plan, business, project, clinging to the point that they are hemorrhaging money, energy, emotion and spirit. This is the aforementioned "definition of insanity." Slogging along, head down, ignoring the ruins of their dream raining down on them, thinking they are putting one foot in front of the other, but in reality they are slowly sliding down the slope towards the precipice. I see it at work every single day, it has the emotional drain of hospice care without the spiritual satisfaction of knowing I am making a difference in someone's life.
    The current dream is simply the survival of my family, and maybe finally obtaining a small piece of the American Dream. Yes, I really want the small family farm. I am willing to do whatever it takes, give whatever I have, sacrifice nearly anything, in order to have the security of farmable land and a livable house for me and mine. I see the looming apocalypse, lurking just over the horizon, like a tropical storm hanging off the coast while it builds power and speed. Will it hit? Or will it peter out to merely a heavy rain? There is no way of knowing until it is too late to run. I would rather prepare for a full blown hurricane and feel a little foolish later, than to look at the dregs of my life and the loss of my family and bemoan my inaction. This is a dream to pursue with a passion. A plan that needs to be forced into a reality. I need to stay the path, not give up, no matter what roadblocks or negativity gets thrown up in my way. Other's can look at me and this scheme and think I am obsessing, over-reacting, neglecting other aspects of my life, but I have to remain strong and sure-footed in this one endeavor. I have to ignore criticisms that I am too serious, losing my ability for fun and play, refusing to escape into fantasy. Painful as such criticism is, because there is more than a grain of truth in it, sometimes we must put aside frivolities in order to put all energies into reality.
    This is a path that needs traveling to the very end. For once. For once I need to not give up, regardless of what other's say and think. Not let outside influences make me stumble. Because sometimes I think I switch paths too quickly. Jumping from plan to plan, scheme to scheme, without giving anything the time to mature and bear fruit. Expending just enough energy to feel tired, never enough energy to succeed. Do I? I don't know, I really don't know. I don't like to think so. I prefer to think that I am avoiding insanity.