Friday’s Focus—A Page Is Worth a Thousand Memories

Still deep in the process of cleaning up and boxing for our move, I came across a stack of journals I wrote many years ago while in my late teens, through college, and into the end of my first marriage. The notebooks were squirreled away in a corner of the garage interspersed with high school and college yearbooks. A cardboard box of memories now wrapped in spiderwebs and reeking of mold.

I knew I couldn’t keep them smelling the way they did but I couldn’t bring myself to just toss them either. So I blew off the dust, found myself a seat and flipped through them one last time before they were forever history. I was feeling an odd mixture of curiosity and trepidation—heck, I remember those years. Did I really want to go back there? But instead I found reading the entries again to be revelatory. It’s amazing how our memories gloss over seemingly innocuous details that feel as big as the sun when they first happen. And yes, there were some of those dreams in there that I haven’t achieved but it was okay because I can still say not achieved yet.

There were names and events that I barely remembered, if at all, but the key players were there still as sharply in focus as yesterday. It was fascinating to look back and see how my experiences and feelings shaped me into who I am today. But the most surprising reveal was seeing patters of thinking and beliefs from back then and (deep breath here), seeing and admitting I still have them today.

The patterns of thinking and believing wouldn’t have been so obvious had I not read these journals. Admittedly, it was a little disconcerting to discover how feelings of insecurity, shame, and fear had their seeds in those pages and how they’ve remained as unconscious patterns now. But I also saw patterns of strength, fight, resolve, and determination that also had its seeds back then, and which have also remained to this day, far outweighing the insecurities and fears thanks to experiences and time.

There were some hurtful events that came back in vivid detail, and as they did, I almost felt like a mother to myself, sending the younger me love and understanding back through time. It provided an unexpected opportunity for the healing of my younger self, which in turn, heals my current self.

There were good memories of sun, friends, going down the shore, and countdowns to last days of classrooms and some not so good memories. These were snapshots of daily life and growing up in the typical highs and lows of a Jersey girl moving from her adolescence through her first marriage.

I saw myself from the inside out because it was me but also from the outside in, reading about my feelings and experiences as if they happened to someone else. I didn’t expect this as I started to flip through the earliest book, but before I knew it, I caught myself searching for the girl I knew I was and connecting with her as the woman I grew up to be.

By the time I read my way through to the last journal, I was ready to let them go, but I wanted to do so with some sort of dignity rather then tossing them into the trash, so I let my inner artist come through. I filled the kitchen sink with water and bunch by bunch, tore the pages from the notebooks and soaked them in the water. I watched my handwriting disappear as the ink washed away.

After a few hours, the water now looked like a mini-lake with its blue water and the paper pulped back to its beginnings. I grabbed handfuls of the mush and squeezed them into small balls of paper—no hint or evidence of the words they once contained. As I worked the paper in my hands, I once again took on the role of Mother to the younger me and consciously connected the disconnects. I wasn’t sad about giving up the pages and notebooks now. As a mater of fact, I felt it was a gift to go through them again and cathartic to wash the pages away.

I’m glad I kept them all these years. I don’t think I ever intended to re-read them. Once the last page was filled, up it went on a shelf until I didn’t know when. But now, I do. I’m interested to see what will reveal itself when I read my current writings 30 years from now.

A written page is worth a thousand memories and staying open to what was can only lead to a better way of what will be.

#takingitdeeper

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Careers Are a Thing of the Past

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t believe in careers anymore. I’m beginning to think that having a career is a holdover of a generation that seems to end with mine. Our workforce has become a series of jobs—short-term things we do to earn money versus the pursuit of a career which is basically a longer-term role of employment. A job is not a career. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a career as “a profession followed as a permanent occupation”. It doesn’t take much to notice that there aren’t many permanent or long-term positions anymore. I’ve seen too many people lose their jobs due to corporate restructuring and the reduction of staffs based on economically-driven decisions. I’m not blaming the businesses for this turn. As a matter of fact, looking at these workforce changes from a business perspective, it makes dollar sense.

The people I know who still hold a career is really a career in name only. Careers these days have been watered down, twisted, and shaped into something completely foreign to what people had originally intended to work at when they first entered the workforce. I find this sad.

Today’s college graduates are filling out applications for jobs that having nothing in common with the degree framed on their wall. There are many paths one can take to be employed, but the hiring and the duration of the job seems to be at the whim of whatever the economy dictates can be most beneficial to the advancement of the stakeholder’s pocket. Economics 101? Of course.

For those who do end up on a payroll, they are given responsibilities, which they have not been trained for, or are trained poorly, and are showing up each day on jobs because of the need for health insurance and rent and food money. In the meantime, being soul crushing in all other aspects of their personality.

I’ve even found myself in a work environment that turned out to be completely different from what I had started in. I’ve been working within the same industry for over 25 years but my roles have changed dramatically as prescribed by the changing focus of the companies within my industry. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have set myself up in education and training to be in a role that has pigeon-holed me and made me all but obsolete. I’ve come to fully accept that I no longer have a career, but rather it’s just a job. One that pays the bills.

People tell me that I should be happy with that. “At least you have a job.” Yes, of course, I am grateful to be employed. But it’s not the same terms of employment that I grew up thinking they would be.

Careers used to be something you aspired to. You went to school to train for it. You interned at a company to get a deeper level of hands-on experience. These things have all gone the way of Mad Men, and in its stead, there are generations of people who have had to turn in their careers for whatever jobs were available, making the best of a situation nobody prepared us for and different from what our parents told us our future would be. Whether we want to or not, current economic climate has made each one of us stand on the cusp of a new way on how to make life better for ourselves.

Our self-worth and identity are very much wrapped into our employment roles as functioning adults in society, contributing our part of paving the American Way. We will always need food and shelter and to provide for ourselves and our families and losing the idea of having a career can be a big adjustment not just for our lifestyle but how we see ourselves.

All that you knew and worked for are no longer available. The rules have changed and are as fluid as they need to be to keep the corporate shareholders afloat. In a way, this can be a blessing in disguise. It’s human nature to seek ways to pursue our happiness and maybe, as our workforce culture has changed with intensified job responsibilities and increased pressure, it is forcing each one of us to reevaluate what our goals are and what we really want our personal energies to feed.

In our discomfort of the modern-day 9-5 we are recreating a culture that though we may no longer have the careers we were promised in our youth, the jobs we hold can continue to take up a corner of our existence but also allow us a way to start thinking out of the box and find talents and desires within ourselves that either weren’t available before or we were never in a position to have to think along that path.

In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, he talks about finding two roads in the woods and trying to decide which road to take. Suspecting he will only have one chance at making the choice, he understands that things have a way of leading to other things and he may not find his way back, he chose the road less traveled, which had made all the difference.

How many of us have traveled the road of anticipated careers and our education? We were so sure we could always come back to walk the other road, but somehow never did because we got caught up in our career. For many of us, we may find ourselves back to that fork in the road, whether from our own hand or that of our employer’s. It can be an opportunity, a second chance to take that road less traveled, and see where it leads.

I don’t think my grandson will ever know the same definition of “career” that I knew growing up and who knows what the workforce will even look like when he’s ready? His will be a whole new generation and the rules will probably change for him, too. I think that the closing of the doors on careers as we know it is jolting but it doesn’t have to be immobilizing. Maybe the window that it opens is one that is more important—having a job but also being able to pursue a more rewarding and richer path and one that we can walk this time with a poet beside us.

Friday’s Focus—Landscapes

And it all comes down to this.

The grass will always grow through the cracks in the sidewalks and the vines will reclaim the landscape from the concrete and steel.

It’s all just a matter of time before there comes a balance again, when we can catch our breath as we stand between the wall and the cliff.

There is a balance that is always there, but it is not not always equal except maybe in our delusions. Even then, nothing stays the same for long. Everything changes and sometimes they can be so subtle it seems like nothing has changed at all.

And it’s then, when we look back, do we see that it wasn’t so much the situations that changed. Instead, it was us and our perception of our own landscapes of concrete and steel that changed and we saw the grass through the cracks in the sidewalks and the wildflowers in the playground.

Today’s focus is about the trust that things change whether we want them to or not. It’s our perceptions of our landscapes and the necessity of finding the stillness within that will determine whether we are gazing at weeds or wildflowers.

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Friday’s Focus—Change Your View, Change Your Vibration

Today, think about someone you don’t like. Someone you can’t stand. Someone who really irks you or even just mildly gets under your skin and notice the emotions that take over and the physical responses in your body. You know we all know at least one person that gets to us.

Now, think about two good things about the person. You can find them. Really make that effort to dig deep. Regardless of how small it may seem to you, it is still a positive thought. And positive thoughts turn into positive energy. Now, notice the difference in your emotions and physical responses in your body.

Negative thoughts are like negative energetic daggers that stick in someone’s energy field and can create imbalances and even illness.

One look at the news is telling how much out of balance we are with each other and so within ourselves. To change our thoughts may seem like a ridiculously small act but it builds into larger feelings, and if each one of us took the time, there will be the hundredth monkey and we will see change. Let it start with you, today.

Have a good weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

I Want…

I’ve been quiet for a while so I thought it was time to post some things I’ve been thinking about….

I want my breath taken away by something beautiful, not knocked out of me by anxiety.

I want my heart to ache from loving so much it hurts, not aching from hurt love.

I want my eyes to see beauty and hope in all corners of nature and humanity; even ugliness and hard lines have a duality that embrace some good.

I want my mind to come up with possibilities and solutions where thinking out of the box is the norm rather than staying boxed in.

I want my soul to create opportunities of inspiration, aspiration, and celebration not just for myself but for whomever the magic touches.

I want to dream of ideas and worlds that change the questions of “What if” and “When” to the sentences, “Yes,” and “Right now.”

I want to walk out of the shadows of my ancestors and add my own colors and stories for my descendants.

Finally, I want to thank all those who are or have been in my life even if for a moment or a day, and for helping me choreograph my dance, add colors to my canvas, and for being an audience to my stories.

Peace.

Ram Dass Was Right

Watching my husband deal with his illness has taught me more than just dosages and side effects that people going through chemotherapy have to deal with. As a partner, a witness, and being a survivor myself, if you ask anyone who’s had it, cancer can be one of life’s biggest teachers–if you allow it.

It was many years ago that I had my own struggle with cancer, and now, I find I’m on the outside looking in at another cancer battle. I know this fight is not about me, but I can’t help but see the lessons that are here for me, too—as a wife, caregiver, partner, nurse, woman, daughter, human being.  I cannot speak for my husband but we talk a lot about what he’s going through and what lessons there are for him in all this. It was after one of those conversations I realized that the lessons that illness can teach, aren’t necessarily limited to those directly suffering from it.

I’ve learned things about myself, some good and some not so good. I’ve finally learned where my limits are and that it’s completely okay to say, “No.”

No, I can’t do it
No, I’m not going to worry about this
God, you can take this one.

So I didn’t and God did, and because of that, I am trusting more and having faith that things will get done and whatever way it falls, things will be alright. Really.

I’ve learned how uncomfortable people are with the word “cancer”, and because of that, I have become more aware of other people’s unspoken fears.

I’ve learned that sometimes, the deepest unconditional help and love can come from the most unlikely people, so I’m learning to stop being judge and juror.

I’m learning to accept help with grace and not taint it with feelings of failure because I couldn’t do things myself.

I’ve learned how genuine the human heart can be and that there really are good people who put others first when they see someone needs help.

I’ve learned that when someone is in pain, or afraid of the unknown, or just plain feeling like crap physically, emotionally, mentally, it doesn’t matter what my deadlines are, what I’m wearing, how much I weigh, or how much the cable bill is this month. I’ve learned the most important thing is to be present with that person right there right now.

I’m learning to be out of my comfort zone and being okay with it.

I’ve learned it shouldn’t take an illness or the death of someone to find ourselves realigned and reawakened. Sometimes this has to happen—we have to get shaken up—in order to wake up. There will always be that call to make and that book to read and that TV program to watch, but there is a rhythm to life and relationships that seem only to get noticed in times of fear and problems. I’m learning to be more aware, more present, and to get more out of my head and into my heart.

Finally, I’ve learned to thank the circumstances that have surrounded my family for the past few months, because without them, I wouldn’t have learned to dance to this new rhythm and Be Here Now. As long we’re alive, we never stop learning and I don’t know what future lessons will bring, but right now, I can tell you that if you asked me what I know, I’ll say I know nothing. If you ask me what I’ve learned, I’ll say a lot.

To be continued.