authenticity · awareness · career · dating · deprivation · faith · fear · integrity · internet dating · jobs · perseverance · self-abandonment · self-esteem

Broken Algorithms

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Someone asks you out.
You’re pretty sure it’s not a match, but “you never know” and you have nothing better to do, so you
say sure. The date is uneventful, confirms that you’re not a match, and ends
with a nice awkward hug, and one of those vague promises to meet up again soon.
Perhaps there are follow-up texts, that you politely reply
to, but are vague and friendly. Perhaps there are then more follow-up texts
that you begin to ignore in an attempt to give a hint as to your lack of
interest and intention. And, finally, perhaps there’s the passive-aggressive
texts you begin to receive that a) reconfirm this wasn’t a match, and b) lead you
to hide them from your newsfeed!
What’s wrong with this picture? – as the back of the Highlights magazine asked you to spot.
Well, first and foremost is the fact that you abandoned your
own good judgment, values, and integrity by agreeing to go out in the first
place. “Pretty sure it’s not a match” is usually good enough. Enough of these
situations have proved that your gut is usually correct.
This self-abandonment is the seed of the whole problem.
It’s not the dude; it’s not his persistence; it’s not his disappointment masked
as passive-aggression. – It’s you.
I’ve finished reading the history of online dating/how-to
memoir entitled Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to
Meet My Match
. In it, the author describes
that the problem with online dating is not the sites; it’s
us. It’s us answering questions as our aspirational
self, instead of as we are. It’s us, chatting with people we only have vague
interest in. It’s us, abandoning our integrity in order to have crappy
connections with people.
I’ve been thinking about this process in relation to my job
search. I’ve realized that I do the same thing in dating that I do in job
searching: I lie. I let jobs that hold little to no interest for me get a bulk
of my attention, and then when I get the interview, I find that,
indeed, I’m not interested, but in order to be “nice” or liked or wanted or
hired, I will feign that interest. I will more often than not land that job,
and then I will become resentful that I have it. This suitor that I didn’t
want, I’m now trying to delete from my Facebook, or in this case, my LinkedIn.
Again, what’s broken here is not these jobs – it’s my
willingness to abandon my values. It’s my willingness to say to myself,
Something is better than nothing; what else have you got to do? It’s my
willingness to waste my time and theirs, so that I can put off and deny what it
is I really want.
My willingness to waste my own time … my threshold for the pain that causes is astronomically high.
But because I have a belief that this is easier than the
pain of making truer statements, of sticking close to my integrity, my
intentions, my values, and my wants, I choose the rockier path every time.
Because the alternative is to stick with myself. To be the
friend I want to be to myself. To be my
own cheerleader and ally, and to let myself know that I’m here to support
myself on the unknown path of self-esteem.
I said on the phone to a friend two weeks ago: “I’m having
trouble mustering the low self-esteem required to apply for jobs I don’t want.” Ha!
I think we call that progress; insight; growth. (Although, I am still finding myself browsing those job descriptions.)
I have to muster a whole silo filled with negative beliefs
in order to go toward jobs I don’t want. These include: I don’t know what I
want, so I don’t deserve anything better. I will only abandon myself
eventually, so I may as well do it now. There’re no happy endings in this world,
so what makes you think you deserve one.
To name a few.
And I have to bombard and drown myself in these beliefs
(false beliefs) in order to “muster the low self-esteem” necessary to undersell
myself.
The same, I’m sure, is true for me in the dating world.
So, again, what is the solution, here?
I know that it’s to not abandon myself, to continue working
on my self-esteem, to wipe away the corroded mirror I use to judge myself so
that I can get a clearer view, one that reflects esteem, joy, confidence, and
courage. One that reflects someone fun, engaged, lively, warm, and worthy. I
know that the work is to trust that if I walk away from that silo of low
self-esteem, I will be led toward a healthier source of sustenance.
And that trust… That is the hard part. That tiny sapling of
faith that I will have to hold onto as the storm of negativity swirls around
me, raging only harder the longer I resist. I will have to hold on to that sapling,
until it becomes a redwood, until the storm recedes into memory. I will have to
have faith that if I hold on long enough to my self-worth and my self-esteem,
the clouds will give way to the sun. 
Here’s hoping. 

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authenticity · children · deprivation · friends · fun · laughter · self-love

Dive In

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I never actually go in
the pool. For years, 6 of them, my friend and her family and our friends’
families go out to the east East Bay for Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day
weekend. 

There is a pool there. I attend by the side. Perhaps I’ve gone in the
hottub, but I can’t even remember doing that. I lay on my towel or a pool
chair, slathering in sunblock, catching up, chatting, sharing with these women
I see only occasionally, and it’s
wonderful, this catching up chatting and sharing, but I never go in the
pool.
On Saturday, before I left for the weekend, I made a
commitment to a friend that I would actually go in the pool. I made a
commitment to let myself have fun. To enjoy what was being presented to me, to
not literally be on the sidelines of my own life.
It’s hard – or it has
been – to let myself take part. I’ve been so reserved, analytical, watching,
the consummate wall-flower, when in fact I
feel anything but.
And so, at some point soon after the sun had soaked far
enough into my skin to want relief, I walked into the water.
I’m a slow pool-acclimator, as I am a slow band-aid puller.
Later that night, the women-folk stayed up to play a board game, and my
strategy was to move slowly but eventually around the board. I admitted, laughingly,
that it’s the same way I play chess with my brother: I move pawn after pawn.
One little square at a time.
After my first timid entrance into the water, and a few laps
across the pool, my heart rate up, the water refreshing, my second entré was
different. I was inspired by my friend’s daughter, who lay over an inner
tube, head back, dousing her hair in the water. Only nine, I watched her
luxuriate in the tactile and sensory pleasure, the instinctual joy of just
letting the water carry her hair out into the water. Of soaking the top of her
head, running her fingers into her scalp to get each follicle up and satisfied,
eyes closed, in the moment, in the sensation, in the freedom of doing what felt
wonderful just for its own sake.
My second time in, all the others were under the shade by
the house, and I waded in. About half-way wet, I just dove in. I let my body be
strong and carry me to the bottom. I borrowed some goggles, and played the same
game of fetch I’d watched the kids play, throwing plastic sharks to the bottom,
and diving down to retrieve them. Seeing under water, holding my breath in that
suspended moment, moving quickly and gauging the time I had left before I had
to surface. Running my hands along the bottom, and pushing against it with my feet to
shoot up through the clear water. I laughed.
It was invigorating. It was fun. It was entertaining and
special and out of my ordinary. And on my way out of the water, I lay back into
it, soaked the top of my head, however briefly, and luxuriated too. 

action · debt · deprivation · health · perseverance · recovery · self-care · theater

Work It.

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I’m up at what I would
call atrociously early, if I hadn’t just signed up to be the desk person at my
gym at 5:30 am on Mondays starting June.
That will be hellaciously early. This is only moderate.
I do a work-trade at my workout studio so I can get free
unlimited classes. Last time I was on the trade staff, I barely took advantage
of it; since I could go whenever I wanted for free, there didn’t feel like any
urgency. Now. … Well, I started back on staff just before my Boston trip, so I felt
a bit urgent in “lifting my seat”! And in hoping not to wheeze like a rhino during
any strenuous activity!
Now that the trip is well over, and schedules are back on
track, I’m trying to get back a few times a week again. It’s good for me. Mentally, mostly. Though, yes, when I go
regularly, I see and feel changes that I like. It’s
nice to feel strong, capable. It’s nice to push myself
because sometimes the class is peopled with 60 year olds (along with the 20, 30
and 40 somethings who are straight out of a Marina postcard) – and if they, a
sexagenarian, if you will, can do it, can hang for an hour, then so can I.
Moderately!
I also asked a friend to meet up and do our writing together
yesterday evening, since we’re both in the study group that’s doing all this together. It
was good to see her, and we got a lot accomplished. I can already see that this
work is a lot deeper and more meaningful than the last time I did this, so I
can hope for change because of it.
It has already shown, in just the 15 timered-minute increments,
that there are some messed up ideas
around self-worth, what I can expect in this world, and what I think I deserve.
So… it’ll be nice to get them out of my reflexes and onto the page.
Also, I did show up
to an audition for a staged reading this past weekend, and in fact, actually got the
part. Like, in writing. In an email saying, “I’d like to offer you the role
of…” and then the follow-up email entitled, “Welcome to the cast.”
So, I’m now Various Roles! Ha! Yay for me. Goes on my resume.
Speaking of, I did a little more work last night – or action,
rather, and sent something out. I still have loads to wade through following my
info interview with my former boss last week, which was awesome, but I can try to take a small action every day.
In fact, I took that action last night after all that writing during which my
fears and beliefs tell me that no matter what I do or accrue or amass, it’ll be
taken from me because I can’t handle it properly, because I don’t deserve it.
SO, I told that thought and belief to screw itself and got
online to follow-up on something I’d seen earlier last week.
I also replied to the Volunteer Usher group I belong to who’d put
out feelers to see who’d be interested in ushering the Sir Paul show at Candlestick in
August. UH. ME. We won’t find out if we’re “chosen” until August, but I’m throwing my hat in the ring.
I continue to throw my hat in the ring. It’s kinda one of
the things about me. I can have all these creeping, sodden beliefs and habits
and reflexes that undermine what I do and want to do in this life, and I seem to continue to do this stuff anyway. I don’t
know what or where that came from, that same impulse that told cancer to fuck
itself, that knows this work is worth it, that
isn’t satisfied accepting less than I deserve because of
reasons I learned long ago about only deserving a second rate life, job,
relationship, since it’ll be taken from me anyway or I’ll screw it up anyway.
I seem to have some bloody impulse that impels me to keep
trying. I squawk a lot about dilly-dallying at the cross-roads of my life, and
that’s true in many regards, and makes sense if I believe the above is true. But
despite my procrastination, my self-sabotage, and my self-judgment, I’m awake
at 5:30 this morning to do something that’s good for me. And my ass. 

abundance · addiction · alcoholism · balance · community · compassion · deprivation · equanimity · finances · humility · recovery · scarcity · the middle way

The B Word.

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Balance. Without it, I tend to become the other B word.
Someone asked me how the whole, “I need friends who don’t live hand-to-mouth,” blog
went over, if there was any push-back from it. I said, not that I know of, but
that I’d spoken to some other folks over the weekend, and was reminded of
something very important in life: Things are not black and white.
When I stopped drinking, it was because I was an alcoholic.
I put the bottle down, looked around, and declared everyone close to me
alcoholic, too. Whether they were or not, I was on a crusade of reform, and
they all were alcoholics who needed to
stop as I did.
Well… two things: a) yes, most of the people I was
associated with “at the end” were in fact drinking alcoholically, but b) that
didn’t mean they or anyone who drank were alcoholics. In the beginning, I
needed that kind of black and white thinking, because being close-ish to people
who were drinking was too difficult a gray line when my line had to be
crystal clear.
But, just because that was the way for me, I came to realize
that wasn’t the way for everyone. And after some time passed, and indeed the
folks who were hopeless sops like me faded from the foreground of my life, I got to see that some people (god bless them) can drink normally.
There’s one friend who stuck through my own transition. She described this “normal” drinking to me: she
literally says to herself, “Hmm, I’m beginning to feel buzzed, I should switch
to water.” Uh… I didn’t get that memo. “I’m beginning to feel buzzed,” was always followed by, “A few more will get it done right,” or if I was feeling temperate, “I should switch to beer.”
So, my friend does not react to alcohol how I do. And I have to come to see that there is a world between sauced and tight-ass.
In the same way, I recognize that as I begin to assess my
behavior and extremism around money, scarcity, and deprivation, I am being
called to allow others their own experience, even as I diagnose and address my
own.
Just because a friend opened a new credit card, doesn’t mean I have
to stop hanging out with them. Just because a friend is earning less than I
think they deserve in the world, doesn’t mean they’re addicted to deprivation.
Just because other people behave differently than me, doesn’t mean my way is
the right way, and most importantly, doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to learn from them. 
As with getting sober, I do have to admit that some
of the folks around me may indeed have trouble in this area – water seeks its
own level, after all. But, that doesn’t mean I have to be an asshole about it.
And, that’s what I’ve gotten to see these past few days I’ve
been declaring myself needing to “move on” from friends and communities who have
what I’d declared a “faulty, diseased, and only rectifiable by a spiritual
solution” relationship to money, and thereby the world.
It’s a good thing people don’t take me that seriously!
And it’s a good thing I can remember to not take myself too
seriously, too. If I’d stuck to every declaration about myself… by this point I
would have been:
Vegetarian
Israeli
A prostitute
A suicide victim
A daily exerciser
T.V.-less
Caffeine-less
An organic farmer
and a truck driver.
The thing is, I can’t make blanket declarations for myself
or anyone else. I have no idea what my
path contains or eliminates, thereby
no idea what others’ do.
There is some truth to wanting to learn from and be around
people whose relationship to money can model my own. But that’s because I have
a problem with it. Not everyone does, and if they do, it’s really none of my
business.
It comes to equanimity, and allowing others and myself our
experience without judgment. It means having openness, compassion, and respect toward all people on all paths. It does certainly include me getting help for a
pattern of beliefs and behaviors that have led me to despair and insanity, but
it also includes me being more generous in my assessments of life. Allowing for
the gray, for the middle-ground, for difference, for balance.
Because, solvent or not, nobody likes
a bitch. 

abundance · change · clarity · deprivation · despair · family · finances · hope · recovery

Cleaning House.

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There’s a phrase in Al-Anon: Let it begin with me.
I’m in the process (or supposed to be) of looking back
through my life and writing down where underearning/underbeing/debting has
affected my life, and eventually caused it to be unmanageable.
I’ve often and easily thought about my dad’s parents and his
half-brother when I think about the history of this “disease” in my family.
It’s easy to do. They are the ones who hoarded, let the dog go to
the bathroom in the house, and despite brains that cognitively thought at high
levels, lived like people who were under a crushing weight of despair, which
looked on the outside like the crushing weight of filth.
These folks, my kin, would have been the people who Hoarders would have descended upon, who would have reluctantly
and silently allowed their belongings to be sorted, sifted, and discarded. And
after the cameras left, would have as quickly as possible returned their home
to the state of dishevelment and insurmountable disarray. The familiar state of
it. The state in which they felt most comfortable, even if not comfortable at
all.
After my parents’ divorce when I was 20, my dad let our
childhood home fall into much the same state, with the dead bugs on the hood of
the oven, the flies belly-up on the window sill, and the tree that shaded our
home, that stood sentry in our front yard, so long-neglected it had to
come down. And though it’s easy to see these patterns of neglect, hopelessness,
resignation, and simple denial in that side of the family, through my inventory work, I’m also getting to see a different strain of ideas around money,
belongings, worthiness crops up from my mom, too.
I spent some time with my brother last year in his apartment
he rented alone. The same silt of neglect, of using half-broken items, of
allowing the home you live in to be in a state of disrepair lay over his home,
too. But, from the same familial miasma, his attitude toward money became very different than mine.
At some point, I brought up money and my not knowing how to manage it, to save it, to “make
it work for me” (whatever that means!), and he admitted, surprising me, that he
is a miser with it. He hoards and saves his money, and is virulently opposed to being indebted to anyone.
He hoards money. I hemorrhage it.
In the end, though, the result for us both is the same (and
I recognize that my assessment and diagnosis is unfair to him, simply in that I
am not him, so please forgive my
hubris). But the result is that neither of us have money to spend on fun
things, nice things, things that make our lives fun and easy and worth living.
If he’s loathe to spend anything, even if he has it, then life becomes smaller
than it needs to be. If I simply spend whatever I make without thought to
long-term or significant goals, my bank balance becomes zero, and my life shrinks
with it.
I may not do my dishes as regularly as I should (though I am better now!), and my
fridge may house food that is unidentifiable with mold, but my home is
neat, clean, organized. It feels light, despite its size, and I endeavor to make it so. But there’s an article I read recently on home
decoration that said, “Do it: Clean, organize, make pretty, and then GET OUT.” Get out and into and on with your life. There’s more to life than decoration.
So, as I tally my numbers each month, calculate my income & expenditures, as I put money into a savings account and a vacation account, I
have to remember it’s not just so that I can have a neat and orderly
spreadsheet. That, in fact, even if there were a million dollars in my account,
I’d have to remember, like my brother, that it’s there for me to enjoy thoughtfully. That
it’s there for me to live, to support a life worth living. I have to remember that I do all this work so that I
can go out in the world as my family was unable to do.
I let it begin with me. 

abundance · community · debt · deprivation · finances · growth · integrity · recovery · self-care · self-support

No Soup For You.

It’s astonishing, the lengths I’ll go to deprive myself.
The thick pattern of deprivation, living small, quietly,
unobtrusively, knocks on the door of all my actions and insists on being
allowed in.
Luckily, my latest personal recipe is: Me + G-d + Friends +
Action.
I was on the phone with a friend the other day discussing
the fact that I needed a spending plan for my upcoming trip to Seattle and
Boston this Saturday. I told her that I’d already “found” $235 in my usual
monthly spending plan, which means whittling funds from other line items, like
entertainment, personal care, household purchases–line items that
fluctuate anyway, so I consider them “fundgable” when they’re really not. (I’ve
learned.)
This isn’t to say that my spending plan is a monthly set of
10 Commandments, chiseled in stone and fatal when not adhered to. It’s an
ideal, a goal, a guideline, and the actuals that I tally at the end of each
month tell me the story as it happened, instead of how I thought it would.
Usually they’re pretty close these days.
However, when my friend and I were speaking about my trip,
and we calculated aloud bus fare, BART fare, coffee&food at 4 airports in
10 days, groceries, eating out, incidentals, tchotckes, gas money… well, we
figured it out to about $400, a number I’m supposed to double check before I
leave.
Immediately, I begin mentally looking at those fundgable
categories, which I’ve already cut thick slices from this month to support the
trip. And I start to get panicked and fearful about the trip and how much I can
spend, and try to pre-manipulate how I can spend less than I actually know
I’ll need.
This, friends, is the compulsion. How can I whittle down my
needs, how can I deny what is actually true about my needs, hide them, dismiss
them, and discard them, so that I can live in a way that I misguidedly think
will support me?
Luckily, I was on the phone with my friend as we spoke all
this out, and I admitted to her that I have nearly a grand in my vacation
savings account… but, I told her like a child revealing they’ve stolen a
Snickers, I’m “supposed to” be saving it for my hypothetical trip to Paris with
my mom next Summer.
I don’t want to give up my Snickers. I don’t want to break
part of it off to eat now, because I believe I just need to save it for later,
or there will never be enough.
This is preposterous. And where voices that don’t live
inside my own head are so valuable.
She didn’t even have to say anything, as I admitted my
vacation savings money could easily provide the additional $200 that I’ll actually need for this trip. I just talked myself through it,
admitting it, accepting it, saying that I see the fallacy and the deprivation
in that kind of
save it ALL for some unknown date and live in fear
right now
thinking. And I told her I would
move that money over this week, so that I could use it in today, for the
intended purpose: vacation.
It’s not actually called “Paris Vacation with Mom” savings
account: It’s just called Vacation. And if this isn’t the time to use those
funds, when I need them, when I’m plotting to slice myself and my funds even
thinner than they already are this month, then I haven’t learned a thing.
Yesterday, I did move that money. It felt illicit, illegal almost. I felt
nervous and anxious and excited and proud to know that I was supporting a
vision for myself without putting myself in deprivation.
The ridiculous part is that I will easily replenish that money in the vacation account over the next few months. “Vacation savings” is a
line item in my spending plan every single month. It’s not like I’ll never get to go
on a vacation again because I’m using this money now.
But my addiction to deprivation and fear continues to knock
on my door and insist entry into my life and my decisions. So, luckily, today I have
an antidote: Me + G-d + Friends + Action. 

abundance · addiction · balance · clarity · commitment · community · debt · deprivation · spirituality

For you, not me.

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As is custom, yesterday I got the chance to sit with two
other folks who work on their relationship to money. We met in the monthly
group of three to hear and discuss and provide suggestions and feedback to one
of the group. It was this woman’s first group like this, she being new to
addressing her vagueness and impulsiveness around money.
And I got the melodious chance to see how far I’ve come
since I sat with a similar group of two strangers almost 3 years ago.
As I watched her discomfort, shame, panic, and hopelessness,
it reminded me of how I was when I sat in that first group. I hated that I had
to seek help around money; I already spent plenty of time in groups about
alcoholism, now I have to do it about debt, scarcity, and … (dread) abundance?
I came to that first small monthly group with my numbers
tallied from the month before, my income and expenses. I came with my mounting
student debt, my checking account bouncing along the bottom, my credit cards
bouncing along the top. I came with starvation in so many areas, and I was
so sure they were going to tell me to cut more, since my income was not meeting
my expenses.
Instead, what they told me was that I was living in
deprivation, and needed to increase the
amounts I was spending in certain categories of self-care (clothing,
entertainment, food). They told me that my needs weren’t too great to be met; that I needn’t be ashamed of actually needing more.
It was horrifying! It was so uncomfortable to be validated
that I wasn’t living too big for my britches, but have no idea how to change
the income side. At the time, I was barely making ends meet with temp jobs, and
felt I was doing all I could to get out of the hand-to-mouth hole. But I was
powerless, I was desperate, and I listened to these two who said, We believe it
will get better for you; it has for us.
Things didn’t really begin to change for me until last
Spring when I began working one-on-one with a new woman I’d admired from those
groups. For whatever reason, things didn’t really change when I’d worked
diligently with the first woman I’d worked with.
When I started again with J., at one point, she told me that
I needed a car, and I would get one. SCOFF!! What?? How? What money? Me? No….
I didn’t believe her in the slightest. At all. But, I did
believe that she believed, and that was
enough. She said, I needed a car to get to band practice, to get to auditions,
to get to work, and it would happen for me.
And, as you now know, last October, maybe 6 months after her proclamation, it did. It’s not a
beater car, an “underearner’s” car, it’s not a jalopy. In fact, it is the exact
make, model, color, mileage and price I’d hoped to get. Seriously!
I didn’t “come into money.” I didn’t stop buying clothing,
or going to the movies. I just kept showing up to groups and meetings and
writings like the folks I saw get better do. And things changed.
I know the woman yesterday thinks we’re full of shit, just
like I did. I know that she thinks to herself, “Yeah, maybe for you, but not for
me,” just like I did.
But, with my life as evidence, with one credit card paid
off, my $90,000 student loans in repayment
(slowly), with food I want to eat in my fridge, and most importantly, with the specter of “I’ll never get out of this; I’ll just kill myself” long faded – if it can happen for me, it
can happen for her.
And if the course of one year of real change can produce
what it has, maybe I no longer feel the same militant resistance to where else
abundance wants to enter my life. (Maybe.)