action · career · despair · exhaustion · friendship · hope · hopeless · job · jobs · miracle · perseverance · persistence

"We Need Back-up!"

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I have no back-up, she said.
My friend with two kids, impending divorce, move, life,
told me a few weeks ago. Trying to figure out if she could go back east
for a family reunion and see her great-aunt probably for the last time. To
figure out if she should bring her kids, even though she couldn’t afford it.
Trying to figure out who would take care of them if she went, because “he”
wasn’t available.
She felt alone, lost, and hopeless.
When I was leaving, she picked up her phone to check a text.
The kids’ other grandmother would be happy to come up and stay with them, it read. No
problem.
Her eyes went wide. She laughed. I laughed. We laughed about
the energy we put into feeling terrible about things. 
A few days ago, I saw her again. She was telling some of our
friends how she’d found a house in the town she wanted to be in because of its school system for her son. I hadn’t heard this part yet. Only how pained she’d been in the
looking, months and months of looking. Fearing, wondering.
She regaled us with how she went online on Wednesday, saw
the house on Thursday, and on Friday, signed the lease.
She told us how there was another house that she really wanted for $800 more a month. The kind of dream house she “really” saw herself living in.
But guess how much the tuition will be for her girl at the
school she wanted to be in? $800 a
month.
The litany of things that lined up were astonishing.
Each little piece of it having fallen firmly into miraculous and perfect place.
Each need met, better than anticipated. And “right on time.”
My friend was ecstatic and a bit winded with all the
resolutions that worked out in her favor. Eventually.
I said that it was like the “Universe” was tittering with a
present hidden behind its back. “Oooh… Look how upset she is that she has
nothing, that nothing’s coming out right – She’s gonna be SO BOMBED when I show
her what I have for her!! What I’ve had for her this whole time — Ha! It’s
gonna be AWESOME!”
And it’s true. It’s not that these things just came about
“miraculously.” It’s that she had been reaching out for help, grasping at any
straws, and finally, some of those straws bore fruit (to mix metaphors).
Desperate and despairing though she was, really distraught
at feeling abandoned by the Universe, lost in this HUGE transition in her life, she was asking for help. She
was taking action.
And that’s what
produced the miracles… to my mind, at least.
I report this whole story, I think, for obvious reasons.
I am currently grasping at so many straws, I could line the Augean stables.
I am reaching out to places I haven’t before, and listening
when people have things to say. (Even if I’ve heard their advice or platitudes
before and are silently telling them to shut it.)
I am feeling so lost and desperate and hopeless and
wondering and flailing and floundering. In short, I am feeling just as she was.
I know that we humans are meaning-making animals. We, or at
least I, want to make sense of
everything, even the things that don’t. So, I know that I want to make meaning
out of her story, make it into a tale of heroic action and
divine
desperate
patience.
I want to make this story Job. Because if it is, then in the
end I get a flock of sheep, too. 

* Epilogue

Look. I know this sounds like a lot of self-obsessed, self-centered bullshit. I know this isn’t Rwanda, or even East Oakland. I know that no matter what happens, I’ll likely have clean water to drink.

I suppose, having always been a late bloomer, I just am getting an advanced jump on the whole mid-life crisis thing.

I think the argument with authenticity is an important one to have. I think the screamings of a soul that feels trapped is an important one to answer. I get that that looks like a lot of navel-gazing sometimes, and I get the pain all that staring causes in my neck.

But I just want to say that I see both sides, here. I see that I have it immensely “better” than a hundred million people around me. I get that my life is infinitely better than it was 10 years ago.

But, I also have the capacity to listen to myself at a level that I have never been keen enough to hear before.

Last night, someone recommended I read the chapter on Withdrawal in a 12-step book. I did. This “not quitting my job without having another one lined up” thing IS withdrawal for me. It’s causing me pain. It’s causing me to act out. It’s causing me to have conversations and intrigue with inappropriate people, and to eat enough cupcakes to stock a shop.

I’m in pain, and it comes out here. This is my place. I feel badly about putting it up so that you have to read daily about it. But, you don’t have to read. And I don’t have to feel.

And yet. Here we both are. Xo.m

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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. 

awareness · career · childhood · clarity · despair · faith · fear · healing · isolation · jobs · recovery · work

The Runaways

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I sent out a mass text on Wednesday to several women I know
who’d understand. I asked them to help me not quit my job that day; that for me
quitting without a safety net is equivalent to drinking; that I was at the end
of my rope.
I got several texts back, including from a woman I am only
acquainted with but who I admire, and she offered that if I called her, we
could pray together. Sure, what else have I got?
When I called, I imagined we’d just say some rote prayer that
is common around, but instead, she launched into a several-minute long prayer
personal to and about me. In it she said, to me and to the ether, that this job
is just a recreation of my childhood trauma and neglect, and to help me see
that and heal that. She said many other loving things, but this is the part that
has been sending shock-waves through me the last few days.
I’ve “gotten” that my relationships in the world tend to be
mirrors or recreations of older, historical relationships. It’s been clear that
my acceptance and pursuit of jobs that make me want to cry with frustration
over the hemorrhaging of my time is a pattern of low self-worth and despair.
However, there was and is a new level of understanding – an
“aha” moment if you will (not gag) – as I listened to my friend’s prayer. How
is my job a recreation of my home life
growing up?
Well, at home, I was a runaway.
When I was little, I only did it twice. I got as far as our
public library, with a small backpack filled with maybe an apple and a
sweatshirt. But at 7 or 8 years old, I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have a
place to go, there was no where to go. And so I defeatedly walked back home,
and slipped into my house, where no one noticed I’d been gone anyway, just like
the time before.
In my home, my gifts were not encouraged or noticed; there
was an unstable force that expected perfection, meekness, and to be obeyed; and
finally, all of my most basic needs were met. I was fed, clothed, and housed —
anything else was bonus, not to be asked for and not to be expected.
(It wasn’t prison life, I know; but this is the
interpretation and internalization of a small person with a brain that analyzes
and makes judgment.)
So. How have my work environments been a reflection, a
recreation of this initial home environment?
Perfectly. Perfectly parallel:
Basic needs met. Check.
Gifts not seen or utilized. Check.
Perfection and meekness expected. Check.
Unstable authoritarian. Check.
And finally,
Somewhere I run away from. Check. Check, the whole of my life, check.
I have held 6 jobs in the past 8 years.
Each year and a half or so, I become so frustrated with the
confines of my environment and the yearnings of my soul, that I quit. I quit
without a safety net. I quit with nowhere to go.
And so I do what I did when I was young: I go back home. I
find another underearning, underbeing, dissatisfying, deadening, useless position
that also meets my very basic needs and has a few coworkers to be my allies.
I keep this job until I end up crying in my car for an hour (See: this Tuesday). And then I quit again.
Rinse. Repeat.
So, today, I am attempting with every fucking fiber of my
being not to quit. Not to start the cycle again without a plan – without
someplace to go. Without someplace to go that is “right,” that is safe, that is
not running from the frying pan into the fire.
For me, to quit a job without a safety net – meaning,
another job or enough savings to carry me through to another job – is tantamount to drinking. And as a sober alcoholic,
that’s a pretty serious parallel. It is deadly for me to do this again:
 I eventually begin to think about driving into oncoming traffic. It is insane for me to do this again and expect that in any way
it would be different than before.
So, what is my solution?
I have tried every mode of visioning, job window-shopping,
informational interviewing, praying, meditating, and begging known to me to try to “conjure” or land on or decide or realize or discover
what the job, the career, for my life should be. And I have landed on nothing.
I am absolutely blocked in this area of dreaming.
A therapist once told me that I don’t let myself dream.
And this is true. Why dream, when it’ll be taken away or
I’ll fuck it up anyway, which amounts to the same thing?
I had a moment last night when I heard someone say that “we”
are the kind of people who try to get away with doing the least work.
I thought about that. Why is that? Because I completely identify with that.
I leaned to my friend on the left, who identifies with that
way of being, and asked, Well, what about workaholics?
I leaned to my friend on the right, who is a workaholic and would no more do the least amount
of work necessary than eat sand, and asked her about it.
Later, in talking with her, I’ve come to see that although
the routes are very opposite, the motivation and the fear is the same for both
“underearners/under-be-ers” and for workaholics: Things are not going to work
out; I’m not going to be okay.
For the set that does the minimum, the fear (for me at
least) is that whatever it is is not going to work out anyway, so why try? Why
give the world the satisfaction of seeing me put effort in, if it’s only going
to turn to shit?
For the workaholic set, the fear is that unless I have my hand in everything, it’s not going to work
out. I must make sure that I’m doing everything possible, or it will turn to
shit.
In both these scenarios, the fear is that the result will
not be favorable to us. On the one hand, why try to make it work – on the other hand, make
it
.
In both cases, there is a lack of faith in the positive
outcome of things, or in an outcome that is unfavorable but doesn’t demoralize
and crush us into smitherines. Because,
for me, that’s the final stage of the fear – I will be so demoralized, I will be
annihilated.
But aren’t I there anyway?
So, again, what is the solution here?
It seems to me, that I needed a safe place to go when I was
running away. And although I cannot conjure or envision for myself a job or
career that I want, I do think that I
can try to envision for myself a safe home.
Though, even in my home life now, I’ve recreated what it was like when I was
a kid: My own small room that was safe, filled with things I’ve made and pretty
things, a place I could hide, be myself, and a place where I was mostly alone.
What is a real safe
place, not like this isolation? Where would I
want to run away to?
I believe that as I try to answer this question, to envision
what an ideal safe home looks like, I will begin to have movement on the job
front. I will begin to create that environment I crave in the external world. And though that might not mean a lightning bolt in terms of a career
choice, it may help to make whatever my next transition is one that I don’t
have to run away from.