consistency · self-acceptance · self-knowledge

Fidelity

For a few years now, I’ve had “clear New Jersey boxes” on my list of “to do”s.  I’ve generally said, Oh this is too much, I’ll wait until it’s summer break… winter break… spring break… and so it’s been 6 years since those boxes came with me from my childhood home in NJ when my dad was selling it.

For whatever reason, it has happened that I’ve been drawn to clear out these boxes lately.  A few weeks ago, I began moving from box to box, shelf to shelf, drawer to brimful drawer of notebooks and folders and binders.  I have kept a lot of crap.

But in and amongst that crap are important pieces of my life and—as I’ve realized in the culling of it all—my self.

I can categorize every paper and folder and notebook into the following:

  • Performance (theater & music)
  • Spiritual progress (in subcategories of finance & underbeing, relationship & sexuality)
  • Math & Science
  • Creative Writing & Visual Art
  • Education & Teaching

That’s it.  My life on a librarian’s studiously categorized bookshelf!  5 categories that sum up the whole of me, my interests, my passions, and my goals.

What feels humbling and calming about this revelation is that I can more easily attend to the axiom, “To thine own self be true.”

While categories may be added or quizzically sussed out (does piloting count as science? is sailing education or spiritual progress?), the need for perfect sorting isn’t what strikes me today.  What I notice is that all my choices for over 10 years can be shuffled generally into these areas, and I am so glad of it!

It means that I am consistent, that my choices are consistent — even and especially when I feel lost about some aspect of what’s happening in my life, I now know that I have a template of myself.  5 colors.

Does this choice adhere to my color scheme?  If not, is it a choice I’m making for myself, or for somebody else?  If this choice does adhere to these categories, am I really giving it its due?  Am I paying attention to what it’s telling me, or am I scuttling it under a rug muttering, “It’s not that important”?

I have many a lumpy rug.

As I continue to sift through the accumulation of my years, I am finding a piece of pride in knowing these are the anchors of my being.  I can stand firmly and state with conviction that I love math, that I seek spiritual progress, that I foster my own and others’ education.

To know facts about myself, in this waylaying storm of daily emotions and tasks, is a relief and a boon.

 

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acceptance · humility · recovery · self-acceptance · work

“Finding His Way”

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Today will be my first day of training for women’s clothing
sales at Neiman Marcus.
I never imagined I’d write that, but I’m not ashamed of it
either. Nervous? Yes. Worried I will have to be aggressive to make sales?
Yes. A little trepidatious at having to learn all new things about brands and
quotas and sales targets? Yes.
Grateful? You bet.
An interesting thing happened the other day. I was asking a
friend about a guy we both know, who I’d just met: What does he do for a living?
“He’s a server. He dropped out of law school. He’s finding
his way.”
Aren’t we all, I replied.
And I noticed something. Although I still believe that
pursuing our passions and earning a
livable wage are ideals for me in my own life and in the life of a potential
romantic partner, when I heard what this notably attractive man did for a
living, I accepted it.
This, is new for me. Call me a snob, and perhaps I have
been, but because of my own vicious drive to “do something” worthy in my
lifetime, because of my own aching need to “move the needle of human progress
forward” through my employment, I have been judgmental of my own jobs. And of
others’.
But I noticed that I didn’t have that same snobbery come up when
told about this guy’s job. Perhaps, I have gained – or been brought down to – a
level of humility around what people are doing in and with their lives.
Which means, perhaps I am finding that same compassion and
acceptance for myself. Perhaps. Maybe. Surprisingly.
Do I still want to do work that enlivens me and helps others
on their own path? Yes. But I am accepting where I am today for the first time
in a long time.
Partly, it’s because I’m taking action outside of my
“regular work hours” to engage in activities like acting, and singing, and
getting ready to make this video-ask to help get an art studio. Perhaps now,
for reasons unknown to me, I am beginning to call those other hours worthy,
enough, more than enough. And they begin to settle the aching gnaw of “WHAT ARE
YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE???” that dogs my every step.
Perhaps, although this new work could be considered
not “high” employment (working toward a greater good and utilizing my skills
and talents), perhaps I’ve just become grateful to have any employment at all.
Or at the very least, employment that doesn’t sit me behind a computer screen
40 hours a week.
I am delighted and surprised at this internal shift. This loosening
of the noose around myself and others’ over how they pay their rent. Obviously,
it’s none of my business what others do for work, but it’s a question we all
seem to ask nonetheless. And in its answering, we begin to categorize and label
people according to a caste system.
Maybe it’s realizing I’m part of the caste of people who are
bright, creative, and longing. I am one of those “finding his way.”
I have found a compassion and acceptance of this place.
(Though the shrewd part of me wonders if that means I’ll now move into the “found”
category because of my new “achievement/enlightenment”… And I can offer a wry smile to that “never good enough” part of myself.)
To finding our way, be we server or CEO – Humans, all. 

change · confidence · despair · self-acceptance · self-worth · work

Answering the Caterpillar.

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Yesterday afternoon, I drove back from the dentist and
stopped to pick up lunch and a drink before I returned to my final afternoon at my job.
As I stood on line at Peet’s coffee, the tall cute guy
behind me rifled through his pocket, and out fell a green Crayola marker.
Without a cap.
This only happens to two types of people: wackos, and
teachers. I took the risk.
He replied he was a teacher. And then came the most dreaded
question on the face of my earth:
“What do you do?”
It’s one of the first questions people ask when they don’t
know one another. It’s a function of the desire to orient and locate you on the web of
society and potential commonality: What do you do for a living?
And, honestly, the idea of answering this question has kept
me from dating. Because what people are asking is not simply where are you
employed, (to me) it’s asking if you are
employed, what your social status might be, what your interests are, what your
value of your self is.
They are asking, Who are
you?


And I haven’t wanted to answer for as long as my response
has been, I’m a glorified secretary.
Sure, over the years when I’ve spoken to friends about this,
they’ve replied, you don’t have you put it like that. You are a marketing
specialist, you are in customer service, you are an executive assistant, an
education administrator. You support the people who make things happen, you run
offices, you hire and fire people, organize office events, facilitate publications. You reconcile expense reports.
AND ALL THIS READS TO ME LIKE GLORIFIED SECRETARY.
FUCK!
And, the point is that I
haven’t felt comfortable telling others that’s what I do for a living.
Because it makes me feel less-than. Because I interpret what
I do as not good enough for me. Because I feel that it doesn’t speak to all
that I am as a person, and surely, answering that one question for anyone is never an indication of who they are as a whole.
But, I have felt it a pretty good indicator.
I am small. I have zero power. I do boring repetitive tasks
while chained to a computer desk. I get condescended to and underestimated. I have the copy machine repair man on speed
dial.
BLECH!
Get out of here!
I don’t want to be that person. Because, I’m not that
person. It’s stuff I can do, but it’s not all of me.
Perhaps, though, it means that I need to hold others’ answer to
that question more lightly, because I’ve only had one answer to that question
for a very long time, and it’s never spoken to who I am as a person. So maybe I
can be more open-minded toward others whose answers don’t titillate me.
But, whatever comes of my relationship to others’ answers, I
know that I haven’t been able to budge my relationship to mine, no matter how
much work on “self-acceptance” and “perspective” and “gratitude” I’ve done. And so, the only thing to do is to
change my answer, not my relationship to it. Yet.
So, yesterday, when cute, marker-covered dude looked into
my eyes, and asked me what I did, I was able to answer easily, truthfully,
and proudly: I’m a teacher, too.
(you know, part-time, after school two days a week, but,
it’s a start!)

adulthood · aging · authenticity · confidence · femininity · joy · life · self-acceptance · self-love · vulnerability

"Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure!"

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I am likely not the only woman to tear up at the sighting of
a gray hair on her head. But I may be one of the few who wells up with tears of
gratitude.
Yesterday, during my morning primping, I noticed a gray
hair. I usually don’t pull them out; this isn’t the first I’ve noticed. But
this one, I decided to.
About 5 inches of silver, shiny, light-catching hair. 5 inches
that have grown back since it all fell out from chemo in late 2012.
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been scared of going gray. I
had none at all before cancer, and several now. But, even before then, I always
thought of it as a rite of passage. As a crowning achievement, really. You’ve
made it
. You are alive to go gray at all. You are passing into the stage of life that
is for richness, boldness, satisfaction, self-esteem and a greater degree of self-assurance.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading about aging
generations, it’s that so much of our self-questioning begins to fall away once
we reach “a certain age.” We begin to think less about how others see us, and
more to question what we want to leave as a legacy. And this brings with it so
much reflection and truth-finding.
Who wouldn’t want to
age into that category?
Surely, you don’t have to turn 50 to begin to assess your
values and your desires for the remainder of your years. Like me, and surely
others, you can do that at most any age. But it helps to have some experience
behind you to make those choices from a place of peace, not fear.
The first memoir I ever looked at, I didn’t read.
I saw it on a shelf in Borders (when it still existed) about
7 or 8 years ago. I noted the title, looked at the flap, and went on with my day.
But I never forgot about it, and last year finally picked it up to read.
The title? Going Gray:
What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and
Everything Else That Really Matters
. A
woman’s exploration of what that means to “go gray” in our culture and society.
A lifelong hair dyer, she made the decision to give up the illusion, and embrace
whatever lay under the chemicals, for better or worse.
Author Anne Kreamer looks at the history of dying our hair;
goes “undercover” as a woman trying to reinvent herself to re-enter the
workforce to see if image consultants will tell her to dye her now growing-out
grays (none do); and comes to discover that with her new look comes a new clothing
color scheme, and a new confidence.
She also doesn’t purport the superiority of letting her hair
grow out. She talks with successful women who do and don’t dye, and let’s them
have their experience. All she can speak to is her own.
Surely, it helps that she goes gray in a “nice” way, with
silvery and dark chrome strands. Which is much the way I anticipate I will.
With my dark coloring, I imagine that I will go silver,
instead of stale gray, or as my mom describes her (dyed) fading blond: dirty
dishwater.
So, that “beauty in the beast” helps my acceptance, I’m sure.
But what brought me to tears yesterday as I stood there,
admiring this newly-found strand, now plucked and held like a precious object
in my hand, was the reality and giddy reminder I feel every time I find one: I made it. I am alive to have gray hair.
I’m alive to see what will happen with it: if they’ll turn out
all spidery texture and I’ll lament I ever praised finding them. If I’ll
consider dying it after all. Or if I’ll love every single thread of life these gray hairs represent.
I tear up when thinking about this, because it’s true.
Because, like someone admiring a sunset, or their sleeping child, or the taste
of a food never eaten, it means I’m alive.
Which itself means I have a chance and a choice to make my life whatever I want
it to be.
My gray hair represents possibility, transformation, and
authenticity.
Who wouldn’t rejoice?