Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not My Circus

"Not my circus, not my monkeys" is one of my favorite tropes.

Often described as a Polish proverb, to me, this saying acknowledges that drama exists in every person's life. And the drama from other people's lives can be very entertaining. But, at the end of the day, we can only responsible for directing our own circus. 

Which brings me to this week's 52 Lists Project writing prompt, which invites me to: 

"Make a list of the things you will try to ignore."

Now ignore is a tough word, because, by definition, it calls on me to pretend something isn't there. 

Perhaps a result of my commitment to honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every thing, but there are very few things one can actually ignore in the world. On the short list, MAYBE:
1. Paranormal claims, including sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and other mythical beings
2. Conspiracy theories espoused by people with documented and severe mental illness
3. "No-see-ums" and other pesky bugs that potentially annoy, but can't hurt me
4. Dogs barking and other animal noises that are an innate part of their species' behavior
5. Noises - usual and unusual - made by cars either driven by me or near me; I am masterful at simply turning up the volume on the radio

However, I think the spirit of the writing prompt is seeking a different kind of list. I believe this prompt is inviting me to consider making a list of things that distract me from my true north, from being my best self, so that I might try to become impervious to their meddling influence. 

At the top of this list is people and their drama that neither hurt me, nor offer me any discernible opportunity for growth, insight, or other benefit, including:
  • Men at work who constantly undermine my success by redoing or challenging projects other men have called "done" 
  • Anyone who's last name is "Kardashian" 
  • Fights between friends of friends of friends
  • Friends who do not have the self-awareness to get unstuck, and have neither requested nor seem receptive to loving feedback
  • Co-workers' trials and tribulations with their friends and family
  • Bad drivers
  • Judgments made of my weight, my housekeeping, my style of dress, my car, my cooking, or any other immaterial aspect of who I am and how I present in the world that comes from a position (conscious or unconscious) of malice or jealousy
This is the list of things I will try to remain immune to, so I can keep my focus on achieving my goals and living my values. 

What is on YOUR list of things you will try to ignore? Of things you will strive to be impervious to?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Words to Live By

What are your favorite quotes?

This is the question the 52 Lists Project is asking this week.

I'm a words person. I keep printed quotes around me - hanging on the walls of my workplace, my home office, even my bedroom and laundry room. I surround myself with inspiring words to help me stay centered, and remember how I wish to be in the world.

I have quotes I wish I remembered and lived by, like the one I keep at the top of this blog:

And then there are quotes I actually remember and often use to help me stay centered.

The most frequently used quote is this:

The first time I heard this quote, it was referenced as a Quaker saying. Since then, I've learned it has been attributed to great thinkers like Oscar Wilde, Ralph Waldo Emerson. As someone who has long struggled with giving myself permission to enjoy life, I use this quote to remind myself that it is okay to sometimes let go of my manic control of life in the interest of having fun.

A new favorite is one I discovered while on vacation in Sanibel, FL. I found it printed on the cover of a journal in a tchotke shop.
I love this quote. It gives me permission to be be my best introspective and introverted self.

The last quote is one I use in my work as a writer and strategist. I've seen it Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, and the Roman philosopher Cicero.
I use this quote to remind myself that thoughtfulness takes time, and to give myself an excuse when the work I've done is sloppy. Like this blog post.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I'm No Fun

"Make a list of the things you do for fun," instructs the book 52 Lists.

My heart sink. "Dang it," I thought. "This is going to be hard."

There isn't a lot I do for "fun." This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with BMG, because he is all about the pleasure principle, and balances my instincts to dedicate my time to "getting things done."

I said to BMG, as we talked about the exercise, "There are things I do to relax. There are things I do because they are satisfying. There are things I do that make me happy. But FUN? I'm not sure there is anything I do for FUN."

"And you see how that's a problem, right?" he replied.

So I thought a little harder. And tried to recall activities that make me throw my head back with laughter, or cause me nothing but joy. I came up with this meager list:

1. Road trips with my husband
2. Going to the movies in a theater, particularly matinees
3. Watching good comedy
4. (Sometimes) shopping, especially for Christmas gifts or in foreign grocery stores
5. Playing console video games, like Zelda, which I haven't done this since at least 2012
6. Going on amusement park rides, which I haven't done since maybe 2011
7. Whitewater rafting, which I haven't done since at least 2004

What is the lesson learned from this 52 Lists post? Maybe I need to be doing more to have fun in my life. So if you are looking for me today, I'll be shopping.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dream Girl

What did you want to be when you "grew up?" For me, the answer was always "an archaeologist." Sure, I went through the stereotypical little girl "ballerina phase", and the "veterinarian phase." When I left high school, I was certain I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. But I never lost my love for archaeology.

Unfortunately, to be an archaeologist, one also needs to master college-level chemistry. This was not in the cards for me, no matter how hard I tried (three times, to be exact). So, I turned away from the hard sciences in favor of the social sciences, and went down the path to Sociology, and eventually Social Work and Public Health.

Today, nearly 30 years after I declared my intention to be President, I work as a writer and marketing strategist for a financial services company. A good job, but not my dream job. While I don't really have a ton of time to develop a dream career, I still have time to get a dream job.

My list of dream jobs is eclectic. It includes:

  • Travel writer
  • Prop master
  • U.S. park ranger
  • Museum curator
  • Landscape architect
  • Political strategist
At this moment in time, professional stability feels more important than dreaming. A stable paycheck, stable health insurance, stable place to go every day. So, for now, it feels likely that my path involves continuing my current work, maybe moving into middle management, and eventually retiring with a stable corporate retirement package.

Once I'm retired, I'll let myself dream again. I have a fantasy of becoming a National Park volunteer, which would allow me to taste what is is like to be a park ranger, and help me achieve my goal of seeing every National Park in the U.S.

If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be? Are you doing it now? Or do you have plans to achieve your dream sometime in the future?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Almost 60"

This week's blogging prompt invited me to make a list of the things I'd like to be doing in 10 years.
"In 10 years, I'll be 56. What do I want to be doing when I'm 56?" I mused.
After two minutes of thinking, the answer came to me. "I don't want to think about being 56. About being almost 60."
Yup. I don't want to make this list, because it makes me anxious.
I'm not typically a "hate my age" person. I love celebrating my birthday. I have an annual ritual of reflecting on the year I've left, and thinking about my goals for the next year.
But I don't want to think about being 56. Why not?
  1. I'm a late bloomer who is just coming into her own as an adult today, at 46. Thinking ahead to almost 60 makes me anxious about all the adulting I want to squeeze into the next 10 years.
  2. I still feel like a (nearly) newlywed to a husband who is (a) five years older, and (b) managing a chronic disease. Thinking ahead to almost 60 makes me anxious wondering how much of our lives will be taken up by the evolution of his condition.
  3. I am grateful to still have my mother with me on this earth, although I am nearly 350 miles away from her. Thinking ahead to almost 60 makes me anxious wondering about her overall health and capabilities when she is 10 years older.
Until I get into right relationship with my almost 60 year-old self, my list will remain blank.

What is on your list of the things you want to be doing 10 years from now?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Not in My Wheelhouse

A wage earner since I was 11, I often describe myself as a Jane-of-All-Trades.


Here's the list of jobs I've held over the last 35 years:
1. Newspaper delivery person
2. Babysitter/Mother's Helper/Live-in Nanny
3. Cashier and blue light special operator
4. Window shade and mini-blind cutter
5. Dining hall supervisor
6. Pizza joint/bar manager
7. Research assistant
8. Housekeeper
9. Gardener
10. Dorm front desk monitor
11. Cancer lab assistant
12, Women's health advocate
13. University administrator
14. Gas station attendant (and late night sub maker for drunk college students)
15. Prison administrator
16. Community organizer (multiple positions)
17. Community service learning coordinator
18. Membership association program manager
19. Sexuality educator
20. Grant writer (multiple positions)
21. Executive director (interim only)
22. Community health program manager
23. Public and community relations manager
24. Director of development

My last two positions have leveraged my work experience in the interest of developing and executing B2B corporate sales and marketing strategy.

I've worked all levels of government, and I've served on nonprofit boards of directors, twice.

I'm an accomplished professional.

And while I've had many different jobs working for many different types of organizations, I'm also aware there are some jobs I am exceptionally unsuited for. Jobs that are NOT in my wheelhouse include:

Air traffic controller
I have terrible eyesight.

Crime scene investigator
The gore wouldn't bother me, and I like the idea of helping to solve a puzzle. But, terrible eyesight coupled with my tendency to be five steps ahead of myself most of the time, which means sometimes details fall through the cracks.

Prison warden or parole officer 
My empathy is too deep to be hard enough to do this job well.

Snake handler 
I hate snakes so much I've googled "What's the point of snakes?" on more than one occasion.

Make-up artist 
I don't do make-up on me, let alone on someone else.

I don't manage divas very well. (I'm surprised I did as well as I did when I worked in community relations.) As a result, I KNOW I would throw food at the first diva who had a fit on my shift.

What jobs do you think you would be terrible at? Why?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Soundtrack

BMG and I are in week four of a year-long project to write and reflect together, using the book 52 Lists as our guide. Each week we read a writing prompt, have a conversation about how we might approach the topic, and then we write.

The question this week is "What's the soundtrack of your life - right now?" 

Week three's prompt asked us to reflect on the "happiest moments in our lives." During our conversation about this week's prompt BMG claimed "It is unfair to make this the next prompt because we're already thinking about being happy, and therefore we're more likely to think of peppy songs."

My retort? "Don't take the easy way out."

The soundtrack of my life has NEVER included taking the easy way out. I grew up in a lower class family, without much measureable privilege. However, I've always been smart and a hard worker, and this is how I learned to make my mark on the world.

Reflecting on my life, right now, I can say that I'm at the mid-point in an erratic career, fairly newly wed, and trying to find balance - between my efforts to care for my health, to nurture my career, to strengthen my relationship with my husband and my family, and to make a meaningful contribution to my community.

When he isn't making me crazy, BMG, inspires me. Not because of his semi-charmed kinda life, but rather because he joyfully lives by the bumper sticker philosophy, 'No one ever said on their deathbed, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'"

With that said, here is my soundtrack:

Track 1 - Sunny Side of the Street, as performed by Ella Fitzgerald (my goal)

Track 2 - Fatso by The Story (part of my struggle)

Track 3 - All For You by Sister Hazel (I think of this as "our song," and it always reminds me of my inspiration, BMG)

Track 4 - Work That by Mary J. Blige (sometimes it feels like I'm pushing a rock uphill)

Track 5 - Working 9 to 5 by Dolly Pardon (I've decided to abandon my ambition to have a career in favor of having a life)

Track 6 - God is Trying to Tell You Something from the soundtrack to The Color Purple (I'm struggling between having fun and listening to the my call to community)

Track 7 - You Are the Universe by The Brand New Heavies (my goal)

Track 8 - Somewhere Over the Rainbow, as performed by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (when I reach balance, I hope it will feel like this song)