Houses of the Broken and Other Stories

Serials

Third Life – Prompts and Circumstance

Soul searching is a tricky beast. The time spent rambling around in my own head would make me a millionaire if I could put it to better use. Times change, preferences shift and every once in a while you’re left working without a net and the only way out is down. I problem solve for a living, but the down side is sometimes that analytical beast looks in the mirror and it’s hard to break the gaze.

Seeking a little more organized way to rationalize through things, I found a career blog that suggested asking yourself the following questions, stream of consciousness style. They are universal in nature and could easily be adapted to almost any person and situation. After compiling and reading over the responses that took me several days I did have to chuckle to myself. It reminds me of a Tarot reading that high school kids would give each other, flipping through the little book of divinity sworn to give you all the answers. Your mileage may vary.

Q.1) What are you working on? What is important at this point in your life? What are your own goals? 

A.1) I’m working on keeping an income, finishing my house and establishing myself as a writer. At this point being financially secure and finishing my home is my main energy usage. My goal is to wrap my passions in to my daily life, have time and means to explore and experiment, and have a sanctuary for myself and my family. Another goal is to quit being stressed based on the actions of others – get away from the negative vibes and the stranger I feel myself becoming.

But now I know it’s best not to tell others your goals because once it is out, the internal governor has no power.

Q.2) What is your ideal situation? How would you like your life to look? What would you change in your job, your living situation, your activities and your relationships if you had a magic wand?  

A.2) If I had a magic wand – and only with a touch of magic – the house would be done, correctly restored inside and out with a workshop and a clean play yard. I would be out of my *profession and/or in a position where I wasn’t stuck at a desk and didn’t constantly have to compromise myself. There would be encouragement, humor and innovation with hands on applications.

I would de-stress my personal relationships. More time to do the things we need to thrive, not just survive. I’m tired of being just a survivor.

Q.3) Write about your day. What did you think about? 

A.3) After reviewing my inbox, I spent the day waiting to hear from people that never reply. I stare at the screen and my desk and try to think of ways to keep productive while I wait since I never know when I might get the critical piece of information that will allow everything to fall in to place.

I think about how nice it is outside after this god-forsaken winter, and how it’s a crime to sit here and stare at nothing.

Then I send another email to an unresponsive consultant.

I think about everything I wish I could focus on. House, garden, farming, future, books, art, cooking, chillaxing with my dog… I think about what it would really be like to leave my *profession.

I think about being gobbled up by the Nothing.

Q.4) Write about your ideas. What have you been thinking about? 

A.4) I’ve been thinking about how to make a better root beer, imagining taste profiles that I’ve been missing and how they would combine. I’m thinking about how much I actually want to sell my soul to get what I want. I’m tired of compromise, is it worth the risk? Will I have spent all of this time and energy and wind up with nothing? I’m always thinking about how to protect myself.

I’m thinking about getting my cookbook together. Re-starting the food blog. I need to find my passion again. I need to get back in to my Saturday morning routine.

I’m thinking about how to get our bathroom finished and how the heck to get the monster bath tub upstairs without injuring someone.

I’m thinking about my next book and if it’s even worth finishing.

Q.5) Write about the people who buoy you up and increase your mojo level. What is it about those people that make them mojo builders for you?  

A.5) There aren’t many people in my life right now that meet that description but when things were good it was the people who were genuinely interested in what I had to say, encouraging and happy to find out how things were going. People who were able to exchange ideas and brainstorm without drowning out my voice and challenging everything I said whether they needed to or not. Being believed in can go a long way.

Many people are encouraging until you actually start to make progress.

Q.6) Choose one thing you’d like to add and one thing you’d like to take away. 

A.6) I would like to add more travel and take away being chained to my desk.

Q.7) What do you want to accomplishing during the rest of your life?  

A.7) I want to find something I’m good at that doesn’t make me feel miserable, compromised and out of control. I want to be independent and stable, the less I have to rely on people the better.

I don’t really care about a bucket list because tastes and values change, along with the economy and politics around us. I want the freedom and flexibility to explore things as they come to me without having to justify myself or apologize for being different.


*profession withheld for the safety of the human race.

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Third Life: Fool’s Gold – Week 4: Save it for Happy Hour

After nearly a month trying to look subtly more feminine, I’ve come to a brief conclusion…. only people at the bar notice.

While the workplace results were completely null, I did round the week out with a random happy hour compliment about how pretty my eyes were (from a stranger of course.) What this leaves me to postulate is that barring any drastic changes, my every day environment is unlikely to respond to any tweaks or twinkles. Going out is another matter.

It’s just too bad that bar isn’t the place I’m looking to be discovered. :)


Third Life: Fool’s Gold – Week 3: Purgatory

Did you ever have one of those weeks? One of those weeks where you exist inside of a business but you’re on your own desert island? That was this week.

I haven’t been able to even interact with people due to varying schedules and timelines. 10 minutes tops with the management all week, let alone trying to catch other team members. It’s been great for some work in progress plot development, but has left my overall experiment stunted and skewed.

A few more hours and we can chalk this entire week up to a mulligan.


Third Life – Fool’s Gold – Week 2: Don’t Look Up

It only took a couple of days before I realized one fatal flaw to my plan of reinvention. Once you know someone, you don’t look at them. You might see them, and acknowledge their presence enough to hand them something or not run in to them at the coffee pot, but you don’t really LOOK at them.

Short of wearing bells, I’m not sure any subtle changes to my appearance or stance are going to get noticed. Maybe it’s a good thing, since it answers the big ‘what if’ but it seems like a lackluster result.

The dreary cold will not let go in our region. I suspect that until the sun shines for a couple days and we start to see the flush of green, that most people will still continue in their hibernation state.

Wake me in July.


Third Life: Fool’s Gold – Week 1: Gilding the Gauntlet

Is it better to be pretty or smart? Welcome to my poorly contrived social experiment.

As my professional and life experience grows and I become entrusted with more responsibility, I can’t help but feeling more left behind. I’m in my mid-30’s, never been a ‘girly girl’ and most often wore the badge of ‘nerd’ in my academic days. I have a mind for problem solving, and enough social skills to get me through some of the most complicated business meetings (Smiling through clenched teeth should be listed on my resume under special skills or maybe additional languages.)

This bad idea started as most bad ideas do. At the bottom of a glass at the end of the bar, at the end of another long, confusing, frustrating week. “… you know, I have a push up bra too, maybe I need to wear it to start getting some recognition around there…” And that’s all it takes for an idea to bloom in the prickly garden of discontent.

I wish I could encapsulate the montage of identity crisis that followed.

“Maybe I should dress nicer… maybe I should wear make up… maybe I should keep my mouth shut…” this would go on for a few minutes before the angel on the other side chimed in.

“Screw them! Your cup size has nothing to do with how well you do your job. Big hair and bad perfume shouldn’t dictate who gets more attention.”

“But….” the other side would whisper “… it does.”

I was vexed. After some serious rationalizations and my friends evenly dividing between “No, you don’t need it!” and “Do what makes you feel best.” I decided to hit the warpaint store. I don’t even know how to shop for make up right. It all looks the same to me and all costs 3x more than I think it should. My goal, however, was fairly simple. Start testing out new looks. Simple, understated and professional. Going full on clown college was not going to get the right response for my goals. (Well, we may revisit that later…) I am the type that gets funny looks when I show up in something other than boots and dockers. I hate being cold and uncomfortable, and I have to be able to go crawl through a muddy basement or a dusty attic at a moments notice. It’s hard to wear a wiggle dress and climb up on a roof, no matter how dedicated you are to looking fabulous.

While I do sometimes envy the women that can run a 5k in stilettos, I don’t often have issues with the fact that I’m not one of them. (Though being able to wear a pair of heels for more than 5 minutes without an oozing blister or calf knotting foot cramp would be nice.) I do my job, I do it well, and I’m usually pretty well prepared…but… BUT…. not being polished and prissy in the process sometimes holds me to a disadvantage. I don’t get dragged in to extra important meetings (well maybe this isn’t exactly a disadvantage…), and I don’t get invited along to the quick lunches with the clients or consultants when they pass through town. (I’m rethinking this ‘disadvantage’ thing…) And while I hate wasting my time on the social niceties, it still… stings.

So my bargain with myself is thus: Start presenting myself as a stereotypical female, for a month, and see what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. But then I’ll know.

It was grey and bleak this morning. I took my time getting out of bed, so I didn’t have a lot of extra time on my hands getting ready. My hair was done (takes 5 minutes) and I turned to leave the bathroom.

“Oh… shit… that’s right…” I stared at the medicine cabinet longer than I should have, trying to dismiss this whole idea as silly so I could just be on my way. It only takes a few seconds…the other voice chimed. “Fine.” A few swipes of neutral eyeshadow, enough to claim I did it.

The gauntlet has been thrown.


Third Life – Nothing.

In the silence, there are the voices of a thousand souls streaming through her head. Each begging for attention and thought and pointing out the wrongs she committed that day.

If she refuses them, they bark louder until the din is a symphony of chaos and are too much to ignore. Wave after wave crashing against her broken shores, eroding every bit of her self worth, breaking her will into finite grains of sand that slip through the fingers of her final desperate grasp.

“What are you thinking, dear?”

She bites her lip, the pinch returning her senses to the tangible world. “Oh, nothing.”


Third Life – The 7 year glitch.

The more things change, the more things stay the same … thoughts from this time – 7 years ago…

My Year

This is going to be my year. And no, this is not a resolution, this is a lifestyle change. To think it will all change at once is foolish, but over the past year I have been slowly laying groundwork and reevaluating certain priorities.

One big step in ridding myself of negative influences has been my employment switch. The new job may not turn out to be all it’s cracked up to be, only time will tell, but regardless of that I will always have the fact that I looked out for myself and at least tried.

I really have to stop being so afraid of failure. I’ve taken a lot of chances this past year. Reconnecting with old friends, looking to better my career, trying to come to an understanding with my family, traveling abroad in a time of terrorism and uncertainty. None of those are safe or easy things. Some are big and some are small, but all it takes is a chance, and look where it’s gotten me so far: I have reconnected with my friends, and they didn’t reject me, I got a new job and got an offer from every interview, my family is a work in progress… every family is, but I think it’s getting better. We had a great time traveling and had no problems whatsoever, despite a bomb scare on the very flight we were scheduled for not two weeks before.

I think fear is healthy, but it shouldn’t be paralyzing. There are many times when I avoid activities or events because they’re unknown or uncomfortable and I’m afraid I’ll end up looking stupid or embarrassed or somehow fail. I’ve come to peace with that… I will look stupid, it’s what I do. It’s part of my charm.

Yes, I’m a dork, have always been a dork, will always be a dork, but you know what? The best friends are dork friends. They don’t judge you by your hairstyle or the size of your jeans. They don’t get jealous when something good happens to you, they get excited. They’ll be supportive, even if they might not agree with you. And at the end of the day, they’ll just be there ready to talk, or not talk; whatever you may need.

I’m sure there will be many times when I feel defeated and hopeless. Too tired to care or try anymore and discouraged to the point that I want to crawl in to a dark little hole and never be seen again. It’s hard not to be a self conscious little girl when you’re insecure and afraid. Hopefully I will be encouraged to not give up and have support when I need it. If I remember to listen to myself, that will be half the battle.

There will always be things I need to work on; it’s a fact of life. But I’ve been feeling more centered than I have in a long time, and much of that comes from being true to myself. Rekindling interests of the past, reconnecting with old relationships and the only people I felt ever really knew me, and sometimes just plain putting my foot down and not living my life by someone else’s rules and expectations. If I’m happy but someone else is disappointed in me, that’s their problem, not mine.

That settles it! I’m going to be a roller derby girl. If not now, when?


Third Life – Breaking Bitch

What a nightmare. You know about her, right? What… or rather who… she did to get that job? Then what she did to the other guy, throwing him under the bus like that?

Yes, I’ve heard it. From everyone. Twice. Because everyone likes to spin the yarn about the maneater – the one that got one over on them or their buddy. They tear her down over their highballs, in their clubs and run down bars tucked behind their conference centers, but it’s not because of superiority, it’s because they’re scared.

There are two options. Doormat or bitch. What’s a girl to do?

Is it true? The reputation she’s earned, the larger than life profile that leaves seasoned businessmen quaking in their khakis?

I don’t know… the bitch won’t return my calls.


Third Life – Up on the Roof.

Mother Nature is a bitch. Three weeks into my 3rd retirement and where do I find myself on a unusually balmy December morning? Up on our roof. The wind, you see, had ripped a piece of the (2 year old) fasica trim off, mid early winter squall.

Exactly where I expected to be on a random Thursday morning in December. Totally.

I’m not even sure the last time I’ve been up on a roof. The lower roof was no problem, almost like a familiar friend I scaled up it and perched myself on the peak. Easy. How bad could the second part be?

Roof number two… is beyond a 45 degree angle… closer to a 60 for those protractorally inclined. My body met the immediate forces of gravity as I started up. Step.. slide… crawl.. slide… the more of my body I put in contact, the less grip I had. Still, I worked myself over to the edge. My task… my one task… sitting still and holding on to a belligerent piece of sheet metal…

Waiting for the nails to be set, I laid there… feeling my legs quiver trying to brace themselves against something that held no leverage. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t take my hand off the metal hanging over the edge. Couldn’t adjust myself to better fight the forces of nature. Breathing slowly, I concentrate on every muscle, trying not to lose what little grip I have. Ever so slightly… I slide.

Eighteen inches away from a 25 foot drop on to a concrete pad and miscellaneous patio furniture, and there’s nothing I can do but take a deep breath and try to dig my toes in so I don’t go any further.

Mind over matter.

Every part of me wants to freak out. Between bouts of careful deep breathing with my eyes closed, I try and figure out which way will be the best way to roll when the shingles finally give and I can’t catch myself. I calculate the best option is a barrel roll to the right, which would land me on the lower peak if I’m lucky, providing me with something to grab on to, as long as I don’t bounce too hard. I slide a little bit more. I can’t help my but hold my breath.

I can’t move my hand. Can’t flinch. Can’t let go. Struggling now to save myself from an assumed death, only means starting this whole process over again. I sit tight and fight every urge to indulge my high, anxious voice in a chorus of panic.

The next problem presents itself. I can’t hold and make room for the other nails all at the same time. I can’t move without letting go. And I can’t scooch enough to let the man with the hammer get to where he needs to be. My fingers at this point are already bordering on numb, the cold creeping slowly up my arm.

It’s a far less dramatic version of the dangling hero or heroine you see in the movies. And I’m no Sylvester Stallone. But I don’t complain, I just grit my teeth and hang on.

Finally, the glorious sound of nail meeting wood rings in my ears. I can let go. And I can find my way down the roof in a controlled manner, if I’m lucky. Down is actually harder than up, but once I make it to the center of the roof, my heart rate takes a little rest. Every muscle in my legs is trembling by the time I make it to the ladder, and it takes a concerted effort not to tremble right off of it.

I make it to the bottom before the ladder reaches a sonic vibration mode. It’s hard to look calm, cool and collected when you’re involuntarily shaking like a leaf. I quickly add ‘roof work’ to the list of things I never want to have to do again. Ever.

Once the quivering of my body subsided, with the help of a cool beer and the sofa, the silver lining appeared…

I didn’t want to fling myself off the roof.

At least that’s something.


Third Life – Generation X-employee

Again. Seriously?

I almost laughed as my boss handed me my walking papers. “Not enough work,” he said. “Effective immediately,” he shoved a box at me.

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard that before. Two times before actually. This layoff was the least impressive to date. The last time I had to find a job in this market, it took me 6 months, and someone had to die for there to be an opening.

The market has not improved since then.

That same week, reports rolled in from my friends. Laid off. Laid off. Laid off. Five of us in a week. Lord have mercy. This doesn’t even account for other personal disasters. November is a hell of a month.

I can do anything and nothing all at the same time. All of the project lists I’ve been staring at and revising for the past year can now come to fruition. And I have no income. I can finally ride my horse and get back into shape! And I have no health insurance. Forgive me if I don’t want to tempt fate.

I come home to my spouse, ready with a hug. He’s home mid-day because he was already laid off earlier in the week. Second time in my life this double hit has happened. First time with this spouse. Things have a way of going in cycles. We meet up with my parents and do what any good family does: We drink.

It’s Monday morning now, and I’m watching the coffee pot bubble and brew. The coffee pot I bought during my last layoff, because I finally had time to make myself a pot in the morning. The $15 has been well worth it. There are a million things I could be, should be doing, and I have no idea where to start. I’m on borrowed time, never knowing when the next shoe is going to drop, never knowing when the next opportunity is going pop up.

At least this time I’m fairly sure I won’t end up in my parents basement. Small victories.