The more things change, the more things stay the same … thoughts from this time – 7 years ago…
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?
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.
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.
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.
Why not try for the long shots? There is nothing to lose. Realize what an enviable position that is. Nothing to lose is the best opportunity. You can take any chance you could possibly want to. There’s no one to answer to but yourself. The worst thing that can happen is someone won’t reply.
So few people have these type of chances… Opportunities. From an early age we get trapped… hemmed in… on a path… on a schedule… before we know who we are or what we really want from our life. Slaves to industry and commerce… SUV’s… big TV’s… stuff stuff stuff. Not many people get a chance to start over; to wipe the slate clean. Sure, it can be scary starting from the bottom… especially when you think you should be so much further head. But sometimes dead ends are what you need to point you in the right direction. At least that way you know where you’re coming from and what you hope to find.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for yourself and your life. It’s a natural drive we all have, but sometimes our head gets in the way of our hearts. “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Fear gets us nowhere. Being afraid to try does not result in happiness. Hesitation makes us weak. Reach out to the instincts that you have, the feelings in your heart that you don’t question. If you feel you’re destined for something better, don’t fight it, embrace it. But don’t sit idly by.
What’s the best that you can arrive at? What is it that you want? A job? A career? A big salary? A modest means and a happy home? How do you want to feel at the end of the day? What do you hope you can do for people and for yourself? DO you want to learn something new each day or do you want to do the same thing over and over, knowing that your task is done and done well? You have to ask yourself these things. Think back on your life and think of things that have made you feel this way. Or, alternately, haven’t. Sometimes starting with the things you don’t want is easier than defining the things you do. It’s unfortunate but true.
It doesn’t matter what you ‘feel like’ you should have… What matters is what you truly want. For example, do you envy people with smiling children because you want smiling children for yourself, or because you just feel like you should… because that’s what people do… that’s how people show progress and stability. Is it the symbolism or the true yearning? Never feel obligated to live your life like everyone else. Life isn’t a kit of parts. It doesn’t make you magically happy when you have what the person next to you has. And chances are, the people that look so happy, really aren’t. It’s easier to fake being happy than deal with the truth and the pain in your heart. I’d rather be around someone who is miserable but honest, any day of the week.
Maybe the sky isn’t the limit, but we must resist the tendency to sell ourselves short. To play it safe out of fear and panic. To convince ourselves that the known evil is better than the unknown trap possibly lurking around the bend.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
I try to go in to life and new situations assuming that I can do something until proven otherwise. I can learn. I want to learn. I might not know how to do something…yet. But the knowledge will come. It’s no harder to assume that you can do something than it is to assume that you can’t.
Maybe sometimes the learning curve doesn’t align with the demand, but the knowledge will come. It always does. Sometimes you have to dust yourself off… it’s a rare thing to be perfect. And who would want to be? Insecurity is your worst enemy. The fear of looking foolish, of failing, of falling flat on your face. Of stepping on the ice and falling right through. There are lumps and bumps and bruises to be taken to be sure. Trials and tribulations exist for a reason… and everyone goes through them, despite the glossy facades they put on.
Don’t let yourself be your own worst enemy. Do not count yourself out before you even try. Do not judge yourself as a lesser person, just so you can beat someone else to the punch. Hurting yourself before someone else can hurt you gets you nowhere. Likewise, hurting someone else before they can hurt you does not make you better than them.
Maybe we don’t all have the divine calling we felt in our youth… or maybe they aren’t meant to culminate the way we imagined and planned. But if you feel it in your heart, it’s there, and it’s real. Hiding it… ignoring it… avoiding it… it doesn’t work. Fighting your own nature only causes conflict and pain. Learning to harness our gifts is a lifelong process. Sometimes there are sparks of insight, moments of clear and perfect intuition. Sometimes the skies are cloudy and gray for a long, long time… but they never stay that way. hold on to the sparks, and the flickers and the beams of light. Keep them close and keep them true.
And with that… my well has run dry…
The back-lit glow of the tender oregano leaves on my kitchen windowsill catch my eye this morning. As much as I fancy myself a green thumb, I’m surprised that this plant has lasted all season. Every now and then when I’m cooking I grab a few sprigs and toss them in to the daily special, just because I can. It is a picture of both form and function, sitting attractively in in its vintage, green McCoy planter that I scored at a garage sale for a whopping twenty five cents… and then allowed to subsequently fall victim to an over curious puppy who loves to topple over my plant stands.
In recent months I’ve become quite adept at the art of super gluing. I’m sure that will come in handy if I ever have children as well. I try to push out the thoughts of using it to glue their mouths shut or their hands together, though it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
Maybe it’s best I stick to pets.
The weather has turned chill and I find myself quickly seeking solace in comfort food. I love to cook. I love to share. Cooking for one can be sad at best, but I’ve adapted. Right now the smell of garden fresh rosemary and thyme are wafting through my kitchen as my first real attempt at beef stew simmers away quietly on a stove that is a mere year younger than me.
I braved the wet chill outside to harvest the last of the edible items from my garden for this endeavor. A hand full of onions, some sprigs of rosemary and thyme and I was on my way. If I get another nice day, I need to turn the garden over for next year. If there is a next year. Either way, it’s best to be prepared. Unlike the rest of my family, I do not have a rototiller or a plow or a tractor. I have a shovel and my hands.
My garden is not big but it is more than adequate for my needs. Each spring, when the sun first shines, I head out with gloves on, shovel in hand donning a sweatshirt that quickly becomes a tank top once the blood gets pumping. I turn it once. I turn it twice. I turn it three times. The next chance I get, I hoe it, rake it, whatever seems best at the time. And then I turn it again.
A little time getting dirty is very Zen to me. Send me out in the middle of a patch of dirt and I’m a happy girl. If I’m sweaty, smudged with earth and covered in bits of organic material I consider it a happily successful day. It’s more productive than going to a gym and a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy.
I do not like being trapped in suburbia. I’ve tried it. Large tracts of builder homes where a family farm once sat, makes me want to cry. It’s hard to fight your heritage sometimes. I come from a line born of the earth. Living life inside an artificially controlled environment, under the glare of fluorescent lights, does not soothe my soul. Put some sunshine on my shoulders and some grass under my feet and you’ll see the shoulders relax and a smile bubble forth in no time.
Any given day I spend about ninety percent of my time at home in the kitchen. I never go in the living room. I rarely sit at the dining room table. Kitchen and bedroom are the only two rooms I occupy on a consistent basis. I like it here. It’s warm, it’s well lit, and it’s full of food.
Every party I’ve ever had has eventually ended up in the kitchen, no matter how small the kitchen was. Eventually I came to the conclusion that a much better use for the living room furniture would be to move it to the kitchen when it was time to entertain. This idea, while initially met with more than a few quirked eyebrows, was a stunning success. My dream kitchen has room for at least a love seat, if not a sofa in it. My dream living room, I could care less about.
I suppose there should be a chair or two in there, just to keep up appearances.
This life, while well intended, was a matter of necessity and a good bit of dumb luck. My marriage ended badly, as most marriages that end are prone to do. In a classic case of when it rains it pours, this put me in a difficult position at work during a rocky economic time. I tried and tried to make the best of the situation, but as soon as I was almost done jumping through the hoops to get my life back on track, I was downsized. Before I know it I’m joining the growing throngs of thirty-somethings retreating to the safety of their parents basement to regroup in a time of distress. This arrangement never works well for any of the parties involved, as people who have had to live back under their parents wing all well know.
After a brief sentence in the basement of my youth, I took on the daunting task of making the old family homestead once again habitable. Trying to breathe life into a house that was never particularly nice or well constructed ended in futility but succeeded as a stop gap.
I have a million different things on my mind right now. I can’t focus. I did not get the job. I do not have to move in four weeks or less. I still have to give my kitchen a makeover and now my family is fulling embracing my new significant other. Some days I swear I slipped into a bizarro life when I wasn’t paying attention.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I tend to do that. Often the brain works quicker than the fingers or mouth will compensate for. As a result, most days I only get to express every third thing that actually comes to mind. It’s just easier that way. I find people who aren’t used to my… energy… tend to glaze over and reward me with nothing short of the feeling of beating my head against a brick wall. I’ve taken the time to communicate with you, the least you can do is smile and pretend to listen. It’s the pop quiz at the end that always gets them…
Sometimes I’m evil like that.
I had expected this month to turn out much differently. Yes, I’m only five days in, but it’s amazing what a difference a day can make.
My first honest attempt to leave this town behind has been thwarted. This was not pleasant news. The job market is thin at best for my industry and missing out on an honest opportunity is daunting at best. I guess my shock and awe at not only being called once, but being called back a second time should have been a good indicator. Always listen to your gut. Always.
In many ways, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. The acquisition of that job would have meant a month full of frenzy and a winter full of angst. A quick temporary move up to my home town with enough clothes to last me and my pets riding shot gun while simultaneously trying to wrap up the home improvements at my actual home several hours away, list it on the market and wait for it to sell as I start the renovations on an old house I just couldn’t help but get myself in to. Which is not habitable, of course.
I’m sensing a pattern.
Indeed, I was mentally steeling myself for life once again on the open road, mid winter, through the heart and soul of the snow ridden hill country. I was organizing my closet in the slow hours at work, debating what things would be of critical nature to take for the new job and wondering if they had a dress code that would force me to go shopping. Again.
I hate shopping.
I pull off my mirrored sunglasses and pink Harley jacket and sit down at the bar for lunch. It’s only Tuesday but I need a break.
The effeminate bartender in front of me stomps his foot and declares across the bar, “I hate women!” Looking over just a second too late at his new patron.
“Oh, sorry…” he smiles sheepishly.
“It’s o.k., I hate women too.” I flash him a grin and a wink and order my beer.
I shouldn’t be here now. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Though ‘this’ isn’t really a bad place to be. It’s the two year anniversary of the split from my husband and honestly, I don’t need solace or even a shoulder to sniffle on. This makes me smile.
I take a glance around the bar and wonder why everyone in this town has to look like my ex mother in law. A healthy dose of paranoia has kept me looking over my shoulder for the past two years. In truth it was mostly unfounded, but old habits die hard. Every trip out in public starts with a scan of the crowd. Every venture in to the mall veers me far away from her favorite stores and the family’s known haunts. And I don’t go to Wal-Mart unless I absolutely have to. It really doesn’t inconvenience me much, and at this point it’s become a matter of habit. Most days I hardly even notice.
I’ve never seen her. And nowadays I’m not quite sure what I would do if I did. Visions of hair pulling and assault charges danced in my head for the longest time; initiated from either side of the fence. Some days I wake up and hear her being quoted on the local radio. Yeah, that’s a lovely start to the day. She practically runs this town, and I do my best to live under radar.
I take a deep breath and remind myself that all of that unpleasantness was twenty four months and thirty five pounds ago. A bold cropped haircut, some new clothes, and a revived inner confidence that has brought the sparkle back to my smile and I’ve practically put myself into witness protection right before my very eyes.
It was unintentional, I swear. Mostly.
I’ve carved out a nice little life for myself really, despite the odds. Sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit. Other times I probably give myself too much. I practically have the American dream. A nice house, built in the twenties, with built ins and beveled glass as far as the eye can see. A spunky, not so little, lab pup waiting at home for me that likes to keep me on my toes by chasing her down for my favorite shoes. Or socks. Or deodorant. My two cats, who at this point have become my longest standing adult relationship, lurk on the radiator boxes at the window sills waiting to watch movies with me or get a belly rub if I feel so generous. When I walk into the kitchen they twist themselves around my ankles and pretend it’s an option for me to walk away.
There’s even a nice little vegetable garden in the back yard that out produces anything I could possibly eat by myself without turning orange from tomato overload. On the weekends I mow my lawn, do my laundry and head to the local butcher shop for a little bit of meat and a lot of gossip. What more could a girl ask for?
And what am I thinking as I sit here? I. Want. Out.
I’m not sure how many notebooks and files I have going at any one given moment, but there are a lot. Half baked ideas, works in progress, bits and pieces of future stories left to germinate between the pages until I can get back to them. Not everything has to be a novel, and that’s ok.
For years, poetry was my thing. When I was in the mood, I could sit down and churn out 5 to 10 poems in a row, as fast as I could write, on a variety of topics. This was in the ‘old’ days. The days when you carried a journal, or a at least a pen, picking up bits of scrap paper, receipts, napkins, whatever was handy when inspiration struck. Even with electronic storage at my fingertips, I still do that a lot of the time. Every so often I have to empty out my purse and jacket pockets and carefully sort through all the scraps of paper, to make sure I’m not losing a future punchline or writing prompt. It’s not pretty.
In an effort to contain and sustain this habit, I will soon be launching (read as: once I beat the formatting into submission) Katherine’s Serials. The intention is to provide an outlet for the less than novel length creations that storm their way out of my mind, demanding attention.
They can’t wait to meet you.