Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Change is the Constant

So I am anxiously (in a bad way) waiting for our move to another building. We will no longer have respectable high wall pods, we will have low walled cheap pods. I am really frustrated by this because I know how much this will affect my daily function at work.

I'm trying to be positive but the only positive thing that could come from this is telecommuting. So I will be crossing my fingers and biting my tongue for the next 90 days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I’m ready with my I’m Thankful List!!

Since I do not have the interest or motivation to list something everyday on facebook, here’s my 30-day summary.

I am thankful…..

1. That I have my daughter because she creates true value to my life.

2. My husband and I have survived another year (without killing each other).

3. My husband is the most patient person I know (probably the reason #2 has worked out).

4. I’ve lost 110lbs this year.

5. I’ve lost 14 sizes in clothes and still have my modestly large boobies.

6. I may not be the most beautiful girl in the world – I am smart (that’s way better).

7. I have two loving dogs.

8. My husband takes cares of my two loving dogs.

9. I own a home.

10. My family still loves me.

11. My daughter has inherited almost all of my good qualities (we won’t mention the bad; remember this list was to be positive).

12. I have a working automobile.

13. I did not end up with any of my ex-relationships. (after some facebook-stalking I can definitely say “oh thank Buddha!” that could’ve been a clusterf*ck)

14. I am for-the-most-part an organized person.

15. I don’t have gambling debt. (We won’t mention all the other debt; this is supposed to be positive).

16. I have a few really wonderful friends.

17. I deleted the “drama-creators” from my facebook.

18. I’ve stuck to my decision and kept them off my facebook.

19. I won’t be teaching as much in the spring.

20. I haven’t had a brain aneurism yet.

21. I haven’t been in a car accident (seriously, I say this to myself everyday – Phoenix drivers are nuts).

22. I haven’t committed any homicides (if you met the people I work with – you’d understand).

23. I am not living in the Northeast.

24. I no longer have to deal with snow.

25. I have made it through this fall semester (well almost) managing over 150 students in six different classes, both on ground and online, was a little harder than I first thought.

26. None of my current students are psychopaths (seriously that’s a concern these days).

27. My dad is still in my life (he’s had a few good reasons in the past to jump the boat).

28. I may not be rich, but I do get to buy just about everything I want.

29. I finally had a moment today to add to my blog.

30. I have a job (based on the economy this needed added somewhere).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Aspirations of the Dream Job

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I hate that my time to write is often cut short by my many jobs. I wish I could spend more time with my daughter, I wish I could work from home. I am getting there, I just need to figure out how to get health insurance- then I will dump this donut stand and stick with what I do best. Teaching and Writing.

I really want to start writing children’s books (along with illustrating them). It’s something I have always wanted to do. I want to write about the Adventures of Nina, so that she can look back and appreciate how wonderful her life was as a child.

I am really happy about getting this new job tutoring part-time, it doesn’t pay that much but it should be rewarding. I appreciate things that are rewarding, rather than things that just require pointless work that are not going to be helpful.

So my first story of Nina’s Adventures needs to be a good one, I’m not sure if it should be her adventure as a princess, pirate, water bender, meeting attendee, or teacher.

She has so many adventures each day and she is such a wonderful subject matter – it’s really a matter of picking the best adventure and sending it to every publisher I can think of.

Any opinions on which story I should write first? Which topic would you pick?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Economic Cluster We Call Our Home

It’s been several weeks since I have been able to write due to my current workload, working a full-time and three part-time jobs has really started to take a toll on my mind. Oddly, my body is doing alright. I’ve lost a little weight, which is the long term goal but I haven’t really been as tired as I normally am. It seems that my body has adjusted to six hours or less of sleep. We shall see if it keeps it up the rest of the ten weeks.

I’d like to say I am focused on the task at hand, and I am doing well doing everything I do but that would be a lie. I keep making mistakes, all over the place and I am starting to think that I am not strong enough to handle my own schedule. I rarely see my own daughter anymore besides on the weekends. I am sure my own father felt this way having to work long hours, day after day only seeing me for moments. He did that all so that my family could prosper, I find myself in the same boat. It is so hard to work all day for people/pets and not get to enjoy time with them. I took some time off of my regular job in September and that ended up ruining my record of never having missed a deadline and to make it sting just a little more – it occurred with two classes.

I’m very frustrated with my day job, I like to think I can do it very well but then I make dumb mistakes and I question whether I am in the wrong field altogether.

What I really want to do is teach for a University full-time but without that Ph.D. I am stuck where I am.

This economy is a killer and I’ve been thinking a lot about getting rid of things I hold dear just to pay off the debt. I am terrible with money it seems no matter how hard I try, I am still in the hole. I suppose it’s because I spend money on things because I feel I should be justified to have nice clothes at minimum at all of my jobs. Or because I don’t know my own limits, either way I need to find means to get out of the hole.

Any suggestions? I have already contemplated the obvious, drop it like it’s hot and disappear. I guess I am looking for a more tangible response where I don’t destroy my entire credit history.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Live Like You Are Dying

If I could remove four words from the world’s dictionary they would be “We need to talk.” Every time in my life I have heard those words - the proceeding statements have always been negative from being fired, to getting the news of my mother’s terminal cancer, to getting caught for doing something bad or wrong, to hearing about the death of a family member.

When I opened my eyes this morning to see my husband, he was sitting solemnly on the bed next to me and the first thing he said was “We need to talk.” After hearing those words, my stomach immediately sank. He continued, “Jason was in an accident on his motorcycle and he’s dead.”

Jason was Zach’s older cousin (on his mom’s side) and for you to understand Jason, you need a little history. Jason was a veteran of the recent wars (in the last ten years: Afghanistan/Iraq) I can not be clear on all the places he was while he served because those were confidential and he was uncomfortable talking about it – so we never did. But his job in the military was to be a phlebotomist. A phlebotomist is an individual trained to draw and give blood in a medical unit. Understanding that was his role in the military, you can imagine that the things he had seen and heard would have left him shaken. After finishing his tour in the military, he struggled for many months to figure out his own life.

He had a daughter, prior to the war, named Kiona. She is now a teenager. While we were home this past August, we had the pleasure of spending private time with him and his family. It was good to see him with his daughter and her family. Jason’s ex-wife Sarah had remarried and had a daughter very close to my daughter’s age, so it was nice to be able to spend time at their house and it was very early on that I realized our families were kindred spirits. It was also the first time I realized how much my husband really cared about his cousin Jason. He looked up to him, not in a way that he wanted to be just like him or experience the things he had – in the way that he respected the life Jason had, the things he had done for his country, his family and the strength he had to come back from such horrible moments in his life and live a carefree lifestyle.

Jason knew his own mortality. Everyone who serves or served knows it could happen (Listening to “If I die young” by The Perry Band) but you never expect it to be after you are home, out of the war zone. Jason has rode a motorcycle as long as I’ve known him and he knew the associated risks with riding but you never think you may be on your last ride.

"In reality, we are all travelers - even explorers of mortality." ~Thomas S. Monson

To hear from his family that his cousin died riding his motorcycle was a shock no one ever expected. But the little I knew Jason, I know he wouldn’t have chosen to die in another way. Living forever and dying slowly is something people often wish for, but in essence to me seems like a truly horrible fate.

Jason didn’t die in the wars; he came home and died doing something he loved. Riding his motorcycle. I was told it was the type of accident where it was quickly fatal. I can only hope myself, I am luckily enough to receive the same fate, that ends me instantly.

For my husband, Jason’s daughter Kiona and his sister Cassie (and many others), I know that life will never be the same, but to find solace in such a tragedy is the only thing you can possibly do. (Listening to “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw) If anyone lived his life as if he were dying, it was Jason. He truly understood not to fear his own mortality.

"Don't fear your mortality, because it is this very mortality that gives meaning and depth and poignancy to all the days that will be granted to you." ~Paul Tsongas

If anyone could have been considered as “Life Fulfilled” to me it was Jason. His life truly encompassed the definition of Carpe Diem. When I think of Jason for the rest of my life I won’t think of him as a victim of a horrible motorcycle accident, I will think of him as someone who was on The Edge of Glory and met death bitter sweetly.

I will chant with the hope that his family will also come to this conclusion as they grieve his loss.

Rest in Peace Jason Craft, you did make a difference and I hope we cross paths in another life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life Lessons in Disguise

So I have been teaching at two community colleges for just over three weeks now. I teach Introduction to Communication and Public Speaking courses and we always watch the video Randy Pausch “The Last Lecture” in class. It has been several months since I watched the video and now I have watched it twice in the last week. Each time I watch his video, he makes me laugh, brings a tear to my eyes and he reminds me of the important things in life.

One particular comment rang out to me this last week and I haven’t been able to get the words out of my head. In his closing statements he says “How do you get people to help you? You can’t get there alone, and I believe in karma and paybacks… Focus on other people, not yourself.” These words really hit home for me lately because my husband and I have been going back and forth in an endless cycle of who can be meaner to the other person.

In my opinion, my husband won, in his opinion, I probably won. There were no winners in this situation; actually we are both losers for not working out our problems in a productive manner. But I don’t like to look at life as lose-lose situations; I think there is something to be learned from every experience. In this particular experience, karma really hurt because nothing positive was felt. (For those of us, like myself who love to rhyme, here is one for the books.)

“There's one sad truth in life I've found while journeying east and west.
The only folks we really wound are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know; We please the fleeting guest
And deal full many a thoughtless blow to those who love us best.” ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Wow. What a sad revelation. But to quote Randy "When your screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore that means they gave up." What a profound lesson, makes you reconsider whether that feedback loop is so wrong after all. Did my husband deserve to be called out? Yes. In public? Well, that’s debatable. But if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times over – my life is an open book and I will continue to be that way despite the repercussions.

So looking at myself in a mirror, I am wondering could I have given kind criticism? Well, research would show: avoid being mean or attacking, talk about the action (not the person), don’t tell someone else they are wrong or even don’t criticize at all. While all these are great suggestions, the truth is – the purpose of criticism is to help people overcome their flaws that they may not particularly see.

Each night in my classes, I give comparisons to previous work of (nameless) students and the flaws they themselves could have prevented. Does that mean I won’t critic my current students? No. Consider yourself - if you went your entire life without any criticism, what sort of person would you be? You would never be able to say you really learned from your mistakes because there was no one there to tell you that you were making them.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errors and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

How profound. So I guess, my husband stepping up the bar when he criticized me wasn’t so wrong – perhaps it was what I needed to realize how vicious I can truly be. Perhaps that’s the best karma I have received, actually having someone in my life strong enough to say “You’re an asshole.” Karma isn’t something that is necessarily useful if it is always good; karma is something that will knock you on your ass when you need it the most.

"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P. J. O'Rourke

Keep in mind when dealing with those consequences; you need perspective to transition them into life lessons. “The lessons we learn outside the classroom are equally if not more important than the ones we learn inside. [...] We learn how to live life, the most important lesson of all.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicken Soup & Perseverance

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

It’s been a few days since I’ve written anything and I’m anxious. I’m anxious because I haven’t written in a few days, not for lack of ideas or stories to tell but because I’ve been very busy with my day job and evening job. Between dealing with plagiarism at the University of Phoenix (pre-published thank Buddha), to starting the first day of my three classes – I’ve felt a lot like a chicken with my head cut off. [I was not prepared to work the 17 hour day this Tuesday, especially after not being able to sleep Monday night.]

Maricopa Community College District courses began on August 20, 2011 and I had my first course for Chandler-Gilbert on Monday night from 7:10-9:50 pm. It’s funny that doing what I always dreamed to do still gives me butterflies in my stomach – not necessarily because I am nervous, more because I have the tendency to say information (sometimes personal) about myself and once you have announced it in class – it’s public. On the first night of class, I went through my introductions, student introductions, syllabus review, class expectations, and tried to incorporate fun into each of the classes I met for the first time. I make an effort to make a good impression with everyone I meet no matter what. I was more successful in some than others but I’m sure comedians have the same problem, some audiences get the jokes – some think they are lame. I laugh at anything but I was quick to realize I am mostly alone in that respect.

One thing I have always taken pride in is being myself, all the time, even in high school – I purposefully didn’t fit in (that electric blue sequined dress in the class of 2000 yearbook from Prom Court 1999 shows historically I have stuck out in a crowd [sorry, I just didn’t want a pastel dress]). I’ve never really minded it much, fat or thin – I don’t fit a mold but it isn’t a bad thing, on the contrary I feel good knowing that I am different from everyone else. (Humming Jessie J’s song Who You Are in my head.)

Each of my three classes has a distinct culture. My Monday night class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College is full of students, mostly under 30, and were quickly (in my head) dubbed the Happy Hour Class. They all genuinely seem to be fun and very unthreatening. My afternoon class (same class model) but at Estrella Mountain Community College is very serious. It seemed like every time I was looking for a smile I found a frown. Not sure what I’m going to call that class yet, I’m hoping today everyone lightens up a bit. Reminder college is supposed to be fun (and work). My evening class on Tuesday/Thursday at Estrella seems to be very light hearted and friendly, most of the students are adults with families very comparable to my own – so teaching them public speaking should be really fun. They are going to be my Prodigy Class.

I think I made a fairly good impression Monday (despite the room making me feel like I was dripping with sweat). However, Tuesday did not go as planned at all. I began the morning nearly being hit in a three-car highway closer situation (they missed my bumper by a foot), normally I would’ve called or stopped but because I had the after work commitment I had to just keep driving so that I could be at work on time. But I was immersed in feeling disappointed in not being able to help, but I was also so exhausted I wouldn’t have made a good witness anyway. After opening my inbox at the University of Phoenix the drama unraveled and I was made aware of a serious issue with one of the courses I am developing. Plagiarism by the subject matter expert let me know that the day was not going to be easy. Since I was not feeling well because I didn’t sleep – I didn’t eat very much and found out (the hard way of course) that I must make sure I eat in the middle of my 16-hour days or I will embarrass myself.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Who was the adjunct faculty member dry heaving in her class as they were walking out of the room? This girl. Typical luck, so not only was I sick - I humiliated myself in front of half the class as they were leaving. I felt horrible. So I had about two hours before my next class and I tried desperately to eat something, even though it was just beef broth. What happened? Well, I began dry heaving in the Adjunct Faculty Office in front of the secretary… I sounded like I was dying, she kept asking me if I wanted to cancel my class - but I have that no-giving-up attitude (especially on the first day)… I reassured her I was fine and I would be fine. I did manage to maintain my composure for the later class until after the students left – but I quickly fled to the bathroom. Then after some cold water on my face I proceeded for the long drive home across Phoenix Valley to East Mesa.

A few lessons I learned quickly from my experience:

· I am too old to go without sleep anymore, with 30 creeping around the corner I guess I just don’t have the resilience I had when I was 19.

· No matter how hard you try, inevitably your daily fate is not within your control. If I could go back and redo Monday night and sleep six hours – it would’ve made a huge difference in Tuesday, but I can’t and the only thing left to do is press on.

· Keeping the not-giving-up attitude, though I felt a lot like I was acting as a professor and not being a professor on Tuesday – I still got through it, dry heaving and all.

· Being myself is all I can be, whether it’s good or bad, I’m staying with being me.

“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.” ~David Brinkley

Photo by me, August 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Being a Child at Heart (and in Reality): Both are OK!

Today I arrived at work ready for the day. It’s going to be the first day of the next 16 weeks of chaos. The first day of Maricopa Community Colleges semester; I’m excited I will be teaching three courses, which is quite an increase from my one course this past spring. The courses I am teaching this semester include two: introduction to communication courses and one public speaking course.

Instead of focusing on that or any of the work in my inbox today – I found myself on the Disney Store online to see which Disney Princess was released for the Disney Princess Designer Collection. I couldn’t help but to remember the days shopping with my mom and dad, and the long drives to specialty doll stores to purchase dolls I was only aloud to look at, never touch. I laugh out loud thinking about how I reacted to that concept as a child, why would you waste money on something you can’t play with? (I still kind of feel that way.)

But following in my mother’s footsteps, I raced to the Disney Store in Scottsdale (closest one to where I work) to waste my break time (and hard earned money) on buying Nina a doll she can’t even take out of the box. She got 6447 of 8000 on the first in the series Cinderella Designer Collection Fashion Doll, now only 9 more designer princesses to go.

After carefully inspecting each doll to come out (they were on a large display in the store), I came to the conclusion that I will be buying two Ariel’s and two Mulan’s because they HAVE TO come out of the boxes. I know I’m a child but if I get one for myself out of the box, Nina is going to have to have one out too and the prettiest one in the set (in my opinion) is definitely Ariel. (Mulan is my favorite so I’m getting her out of the box for myself.)

Either way I realized something today, I may be a child (at heart or in reality) but it feels great! Now I can’t wait to get Ariel and Mulan… watch they will be the last two released… that would only figure!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Peace When the World is Throwing Rotten Eggs

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” ~Marcel Pagnol

I work in Corporate America. If that statement doesn’t tell a story then you haven’t been awake for the last ten years. My day consists of collaborative teamwork and nothingness. The first thing I think of when I say the word “nothingness” is The Neverending Story that I watched as a child. I remember the young princess screaming at the boy reading the story “Bastian, what’s my name?” Then the two of them sitting in nothing but darkness and Bastian asks something to the affect of ‘what will happen to Fantasia’ and the princess says “whatever you want.”

On a daily, if not hourly basis, I find myself in that darkness – it’s a pit of despair that everyone around me is also stuck in. The nothingness has consumed us all. We don’t say anything because we have to be “happy we just have jobs” but the truth is we are silenced by the thought that we and our families could be left with nothingness – but in essence the nothingness has already consumed us. The nothingness monster can be anything from our bosses, to our spouses or even the traffic we get stuck in during our morning drive. Often, we all feel we are in an inescapable place because we don’t try to escape. We feel there is no road out, because there really may not be one. What a waste we are being nothing. Our lives revolve around whether we have a good day at work, essentially whether we please others. No one stops to realize we aren’t even pleasing ourselves. But the nothingness is everywhere, how can you escape it?

“Stop searching the world for treasure. The real treasure is in you.” ~Pablo Valle

I go back to the scene with Bastian and the princess. After spending hours and hours reading this book, he realizes he was the most important person in the story the whole time. So why not be the most important in your story? Stop trying to please others because their pleasure doesn’t depend on you, it depends on their own growth and happiness as a person. I often watch one of the associate directors at my job, nearly skip around the office with pleasure and I find myself loathing him because he has made so many of us unhappy with his ill rulings – yet, he is as happy as a clown. Why? Probably because he doesn’t know everyone hates him and he is stuck in the reality that everyone really likes him. I am jealous. Why am I dwelling on all this hate when he is skipping around? Shouldn’t I be skipping around and saying “I’m not going to let this job affect me as a person. I am happy with my life, I have a family who loves me and nothing about this job defines who I am as a human being.”

"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time." ~Narrator, Fight Club

If you are an unhappy person, you tend to spread your unhappiness – even to your loved ones. Stop! Stop dwelling on all the things you can’t change and focus on the things you can. If you are trapped in your Corporate America job, only be trapped at work - don’t bring your work home with you! If you are trapped in a leadership role and you don’t want to quit because you’re not a quitter – don’t quit, but leave that anxiety in the emails you read in your inbox. (All lessons I am still working on myself.)

Now I recall the scene from Groundhog Day where Bill Murray re-living every day over and over again and he has an epiphany – “I am going to change.” He takes up piano, starts saving the day and becomes a better person than who he was when we started the movie. We all carry so many unnecessary burdens around with us all the time. Like the fight you had with your spouse this morning – don’t reconvene it when you get home. Let it go. The sooner we find ourselves and try to make ourselves happy, the happier people and things around us can become.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." ~Mahatma Gandhi

Don’t live in the moment, live for the moment. So you had a bad day, so your inbox is full of garbage and drama, so you got stuck in traffic, so you had a bad morning with your spouse. So what? None of these things are worth dwelling on; if for only a minute you try to change your own perspective. You can persevere through this stage in your life. Make the best of the situation you have been dealt. Of course doing the best at a job you hate is difficult, especially without recognition, but by doing your best you are going to feel positivity knowing you are doing your best.

“We practice Buddhism so that we can develop and improve ourselves, and carry out our human revolution in our workplaces, in our families and in our communities. We do so in order to create the greatest value where we are right now…” –President Ikeda, Soka Gakkai International

When we work to improve ourselves, our responses and initiate the mission of kosen-rufu in our lives we are creating order and balance. Good comes with the bad, and the dreaded nothingness disappears and becomes something we could have only dreamed of.

I have a job in Corporate America but I know I am the best at what I do and everything else in-between. I am striving for the philosophy of changing my own reality. I will continue to follow a courageous path wherever it leads, whether it is mountains or molehills.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inspiration: Something You May Not Always Want, But Do Always Need

(Image at left drawn by my daughter, Nina Marie Williams, age 3)

I subscribe to daily Buddhist emails from TinyBuddha.com and I will be the first to tell you that more often than not, I get exactly the email I need on any particular day. Today’s email was two fold; it was about being a strong person and accepting who you are. In my communication courses, I always do a segment on self-concept, self-image, self-perception and self-esteem; though these are each separate in entity – they are common in nature. Understanding one-self is something people struggle with from early childhood through late adulthood. Accepting yourself as merely who you are can be the trickiest thing you may ever do. There were several key points in today’s email I feel are worth mentioning and giving my own interpretation/perception on. The blue pieces I am incorporating for this post were written by Jessica Ainscough, but the blog itself is primarily written by Lori Deschene.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t. (Worrying about it won’t change it, so why waste your time spinning your wheels?)

On the issue of control, I won’t lie - I struggle with it on a seemingly daily basis. I find myself often trying to control not only all the elements of my job, but the elements of my home-life, my husband, my daughter, my dogs, my dad, this list is long. But in actuality, I don’t really control any of the elements (even down to my dogs). Every entity in life has an uncontrollable karma, sure I can punish my dog for chewing a hole in my favorite nightgown - but I can not “control” the thoughts or the fact that my dog will probably do it again. (She’s a puppy, puppies chew things.) I like to think that I have control over my work, but in reality my job is done in a highly collaborative environment and when one person fails to do their job, they cause a kink in the project – though I might catch their error, they have successfully slowed down progress. So, knowing I am a control-freak without any control… seems futile. But going back to what I said earlier this is merely self-perception, when I really think about it – I am more passive than I am comfortable with. This past weekend I was told “learn your place” and as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I know my place – but I do need to stop worrying about all the elements of my uncontrollable life. When I finally stop worrying about it, I will make peace with it. I know that, but letting go as I’ve mentioned on other days is the hardest thing one can do (especially when I perceive myself to be a control-freak).

Learn to love yourself. (Death is a part of life for all of us. Coming to terms with your own mortality adds an extra layer of empowerment to your life.)

Learning to love yourself, go back to two different items I mentioned above “loving self-image and self-concept.” As much as I try, (and have tried over the past few months) I can’t find happiness in any image I have of myself. My husband likes to mention I have a problem with vanity shots for my facebook account. I take photos of myself constantly. The other day I gave him the excuse that “I only do that when I spend time on myself and I like my hair or the outfit I’m wearing.” I shutter to think I lied about that on the spot. I really do it because every day I struggle with my own self image; I don’t seem to ever really like a picture of myself. I always find a flaw; I can’t keep my profile photo the same for more than 48 hours because I find a problem with my own image. I do not think this is just a self-image issue; this is a problem with my self-concept as well. I give the impression that I am a professional, strong, intellectual to the world - but when I look at my own self-esteem I feel like I am still that third grader that was taller and wider than everyone else with glasses that I didn’t want to wear (and clothes my mom picked out).

I see myself slowly getting older and I realize my own mortality could be ripped away from me in an instant on a Phoenix highway driving home. Yes, I am that scared. This same feeling of losing my life makes me depressed because I would leave my family, most especially, my daughter without a mother. (And again, my mom’s death enters the picture. It pops up everyday in my own thoughts.) So when will I be empowered to rise above all my self-created negativity, imbalance and fear? I hope someday, it’s a slow process though and as Jessica indicated in her writing it took two strikes with cancer before she finally got it. I have already been in one serious motor vehicle accident that there was a 90% chance I shouldn’t have made it out of. I mean being hit from behind and swung into a 180-degree angle into oncoming traffic going 65mph+, being hit head on and flying another 180-degrees plus… should’ve pretty much sealed my fate. It didn’t and I’m still here – then why am I depressed? I read once somewhere that “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is just a sign that we have been strong for too long.” I’d like to think that is why I’m depressed frequently in my life, but I won’t hide behind a quote this time, the real reason is I need to come to terms with my own mortality and self-image and until I do – I will be stuck on this page of my life.

Spend time with people who make you happy. (This seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often we keep people around just because they are familiar or because we don’t want to rock the boat. Of course, this is a little more difficult if the negative energy belongs to someone you love.)

This one is very hard for me because I do spend time with people who make me happy, but very often those people are stuck in the wheel of depression. My husband has ankylosing spondylitis and it literally rips the joy out of him every day. I watch the person I love fall subject to his illness and there is nothing I can do about it. I can be there and be supportive but I can’t escape the negative energy that pulls at him. My daughter on the other hand, is an amazing gift, she believes in herself unwaveringly and why shouldn’t she? She’s four years old and she believes she can do anything. (Even water bending, thanks Nickelodeon.) The innocence of youth has an amazing way of making you feel amazing. I wish I could go back to my youth and appreciate it more for what it was and less for what it wasn’t. But we can’t change the past; we can only change the perspective of ourselves to make a better future. Bringing me to the next point in Jessica’s article:

Get some perspective. (When it seems as though life has handed you a bad hand, take a moment to think about all the people who are in a far worse position than you.)

I remember all the times I used to complain when I was little, my mom would always see “You have it so much better than so many other children, next time you think about complaining – think about everyone else who is worse off than you.” (She was truly wise beyond her years.) After hearing those words (which I heard quite frequently) I would sit and reflect. My idea of reflecting was to sit and think of all the things I had - rather than all the things I didn’t. Believe it or not, I think those times of reflection is what has helped me have such a wonderful memory today. I can recall moments from my early childhood where I felt extemporary freedom, honesty, trust, value and beauty. I remember a moment where I stood on top of a large rock (that marked the edge of our property) and I had my eyes closed but my head was facing the sunshine and I felt warmth throughout my body and was truly feeling “on top of the world.” I remember that moment as often as I can; it usually puts me in a good mood. It was a mere moment where I was one with the universe and I could only see blind light and warmth. I recommend everyone searches deep within themselves and looks for these types of moments frequently.

Pay it forward. (Being charitable, doing your bit for humanity, going out of your way to do something for someone else—it all helps to make you feel good, as well. Not only will it help others and attract good karma in the long run, in the short term it will give you a great feeling of self-worth.)

Ever since the movie Pay It Forward (which I cried like a baby through) – I have tried as a professor to offer moments to my students that shed light on the fact that anyone can make a difference, small or large. I often tell my students about a time in my life where I could only find darkness and with the help of one single person, I was able to overcome a great deal of obstacles. This person was more than just a mentor, she was a friend. She didn’t just care if I graduated; she wanted me to graduate with honor. It’s really true that if you help someone you feel warm and cozy inside, but in this economy it makes it hard to help anyone with anything other than words. Not just any words of course, words from the heart. I started writing again for three reasons, one because I hoped that someone who needed it would stumble upon it one day; two because I needed it and three because if I do end up one day with my life cut short, the people I love (Zach, Nina, my dogs, my dad, my aunts, my uncle, my cousins & my in-laws) would know how much I cared about them and they each were true inspirations in my life whether they knew it or not.

Today, I want to mention one particular cousin who I don’t think she knows it is an inspiration to me. Her story wasn’t really this short (but for the purposes of the longevity of this blog, I will abbreviate it). I won’t mention her name because she doesn’t know I am writing about her, but perhaps some day she will come across it and feel happy to know this is how I felt.

She got pregnant when she was fifteen, my family and extended family was not nearly as supportive as they should have been. We are the same age (only separated by a couple of months) and as family’s do we were often compared to each other: I was looked at as the “good” cousin and she was the “bad” cousin. But for the record, I think it probably was the other way around. She stayed in school until she was very close to having the baby, often walking to and from school pregnant (and the distance was more than a mile). The people we went to school with were generally shitty people; but adolescents are mean – and they were mean as children, so why expect otherwise. Either way, she had it pretty rough for quite some time. She wasn’t given the same opportunities that I and my other cousins were because she had a baby. At the time, I noticed, but what could another 16 year old do to make a difference. But the part of her that was so inspirational to me was: she took care of her son, kept him and finished high school despite the odds of not. I was adopted and everyone in my family knew, but I don’t think she ever realized how much I respected her for not putting her son up for adoption – at no point in her pregnancy nor in his life did she see that as an option. I respected that decision more than I think she ever realized. She now has four children and is a great mom. She is happily married and in general is a lot happier than I remember her to be, at least compared to her adolescent years. Even though she may not have a college degree or some highly respected job, I think she has much more than she even realizes. In fact, I know several executives who would trade their high class worlds for simple “meaningful” lives like she has.

Get your OM on. (The absolute best way to re-connect your mind with your body is to meditate.)

Finally, the last portion of my blog for the day: (I know you were probably wondering if this rambling would lead somewhere.) I just finished watching the cartoon series Avatar: the Last Airbender and not to sound like Kyle on South Park but “I learned something today.” The avatar series was based on Buddhist and Dali concepts and ironically enough, every time the lead character would come to a difficult trial - he would do as the monks taught him. Meditate. I don’t know if I have ever really meditated in a formal way, but I do “zone out” frequently. I call these moments “Lost in Reflection” usually I remember some happy moment from my childhood, or a moment with one of my dogs (past and present), my mom, my daughter, or some weird event that happened to me which makes me laugh out loud. These moments can be brought on by something someone says, does or even music which makes me reflect to the moment I first heard the song. For some reason my brain processes these moments and shuts down to the world around me and all I can do is live in this reflected moment. These moments are the moments I live for; they are a stop of the watch, a moment plucked out of time for my review. Unfortunately, as I’ve grown older these moments are not always happy, sometimes they make me cry. The problem is they are so real when I have them; I am reminded of the emotions that I had while they were happening. I do actively try to only reflect on happy times but as balance would dictate, some moments must also be sad. Just as the yin is to the yang, I can not always reflect happy without bringing out the sad. But reflecting on sad moments of my life doesn’t mean I always feel sad, actually when I think of sad moments – I try to fix the emotion I may have had. When my mom first died, I was devastated, then shortly after I was emotionless, then disappointed, but now I just feel sad. I think my evolution of feelings on this particular moment has been for the better. Perhaps that’s the point to meditating, reflecting as you should have to moments when you might not have. Either way, reflection is good and incorporating meditation into your life can only make your actions better with enlightened wisdom.

This image is a painting by Jim Thompson. More information on his art can be acquired at this web address: http://www.art-mind-soul.com/003-Yin-Yang.enlarge.html

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peace of Mind, Freedom, and Lack there of

I started this blog as a tool to lead myself to peace of mind. I’ve used many other artistic models for this in the past. My first tool was drawing; I started when I was very young and got pretty good when I was pretty young. In fact, one of the earliest times I remember being hurt was when someone in my elementary school first grade class told me I had traced a picture that I had drawn. I remember feeling so hurt that one someone would think something so beautiful wasn’t my own work, but also it threw me because it was one of the first times I was called a liar to my face.
When you are young, other children are mean. It is also true that when you are an adult, other adults are also mean. I would question whether it is human nature for us to be cynics. The sad part about my childhood was I never really had any friends. Don’t get me wrong, I had family who were much nicer, understanding and worth their weight in gold as friends. But I never really bonded with other kids in my age group. Many kids were mean to me because I didn’t look the way I was supposed to (but even as adults – our vision of ourselves is skewed). If you are too fat, you are wrong. If you are too skinny, you are wrong. If you have a pretty face, you are probably wrong. The list goes on. Either or, I learned by young adulthood I had to be comfortable with my own appearance because in essence: I was the one who had to look at it the most.
[My husband and I determined when my daughter was born that she would be home schooled, with social activities such as ballet to create friendships and bridge the social gap home schooling creates. We both disliked traditional schooling methods for various reasons, the clich├ęs, the bullying and lack of an educational curriculum which is slowing diminishing in the American Education System. (I recently read an article that cursive is no longer required. How sad we have come to such a state that music, art, and our cultural essence has diminished so much.) But this is all off topic, back to my main point.]
I continued to draw into college to relieve stress and give myself peace of mind, but at one point in my life I shifted gears into writing. (It was probably around the time, I focused on English writing as my undergraduate major.) I loved art and drawing but after about a year and a half of art school, I knew that if I continued on that path, I would not only learn to hate my hobby - but I would also have a very difficult time finding a job.
When I first started writing, I began with traditional poetry which often rhymed or followed a pattern – later I would find that that particular style of writing was “old school” and it was “in” to write your personal stories and creative concoctions. When I began writing about myself I was uncensored, it was drilled into my head that if I was going to write anything, it should be the truth (you know - freedom of speech who-raw!). That was the first time I got burnt as a writer. Someone read something I wrote and determined it to be unprofessional because I had written exactly how I felt, swear words and all. At that point in time, I took a step back and tried to be more censored. I’ve actually followed that suit for well over seven years now. I avoid swearing or stating exactly how I feel because it isn’t accepted by everyone.
I truly believe that when I began censoring my feelings and writing, I took a huge step backward. Even now I avoid saying exactly what I’m thinking because I want to pursue peace, but pursuing peace and achieving peace of mind have definitely turned out to be very different things.
I actually feel as though I have regressed to elementary school and the professionals I deal with daily are merely kindergarteners in my class. Not only is my peace of mind hindered, my freedom seems to be as well. I’m constantly worried about who is watching and how I am being perceived. I’ve spent most of the last six months making what you see when you “google me”: professional, admirable and successful achievements. But I don’t feel any peace of mind and my freedoms as an individual are being squashed. I’m struggling to find my peace of mind even in my own image and the more I search for it, the more my husband seems to dislike me as a person because I’ve changed.
A long time ago I read a quote “The only thing in the world that is constant is change.” I feel this is accurate because I am constantly changing myself to find myself - yet I’m not sure I am lost - just some of my elements are. Even as I look for guidance daily in Buddhist literature; I often find exactly what I’m looking for, but just when I begin to feel empowered again – something happens which makes me feel like a prisoner again. I was literally told this weekend by a colleague that I “need to learn my place.” My problem with that comment is I know where my place is, it is where I have worked so hard to be. Yet, why am I feeling most of the time like I need to take a time out and find it all over again?
To Be Continued.