trading spaces (# 70)

It has been an interesting time. The summer is hurtling to its end, and the rest of the year will pass even more quickly. I am excited because changes ahead will move my attention away from analysis and toward action. The analysis has been necessary, but I do not want to stay stuck here.

After not getting the job I wanted earlier this summer, I embarked on a lot of soul-searching about whether to keep trying to leave my job or whether to try to improve it from within. I finally found some peace around my decision to stay put and improve it. And, of course, life goes on no matter what I decide to do about it. Last week I found out there are some changes coming at work that are not necessarily quick fixes for me, but that happen to be aligned with my vision of what my job could be. So, I am interested in sticking around to see what develops.

Out of the blue, a headhunter contacted me about two other possibilities that sounded pretty good, but I quickly decided not to pursue them. I was able to see that those opportunities would likely offer more money, but they would offer me a lot less of the main thing that I have zeroed in on as most desirable: autonomy and flexibility around time. Happily, my current work does not suck up my time and energy with demands by other people to put out fires. My last job required this on a regular basis.

The very day after I settled the headhunter situation, my husband got some amazing news, and the whole picture of the next phase of my life beyond this summer of regrouping clicked into focus. Before I met my husband, he used to own a store (several incarnations of the same concept) for about fifteen years. He has not had a store since 2007, and he has been longing to start one while doing other things, including selling materials wholesale and doing creative work.

The problem has been finding a suitable space. He only needs a small one, and they are hard to find in our growing city.  In the last several years, he has explored several spaces that didn’t work out. He thought about giving up on the retail dream altogether, but could not let it go. He wants to try something different from the stores he had in the past, and he has thought a lot about how to make it work.

Then . . . this week, the landlord of a storefront that my husband has had his eye for more than two years called to say the space will be coming open in November. It’s a great location just a few blocks from our house, on a street with other independent businesses and restaurants. It’s just the perfect size, and it comes with basement space where my husband can keep his equipment and do some of his creative work. My husband jumped on it.

I should interject  here that a specific reason I took my low-key job 16 months ago was to have more time to work on creative ventures with my husband. We like working together and make a good team. Up until now, our partnership has mainly involved making jewelry and selling it at local festivals, which we have done a few times each year. We have also set up a website as a possible online alternative to the bricks-and-mortar store concept. That website is still pretty barebones, but we did bring it into being together. Anyway, both the jewelry we make and the website dovetail with the new store concept, and both will be important as we move forward.

It looks like we will be opening a store sometime in November!

I won’t be quitting my day job, instead I’ll be feeling grateful for a job that allows me enough freedom to participate in the birth of this store. The other jobs I had been considering would not allow such freedom. They would be challenging and stressful.

I am also feeling grateful that I chose to stop drinking at the beginning of the summer, because that making that choice opened up the space in my life to bring in something big and new and allow my creative energy to flow. At this time, I have succeeded in stepping out of the ever-shrinking space where alcohol was sprawling out, talking too loudly, and getting way too comfortable. I feel relieved that I left that dark space freely and fairly cheerfully, before alcohol bound me, gagged me and took me hostage.  I do not want to return there.


writing past perfectionism (# 56)

I will preface my comments with this: I am a word person, a voracious reader since preschool, an English major, and a holder of a graduate degree in Irish literature. I have steeped myself in words professionally, working as either a writer or an editor for the majority of my adult life.

And yet. . . although reading and writing (for hire) have truly been my life’s work, I have never been more than a dilettante when it comes to writing “my own stuff.” I have entertained several “novel” ideas, but never got them off the ground. By which I mean page one.

Some years ago I embarked on a long-distance love affair that generated more written words than the amount contained in Moby-Dick. Along with a smattering of poems for his reading pleasure. Not sure what I am ever going to do with that hot mess.

I have been reading blogs consistently for about 15 years (!). I started when my firstborn was a baby, and got hooked on the first wave of mom blogs, including Suburban Bliss, Dooce, Sweetney,  Finslippy, Breed ‘Em and Weep, Fussy, Catherine Newman’s blog for ParentCenter. This great, witty writing captured my interest. At the time I did not have a blog of my own. While I enjoyed seeing these life narratives unspool in real-time, I could not quite wrap my head around the idea of airing my thoughts and the details of my life for all the world to read. Instead, I contributed to a group parenting blog called Dot Moms. My bi-monthly pieces were polished, clever, and careful to hew to a chosen theme while giving little personal away.

I was, shall we say, constipated. Plenty confident in my ability to write well, technically speaking, but quickly paralyzed by the inner critic who insisted on editing everything to the hilt on a sentence-by-sentence basis. I had ideas but I could never let truly let them rip. I talked myself out of writing at all, and, if anything started to slip out, I talked myself out of anything I managed to write. Or rewrote it. And rewrote it again.

That whole writing-for-myself thing is settled, then. . . . Bad idea. . . . Now, where did my wine go? You get the picture.

Almost all those mom blogs I used to read have fallen by the wayside, and my blog interests morphed over the years. For a while, there were peak oil and political blogs, later there were 40-something dating/sex blogs. Now, ’tis the season for sober blogs, and for the first time in my bystander relationship with the blogging world, I am wading in.

Again, I am delighted by the variety and thoughtfulness of the perspectives I have found. I am impressed and moved by the sincerity, vulnerability, and quality of the words I read on a daily basis. So much insight, so freely shared.

If I let it, this could paralyze me into thoughts of I’m not original enough, I’m not generous enough, I don’t have anything much to contribute here. My stuff is not going to be perfect. It’s never going to be as good as I think it should be, so why bother. And on and on.

But I am taking a different approach this time. I am not self-editing (well, just a teensy bit). I am not sleeping on any of this. I am just writing what I am thinking about, when I feel like it, and hitting publish. Sometimes, when it has been a while, I remind myself to “feel like it,” because I know that writing, like yoga, can be a practice. You just have to show up and assume a position.

In addition, I want to share something of myself with the world of words online that has provided me with silent enjoyment for so long. I want to add my voice, instead of being a standoffish voyeur. I would love to connect, for a change.

So, here I am trying to find a new path into the vast thicket of possible words I have been hoarding, pruning, or tending on others’ behalf all my life. This blog of mine might be silly, or messy, or trite, or pretentious, or, god forbid, riddled with typos, but it is my attempt to stray beyond the perfectionism and self-inflicted limits that have been penning me in.

This is me, setting myself free.



quiet here at least (# 54)

It has been a peaceful week, mostly. I have stopped perseverating about the job I didn’t get. After talking to husband, therapist, and a friend, I have made a mental shift and decided to focus a little more on making my current (boring) job more interesting. Upon reflection, I can admit that I am a person who is always running off in search of a new challenge and not so good at sticking around, playing a long game, and growing in place. I think it would be good for me to try a different strategy, while I am in this new alcohol free stage of life. So I will take some time to see what develops and make no sudden moves.

I am not eager to be out there applying for more jobs right now. I am feeling bruised and confused. Not sure what I really want from my work life, not sure if I am being proactive or reactive in my search. I need to let everything settle. I will embark on a new job search if/when more clarity about my objectives emerges.

I would like to make more money, but for now I am glad I have a job that is flexible and peaceful. It’s stressful dealing with my teenage daughter. I am having to talk to her dad a lot, and it sometimes eats into work time.

My husband is away on a work trip. Tonight, which is the night before his event starts, two of the people he works with got really drunk. My husband was already up in the hotel room watching Anthony Bourdain episodes and thinking about getting a good night’s sleep when the two guys were brought back to the room flanked by a complement of hotel security. One had a giant bruise on the back of his balding head. My husband had to spend the rest of the evening babysitting them. The one without the bruise attempted to return to the bar, and my husband had to coax him back to the room. These are not young men. They are around 60, a decade older than my husband. They will have to work a long day tomorrow, suffering mightily, I have no doubt.

My own drinking exploits did not sink to that level, at least not recently. I am relieved that my husband has not been in the position of taking care of me in a state like that. However, he has had to shush me from talking loudly a couple of times when walking home through our quiet neighborhood at night. In recent years my drinking was more of a soul-sucking personal preoccupation than a menace to society.

But tonight, I have been reflecting on what an awful position to be in it is, when an unruly drunk (or two!) is holding you hostage. It’s so very unfair to check your sanity  at the door of the bar and leave others to pick up the pieces. I remember that kind of shit happening among my friends when we were in our teens and early twenties. I was guilty of this as well. In one early drinking episode, age 18, camping out one night, I ate nothing but blueberries all day and swigged a bunch of vodka at night. Puked everywhere, and my friends had listen to me, plaintively insisting like a broken record that they make sure to turn my head to one side before leaving me to pass out because “I didn’t want to die like Jimi Hendrix.”

One friend of mine was always getting into this state, and it got tiresome. No one in our group wanted to deal with it anymore. People were tolerant of rare occasions of extreme drunkenness, but reached a limit. With this particular guy, several friends had a little intervention. I don’t remember if it really solved anything about his drinking at the time, but the event did show that people will stop coddling incapacitated people once they are feeling taken advantage of on a regular basis. Easier for friends to draw the line than for relatives or lovers, though.

So I empathize with my husband for having to deal with this tonight, but I am happy he can soon return home to someone he can count on to be responsible for herself, no matter how much alcohol free fun she is having.

facing rejection (# 43)

I am now almost certain that I did not get the job I really wanted. Over the last week, as it became apparent that no one was calling me or my references, I started to have moments of intense pain and sadness. I am trying to understand the exact nature of this pain, to wrap my arms around it and define it.

A couple of nights ago I ended up sobbing out my disappointment before bed, in the arms of my husband. It was as ugly as ugly crying gets. Gasping for breath, choking on snot, piles of tissues mounding up beside me. My eyes looked puffy for the whole next day. Among other things, I cried out, more than once. “I am so embarrassed. I am so ashamed.”

This is the second time that I have not gotten a job that a former coworker with my exact same experience has managed to get. This raises powerful feelings of what’s wrong with me, specifically? There must be something wrong with me. What is it? Can I fix it or not? 

I feel embarrassed to ask keep asking my former bosses for references for jobs I don’t ever get. I feel like damaged goods; doomed to be stuck in a job that is dull, boring ,and not well-paying because I can’t interview well enough to get a better job that I am qualified for and could do.

I said before that I felt this particular job might have come up too quickly for me. I wished I had been alcohol free for longer, gotten steadier and more confident. I did the best I could, but fell short of the mark. That leaves me feeling even more anxious about applying for other jobs. About this particular job, I at least felt very secure that I was well qualified. With other jobs, the fit is not likely to be as apparent and as ideal. I will have even more to be anxious about going into other hiring situations.

I don’t know how I will manage the stress and uncertainty of the  job-search process better. How I can arrive at equanimity in the face of my capacity for feeling ashamed.

Who I am so afraid of disappointing? My parents? My former boss? My kids? My friends? My husband. No. Nothing quite makes sense. I am afraid I can’t justify my own choices to myself. That I will never be able to resolve this tension between achievement and falling short. Never resolve the question that maybe I am not doing the right thing, and if I were doing the right thing, I could be both fulfilled and successful at the same time. But what is the Right Thing? And why can’t I figure that out. 

I am still not drinking and very happy with that decision, but, boy, am I raw right now. In the past I probably would have had a lot to drink one night, blown off steam, and moved on fairly quickly from this rejection with a fuck-it attitude. Instead my sad, shamed feelings keep circling around and bubbling up with intrusive regularity, causing me to question, second-guess and bemoan every professional decision I have made in the last 25 years. That is a heavy burden for my soul to carry. My melodramatic tendencies are in full flower. Which means I feel doomed.

On top of the crushed hopes about the job, I am also soaking in the bitter sense that all this “doing my best,” is simply not paying off. I seem to need tangible evidence, “gold stars” of some sort, to feel justified in making the life changes that I have made. I want quicker fixes. I admit that.

A new job, new number on the scale–something! Instead I am feeling so bad. So stuck. Shuffling between a stifling job and home, dealing day in and day out with the steady stream of bad news a difficult teen brings. I rely on yoga, runs and books for temporary anesthesia. My husband is supportive, but also kind of thinks I am not much fun right now.

I am OK, as I knew I would be, no matter what happened. But I’d prefer to be engaged, vibrant and fun.



somewhere on the stress wheel (# 28)

On the downside, I haven’t been feeling very motivated to write. On the upside, I have stayed alcohol free, and drinking/not drinking has been the least of my worries. Socializing with friends, I find, is truly more enjoyable when I am sipping soda water, iced tea or even NA beer. Sometimes I miss drinking wine with my husband, but I love waking up hangover and fuzzy head free.

My stress has arisen because I applied for a new job. I really want this job and am very qualified for it, but it is competitive. I had an interview that went pretty well, but could have been better. I was very nervous, and it showed. I have been trying to let the waves of anxiety come and go as they please, but I am getting so tense and already pregaming how I will spin the situation to myself if I do not get the job.

Somehow, I think I will feel better right now if I have some prepared story I can tell myself and others to explain why I did not get the job. I am freaking myself out with how control freaky that attitude is. Anyway, much of my focus in the last two weeks has been on the interview.

One good aspect of all this: I know that I am doing the best I can right now. I know not drinking is a good choice and sticking with that decision is boosting my confidence. A few months ago, I was feeling pretty down on myself, and I was not sure I could find and land a better job. But I can feel my self-confidence rebuilding. Maybe the interview would have gone better if I had had even more time free from alcohol, but this great opportunity arose and I went for it instead of deferring it. I feel good about that.

I like that I didn’t have to wonder whether it would be ok to have “one drink” the night before my interview. And I didn’t have to quell my nervous energy and anxiety by drinking heavily on the evening after the interview. I am riding this out with a clear head and trying to remind myself that I will be OK no matter what happens.