Evolving

I had a love/hate relationship with being a technician back when I was one.

I loved working with mostly geeky guys and not being afraid of tech talk. The work was ok, I was. . . competent.

But very quickly after getting what should have been a dream job, I realized I was not happy or fulfilled. In fact, despite making more money than I ever had and living in a great apartment that I loved and being medicated, I was getting depressed. Again.

I think one reason why I was laid off that time was because of my depression. I started leaving work early or staying home because I had a headache or felt “sick”. I spent a lot of time online on a forum I was a frequent contributor to. I did my job, but half-heartedly, and I I wasn’t really comfortable with it. After 15 years, I never really became all that comfortable with it. It never felt right.

I was in touch with myself enough to realize that this meant I wasn’t supposed to be an engineer and to change my major – to math.

Math is also not a very. . . soulful, fulfilling path. It can be rather esoteric and philosophical, though.

But I really struggled with a couple of courses (abstract/modern algebra and real analysis, if you have to know).

As in, took them multiple times and celebrated a C/C- grade.

Funny, every non-math class I took, I got a B or even an A without even trying.

The math classes? My actual major? Not so much, once I hit the upper division classes.

Now, I did choose math in part because it was hard. Because I’m stubborn (or is it arrogant?) that way.

See, I can read and discuss history, philosophy, ethnic studies and a zillion other subjects on my own. But math beyond calculus? Was never going to be able to teach myself that.

Besides, we keep hearing about how the schools need teachers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, so it should be easy to get a job, right?

Except it took me twice as long to finish the degree as I thought it would, because of depression and not working and then working and still depressed and so on and so on and so on.

But I did finish.

Then I got into a program to get my credential.

And choked on the finish line.

I WILL finish that this April, but the path here has been arduous.

And now I’m feeling like that may not be where I’m supposed to be.

Way back in the early 1990s, I considered leaving the military. I had an opportunity to leave before my time was up.

I consulted a couple of people, thinking I should be doing something metaphysical – since every time I go for any kind of reading, the reader invariably says, “You could do what I do.”

But everything at that time came back saying, “No, stay. It’s not time.”

Right now. . . I don’t know.

Things feel. . .  very strange.

Different.

Full of possibilities.

But at the same time, I don’t think I’m manic. I’m sleeping well, for one thing. (Less than four hours sleep a night is usually a pretty big indicator that I’m swinging that way).

So, I’m trying to get down as many ideas as I can, write as much as I can while this is in my head.

Maybe it’s time for something  . . . different.

I know I’m supposed to Teach.

But maybe that’s not math.

Gratitude

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I remember a few years back gratitude journals were thee big self-help/spirituality fad. Oprah talked about it, even, and it became fairly mainstream.

I’ve been listening to a bunch of interviews with successful people (free content, here and here and here). And the feeling of gratitude is strong, especially in the woman-centered spiritual groups, but really, in most of them. Even in the Amos Winbush interview I referenced yesterday, part of his daily affirmation is “Thank you, LIFE!” and he used it even in his darkest times.

I’ve tried, in thee last few years, I’ve really tried to find things to be grateful for. There was a point, even, where I hand-wrote and sent “Thank you” cards to various people in my life in one of my darkest times.

R, who has been my friend since 6th grade, once sent me a postcard saying, “You suck for never writing to me!” because, well, in our whole friendship, I’ve probably written to her less than a handful of times, even when in the military or separated on summer vacations. When she got hers, she called me to make sure I was ok, since it was so unusual for me to actually mail something.

I tried keeping a gratitude journal, but I’m sporadic about journaling to begin with and it quickly went by the wayside.

This fall, there were a lot of people on Facebook and blogs and stuff doing “30 days of thankfulness” for the entire month of November. I just couldn’t come up with anything to write about.

I can always say that I’m grateful for my daughter, and for N for sticking by me even when I’m a totally selfish shit, and my imaginary intermaweb friends. . .

And that was it.

I couldn’t come up with anything else.

An indication of my depression, maybe?

Suddenly, today, I’m bursting with gratitude for the strangest things. . .

I hated my job at [small company]. I mean enough to make myself a nervous wreck and physically ill at times.

But that job helped me go from renting a room in a toxic person’s house to being in my own place again. It introduced me to the person I bought my car from, which was a very serendipitous event. It introduced me to the woman who helped me come up with a name and logo for my tutoring business. I managed to maintain a good relationship with the company and even got a glowing letter of recommendation from them (and how often does that happen these days?). They sometimes didn’t want to but still ended up being flexible around my school schedule.

And I still have a business relationship with them. It’s not much, but in the last 6 months, the small checks from them have really made a difference. It showed me how much the owner’s attitude and force of will can shape and set the tone for a company.

And it modeled for me some things I would never want to do if I owned my own company – and that, too, is a blessing.

I’m still so, so grateful to R and N for always being there even when I push everyone away.

Modern forms of communication. . .  and even the ability to look up someone from long ago. I’m even grateful to J for looking me up last spring, because it was a huge push I needed to finally stop wallowing in a particular pile of shit and become open for what could happen next.

My imaginary intermaweb friends, who are always so encouraging and protective and helpful, delivering hugs and a kick in the ass as needed. You know, even the grumpy old uncle and the guy living in Pleasantville – as annoying as they can be – have their place in that community [the people who need to know, know]. 🙂 When I was completely unable to connect and communicate in the real world, you guys were there.

And now, my comfort level with electronic communication has me researching all kinds of crazy things.

No idea where it’s going to lead, but I’ve ignored my intuition for a long time, and maybe it’s time to stop doing that. So, I’m riding this thing out and taking copious notes.

Couple of quick random notes

Thanks for the feedback on the video. I think I’ll do some from time to time, maybe a couple times a month.

I watched a couple of videos recently that were interviews with successful people. One, an interview with Amos Winbush of Cybersynchs on the blog Eventual Millionaire talked about some of the hard times he went through at the beginning of founding his company. He also talked about an affirmation he used. He would walk the streets in New York City, throw his arms open wide and say (or think):

I am open and receptive of all the abundance and energy in the universe. Thank you, life!

I just thought that was beautiful.

He also said he had the same negative self-talk we all have, and he felt like a failure, like maybe he wasn’t doing the right thing. All of it. But he said his affirmation helped keep him centered.

I know the interview is long, over 40 minutes, but I thought it was really good.

Newsletter.

I’ve started a newsletter attached to the blog. If you’re interested in receiving it, please sign up HERE or at the top of the right hand side bar.

Right now, it’s just links to recent posts (in case you miss some) and stuff I find interesting, but not enough to put on the blog.

In the future, I hope to put some special offers, previews or contests in it.

Motivation and Action

This is my first attempt at a Vlog, so I’d appreciate some feedback.

I think I talk a little fast (always a problem for me) and the times I look down at my notebook are a little distracting.

Any other feedback, good or bad, is appreciated.

Some websites mentioned:

ProBlogger

Go Kaleo

Zen Habits

Also, I have a newsletter, please sign up!

Dream: Bricks and fire

Sometimes images from dreams remain strong, and a couple of images keep coming up for me from last night’s dream: bricks and fire.

To start off, I was living in an old brick townhouse connected to a long building. I had a couple of floors and roof access. I would go out on the roof to chill, look at the moon, all that stuff.

I had what looked like a square-shaped wood stove that was burning a nice, warm, steady fire, with the door open.

At one point, in the morning, I saw on the TV that there was a big fire in a tallish building, but it looked like it was under control and fire fighters were there and everything.

At another point, I was soaking roof tiles for my mom and neighbors so that they would be ok when something bad happened. [No idea where that came from.] A couple of the tiles came loose, but none fell.

Later, it was dark and I went on the roof with a glass of wine to relax and I saw this big brick building a few blocks away burning. It was beautiful in the dark, watching the flames. I watched for awhile, assuming that fire fighters were taking care of it. I went inside for something and when I came back out, the fire was worse.

I was suddenly terrified that the fire was going to jump out and take down other buildings.

I ran out into the street, trying to get help, but no one else seemed to see the fire, or care about it. One person thought it was the same fire from the morning. I was confused, how could the fire be raging that long and still seem fresh?

I ran back into my place.

When I went back in, the wood stove was in a different place, and there was no fire. I opened the door on it, and at first glance, it looked like wood was laid in place, ready to light, and I was relieved. Then I realized that there were also leaves and cobwebs and maybe even a mouse in the stove (something moved, impression of a tail).

I started cursing and pulling the wood out so I could clean it and get the fire going again.

I don’t know if I actually lit that fire, though.

I was out on the roof again, watching the other building burn, thinking that it was going to be completely gutted, but hoping the bricks would still be standing because it was a gorgeous building. I still couldn’t believe that no one was helping to put it out, but I wasn’t scared it was going to spread any more, I was just exhausted.

So, some of the symbolism is blindingly obvious (wood stove = hearth/home; fire can warm or destroy, etc)

Some of it, though, not so obvious.

I still keep getting close up images of the bricks on both buildings (slightly different colors), as if the fact that they are bricks was important.

Pitfalls of affirmations

I was going through some old draft posts, where I started but never finished a post where I put a link to remind myself to respond to something later, and I came across a link to Creative Affirmations blog to an article called The Top 5 Affirmation Pitfalls.

Since I’ve been talking about affirmations lately, I thought this might be something good to talk about.

The “pitfalls” the author gives are:

  1. Affirming with words that do not promote feelings.
  2. Your affirmations are in future tense.
  3. Not saying affirmations.
  4. Not taking action.
  5. Doubt.
Some people claim that affirmations are magical, but there is a real psychological action to them.
Affirmations are a way of focusing your thoughts. It’s a way of helping to reprogram your subconscious thoughts.
I went looking for some research on affirmations, because so many people believe they help so many things, and I was surprised at what I found. 
I did find a 2009 study that indicates affirmations are helpful in combating depression and anxiety, but I also found a more recent study that indicates that the psychology of affirmations is more complicated than most believe.
If someone is a positive person with healthy self-esteem, the affirmations worked a little bit. But for people with low self esteem, some affirmations made them feel worse.
While I believe affirmations can have a positive effect, I can also see this point.
When I was in my deepest depressions, nothing helped. I read Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life  about 10 years ago, and I threw it across the room more than once. I don’t remember a lot of specifics, but it felt like “fake it till you make it” to me, and there was no way that was going to work for me at that point.

And I’m someone that believes in this stuff.

So, while affirmations may not help people who are clinically depressed or naturally negative thinkers, if you are trying to become more positive about things in your head, give them a try.

If they make you feel worse – by all means stop and get some real medical help.

But if they do help you feel better and help you focus on your goals, then make sure you use positive emotional words, keep them in the present tense, and work to make them come about.

Balance

I’m still working with some of the stuff in the Incredible Year workbook, and I’ve also discovered Wild Sister Magazine.

Like a lot of stuff I’ve read, the core of the information is not new to me, but in both of these sites, the women who run them are excited about what they do, and their emotions and encouragement of others come through very strongly which makes it feel a little fresher.

The one thing I’m having a problem with, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, is that they are almost too woman-centered.

Now, first off, I’m a Feminist with a capital F. I worked in a male-dominated field (electronics), in a male-dominated organization (military). My degree is in math, which is still male-dominated. My spiritual path was originally chosen as one that honored the sacred feminine.

I believe women should have autonomy and sovereignty over their own bodies – to dress as demurely or sexy as they wish/feel comfortable with, to have sex when and with whom they choose, to decide if and when to have babies and so on.

I love reading about and meeting strong women. I’ve read Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Naomi Wolf. I know how deeply patriarchy is inherent in our culture.

Twenty years ago, the woman-centeredness would have spoken to my soul.

It still does, to an extent, but. . .

In my personal spiritual practice, I long ago moved towards a more balanced perspective: balancing the animus and anima, honoring the sacred masculine as well as the feminine. After all, while women hold up half the sky, so do men. And while men may still have some unconscious advantages in this world, there are some areas where they seem to be being left behind.

There is wisdom in these pages that a couple of men I know could stand to hear, but I don’t see them dealing with all the. . .  girly shit and curlicues and so on to hear the stuff that they could use.

This really isn’t a criticism, because the wonderful women have found their niche, and more power to them!

But I think I would prefer to make my focus a little more gender-neutral. [And guys, if you’re looking for this kind of good stuff, you could check out ZenHabits.]