Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Show Jitters

Tonight is the Taste of Butch Flavor Art Show that is a part of the Butch Voices Conference taking place here in Portland.  Three of my photographs are in the show.  It's the first time I've ever put myself out there like this and it's a huge step for me.  Needless to say, I'm nervous.  But, I've been talking myself through the nervousness and should be ok by the time the reception starts.  Maybe.  Hopefully.

Holy crap.

So!  If you're in the area, I would love to see you at the reception tonight.  There will be wine and cupcakes and lots of art!  The Q Center on N. Mississippi from 6 to 8pm.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Day With The New Habits

This morning I awoke to a text message about a part-time job that was open so meditating first thing this morning was challenging.  I was able to get in about 10 minutes though.  I would say that there were a few minutes in there where my brain was jumping around from place to place thinking about all of the things I needed to do today so my ‘true’ meditation time may have only been about 7 minutes or so.  It was a good way to start my day despite the challenge. 

After getting up and emailing my resume’ to the company I was able to get a page of free form writing out.  It’s basically a brain dump first thing in the morning.  I highly recommend it even if you aren’t a writer.  It helps to get the thought processes moving and clear your mind for your day ahead.  Non-stop writing, even if it’s the same word or words over and over again until something else comes up.  No editing or spending time forming thoughts into words, just let it all spill out onto the paper.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  It feels great afterwards.

In checking the weather around the area I noticed that Hood River was already sunny and beautiful around 10 this morning so I grabbed my camera and headed out the door for a photo adventure. 

I got as far as Multnomah Falls (‘cause what photographer hasn’t shot Multnomah Falls?) and ended up hiking up to the top of the falls for the first time ever.  I’ve lived in Portland for the past 8 years and never took the time to make that hike.  It was gorgeous!  I found a spot off of one of the trails to sit by the water and just take it all in.  That’s when I got the shot I’ve posted with this entry.  My camera is new to me so I’ve been playing with the settings on it and found that running water and a really slow shutter speed make for incredibly beautiful photos.  It’s just a matter of keeping the camera steady while the shutter is open, otherwise you end up with an unfocused photo.  Which can be good on occasion but not when you really want to keep things in focus. 

In total, I shot 113 photographs today and after editing them I kept only 10.  Thank goodness for digital cameras.  I’ve added them to my Flickr if you’re curious to see them. 

On my way down the trail I decided that a continuous climb up hill for about 1 ¼ miles is enough of a workout for my legs so I considered the trail my gym today.  Sitting here this evening as I type this, my legs are incredibly sore.  I’m thankful that I will be sitting in a movie theater later tonight and not doing much more walking today.

This afternoon I was able to get in about 30 minutes of guitar practice after struggling to get it back in tune.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t tune that thing to save my life.  Thirty minutes was about as much as the tips of my fingers could take so I had to be satisfied with that. 

Day one of my three week journey to form these new habits is done and I am happy with the outcome of the day.  What’s interesting about today is I’ve also fed myself well, which hasn’t been the norm lately.  Before I left for my adventure I made myself breakfast and when I returned I made a big pan of pasta and had a salad.  I’m really diggin’ this new habit development.  It just might be a good thing. 

Hope your hump day was a good one!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forming New Habits

Redefining one’s life takes a lot of work.  In essence, by redefining your life you are reprogramming your pattern of thoughts into something that is unfamiliar.  This has been the bulk of my struggle for the last month. 

Looking at life differently, letting go of the thought patterns that I’m familiar with and restructuring my daily life is my task at this point.  Most of my thought patterns up until now have been negative and self-deprecating.  Changing my perspective on the events that have happened in my life over the past couple of years and seeing the good in all of them, no matter how much they hurt my emotional being at the time, is a tremendous shift in my thinking. 

To give you an idea of just how tremendous of a shift I’m talking about here, allow me to explain to you my starting point in this journey.  The way I used to look at life and the events that I experienced in my life, I saw them happening to me. This left me with a sense of very little self worth.  If all of these bad things were happening to me then I must not be worth anything. Over the past couple of years, there have been several months where I contemplated suicide on a daily basis. The idea of staring down the barrel of a gun actually soothed me. 

With this shift in perspective that I have gained after taking absolute control over my life I now see those experiences as happening for me.  Each one of them has a lesson and it is completely up to me to fully grasp that lesson and use it as a tool in this life.  This newly defined life. 

I can’t promise that there will never again be another negative or self-deprecating thought, but I now know that I can use those thoughts to my advantage and learn from them.  Embrace them for what they are, look at the facts to prove or disprove them and move on. 

I’ve been told that it takes three weeks to form a new habit.  Along with continuing to shift my thoughts into new patterns, there are also five habits that I’d like to get begin melding into my new daily life.  They are meditation, writing, taking photographs, playing my guitar and going to the gym.  

Starting tomorrow and for the next three weeks these are the things that I will be doing on a daily basis in order to shape my new life.  I hereby give myself permission to take care of me, without guilt or shame, for the next three weeks. 

By integrating these habits into my daily life, I hope to, at the very least, begin to reprogram my thoughts about what my day should look like.  As an artist, it will look very different than what I have been accustomed to in the corporate world. 

As a way to hold myself accountable for doing these things daily, I will be posting daily updates here on my blog.  As always, your thoughts, suggestions, comments and encouraging words are more than welcome. 

Ready? Set? Go!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Letting Go

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least.  My struggle with letting go of what is comfortable and completely embracing the new and unknown continues but I feel as though I have a better grip on this shifting of perspectives.  At least at the moment. 

The night before last I had a dream that I went back to my old desk at my last job and asked my co-workers if they thought the boss would let me stay if I just started working like none of this ever happened.  I awoke from that dream feeling defeated.  As though I wasn’t strong enough to handle this challenge to change. 

As I thought about it through the day I came to realize that it was all about the attraction of going back to what’s comfortable as opposed to continuing on this path of the unknown. 

That morning I surfed over to craigslist to see what was happening in the way of job postings.  As the site came up I stared at the ‘accounting+finance’ link for a few moments.  A battle raged inside my head as I contemplated actually clicking on the link and looking at the postings. 

“It would just be easier to go back to it. But I hate doing it. ‘Hate’ being the operative word here.  But it would be so much easier to go back to it and get lost in the world again.  Succumb to societies expectations of me.  What’s left of my soul would disappear. I might as well put the gun to my head now.” 

Back and forth I went with these thoughts until finally I clicked on it.  As I read the post titles I could feel my stomach start to churn, like I had just eaten a rotten egg.  Immediately I closed my browser and sat there for a moment in the silence with my computer on my lap.  Waiting for my stomach to settle.

I can’t go back to that way of being.  For me, it’s not living.  I want to live and experience this life on my terms.

This path of the unknown comes with a lot of internal ‘work’.  I’m looking at things inside myself that I’ve not always been comfortable with.  Always taking the path of least resistance is one of them.  Changing my perspective on my life means being someone I’ve never allowed myself to be.  This scares the crap out of me.  On all levels of my being.  This is my challenge and what I have to overcome.  Letting go.

At this point, aside from doing my internal work, I’m not sure of what comes next.  That’s the dark beauty of the unknown.  In all honesty, I’m scared but I’m also looking forward to finding me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Talking Myself Through The Panic

(Photo by E.M.)

As the month goes on I have been doing my best to not fall into a panic mode of thinking around income flow. It’s an old pattern of mine that I find creeping up from time to time. It’s a pattern that no longer fits in my life so the draw to it is not as intense as it used to be for me but it’s still there.

I remember spending an incredible amount of time worrying about how I was going make more money. More money. More money. More money. It’s what we’re supposed to be worrying about, right? According to society, money will make us happy. Our goal in life should be living the American Dream. The college education (where you get your first taste of debt), a car (with a payment), a house with the white picket fence (that comes with a 30 year mortgage), the 2.5 kids (whom you must send to college), the expensive toys you must buy and the huge parties you must throw to keep up with the Jones next door and, finally, the retirement that you must save money for. All of this means you must settle for a job that pays you a large salary, even if it’s at the expense of your happiness and may not satisfy you in the least.

This is what I grew up thinking I was supposed to do. (This and the whole getting married to a man thing, which really doesn’t work for me.) I spent the majority of my 40 years in this existence squashing anything that brought me happiness if I couldn’t find a way to attach an income to it.

Photography has always been a love of mine. To be able to capture an image that brings beauty to someone’s life, one that draws out an emotional reaction or brings some sort of peace to a chaotic world, is an amazing feeling and a gift that I’ve always encouraged others to share. Writing a beautiful poem or story that does the same sort of thing for someone is also an amazing talent that I’ve encouraged others to share.

Living from the heart is something I’ve always believed in yet never applied to my own life. Why? Because living from the heart has never been associated with making a living. That is reserved for other people. Extraordinary people who have that destiny to do extraordinary things. People who are more gifted or talented than me. Everyone other than me.

At this point in my life I could go off on a rant about that idea alone, but for the sake of keeping this brief I will refrain and return to my original point.

As Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Confirmity, recently tweeted in answer to the question of whether he would choose to do something that he was proficient at despite trading away his happiness or something that satisfied him even if it was unknown, he would choose to do something that satisfied him even if it was unknown. This is what I am choosing now.

This life that I have been gifted with is too short to spend so much time doing something I don’t love nor find even a tiny bit satisfying.

The truth is, when you look at your life in the big scheme of things no one is ever going to talk about your credit score after you’re dead and gone. Life is about the connections you make and whom you surround yourself with, the people you touch and the positive things you do to make the world a better place. That’s what people will remember about you in the end.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ready? Set? Jump!

After a lot of contemplating and talking to some friends about what to do next, I’ve decided to look for temp jobs through agencies and work at those while focusing on my photography and writing.

One of the main reasons for not pursuing the wind turbine technician career at this time is my knee. It’s still recovering and until I can actually run again, it’s probably not the best idea to subject it to climbing 300-foot towers on a daily basis. I don’t want to go backwards in my recovery after everything I’ve been through to get it to where it is today. It has taken daily exercise to get my mobility back and to be able to climb stairs without assistance from the railing or a cane. Last week I was able to take the treadmill up to a slow jog at the gym so I’m getting there, but I’m just not there yet.

Another reason for choosing this route over the other is the fact that I don’t want to incur any more debt at this point. The school would cost $12,200 for the 6-month program and I would have to take all of that out in loans. While it’s true that I would be making a good living after getting hired, this is just something I am instinctively uncomfortable with. The idea of more debt weighs down on the freedom I’m feeling and wish to continue feeling.

Finally, it isn’t my passion and it isn’t what’s in my heart. It’s going back to the money chase and that’s the path I’m making a conscious effort to avoid with all of these changes.

For far too long I’ve been focusing my creative energy on my relationships. I’ve rationalized away my talent and dreams and fought the lack of self-worth within myself up until this point in my life. I have far too much potential too continue on that path.

I’ve been single now for 2 months and 13 days (yes, I’m counting and yes, I still miss her) and can absolutely and without a doubt tell you that I will remain single for quite awhile. It’s time for me to focus that energy on my creative self and see where it takes me.

To begin, I’m participating in my first art exhibition ever. Three of my photographs will be a part of the Butch Voices Conference art exhibition titled A Taste of Butch Flavor. It’s complete with an artists reception which happens at the Q Center on Thursday, September 30th and the show will run through the entire month of October there at the Center. I am excited, nervous, anxious and thrilled to be a part of this show.

Today I picked up my prints from ProPhoto Supply and they are amazing. I am so proud of them. They are now matted and framed and ready to go. This is it! I’m jumping off into the unknown again and I couldn’t be happier.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Struggling With Decisions

The first week after leaving my job as an accountant was spent house and pet sitting for some friends across the river. I spent the week there quieting down and resting. I did a bit of writing and spent a lot of time roaming around with my new DSLR camera capturing images of their adorable dog, huge cat and entertaining chickens. It felt good to quiet down and tap into my creativity.

Most of the writing that I did was journaling. When I say I jumped off a cliff trusting in the Universe to catch me, I quite literally mean I jumped off a cliff into the unknown not knowing what my next step would be. For me, journaling is a way of uncovering things that I may not have seen. It’s true that some things were uncovered but nothing along the lines of “what’s next?”

Through meditation, journaling and a couple of journeys I’ve been doing my best to stay open to the possibilities. A couple of options have come to light but neither of them have felt solid to me yet.

One option would be to sign up with a temp agency and do random warehouse, general labor or manufacturing type jobs while continuing to work on my writing and photography. Doing this sort of thing would give me the freedom to stay creative and focused on the things that center me and make me happy.

The second option would be to go back to school for a completely different career in the wind energy industry. Last night I attended an information session at the Northwest Renewable Energy Institute up in Vancouver, Washington to look into their wind turbine technician program. The idea of working on those incredible and awesome machines that are creating electricity without harming our planet sounds amazing to me. The industry itself has a government mandate to grow so things are booming. Right now the US gains 1.9% of its electricity from wind and the government wants to see it increase to 20% by the year 2030. Wind turbines are popping up everywhere possible. The program itself lasts 6 months and I would have to take out a student loan to make it happen. A $12,000 student loan. Plus, I would still have to do the temp thing to get by while in school. I just spoke to the admissions rep and she told me that as a woman I would have a better chance of being placed, as well. The first class that I could possibly get into starts on October 18th.

What I’m struggling with right now is do I get into that program, go to school for six and a half hours a day for five days a week while working full-time at temp jobs and thereby taking up all of my time? After six months I would have a career in an industry that I feel good about and where the starting salary is what I was making as an accountant. There would be no ‘typical day at the office’ and I could work anywhere the wind blows. I could also be a traveling technician keeping my homebase here in Portland then traveling to different projects and working on them for five weeks or something. It’s possible that I would have several job offers on the table before I graduate, as well. The one thing they keep emphasizing is to a willingness to relocate. I'm struggling with that because Portland is my home. I wouldn't want to live anyhwere else.

Or, do I take random temp jobs and explore my creativity more? I signed up to take a few writing workshops at the Wordstock Festival that’s happening next month and am really excited about that. I’m also showing a few of my photographs at the Butch Voices Art Exhibition. It’s the first time ever that I’m showing my work.

It’s funny. I’m noticing that while I’m writing these options out the wind turbine technician option sounds exciting to my mind while my other option of exploring my creativity more sounds exciting to my heart. That gives me even more to think about.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Starting Over

The past three and a half weeks have been a bit surreal, to say the least. The weekend where I decided to put in my notice at work was a weekend where everything shifted for me. Up until that weekend I was living my life for everyone else. Living up to everyone else’s expectations of me. Well, trying to, at least.

You see, I found my self worth outside of myself. I was worthy of people and things because of what I did as a ‘career’ and whom I took care of. Who I took care of was everyone else other than me. Yes, that career afforded me things and paid the bills and helped me to take care of others. The problem was that I could feel myself slowly dying inside.

Don’t get me wrong, accounting is a good career and many people enjoy keeping track of other people’s money and looking at the bottom line. Accounting is the language of business and it was interesting to learn that language. It just never was anything more to me than a way to make money. I’ve been chasing money as a form of happiness for a good part of my life. At 40 years of age I have come to realize, finally, that money isn’t going to make me happy. Chasing it isn’t going to make me happy. As cheesy as it sounds, happiness comes from within. Self worth comes from within.

I’ve finally learned that if I’m not happy in all aspects of my life, including my job, than chances are I’m not going to be happy in any aspects of my life. In the career that I had chosen I was completely unhappy and thoroughly unsatisfied. Sacrificing my happiness and therefore my life for the good of the company. The company who, quite honestly, could really care less about my well being or the well being of people and the world in general.

People would tell me, “You work so that you can live on your days off.” The problem with that is I was so depressed and felt so worthless to the world in the job that I had that I couldn’t bring myself to actually live on my days off. It affected everything in my life. Even my relationships, both intimate and friendships. I couldn’t have fun. All I could focus on were the words “What’s the point?” and the fact that I had to go to work on Monday.

When you crunch the numbers, I spent ¼ of my 7 day weeks working. That doesn’t seem to be a very long time at all, really. But the energy that it took for me to get through each and every work day was all consuming. Every day I went into work felt like a sucker punch to my gut. After getting some rest on the weekend and regrouping as much as I possibly could from the week prior I would walk into the office feeling a slight touch of confidence, standing up straight as if to say "I can do this." only to be met with a blow to the gut that doubled me over and sucked the life out of me. As the week progressed I could feel myself completely shut down.

Looking even further at the numbers, if I slept 8 hours a night, as well, that’s another ¼ of my week so ½ of my week was spent working and sleeping. Or, in my case, struggling to sleep because it affected that part of my life as well.

I remember thinking about how what I was doing didn’t really matter to the big picture. It didn’t do anything to better the world or the environment or even myself. I didn’t feel good about it at the end of the day. To me, there was nothing to feel good about.

Needless to say, it was time to make a change. A drastic change. Everything in my world had already been turned upside down and I continue to grieve for each and every loss but the truth of the matter is I would not have been able to see even a tiny glimpse of the change that I needed to make happen had I not experienced all of that loss. The passing of my canine companion of seven years, a knee injury which caused me to slow down and give up my football ‘career’ in the Women’s Football Alliance on the team that I helped start, the passing of my Grandmother and the loss an intimate relationship. As devastating as all of it has been, I wouldn’t have been able to see the change, let alone make the change, that needed to be made without experiencing all of it.

The Friday before I made the decision to give my notice at work and make this huge change in my life a friend of mine did a Shamanic journey for me with some of her students during a weekend workshop that she taught. One of the things that she brought back from her journey touched me and has stuck with me through all of this.

She said, “In my journey I received the clear message that you would rather be "crucified" than to stand in your power. That is not a word I would use, so I questioned it. But that word is important for some reason. And you have to surrender to the idea that there is a higher purpose to everything you are experiencing if you are going to stop the cycles and move forward. It's like you are stuck in this loop because you cannot admit to yourself that you have a higher purpose.”

I would rather be “crucified” than stand in my power. In other words, I would rather allow my power to be destroyed by others. I would rather give them my power to destroy than stand in it and claim it as mine.

Whether it was the power of those students journeying for me or something in me finally connecting to what was happening in my life or a combination of both, I don’t really know. What I do know is something in me ‘clicked’ and almost over night I felt strong enough and powerful enough to jump off that proverbial cliff and fly. I felt, and still feel, complete trust in the Universe and that ‘still small voice’ inside of me to guide me to my higher purpose in this plane of existence.

The Universe has already provided for me during this period of transition. My son received a large check from the college he is attending and he will be using that money to live on for the next six months. I’ve had several friends offer up free space to me if things get a little too tight while I find my way, as well. I know I will find my right path and my higher purpose in this journey. One where I am happy and fulfilled and make a difference in this crazy world we live in. I am grateful to the powers that be for showing me the way.