The “Who Am I?” Litany

Does anyone really know the answer to the question “Who am I?”.

It annoys me. I’m supposed to define myself by the roles I play, I guess, and by my interests. All the while I’m reciting this litany (it’s the first question you ask yourself when practicing meditation), I have the feeling that this isn’t all there is to it.

However, I am bound by earthly things owing to the fact that I’ve got this here physical body, so without further ado – The “Who Am I?” Litany commences

I suppose a daughter is the very first role I took. Mere seconds on the heels of “daughter” closely followed sister, grand-daughter, niece, cousin, great grand-daughter, great niece, and I think that takes care of the familial roles. Almost immediately, I became a Christian; quite without my knowledge (I was probably sleeping) or consent, I might add. As time progressed, I became a BIG sister, twice. And I was also a reader and a singer very early on, long before I ever went to school.

Ah, school. That’s where I learned to love being a writer and an entertainer. I was also an easy mark, as in one who is bullied because it’s incredibly easy to make her cry. Well, that used to be true. Now, not so much. At some point, I became a friend. Post-bullying, I had many, many friends. And I was also a girlfriend. After we moved away from all those friends, I became a loner, then a friend again.

For many years, I was an actor and an opera singer. I was a wife for a while, which also meant I was a sister-in-law and a daughter-in-law. Then I became a divorcee. My brothers also made me a sister-in-law, and they each made me an aunt, 5 times over in total.

For money, I was an office worker, eventually becoming a vice president. I was a techno-geek and a business manager. I was, and I still am, a breast cancer survivor. I was an organic gardener and a compost maker extraordinaire! I became a beach-comber, a shell collector. I became a Disney lover and a writer, a blogger, a photographer, a chronicler of my adventures. Oh and I was a smoker, but I quit (thank you God!).

More recently, I’ve become a a collector of unemployment, a consultant, a runner, a conservationist, a healthy living enthusiast and a practitioner of meditation.

I am ALWAYS a student, whether formally or informally.

This all actually sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Yet I’m quite sure this is NOT all there is. There has to be more to it than simply litanizing one’s roles and interests.

Right?

Course correction!

A version of this post appeared yesterday in my “Sistas” community – I’ve mentioned them here previously. So if you’re from there, you’ve read some of this before – but only some of it πŸ™‚

I am so uninspired by the study of corporate/healthcare compliance. I set out on this path because it was the smart thing to do. I still believe it’s smart, but frankly I have spent around 50 years doing the smart thing instead of doing what lights my fire. I sorta don’t want to spend the next 50 doing the same.

I also have to say that the program is poorly run. It’s been one excuse after another as to why the program is a semester behind, why it is disorganized… there has been illness and budget cuts in the criminal justice department, and I get that, but holy guacamole, you’re a freakin’ university, ACT like one! That just makes me want to run further from this program, because it does not seem like this graduate certificate is going to mean much, considering some of the courses were such a mess and I didn’t have to do much to get the grades.

Something went right today (even if it IS two weeks late)And something else – my text book for the current class was back-ordered two weeks, and I am therefore behind a couple of assignments. Healthcare law is FULL of acronyms. Last assignment I completed, it took me two days just to read the 40 pages that were assigned. I’d have to stop, look up the acronym, understand what it meant, and then go back to the paragraph at hand and put it into context. Seriously erodes reading comprehension when everything is an acronym!

When something is this difficult to get done, I tend to think of it as a gauntlet thrown, but maybe it’s actually a Memo From The Universe that I’m on the wrong path. In this case, I think that about sums it up. I am so used to powering through difficulty by sheer force of will – and maybe, at one time in my life, that was appropriate. A little struggle is good for the soul πŸ˜‰ But now – I don’t think things should always be this obnoxious to get done. I think this is wrong, wrong, wrong, just like praying for a job versus income was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Finally, there’s the timing of this class with the launch of the consulting gig. I have committed to starting that next week, directly after the holiday. I will have ramp-up activities to get through, studying their environment, making connections with people inside an unfamiliar organization, identifying the right resources to get the job done. It’s a no-brainer that I need to focus on penetrating the organization to the near-exclusion of all else.

Welcome to the REAL FloridaThe REAL wake-up call has been my experience this month with the Florida Master Naturalist program. I have been documenting some of my Florida Master Naturalist experience at My Mobile Adventures *~*~*, and I’ve got lots more to share in the coming weeks. It has been stimulating and thought provoking – and also a blast to be amongst fellow nature geeks three times a week, who all wear the same “sporty, functional and you can get ’em wet” shoes that I wear πŸ˜› If you really want to know if you are with your peeps or not, just compare all the shoes. It becomes pretty obvious that these people walk the beaches and the preserves, same as me. πŸ™‚

I TORE through my assignments for the FMN program, but I struggle to stay focused on the stuff for the compliance program. I am normally very academically-minded and can MAKE myself power through stuff I don’t want to do… there. That tells a story too, same as the shoes. I don’t want to do this. And I’m different now than I was when I hung on to the wrong marriage, the lucrative-but-meaningless job, etc.

So, I don’t think I can get a refund for this semester any more, but if I withdraw before July 8th, I can do so without academic penalty. Then I can concentrate on getting the consulting thing off the ground, get the income rolling again, and maybe launch a naturalist blog, do some writing about all this stuff I’ve seen and learned. The reason I want to avoid academic penalty is because the university has a graduate program in Environmental Science, and I want to leave that door open without any black marks on my “permanent record”. Yeah I know, I’ll never be done with school… I’ve always known this about myself, you guys might as well get used to it to πŸ˜› Seriously, I don’t know if I will actually go for that, or even if I qualify with a B.A. in psychology and half a graduate certificate in compliance, but there’s no sense in “dishonorable discharge” if I can avoid it.

Midterm essays are due on 6/30 and I just don’t want to. And you can’t make me. So there. Neener neener.

The icing on the cake – after I consulted with the Sistas, I faxed in my Term Withdrawal Application and emailed my professors to give them a heads-up. I then checked my Facebook News Feed and found some interesting “signs” that validated my actions. I posted these at Memos From The Universe, which is a blog I maintain to record these quirky little “signs”. Go on, have a look and tell me if it isn’t The Universe giving me a nod and a wink and a pat on the back!

Memos From The Universe | Validation From The Universe

Passionate Practice



Passionate Practice, originally uploaded by The Single Rider.

Martha Beck (in the February 2011 O Magazine) says that to excel you have to do what you are passionate enough to practice. Well, quot;passion" and "make a living" are more often than not mutually exclusive – which illustrates how I got into this mess in the first place! The only thing I have EVER loved to practice was singing. Too bad I couldn’t make a living at it.

Not to worry – income is on the horizon now. It’s a pirate’s life… er, I mean a consultant’s life for me πŸ˜‰

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Today is…

Yesterday, I saw a tweet from a friend who is participating in a 30 day writing challenge. I thought it would be interesting and fun, so I signed up. I think I signed up too late in the day to receive the first day’s challenge email, so I’m starting today with the one I received today:

“If β€˜the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.”

It’s almost too easy.

IMG_4029-Sanibel-Causeway-Sunset

Today is a delightful treat and a precious gift.



Prompts for the #Trust30 challenge can be found here

What, no “Aunties Day”?!? Hallmark! Por quoi?

Botanics BreakSomeday, I hope Hallmark or some entity of equal authority and importance declares an official Happy Aunties Day. Think of the revenue to be generated, the mushy commercials hawking tchotchkes, the poets plucked from the ranks of the unemployed, all penning tributes to the woman with all the disposable income. She’s been focused on spending it on the progeny of her siblings all these years. Why does no one pander to the PANKs, I wonder? Oh, that’s “Professional Aunt, No Kids” but I can’t take credit for it. I just can’t remember where I read it.

An aunt is not quite a mother, not quite a sister, not quite a friend. An aunt is an aunt. My definition of “aunt” is about refuge and breathing room.

  • If I see you maybe heading the wrong way, I won’t continually harass and try to bend you to my will. I’ll just make my point and then leave you alone. You’ll give my opinion more weight because it was delivered without the dynamics of control.
  • I won’t let you pay for anything; if you pick it up and admire it, I’m buying it for you.
  • When you come to visit me, I’ll do your laundry, twice – once when you arrive with it dirty in your suitcase, and once just before you leave, so you don’t have to do it when you get back to your crazy life.
  • I will let you sleep as much as you want. It’s your vacation.
  • I will cook! I will serve only high nutrition, low-fat food but you will not notice that it’s not junk because it’s delicious.
  • I will set a good example for you by running on the treadmill in your presence, expressing my hard-won, middle-of-the-road values through actions and by never putting up with a selfish man’s bullshit. Also, by demonstrating that life can be fabulous with or without marriage and children. Your life, your choice, nobody else’s.
  • I will hand you the car keys sans safety lecture; if the good Lord and the State of New York both saw fit to grant you a driver’s license, who am I to doubt your abilities behind the wheel?
  • I will encourage you to be better than everyone at what you do best.
  • I will make it clear to you what information I will and will not divulge to your father, BEFORE you tell me.
  • I won’t embarrass you on your Wall unless you flat out deserve it. And you know what you have to do to deserve it. So if you don’t want to be embarrassed, either block me or don’t behave that way in public! Your choice. I still love you. <3

There. Don’t aunts deserve their own official Hallmark occasion?

And don’t you wish I was YOUR aunt? πŸ™‚

Photo Friday: Minimalist

Photo Friday: Minimalist

Minimalist Moon


The moon is pretty much a solitary practitioner. Oh, there are the occasional clouds that wander by, enshrouding her in mysterious aura, but for the most part, she drifts alone in the vastness of the sky, outshining her neighbors the stars. We know they are there, but we cannot see them for her brilliance. They only become visible at the time during which she sleeps.

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Photo Friday: Sladder On The Floor

Photo Friday: Sladder On The Floor
Sladder on the floor

Photo Friday this week was “lines”. I haven’t done Photo Friday in a while; when I do, it’s usually on a different blog. I just saw the email reminder and I figure 2 days late is better than never. This photo has been on Flickr for at least a week, as part of a “3 for 30” challenge. It looks like a good candidate for “lines”.

I looked up from my reading one afternoon and saw these lines on the floor, made by the sunlight slanting in through the plantation shutters. I posted it with this thought: “I think maybe there’s a pretty close relationship between shadows and reflections.”

Metaphorically, one is very dark and the other is full of light, the simplistic interpretation being “evil vs. good”. But light can blind us to what really lurks beneath. Perhaps that puffy cloud, blue skies reflection in the lake conceals an alligator, waiting just under the surface for a snack to happen by.

But light is needed to make a shadow too, and shadows can be protective, providing shade during a hot summer day into which patient cows will crowd. “Protection” sounds all good, right? But “protection” can be good (shade for the cows), or bad (camouflage for the gator).

Everything is everything. Thus speaketh the fevered mind of sinus hell. Apologies to Lauren Hill.

Sent from my Nokia N97

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Hosed!

IMG_1971The need for a workspace at home started when I went back to school in 1999. I was working on Wall Street and attending Dowling College on Long Island. Some classes started at 5:20 PM. This was not compatible with a minimum 2 hour mass transit commute (each way), so on school days I got permission to work from home. Along about 2005 I became a full time telecommuter, visiting the office once or twice a month. I was very efficient and got lots of things done. I really pioneered telecommuting for the company and was a prime example of how the work-from-home arrangement could benefit both the employee and the organization.

The fact that I was a successful telecommuter is what enabled me to relocate from Long Island to Southwest Florida. When I moved to Florida, I continued to visit the most local office at least once a month, if not more – two hours away by car (each way), up in Tampa. But I had a lovely dedicated office at home that was quite useful, functional and practical in addition to being very comfortable. The closet in the home office was crammed with Rubbermaid bins of stuff that I needed to go through “someday” but the rest of the room was furnished and outfitted as a study/library/workspace rivaling many of the SVP offices I’d seen on Wall Street and Park Avenue.

After being laid off in September 2010, the first thing I did was go on a shredding spree. I had to properly dispose of any company information. In fact, I burned out my shredder and had to get a new one. My work diaries – notebook after notebook ennumerating what I did each day, who I talked to, what was decided and why, meeting notes, To Do items and daily accomplishments – all went into a Rubbermaid bin. Although I no longer work for Too Big To Fail, I no longer trust them, either. Therefore, I think it’s wise, for the time being, to retain proof of my at-home productivity.

011720113122Fast forward to January 2011. My friend and fellow militant sheller “steinbecke” persuaded me to perform a “cleanse” of the office and re-purpose it for studying for certification exams. The office had lain fallow lo those many months and had become somewhat of a repository for “whatever” kind of stuff that was lying around and didn’t have a home. I re-homed the homeless, and then I purged the desk and the bookshelves of anything having to do with my old professional life – old Excel manuals, professional books that everyone “should” read, awards I’d won, miscellaneous cubicle fodder. I trashed a lot of it and made a Goodwill run with the rest. I dusted, I vacuumed and I set up my netbook in there with my school books on the desk and a new monitor I’d found on sale at BJs. Great, now I have a dedicated space for studying, writing papers, etc. Yay!

March 1st, 2011: my online “sistas”, a group of women who congregate in a particular forum for daily support and camaraderie, were comparing photos of their wedding dresses. Well, I was married at one time, and I wore a dress that had been hand-made for me by my best friend and maid of honor. So into the office closet I went, to try and find a decent photo of me (I hate most photos of me) that didn’t include the ex-husband but showed off the dress nicely. The closet contained eight huge Rubbermaid bins full of “stuff”, stacked in two side-by-side towers of four, plus a wooden bookcase hand-made by my grandfather. Upon these shelves I’ve stored all my opera scores and vocal music. Miscellaneous office supplies were crammed in there too, on whatever surface was available. The top shelves of the closet bear the burden of original packing materials for things like Disney collectible figurines and computer equipment. Since the ceilings are 10 feet high in this house, this is a good use of space that would otherwise go wasted.

After I’d had a good rummage, pulling nearly everything out of the closet, I finally found the wedding photos in the very LAST bin in the corner. As I surveyed the carnage of the closet having spilled it’s considerable guts all over the room, it became apparent to me that I was not done with the “cleanse”. I had too much STUFF and I needed to seriously go through it all and purge it. So I did that over the course of the next few days. Again, there was a Goodwill run, this time with office and school supplies plus some CDs that I’d already ripped to my hard drive and imported into iTunes. Eight bins became four and the bookcase shelves were cleared of anything that didn’t have to do with vocal music.

011720113125This actually worked out pretty well, because I was expecting my niece and her roommate for spring break. Dusting, vacuuming, cleaning of bathroom and linens and such ensued. I pulled out the twin bed from my comfy overstuffed office chair and made it up. By the time I was done, the room looked like a very neat and well-appointed dorm. It came in handy, while she was here – she let her roommate have the guest room and she took the “study” so she could finish some papers and continue working on her thesis. The girls spent some hours lounging and studying in there during their “break” from school, and I was glad I had purged the closet, for there was space on the closet floor for suitcases to be put out of the way.

A couple of weeks have gone by since the spring breakers were here. I have been sort of lazy and not on my game – unmotivated, not following my food and exercise plan consistently, even skipping “RPM” (rise, pee, meditate”) several times. Saturday evening I decided to spend some quality time with my iPod and the Tibetan singing bowls before turning in. Once I’d finished meditating and disengaged the iPod, I thought I heard something dripping. Thinking it had started to rain, I peeked into the night from the guest room window. There was no sign of rain. I walked down the narrow hallway to the office and looked out that window – no rain. I continued to hear dripping, and walked into the guest bathroom where my socks began to slake their thirst on a puddle on the floor.

022820102382I quickly remembered that last year, during the Olympic hockey final, I’d discovered a puddle in the garage and thought the water heater was leaking. I called a plumber, and he discovered it wasn’t the water heater – the master bath was on the other side of the garage wall, and the hose that fed the toilet had sprung a leak. That was a very expensive lesson, one I will not soon forget – not only because it cost me so much to replace a dumb hose, but because I missed most of the gold medal game. Now I knew what to do. I shut off the valve to the toilet, flushed a couple of times to empty the tank, and the dripping stopped. Ah, same shitty hose, same problem!

And then I remembered – seepage! What’s on the other side of the guest bath wall? Why, it’s the closet in the office!

I raced to the closet, F-bombing the entire time in every combination and permutation of every phrase in which I’d ever heard the word – and a few that I made up on the spot, special for this occasion. The carpet was SOAKED in there. The creative F-bomb droppage increased as I hauled everything from the closet into the room. I rummaged a bunch of towels from the laundry, flung them to the closet floor and made like Lucille Ball stomping grapes. Each soaked towel was then flung into the washer before stomping another, and I didn’t stop until they started to come away merely damp. In between the cussin’ and the stompin’ and the haulin’ of shit away from the seepage, I was sending f-bomb-laden texts full of frustration and fury to my friend Lisa, and she was doing her best to make me laugh. But I can’t help it – I get a little existential during crises such as these. WHY had I carpeted the bedrooms? WHY didn’t I have someone heavier than me around, with bigger feet, to perform more efficient stomping? WHY do I not own a shop vac? WHY were all the hoses in the house failing (we’d done this at Christmas with the refrigerator, too)?

010220113071I retrieved my AC/DC powered fan from the hurricane closet, found the plug and propped it up on one of the bins. Aiming it at the closet floor, I jacked it up to “HIGH”. I also set the air conditioning on “frigid” and changed into dry, warm socks to help protect myself from the encroaching chill.

And I surveyed the carnage of the closet having spilled it’s still considerable guts all over the room… am I not done in here? Did I not “cleanse” enough? I considered what had been left in the closet after the last purge – four bins and a book case. The bins are labeled thusly:
[pullquote]I am beginning to understand that the closet no longer wishes to serve as a repository for the past. The closet keeps finding reasons to regurgitate into my workspace, its contents standing in mute accusation of pack-rattery. The closet, I have come to realize (in a very “come to Jesus” kind of way) wishes to be purged of the past entirely.[/pullquote]

  • Bin No. 1: “PERSONAL DOCUMENTS” – 7 years of financial records, plus probably my marriage license and divorce papers.
  • Bin No. 2: “ALBUMS PHOTOS NEGATIVES” – candidates to be scanned and eliminated
  • Bin No. 3: “SCAN ME” – more photos and also programs, posters and reviews/news clippings and such from my former life as a performer
  • Bin No. 4: “SCHOOL BOOKS AND LECTURE NOTES” – these are from my BA in psychology.

Everything from the closet represents an era from the past. I am beginning to understand that the closet no longer wishes to serve as a repository for the past. The closet keeps finding reasons to regurgitate into my workspace, its contents standing in mute accusation of pack-rattery. The closet, I have come to realize (in a very “come to Jesus” kind of way) wishes to be purged of the past entirely.

If I examine my heart really closely, I have to confess that the study of human behavior still fascinates me but not enough to endure a couple of years of grad school and the low pay that would ensue from doing clinic. So I’m probably NOT going to become a pshrink and I should shred the lecture notes and sell the text books. Bin No. 4, gone.

The other bins are a bit harder, because it’s going to be REALLY time-consuming and – let’s face it – BORING to scan all those photos and negatives, sort them, label them, store them and back them up. Maybe I should look into how much it would cost to have someone do that for me. This would eliminate Bin No. 3 and Bin No. 2

The closet is just going to have to bite me – HARD – about Bin No. 1. Talk to the US Government about why it’s a great idea to keep 7 years worth of financial records.

The book case was hand-made by my grandfather, and it’s not up for discussion. Bite me again.

The opera scores and other vocal music… ugh, I DON’T want to think about this. It’s freakin’ USELESS to go there. I don’t see how this is going to make me a living. Really, I just can’t see it. Plus, I owned all of this vocal music while I was still smoking, in the house in Oakdale – it all REEKS of old cigarette smoke.

PersonalizedSo if I’m not going to use them and they smell bad anyway, I guess I should just get rid of all the old scores.

Why does that feel wrong? Is it just sentiment? I think that’s part of it. I also think donating them is not going to be of benefit to anyone, really. Scores become so personalized while you’re studying them – all of MY notes about what works for ME in this or that role have been carefully preserved on those pages. They represent tutelage and advice from MY teacher, fine-tuned for MY voice. Sometimes, as the voice matures, revisiting a score years after learning the role will cause the crossing-out of notes and the recording of fresh advice and/or new insights. Using someone else’s score can be disconcerting – yeah, all the musical notes are there, but the breath marks are not YOUR breath marks, and the phrasing, dramatic pauses, not to mention blocking notes for moving about the stage, would be of little use to someone else. So if donating the scores would not be the right thing to do, what’s left – burning them?

I’m not sure the ENTIRE past needs to be purged. Even if I never look at any of those scores again, there is something stopping me from getting rid of them. I don’t know what it is, this “something”, and I don’t know if it’s the same as that other “something” I’ve written about prior to this… but I think I probably need to find out. Because really, I don’t care to do this again, this hauling of shit in and out of that closet ONE MORE TIME, this stomping of the grapes, this living in chilly disarray while it dries out. I don’t want to keep looking back at what I’ve done but have put aside, and I don’t want to carry it around with me anymore, either. It’s inconvenient and topsy-turvy and not at all how I want to live.

I need to get this sorted before yet another hose fail strikes.

Treading the fine line between "alone" and "free"…