The Single Rider

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

Archive for the ‘psychology’ tag

Hosed!

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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:

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.

  • 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.

Written by Erin

April 12th, 2011 at 7:00 am

This is your brain. This is your brain on alone. Any questions?

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I’ve just read a really intriguing article about how being alone is actually positive and good for you, and not the negative or even dysfunctional experience that society and modern psychology would have us believe.

People make this error, thinking that being alone means being lonely, and not being alone means being with other people,” Cacioppo said. “You need to be able to recharge on your own sometimes.

I love the phrase “social snacking”, which is used to describe socializing by means of texting, phone calls, etc. There’s healthy snacking and then there’s empty calories; it all depends on who you are engaging and what you are deriving from these activities. One of the things that makes “social snacking” so attractive to those who LIKE to be alone is that it’s an indulgence on their own terms. If you’ve had enough, you shut down the app – done.

I have to disagree, however, with the leanings of the graduate student who believes less in “social loafing” and more in the power of what people fear others think of them. The experiment she ran involved testing memory of those who thought they were working on the task by themselves versus that of those who thought they were working on the task with others. She found that those who thought they were working alone performed better when their memory of the task was tested. The experimenter tends to believe that it’s because there was concern over the opinions of the others who were working on the task, but I disagree that this can be applied across the board.

I believe that the knowledge that one is working alone makes a person highly capable, because one knows that there is no fall-back position. There is no safety net. You walk the wire, you fall, oh well – no one is there to catch you. This is probably what makes me so damned attractive to all the Peter Pans of the world – the motherless lost boys who are loads of fun but in the end, irresponsible, undependable and looking for someone to take up their considerable slack.

I believe that there are only a limited number of people who will become more capable because they fear what others will think of them if they do not. The truly mature and the truly self-confident will not care what others think of them. There is also a small portion of society that doesn’t care what others think out of selfishness. So the theory that concern over the opinions of others trumps the knowledge that there’s no net doesn’t hold a lot of water for me.

The power of lonely – The Boston Globe.

Written by Erin

March 7th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Analyze THIS,Society

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Finding Erin

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a picture for youBefore leaving for Disney World last week, I made a trip to Barnes & Noble to spend my Groupon. I nearly bought a Martha Beck book but suddenly had an inspiration. Why not download the audio version instead and have a listen during the 3 hour drive? So I used the Groupon to buy some other books instead, and then I downloaded Martha when I got home. I listened some on the drive up to Orlando on Thursday.

On Friday, the family visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At some point, we went to see “Finding Nemo: The Musical”. Incomprehensibly, I’d seen the film but I’d never been to see the live show before. In fact, I haven’t been to a live show since a couple of years ago when I treated my nieces to “The Little Mermaid” on Broadway for Christmas.

I definitely had “the roar of greasepaint” in my ears from nearly the moment I sat down. I found myself examining the tech setup, or what I could see of it, analyzing the vocal production of each cast member, marveling at the puppet costumes… and crying.

Tears streamed silently. I was conscious of not drawing attention from Chez Bro or SIL, so wiping them away became a furtive, covert activity. And I wondered why. I was not sad for the story, and did not feel particularly sad in general. All I could come up with, as I watched the performers, was “I used to do that”.

Valencienne in The Merry WidowYes, it is true – I used to do that. From the time I was 8 years old until maybe 2004-ish (I turned 44 that year), I used to perform. Early on, it was musical theater, but along about the time I turned 30, I started performing with local opera companies on Long Island. I studied for a bit at The Juilliard School in their opera workshop program, and I studied privately nearly every week for more than 20 years. I am a lyric mezzo soprano, most suited to the French repertoire, but I can get away with Verdi in a small hall.

All in all, I have to say that even though I was good at opera, musical theater was my first love. There came a time where I realized that I was only doing it for the 10 seconds of applause that would occur at the end of each solo number. How I discovered that fact and how it had come about are another story for another day. The point in bringing it up is that once I no longer needed those 10 seconds of applause, I had to figure out a different reason to do it, or else abandon it. So I did it for fun. If a role looked like it wasn’t going to be fun, then that meant I wouldn’t be doing it. That was liberating – no longer would I have to put up with singing jobs or conductors or other performers that were unpleasant, simply because I needed the money or wanted to put that role on my resume. Now I could accept or reject roles based upon my fun factor alone.

The Grandmother in Little RedProportionate to the sheer volume of people who have good voices and love to perform, very VERY few of them can actually make a living at it. And it’s exhausting to do something else for a living and perform on the side – although lots of people do that just for the love of it. So I went along like that for a while, until having a career and going to school and performing all at the same time became too much for me. I did that for several years before breaking down and confessing that if I was going to finish my degree, I’d have to stop performing. I kept up with my weekly voice lessons but stopped using that time to learn and polish new roles. That was pretty liberating, as it turns out. Relieved of the goal-oriented burden of role preparation, I could now sing whatever I wanted in my lessons. Out came the show tunes, the pop music, the weird little ditties I’d collected over the years but never had time to learn. Out came the French art songs that sounded so stunningly gorgeous in my voice.

About 4 months before I relocated to Southwest Florida, my voice teacher passed away. What a sad time it was for all of us who had literally grown up with her in our lives! The first memorial gathering was truly a sad affair. There were only two of Gloria’s students who managed to get up and sing. I was one of them. That was winter of 2006. I stood up and sang some karaoke one night at the Walt Disney World Swan about a year later, but that’s been the extent of my “performing” for a while. I have not really looked for any performing opportunities since I’ve been down here. It just hasn’t been on my radar.

Playing Santuzza in Cavaleria RusticanaSo I was pretty surprised to have my old love, the wicked stage, surge to the forefront so unexpectedly, without warning. Or… was it? On the way home from Orlando yesterday, I picked up Martha Beck where I’d left off. She told a story of attending a convention in Washington D.C. and related a conversation she’d had there with a woman she called “Rosario”. The woman told Martha that she’d always thought she’d eventually relocate to D.C. and began to cry – but she didn’t know why. She wasn’t particularly sad. Martha felt strongly that there was something to it, this feeling of “pull” toward D.C.

18 months later, Martha caught up to Rosario in London and asked how things were. Hectic and crazy since the move, came the reply. Oh, a move? Yes, I guess you haven’t heard – Rosario then told Martha that she’d moved to Washington D.C. because she’d been appointed Treasurer of the United States of America!

Martha uses this story to underscore the importance of being aware of and following physical cues in the quest for our authentic selves. OK, well that explains a lot. It explains why there were years during which I was ALWAYS sick – and why now I almost never am. I was emotionally and psychologically allergic to my job and my environment. Now I’m not. It explains why I never liked raw onions and why, if I try to eat them in something (like tabbouleh), I get a gawd-awful headache and feel nauseous in the head. Our bodies DO tell us what we need; not just physically but emotionally and psychologically too (and probably spiritually as well).

So, my authentic self is a stage performer. Well, quelle surprise. Duh. OF COURSE my authentic self is a stage performer. We already knew that. We also already know that a living cannot be made at it unless one is exceptionally lucky. I am lucky at parking spaces. Not love, not stage careers. Just really awesome parking spaces.

So I’m not sure how helpful this episode has been. I still need income and I’m pretty sure the kind of income I need is not going to come from getting discovered at age 50.

LINKS:

NorthStar
Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming The Life You Were Meant To Live By Martha Beck
CLICK HERE for HARDCOVER
CLICK HERE for PAPERBACK
CLICK HERE for KINDLE EDITION

 

RosarioMarinLeading Between Two Worlds: Lessons From The First Mexican-Born Treasurer of the United States
CLICK HERE for PAPERBACK
CLICK HERE for KINDLE EDITION

 



 

Written by Erin

February 23rd, 2011 at 2:11 pm

The Pre-Crushed Soul

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The Minimalist Guide to Leaving Your Soul-Crushing Day Job.

The author points out protestations about age, about the established versus the unencumbered.  I think it’s more than that.  Anyone past their 20s has had shit happen to them.  Therefore, they come with a pre-crushed soul.  We KNOW that bad stuff can and does happen to good people.  We KNOW that happy endings are not only optional, they are rare.  Even the soul-crushing day jobs are rare birds these days. So if one cannot get one of those, what makes one think one can get a dream job?

See?  The fact that I even typed that sentence is evidence of my own pre-crushed soul.  How can you un-learn what life has taught you?  How can you un-know the certain knowledge that life sucks and then you die, and that everything else is a lie, a fantasy that you use to soothe yourself?

Defeat, thy name is “Self”.

Sorry, having a low, non-believing day.

Written by Erin

December 9th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Can I get an “Amen!” ?

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Can I get an "Amen!" ?, originally uploaded by The Single Rider.

Ok well how ’bout an "Awomen!" then? :p

Sent from my Nokia N97

Written by Erin

October 20th, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Chatter

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Renaissance juggling and the survival-based career

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ImFeelingInspiredI have come to the conclusion that I am a Renaissance juggler.

“Renaissance man” is a phrase coined to describe someone who has a depth of knowledge spanning a diverse range of interests. A juggler is someone who has many balls in the air at the same time. I am someone with a diverse set of passions who can and does indulge in several of them simultaneously. I’ve never felt an overwhelming, life-long pull toward any one of these interests for very long. Interests come and go only to return again years later, borne back to me on some unseen tide. At intervals during my life, I’ve had keen, intense interest in writing, performing, photography, organic gardening, Disney, sea shells, psychology and all manner of IT geekery. That last interest currently manifests itself via a fascination with consumer electronics and social media.

Photo by Helico on Flickr

Photo by Helico

I don’t believe I’ve ever been focused on only one or even two of these things at a time. I can remember a time when I was working long hours in IT and using the train commute to either memorize an operatic role in another language or else to study with the goal of acing my next psychology exam, all the while also attending classes and rehearsals at night, roto-tilling, pulling weeds, perfecting the art of the smoldering compost pile and performing on the weekends. Simply looking back at that time is exhausting and causes me to question my own sanity. Yet I was productive and active and happy.

because I’ve never felt committed to just ONE thing that impassioned me the most, I ended up in a survival-based career.

I think it takes a lot of diverse intellectual activity to keep me from becoming bored. Here’s the problem with that; because I’ve never felt committed to just ONE thing that impassioned me the most, I ended up in a survival-based career. That’s where you do what you do because you don’t hate the work and you like the money. It’s the exact opposite of the passion-based career – doing what you do because you want to, because it’s your life’s work.

I have no idea what my life’s work is, or was supposed to be.

Mary Poppins and Mirror Poppins in harmonyIt has never surprised me to find out how many of my colleagues at The Firm are coulda-shoulda-woulda-been musicians, actors and other assorted artistic types who “fell into” careers in IT during the 90s dot com boom. Like me, they were all just looking for their cushy little day job with medical benefits whilst running about auditioning, until someone figured out they had brains and promoted them. You get to an age where being a starving artist doesn’t hold as much romatic appeal as it once did, and the money you’re making doing something else is certainly seductive.

Mary Poppins thinks Mirror Poppins is showing offIt’s nice to not have to limit dinner to popcorn every night – with butter on it as an extra treat on Sundays. It’s nice being able to pay down your credit card debt, purchase a car that was made in THIS decade and go away for vacations. Thus, when faced with the realization that making a living as an artist is going to be a life-long uphill struggle, the survival-based career not only looks attractive, it seems more logical, more sensible, more likely to get your family off your back. I think a surprising lot of people are doing survival-based careers with their lives and that’s why work seems like… well, work. That is why “everybody’s working for the weekend…”. It’s because people don’t wanna work; they just wanna “bang the drum all day”.

Mary Poppins and Mirror PoppinsEarly last month, I was in Downtown Disney at the big World Of Disney store. The jumbo TV in the center of the store began to show a scene from Mary Poppins“A Spoonful Of Sugar”. I was half-listening and humming along while pawing through a rack of t-shirts when the scene suddenly grabbed my attention. Mary was singing. In harmony. With herself. The words, “in harmony with HERSELF” swam to the forefront of my consciousness, and I watched transfixed as she went from joyous to annoyed with… well again, it was with herself. Mirror Mary kept singing a mile a minute even after Real Mary had stopped. What’s more, Real Mary was peeved that Mirror Mary was grabbing all the attention for herself. “Cheeky!” is Real Mary’s tart retort. Off she goes in a stern huff to tend to the children. Mirror Mary only smiles.

(I could go off on a tangent here about Disney and the relationship between work and play, but I’ll spare you!)

Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could always be in harmony with ourselves, and still be able to pay the mortgage, buy some toys and have a little fun? Some people live like that, I hear…

And so it can happen. If any of the fun aspects of a Renaissance juggler’s life start to race exuberantly ahead, consuming more than the permitted allocation of personal bandwidth, then the part that works for a living to support your fun habits can become peevishly resentful. It’s always the survival-based career, the thing you are sort of “meh!” about, that sternly proclaims you’re “cheeky” for studying something fascinating, for tripping the light fantastic upon the wicked stage, for devoting time and brain power to figuring out how to grow tomatoes without using pesticides (hint: “companion planting”. With a heavy dose of self-discipline, that dreaded of all activities known as “taking care of business” commences, and the fun stuff takes a back seat.

Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could always be in harmony with ourselves, and still be able to pay the mortgage, buy some toys and have a little fun? Some people live like that, I hear. I haven’t figured out yet how to make that happen, but there’s one thing I’m doing consciously now to try and find the answer.

I’m listening.

The thought of abandoning the survival-based path, the good ol’ reliable method of obtaining a steady paycheck, instead trying to make a living doing what gives me joy is both intoxicating and frightening. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have so many interests from which to choose. It would be so much easier had I done this earlier on, so much easier if it wasn’t just me bringing a paycheck into this house. This is the downside of single ridership. I find myself with a serious case of SAHM-envy. OK, you’re right, not the “M” part… But I don’t have the luxury of travel back in time or of a mighty breadwinner to see me through this. Therefore, the draw toward the most pragmatic choice is strong. And yet, I cannot help but see that guillotine looming in the near future as my liberator, permission to veer off in a different direction

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Believe in the beaty of your dreamsI do realize that I have not been in harmony with myself, and that a lack of active unhappiness does not equate to living with active  joy.  I do realize that living a little more deliberately, a little more consciously, would make me more actively joyful. The more I send this understanding and acknowledgment into the Universe, the more the Universe has reflected it back at me.

I’ve been having more and more of these moments of synchronous epiphany leap into focus, like the one in the World of Disney store. These moments started last summer, slowly at first. In the beginning, small synchronicities presented themselves, things that, considered singly and out of context, could be passed off as mere coincidence. But as I began to suspect and then fully recognize that they weren’t a coincidence, and even began to look for them, they began happening with more regularity. Some days, they happen so rapidly I barely have time to record them. It could happen online, in text or an image. It could happen while having a conversation with your best friend or with the grocery store clerk. It could happen when you walk into a restaurant and see a piece of artwork on the wall, or while browsing a rack in a shop – something will practically leap off the display and jump up and down crying, “Me, me, me! Look at ME!”. Something that gives me pause, makes me think, connects a few of the sea of dots before me.

Maybe it’s happened to you, too; maybe you know what I’m talking about. Each time it happens, it’s as though the world shifts a little, the movement barely discernible but nevertheless a bit of a shock. There’s a focus, a click of vision and soul, and then you know – you’ve been receiving Memos from the Universe.

I’ll be sharing more about this, very soon. Promise!

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Written by Erin

April 19th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

A chemo dream

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I’m listening to answering machine messages. Mother says, “Take care of your cousins”.  Cousin A says, “so sad”. Cousin P says, “Crying, crying”.  They are talking about the death of my grandmother, which was ‘way back in the early 90s.  I’m thinking, That was years and years ago, how could you still be crying, why would you want to?

Now I’m in the car with my brothers; it’s the next day. At first, I think it’s Orlando, yet it’s not because my grandmother’s house in Queens (NY) is nearby. It is morning, and the sun is coming up to our left, which means we are headed south. It is reflecting, glaringly so, off these fancy buildings – one of them seems to be the Dolphin hotel, but no, it is shaped quite differently and the infrastructure of it (holding all this freakin’ glass together) is like white PVC pipes.  The glare has slowed down traffic immensely, and I’m thinking it should not be allowed, to make buildings like that so close to a major thoroughfare that it would cause danger to drivers.

Now I am in the clinic, and Dr. Karen S. comes out to get me.  I am surprised because 17 years ago, she was my radiation doctor, but I’m here to get chemo.  I don’t know why a radiation doctor would be administering chemo. She brings me in and I start asking questions about side effects.  There is a nurse there assisting her in discussing this with me.  It is Christa, one of my internet Disney geek friends! I ask if I will be too tired to drive myself home after – I can always drive to my grandparents house and crash there, I say, but Karen says I won’t be all that tired until later that night.  I get to the most important, most burning question – will I lose my hair? Karen looks away and says, “That’s what it looks like” and I’m like, “muthafucka…” under my breath, but out loud I say how I finally have a haircut I really like….  As she hangs the bag and prepares the needle, Christa kids that they will top off my cocktail with some fancy hair conditioner.

The alarm goes off.

ANALYSIS / REACTION

I was diagnosed on 10/12/1992, which is my older brother’s birthday.  The anniversary of the death of my grandmother, which was several years prior, I believe is around the same time, maybe 10/10 or 10/11.

For the casting decisions in this dream, I’m applying the technique that everyone in the dream is me, or some aspect of me. We can clearly see that even after all these years, I am still somewhat concerned about cancer, and I still miss my grandmother.  I do tend to become impatient with myself when I behave in ways that reveal what I perceive as weakness.  Actually, that’s my mother talking.  I know that, yet I still feel impatient and scornful of myself for my own vulnerabilities.  Other people are allowed to have them, sometimes, but me, NEVER.  Here, I feel like my cousins are either wusses, or else they are liars, being overly-dramatic, mourning my grandmother’s death like it was yesterday instead of 20-ish years ago.  That’s DEFINITELY my mother talking.  I am so intolerant of myself.

I also have other fish to fry.  Why “Mother” thinks I should take care of **them** when **I** am the one headed off for chemo, is beyond me.  I have tended to do this through life – distract myself from my own shit by taking care of other people’s shit.  Notice that I don’t do that here.  I just listen and then go about my business.  I also cast my brothers as my posse, my “backup” – I did watch “About A Boy” last night, which is about building your support system, your tribe, so you’ll have “backup”.  The person who wrote the “Wear Sunscreen” speech had it right -”Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.”  I know I can count on my brothers.  And there they are, my personal entourage, “I’m feeling alright, I’m with my boys, I’m with my troops, yeah”.  That’s Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening” and yes, damned near everything reminds me of a song.

On the way from our house on Long Island to my grandmother’s house in Queens, we had to pass the World’s Fair grounds in Flushing Meadow Park.  The World’s Fair was in 1964-1965 and Walt Disney had a hand in designing it.  He also had a few attractions there, such as Carousel of Progress and It’s a Small World.  I loved going to the World’s Fair and remember quite a bit of it, even though I was quite small at the time.  I guess this is why I think it’s Orlando while we are on our way to the clinic and passing my grandparents’ house.

Christa cracks a joke, even while she prepares the implements of destruction and unhappiness. Isn’t that so like me? I will find something either ironic or ridiculous about every situation. Sometimes, it’s to make me feel better, but much of the time, it’s to make others feel better. Taking care of others does seem to be a theme here….

As to the dangerous situation that impedes traffic – I got nuttin’, except maybe that’s cancer itself.  It did throw me off the track of what I’d been striving towards at the time (singing career). But there’s a distracting, blinding aspect to it, and the blindness is what creates the danger. What has blinded me, and what is it that I cannot see? Is it that I cannot see, or is it that I *will* not see? And why is not seeing it so dangerous?

Anyone? Buehler? (that’s an invitation to comment, please!)

Why is Dr. S. doing chemo now?  There’s something not right about that…. if she is me in this dream, well she’s doing something really important, yet radically different from what she did before.  Either she was doing the wrong thing before, or else she’s doing the wrong thing now.  There are people in this world that would say the same of me – they’d say, “I don’t know why a poet-star would be playing Madam Vice President at a bank”.  I cast her in the wrong role in this dream, I did.  Poor “Karen”! 

“Poet-Star” just popped into my head – it’s the name of a poem I wrote, ‘way back in 1979.  The pertinent verses:

One girl lives with music and another lives with death.
One girl’s counting money while another holds her breath.
One girl is a poet, is a singer, is a star.
She searches for a galaxy that seems so very far.
She wants to be the center of a universe somewhere.
She wants to be with sunshine, but it’s raining over there….

The poet, singer, star was always me. The other girls were all friends of mine, people who aspired to be a musician, a nurse, a banker and someone who was in sort of a holding pattern at the time. But how prophetic – today, you could say they are ALL me, pieces of me at points in time. I studied voice and performed for 20-something years. I had cancer, a brush with death. I am, indeed, Madam Vice President at a bank. Waiting, waiting, waiting…. for what? For “something”…

Don’t get me wrong. I have a good life, one that is largely of my own making, a fact that is personally pretty satisfying. But clearly (and on several different fronts), I’m not where I’d intended to be, all those years ago, and the urge to fix that, to embark upon a terrifying course-correction, is going to come to a point of critical “mass”, probably soon.

I do believe cancer is only a metaphor this time. Actually, it was a metaphor last time, too, only it manifested into reality, somehow.

“Something’s coming…..”. I will need to remember the entire verse this time, so it manifests into what will make me happy.

Something’s coming!
I don’t know
what it is
but it is gonna be great!

You know what, I do too know what it is. But it’s terrifying. I have that awful/exhilarating adrenaline rush that you get AFTER you just narrowly avoided a car accident. I’m shaking while typing this. I never shake. Shit.

Written by Erin

December 7th, 2009 at 11:40 am

Something’s coming…

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A friend recently blogged a Facebook note about how old habits and routines break down and fall away to make room for new habits that more directly align with whatever is coming next. She said the Black Eyed Peas’ current hit kept playing in her head –

I got a feeling
that tonight’s gonna be a good night
that tonight’s gonna be a good, good night…

- and that she had a feeling of anticipation, that she was on the edge of some great change.

Reading her thoughts brought to mind something I’d written to my friend Penny long ago. Penny moved away to California while we were still in our twenties and we began to write to one another. One night I saw an episode of thirtysomething and got an idea. Two of the characters had written a poem together over a long distance, passing a notebook back and forth through the mail, each adding a stanza before mailing it back. Why couldn’t we do that, I thought. So I bought a notebook and we began to write.

Lo these many years later, I read my friend’s “I got a feeling…” entry and decided to make a foray into The Box. Out came Volume V of the books that got mailed back and forth between New York and California for so many years. I didn’t have to turn too many pages before I found what I was looking for. I was surprised to see that my handwriting, usually so anally neat, was a bit scraggly-looking, but then I realized I’d been on the train when I wrote it, so I forgave myself ;)

Thursday 22 December 1994

6:40 PM

Just passing through Hicksville…

I made a note to myself to tell you about the “something’s coming” vs. “something’s missing” phenomenon.

“Something’s Coming” is a feeling I used to carry with me while growing up. I had this feeling until very recently. I realized it was gone when I started last summer (1993) to get the stage fright thing and the paralysis dream.

“Something’s Coming” is actually the name of a song from West Side Story – you recall, I’m sure, the line that goes, “Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is, but it is gonna be great!”. That’s the feeling, right there in that one line. There was nothing I couldn’t get through because I knew I was destined for “something”. Whatever it was, it would be wonderful, exciting and totally awesome. It would have a staggeringly positive impact on my life and maybe even the world. Whatever it was, it was BIG.

Now, I am horrified to suspect that it may just have been cancer.

I am rather upset that I have been deprived of feeling special and significant, however self-delusional that feeling was. At certain times in my life, it was all I had. It saved me, I am sure, from sinking into the abyss. In its place, there is now a big, fat nothing. “Something’s missing”.

I am not certain that I have ever stopped to articulate this so clearly before, even to myself. Reality really sucks, for it was a mega-dose of reality that wiped out my conviction that “something’s coming”.

So, how now to fill up the hole? I just bet there’s some sort of long, drawn-out, sucky mourning period involved here, on account of my profound loss of “something”. Yes, I know I’m being sarcastic, and no, I don’t care that I am. I prefer my world to be filled with peace and love, with equal doses of joy and wonder and excitement at the mere thought of life. And mostly, that’s how I am. I really detest all this negative shit that comes up in therapy, and I often wonder if the source of all this crap is endless or do I just keep manufacturing it anew?

I remember those years well, when my secret knowledge of “something” had me living on the giddy precipice of anticipation. What happened?

I was just thirty four when I wrote that letter to Penny. December of 1994 was two years post-diagnosis and about a year and a half post-treatment. I was floundering and resentful of the intrusion of catastrophic illness into my life.

It’s possible that life events had beat the crap out of me and I could no longer muster up the strength to sustain the illusion. Or, for a quasi-mystical point of view, it is possible that cancer really WAS what was “coming”. Or – and I think this was more likely – it was possible that I didn’t need it any more.

“Something’s coming” had gotten me through some grim times. I’d just proven that I could survive being gravely ill and all of the physical and psychological torment that had entailed. What need did I have for “something”?

Well, maybe I don’t need it, but I want it. I want that feeling back. The dream-giver DOES still wait for me. I’ve been on the smoothest course for a while now.

Time to shake things up :)

Written by Erin

October 17th, 2009 at 7:00 am

What am I good at? Survey says… part 2

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ImFeelingInspiredAt last, I’ve finally had some time to continue examining the data collected during this merely quasi-scientific study of What I’m Good At, aka “Manifesting – The Musical!”. I’ll bet the handful of you who have been reading here probably forgot about this, it’s been so long. Well – on with the show!

Response Rates

89 people were polled, 37% by email and 63% on a private internet forum. A combined total of 25 people responded. 56% of the email population responded, as opposed to 44% of the forum population. The forum is female only; hence there are no male responses by the forum polling method. 38% of the females polled via email responded, as compared to 20% via forum.

Population Polled, by Polling Method and Gender

Figure 1: Population Polled, by Polling Method and Gender

Whereas email responses were made between me and the respondent, people from the private forum posted their responses in full view of the other members of the tribe. This may account for the higher response rate amongst the email population; it may have felt “safer” to opine only to me than it would have to opine in the presence of a wider audience.

Population responded, by Polling Method and Gender

Figure 2: Population Responded, by Polling Method and Gender

Approximately 87% of those polled were female; 13% were male. Despite the disproportion between males and females polled, it should be noted that fully half of the males polled responded, as opposed to only 24% of the females. Two of the male respondents are Siblings, two are Friends From High School, one is a Tech Geek and one is a Sanibel Fan. The distribution may suggest that I tend to engage in high-quality interactions or friendships with males who are similar to the ones with whom I was raised in in my birth tribe.

Normalization of Responses

Responses were made in free-form prose which had to be broken down and normalized across respondents in order to take measurements. Often, it was not enough to identify keywords as presented in the prose, because the same word used in different phrases by different respondents could translate into different concepts. Each respondent’s contribution was examined and broken down into the separate concepts that were being expressed. There were 124 concepts identified, which were then mapped to 55 keywords.

A few examples of this challenging task include:

  • The phrases “straight talk”, “telling it like it is”, “no bullshit” and similar phrases were all distilled down to single keyword, “Forthright”, because they clearly all described the same concept
  • The phrase “cutting through the bullshit and whittling down the issue to its essential core” became two keywords – “Analytical” and “Insightful”. Although this phrase shares the word “bullshit” with “no bullshit” in the previous example, it clearly implies something besides “forthright”. There are two concepts expressed in the phrase. One is “cutting and whittling” and the other is “essential core”. The former implies the tearing away of layers while the latter implies that there was some foreknowledge that the removal of these layers would yield something, even though that “something” might not be defined until the “cutting and whittling” had been completed.
  • Words and phrases like “entertaining”, “making an event special”, “making people feel cared-for”, “a good friend”, “you listen and make me laugh”, “good at bar crawling” were initially lumped under the single, somewhat whimsical keyphrase called “pixie dust”. However, there came the realization that again, separate concepts were being expressed, and the distinction was important. Therefore, this category was separated into “Fun” (“bar crawling”, “make me laugh”, “entertaining”) and “Nurturing” (“special”, “cared-for”, “good friend”, “you listen”).
  • Despite roughly 30 years of near-radio silence between us, a single participant ended up contributing a detailed and frighteningly accurate response that yielded 18 separate keywords. In fact, this individual is responsible for contributing, either directly or via normalization, 9 of the Top 10 most common keywords in the survey. This means half of his keyword responses are represented in 90% of the Top 10. And he had the nerve to accuse *me* of possessing “a highly effective vocabulary”. Pot, kettle, black! ;)

Top 10 Keywords

As a result of normalization, 126 instances of 55 keywords emerged. Many of these 55 keywords repeated only once or twice. To focus the analysis, the Top 10 most frequently occurring keywords were identified (Figure 3).

Top 10 Most Frequently Occurring Keywords

Figure 3: Top 10 Most Frequently Occurring Keywords

The number of occurrences of the Top 10 keywords represents about half the total occurrences of all keywords that resulted from normalizing the survey responses.

Figure 4: Top 10 Keywords, Percentage of Total Occurrences

Figure 4: Top 10 Keywords, Percentage of Total Occurrences

Occurrences of the Top 10 Keywords were most often found in the responses of the Sistas and the Friends Back Home.

Figure 5: Distribution of Occurrences of Top 10 Keywords Among The Tribes

Figure 5: Distribution of Occurrences of Top 10 Keywords Among The Tribes

It may be surprising that a tribe with whom interaction takes place almost exclusively online should be so well represented in the Top 10 Keywords. However, it should be noted that the Sistas tribe is primarily focused on the discussion and resolution of life problems and issues. Discussion topics are often deeply personal, which produces interactions that are generally more intense than those taking place in other tribes. The nature of the interactions in the Sistas tribe may account for the high volume of occurrences of Top 10 Keywords that the Sistas tribe produced.

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Those of you who aren’t asleep by now Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. will be happy to know that there is only one more part to this series. Next time, in Part 3, we will take a look at what everyone said I should be when I grow up. Ciao for now! :)

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Written by Erin

October 15th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

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