Now

There are these rare people who have the ability to be fully present….I am not one of them.

“Be still and know that I am…”

…God (well, Psalm 46:10, actually, but same thing, really)

There are these rare people who have the ability to be still, to be fully present, right now, where they are and whoever they are with, and to listen, intensely, to others.

I am not one of them.

Being still is not my forte.

I always think of that verse up there as ending with “I am.” But it is actually, “I am God.”

Either way, to me it is basically God’s way of saying, “Shut yer pie hole and remember that I’m here; listen for me.”

Failing to be still and to be present to the people in the same room with you is a form of toxicity. I did it at work, and I have done it for years at home. My thoughts were and are always racing around, to the past and future, to the “to-do’s” and the “fix that”s and the “will you f…in get ON with it already?”s. Never focused on the right NOW.

I come from a long line of women whose behavior indicated a belief that the cure for any kind of illness or upset, depression, bereavement, disappointment, setback etc., was a good round of vigorous housework followed by a brisk walk outside, preferably in sub-freezing weather. Move, do, bustle, hustle.

Being still was not on their list.

These women also kept up a running commentary of self-talk – Grandma and Mom did it at a whisper, under their breath. I do it out loud (no surprise to anyone who knows me personally.)

Keeping my big yap shut is a constant challenge to me.

I love words, the more syllables the better. I love to sing, and I am prone to sudden outbursts of song, regardless of my surroundings.

When I go for one of those brisk walks, I often exclaim, out loud, to no one in particular, usually when no one else is anywhere close, about the beauty I see around me.

I spend very little time being still.

Which makes it very hard to be fully present in the now. All that activity is an effective way of avoiding being still, being present, now. Because really, who wants to do that? If I stop doing stuff, I’ll notice that “now” kind of sucks. Mike’s gone, I’m unemployed and gaining weight, it snowed 15 inches and I just barely saved the new kitchen from a bad ice dam situation, but a bit of the paint is still ruined.

The point of being still, though, is to notice that “now” does not actually suck – in fact, it is pretty damn miraculous. If I have learned anything from losing Mike, it should be how precious every breath, every moment in this world is – and to cherish each simple thing here as the miraculous gift that it is, right NOW. Even the little bubbles in the paint on the ceiling from the almost-leak. Reminds me of how bad it used to be and isn’t, now.

I’m going to give being still a go. The old college try, anyway.

I took myself off the dating sites again. I really don’t need to go back to the playground and be the last one chosen for the team, just now. (Besides which, there were the two guys who listed “Dexter” among their favorite TV shows – you know, Dexter? The one about the serial killer? The kicker was the guy who listed his most recently read books, every single one of which had the word “killing” in the title. I kid you not. These are men who are trying to attract women, not send them screaming in terror for the exits.)

I have unsubscribed from lots of promotional and political emails I had been getting. They feel too intrusive, grabby and, in the case of the political ones, hysterical. The notifications of their arrival caused me to attend to my phone when I should have been attending to my child, whose existence is by far the most miraculous, and absolute, proof of the existence of God that anyone should ever need.

And this being “non-toxic Tuesday,” I have set myself what should be a simple, non-toxic love challenge: I’m going to try to get through an entire day without “thinking out loud,” also known as “talking to myself.” I have to be able to do this first, before I even think about trying to learn to meditate. I mean, meditate? You have to shut up inside your head! Who does that? Really, who can actually do that? Not me, not yet. Not NOW.

On the simpler task of not talking out loud to myself?

I already failed at it. Within seconds.

Seriously, seconds. I narrated my way through the house just to get to my laptop to write this. The only time I really succeed in being quiet (in terms of not having sounds come out of my mouth through the mechanism of my voice) is when I’m writing. But when I’m writing, words are still coming out, and I’m throwing the flag on that. Writing, while pleasurable and cathartic for me, will not count as stillness.

Talking to the cat, however, is exempt. She counts as another sentient being and talking to her is paying attention to her, now, so there.IMG_20171128_131842496.jpg

Talking out loud to my late husband is also exempt. It just is, OK?

Reflexively saying “excuse me” out loud in an otherwise empty house when I sneeze or commit some other involuntary bodily expostulation is also exempt.

Listening to music is OK as long as I don’t talk back to the radio (e.g., Oh, come on, Carl! It’s 6 a.m.! Do we really need crashy-bangy Beethoven at 6 a.m.? Would it hurt so much to start the day with a little Palestrina or Bach cello sonata or something?)

Reading is OK, and talking back to my favorite literary characters, laughing with them, crying with them, all good. (See, “it just is, OK?”, above).

Other than that, however, I am declaring my constant stream of babbling self-talk to be a form of displacement activity: a way to avoid being still. Being still requires being QUIET and listening. A kind of surrender (also not my forte. I’m a stand-my-ground-and-wear- you-down type).

The photo up there is of the male cardinal who lives in the yard. He’s in the crabtree by the deck, in all his crimson glory. What you probably can’t see is the female, who is always with him, and is near him in that tree, hidden in the background, far less ostentatious, quiet, steady, faithful, constant. Present, but not presenting. I want to be more like her. For the time being, anyway. For now.

When the sun comes back out, regardless of the temperature, I think I will take that brisk walk. I hope the only sound I make will be my breathing and the crunch of my boots on the snowy path. I’ll watch the red tailed hawks soar and circle, but I won’t exclaim. I’ll work on being still.

Oh, and I’ll mute notifications on my phone, for the duration of the walk. It’s a start, anyway.

I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, I remain,

Your most devoted, humble, obedient, etc.

Ridiculouswoman

Cover Letter

I want to put these boots back on again, and work my formidable ass off, as long as I don’t have to think too much….

These boots were meant for working….

I’m sure that for most of the professional jobs I’ve had, I was offered an interview because of my cover letter. I was good at linking my experience and skills to what the job announcement seemed to want, and at throwing in something specific that showed I had actually done a little research about the organization, and at showing that I really, truly did want, was very interested in, and could actually perform, that job.

But I find myself now impaled on the horns of a dilemma (ouch!)

Because the job I really, truly want right now would put me back in them work boots up there, where I hauled ass around a very unusual warehouse belonging to a very wonderful non-profit organization. That job required primarily physical labor, energy and public speaking (I was really good at that) coupled with an ability to interact with volunteers (which I did with varying success. See “I have made children cry…” in an earlier post.)

I don’t even need the public speaking  (although “tour guide” or “docent” are jobs that were created with me in mind, for sure. I wonder how good the tips are, if the employer doesn’t steal them?) I just want to nod and smile and do as I’m told for at least 30 hours a week, in a job that requires engaging a very minor percentage of my brain and that keeps me on my feet, moving around, for most of the day. Because I lost a lot of weight that way, and being off work it is creeping back on, which ticks me off.

Plus which I am on the brink of losing my mind because of insufficient daily interaction with other sentient beings not related to me by blood. I assume there would be other sentient beings in a workplace, however, erm…”physical-labor focused” that workplace might be. There were many delightful ones in that unusual non-profit warehouse.

So, a cover letter. Hmm.

“Dear prospective employer:

I am a wildly overqualified not-ready-to-retire (read “can’t really keep behaving like I can afford to retire”) professional who has had it with high-stress jobs requiring substantial travel, endless meetings, junkety conferences and attentiveness to impossible goals expressed in ridiculously unrealistic numbers. I am seeking to return to full-time employment following a period of caregiving. (That should explain the gap in employment, and stir enough sympathy to move them off the fact that I have been voluntarily out of work for more than six months, and previously underemployed at that wonderful warehouse job for 18 months, if they have any decency at all).

I see that you operate a local manufacturing facility (insert warehouse, big box store, discount emporium etc. as appropriate) and require someone who can lift heavy boxes of stuff and carry them from one place to another (or insert “rearrange stuff on shelves,” “walk people from point A to point B, insisting that they keep within the defined pathway at all times,” etc., as appropriate) or operate a computer (cash register, iPad POS system, photocopy machine, camera, as appropriate), while standing for at least 7 hours a day.

I assure you I can do any of that stuff with my brain tied behind my back, leaving substantial intellect available for sharing snarky wisecracks with co-workers (as appropriate.)

I most sincerely promise to nod, smile and do what I’m told, no matter how contradictory it may be to what I had been told five minutes ago, and not to complain about wages that wouldn’t support a cat, much less a human being, as long as you’ll provide a regular schedule (I can dream, can’t I?) and a group health insurance plan that is actually accepted by local physicians and facilities (which I have a great one that is so accepted, right now, thanks to COBRA, but paying for it is bankrupting me, hence, the cover letter), whilst (hey, why not, throw in the British-y stuff – what warehouse wouldn’t want someone who uses words like “whilst?”) leaving enough of said small wages to pay for simple indulgences such as food, heat and electricity.

I long to don my composite-toe boots again and to re-aggravate former workplace injuries to my neck, shoulders and oblique muscles due to moving heavy things from place to place. I am able to operate a walkie-talkie, an electric pallet jack and a pallet lift, but forklifts are where I draw the line, buster.

You’d be a fool not to call me. Resume’ with very long list of former high-stress professional positions, and a few years of retail and headset monkey underemployment thrown in, enclosed for your convenience. Act now, this opportunity won’t last.

Yours most sincerely,

Wildly overqualified

(and older than you want to hire, but there are laws against that, dude. Yeah, I know, nobody ever wins those lawsuits, or can afford to file them in the first place, but hey, couldn’t hurt to remind you it might happen, right?)”

Pretty good, huh? What employer could resist?

No?

OK, well, I guess I’d better rethink that strategy, and rewrite that letter, as I look out the window on a lovely sunny but damn frigid day, which seems to have exacerbated (ha! that’s almost as good as “whilst”) what must be the dawn of osteoarthritis in my hips and fingers, of all places, which is why I didn’t take my walk today, but I did go to my low-impact aerobics class. Which is another reason I’m sore. But I like being sore – it means I worked hard and beat up my fat ass enough to maybe drop a quarter pound today, grrrr.

I did not, however, accomplish my goal of applying for a job. Any job.

Well, there’s always tomorrow.

Until then, I remain,

your most devoted, humble, obedient, etc.

Ridiculouswoman

The Kindness of Strangers

I asked the advice of about 6,700 of my closest friends, all of whom are strangers….

“I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers.”

…Blanche DuBois

Another easy one for Thankful Thursday: today I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.

A little freaked out by it, too, but grateful.

Allow me to explain.

I asked about 6,700 of my closest friends, strangers all, for some advice. How can strangers be friends, you ask? Well, it’s a Facebook group of people with a shared interest in my favorite books. I thought they might have some insight as to why my charming profile on those dating sites, which included mention of my love for those books, was getting me nothing. Crickets. Lots of scams (“I’m doing this for a friend. Here’s his email. Contact him, go ahead!”) and and a surprising number of fake or hacked profiles (really? three pictures three different men, in one profile?) but no actual interest from anyone I might be interested in back.

I mentioned I was a widow having lost my husband (first lieutenant, chef, coxswain and most particular friend) to cancer, and I was trying to find someone new to be my boon companion. And my surprise that mention of loving these books got me nothing.

This set off an exceptionally long thread of commenting, where I received much compassion, many helpful suggestions (“perhaps start off a little slow, and introduce the love of  these books later?”), lots of support (“don’t dumb yourself down!”) a few private messages and a long, really lovely compliment to me that would have made my day if it hadn’t been based on a lengthy, unkind comparison to the author’s wife.

And then things veered off into complaint about the off-topic nature of the thread (hey, c’mon, not really – I’m looking for the dating sites you guys would hang out on!) and then the thread seemed to inspire another one in which the author confessed their own cancer diagnosis and in the most poignant terms, asked for help identifying music for the eventual memorial service. I sent my love and prayers, and all those kind strangers sent their support and suggestions not just for great seafaring-related music, but also for not giving up, fighting it, employing non-traditional healing methods, etc.

These two threads have been, in my experience with that group and others, the longest, kindest, most personal and most supportive I have seen in any online environment in which I’ve spent time, ever.  They were filled with authentic concern, great good humor, and personal commiseration.

Which gave me the courage to re-activate one of my online dating accounts and, after softening my profile a bit (I took out mention of using multisyllabic words unapologetically, the aside about never missing a chance to overdress when going out, the mention of my tendency toward sudden outburst of song, and the bonus points for knowing the difference between “effect” and “affect.”), I sent direct messages some likely fellows.

None of them have responded.

So, hell with it. I put all that stuff back in (except the “effect” and “affect” stuff – it really was getting too long). I reminded prospective suitors that I liked to laugh, and had been trained in improvisation, which has weakened my inner censor and causes me to say what I’m actually thinking. Meaning if you can’t take a joke, take a hike. (And, come to think of it, take a hike if you don’t know what the word “suitor” means, in this context. But that’s not in there, because I’m not thinking about getting married again. Just need some kind, respectful, fun-loving male companionship). Honesty is the best policy, Right?

As soon as I published that final version of my profile and made myself visible again, wouldn’t you know it? Almost immediately I got a fake profile response. The one with three different pictures of three different men, and a canned profile (“I used to be shy but now I’m a social butterfly”) that I’ve seen attached to several other guys.

Sigh.

Someday my prince will come, but until then, I remain,

Your devoted, humble, obedient, etc.

Ridiculouswoman