PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: moving forward (page 1 of 4)

A New Year’s Wish

As this year creeps towards its end, I am ready to face the new year with renewed faith and hope.

For the people who have fallen by the wayside, I say goodbye, and wish you well, along with the random pebble in your shoe to remind you of me.

For those joining me as we march into 2013? Let us raise a glass and toast a year filled with more laughter than tears, more money than expenses, and more joy than sorrow.

To only wish for good things is foolish; the challenges are where we learn and grow, and our character is built in how we face them.

Peace and Love,
Jennifer

Grateful

I sat here as the sun slid down across the horizon and whispered to myself, “I feel….” and waited. Waited for the right word to come forward. Eventually it did, and the word was “grateful.”

I’m grateful for the comments, messages and kind words that were sent my way in the hours since I hit “publish” on my post about suicide & depression.

I have written that post a thousand times in my head and my heart. I felt that I’d finally reached a point, where you just drop it all, the fears, the baggage, the pain, the vulnerability, and just speak from the heart, hoping to hell it doesn’t backlash on you in some unforeseen way, but also out of exhaustion from carrying it all these years. Even in the brevity of the moment, my teflon-coated heart braced for the worst. Especially as I saw the number of visitors climb, higher by the hour, in fact, the highest amount of traffic I’ve ever seen on my blog.

It never came. There’s been silence, sure. Some people just don’t know what to say. I get that. This isn’t funny or comfortable or easy.

So, thank you. Thanks for your comments, the love, for your own stories – from so many perspectives. It really comes down to the ability to give voice to that pain, to try and take away the shame, to recognize that so many people’s lives are intersected by depression, suicide, mental illness, whether their own or a loved one. While it’s sad to see there are so many people in that shared space, it’s also oddly comforting, because I know only too well that it’s 100x worse when you feel like you’re alone. My soul aches for everyone’s struggles and sadness, but my spirit soars to see and hear the conversations, the new openness that  freed them to speak and acknowledge their own journey or a family member’s. I know there are a lot of hearts out there that hurt, that are aching right here in our city. My heart still rails against reality, thinking somehow we could turn back the clocks, stop time, save these men from their demons.  I hear Auden in my head, a drumming poem of grief.

Two nights ago, I made a promise to my husband, one we shared equally, that if it ever feels that bad in the future, to speak up. Just say something. No judgment, no arguments, no criticism, just wave the flag. I hesitated for a moment – because I know how hard it is to really do it, especially in that hard, painful space. I also knew that if I made that promise, I’d have to keep it. Could I keep it? I promised I would.

I’m heartened by the conversations I’ve seen in the media, speaking so openly and frankly about depression. Included in that discussion has been the encouragement to seek help, keep seeking help, keep searching, find a way to stay alive and get through it all. Make that promise, if you’ve seen even a small bit of yourself in all of this. To yourself, to your partner, to a friend or family member, just make it. Promise to wave the flag. Keep your promise. Please.

 

“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”

Emily Dickinson

Resiliancy.

I had been chatting with a a sales rep friend a while back, muttering about our equally long careers in this business. We’ve been through the ups & downs – employed, unemployed, good employers, less-than-good… In that conversation, I said, “Glen? You know what we are? We’re resilient. No matter how many times we get knocked down, challenged by what life throws our way, we just get back up and keep on walkin’.” And that’s really what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? How we choose to act in the face of adversity, and the graciousness with which we accept the bounty that is earned and given to us.

I started my new job last week. You always have your first set of challenges – how do I dial the phone? Will I remember anyone’s name tomorrow? And then the real work begins, and yes, I’m in the early glow of New Job! New Challenges!, life is good, I love the work I’ve been given to do, and am going to be working with a great group of people – at my job, my clients, and my vendor partners. On that first day, I also got a curve ball: my uncle -I haven’t seen or spoken with in ten years- called to ask if my mother was with me, because she was missing. Had been missing since the previous Wednesday.

Long story short, her drinking had escalated. Now, mind you, the parents I grew up with? Rarely over-indulged in alcohol. Everything in moderation. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d seen my mom even tipsy. I knew that her drinking had increased as their marriage declined, and there had been a rather dire incident after the divorce, where her consumption of 750ml of vodka left her hospitalized with a 0.48 Blood Alcohol level, and at that time – 10 years ago – I got her enrolled in Hazelden, working with her hospital social worker, but in the end, she wriggled out of it. I threw my hands in the air. We’re stubborn, both of us, but I’m smart enough to know when the effort is wasted. If there’s one thing I learned from my own childhood, it’s that you cannot change another person, no matter how hard you try.

This – this was something new. My uncle was worried, and I quickly became worried as well. She was reported as a missing person. Endangered to herself. Somewhere out there with her car, and a cell phone that had been turned off. No bank account activity. No word from a single friend back home.

The days went by. Conversations with a Chief Deputy, confirming the national APB that was now out. Paperwork was filed to begin accessing her credit cards, hoping for some sort of indication – anything – that would tell us she was at least alive. I’ve never been through something like that before. I hope I never have to go through it again. Staring at pages online of other faces, people who vanished and gone for years, wondering if this was the future for me. Fearing a terrible accident, so devastating her car had left the road and was hidden in a thicket somewhere, somehow invisible, was she hurt, was she dead. Was she dead. Would we ever know.

Thankfully, last Sunday, a sharp-eyed cop in a nearby city spotted the make and model of my mother’s car, in the parking lot of a motel. Ran the plates, got a hit. Found.

Eleven days, ten nights. Sounds like my dream of a vacation, preferably in Tahiti. She spent it in a blackout, ordering food and pouring alcohol into her body. I feel strangely detached, just writing and sharing that. It’s in sharp contrast to the high anxiety from last week, that’s for sure. I don’t know who that person is, the one with a car full of beer cans and wine bottles, driving drunk and risking her life as well as others’. It’s not really detachment, I suppose. It’s the fortress I built long ago, appearing out of the mist. Reminding me that I put up these walls to protect myself from a different dynamic. And even from that distance, I do love her. I wish things could be different, of course, but right now, her journey needs to focus on herself. She was hospitalized, agreed to enter rehab, and yesterday, she entered a facility where I hope she can start her life anew in different direction. I feel old. Older than her. Older than everyone involved in this. Perhaps because I see my utter powerlessness. There are only so many times you can try to do the work for someone else before you see you’re carrying water in a sieve. I quit clocking in next to Sisyphus a long time ago.

That said. If anyone can do it, it’s her. After all, she was the one with the indomitable spirit my whole childhood, digging in her heels, getting back on the horse that threw her, no job nor mountain too big to be tackled. I hope she can find that resiliency and optimism she so carefully cultivated in me.

Me? It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

But I’m good. It’s good.

Many thanks to be given.

Much terrain to survey.

Miles to go before I sleep.

Big Stuffs

Tomorrow, I start my new job! I had started a conversation with a former colleague a year ago, and he had said then he wanted to add media to their agency, but they just weren’t ready. In the meantime, I took a job that let me work from home, and my new co-workers and clients were awesome. So it wasn’t the easiest decision to make when the opportunity from a year ago came to fruition, but in the end, I knew I had to take it because if I didn’t, I’d always wonder and possibly regret not taking the chance. I’m excited, it’s starting from scratch, but I believe it’s going to be a great job. The commute is crazy – all three minutes of it! We joked about me requiring a fuel stipend. And, they picked up a huge account this past Thursday, so I’m going to be a little crazed this first week – heck, the way my home phone and email blew up from certain reps that afternoon, I know I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on the phone!

In other adventures, we’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I’m pondering the menu, as well as getting the house clean by then. I keep debating on whether or not to have turkey, or something different. (Any ideas? Don’t say turducken!)

I took this past week off and spent a fair amount of time in my head, pondering current things, pondering the future, not getting as much done as I’d hoped to, but finally making headway with my laundry, at least. (That was the biggest “con” of leaving a work-from-home job: more laundry! Even I knew that wasn’t significant enough to sway my decision!) I think I want to challenge myself to share more, especially through my blog, but trying to be careful not to be passive/aggressive about it. There are a lot of things that still piss me off, or still hurt, whether from people’s actions/inactions or certain former employers/colleagues. I think what has emerged is a clearer understanding that all I can be sure of is where I stand, and what lies ahead. I think the downside of feeling like you’re on the outside looking in is that you feel excluded, or like you’re missing something you thought you wanted or something you once had. Or still want, but only if given. Certain pains are familiar, the reverb goes straight to the core, you wonder why you’re going through this all over again, yet things you don’t want to be cyclical are just that.

Today, I’m turning around, because the rest of the world is actually right there behind me, on “the outside.” New doors will open, undoubtedly. Maybe some old ones, too. I just know that I’m walking through a new one tomorrow, and it gives me hope. 🙂

New Day, New Decade

We spent last week, and much of the weekend, watching many of the programs dedicated to the memory of 9/11.

I spent a lot of time in tears, and despite that sadness, the explanation I have for that choice is simple. I feel, as a citizen of this country, that it is my duty to know as much as possible about what happened that day, and to never forget it.

Because here, in flyover country, that day was as blue as the skies in Manhattan.

And as I drove to work, listening to the DJs in confusion and not having anything visual to go on, I just kept  yelling, “WHAT IS GOING ON?” which probably sums up how most of America felt that day.

When the first tower fell, I was sitting in our conference room. My mind went blank and all I could think was, “All those people.” I started to cry. Nobody else was crying. I still don’t understand that, everyone around me was silent and stoney-faced.  Maybe it was the horror, the shock, just being in the workplace – but none of it was a barrier for me. I went to my office, shut the door, tried to call my friend still living in Manhattan. All the lines were down. (He was fine, I found out later.)

So I called my father. The man who always had an idea, a solution, greater knowledge of the world and what to do. This would be the only time in my life with him that he didn’t have an answer. “Why is this happening? What is going on?” I could see  him shaking his head as he told me he just didn’t know, that it was terrible and awful. Things we both knew, small words that couldn’t capture the enormity of it all.

I left work, listening now to reports that our president was flying all over the country, and I was angry. One of the shows we watched last week was on NatGeo, and it was an hour, interviewing George W. about that day, and despite my feelings about his politics in general, it was an excellent show. It really explained the chronology of events, how information was being gathered, how that day unfolded, how even our government was in shock, reacting, doing everything possible to keep our president out of harm’s way, while trying to prevent more of the same from happening.

Later that afternoon, I called James. We had been dating for two years. He still lived in Clinton. He described walking out onto the playground and looking up at the sky, seeing all the hairpin vapour trails from the planes that had left MCI, and then turned back around, grounded. Hearing the fighter jets take their place, departing out of Whiteman AFB.

For the rest of the night, I watched the news, horrified but unable to turn away. Also, unable to knit, I could only wind yarn. I still haven’t worked on that project, but for the first time, I think I can again.

Ten years later, all I’ve got is this: Love, Solidarity & Wisdom. They all came with a painful price tag.

5

Five years ago, Life took my world and upended it, spinning me off onto a journey no one ever really wants to take. This blog became my voice for dealing with some of my grief; some of it you never saw, darker times and a desire to end the pain any way possible.  What really pissed me off about the pain after my father’s death is that it just wouldn’t go away. After all, we experience heartbreak when a relationship comes to an end, shouldn’t our heart sew itself back up, the wound heal, the ache easing each day, until one day you forget what he looked like, you struggle to remember his last name?

Nope. Grief is a motherfucker. It’s non-linear, and sometimes it can feel as raw and as fresh as the day it happened, which gives your brain whiplash the first 600 times or so, because you just think, “How…..?” Grief comes with a horse-sized dosage of bewilderment, that’s for sure.

Because Grief’s DNA is love. And unlike an ex-boyfriend, losing someone you love your whole life so deeply leaves a hole that doesn’t sew itself up magically. You stop bleeding, eventually, and the hole toughens up a bit, and life moves on and you realize you just have to figure out how to live with the hole, instead of fixing it or checking out completely.

Despite my tears and lumps in my throat as this day approached, like clockwork, I woke up this morning, remembered the anniversary – and then I thought instantly of all the good things I have in my life to be grateful for, to turn my face to like sunshine, to be my focal point in the day. Funny things, fun plans. Good friends, both on and off the internet, family – both blood and by choice.  At the center of it all, a wonderful husband who’s watched all of this, walked beside me, propped me up and adapted to the changes and loved me completely despite the craziness – and so much more.

I’ll cry again, probably more today; I know it, I understand where it comes from, and I’m not going to try and stop it.  I think that’s a big step in the grieving process: instead of fighting the current when it rushes forward, to just breathe deeply and accept that this wave, this surge of emotion is all part of it, when you love someone unconditionally and completely, you will never stop missing them.  My memories have not faded or been lost, as I feared so much in the first year after his death. I can talk about him, recount stories, even hear his voice in my head, spot my own words and action and instantly know they would be exactly what he would do, and hear his approving laugh in my head when I have a funny encounter or was able to display the quick wit he trained in me.

Miss you, dad. May we all be loved as much to live on in the hearts of others.

Good News!

I’ve kept this under wraps, but I’m happy to announce that I’m starting a new job today! It’s pretty awesome – I’m going to be telecommuting for an agency that’s a couple hours away.  The owner is cool, and we had been introduced when I lost my job the first go-’round. He’d wanted to hire me then, but that required moving because it was a management position. I did a freelance project for them, which was awesome to work on, interesting, loads of research, and since then, he’s been gung-ho about hiring me. We found a way to make it work, and I’ve felt like the cat who ate the canary ever since. It’s nice to be appreciated for what you can do – it’s nice to be paid, too – good to have benefits, good to be wanted, and good to work for someone who understands the work involved and has an ethical approach to their business.  (I recently got confirmation a previous employer IS gouging their clients in how they are calculating net/gross – pretty skeevy, and just confirms my own perceptions of the owners and how they view their clients.)

My only worry about telecommuting is that I’ll be insane to be around when I do get out of the house. (HI! HELLO! LET US TALK! WHAT IS GOING ON? I AM CHATTY.)

Hello, Neighbor…

No, I’m not talking about Crazy Cat Lady, though she had her own personal  festival of lights last week, courtesy of the emergency-service vehicles lined up in front of her house. I’m just feeling very…. Mr. Rogers. Won’t you come in? I should put on a cardigan. (Actually, I really should, I’m kinda cold.)

Starting off 2011 very differently than I started 2010. For one thing, I’m unemployed again, as my part-time employer unceremoniously gave me the boot the day after Christmas weekend. Of course, I could have been surprised, but when you advertise for a junior buyer on internal job boards at a local agency, I’m connected enough to find out within fifteen minutes. (That happened on Dec 1, ironically, my one-year anniversary there.) I was given a nice platter of prevarications.  I tried to accept them at face value, but, frankly, there had been enough lies before that point (nothing like having to keep from the client you’re only part-time and they’ve been told you’re full time) to know that it was time for something new, shiny and distracting to take my place. I got in touch with one of my co-workers, and let him know what was going on – and warned him some of the things I’d seen and heard might mean he was next. Sure enough, he came back from vacation and got axed today. I told him when he called to just keep feeling the relief, of not having to sustain the impossible anymore.

So what does that mean for me? Well, I have some opportunities for freelancing, and I’ll certainly be pursuing them as much as I can. I’ll have unemployment for when that’s not active, and I’ll keep my health insurance current. I think what I learned from the last go-round is that when you feel like you’re losing your integrity, just by walking through a door, you may be losing a salary, but you’re starting the process of regaining so much more. I also learned that as much as I worried and fretted and stressed, it didn’t make one bit of difference. I feel a strange sense of calm, and assuredness, that is really rather surprising. I have great friends in the community, former colleagues, vendors and clients. And as my father said in the worst of times, it will all be ok. I’m glad I don’t own a business that is hemorrhaging money and worrying about if I’ll make payroll and what happens if one client leaves, will it all go under. One of these days, I’m going to write down all the sordid stories, and they will astonish you, children, they really will. The advertising biz tends to look a lot more Gordon Gecko and not so much Melrose Place.  (I remember my father asking me, “This business? Does it have any NICE people in it? It doesn’t seem like it does.” Yes, dad, plenty of nice people. Just not the most honorable, as some are merely glorified con artists.)

I may need to take up violin lessons, though, all my appointments for fiddling when Rome burns and whatnot. Heh.

Well, that’s all for today, kids. I’m going to enjoy my zen, while others chug the Maalox. It’s a new year, and I just have a feeling, it’s going to be one of my best.

xo

jen

My December

My december

While Thanksgiving was easier….. December has been harder.

I will get through it,
and it will be different,
Each season will leave a different blueprint image behind,
Like a monoprint
On the same piece of glass
All in shades of blue.
Overlapping.

Just Breathe

So, fair warning. Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and yes, I’ve written about 30 different blog posts in my head. So many things I’m thinking about, so many things I’d like to say, some of which I shouldn’t, some of which I won’t. I had been thinking, OK, let’s get back in the swing of it, put the thoughts to keyboard, and had planned on writing something today.
Just not about this.
Fair warning again. It’s so gross.
I got some things done this morning, met a rep for lunch, and went to the grocery store. Got my car washed, filled up Mimi with gas, and headed home. I’ve got a lot of work to do this weekend, but I’m also looking forward to my evening out with knitting peeps and having some laughs. I decide to leave Mimi in the drive, as that will make it easier to get the groceries in, and after all, I’m heading back out later.

None of this is interesting, or of note, or even that different. I push open the door, the alarm warning goes off, the dogs greet me, and I walk through the breezeway and into the dining room. I am carrying as much as I can, and it’s funny how your brain multi-tasks: Make sure dogs don’t go out into the garage (as they could get out of the house or, more likely, attempt to eat all the dog food out of its bin.) Have a very short amount of time to get to the alarm, which we don’t have right by the door on purpose, so don’t dilly dally. Note that answering machine is blinking. And through all of this, Olfactory Gnome wakes up and starts sending up red flags. Alert! Alert! Something smells…… and something smells …… BAD.
Then I see it. Because now I’m across the dining room and about to enter the kitchen, only it is a mine field of dog diarrhea. One main source, but there was some travelling and then some tracking to boot. The smell is overwhelming and the alarm is still going. I think, “Do I tell the alarm company when they call that I just couldn’t cross a river of dog shit to turn it off? Would they accept that?” I think, no, I have to turn this off and so I do my own version of a Highland jig through our kitchen, screaming “BACK! BACK!” because Tripper is now eagerly following behind me and I all can think is we’re both expanding the cleaning area exponentially. I get the alarm turned off, the dog has retreated, and I repeat my jig back across the tile, breathing through my mouth.

Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, Philosophical Gnome asks the question, “Which would you rather clean up? Dog vomit, or shit?” Well, duh, the answer is neither, but I’m going with vomit. Unless it’s just hardened overnight poop, which is unpleasant but nothing compared to the chore ahead of me. I get the rest of the groceries in the house, shut the garage door, and strip down to skivvies to handle the worst of it. (After all, nobody needs their clothing dragging through it to boot.) Paper towels everywhere, and copious amounts of plastic grocery bags. Yes, they may be evil but lord help me, this is why they’re on earth. I get out two trash bags. The Swiffer Wet Jet, a huge stack of mop pads, and I tackle it.

Partway through, I realized I sounded like Darth Vader trying to say the word “Halal.” (Hey, we don’t know if Darth needs his meats butchered according to Muslim law.) For to just breathe through one’s mouth is not enough – the stench was so horrific. I was trying to block my sinus passages with my tongue, which leads to very raspy, labored-sounding breathing. hhhhhhhaaaaaaaa….lllllaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllhhhhhhhhh. The anal-retentive chef from SNL has nothing on me. Everything is multiple-bagged, and then I mopped. And then everything went into another trash bag, while I still hhhhhhhhaaaaaaalllllaallllllllhhhh’ed around and took the trash to the garage. I’m dripping with sweat, I shoo the dogs outside while holding back dry heaves, and get the rest of the groceries put away. My phone’s ringing, I’m having a Silkwood Shower in the sink, I get a candle lit to put on the stove, and finally sit down in front of the fan to cool off.
Only to hear a huge clap of thunder roll overhead.
Dogs are hurried back into the house, and I throw my top back on, because remember? Freshly washed car sitting in the driveway. At this point? I can’t be bothered with pants. Yep. I did a SWAT-team-esque run to my car (only potentially being in-sight of someone driving by for all of 3 seconds) to get it put back into the garage before the heavens opened up.

Which, fifteen minutes later, they have yet to do. I didn’t need to crouchingly shuffle to my car half-dressed, but I did. And I didn’t really care if someone happened to drive by at that exact moment.

Basically? This is my life. I have a lot of good things in my life, and I’ve reflected a lot on the past year, over these past few weeks. Losing my job, almost a year ago, was really shitty. It was also really good. I haven’t done all the things I thought I’d do in that time, but I also haven’t gotten sick, had stupid office politics/turmoil with people clawing to climb over you or tear you down. Did you notice that first one? I haven’t gotten sick. No cold. No bronchitis. No walking pneumonia, for the first time in many, many years. I miss a couple of my clients, and I miss not worrying about money as much, but there’s really very little to miss about my former job except a couple of friends. The limbo, sometimes, gets to me. But I’m not all that different from most of the people out there. I noticed there’s a Facebook group making the rounds, “Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.” and it’s really true. These aren’t easy times. When stressed and/or depressed, it’s even easier to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. And alone. But we’re not. So many people are riding this same current, and so it’s those moments of connection, we need to make them and find them and enjoy them. Because when I was at the grocery store, the checker asked me to put the big sign on the end of her checkout stand, that said “THIS LANE CLOSED”. I did, making sure I put it right on the spot where the belt wouldn’t grab it. Helping someone out. So imagine my surprise, as I’m finishing up paying, I see this very old lady in my peripheral vision, standing next to me. I look down, and she’s got items on the belt. I actually did a double-take, like, WHa? I swear I put that sign there, nobody’s supposed to be behind me, and I look at the checker, who’s looking at me and has seen my whole WTF reaction. I raise one eyebrow at her. She starts giggling. My eyes shift over towards granny, then back to her. Oh yes, the sign was there. Granny just decided to say “Fuck it” to the sign and what was anyone going to do? I don’t have to say a word, my face says it all. The checker is shaking her head, she gets it too, and is shaking with laughter. I’m chuckling, still with an eyebrow hitting my hairline, and we went on from that moment. That moment, those are the moments I seek in life. When we can look at each other and just laugh because there’s no point in getting mad, there’s no issue of race, or religion, or age, or income, or anything, it’s just fucking funny.

And when the shit gets too high, just take off your pants, light a candle and breathe: Hhhhhhhaaaaaaaa….lllllaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllhhhhhhhhh.

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