PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: moving forward (page 2 of 4)

Hope Floats

Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty or half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown

– from the song “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab for Cutie

Last Thursday, June 10th, I hit the four-year mark. I anticipated it, I eyeballed the date for days leading up to it. I felt the fluttering fingers of dread rise up in my stomach. Four years since I watched my father take his last breaths, four years that have seen changes and sorrow and laughter and joy and struggles and anger. Oh the mighty anger. In the beginning of those four years, it felt like being in a blender. Nothing would ever return to how it was, the very essence of who I was had been forever changed, and even intellectually you grasp that, of course not, there is a dividing line between Before and After. But you want Before like never before. And you fear After and that it will erase Before and you also find out who your true friends are. People will tell you you’ve changed (and not for the better) and they won’t understand that the faucet of grief doesn’t shut off in three months. That priorities shift and change. In fact, it seems to just be getting started, the grief, because everyone else has moved on and you are rooted in the new reality, confused. And you feel your love and your life will all drown. Your head goes under. Sometimes you think about staying under, too. Nights in the bathroom, on the back steps, crying. Sobbing in the shower, weeping in the car, how can so much sorrow live and thrive in one human’s space?
I miss my dad. Now, though, when I dream about him, it is a comfort. A friendly visit, even if the dream is crazy. His face, his voice, his laugh and the memory of his hugs are etched into my soul. That, I must say, is the thing for which I am most grateful. As I’ve aged, details and names and memories get muddied, blurred, fall away. I feared so badly my father’s memory would follow suit. My grief was my hair shirt, one coping mechanism of keeping him alive, assuaging any guilt I felt about having a laugh or a moment that resembled normal. Eventually I realized my grief became less paralyzing. And in the middle of the afternoon on June 10, last week, I was busy working, as I had been all day. I looked at my calendar on my desktop and frowned. I said the date out loud and then it hit me. It was June 10th. Here and Now. That Day. I felt an instant stab of guilt that I had spent half my day without realizing That Day Was Here Again. Then I thought, wow. All of you people who have walked this road before me were right.
It really does get better.

Old Light, Love Eternal

Whenever I get an email or message on Facebook about a friend’s father dying, I have a millisecond moment where the air leaves my lungs and I feel that moment all over again, so visceral, so tangible, I can see the color of the sky and feel my husband’s hand on my shoulder in that moment, a moment I now share with another person. Fortunately, it’s immediately followed by a rush of sadness and empathy for my friend, and the knowledge and vision of what time can do, what time does. How I wish I could impart that knowledge as comfort, while knowing it must simply be lived and endured, marched through, sat within, processed. So I just say what wiser people told me, that it does get better, but not in that chirpingly “time heals!” sort of way, just that from the vantage point of another human being with a shared experience, yes, it does, it does get better. You don’t cry as often or as long, and eventually, you don’t cry every day. It’s not magic nor does it disappear – I realized this week I’ve been weepy at odd points in time, and I remembered that this is the time of year when we found out about my father’s cancer.  How life itself changed in that springtime evening, as you turn a corner and you don’t even know what direction you’re going, because once again, only time gives you that vision. How four years ago, I still had hope, I railed against the very notion of death, and put every ounce of my determination into seeing my father live.  While I would prefer to have him alive, surviving, ranting on the phone with me about politics or giving me advice, I must say, the greatest relief is that he never left my heart, it was my biggest fear that somehow he would fade or pieces would disappear, but I am so grateful that I can see him as vividly as if we’d just visited, I can hear his voice, his laugh, see his smirk.

I looked into the nighttime sky last week, noting that Orion was barely visible, just a glimpse of his belt over the treeline to the West. Disappearing as the seasons change, off to hunt in another hemisphere. I thought of all the nights, in the first winter months after Dad died, after the rest of the world was done grieving him and wanted me to return to my old self, a person I could never reclaim. I would stand outside and weep, remembering all the nights I’d spent staring at the stars in Iowa, these same stars  pointed out to me by my dad, how Regina Spektor sings about the stars as ‘just old light’, how the bowl above marks the same trek across the expanse, no matter what our pain or hardships.  As Orion slips away, Scorpius claims the summer sky, the scorpion that felled the great hunter, put into the sky for time eternal, and the same battles and journeys begin anew for someone here on earth.


Today, my dad would have been 66 years old. By some measures, still young. I’ve dreamed of him a lot lately, but then last night’s dream also included my mother and Katie Horner, so I’m not spending a lot of time interpreting things…

I miss him. I think of him every day, and now, with this gift of time, I have more perspective, a better understanding of how you do continue to live when you lose someone you love. The first months, I was convinced that without grief, he would be gone. Somehow,  losing the daily sobbing would make him fade, disappear. Then in the next wave of months, it felt like I’d been sentenced to a lifetime of wearing fractured glasses. Impossible to see anything the way it used to be, frustrated that others were blithely continuing their own existences, angry that nobody understood and everyone wanted me to be Over It. Guess what? You don’t ever get Over It. You get Through It. And it ain’t easy.

Last night, as I waited for sleep to come (and bring me both my parents plus a local meteorologist), I thought of how the gaping chasm of grief has become a fissure of melancholy. Bittersweet and deep, but it is something to be acknowledged, even appreciated, not fallen into. Today, even now, as I give voice to these things, I will weep, because the sorrow never goes. But those days are not everyday anymore.  Instead, on the ‘regular’ days, I’ll smile, a melancholy or secret smile to myself, when I say something he would have said, or laughed at, or been angry about, or railed at the idiocy of, and we share this. Inside me. When he was alive, he was outside of me, and now in death, he is in my head and my heart. Instead of always mourning, I get to celebrate what we shared, what he taught me, the gifts he gave me.  I’m grateful for those who’ve walked this path before me, who shared their perspective and wisdom, because even though I didn’t necessarily absorb it at the time, I put it in my pockets, tucked it away, because I’m a gatherer and a collector, and I knew it would be good to have down the road. Time. How greatly we want it to stand still, to not have anything change, to stave off death, loss, sadness. Yet time is what gives us relief, peace, perspective and appreciation.

Instead of just mourning his memory today, I celebrate the man who gave me so much, and even in death, still laughs when I do.

Don’t Let The Door Hit Ya On The Way Out

I know, like many other people, that I will be very glad to see the door close on 2009 tonight. Can’t say that I feel that way about the entire decade, of course, because countless wonderful things have happened in my life over the past ten years. I just see 2009 as a year that brought more challenges and strife than I cared to have. I shut the door on people (some shut the door on me!), I lost my job (but gained another!), and had lots of job stress and a couple really scary health scares (bronchitis, my eyes).

All of that said, though, and some of my negative thoughts about the year, I will say that this has been the year of contradictions. My job (that I lost) depressed me beyond belief – but then I got a new one that renews and energizes me.  Unemployment depressed me, but I reconnected and made new connections and feel more ensconced with fantastic, smart, creative people than any year before. And the mack-daddy depression of them all, the grief that never leaves me, my father’s death, that got better. I no longer feel like I am the lone ox, pulling the yurt with a tribe of nomads trampling it as I strain to put one foot in front of the other. There are days with great sadness, melancholy, and some tears, but there isn’t the sense of toppling over the edge into an abyss. Time truly works wonders.

I know that in time, some of the anger and frustration I absorbed and carried this year will also fade. But now, in the moment? I’ve got a special Fuck You to a few people, and while I don’t think they read my blog, but if they do? They should be bright enough to know it’s meant just for them. Enjoy, motherfuckers. Karma’s a bitch.

As for the rest of you twatweasels I know, love and look forward to laughing with next year? Happy New Year, and I love ya. Thanks for reading and all the comments. 2010 is gonna rock.

A Very Good Day, Indeed.

Yesterday was one of those blue-ribbon, splendiferous days that you thought may have faded into the naivete of youth, when birthdays brought a new bicycle and summers were long unending days of sunshine and grass, an enormous hiatus from school and responsibility. Yesterday was absolutely fantastic. Yesterday, I accepted a job. A job I want, a job I’m looking forward to going to, and I’ll start out part-time in a couple of weeks. A couple months after that, I’ll be full-time. But it wasn’t just the job. It was so many things. Lunch with two dear friends. Then I went to the grocery store, where one woman stopped to compliment me on my wrap (the background image on this blog, in fact), and another woman came over and we had a nice chat about yarn, knitting, local yarn stores, and Ravelry. She wasn’t familiar with a lot of the things I was talking about and scribbled notes on the back of her shopping list. My husband coming home and telling me he’s proud of me, reflecting on the life we’ve built together, and how we navigate the waters well together, because there have been dark, bad seas for both of us in our years together, and even in the bleakest hour, there is comfort in knowing you are not there alone. Later that night, we went out to dinner for crab legs, and while James was up getting dessert, the woman seated behind me started complimenting me on my shoes. (Dansko clogs, patent black leather) Random kind friendliness, piling onto the day. We decided to give the slots a shot, and the wheels spun and the bells rang and then my $20 became $40 (being the nervous nelly gambler, I immediately cashed out). It was a day that felt like it glowed, with no nicks or dings or scratches, one that had only improved each hour it was here, and it was so very good.

Many blessings to count. Happy Thanksgiving.

It’s Easier to Hate Your Job When You Have One.

It’s funny …. when I hear people mutter or see them type “I hate my job,” now my reaction is to think, “Well, hey, I’ll take it, then!”

I know, there are horrible places to work. There are horrible bosses, horrible underlings, horrible clients, horrible projects, horrible factors, horrible red tape, horrible expectations, all sorts of horrible, horrible aspects that anyone can pick out and choose and stare at and find the fuel to hate their job. But just remember this: there’s almost 10% unemployment out there right now, and while some people have renamed it “funemployment”, by not really worrying that much and enjoying the forced break, there are a whole lot of other folks who would love to love your job. And your bosses? They know that, too.

I think the best interview answer I’ve given thus far in my going-out-and-interviewing process, is that I don’t want my first day at the next job to feel like the same old job. I don’t want to do the same thing again. I want challenges. I want some mystery. I want to feel my mind driven by curiosity and a creative spark, that there’s more to learn, do, think, feel, be. Having this time off has given me the perspective to learn that, and I’m grateful for it. But I also realized that I’ve never NOT worked for this long, in a really long time. In college, I had three-four jobs at a time, in addition to classes. Before that, I worked for my parents, and I worked every summer. Finding a job is full-time work in of itself, certainly, and it’s the ultimate in sales pitches. You have to deal with being ignored, being rejected, not even being considered, etc. I’ve maximized my network and all the connections within, and it still is an upward climb. I’ve also learned that the rewards must all come from within, because you cannot put your happiness into the hope each contact you make, each email you write, that each interview you go on may bring an end to this, since there are no guarantees, there is no glut of jobs and employers are taking their time to find their perfect candidate. Each week it begins anew, and you have to remain optimistic, because the alternative will drain your soul.

So when the fluttering fingers of doubt and fear and insecurity clutch at my throat, I look at my life and I admire the trees in their splendid fall colors and count the ways I’m renewed and growing from this “time off”. Because guess what? I can’t wait to love my next job.


I met with a freelancer today & got a project she doesn’t have time to do.

While I was meeting with her, I got an email from a former co-worker, with a freelancing project that may come to fruition down the road.

While I was answering the email on the second project, I got a message on Facebook that my friend sent my email and name to his old boss who’d just posted they needed media freelance help.

My mind is whirring. And whirling. And wondering.

Is it a sign?

Wellll, hello Economy….

Nothing like getting fired on a Monday. It’s happened to me once before, ages ago, and as I compare this time to that time, there are significant differences. Back then, I was mobile. I had an apartment, and I had no ties. Here, I’m in a house, married, and love where I live. Back then, you found jobs through newspapers and headhunters.

Now, there’s the internet. And if you noticed your internet service was slower this week, it’s because I was burning up the cable lines with all my networking! Which is the most encouraging thing to be able to do – there are so many people out there who are ready and willing to help, with ideas, and leads, and words of encouragement. Advice and perspective. It’s all so…. oddly good in what is arguably an extremely stressful time.  Oh, there are still spontaneous freak outs, and I don’t expect they’ll end entirely – but as I watched who came forward to reach out, and who walked away, I found myself feeling glad. Shedding dead weight and negative energy you grew so used to it became invisible.

It may not pay the bills, but getting emails from my treasured clients, concerned about my departure, will be one of the treasures I take from this experience.   And I have the confidence that when I look back on this point in my life, it will simply be the point at which the new path was forged, and I will be seeing it from a much better place.  That first dismissal… I still laugh about being let go the week of Thanksgiving….because the turkey business we had fired us.

(and if you know of any marketing/branding/advertising/media/strategic type of jobs, do send me an email at plazajen AT gmail —dot commmmm.)

peace, yo! And oh, yeah, Economy? Turn yer butt around!

What A Week…

Well, that was a doozy of a week. As each day passed, it got more and more brutal, it seemed! We’re doing a software conversion, and there are elements within the software that defy logic. So as I was connecting said software to my department’s software, there were bumps. And granted, I expected a learning curve, and some frustrations – nothing like this is ever smooth – but one particular piece of it just blew my mind, it defied logic so badly. Actually, I finally  had to call the help line, because I was tired of creating work-arounds to make up for the elements not matching (I realize this makes little sense unless you use both of these pieces of software) and the help lady, who is somewhere in the South, drawled, “Oh yes, we tell folks NEVER to delete lines in that before sending it over.” Huh? That’s the whole point of being able to revise things and preserve the data integrity between systems? Classic. Anyway, I had some long days and maddening moments, but the bulk of it’s done, and now the cleanup part will begin next week.

We did get a fun night in Thursday, tailgating and watching the company kickball team win their game – followed by the final Love Tusk show at the Riot Room. I felt old, though – when their set ended, there was no way we could stay out for any of the other bands. (yawn!) And now it’s Saturday night, I’ve done pretty much nothing with my day, and oh yes, the cops have been by for their regular pilgrimage to Crazy Cat Lady’s home. Who knows what drama is goin’ on over there.  Tomorrow, brace thyselves – it’s Mt. Laundry time. Livin’ the Vida Loca here, as we move past another anniversary, clamber over the army training wall (I mean, software conversion) and when it gets really bad, I just look at the calendar and tell myself….”Cancun. Cancun…..”

In Some Ways It Gets Easier…

…and in others, it’s a bit like Prometheus, chained to a rock and waiting every day for the birds to rip his liver from his chest. Only these birds are ripping out my heart.

Tomorrow will be three years since my dad died. Six weeks ago, I started feeling this huge amount of dread. Three weeks ago, it went away. I basked in the departure of those emotions. Wahoo! Pesky grief. Even upon hearing about my good friend’s dad dying, a co-worker buddy of mine who has had his share of woes thrown upon him this year. Even today, talking to him, hearing about the funeral, hearing about his father’s last moments, I felt distance. Three years of distance.

Then, five minutes ago, I realized it was three years ago, exactly, almost to the hour, that I got the call to come home. He was dying. The unavoidable loomed large and dark and high and impassible. Those moments and hours that allowed the tiniest light of hope to flicker, still, no matter how daunting it seemed. To no avail.

Like a thunderclap, a summer microburst, fucking grief.  It will pass as quickly, but the drenching is thorough.

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