Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Starting today...

Starting today, I make no resolutions, no promises, and no excuses.

I've read somewhere that life is what happens while you're making other plans. I believe it. Just last night while I was trying to make some travel decisions, looking at various websites, I had an epiphany: I was spending fruitless hours looking at the Internet, trying to decide where to go and when, and yet I was missing what was going on right in front of my eyes.

The mockingbirds singing outside my door.

The rain clouds gathering in the evening sky.

The NCIS marathon on USA.

In times of vague depression laced with hopelessness and seasoned with despair, I'm learning to stop my thoughts and just look around. I look and see the color of the carpet, the dust in the corner, the glass I left on the coffee table yesterday, the cat curled into a ball with her belly showing and her tail twitching. I feel the coolness of the air from the vent, hear the clicking of the slightly unbalanced ceiling fan, smell faint smoke from a neighbor's barbecue grill, feel the carpet under my feet and the saggy couch under my seat.

In other words, I take note of what's in front of me at the moment. I have food, I'm relatively healthy, I'm safe, I'm protected from the elements. I've even paid the bills I must in order to maintain my residence and its utilities despite being unemployed. I have friends who love me and relatives nearby if I need them. My kittehs do a good job of keeping me company. God shows me every day that He loves me.

I guess one might call this a "gratitude list." Yes, I am truly grateful both for what I have, as well as for what I don't have or has been taken away.

It's easy for me to fall into self-criticism when I realize it's been over two months since I was laid off, but in all this time I haven't accomplished nearly what I set out to do. I default to considering my time wasted and myself worthless. But what it is, really, is fear.

I'm so afraid of failing that I don't really try.

I also read somewhere that we call ourselves "lazy" only because it's more socially acceptable to say, "I was too lazy to do that," rather than, "I was too scared to do that."

Thing is, I know both from my reading and from my own experience, it truly is better to try and fail than to not try. I'll spare you any list of developments and inventions which were products of myriad failures before success- you can Google those if you want. History is chock-full of examples.

I believe my bottom-line issue is, how do I define success?

Two months ago, I would have defined success as a perfectly clean and organized apartment, a novel well on its way to perfect completion, and a perfect job in hand. By the standard of perfection, I most certainly have failed, and failed spectacularly.

Now, starting today, I will define success as progress. In twelve-step parlance, I seek progress rather than perfection. And, I'm proud to say, I have made progress. I have read a few books. I am spending fewer hours on the computer and I play almost no internet games. I'm keeping my dishes cleaned and my sink empty, for the most part. More of the groceries I buy are being prepared and consumed or frozen, rather than wasted by neglect. I'm exercising more and eating fewer carbs. I keep an active social calendar and experience less social anxiety.

I still procrastinate (the past few weeks since my last blog entry is but one example). I still have to step over and around things in the apartment. I still leave the cat boxes a little too long between scoopings. I need to do more writing on my book and more practicing for my singing ensemble.

But I am less susceptible to my inner judge-jury-executioner who enjoys telling me I'm a failure. Though the parasitic brain alien is still with me, I manage to keep it in its cage and calm.I suppose there is no cure for low self-worth, but I believe it's manageable with proper self-care.

No resolutions. No promises. No excuses.

No fear.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cheese and macaroni

Ah, Friday night! Finally! The weekend! Time to kick back, relax, and eat macaroni and cheese.

Or, maybe I'll try the recipe from last night's "The Big Bang Theory"- spaghetti with cut up hot dogs. Accompanied by a fine vintage of strawberry Quik. Relaxing to the tunes of that legendary musical group, Super Mario Bros.

Speaking of nerds, did you know that today was national world UNIVERSAL STAR WARS day?

Bum bum bum BUMMM, BUUUMMMM, 
Bum bum bum BEEEEMM BUUUMMMM....

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Episode IV, A NEW HOPE
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking from
a hidden base, have won their first
victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, Rebel spies managed
to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate
weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space
station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia
races home aboard her starship,custodian of the stolen plans
that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy....

I distinctly recall the smell of fresh fake-buttery popcorn, the crowds, the lack of cell phone interruptions, and my shoes sticking to the floor. And my mother promptly exiting the theater, permanently, at the first sight of a freaky-gross alien. Fun times!

Here's how I celebrated  national world UNIVERSAL STAR WARS day:

The part of Obi –Wan Kenobi will be played by a random bureaucrat at the Social Security Administration office.

Random bureaucrat: I have something here for you. Your government wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it. He feared you might follow the government on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

The part of Luke Skywalker will be played by me.

Me: What is it?    (How's THAT for gripping dialogue??)

The part of Obi –Wan Kenobi will still be played by a random bureaucrat at the Social Security Administration office.

Random bureaucrat: Your government’s Social Security card. (Well, the receipt for your application for the Social Security card.) This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a driver's license; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times... before the Empire.

Seriously, with all the fiery hoops I'm jumping through to get some value out of my years of paying taxes, you'd think that piece of paper was a light saber.

Tonight I'm kinda wishing I hadn't chopped 8 inches off my hair a few weeks ago. The most fitting end I can think of to this most auspicious day would be to braid and twist up my hair like Princess Leia's. Oh well, maybe next year.

May the fourth be with you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't stop believin'

"...hold on to the fee-ee-ee-lin'...."

C'mon, I know you're singing it in your head!

I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, with the job hunt, worrying about finishing school, organizing my living space, defending the planet from bloodthirsty robots, etc.

I didn't go to the social security office yesterday, the irony being that I woke up before 6 am, and so had "plenty" of time to get ready and leave. Instead, I got busy doing some writing-related things, and then went to another seminar at Texas Workforce. I ended the day at my writers' workshop, where I was lucky to learn more of how I'm doing it wrong. The Social Security Administration would have to exist without my presence another day. No sweat, I'll go tomorrow....

Today, which was tomorrow, but which is now today, I had a job interview, and I planned to go to the Social Security office directly afterward. I carried everything with me I needed for, literally, the rest of the day, including my music folder and CD for the evening A Cappella rehearsal.

Wait, that makes too much sense. I NEVER have everything with me I need! Maybe today's just a great day! :)

Hmmm... okay, where's the address for the job interview? That's right: it's on my phone. So where's my phone? Um... yeah.

I knew it was too good to be true!

Luckily I had glanced at the directions to the interview just before I left home, so I remembered which floor it was on, and managed to find the place with no trouble. (Incidentally, I thought the interview went well, but it will be a couple of weeks before they decide.)

Post-interview I swung by the house to get my phone and grab some lunch. I found my phone on the couch where I had looked at the directions earlier. So I sat down on the couch....

OOPS! Mistake! Forget about eating, forget about Social Security- mysteriously, I found myself vewwy, vewwy sweepy. Actually, there's no reason why I have to go today, right? Besides, I have an audition tonight, which I'm stressing about as it is! Maybe I should just take a nap.
(cue Westminster chime, 7 dongs)

What? Seven o'clock?? Dang. Rehearsal starts, well, right now. I haven't eaten and I haven't practiced! No way I'm making it to rehearsal tonight. Obviously. I just hope the bloodsucking robots don't infiltrate in my absence.

I've heard that the way to make God laugh is to make plans. If that's true, then heaven is a comedy club tonight!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Money ain't for nothin'

Man, the government doesn't mess around. When they want your time, they're not shy about it!

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon today at the local office for the Texas Workforce Commission, attending a mandatory orientation of their services plus two additional seminars. I then came home to another 2 1/2 hours of filling out more data on the Work in Texas website (making a total of 3 1/2 hours spent on it so far). With about two hours left in my "workday" I took a break to eat some prunes (yes, I like prunes. Get over it) and decide what to do next.

After flushing the toilet (because I was on "break," not because I ate prunes) I decided to get back to my writing and give Texas some alone time.

Lucky for you!

Tomorrow morning I will go down to another government office, the warm and fuzzy Social Security Administration. Because I do not have a social security card. 

Never have had one.

Didn't need one.

For my I-9 forms for new jobs, I always used my birth certificate, and then later my passport.

In fact, it's illegal for employers to demand a social security card. You only have to show one proof of work eligibility, and it does not have to be the social security card.

BUT, we're dealing with the government. (I mentioned that, right?) In order to apply for help with schooling (the surgical technology program), I must present either a birth certificate or passport, PLUS the social security card. 

Not either-or. Both.

For exactly what purpose, I have no idea.

The way I see it, either I'm an American citizen having been born here and having a US passport, and therefore being eligible to work here, or not. And that's the rationale for the aforementioned federal I-9 rule.

Ironically, the program in which the state pays for job training is actually a federal program, the Workforce Investment Act. Yet the state doesn't have to follow federal law in administering the federal program.

Well, no one I know ever accused the government of being either logical or efficient, much less operating within the law!

So tomorrow I get to go down there and waste who-knows-how-many hours at a federal agency in order to meet a state requirement so that I can get a federal benefit. Say that ten times fast!

By the way, today's seminars were given by actual teachers, not random bureaucrats. Well, they may be bureaucrats...they're just not random bureaucrats. So, thankfully, the 5 hours went by pretty smoothly and even included a few laughs. (Who knew bureaucrats had a sense of humor?) Since the prospect of finding a job in this economy is daunting for many, I must give the bureaucrats at this particular state office (the ones I've encountered so far) credit for their knowledge, good humor, and willingness to help.

And they didn't even know they were being reviewed! Five stars and two thumbs up!

Whew and yawn...tired and sleepy...need nap...must...stay...awake.

Wow, looky there! Quittin' time! As a former coworker of mine would say, "Yaba daba doooooo!"

Saturday, April 28, 2012

For want of a horseshoe nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. 
For want of a shoe the horse was lost. 
For want of a horse the rider was lost. 
For want of a rider the message was lost. 
For want of a message the battle was lost. 
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. 
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This ancient proverb has been going through my head the past few days. Only this is my actual version:

For want of a box of dryer sheets my ziploc bag is lost.
For want of a ziploc bag my laundry card is lost.
For want of a laundry card my floor is lost.
For want of a floor my organization is lost.
For want of organization my sanity is lost.
For want of sanity I'm lost.
And all for the want of a box of dryer sheets.

When I moved into this apartment, the complex gave me a card which is used instead of cash in the laundromat. Within a few months I (or one or more of my cats) had misplaced the card. Eventually, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to find the card, I slinked into the office to get a new one. It cost $10, plus whatever amount I wanted to put on it. Sigh.

Cringing my teeth, I wrote the check.

Since one of the prominent traits of my ADD is the inability to keep up with things unless they have a definite home, I came up with the brilliant idea to store the laundry card with my detergent and dryer sheets. I put the dryer sheets and the card in a gallon-sized plastic storage bag. Even closed tightly, the bag emanated the distinct scent of flowery-rainy-cottony freshness. Now, I thought, there's no way I'll lose it. And even if I do, I'll be able to find it by the smell alone.

I haven't done laundry in about seven weeks.

Except about two loads I washed in the bathtub.

And I don't even have the fresh scent of the dryer sheets to stuff in my not-quite-dirty-enough jeans.

I live alone with my kittehs, who are absolutely rotten and too smart for their own good, but I doubt they were able to hide the gallon-size bag with the dryer sheets beyond my senses of both sight and smell. Although, it is possible, I suppose, that they shredded the bag, scattered the dryer sheets under some furniture, and rolled around on them until the smell was thoroughly dispersed, and then disposed of the shredded plastic. And, somehow, they did this in less than one day, on a day I happened to be out of the house long enough for the particular chemical changes to occur which would render the evidence undetectable.

Nah. I must have buried it under something else by mistake in my decluttering frenzy.

Oh shoot, decluttering! I wonder if I didn't accidentally throw it away! That's what I get for getting organized. See? This is why I don't clean. If I didn't clean, I'd still have a laundry card and therefore would have clean laundry and a clear floor and I wouldn't have to clean.

Yes, I admit it. I have a problem. But I'm not messy. I'm just domestically challenged!

Friday, April 27, 2012

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

"To be, or not to be..."

No, wait, someone already wrote that. Let's try:

"Call me Ishmael."

Nope. How about:

"Once upon a time..."

Um...not just "no," but...well, you know!

But I digress. (Really, how many trite literary references can I include in this, my first blog post of My New Normal?)

CAPTAIN'S LOG: Stardate 2012.03.15. Commencement of maiden voyage of USS Self-Employed across the known universe. Mission: to seek out new opportunities, explore strange new worlds, forge new alliances with unknown entities, and not get eaten by aliens.

Thus far, my voyage has been nominally successful, at least as far as not being consumed by undernourished extraterrestrials is concerned. Everything else? Well, let's say it's a work in progress. Yeah, I'll go with that.

Seeking out new opportunities: I've applied to countless job postings, even had a handful of interviews. What I really hope to do is to finish the certification program in surgical technology that I began a few years ago, and THEN get a job. Let's hope the State of Texas agrees with my goal.

Exploring strange new worlds: I've decided to finally write that book! (Yes, really.) I've joined a meetup group which examines authorship for fun and profit from the perspective of, well, profit! I'm currently in the process of dissecting literature which targets my market (young adult), choosing a main theme and plot, and developing my characters. In this vein I've read two thoroughly engrossing books, Daniel X, Alien Hunter: Game Over (by James Patterson and Ned Rust) and The Scorch Trials (second of The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner), both of which I plan to thoroughly analyze and plunder over the next three days.

Incidentally, I have written a tentative first chapter. But since I'm not yet sure where the book is headed, no, you can't read it.

Forge new alliances with unknown entities: I'm so excited that I've found a concrete way to be involved in music again! I've attended several rehearsals of the Dallas Women's A Cappella Harmony Group, for which I will audition next Wednesday,  May 2, 2012 to become a regular member (really, really hoping I can fool them into thinking I can sing!).

These are the milestones thus far in my journey- aside from various and random brushes with harm and destruction, plus a few other networking organizations which have dared to cross my path. If you've read this far: seriously, dude, you need to get a life!

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of, "Career Trek." Same bat-time, same bat-channel!