Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Older I Get....

Do you ever look around and get surprised at where you are? Not in a how-did-i-get-here kind of way...... I guess I find it amazing and a little scary that so many choices we make when we are young and naive determine where we will be when we are older and.... less-naive. Take, for instance, marriage. In the south we get married very young--average age is probably 22-24. Think about that. Think about where you were at 22. Would you feel comfortable letting a 22 year old organize your stock portfolio, hell, would you let them organize your sock drawer? Nothing wrong with being 22- I was AWESOME at 22. But I didn't know then what I know now.... is that a good thing when making big life choices? maybe.

Two ideas are coming into sharp focus:
1. I am thankful for that still soft voice that pulls me in the right direction when I dont' have the ability/knowledge to make the correct decision
2. My parents have remarkable restraint.

I talked about part one of my discovery a few blog postings ago..... part 2, well, this one is fresh and new! Lemme 'splain: The older I get the more I am thankful for my husband- that I found him in spite of all the terrible decisions I was making at that age. But more amazing still is how my mama sat by so quietly and let ME decide who I was going to marry!?! I think I've already hinted at the fact that I WAS NOT USING THE MAJORITY OF MY BRAIN from ages 19-23. And yet mama trusted in God and the girl she knew I would become and let me make my most important decision to date. How do parents do that? How do you let go of your babies?

And speaking of babies... heres another decision I see people making everyday. A few years ago I was READY to have a baby. Ready to make a person. Ready to bring another human into this world, this big, beautiful, slightly scary at times, downright confusing at times, even dangerous in certain situations....... OMG what am i thinking? See what happens? The older I get the less I think I am ready to have a baby. Its so much responsibility! What if I'm a bad mother? What if my baby hates me? What if I can't protect them? What if I try too hard to protect them and they end up rebelling and hurting themselves anyway? And where were these fears 5 years ago? Why didn't I go ahead and have the babies when I was younger and braver?

Thats the kind of mama i'm gonna be one day.... a worrying chicken egg mama.

(pause for some work-type-behavior so as not to be fired for blogging)

Now that I've had a moment to calm down. Being alive is a gift- I've said it before and I'll say it again. Think about first love. Think about the moment you lay eyes on your new baby. Think about sunrises, the beach, dancing, sisters, chocolate cake, singing, beer, holding hands, laughing so hard you wet your pants....... I have an uncle who is dying of cancer right now, and if you asked him if he regrets being given the gift of life simply because its not ending so great, he would look you in the eye and say " Hell-to-tha-NO!" We have to be so brave. We have to learn to trust in ourselves and especially in others. We need faith. We need love. We could all benefit from nice abs but thats a little further down the list of essentials..... I guess what I'm saying is: As I get older, life gets harder, but it also gets more fabulous.

images brought to you by ms. Natalie Dee

Thursday, September 24, 2009

At Arms Length

I was driving to work today and thinking about my sisters. I am so grateful, blessed, and humbled to know them, much less to call them MINE. Specifically, I was thinking about their chosen fields of study/chosen careers and what that says about them. Example: CRV has a degree in education, and at the moment is running her own catering company.....so I think that means she plays well with others, is a fearless self starter, and nurturing. SRV is in nursing school.....she is a caregiver, intelligent, and HIGHLY motivated. MLV is a mama (of one toddler and one on the way) AND office manager/PR/Accounting/executive assistant for an architecture firm..... she is multi-tasking, organized, artistic, a born leader. ARV is a freshman in college.....she is pretty much the life of the party!

So.......that was easy and fun!

And then I thought, what about me?

The moment I tried to condense MY career goals down to a few meaningful phrases all these emotions started clouding my thought processes. My mind was as clear as a bell while thinking about my sisters, but suddenly I couldn't form a coherent thought for all the feelings filling my brain. I shook my head back and forth in an effort to sift out the insecurities and excuses and justifications and the blinding desire to explain myself. "Well I worked here cause we needed the money"......"But they were such sweet people and they offered health insurance"......"I'm not good at choosing monologs"......"I don't like eggs" Whats going on? I had no problem stepping back and making objective observations about my sisters, yet the moment I tried to hold myself at arms length..... well.... thats just it. How do you hold yourself at arms length?

Well I'm here to tell you it can be done. It involves some circus-freak-type yoga moves and your rear view mirror (I was in my car, remember?) Its uncomfortable, but it can be done. Heres how it all went down for me........I realized first that I seem to collect jobs. Since graduation I have worked in a day care, a retail store, as assistant in a children's dance class, started a company, opened a store, was a camp counselor, a telephone tech dispatcher........Its dizzying. I also discovered I am a little embarrassed (oh those pesky emotions!) that I have a degree in theater yet worked in retail for about 5 years. Yes, Patagonia is a great company, and yes, I enjoyed all the friends I made and the things I learned, but it wasn't completely fulfilling. So that must mean I lack the confidence to pursue my career goals (whoa thats harsh)..... But I also co-founded a successful jewelry design company and opened my very own women's dress boutique in the heart of midtown manhattan- A fact of which I am not at all embarrassed- quite proud, actually (again with the emotions!) So that must mean I am creative and a risk taker. Then we moved to Alabama and I went back to school for my masters in education, at the same time working as a dispatcher for a telecom company.... which I think shows tentative self confidence, drive, and (for anyone who has ever been a dispatcher in a call center) PATIENCE. Most recently, I got a job as a drama teacher in an after-school program called Drama Kids. Finally! CONFIDENCE! and of course creativity, patience, and a dash of the crazy.

And, now that I'm in the mood and in right position let me stretch back a little further to look at the whole picture. I realize that I haven't held a full-time job longer than 2 years. I may have a bit of a problem setting my mind on something and keeping it there. Better put, I'm a sprinter. (And this is true both litterally and figuratively... I'm a dreadful long distance runner, but pretty darn fast in short bursts.) But looking at it from another side, I can also see I've been slowly piecing together the type of career that suits me best. Every job I worked appealed to me in a different way, but none was completely captivating. (Oooh Oooh! I'm starting to like this self- introspection business!) And thats also true in my daily life- for example when I get dressed I try on various tops and bottoms, add a scarf, scrap the necklace, trade the flats for heels until, VOILA- the worlds most perfect outfit.

So what do I hope my World Most Perfect Job/Outfit will say about me? It will say Helen is a (insert Worlds Most Perfet Job/Outfit here) which shows she lives to enrich the lives of others, is creative, is grounded but has very high expectations (a realistic optimist?), and loves to PLAY!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

that still, soft voice

I've been feeling out of sorts with myself for a number of weeks and I know just what the problem is.......its a combination of the change in the season, the turning of the leaves, the threat of colder weather, and the fact that I am SICK of my JOB. I said it and its true. The people I work with are lovely, and my bosses are generally very nice bosses, but this job has served its purpose and its TIME to MOVE ON. So I've been secretly job hunting. And I found something...... two somethings......and I almost made a terrible mistake.

Back up. Remember how I'm in school getting my masters in education? Well- school is slowly but surely getting harder. I'm taking statistics right now. I probably don't have to say much more than that, but for those of you who have never sat thru a statistics class taught by a Japanese person who is perfectly sweet, remarkably intelligent, and has a VERY thick accent; it goes a little something like this: WHAT IN THE NAME OF JACK'S PAJAMAS IS SHE TALKING ABOUT?
Remember how I just got a puppy? Well- Hazel is slowly but surely getting bigger, and her energy levels keep rising. I swear one day we're gonna wake up and she will have made pancakes, painted the living room, given both cars oil changes, herded Oscar and FancyPants around the block a few times, and still bouncing off the walls like some insane clown escaped from the crazy circus. Clarke or I walk her twice a day and play all weekend long- I've lost 7 pounds so far. so theres that.
Remember my husband? Cause I don't. I feel like I haven't seen him in weeks. The arrival of Hazel coincided with the start of his movie. For a solid month I hung out with my dog while my husband spent all his time on a movie set. It was great for Hazel's and my relationship, but not so great for the husband and wife team extraordinaire. Now that Clarke is back, we are having to redefine the spaces in our house, split up the chores again, clean up after each other again... its like moving in with eachother for-the-first-time-all-over-again.

Now. About my almost terrible mistake. My hectic life and not-so-fulfilling job experience led me to call my friend Hannah (the stage manager of my life). She helped me get my current job and then she quit. She now works at a cool chiropractic clinic called HUG Chiropractic. They were looking for a part-time or full-time office assistant/therapist's assistant/marketing and sales type person. And I interviewed for the position(s). I had a fabulous time at the interview, loved the staff, toured the office and felt right at home.... and then walked out of the office and started to cry. Why? I had no idea. I got back to work, back to my cubicle, and stared at my computer screen while I tried to figure it all out. Why would I be sad? I had a great interview. I dont' like my current job. Bad job out, good job in, Helen is happy... right? nope.

Then I had a thought.

Maybe what I need right now isn't another "place filler". Maybe what I really need right now is a REAL JOB. In my CHOSEN FIELD. what a concept. I thought about it all weekend, talked to Clarke, prayed to God, and listened to that quiet voice inside my heart.

Monday morning I called the wonderful people at HUG, thanked them for an enjoyable interview, and withdrew my application for employment. And then I went to work and settled into my perpetual funk. I was wandering around "the internets" (avoiding actual work) and found myself on Craigs list, and found a little job posting.....

TEACHERS JOIN THE FUN: Rewarding PT opportunity for charismatic teachers to join a well established, excellent after after-school drama program. Previous drama and/or theatre experience and classroom experience is required. Full training and lesson plans provided. Excellent pay. Send your resume to: Drama Kids International @ 144 Redwood Lane, Hoover, AL 35226 or email to dramakidsal@charter.net

And there it was. I almost skimmed right over the posting. It was so simple and straight forward and I didn't even realize it was an answer to my hearts prayer until today while driving to the interview! Lemme say that again..... It took me FOUR DAYS to realize that this was what I had been praying for. I returned from the interview a few hours ago and am still basking in the after glow of my great fortune. (whoa, that sounds so dramatic) I have found meaningful work. I'll explain the details later, but suffice to say that this is EXACTLY what I need.

And here's the point of my ramblings: I would have missed this if I hadn't listened to that still soft voice. I call it God, you can call it what you want but you know its there- its the happiness you feel when you know you are in the right place, its the uneasy-ness surrounding your bad decisions, its the unexpected, unexplained love that comes from total strangers. So listen up.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Last Words

I heard an interview this morning on NPR about a father's last words to his sons. Both boys, one a Fireman and one anNYPD Detective, were killed on 9/11. His last words? "I love you". What a lucky man.....to have such brave children and to have been able to send them out of this world knowing they had a father who loved them.

Every day is a gift. Tell your family how much you love them today.