Sunday, August 26, 2012

Resume-ing Life

Today, I did the unthinkable. The thoroughly distasteful.

Something I never, EVER hoped to do again for the rest of my life.

I updated my resumé.

To be honest, I thought I had purged every hard drive of every computer I had ever owned of all vestiges of the many incarnations of resumé I had accumulated over WAY too many years of chronic job-hunting. I had taken that leap of faith. I had declared myself a 100% genuine, always and forever self-employed person. Master of my own fate. Captain of my own ship. I would never need a resumé again! Into the “Recycle Bin” they went, then merrily deleted forever, into oblivion.

But as luck and technology would have it, when I searched Windows for “resume” I found a copy of one I had sent to the bank with every other document in existence that could possibly put a positive spin on my ability to run a restaurant (and what a crock of crap THAT turned out to be, in the end…!) All I had to do was delete the first decade or so of outdated material (from the 70’s and 80’s—in the vain hope that anyone reading the resume might do the math and calculate I am not quite as ancient as I actually am) and add the last ten years of useless self-employment to the top. And voila! A document which indicates I actually have a work history, dismal as it is.

How funny! I just searched the “Word” thesaurus for synonyms of “resumé” and what came up were things like: “restart,” “take up again,” and my personal favorite, “pick up where you left off.” No, not actually the “resume” I meant…but wildly apropos, n’est ce pas? Here I am, picking up where I left off. Over a decade ago. If only this feeling of going backward was accompanied by a few less lines on my face, a few less gray hairs and a few less aches and pains. Maybe I could even list my age as “forty-something…”

It’s become obvious that the Universe is not going to simply drop a job in my lap, as I exhorted It to do last year at the beginning of my “retirement.” I realized I just can’t be like those fundamentalist Christians who can’t make a move without taking it to God and making sure they’re going in the right direction. I SO detest the word “pro-active,” but I realize that I have to make some kind of move in that direction if I’m going to have any realistic chance of obtaining an income.

So now I have a resume. A resume that sucks, actually, but it does exist. And I shall forward it to selected email boxes from craigslist. I shall then wait for the calls I will never get and the email responses that never appear.

How life affirming…

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Losing Religion, Choosing the Alternative

Back in April of this year, a story came out on NPR about a young United Methodist minister who “lost her faith” and turned to atheism. This morning I read yet another human interest piece about a preacher—this time a Pentecostal pastor in the buckle of the bible belt—not simply turning atheist, but going on to become a leader in the atheist movement. As one who has herself left Christianity behind, you would think that such stories would appeal to me; that I would applaud these folks for figuring it out and walking away from religion. But in fact, I find this…sad. Sad because their loss of faith truly shattered the lives of these people. And sad because they went from one extreme to the other without investigating any other possibilities.

How difficult it must be for a member of the clergy to lose faith! Their lives have been utterly committed to the “facts” about God and God’s relationship with human beings as those facts are disseminated by the church in which they have become immersed. These things give their lives meaning, structure and direction. To function outside of their circumscribed reality is unthinkable. Until something happens, the scales drop from their eyes; they understand a truth outside of the rules. They grapple with questions about things that had never, ever come into question before. How can a “truth” turn out to be untrue? If this truth is a lie, then all religion is a lie. And God is a lie as well. Quite a leap, don’t you think? Isn’t it the height of human hubris to conclude that if God isn’t exactly what I believed, then there is no God at all? How can that even be possible?

It’s no great leap for me to believe that the “God” preached by most human religions—at least, the Abrahamic ones—is a being created in the image of humans by humans, largely for purposes that have little to do with holiness or spirituality. Or, at the very least, the aspect of the Almighty with which the ancients came into contact (and I have no doubt that there was a point of initial contact somewhere along the line, as well as continuing contact which might or might not be recognized as such) has been so manipulated, shrouded, mystified, politicized and fought over that what is left has, perhaps, only the tiniest threads of connection to the Creator of the Universe.

And yet, those tiny threads are enough. Enough for millions of our fellow passengers on spaceship Earth to enjoy a satisfying relationship with the Almighty through those very religions. And I don’t begrudge them this. As long as their concept of God can help them to live purposeful lives, to do good and not injure or de-humanize others, then they are welcome to it! Just because it is not MY chosen path doesn’t mean it is not recognized or validated by the Creator of All Things. My own connection to the Creator is but a tinier than tiny thread, tenuous and so thin as to be nearly non-existent at times. But still—enough.

It is tragic, though, that so many of our human religions are founded upon such a narrow interpretation of God that when a believer discovers something that falls outside that interpretation, his or her only conclusion must be that, of course, there is no God. Black and white. All or nothing. Why…WHY are we so determined to place limits upon the Almighty that when the Almighty proves itself to be outside those limits, we can no longer believe? Why do we strive to paint God in terms a human can grasp, then walk away in disgust when we get an inkling that God is NOT that? The Creator of the Universe—of stars and solar systems and galaxies far beyond our capacity to comprehend—must be so much more. Why can’t we let God be God?

Over the past several years, I’ve watched with some dismay as fundamentalist Christianity has risen to the level of political force in this country. Here is a group of single-minded people doing exactly what I view as anathema when it comes to spirituality—taking up “your” version of it and flogging the rest of the world until they grab it, if only to get you to stop beating them up with it. (And another group of powerful people who never have enough power, it seems, trying to take advantage of the exponential growth of the Christian right in order to advance its own agenda.) But I wondered, what is behind this surge of “churchiness?” What need is religion filling with folks who might not have given a fig for it a decade or two ago?

One of the answers I came up with was, “Community.” Human beings are communal animals. Most of us seem to crave “belonging”—to one group or another. Time was, one’s neighborhood or town or country provided plenty of community; communities that may or may not be tied together by a common religion. Nowadays, the population is so mobile that we hardly stay long enough in a neighborhood or town, or even a country, to become part of a community. Religion tends to follow wherever we roam, and it can be a “first contact” source of community for an increasingly mobile population. You can “belong” to it even if you upsticks and move across the country every year or two.

One of the most tragic things about these young pastors who lost their faith was their eventual ouster from the communities of which they had been, up until that time, integral and important members. Both these pastors ultimately were attracted to atheism largely because they discovered a community of un-believers to which they could reach out and belong. It’s a shame that the political/religious culture of our time tempts us so overwhelmingly to define ourselves through our religiosity—or lack thereof. I can’t help but think these two young pastors would have been better served if they had joined a book club to satisfy their need for community, thus giving themselves time—and perhaps new resources—for exploring the infinite facets of the human connection to the Creator of All Things.

My hope for the human race—and America in particular—is that we allow ourselves to entertain the possibility that the Almighty is as wondrous and diverse as its creation; and that there are more ways to acknowledge and connect to It than there are grains of sand on a beach. If we give ourselves, and each other, the permission and freedom to do that, we will become a truly great, and blessed, society.

And my hope for these two newly-minted atheists is that they not consider their most recent choices …irreversible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Realities, Economic and Otherwise

Back to enjoying my home and yard after another ten-day stint away. This time, I was in Lane County tending to the Scandinavian Festival and its attendant folderol. My high hopes for the event were unfulfilled, at least from a fiscal standpoint. But as I dejectedly ruminated over this on Sunday evening, a little voice in my head whispered, “Remember: Money isn’t everything…!” and I realized that not only were the husband and I still speaking, but we appeared to be cooperating and enjoying each other’s company. Trust me—this is not a state in which we have found ourselves when engaged together in any undertaking, for a really, really long time. It was…nice.

After 36 years of living with someone, it should be easier. Maybe for some people, it is. But “some people” are not me. “Easy” is an adjective that will never be applied to me; nor evidently, anything I ever do. Conversely, my husband is renowned and beloved for his easy-ness. I suppose that makes us a match made in heaven: the perfect counterbalance to one another; though I suspect the actual truth is that I am not nearly as difficult as I think, nor is the husband as easy as he appears. Either way, as we’ve grown older and our individual ways have become more set in concrete, we have tended to do more tug-of-warring than counterbalancing.

So a week of working more or less together without tears, harsh words, or abuse of inanimate objects does add up to a success of sorts. One which I should appreciate, perhaps, more than I do.

Now I find myself in the predicament of having not nearly met the financial goal I had set for this event. Had it been met, I would have had the luxury of not having to think about procuring further income for another year or so. The idea of trying to get a job—in this economy, with my resume, and taking into account my hysterical aversion to doing anything even vaguely resembling that in which I was engaged from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2011—depresses the hell out of me. I have no desire to hand out shopping carts at Walmart, and as far as I know, that’s the only gig available to washed up old farts like me.

Start another business, you say? SO much easier said than done. Especially given what I have learned about the dynamics of the Small Business Person vs the Marketplace. The business deck is so stacked in favor of the biggest of the big that the Little Guys commonly bite the dust well before they are ever able to rise out of it. When I decided to become a small business person, it never entered my mind that I would sally forth daily into battle against forces that were set in place to attack not me personally, but the idea of me—the small-time entrepreneur foolish enough to think that the tiny sliver of pie I needed to keep me alive would not be coveted or missed by the guys who want ALL OF IT. There are Davids out there who choose to pit themselves against that Goliath; there are even those who succeed. I tip my hat to them. But I quickly learned that I had neither the skill nor the stomach for the battle.

As time goes on, I’m coming to realize—and resent—the truth behind the “Occupy” movement: That the 1% are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the rest of us are living on a plane where not going backward is considered a victory. The people who have most of the money not only intend to keep what they have, but they have their sights set on getting the rest of it, one way or another. And they are not bothered by social conscience, nor do they subscribe to inconvenient conventions such as courtesy, empathy or a sense of fair play.

I’m still bruised and battered by my experience out there in the world of business owners. I’ll readily acknowledge that my own personal foibles played a part in my lack of success, but I also believe the economic realities of 21st century America sealed my fate.

Nevertheless, I did dream up a secondary business—a crafty sort of thing—that we tried out alongside our food concession this year at the festival. (I must be a glutton for punishment.) My sister and I compiled a stock of flower hair garlands, of a type that many of the dancers and festival goers love to wear. I have to admit, I so enjoyed making the things, I could happily do it a couple hours a day every day, if that was what it took to be successful. Sadly, of our stock of over 100 garlands, we sold 20, and those only after we slashed the price to a dismally unprofitable level. Sigh! I had pinned some tentative but fervent hopes on our little craft endeavor, and it didn’t show a whole lot of promise. I’m not ready to give up on them yet, but I am sorely disappointed that a thing I actually enjoy doing cannot translate into a little extra cash.

My fortune cookie from last night’s Chinese take-out said, “Your new venture will be successful.” I’m trying to figure out what that means. Especially since I didn’t open the cookie until this morning, and it was soggy and stale and I threw half of it in the garbage…