Sunday, September 30, 2012

And The Moon Whispered...

Last night, I was inspired (by Woodpecker, no less) to hold an off-the-cuff Fire Ceremony.  Part of the message I felt that Woodpecker was trying to impart to me was that I should become more free and active with my drumming, rattling and ceremony.  I have begun collecting rattles of many shapes and sizes—I have a goddess rattle and a hand-carved ceramic raven, a hummingbird, and others.  But for all that I have been collecting these things, I am still inhibited and guarded about using them. 
 
It’s not so much that I feel silly doing it anymore…but I’ve developed an irrational fear of someone hearing or seeing me rattling by the fire and thinking I am crazy.  I honestly don’t know why that should matter.  I don’t usually give a rat’s ass what other people think about me.  But this is a hurdle I slam up against more often than not, and I think the Almighty is telling me to Get Over It.
 
Back to last night’s fire.  My intention was to honor the first full moon after the Equinox—so would you call this an Equinox Fire?   And I wanted to open my spirit more fully to the presence and influence of natural spirits—bird, animal, air, tree.   I don’t know what I expected to happen at my fire last night.  I guess I kind of wanted a bird or animal spirit to appear to me.  But what I got, as I rattled and focused on the gentle face of the moon (it seemed to me she was nodding ever-so-slightly to the north, and her lips were pursed as if she were chanting a wordless “oooooohhh, ooooooooooohhh”) was a message.  A thought.  An admonishment.
 
“You have too much stuff.”
 
An interesting and not all that unexpected revelation.  And certainly true enough.

All this conflict going on in my head, lately, about needing to be employed, not wanting to be employed, not really needing to be employed…  I keep thinking, “I am bored, I need something to do.”   And yet the Almighty has set before me many things to do, but I can’t seem to recognize them as actual Things To Do.  They bear so little resemblance to my definition of Something To Do that I am helpless to formulate even a feeble approach to them. 
 
What I am being told to do are things like, “Slow down.  Listen.  Sit.  Breathe.  Seek.  Discern.”  The directions are clear, in the back of my mind somewhere.  But, all my life, these have been the things you do when you’re done doing everything else.  And it seems, though I’m not working or doing anything I would have formerly described as worthwhile, I still believe I have to finish with everything else before I get to slow down, listen, sit and breathe. 
 
Those last few days I spent out in the woods, just me and the dog and my little camp to worry about, I finally got an inkling of why, since we closed the restaurant, I’ve been beset by this nearly constant need to get away.   Alone in the woods, surrounded by things which much more closely resembled the bare essentials than what clutters and fills my “normal” life, I found time.  Time to do what I’m beginning to understand are the really important things:  write, read, have a ceremonial fire, rattle and meditate. 
 
On any given morning, I hop out of bed with all sorts of good intentions to tend to my intellectual and spiritual life.  But, oh…I have to make the bed.  Wipe down the vanity.  Straighten the closet.  Collect laundry.  Vacuum the upstairs.  Make coffee.  Make breakfast.  Sew on this button. Plan dinner.  Start laundry.  Sort through these old papers.  Pull these weeds.  Clean up this dog poop.  Sweep up the cat litter.  Scrub the sink.  Empty the dishwasher.  Call the fireplace guy.  Deal with the car insurance.  Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. 
 
It never stops.  It’s a full time job, and then some, just to deal with all the stuff in my life.  And if I got a job, all that busy-ness would simply go on the back burner (where it has simmered for most of my working life) to be dealt with when I got the time.  So the idea of Sitting and Listening and Breathing as actual things to DO are about as foreign to me as going out and spearing a whale and toting home a piece of blubber for dinner.  Totally outside my frame of reference.
 
Hence, the message:  You have too much stuff.  Too many distractions.  Too many meaningless objects that drag your attention, your spirit, away from where it needs to be.
 
I related this to the husband this morning, and he said to me, “So now what do we do?  Sell the house, get rid of all our stuff…?” 
 
I interrupted him before he could get a full head of steam. 
 
“No…maybe not that.  But I guess it means, for one thing, that I shouldn’t go about acquiring more…”  Do not for one moment think that this was not a difficult pronouncement for one whose favorite form of recreation is shopping.
 
Too much stuff.  It is true. 
 
Now I just have to figure out what to do with it all.    

Friday, September 28, 2012

Woodpecker Days


 
So I am back at home, sleeping in my own bed, surrounded by my familiar stuff.  I spent a week in that lonely little park, with the cedars and the hemlocks and the jays.  But, as seems to be becoming the routine when I go off on these sojourns, the time was saturated with the presence of one kind of bird.  Last year, I had crows and pelicans.  This time around, it was…woodpeckers.

The place was lousy with them.  All shapes and sizes.  Flickers, as plentiful as robins in a city park, patrolled the grounds.  I saw downies, red-headed sapsuckers, nuthatches and brown creepers (which are not woodpeckers, exactly, but close…)  The habitat was perfect for them—mature forest with a lot of old, dead rotting stumps and, unfortunately, disease compromised trees.  All the cedars in the park were suffering from some disease that has been running rampant here in the Pacific Northwest—I don’t know if the disease IS an insect, or if sick trees host better bugs, but the woodpeckers are enjoying a windfall.

The main attraction, though, seemed to be a medium-sized deciduous tree across the road from my campsite.  This tree, which I have since determined with some certainty is a buckthorn, sported blue-black berries over which the local bird population went completely nuts.  One bird in particular, in fact. 

When we first went out to the park to scope out the accommodations, we were greeted by an ungodly loud bird-shriek.  It echoed through the entire park and made me feel like I was lost in the Amazon jungle.  Scanning the nearby vegetation for the source of the screaming, I noticed a hubbub in a nearby tree—that afore-mentioned buckthorn.  Looking up, I saw this HUGE black woodpecker with a fiery red hat bumbling through the branches.  A pileated woodpecker.  Wow! 

He made no pretense at all of remaining unnoticed while he gorged himself on those lovely little berries.  Which I suspect, because of the unseasonal heat, were slightly fermented…and I think he was a tad, shall we say, impaired?  A couple of times, when he tried to hang upside down from spindly branch tips that were not meant to support the weight of a gigantic drunken woodpecker, I feared he was going to fall right out of the tree and land on his woodpecker butt.

The following week, when we drove the trailer back to the park and set up camp, we came to realize that our previous encounter with Mr. Pileated was by no means going to be an isolated occurrence.  That bird was on a bender.  He hit that tree every day, several times a day, announcing his arrival with his loud, crazy whooping.  Eventually, I was inspired to give him a name—“Cuckoo.”

Cuckoo was really a special gift.  He wasn’t just a fascinating species available for close-up observation.  We had a relationship, that bird and I.

He would soar in, whooping and hollering, and I would call, “Cuckoo!”  And he would answer.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to drag my camera over to the tree to try to get a few pictures.  Every day, it seemed that there was better light or an opportunity for a more perfect portrait.  I started out sitting at a picnic table six feet from the tree, steadying my camera on the table and trying not to giggle.  By midweek, I was standing directly under the tree and he was in the branches three feet above my head, peeking from behind the leaves, then bursting out in full view, but never holding still long enough for me to get a decent shot. 

I laughed at him.  He laughed at me.  We bonded.

Between Cuckoo and all the other assorted woodpeckers who populated this place, I was sure the Almighty staged this encounter for a reason.  This was not just a “Wow!  Cool birds!” kind of experience.  It was total immersion.  As if to add the exclamation point to this theory, the first bird I encountered in my own back yard when we got home Wednesday was---a woodpecker. Not a common visitor to my yard, by any means.  Too remarkable not to mean something. 

But I have no idea what.  Well, that’s a lie…I have some ideas, but I’m not sure I want to share them.  Yet.  My reference books are pretty lame on the subject of visitation by Woodpecker.  And…I don’t know.  I don’t want these posts to look like a journal of “Oooh…I saw a bird (animal, insect…)  What does it MEAN?"  I guess everything has a meaning…but not everything is a message.  I feel strongly that this woodpecker encounter is a message.  I just have to figure out how to decode it. 

I’ll leave you with this—a very bad video I shot (or tried to shoot) of that darned Cuckoo.  You can’t see him very well, but at least you can get some idea of what he sounded like.  Turn up the volume if you want the real experience.  Priceless!    

video

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Belated...

Better late than never...
 
 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY "COMING TO TERMS..."!
 
Nine years and counting...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Religion and Politics


Back in the 80’s my husband and I belonged to a Pentecostal Christian church.  The small close-knit group of believers in which we found ourselves appealed to two lapsed Catholics who had ultimately felt too far removed from God and other church-goers in the vast dogmatic ocean that is the Catholic Church.  We wanted “personal” relationships—with God and with the folks sitting in the pew next to us.  In our tiny church that met in a schoolhouse, we found those personal relationships.  In spades.  At one point during our five-year association with that group, we attended or hosted some sort of church-related function—from prayer groups to song service practice to building committee—every night of the week.  And twice on Sundays.

This was the time of my life when I came as close to being a genuine, card-carrying member of a “community” as I had ever been (or ever would be again.) But even so, I never felt quite on the same page as everybody else.  For one thing, gender roles in that community were very cut and dried and very specific.  The men went to work, provided for the family and held the leadership roles in the church.  The women stayed at home, had babies, and served the men. 

My upbringing had been too androgynous to relate to this.  We were not raised to hold down the fort while the men went out into the big world and made the living.   I felt a bit out of step with the women of our little church, since I worked full time and did not have kids, and stay-at-home mother-hood seemed to be a woman’s highest call. 

But I could live with that…and I did, for several years.  The part I could not live with—could never accept—was the politics. 

I came of age during the decidedly liberal 60’s and 70’s.  I was raised Catholic during the time of Vatican II, when forward-thinking hierarchy attempted to make the Church more relevant to the 20th  century. So I never had a problem being a liberal Catholic.  Catholics back then—at least, the Catholics I associated with—assumed a separation of church and state.  Things like birth control and abortion were supposed to be sins, but if you didn’t spend your whole life having gratuitous sex and aborting the consequences, you were free to embrace liberal ideals.  You didn’t think twice about it.  At least, I didn’t.

But the Pentecostal “personal relationship with God and everybody” church was a whole different ball of wax.  Church and life were inseparable.  You were a Christian 24/7/365.  Not only were you expected to toe the biblical line when it came to your own life—every minute of every day; but you were charged with making sure this same code of behavior was followed by everyone.  There were causes you were expected to embrace; candidates you were expected to support.  The 80’s were the infancy of what has become the 21st century’s very powerful Christian Right—that political juggernaut which brooks no argument, entertains no compromise, and is bent on taking the nation, culturally, back to the days when (white) men were favored by God and everyone else knew their place. 

That was, in the end, what made me walk away (run away screaming?) from fundamentalist Christianity.

Thirty years later, I find myself on a drastically different spiritual path.  People who Knew Me When, Catholics and Pentecostals alike, would surely believe I have gone over to the Dark Side.  You would think that, with all those years under my belt, I could have picked a spiritual practice that does not clash with my politics.  No such luck, I’m afraid. 

Perhaps the problem is not with my religion, but with the current condition of politics.  Any politics—left wing, right wing, and all the pinfeathers in between.  Because all politics is about one thing: M.O.N.E.Y.  If you don’t have it, you can’t win.  Political campaigns, which were once (arguably) sales pitches for competing ideologies have devolved into contests to see which side can raise more money with which to bury the other in negative propaganda.  The sums of money apparently necessary for this task are nothing less than astonishing:  In July, it was reported that the Obama Campaign had raised over $400,000,000, and Romney was not far behind.  With less than one half of one percent of that amount, I would be set for life.  And then some.

Every move, every endorsement or condemnation, every opinion expressed by a candidate or on a candidate’s behalf is carefully calculated for its potential for capital return.  No matter how morally pure or logically responsible a stand on an issue might be, if it has a chance of causing a big donor to tie the purse strings, it doesn’t fly.  I don’t delude myself into thinking this is not true for both parties.  But it’s particularly galling that those who share one’s personal ideology need to participate in this charade simply to get a foot in the door or risk utter legislative impotency.

Here is where my religion, such as it is, begins to chafe against my politics.  My chosen spiritual path has impressed upon me that one of the most dangerous ills of our society is our addiction to excess.  I have major moral objections to the multi-million-dollar war-chest mentality.  Still, I understand that it takes tremendous amounts of money, applied to outrageously objectionable media hype, to get elected to political office these days.  Do I set my principles aside and dig into my pockets in order to maximize the potential for the kind of legislative leadership I believe is good and necessary?  Do we all have to dance with the devil on the off chance that our candidate might be a factor for positive change if he/she is elected?

And then there is the question of the economic recovery. 

I am incensed that my personal economic progress, and that of just about every other middle class American, was derailed by eight years of the Bush Administration’s pro-rich, pro-big-business, pro-anything that compiles obscene amounts of money and funnels it into the pockets of those who already have more than enough agenda.  I look at my life, and I understand that not only am I not nearly as well off as my middle-class parents were when they were my age, I’m not as well off as I was twenty or even thirty years ago.

Why is it that during the Carter Administration, which history argues was an economic train-wreck, my young husband and I were able to buy a house and had two new cars sitting in the driveway?  And today, while our income is almost four times what it was back then, we couldn’t sell our house or buy a new one if our lives depended on it, and the thought of purchasing a new vehicle is nowhere near the realm of possibility.  This is nobody’s idea of fair or okay or how the American Dream was supposed to pan out for Mr. and Mrs. Baby Boomer Joe Blow. 

And yet, there’s that voice in the back of my head, murmuring that though I may not have what I thought I was supposed to have…I have enough.  We have a roof over our heads, food on the table, vehicles to get us where we need to go, and even some toys and frivolities.  We are not living a “bare necessities” life by any means.  So while I’m mad as hell at the guys who think it’s their right to have it all and then some, and have bought the means to ensure that the laws of the land pretty much let them go ahead and do that unimpeded, I can’t help but think that, on some level, I’m itching to fight them for things I don’t need.  Do I really want to arm-wrestle them for the right to be…like them?

Still, there are battles that need to be fought—for those who were not as fortunate as we were during the economic downturn, and for myself and the rest of my economic “class.”  (Let no one say there is not a class war going on, and it is not the rich who are under attack.)  We all need decent housing, a safe food supply and quality health care.  These are not “entitlements.”  They are basic rights provided by a moral society for each of its members—from the greatest to the least.  If the rich and policies that favor the rich have turned these basic rights into commodities that only money can buy, then we need to reform our government and re-assert our rights.  

I do, I really do, want to “live intentionally” and “walk the walk.” But it is necessary to work within the established (heinous) system if there is any hope at all of changing it with anything short of an “Arab Spring” style revolution.  We have to play the game in order to destroy it.  As such, there is as much potential for it to destroy us as the other way around.  But are we not morally bound to take that risk?           

Monday, September 24, 2012

Confronting the Darkness

Earlier this year, I posted a video of a ritual in which I had been inspired to indulge.  The movie showed me burning a scrap of paper with the word “fear” scrawled on it in felt-tip marker.  It came about as an offshoot of my Solstice Fire.  Last December, when I sat down to contemplate the things I wanted to “burn” in my fire, the things that no longer served, I realized that FEAR was the most crippling affliction of my life.  By performing this intentional ritual—incinerating fear and flushing the ashes down the toilet—and physically turning away from fear whenever it threatened to undo me, I was making real progress.  After a month or so, I abandoned my daily mini-Fire Ceremonies.  I must have thought I was “cured.”

Of course, I’m not.  One does not negate fifty-seven years of chicken-hood by merely stiffening one’s spine and declaring, “I’m not going to be afraid anymore.”  It would be like saying, “I don’t want brown eyes anymore” and expecting to look in the mirror after six or eight weeks to find Liz Taylor’s hypnotic violet eyes blinking back at me.  Dream on!

This year’s extended Indian Summer made me itch to get away again, into the woods, among the trees and the birds, somewhere that was not my own back yard.  On one of our weekend wanderings, we discovered a wonderful little park with a campground, back in the “wild” hills of Columbia County.  Yes…this is my home county, and the park is little more than twenty miles from my own back yard.  But it feels wilder and farther away than it is…and it seemed a perfect place to take our “new” trailer for a shakedown.  Husband helped me transport the trailer out there after work last Wednesday.  But since he does work, he can only be here on weekends. 

Hence, I am on my own—well, me and my dog—the rest of the time.  Exactly what I craved; exactly what I needed.

So, you ask…why did this post begin with a reference to fear and my not being cured of it, and then segue awkwardly into a log of my most recent escape?

Because here—all alone in my slightly unfamiliar new digs, parked in an unfamiliar place (notwithstanding that I am a hop, skip and jump from my own front door)—I discovered just exactly how much of a weenie I really am.

Now, this park is small and not heavily used, especially this time of year, when children are back in school and weekend camping trips have been relegated to the realm of fond summer memories.  I was depending upon that, actually.  The woodland experience I craved did not necessarily include interacting with other human beings.  So the less people there were around, the happier I was.

Last Wednesday evening, the husband drove the trailer out to the park (I followed in my van), helped me set up, and then went home.  I shrugged off a little shudder of nerves as I waved goodbye.  After all, here I was—alone with my music, my crafts, my laptop, my books, my sage and my rattles.  Exactly what I needed to be.  By myself.  Independent. 

All alone.  In this new trailer in this new place.  With nothing but my half-blind, half-deaf old dog—who was never much of a watchdog in her prime—standing between me and…anything else. 

Night fell and the darkness closed in.  I retreated inside; huddled in the trailer and locked the door.  The long, dark night stretched before me like a holey bridge over a bottomless chasm over which I would have to crawl—in the dark, surrounded by god-knew-what—to reach the next morning.

I was petrified.

And royally p.o.’d at myself.  Here I was, the intrepid earth-loving, nature-craving searcher, planted in a place that was, in truth, a pale sham of the kind of experience I thought I wanted…and I was afraid.  I started at every noise.  Fretted at the sound of every vehicle going by on the highway (which was, ridiculously, only about twenty feet from the back of my trailer—THAT’S how remote this place actually is…)  I was trapped inside that little box, because I was scared to death of what—or who—might be out and about in that unfamiliar pitch dark.  When a chorus of owls took up a call and reply of hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-wah, I couldn’t quite decide whether to be completely geeked out by the pure wild coolness of it, or go hide under the bed.

So this little exercise upon which I was determined to embark has turned out to be NOT the transcendent, affirming experience I craved.  It has instead proven to be humbling—almost demoralizing, really; informative (not in a good way), and a source of more questions than answers. 

I want to believe that the spiritual path I have chosen is good and right, for me.  I do not want to discover that I haven’t the spine for it.  I do not want to know that I am afraid of nature.  I don’t think there is any such thing as a “daylight Shaman.”  I have to be able to embrace the music of the night as well as the symphony of the day.  Which is not to say that I should be brave enough to go out into some remote back woods and sleep on the ground with nothing but the stars and the trees and the beasts all around me.  But I should at least be able to camp by myself in a trailer in an unfamiliar place without soiling my undies.     

So…do I stay here, in this lonely but not-very-remote place, away from my familiar things, and grapple with my fear, mano a mano?  Do I grab it by the throat and spit in its eye?  Or, at least, tap it on the shoulder and kick it in the shin before I piss my pants and run away?

Or do I go back home to my little shrine in the safe confines of my bedroom; go back to scribbling “fear” on a scrap of paper every morning, incinerating it in a candle flame and flushing the ashes down my ensuite toilet, and believe that’s going to help?

Let me just say this:  The husband arrived Friday night; we were supposed to pack up and go home on Sunday. 

Given what I had been through on my two nights here alone with my fear, I looked him in the eye and said:

“I need to stay.” 

He’ll be back on Wednesday night. 

 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Late Summer Ruminations

I’ve spent these waning days of summer in the shallow end of the pool. By this, I mean that I don’t spend a lot of time ruminating, studying…doing much of anything, really. I sit outside, surrounded by my birds and my flowers and my animals, and I just…soak it up. Maybe it’s good that I don’t live inside my head so much right now. Maybe this is was where I need to go—to live in the physical world, to connect with the sensations and reality of the here and now, rather than always puzzling about what could be or should be. It has been valuable, I suppose, to focus on what life—MY life—is, rather than regretting what I am not.

I challenged the Universe to plop a job in my lap if It wanted me to have one. When that didn’t happen, I interpreted it as a sign that more was being required from me than to sit around and wait for the Universe to act. Which led to the ridiculous trauma of freaking out over the specter of pursuing a job I did not want. A couple of weeks further along on the journey—with a dozen or so stops at the Wayside of Guilt along the way—have brought me to a place where I’m beginning to understand (again) that perhaps what the Universe is requiring of me right now is to completely divest myself of my old rote attitudes.

All my adult life has been conducted according to the formula of money=job…if you need it, you get one. Though this has never been a particularly successful or rewarding formula for me, it has been all I’ve known. Or perhaps, given my Heron tendency toward “aggressive self-determination,” it was the only path I could ever consider. Even leading me to grasp at the “entrepreneurial” straw when I finally understood that the formula of me working for someone else was a non-starter.

I find it interesting that the Universe would reveal Heron to me as my power animal, and then lead me on a path completely counter to the essence of that Spirit. Because now, as I’m stripped of all the “should be’s” and “could be’s” and “gotta do’s” of my life, I can see what is going on. Not what I am providing or worrying about providing for myself, but what the Universe is providing.

No, the Universe hasn’t dropped that job in my lap, and it’s obvious that I am in no shape (yet? ever?) to go out looking for one. But our little household is not headed toward financial disaster, either. In the past month, we sold off a few pieces of left over restaurant equipment; we’re looking at signing a re-fi on our mortgage that will save us $100 a month. And the husband got a raise—2%, which pencils out to just over $21 a week—laughable, but out of the blue. Perhaps its value lies more in the fact that we don’t have to worry (today) about his job going away, rather than in how much it will increase his take-home pay.

I’ve written before about finding “balance” in my life. I really believed that I had to aggressively pursue balance; which in itself, if you think about it, is a completely off-balance course of action. It put, as always, all the responsibility on ME. Put the entire burden squarely on my shoulders, with no other power or entity to share or balance it. Which gave me all the power—exactly what I wanted. There’s that old “aggressive self-determination” again.

What is being revealed to me is that if I was meant to be completely self-determining, I would not be who and where I am. I would not be a wife. I would not be part of a family. I would not live in a neighborhood. I would not be a citizen of a town, a state, a country. I wrote in my last post that humans are communal animals, as if that was some kind of a slam on humanity…a weakness that we have to bear. It chafes on me more often than not. But, for whatever reason, the Universe seems to want me to understand that I am not—cannot be—the sole source and/or procurer of everything I need or want. I have to let others in. I have to let the Universe in.

This, for me, is going to be a hard nut to crack.

I wonder how long it’s going to take.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spin, Lies and Political Firepower

Spin is defined as providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion. According to Randall Rothenberg, CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau, the term “spin” has lost part of the pejorative connotation it had in the 1950s; while back then [it] was indicative of deceit, since the 1990s, according to Rothenberg, its use has shifted to a "mockingly admiring ‘polish the truth’”

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news.—Wikipedia

It took two generations—forty years—for the concept of “spin” to crawl out of the carpet bag of the snake oil salesman and become the tool of choice carefully tucked into the briefcases of corporate executives and political aspirants. Forty years, and the fortuitous explosion of audio and video media... And since the final decade of the last century, Americans have been a captive audience to the rise and ultimate dominance of political spin—that vehicle which has made it so easy for a gullible public to choose and zealously defend its own reality. But the 2012 presidential campaign has made it clear that even “spin” has had its day.

We knew, or should have known, it would come to this eventually. How great a leap is it, after all, from “spinning” to all-out, in-your-face, pants-on-fire lying? Rush Limbaugh—that ordained prophet of the American right wing—has been doing it for decades. Caught in any demonstrable lie, Limbaugh simply blows off responsibility with the self-deprecating declaration that “I’m just an entertainer.” We all know Rush Limbaugh is anything but entertaining. He knows it, too. But his lies, tirades and none-too-subtle pandering to the fears and prejudices of the American Everyman have garnered him the largest nation-wide audience in the history of radio—to the tune of a $50,000,000 a year contract through 2016. (Ever wonder where, exactly, that money comes from?)

Which demonstrates, I suppose, that America loves a liar.

How long did we think it was going to be before the politicians tossed out their bags of spin and laid in a lifetime supply of outright lies? The Republican presidential campaign has certainly bought into the strategy. One of the most popular television attack ads rolled out by the Romney campaign has been proven to be based upon false information,  but the campaign refuses to pull it, claiming that it is getting great results in swing states. At the Republican National Convention, vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech was riddled with falsehoods and half-truths, as was Mitt Romney’s. No spin. Just lies.

By now, they know the American public is so inured to creating its own reality that they needn’t worry that anyone will check the facts. It doesn’t matter a damn if a politician speaks the truth. If we hear what we want to hear, we not only accept it, we guzzle it like moonshine. And God help the “revenooers” who try to bust the still.

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight.  I don’t expect a much more truthful or upstanding performance from this side of the political spectrum. When a tactic, however reprehensible, becomes part of the accepted arsenal, it’s available to both sides of the battle. I suppose it could be said that it would be foolish for one side to refuse to use a weapon because it’s morally objectionable. No place, not even the moral high ground, is safe from the strength of superior firepower. Being right and dead gets them nowhere.

But how I wish it could be different!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Duty Calls...Can I Just Say No?

And so, my friends (I know you’re out there, even though you decline to leave evidence of your existence…)

In reference to that resume I lately lamented having had to revive:

I’ve sidled up to this job-hunt thing in an anything but conventional way.  I’ll confess: As much as I’ve declared my intention to embrace the “p” word (pro-active) when it comes to obtaining an income, I’m still half in love with the idea of the Universe dropping a job in my lap if It really wants me to have one. By way of making some move in the “right” direction, I have conceded to perusing craigslist once a day.  If I find a posting that even remotely appeals, I copy and paste the contents of my resume into the “respond to this post” email and hit “send.”  No niceties, no research, no painstakingly crafted cover letter.  Just, “Here it is.  You’re interested, or you’re not.” 

And in spite of my ambivalent to downright antithetical lack of attention to the process and/or the result…

I got a call-back.  Well.  Slap my ass and call me Sally.

Now what do I do?

The job is one I should be able to do.  A no-brainer, in fact.  Cook at an Assisted Living facility.  What better example of that “picking up where you left off” concept I discussed in my previous post, since the last job I had, working for someone besides myself, was as a cook at an assisted living facility? 

A job I left, incidentally, with no regrets whatsoever, in 2004; in order to finally commit, utterly and completely, to my own business. 

In the olden days—those years during which my career WAS job-hunting—I developed a rote reaction to a call-back on a job application:  I would begin selling myself on the position.  I would think how great an opportunity it would be.  How the hours would mesh with my lifestyle. If the job was not something I had actually done before, I would anticipate how this would add a new skill to my resume.  I might even go so far as to multiply the expected number of hours by the promised pay, and start envisioning what I might do with the money.

Surely this is what made job-hunting such a nightmare for me.   I made a practice of counting my chickens, not simply before they hatched, but before the nest was built or the eggs were laid.  I could never just tell myself, “This job will suck, but I need the money.” Or, “What am I thinking?  This job will suck, and nobody needs money that badly.”  In the end, during those miserable years, I set myself up for one crushing disappointment after another, when the interview process did not translate into a job offer.  Or, the flip-side of that scenario:  I ended up accepting jobs for which I was miserably unsuited, just because they were offered.   

So, upon the receipt of the afore-mentioned utterly unexpected show of interest in my intentionally feeble attempt to obtain employment, I expected my old routine to kick in.

Except, it didn’t.   

What did kick in was a feeling of dread and hopelessness that settled on me like a concrete overcoat.  I’m paralyzed by the thought of that interview.  I know in my heart that the wounds inflicted upon me by five years of frustration and insurmountable challenge at the cafĂ© have not healed sufficiently for me to even begin to entertain the idea of cooking—under  pressure of time, cost and performance constraints—for a living, for someone else.  I’m not merely unenthusiastic about the prospect.  I’m scared to death of it.  It’s like facing a gigantic acid flash-back.  It really surprised me, how utterly allergic I am—still—to the idea of making a living doing anything even close to what I did before. “Burned out” doesn’t describe what I am on restaurant work.  “Nuked” might be a more accurate term.      

So now, at the very least, I lose my “I send out resumes but no one calls me” excuse.  How much easier it would be to remain safely unemployed if I could grumble about sending out resumes and never getting so much as a second look.  Subconsciously, I’ve been conducting my job hunt to produce precisely that result. 

And I don’t feel entirely comfortable walking away from the opportunity, either.  I know that, in this economy, any job would be valuable and precious.  I feel like I’m spitting in the face of the Universe by refusing to even go for a chat (which by no means would guarantee that I would land the job, in any case.)  But what’s the point of going any farther in the process if just the prospect of an interview brings on a nigh unto post-traumatic reaction?

If anyone out there has any feedback or advice, I’d be happy to hear it…