Friday, December 30, 2011

WHERE THE DEMON TICKLED ME

It’s been ten months since I worked in Corporate.  It no longer sets the tone for my life.  The economic need to work is (ever)present, but the Corporate lifestyle doesn’t control my inner clock or dominate my thoughts.   On a deeper, more personal level my corporate career went hand in hand with an intense desire to provide for my family. My career doesn’t define me, but this self-imposed role as family provider by and large does. I’m not the only source of income in the family, but I put a lot of pressure on myself regardless.  When I was laid off last February, that burning need to provide continued.  No one can accuse us of just sitting around.

In spite of this or maybe because of this, 2011 has been an intense year.  It started with huge change, then settled into a splendid Summer, followed thereafter by an educational Autumn, and then a busy Winter/Christmas season.  Like Christmas lights on a conifer, sparkling life lessons were everywhere!

I’ve come to think of my life lessons as lessons in training demons, life’s demons.  The kind everybody has.  Some people carry theirs with them allowing them to make trouble. Some drag them behind, where they are seen and never forgotten.  I visualize my demons as little gremlins locked away in a small steel cage in the dark, cold basement of my psyche.   They look like gelatinous ink spots, or like the kind of gooey toy that sticks to the wall when you throw it. They have long, sinewy tendrils that can borrow deeply in the mind and emotions to gain anchor. The earlier they take root, and the longer they remain there, the harder they are to extricate. The roots grow barbs. 

My demons aren’t ignored, no. I’m convinced they are meant to be tamed, transformed, and absorbed gradually over time, as though it were the most important thing to do in a person’s life.  I’ve worked hard to extricate many of them, tendrils and all, from where they had locked their greedy barbs into me.  Consequently, there is only one key that can release my demons from their dank little cages, and I gave that control to the Great Mother a long time ago.  Every once in a while, I bump into something I must learn, and so the Great Mother riles the little beasties until one sends a tendril up from the basement to where it gets close enough to become … ticklish.

And so it happened this Christmas.

In our family, Christmas is my department.  Leslie has other departments like cooking, vehicle affairs, and ensuring we don’t dress like rodeo clowns, but it’s up to me to expedite the holidays.  So, I began thinking about Christmas in October.  This is when I usually begin shopping.  In the past I didn’t stop shopping until the wish list was fulfilled and certainly not when good sense prevailed! It stopped when I thought enough was enough!  But this year funds were low and there were other priorities.  Our daughter is a typical 14 year old in many ways, but she worked just as hard as Leslie and I did all summer long.  How could that be ignored?  There was even a time when it looked like we’d have to skip Christmas all together, and truth to tell that made me feel panicky.  I couldn’t indulge myself as I usually did, so I self-imposed an incredible amount of pressure to make every gift meaningful instead.

Our tree was lovely.  It was a gift from friends of ours, which was a timely blessing.  And we decorated the house with our 27 years’ worth of Christmas doodads.  We couldn’t do much shopping until almost the last minute, but when we did we stayed within our tight budget. At the last minute I got full payment on an art commission that enabled us to finish Elizabeth’s gifts when the funds would have run out otherwise. Another timely blessing.  I wrapped gifts right up until the end, and after finding all sorts of wrappings, ribbons and beautiful gift tags in the garage, I was able to make every gift package a work of art.  I indulged myself with this, and it made me extremely happy.  When Christmas morning came, every present under the tree was beautifully wrapped and each was meaningful.  They were there because we put them there, with hard work, and we did so as a family.  Consequently, we had invoked the true spirit of Christmas, making it a more meaningful holiday than we’ve ever had.  It was beautiful.  We put the Yule Log and Christmas music on, and opened all our gifts.

My internal conflict, where the demon tickled me, was in a bleeding desire for approval.  Oh I know this demon. Would this Christmas be good enough?  Would my hard work be appreciated? Would my family be angry because there wasn’t as much under the tree? As irrational as it seems, all these worries and more, as connected as they were to my self-imposed role of provider, plowed a path of insecurity through my brain during the entire month of December.  And as Christmas approached, I battled with this demon, knowing full well that expecting approval from a 14 year was unfair and quite ridiculous and that my family appreciates everything I do. 

When Christmas was over, I had a terrible case of the blues that lasted a few days.  Recognizing this demon, and facing just how deep set my insecurities around provision, approval, and responsibility are took a lot of energy. 

But then it was over, and I felt fine and ready to write about my experience.

Now 2012 approaches, and I don’t think the winds of change will stop any time soon.  I feel that circumstances will continue to evolve for me and my family, and then one day we’ll wake and think, “Wow! How did we get here?” 

When that day comes, I’ll remember that many timely blessings, the love of my family, and both my inner and outer work had everything to do with it.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 RECAP: Roll With Change or it'll Roll Right Over You!

The year 2011 started off quietly, although I continued to be under a lot of stress in the office.  But then February rolled around and I was laid off as part of a firm-wide reorganization where most everyone in the nation with my role was eliminated, as well.  I have to admit I was relieved and spent the next few weeks decompressing.  The job hunt has been intense and regular ever since, although it’s been very slow.  I’m a middle manager, and categorically my position has been hit hardest in corporate America’s efforts to downsize and restructure in response to fears about the U.S. recession and global economic difficulties.  My guess is that when I do get back to work, I’ll fall back on the secretarial skills my grandmother insisted I get coming out of high school. 

Leslie, Elizabeth and I have spent all summer attending various venues with my art, and those of you who know me on Facebook or Blogger know I’ve been writing about our experiences all summer. We’ve done art and music festivals, large events in the city, and a number of smaller events.  I’ve been involved with the Art Guild of Pacifica, as well.  So, even though the job hunt is tough, I’ve always wanted time to focus on my art like this.  Doing it together with Leslie and Elizabeth is a bonus.

Rest In Peace, Dear One

Thelma
(Donna’s Grandmother)
1921 – 2011

Thelma passed away in her sleep over night in June after a long time in Wallingford’s Regency House. She went quietly, and she will be missed.  What’s strange is that I feel her everywhere around like I did when she was living.  Almost right afterward, her younger sister, Tootsie, passed away, as well, leaving none of the Creech brothers and sisters on the planet.  Now their children are the older generation.

Making Connections

A spectacular bonus to this year has been the way we’ve connected with people we’ve known and loved for a long time.  Leslie got together with her niece, Tami, after a long time of estrangement.  We drove out to Sacramento in April to meet Tami and Sarah for a delicious meal at one of our favorite restaurants. Now, she and Leslie speak regularly over the phone and are connected on Facebook.  Tami had weight loss surgery recently and is doing very well with it; this has inspired both of us to consider having the same.  Leslie will go first, we think, because it will make a huge and significant impact on her arthritis.  Tami tells us that Leslie’s sister, Michele, got married to a very nice man.  Congrats, Michele; the third time is a charm.  Also, Leslie has reconnected with Nancy an old friend from the past who was almost lost to cancer this year (more than once).  I’ve been blessed with reconnecting to cousins from both sides of the family and now touch base with them regularly via Facebook. Sending love to Cath, Deb, Ellen, Pam, Elise and everyone else! 



R.I.P. Jack and Hello Teddy!

In May of this year, we lost our Golden Retriever, Jack, to an unexpected problem with his gastro-intestinal system.  He was put down suddenly, and we were all there to wish him farewell as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  We all miss him, but I think Daizy misses him the most. People think animals don’t have feelings, but Daizy was definitely grieving for Jack. She had nightmares and lost sleep, as well.  When we thought she was getting depressed, we got another little puppy at the humane society near Coyote Point.  Introducing Teddy, our Beagle/Jack Russell mix, who was put on the planet specifically to keep Daizy on her toes. He’s active, fun, and just plain happy to be here.  It took a month or two, but Daizy accepted him and is now a different dog as she’s re-established her role as canine matriarch and security chief of the Faber Pack.  But still, when Daizy sees a Golden at the dog park, she races over to see if it’s her big boy.


High School Rocks

Elizabeth is having the time of her life in her freshman year.  Her grades are good, but her social life is even better.  If you know our daughter, you know that she is a social adept who successfully manages both her obligations and friends with agility and success.  She goes to football games, does flash mob exercises in drama class, and has friends over all the time. When they’re here, you can hear them squealing out of the window upstairs at all the cute boys walking from the high school down the hill.  At the same time she navigates some of the dangers of high school with grace and caution. We’ve been on the periphery of more than one of her friends or acquaintances dealing with eating disorders, suicide, and even rape.  We are thankful Elizabeth has a good head on her shoulders and is well adjusted. She learns from these things and takes each lesson seriously.  We are so proud of Elizabeth. She’s had a great year!


Pacifica Becomes Home

There is a something special happening in Pacifica, California, something people on the outside probably don’t know about. When we moved here two and half years ago, I had no idea it existed.  Rather, I was focused on the town house we’d bought and the difficulty I anticipated in commuting to the city. I was perfectly oblivious, but no matter.  My awareness or lack there of didn’t change the fact that wonderful things were happening regularly in the lovely coastal town that lies quietly between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay.  The heart of Pacifica lies in its sense of community, and at the very center of that is a strong commitment to the arts.  And even more wonderful, I find myself fitting in.  There were many things I didn’t expect this year, but feeling Pacifica become home was one of the most unexpected yet welcome of all.

Merry Christmas!

We approach this holiday season very thankful for our health and happiness.  We’ve gotten much closer as a family, although we are considerably more frugal and watching our pennies carefully.  While we have a feeling 2012 will continue to be quite the roller coaster ride, we hope that it brings good fortune and prosperity to us and all of you in the ways that matter to you the most. In the meantime, we’re hanging in there.  We’ll see you on Facebook! 

EXPECTATIONS

how dare you not live up to my expectations?
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