I think the James Taylor concert I went to gave me strange vibes. I got home a bit late, thanks to having to retrieve my tiny purse from a locker (only clear bags at concerts!), so that probably helped.
So I dreamed that my husband, Lee, and I were going to a conference or something (I always dream about conferences) and we were going to join our friend, Jennifer Swan, there.
When we arrived, we startled her on the balcony of the hotel room, in the embrace of a man. We were surprised to see it wasn’t her husband, but a larger fellow with an interesting cheesy skin tone.
They both looked at us guiltily. We can’t help ourselves. It just happened!
Lee and I just looked at each other and went along with it. “Just call me Don,” said Jen’s new beau.
The dream proceeded along with “Don” being funny, generous, and gracious. “All that other stuff is just an act,” he confided over a glass of wine.
Later, we each slept in separate beds, with Don serving coffee in the morning. Jen kept giggling happily. I kept saying, “He’s so nice!”As we stepped outside into the morning, I had a question for Don. Then I spotted a perturbed looking man in a dark suit.
That’s it! Where have all the Secret Service people been? “Hee hee, I ditch them all the time!” the Current President of the USA said.
Strange dream. This is the second or third time I’ve dreamed of that fellow being a perfectly nice guy. What is my mind trying to tell me? Don’t analyze this dream!
No matter what your political beliefs are, this has to make you chuckle.
Resumes are on my mind, since I looked at dozens yesterday. Today, I need to digress from posting about nature and my endless “deep thoughts” to share some observations I’ve had about people in my field (broadly, technical writing and instructional design).
There’s a job opening on my team where I work in Austin. It’s a rare opportunity in these times when downsizing is the norm. I’m lucky that I work for a company that values its written documentation and resources for customers, since training and technical writing are often among the first folks to be let go when pennies get pinched. So, hooray, it was my turn to bring my instructional design team back up to the level it used to be.
So, I looked at resumes. It was humbling to see how many people with amazing skills and experiences applied (if you’ve hired people lately, I bet you’ve seen the same thing). There were two types, people who have only been in the workforce a few years, then people whose resumes strangely resembled mine.
The pattern is that people have a career at a large corporation that lasts a decade or so, then there is a new contract job every year or so after that. I have so much respect for the people who keep working to find contract work, year after year, because it seemed to me like as soon as you started on job, you had to start looking for the next.
And here is my rant
Did you notice that everyone was just dandy that government workers got back pay after the recent shutdown? Did you realize that there were actually MORE contract workers who didn’t get to work, and most of them did NOT get back pay.
Yes, more and more companies turn to contractors to do their work, because it’s easier to ramp up and back down as needed. Also, you don’t have to pay contractors benefits. Ka-ching. A poll taken last year showed 1 in 5 workers were contractors.
What does that mean? It means millions of people who don’t get paid sick days, vacation, or most important, health insurance. A lot of these people end up just one illness away from disaster. It does not pay to be a sickly contractor.
When I did my years of contracting (2007-2011), there were at least a few companies that offered health insurance that I could afford, so I didn’t worry about it, but now that’s just about impossible to find. And even though some of the companies you contract throug do offer health insurance, for more than one of my friends it’s turned out to be over half of their earnings.
And don’t get me started on taxes. I’ve heard people go on and on about how highly paid contract workers are. Well, that’s because they have to pay self employment tax on their earnings. They have to save a third of their income to hand over to the IRS.
The other thing that can drag you down as a contractor is that feeling like you just don’t belong, like you are an unwelcome guest. You sit at the tiniest desk in the building (I even had to use my own computer at one job). When there’s a free lunch, you don’t get it. You don’t get to go to the corporate gym. When there’s a team-building event, you sit at your desk, typing away. Don’t get me wrong, I have made great friends and had wonderful bosses when I was a contractor. I even married one, so it’s not all bad!
All of this can take its toll on you mentally and physically. I had tics in my eye, a tingling neck, and stomach issues. A woman who suffered from a pinched nerve from contracting stress said:
“As a contractor, the expectations of you are much higher than if you were an employee,” she says. “They’re moving so quickly and they have so little consideration or awareness for you that they sometimes forget that you’re actually human.”
So, think about the contract workers who you know, who you work with, or who you once were yourself. They work hard, have to ramp up fast, and often don’t get to see their projects through to completion. I will be happy if the best person for the position we’re hiring for turns out to be one of the people who’ve been contracting a long time. They tend to be versatile, have a variety of experiences, and very grateful for a full-time job with benefits.
I’m grateful to the team who brought me on where I work now. I will be happy to pay it forward.
The past few days, I’ve been fixated on what all of us human beings have in common. I guess a lot of this has been because I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book on the Congo, The Poisonwood Bible, for the neighborhood book club. I’ve also been learning about life in the 1930s for members of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico in the book, Spider Woman, by Gladys A. Reichard (it’s a memoir that just got reprinted). On top of that, the PBS television show Finding Your Roots has focused on family life of slaves in the US, families dealing with wars in Asia, and other times of difficulty and stress for people. I have learned a lot from the photos and documents they show.
I keep seeing families and communities that manage to do well, in spite of the many challenges life throws at them, and also how they sometimes break down. I kept wondering, what do all of us need to have a “good” life?
For my real estate blog, I wrote up some of my thoughts as they relate to what we do to create homes for people, not just houses. I came up with what, to me, are the minimum requirements for a good life.
Just having food and a roof over your head is not enough, to me. You need a community around you, so that you can give and receive love and friendship. You need to feel like you have a purpose in life, which is what I mean by fulfilling work. I don’t even know that pay is important, if you can meet your needs otherwise, but life is pretty hollow without the ability to do something that makes you feel like a part of the big picture.
And freedom from fear is the clencher for me. So many people live where they feel unsafe. You can’t be happy if you are worried about war, physical/mental cruelty, prejudices, or environnmental dangers. Every human deserves to feel safe.
I’ve seen (and read about in my books) many people who don’t have much by way of possessions, money, or property, but they are happy because they life surrouded by a safe communty, have enough to eat, and are contributing to the greater good. That’s all I really want, too.
What other things would you add to a list of basic needs for a happy life? I’d be interested. Certainly there are a LOT more things that would add to happiness, like health care, education…and?
[By the way, if your personal tradition doesn’t like the word “meditation,” you can substitute “prayer” or something else that works.]
Believe it or not, the habit I have cultivated for the longest time is meditation. I probably came to it for self defense; I had a very, very busy brain as a young person. I worried a lot; I daydreamed a lot; I replayed scenarios in my mind; I engaged in endless analysis of my perceived flaws and the perceived flaws of others. I needed a break.
Lucky for me, I liked to go to the library as a little kid, and my mother did not care what I brought home, because when I was reading I was quiet. Sometime around 1970, when I was a preteen, I saw a scary looking book called Transcendental Meditation, by the equally scary looking Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I thought to myself, “Hey, that’s what all the hippies are talking about” (the “hippies” were actually grad students who rented a house down the street from us).
So, I was just a kid, 11 or 12, so I probably didn’t get all the nuances of the technique right, and I never did take an official class in it, but I started meditating almost every day. I got to be pretty good at getting all blank, and I sure felt calmer when I consistently did it.
As time went on, I studied other forms of meditation, finding myself drawn toward something like Zen Buddhist meditation for a long time, learning about entering trance from my pagan friends (who always said I was SO good at that, since they didn’t realize my self-taught practice was pretty much what they were teaching), and of course, taking childbirth classes and practicing all that breathing (hee hee hee, etc.). And as you know, I do yoga as one of my main forms of mind-body exercise.
What did all that get me?
I’m pretty sure that all my meditation allowed me to go many years without any medications for my anxiety issue. It has also provided me with the best tool I have for dealing with physically stressful times, too. That childbirth breathing also works very well at the dentist, when stuck in crowds, or when I’m about to give a speech. A bit of breathing helps a LOT.
I’ve also found that answers to questions that have been on my mind have popped up while I’m doing my best to think about nothing. Usually one just gently shooes away random thoughts, but when an answer shows up, I see where it goes.
Honestly, meditation was my first step toward fearlessness. Having this wonderful tool in my repertoire to help me through difficult times has been a real blessing. I fear physical pain so much less, and I know that in mentally stressful times, I have a tool to help me recover. Such a simple thing as sitting for a while in silence every day has morphed into a powerful and freeing part of my life.
Does this aply to you?
Do you meditate? Do you prefer to pray and include words directed toward a helpful intermediary? Do you concentrate on a mantra or other phrase? Do you read from a book of meditations of some sort, then think about that? There are many different ways to center yourself and many different things people call “meditation,” but I think everyone needs a way to find their center quickly. Think about what you do. Do you want to learn something new?
If so, well, there are lots of resources beyond Transcendental Meditation these days, and there may be one that is just right for increasing your own fearlessness and coping with what life brings you
Many years ago, my friend Sensei Larry took a look at how many committees at the church we were members of, and he said, “Wow, you’re really a joiner, aren’t you?” I was quite indignant. I am NOT a joiner. I’m a hermit, dang it! I hate joining things. Ugh! Groups! People! Conflict!
I started laughing to myself today when out of the blue, I volunteered to run for the Board of the homeowner association where we live in Austin. The Board pretty much tells the 30+ homes in our little development what they can and cannot do. They meet monthly. They have committees. They are mostly “good old boys” (not exclusively). Why on earth…
…I’ll tell you why. I care. Wow, make me stop caring.
But wait, there’s more
As I type this, I’m in a Board meeting of another organization. Why? Because I care about my connections and friends. And they asked. So, other people: don’t ask me to join anything!
I’m happy to say I’m the new editor of Continuum, the publication for Friends of La Leche League, a group of people who have been or are currently members or associates of local La Leche League breastfeeding support groups. It’s going online and they asked. And wow, I love working with smart and interesting women.
So, yeah, I’m a joiner. But I’m also an organizer and a person who loves collaborative work. So hey, former LLL friends of mine! Consider helping out with this project! Nothing would be a lot of work! We could get the old gang together and create a useful and entertaining online publication relevant to all of us, whatever parenting stage we’re at. Contact me on the Facebook, please.
Now I think I’m full. No more joining for a while, which I’m sure will make good ole Sensei Larry happy. Remember: I’m FULL. No more volunteering.
Get ready for some heavy introspection! In the past couple of years, a big change has come over me. I’ve been spending some time reflecting on how the way I interact with people and the world in general has changed for the better. I’ve been wondering what the heck sparked the welcome change, and whether I could even describe it other than “I feel better now.”
I come from a “nervous” family, and always have dealt with anxiety, which coupled with being an “extra sensitive person” could be a real hindrance to someone like me, whose goal is a relatively calm life with relatively little stress.
After decades of trying to deal with my lovely symptoms through meditation and self care, I finally got some therapy, which was very helpful and healed up some of those deeply rooted issues from childhood.
When I finally tried some medication, I noticed that the background buzz of anxiety went down just enough that I could really work on some of the other things that were holding me back, most of which were fears created by myself:
Fear of making mistakes
Fear of trying new, hard things
Fear of displeasing a loved one
Fear of rejection (the big one)
That’s a lot of fear. Those are pretty common, I know, but they sure were intrfering with that peaceful mental state I was aiming for. So, I worked on it.
A couple of days ago, I was talking to my younger son and his partner about how our family has been able to overcome a lot of challenges lately and seems to be pulling out of our ruts, doing what needs to be done, and beginning to thrive. We spent a few moments marveling at our resilience.
It feels strange, but good, to be dealing with what comes at us, moving forward, and using the lessons learned to do better. As for me, I have stepped up to a couple of work challenges that I’d never have been able to do if I hadn’t stumbled, fallen, and gotten away from situations where I didn’t feel supported or able to grow.
Encouragement comes from odd places, and for me, I get a lot of it just looking around at the natural world. In my Austin house, I am always surprised to see how many of the plants that were placed in our artificial setting with no warning have adapted and thrived. They are my role models!
I was especially happy to see the little palm tree bloom. I have had that plant…oh, since I worked in my nonprofit job. It always struggled along in my previous house, probably not getting enough light. It’s gotten happier and happier since I’ve had sunnier spots for it. I may even have to replant it! The lesson I learn from the little palm is that you can survive lots of things, but to thrive you need a supportive environment, people who care for you (and fertilize you, literally or metaphorically), and a little sunshine.
And another thing
Mother Nature nudged me again this morning, too. When I woke up, I couldn’t see a thing outside. I was a little disappointed to not see a pretty sunrise, but yet another day starting out with dense fog.
Then, when I was heading off the ranch to go to work, I glanced to my left and saw a shimmering display of dewdrops on a beautiful spiderweb. Silly me. It’s a beautiful morning; I just have to have the presence of mind to SEE the beauty.
Now I can thrive. I hope you can find the things and people around you that will lead you to be able to thrive where you are. That’s why I keep certain objects around. Small reminders to breathe and stay grounded are a good start. Get yourself a rock! Thrive!