Knowing Your Issues Doesn’t Fix Everything, Nor Should It!

As always, things are changing in my life. One of the changes anticipated for this year is that Anita and I will need to move out of the Bobcat Lair house in Austin. That’s sad, because we really love the setting, the house, and most of all, the neighbors. But, the cost of just paying the City of Austin property taxes is more than the mortgage to our old house, and now that we are getting closer to me retiring from paid employment, we’ll need the money from that house as part of our income stream. Things are winding down, and it’s time for investments to pay off.

It’s the Austin house (Bobcat Lair) showing lovely dark rain clouds. Ah.

Yes, that’s all logical and good. Anita has her own little house in Cameron that we hope to get renovated as soon as her contractor is available and her tenant, who’s already month to month, knowing Anita is going to need to live in the house herself, finds another place to live. This is all quite reasonable, right?

But, when Anita started talking to me yesterday about how much she’s packed up already (she does all her moves all by herself, because she would rather invest her time than her money), and that she gave her tenant notice that she needs to be out, I found myself going back into one of my old, unproductive ways of reacting. I am not good with moving, AT ALL, and the thought of having to leave my beloved sanctuary sent me into a panic. It just seemed like a HUGE amount of work, change, and uproar was impending, and I kind of shut down.

A little wine on the deck helped me feel better, too.

Anita (bless her) kept talking me through it, and I began to realize that I can do things in stages, that I actually don’t have all THAT much furniture in the Bobcat Lair, and that I even have a place to store things like my books and such. And all the boxes I still haven’t unpacked (though there aren’t all that many now!!).

Plus, I plan to rent an apartment near my work, so I can easily figure out what things go where, move them, then get the rest moved to Cameron (except for what’s needed to stage the house). I’m just trying to breathe as I think of more things that need to be done, like electrical work to fix outlets that stopped working…but it’s not too much.

I just have to face it; I’m who I am, and I’m going to have trouble with changing things when it comes to my home, because having my own place grounds me. I’m still a fine person!

Ernesto apparently agreed with my coping strategy. Photo by  @juleslang via Twenty20.

I’m Not Alone

Speaking of my issues, which I am, I had an odd experience last night watching the PBS show on Ernest Hemingway. Now, he’s not someone I ever would have thought I had anything in common with, other than being fond of short sentences (he was way better at actually writing them, though). As I learned how he grew up, the experiences he had with his family, and how he coped later, I was really surprised to see how we have a LOT in common when it comes to our inner demons and how we deal with them.

One part of the show, in particular, hit me hard. He was talking about how happy he was when he had both his wife and another woman he was also in love with. He said it made him inexplicably content, even if he knew it was hurtful. And then he talked about how, in his relationships, he always made sure to have another love interest all lined up before he left someone. Ouch. Those were my destructive patterns in my younger days.

Hemingway statue in Cuba that apparently chokes people up.  @prezioso02 via Twenty20.

I’m really glad I didn’t live such a public life as Hemingway did, because reading all the criticism of my life, like he had to, would have been really uncomfortable. I’m glad I just got to judge myself harshly without too much help from others (except former partners).

I don’t think Hemingway was able to get much control over his demons, much like his father, who committed suicide when he couldn’t get a handle on his mental struggles. He knew perfectly well what his problems were, which is clear from his books, but knowing what his challenges were didn’t mean he could fix them, any more than I can help my issues with moving.

I’m glad I had help, good reading, and inner work that has gotten me out of destructive patterns, at least with romantic and friendship relationships. I’ll be interested in watching the rest of this series and getting more insight into this fascinating writer and historical figure.

What a good thing that we happened to watch this interesting Ken Burns documentary right after I was beating myself up for repeating patterns from my youth (I know perfectly well that I hate to move house because leaving my beloved home as a teenager was so hard on me). It gives me perspective to cut myself some slack and bear in mind that some of our personality “features” are deeply ingrained, just like those unconscious biases.

We can only do the best we can and keep making an effort to improve. Thank goodness I’m a lifelong learner and never plan to stop enjoying the challenges of living up to my best intentions. Let’s all keep open to ways to learn more about ourselves and others, and be patient with ourselves.

That’s my lecture for today. Take what works for you and leave the rest!

A Note from a Friend

After reading my blog (with all the typos I just fixed), my friend Kelli Martin Brew responded to echo my thoughts. I really got a lot from what she said, so I’m happy she allowed me to share her thoughts with you:

I love this. The longer I live, the more it seems clear that a lot of who we are and what we do is hardwired. But how I have wanted to believe that knowing something was the same as changing it! At this stage in life, I think we can use this hard-won knowledge to be more merciful – and to be honest about our own struggles and behavior. I grew up with a huge mandate to “be a good example.” At this point in life, I have contented myself with being just an honest “example” of… something. Whether it is deemed “good” or not will be decided sometime in the future, if at all.

Kelli, Facebook, April 6, 2121

I really treasure connections that allow us to share our inner thoughts, struggles, and learnings. I plan to be an example, too!

Should I Step Off a Cliff?

Of course, I mean a metaphorical cliff. Something’s been mulling around in my brain for the past few weeks. It would entail a change in what I do in my work, but not leaving my job(s) or anything.

Thinking about that metaphorical leap. Photo by @alexrhymethat

They always say to follow your passion, and my passion is not necessarily technical writing. It’s more like enabling people to do their best work possible (which is, indeed, what I do, or try to). I have an idea where I could do more of that in my so-called career.

Inspired by reading so many darned books about envisioning what you want and then making it happen, I’ve actually scheduled to talk about my ideas with someone who could help me out. That’s like jumping off a cliff, for me. I don’t do it often, though the last time I did, it worked, and it led me where I am today.

My gut tells me I only have a few more years left in the standard workplace, and I want to figure out how I can make the most of them. So, I am putting my intention out there and acting on it, as well.

Leap of faith time! Image by @jryoung via Twenty20.

Good thoughts are welcome! Share your success stories, while you’re at it!

All that Change Embracing Gets Tedious

This is a time of upheaval, and I’m really glad I spent my whole life up to now preparing for lots of stress and lots of change. I think if the past year had happened with my coping skills back when I was 20-something, I’d be curled up in a ball every single day. So, if you are that way now, don’t beat yourself up over it.

Such a happy gal

This week I have three meetings for three different organization, and of course I’m the secretary of all but one (that means I have to pay attention). Plus, there have been lots of shakeups and changes at my Austin job. Hard ones, some of them. But, I was doing well today, having finally gotten the temperature in my office under control, my webcam set right, and a fine ambiance. I even took a cheerful photo of myself to use on some PowerPoint for a work project.

Suddenly, I got a message that I have to be out of the office for two weeks, to be sure we’re all safe and following instructions from the state. I was like, “Right now?” Yep. Thank goodness I could finish the meeting I was in! So, I untangled all my cords and wires and brought all the things I needed over to my office at the Hermits’ Rest, which I’d been avoiding using for work, due to barking dogs and such.

I appear to be frazzled at the ole home office. And I appear to have developed a lazy eye in my old age.

Lee brought my office chair, so I don’t have to sit in a dining chair! Once you get things all set up for a modern “work from home” situation, you don’t realize how much stuff is involved. I had to move my fancy work headphones, my HD webcam, my ergonomic mouse, and my cute keyboard. Oh yes, and all the power cords and USB attachments for all of them. Good thing I have a lot of USB plugs. We did have to go back and get things I forgot, but now I’m set.

That’s my view. I guess it will make me concentrate more on work.

I got everything plugged in and working, though it’s not pretty. The desk is pretty (solid labradorite), but it’s pretty much all cords.

Well, I have no choice but to embrace this change and find the good parts.

  • Working in my office/den will encourage me to clean up some clutter that’s showed up here (I did clean up the air bed leftover from our last guest).
  • I have a really nice bathroom with birds all over it.
  • I have usually well behaved dogs lying around and sighing.
  • I brought all my pens, so I can write in color!
  • I get to look out a window and see birds and trees.
  • I can go feed my horses this afternoon with plenty of time to come back for my evening meeting, rather than having to drive back and forth to the office.

Um, and the commute is shorter! I will welcome more snow!

Oh, really, this is just a little glitch, and it will all be just fine. I’ll deal with it, I’ll deal with whatever comes up at work, I’ll deal with challenges my friends are facing, and I’ll do my best to remain positive about how next week will go, government-wise.

I know I’m supposed to embrace change! Honest! But, we are allowed to get a little annoyed, for a little while, before moving on and getting things done, doing the needful, etc. Keep me in your thoughts, and I promise to do the same!

Roll with the Changes (like a tumbleweed)

True fact: every time you figure out a way to lessen one type of stress, another one comes up. Ha ha, life, you are SO FUNNY!

I had gotten a handle on some of my worries about the greater angst in the planet, which has helped me see our political stuff a different way (thanks to the mushroom book). And reading Caste gave me concrete ideas for working to make relationships among Americans better, so that wasn’t upsetting me as much. I even grappled myself into a place where I can deal with the changes at work in a positive and productive way. So proud of my own self.

But, no, I did not dwell in my feelings of equanimity for long at all.

Like I said not long ago, it’s always something. Image by @LittleIvan via Twenty20

The details are not important, just know they involve a not insignificant collection of sad animal tales and sickly family member tales (not just me; by the way I feel better).

BOOM. I got knocked right down and feel like a tumbleweed rolling down a hill in a rainstorm. Not a lot of control. But then, you NEVER have a lot of control, do you? I have to hand it to life, it doesn’t take it long at all to remind you of lessons you should not be forgetting.

Some of them there tumbleweeds are BIG, too. Image by @Dari via Twenty20

There are challenges out there and they aren’t gonna stop. That’s always been true, even if right now seems like they’ve sped up, like an old 78 RPM record or something. Round and round and round, zoom!

While there will always be challenges, there will ALSO always be ways to deal with them! And I know what those are, because I’m prepared!

Where I will imagine I am. Image by @Barefoot_Traveller via Twenty20

I shall:

  • Deal with one day and one challenge at a time
  • Not worry about what’s next or what just happened
  • Breathe deeply and get to my familiar place of comfort/ease
  • Light a candle and stare at it for a while
  • Read a book on a non-sad topic (I’m looking at YOU, book on the color blue!)
  • Pet a small animal (hi Pickle, since Vlassic is staying with Jim, ’cause it’s cold)
  • Go on a brisk walk (guaranteed brisk, due to aforementioned weather)
  • Send out loving-kindness to all my friends and families dealing with similar crap as mine

So, I hope you can do some of these things with me! Peace to you.

My Brain-o-meter Is Reading FULL

Usually, I enjoy taking a blogging break each day, because it gives me a chance to stop thinking about work and stuff, and instead focus on fun or fascinating (to me) things. This week, my mind has been so full of other things that there’s just no room for fun. Well, maybe there’s a LITTLE room…

I’m still working on decorating the office, just figuring out what works and what doesn’t. While I’m waiting for my plant stand to arrive, I’m enjoying my plant corner a lot using the old table that’s been hanging around for years.

They’re all getting plenty of light, even with the window down here. I sort of like it this way.

The big change for today is that Chris put up a piece of plywood in my window that looks out into the hall, to dampen the sounds of me in my office, and I assume also to keep noise from coming IN, as well. It’s just temporary, I think, until the actual piece of glass comes. I’m sure the gaudy vase of flowers makes the plywood practically blend in with the surroundings. Sure, Suna.

You can also see my Mercury glass candle holders and a vase I got to go on the glass shelves, when they arrive.

I had a bunch of candles that were just sitting on the shelves, so I got some inexpensive candle holders for them, such as the shiny silver ones above and these extra pink ones for the mantel. They aren’t fancy heirlooms, but they are cheery, and will look good lit up (too bad I still haven’t managed to sneak into an uncrowded store and buy more AA batteries).

They set off the garlic teapot nicely, so I say.

Apparently, shiny things and lights help keep my mood up, and right now, I’ll take all I can get! If they distract me from work challenges, political grumblings, and natural disasters, they’re worth the time, effort and expense. I feel lucky to be able to make myself a haven here at the Pope Residence, and I’ll work really hard not to interfere with the work everyone else is doing, in return.

The other great improvement of the day is my keyboard and mouse tray. Typing is a joy, and I’m glad Chris figured out a good way to attach it to the desk!

When stress is high and change is swirling all around, little things can really bug us, am I right? The little thing that bugged me was that the inexpensive toilet paper holder I’d gotten for my bathroom had turned out to not hold those giant rolls of Charmin that I love. The horror! It was also so lightweight that it tried to fall over every time I touched it. That just would NOT do.

Sturdy and thematic.
Shiny, shiny!

This new one is made of iron pipe and has nothing to restrict the size of the spare roll. Rustic romantic, fits the theme! My bathroom is complete. Hooray. I’ll donate the other one to the thrift shop next time I go over there.

So it’s time to go think about hard stuff again. I’ll be keeping a part of my mind on everyone in the path of hurricanes and tropical storms today. I do hope we can get enough rain to have an effect on the grass from it. The little bit that showed up last night didn’t help much at all!

May you all find something shiny to smile about, and that there’s a little extra space in YOUR brain-o-meter for fun.

Accepting Change Is Not My Best Skill

Let’s see. What I’m trying to say here is that I have a hard time maintaining a poker face when my world takes a sudden shift, and I have an equally hard time rapidly processing sudden changes when I’m told about them. This isn’t a problem if I’m reading about something, all alone in my home or office. I have time to think about what’s going on, mull over the implications, push aside my knee-jerk reactions, and figure out what good spin I can put on it.

Message to self. Photo by @kristi_shlimovich via Twenty20.

In person, though, it’s hard. I’m guessing it’s hard for most people, to be honest. When your adrenaline starts running like crazy and you go into survival mode, your higher brain functions get sacrificed (it’s one of the things I learned in the Behave book I read a while back). The best I can do at these times is nod and plaster a smile on my face.

My brain trying to process a lot of new information at once. Image by @mylove4art via Twenty20.

For instance, yesterday in a work meeting, some changes were announced to our leadership team. Now, we knew something was coming, and probably most of us had an inkling of the kind of thing it was. But, with little prelude, we were shown a chart with all sorts of people, positions, and roles on it, many of whom we weren’t familiar with. The boss asked, “Do you understand this?” The other two colleagues, who are way better at office politics than me, nodded. I shook my head. Well, I didn’t understand it!

I’m the only one who asked for clarification, to help me process the shit ton of information I was supposed to internalize and grasp in 30 seconds. I did ask a few questions, to help me understand what was going on, since I will have to explain it to the people currently on my team. I’m guessing I was supposed to just say, “Okay,” and figure things out as I go along. But, I probably looked confused/annoyed and came across as a grumpy person who hates change.

I don’t hate change. Things change all the time. I simply find it easier to process with some context, reassurance that the sky is not falling, and some explanations of the rationale behind them. So, I didn’t get that, this time. That got me thinking.

If I have this kind of trouble, I should probably think about this experience next time I have to change something significant, change a process, etc. I think I do. I feel like I owe it to my team to provide context and rationale, rather than just say, “Here’s how it is now.” It’s not going to change the fact that a change is made, but it might help make it more palatable, gain buy-in on the new ideas or processes, and earn the trust of those I work with.

So many gears. No wonder I’m confused. Image by @rohane via Twenty20.

There’s a whole field of change management. I know it involves getting buy-in, setting expectations, and building up to the change. Maybe I’ll go study that some more and try not to do to others what was done to me. I had nightmares about having to implement something I didn’t know anything about!

Poor rigid Suna, ha ha. It’s just another effing growth opportunity, right?

Why Is the Anticipation Always Worse than the Actual Thing?

Nightmares suck.

That’s today’s question. I’ve spent the entire weekend stewing about stuff at my job. It has given me nightmares (hey, a change from pandemic nightmares!), made my stomach upset, made me cranky, and generally took away from enjoying the family and holiday. Plus, there is a situation at the OTHER job that’s making us all cranky, and no one’s enjoying the thought of the hard conversations it’s going to require.

I guess I need a pep talk. This is me giving myself a pep talk. You don’t have to read it.

You’d think I’d do better. I’ve lived long enough to know perfectly well that usually anticipating big changes, hard conversations, transitions, and the like is worse than actually DOING the dreaded thing. But, my body is not listening to my mind one bit. My mind keeps saying, “Be a big girl, you’ll be fine and all will work out,” and my favorite, “When one door closes another door opens.”

Bodies make it hard to fake it until you make it sometimes, when they keep showing stuff.

My body says, “Here’s another fun nightmare to remind you how you REALLY feel,” and “Have some chest pains, why don’t you?”

I need to be there listening and being there for my colleagues in both my jobs, not wallowing around in my own self-pity and irritation at how things are. That’s easier said than done, when I’m sitting alone in my office, which happens to smell awful thanks to the kitchen drain pipes. (This coming after sleeping right next to Penney the Skunky Dog.) And it’s not helping that you can’t have any hugs, in-person private talks, or happy hours to let off some steam.

Hooray for people I work with!

Support helps, and no doubt my colleagues and I will help each other get through yet another round of challenges at both my workplaces. When you have to do a hard thing, it’s better with the help of others. You can remind each other that usually people think they’re doing the right thing and want the best for each other (even corporate executives?).

At least I’m not having to have a hard conversation with one other person, which happened with me and a family member last week. You have no backup in those cases! But of course, the anticipation was worse than the actual conversation. We all need to remember that mistakes and misunderstandings happen all the time, but having a foundation of trust and a belief that all parties are trying to do the right thing makes a really big difference.

And at least I have one dog who only stinks a LITTLE.

Assume good intent. That’s one of my biggest rules for life. This week, I am going to have to test that out many times. Sending YOU all my best!

Rolling with the Changes

Change. I guess most of us are dealing as best as we can with all the changes to our daily routines. Nobody doing the UU Lent challenge will have any trouble with this as a prompt.

My friend Sara posted this message. A good one.

I’ve been trying to put things into perspective. There are always changes and challenges, big and small. My generation is lucky to not have been hit by something that requires sacrifice in a long time. But we managed 911 and the threat of atomic bombs and so on. If we stick together, we’ll handle the virus crisis.

Instagram of today.

I’m very glad for the perspective on change that my I’ll-timed trip has given me. It’s let me see that even from one week to the next, our planet changes. On the way out, the trees were bare and only white trees and red maples were blooming.

Still some beautiful white trees are in bloom.

Now, it’s a riot of colors. There is yellow jessamine throughout the trees, oaks and elms are going crazy, and the beautiful red bud trees say hello through the diverse woodlands we are driving through. Every week the show changes, and soon enough autumn colors will arrive.

More red buds.

I think this is why it’s so good to go out in nature, especially now. You can see the big picture and remember you and your problems aren’t the center of the Universe.

Not a bad view. We’re rolling along in the Mobile Social Isolation Unit!

I haven’t had too much to write about for a while, but I know there will be lots of changes to come once we get home. I can’t wait to see the progress on our offices, assuming that’s still going on. And then I hope to share more about our next project. Life will go on, even though I’ll be confined to home and the office.

This fills my heart with peace.

Roll with those changes, friends.

Crisis of Faith…or Denomination

FIRST: To all my long-time church friends. Don’t panic. You are still my friends and will always be. And to the current and former ministers at the church I’ve been a member of, it’s not you. You have my deepest respect and admiration.

That said, in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about my membership in an organized religion for the past twenty-something years. It’s clear to me that I did it for reasons that had nothing to do with the institution itself: I just wanted to meet some people with values similar to mine and to have a chance to sing with others.

Thank goodness I did yoga today.

I had not made friends in my neighborhood (only ever made a few), and my work was online, so I couldn’t make work friends. A church seemed like a good idea, and a church that would accept me as I am and give my children a foundation from which to create their spiritual paths.

I joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation, where I made some wonderful friends and enjoyed a close-knit community for many years. When the church changed focus from building community to growth, I still had my friends and the music we performed to serve my needs. I also enjoyed women’s conferences and other activities.

I enjoyed the traditions and rituals in the weekly services, too, and I learned a lot from the sermons. I also liked how sermons seemed educational and disagreement was welcomed. I didn’t feel like I was being told to toe some denominational line or being put down for having a different perspective. That was good.

Change is inevitable

People change and institutions change. There were a couple of upheavals in the church, but we got through them. I was really surprised at how much I grew personally from these challenges. I handled change! Scary change!

Change is scary! It’s often good! It can be hard.

But some of the change I’ve seen in the church and its parent denomination have made me feel less and less comfortable. And for that reason, I don’t think I want to be a UU anymore.

Lack of forgiveness: Leaders in the church keep getting removed from positions for mistakes that seem totally human to me. Someone said something “politically incorrect,” or they made a mistake when they were younger and less wise, or in some way they just weren’t living up to expectations of “wokeness.”

Rather than working with people to make amends; allowing them to learn from mistakes, apologize, and move forward; or look into how an error occurred and not do it again…people just get forced to leave. And people get shunned for not being perfect.

It’s the “me-too” movement taken to other areas. If you screw up and someone points it out, you should go into your corner or cave and stay there.

Intolerance: More and more, I see denomination and church members conveying an intolerant attitude towards people who have a different point of view, a different perspective, or unique experiences that might lead to conclusions that are different from what’s being promoted by the leadership. That reminds me way too much of the kinds of spiritual communities I’ve avoided my whole life (prescriptive, more uniform traditions are fine if that is what makes you comfortable; it’s just not for me). I see lip service for supporting diversity of thought and expression, but in practice I see a LOT of pressure to conform to whatever’s currently en vogue.

[Unpopular aside alert: It sometimes even seems that, if you are white and straight, you start out with so much negative baggage and un-earned privileges that nothing you say or do will make your input worth including. Wow. Even if I think I believe in reincarnation, I don’t think I chose to be a white straight woman (European-American cis-gender I mean). I was just born this way. I might actually care about people who aren’t like me and want to help make the world a safer and more welcoming place for them.]

Ageism: And this one’s the straw that breaks this old camel’s back. I know it is very important to mainstream denominations in the US to attract youth and young families. They don’t want to die! (I understand that from the first-hand experience with the church we bought because there were no new people joining the congregation.)

I also enthusiastically embrace the inclusion of new perspectives, new voices, and new energy into all institutions. They bring welcome change and help us see where we’re bogged down from always looking at our communities and institutions in the same way. Like I said yesterday, I learn so much from people who are growing up today.

But, both the larger UU Association and the church I have been associated with have been (both subtly and occasionally overtly) pushing aside or putting down input from older church members. And I’m not just talking about recent events. I once said a program didn’t really meet the needs of me and my friends, and I was told that well, the church isn’t looking to please the long-time members.

Individuals have also given me an uncomfortable feeling about being my age in the church. My generations experiences with racism, sexism, homophobia and other issues are put aside as no longer relevant. That’s really hurtful, especially when I consider how much I learned from feminists and equal-rights activists of the generation before me!

A fond (I mean it) farewell

I’d been thinking of starting a satellite church in Cameron, but I really don’t think the lack of acceptance of people who think differently would go over well there.

I mean it.

So, I think I’ll go back to being a solo practitioner of my own brand of crazy pacifist/neo-pagan/Buddhist/gnostic mish-mash and leave institutional religion to people for whom it works. At this stage in my life, I want to focus on areas where my input is appreciated, my propensity to make mistakes tolerated, and my imperfect ways of supporting and allying with others are welcomed.

I’m just going through a phase where I’m tired of having to prove I’m good enough to be in the same room with UUs. I still support people who get their needs met by UUism or other such things. I’m just outa here.


PS: I’m not wanting to be convinced my perceptions are wrong or to be told not to feel how I feel. I get to have my feelings. That said, you get to have YOURS, too, and you are welcome to share them. I also get to perceive events the way I perceive them; yours may differ. I won’t judge you.