About Me

My photo
...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Morning Coffee

Pandora rushes in, plops her purse on the file cabinet, takes one look at the pile of work on her desk and decides a cup of coffee is in order. As she heads to the end of the claims department she sees Gunther round the corner and stride in alongside her.

Gunther:  All hail Pandora! Princess of Property Procurement!

Pandora:  Don't offend me with that tripe.

Gunther:  My, aren't you grand and glorious this morning.

Pandora:  (shoots him a stabbing side glance)

Gunther:  Woo hoo... feeling feisty are we?

Pandora:  I need coffee.

Gunther:  Funny (holds up his coffee cup) I'm in need of the same thing. Although, this would be glass number three for me.

Pandora:  Ever hear of high blood pressure, Gunther?

Gunther:  Pfft... You don't come in until 8. I'm here at 6, I'm entitled to a bit more of the juice.

Pandora:  Huh.

Gunther:  Whatever happened to this mythical 9 to 5 job anyway? I've never once seen that schedule anywhere?

Pandora:  It's a lie. ...just like the American Dream. I don't recall dreaming myself into the cubicle.

Gunther:  Ah... We'll all be in cubicles when it's all said and done. Just another brick in the wall, Pandora, another brick in the wall.

(they step out of the elevator and head down the hall to the cafeteria)

Gunther:  Speaking of bricks, I had a dream last night that I was in Egypt. God how I hope that one never comes true!

Pandora:  Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's no Moses for Germans trapped in Egypt.

Gunther:  Pfft... Say what you want, but I'm serious. Reyna wants us to go to Egypt. I told her that's all fine and dandy except for the fact that she can throw on a head scarf and look like a local. Even if I grow a beard and throw on a turban I'd just look like a dumb American asshole mocking them.

Pandora:  (debating herself over non-fat milk or half-n-half for her coffee) Well, no need to bother with the beard, Gunther, they'd probably kill you just for breathing.

Gunther:  No shit. The last thing on Earth I'd wanna do is take a wrong turn and wind up in one of those massive Death To America rallies they seemingly hold on a daily basis.

Pandora:  (pours the half-n-half into her coffee and reaches for a sugar packet) Yeah, Egypt isn't on my to-do list either. It's too bad, really. It's a cool place, but I kinda wrote it off back in the 80s with that whole American tourists trapped by terrorists while checking out one of the pyramids thing.

Gunther:  (sips his black coffee) I would go to crazy third world countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Peru... but... muslim countries scare the shit out of me! Those are places where they cut off "infidels" heads so the local kids can play soccer! Oh yeah! Sign me up for THAT ONE! (takes another sip of his coffee while he falls in line behind Pandora at the register) What is Reyna thinking? I mean, she means well, but she sometimes forgets the whole "brown" factor.

Pandora:  (hands the cashier 81 cents for the coffee) ...brown factor?

Gunther:  (throws a dollar on the counter and says he doesn't need change) Yeah, brown factor. She forgets that I'm not brown. She can go places I can't.

Pandora:  (rolls her eyes and starts walking back to the elevator)

Gunther:  Oh come on! Don't roll your eyes at me. How do you think you'd fair in Egypt? ...a girl like you... I read that they can be very harassing to American women, especially ones that look like you. ...sometimes even grabbing them as they walk by.

Pandora:  (swallows her sip of coffee as they enter the elevator) Really? You read that somewhere? Sounds like any city in America to me.

Gunther:  Come on, be serious Pandora. This is a serious question.

Pandora:  I am being serious. I was at the Mini Mart on the corner of College Ave. and University when a dude decided to walk by and grab my ass while I paid for my water. That wasn't Egypt, my man, that was right in here in The Valley Of The Equal Opportunity Sun.

Gunther:  Well, still, a woman like you in Egypt? Nothing good could possibly come of it. One look at that crazy hair on your head and you'd be a target for disaster.

Pandora:  Potential disaster strikes every morning, Gunther, the minute a German guy decides to walk with me down the hall for coffee and starts talking about dreams he had the night before. (the elevator doors open) Thankfully, this one had to do with bricks and brown factors.

Gunther:  Aw... come on now. I'm just keeping it real for your left-wing politics.

Pandora:  I'm not left-wing, Gunther.

Gunther:  Well, you're too soft to be right-wing.

Pandora:  I'm undefined.

Gunther:  Hippie.

Pandora:  (shoots another stabbing side glance and sips her coffee) Well, thanks for the company and conversation, Gunther. I'm off.

Gunther:  Make sure they roll out the red carpet, your Highness.

Pandora:  (waves behind her and keeps on walking as she thinks, "Do yourself a favor Pandora, don't forget to bring coffee from home tomorrow.")

Coffee Globe Source

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

She Goes Again...

Before he married again, she was lucky if she got a phone call once a month, let alone see him. He seemed happy and carefree, trouncing around the country a free man -- going where ever he wanted and doing whatever he wanted, and she was an afterthought. For me, this was to be expected of him; it seemed consistent with the character I married, but... though it's sometimes hard for me to believe, and perhaps even accept, something shifted for him.

He married two years ago, and about a month before his wedding he called me and apologized for things he had done. I distinctly remember sitting in the dark on my patio and suddenly his voice softened as he stuttered and stammered his way through a bunch of "uhs" and "ums" and a few sighs before announcing he had something he'd been wanting to say for a while. After a couple more inhales and exhales, he listed off a series of deeds and words that he should've apologized for years before that. Of course, I doubt I would've been ready to hear it "years ago" since even my reaction at that time was one of polite misgiving (he'd done a fine job of training me to always wonder what his manipulative ploy was this time...).

About six months into his new marriage, he drove out here to pick her up and take her camping for the weekend. She had told him on the phone a few days prior that her bike was broken and mommy didn't know how to fix it. He came to the door with his tool box and took time to fix her bike. She was so excited, she begged for time to ride it before they left. So she hopped on and rode around as we stood there and watched. Out of nowhere he looked at me and said, "You really have done a wonderful job with our daughter." And just as the moment of disbelief and distrust stirred within me, he followed it up with, "I mean it. I know I haven't said it to you before, but she's so smart and she's so talented and she's so well behaved and I know I haven't had anything to do with that. It's all you and I want you to know that I know that." I was dumbfounded and struggled not to cry because I really wanted to believe he was sincere, but all the nightmare that had passed between us was still a bit too much to let go. And now it's summer, and by this time Thursday night she will be well on her way to spend it with him. And all of this is on my mind right now because something different happened tonight.

For the first time in all these years, while she was talking on the phone with him tonight, she sounded completely at peace and truly excited to go out and be with him. This is significant to me because it quite possibly means we've reached some kind of fabulous turning point; because for the past two years, since his new marriage, we've struggled to help her adjust to the changes; because I'm starting to believe that if his apology was a "manipulative ploy" at all, it was because he knew this would be difficult for her and he knew he would need my help. And there have been some terrible moments between the two of them and his new family. And I am no saint. Believe me, I've had no trouble being Mama Bear when I've felt she's been treated unfairly, but even at that, I have to admit that he's handled those moments with a humble patience that he never had in the past. And there've been countless goodbyes at the airport with her clinging to my legs, crying and sobbing and begging me not to make her go, while I stop my own heart from bleeding as I don a smile, look her in the eye, tell her all will be well and to have fun. But not this time.

This time was different. There were no headaches and random stomach aches brought about by dread and fear. There were no tears and no cries for me to keep her here. This time there was simply a smiling face accented with smiling eyes and a touch of excitement in her voice. This time she hugged me and told me how much she loved me and off to sleep she went.

So now I sit here, a sense of awestruck relief surrounding me. Maybe this time I won't get crying phone calls while I'm sitting at work. Maybe this time I won't have to lie awake at night and wonder if she's okay because she will be. Maybe this time I won't have to play the buffer. And maybe this time all I'll have to do is relax and miss her.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stress Relief and Pigeon Droppings

Over the past two weeks everything in all of the above ventured outside of my control. The challenge was high, the pressure was on, and by Sunday afternoon I completely broke. I spent some time lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling the stir of anxiety run from my stomach to my head until tears started to fall. I finally pulled myself together, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool listening to the local frat boys come up short on their attempt to wax philosophical after a few too many Paps Blue Ribbons (I didn't even know people actually drank that).

Having let the sun burn away the remainder of my tension, I fell asleep that night only to have one of the strangest dreams I've had in a while. I found myself standing beneath the shade of a giant tree. There were two hippies on either side of me, one man and one woman. I looked over at the woman with her arms outstretched as she said in a lilting voice, "Oh... look at all the beautiful birds in the tree! Aren't they lovely?" I looked over at the man who was also standing, arms outstretched, saying, "They're like a bunch of glorious angels!" But when I looked up, all I saw was a tree full of pigeons. And not only that, they were pooping on everything. The branches, the leaves, and the trunk of the tree were covered in pigeon poop. So I looked at the man and said, "Glorious? They're pigeons. There's nothing glorious about pigeons." The woman looked at me and said, "Just look at them!" And the man said, "They've made the tree white with their glory!" So I said, "They're pigeons, man! And the tree is white because of their shit! They're shitting on everything!" At which point droppings started to fall like rain, landing all over me and the two hippies. I stepped away from the two crazies and found myself walking down a street wondering how two people could be so caught up in a tree full of pigeons they didn't notice all of the crap that was falling on them.

When I woke the next morning, I woke with the intention to let all things outside of my control go. I woke telling myself that I'm only human, that I have my limitations, and that personal and professional boundaries are healthy. And because I claim to be a follower of God (as unorthodox as I may be at times), I reminded myself that walking with God means allowing God to work out the kinks in the system because, for whatever reason, He actually likes doing that for me. So I went about my day consciously making an effort to let one worry go after another until finally my stress levels fell to a normal and manageable state. And as this happened, that stupid dream above popped into the forefront of my mind.

I don't profess to be a dream analyst of any kind, but dreams, at least to this English Major, are like poems: symbols and metaphors just waiting for me to piece together into some sort of meaning (because, if for no other reason, it's fun). Given the circumstances of reality in the days prior, my subconscious was simply having a heyday and the dream actually makes perfect sense. The tree in any circumstance often symbolizes life and life forces, holding its own natural abilities with roots that draw nourishment for itself and allow it to grow and flourish, providing food and shade and life giving oxygen for others. Hippies are characterized by their diversion from "the norm." Pigeons denote a sort of gullibility, if you will; winged as they may be, glorious like eagles they are not. And their droppings... well... let's just call it "wasted production."

If all of these symbols that my subconscious so creatively put together are reflections of myself, then here is what we have. The tree represents all of the talents, skills, and natural abilities I would use to provide for myself and all who sit within the shade of my professional and social circle. The hippies represent my desire to divert from "the norm," which in this society, at least from my perspective, is often mediocrity. I'm always looking to exceed anyone's expectations and take pride in the fact that I often do. But the fact that the hippies have deceived themselves into thinking a tree full of pigeons is something glorious to behold, even as they're being shat upon, is where my ego gets put into check.

You see, in the days prior to this stupid dream, I had allowed myself to get all worked up and wound up tight over things that were ultimately not my issue. I had convinced myself that it was my job to pick up someone else's slack, that I was good enough to do exactly that, and if I didn't it would be a reflection on my performance. In my own perfectionist overly meticulous mind I bore a burden that didn't need be carried. I stayed up late working when I didn't need to, expended energy to the point of exhaustion, and at the end of it all the stress I created for myself leaked out into areas of my life where it didn't belong, affected people it didn't need to affect, and, given the fact that I still had to face "the problem" Monday morning, it equated to little more than mediocrity and wasted production, otherwise known as pigeon shit.

I am, by nature, an overachiever. And though I may not apply perfectionism to mundane tasks like laundry and dishes, I do apply it to those aspects of my life where I believe it truly counts: motherhood (because I only have one shot to nearly get it right), my job (because it pays me), writing (because I love it and people read it), and music (because I love it and people are listening). Obviously, as my subconscious so adeptly pointed out, I need to always remember that sometimes I seriously need to let go and let God. I need to remember that if I want this tree called my life to successfully flourish, I need to root myself in faith and trust, I need to stop and breathe, and I need to nourish myself with those things that feed my soul. Only then will my branches stretch farther into the sky and possibly house something glorious like an eagle or two, as opposed to besmirching myself with a flock of pooping pigeons.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Exorcising The Specter

I've been in a funk lately. If you "follow" my blog (as if I give you much to follow) you may have figured that already. It doesn't take much to know that long silences from me usually indicate some kind of funk.

This one, I'd have to say, is a bit different. It's based more on some stupid sort of introspection than an external circumstance like potentially leaving my cat in a place called "impending doom."

No, this one has more to do with what actually keeps me from writing -- and not just my blog.

This one I've pondered for quite some time now, and over the past couple of weeks I've engaged in some conversation over it with a couple of friends: one being an artist and the other a musician. We're all in our thirties, and the one sentiment we share at this moment in our lives is a sense of melancholy over what seems to be a loss in our ability to create; the reason being, "life" has set in.

You see, I highly doubt there is a single person on the planet that said, sometime in their childhood, that when they grow up they want to serve as a worker bee in a hive called a cubicle (and I apologize right now to the potential person who did believe pushing paper in a cubicle was the highlight of their existence). I know that the life I'm living right now and the career I've found myself in is far from what I dreamed of doing. And it isn't that I disrespect my company, my current career, or the income that I'm given for the expertise I provide to others (I'm actually very grateful), it's simply that... there's a lot more to me than using my skill and my wit for another's gain (even if I am good at it and they pay me well for it).

I've had many dreams along the way (some silly, like the little girl who watched one too many John Wayne movies with her mother only to dream of becoming a cow girl who'd ride horses and shoot down bandits with the rest of the sharp shooting sheriffs) but only one truly remains -- I want to write for a living.

I want to tell stories that make people laugh and cry. I want to move people, to inspire them to get up and see potential in their lives simply because I wrote the right words in the right sentence structure about the right character at the right time that reminded them of themselves or someone they knew. I want to wake up in the morning and know that I'm using my mind and all of my talents in a way that people will never forget. And I'm not looking for fame or fortune. I am, much like William Blake, simply longing to write to the audience that is meant to find me, to hear me, and to take the creation of my imagination and make something of it for themselves. And somehow that seems elaborate and sappy all at the same time, doesn't it? But it's true. The unfortunate thing is, I'm completely wrapped up in this thing called "life."

The reality of it all is that I'm thirty-four. I have this crazy education in 19th Century American Literature that I'm not even using. I gave up the dream of a PhD so I could actually have a real job and make "money" and live a somewhat comfortable life with the little girl that I've been raising on my own for the past nine years. I worry about stupid things like FICO scores, credit lines, student loans, the electric bill, the phone bill, the cable bill, the car payment, fuel for the car, maintenance for the car, the rent, food in the fridge, clothes, daycare, getting my daughter to soccer or softball or basketball or volley ball or where the hell ever she needs to go next, college funds, retirement funds (or the lack thereof), helping with homework, did I say that right, did I do that right, the dishes, the laundry, cleaning the house, what I'm going to wear tomorrow and whether or not I look fat in it. And all of this is what sends me to a cubicle in the morning so I can sit and give 100% of everything I've got, intellectually or otherwise, to make someone else a dollar and be thankful when I get some in return. And when it's all over, I find myself sitting here staring at a blank page wondering why I lack the energy, or the creativity, to write.

This is what William Blake would call The Specter: the ghost, the demon in my mind that interferes with my ability to see clearly. So how do I get past that? How do I exorcise this demon that comes in dollars and cents from my mind so I may free myself from the chains that bind me? How do I stop caring about all of these things that seem so pertinent long enough to convince myself that I have enough energy left to sit here and write and try to become that person I dream of being?

I really have no answer. I could preach to you right and left and know there's a possibility that tomorrow will come and I may not write for three more months. The only thing that really sticks with me at this moment are the words one of my friends said to me. He said, after reading some of my past posts, that he admires how much creativity and imagination I've been able to hold onto. He recognizes that though a specter may toy with me, it hasn't successfully blinded me as of yet. He believes that the dream I have is tangible and realistic. He believes that if I can muster up the energy to try I will achieve it. And though the sands of time may be slipping through my fingers, the vision of what I have left indicated to me that he's right; I still have a chance to get there, but only... ONLY if I discipline myself enough to do so (one can't exorcise a specter if they lie dormant and let it rule). And if I polish the few rough chapters that I have, if I complete my novel and submit it for publication only to find myself denied and denied and denied, at least I can lie on my death bed and say that I lived my life fully, that I used what I believed were my true talents, and that I gave it everything I've got.

So then, here's to exorcising The Specter. And here's to the artist and the musician who suffer from the same specter as I. And here's to you, because I know you're in the same damn boat and, as cliche would tell us, it's time to sink or swim.