autumn flotsam
Each week I share Rob Brezsny’s weekly astrology report for our signs with a friend of mine. Mine for this coming week is:

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Here’s your assignment: Get more organized and purposeful about having fun. Think harder about what makes you feel good, and plan more aggressively to bring those feel-good experiences into your life. In offering these prescriptions, I’m not advocating irresponsible hedonism. Not at all. In my view, you will become a better servant of those you care about by boosting your commitment to pleasure. You will carry out your duties with more aplomb and effectiveness. Raising your joy quotient is actually a formula for becoming a better human being.

I’m not in a very good place, right now, although it varies greatly from moment to moment. My own vacillation is driving me a little nuts. Or a lot. I guess it depends mostly upon who’s looking… or when. ::smile::

pretzel_traypretzelsCU

Gabriel made home made pretzels yesterday. I love the smell of yeast, which in turn reminds me of the yeast-risen doughs my mom used to make some of her pastries with (one favourite was an apple pastry, called almàs pite in Hungarian).

 

The sunsets have been gloriously beautiful. I didn’t get an email last night requesting that I show up to any last-minute temporary assignment, so guess I won’t be working today.

Maybe I’ll actually stick my nose outdoors. On second thought, I’ll absolutely have to stick my nose outdoors because I must run some errands, deposit the cheque I received for my work from last week, most of which will be vaporized on last month’s cellphone bill and food. I’m not quite sure yet in which proportion that will be – there won’t be enough to pay the whole bill and have enough for food. The money will get portioned out so that each area is a little, but not entirely, satisfied. I can’t allow myself to dwell much on the other bills that are coming in and stacking up like planes on a runway.

I never thought I’d ever reach this level of financial instability. I mean… I’ve never been one of those financially savvy people – ever – but when there was enough I would manage decently well. I know how to tighten a belt with the best of them. I also know just how much I am missing, having been fortunate enough to indulge in many things that are so far out of my reach at the moment that I can’t even entertain thinking about them. They get pushed out just as quickly as they come. Anything in the “it would be nice to have, but…” category. Certainly anything in the “I can make this at home myself, but…” category. (I’m definitely making at home everything that is necessary and humanly possible to make at home.)

I’m blaming myself for this tactical error much of the time…
for waiting to act upon getting another job (as though a perfect one would present itself like some kind of manna offering from the heavens)…
for waiting to try to see about shifting into another industry area…
for wasting precious time that I wiled away because I was incapable of making any choices, especially of the good kind.

I can say the same about my handling of money. I could have tightened the belt another notch; put even a tiny bit aside to compensate for the not enough that I now have.

I needle myself with worry. It takes the joy out of things, even the good stuff. So, essentially, this week’s astrology pep talk presents me with yet another growth opportunity, a challenge I’m not entirely sure I can live up to.

Mostly, my imagination has taken me to some pretty grim places. Some days I imagine that I’ll be stricken down with an as yet to be identified ailment of the terminal kind. I mourn my impending passing and imagine (to some extent) the relief of no longer having to worry about anything… about leaving behind things undone but being at peace with all of that, and getting to the place of “good enough” when the final moment comes.

Some days I think that I’ll be dragging this painful process out until the bitter end… until something shifts (in a way I could never have imagined because otherwise it wouldn’t come as a complete and utter surprise at the very moment when I’ve run out of ideas).

Some days I just enjoy the moments, as they come… like the musical clanking of the pipes in the forced air heating ducts in the Sun Tower building, or its beautiful frosted windows initialed with a “W”… like the swish of wind that briskly gathers up and ushers dried leaves off of tree limbs, lifting them high into the air and then letting them land askew, in random but perfectly beautiful mayhem, on the back balcony.

It’s on the days when I am at my lowest – and I express my alarm about things to those around me – that I most rue hearing “you’ll find something”. I know the intention is to reassure; it feels anything but. Dismissive rather than what I’m sure is intended as hopeful and bolstering. On those days my optimism levels are anemic, amnesiac.

I don’t know why I keep writing here. I guess in this place of not feeling heard, I may as well voice myself in a familiar place. Sort of like yelling at the edge of a precipice to hear the echo of one’s voice speak back. At the very least it makes me feel just a little less silent, a little less alone with what feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders.

remembrance day part deux

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.25.18 PM

click on image for an eloquent recap at The Elephant Journal of Vonnegut’s words…

I wanted to write a whole big blog post on “the horrors of war”.
About how my dad (and a band of his friends), as twenty year old young men witnessing the Soviet tanks rolling into their city to “liberate” the people from their last oppressor, decided to throw molotov cocktails at them in protest.
About how he spent the next five years in a Siberian prisoner of war work camp, and what he looked like when they let him out.
I wanted to write about how it warped him inside, in ways that weren’t discernible to the eye.
I wanted to write about how my mother was born mere months before Armistice Day, and that the borders of the country she was born into shifted and thus she became (an unwitting) citizen of another.
I wanted to write about how around the time of the second world war, after the soviet occupation, she was held and interrogated for a week by the NKV because they thought that she was a spy (she wasn’t).
I wanted to write about how even in the safety of North America my father still couldn’t shake the habit of stockpiling things like flour and sugar and salt.
I wanted to write about how even though my parents had experienced and seen first hand the effects of the first and second world wars, they rarely ever spoke of them, though the effects were as tangible and persistent as poltergeists in an old house.
I wanted to write about how their experiences were not exceptions but rather the rule.
There are no clear victors in war.

good stuff 11.11.14

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 9.29.17 PMremembrance day

Dan Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice album on Soundcloud, from which the song from the above video’s soundtrack comes from? Nice, Nice, Very Nice indeed.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 9.53.58 PM David Lynch Foundation

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.01.32 PM

seriously… the best food eye-candy in a long while, not to mention recipes and fantastic arrays of “things you didn’t know existed but now realize they are in the ‘best-thing-since-sliced-bread’ category”

honouring the ancestors… and someday you’ll be one

halloween_feet
The wheel turns. As we sink into this darker half of the year, customs abound in all cultures on deeper contemplation, on honouring what has come before, on feeling gratitude for the fruits our of labours (and perhaps, in retrospect, at having been afforded the opportunity for this most recent revolution around the sun).

When my son was little, I wanted to compensate for the lack of fanfare of my own childhood during these holidays by making his a grand production.

We went to pumpkin patches and gutted and carved our share of large orange gourds.
We roasted salty pumpkin seeds once they were gleaned from the slimy guts.
We ordered costumes and went trick-or-treating.

I had never incorporated the idea of honouring the ancestors during this time even though I was well aware of the idea of the thinning of the veil between our worlds. It would have been an appropriate time to bring it up to him. Maybe I wanted him to rejoice in the fun parts of childhood without becoming morbid, or rather, without diminishing with sombreness the indefatigable vibrancy of youth.

After my mother’s passing, the last one of my two parents, there was a sort of severing of rootedness that took place. In some ways, I was anxious to be free of the constraints. In so many ways I’d tried to find happiness within the narrow parameters that they had set as their view of who I was, and I think we all walked away from the table mostly dissatisfied.

I keep thinking that human potential is limitless, if we are mentored beyond our perceived limitations. I don’t mean that we don’t individually have any, only that if we can picture what is beyond the area that we think is the greatest reach of our potential, we are able to somehow come up with a way to access the road that will bring us there. Mentors, advocates, are truly gifts to the world as they help lead the way there. Sometimes, ever on our fool’s journey, we are incapable of seeing the path on our own.

I suppose as parents the biggest task we are given is to help our offspring become skilled in discernment, to learn to know what and when to believe in the constant stream of incoming information, and what to do with it – to learn how to translate it all into some form of action that will lead us forward in a favourable manner.

I don’t know if I’ve accomplished this task, as a parent. I know mine failed at this, and I’ve had to learn by much trial and error how to guide myself onward. Maybe it’s something that can’t be taught because it is as individual as we are in how we approach it.

In any case – in my usual penchant to tangents – I return us to last night, the Eve of All Hallows or Souls Day.

candy_bowl
I went in to the neighbourhood grocery store to pick up a few things, particularly the candy I intended to hand out to trick or treaters. I had held out on purchasing it mostly to save me from myself. As I exited the store and started heading up the sidewalk towards home, I heard the unmistakeable sound of my native tongue. Because it is such a rare occasion to hear it spoken, I wheeled my cart back around and said hello. We chatted on the sidewalk for a while, and then, at the invitation of one of the women, we holed up in Starbucks for over an hour to continue the conversation.

I haven’t really spoken a whole lot of Hungarian since my mother passed in 2003. We would speak on the phone every couple of days (I was living in California and she was living on the outskirts of Montreal). The frequency of our calls kept up my language skills, although I never would have considered myself as fluent in the language as a native speaker. It’s not that I don’t understand or speak, only that the expressions, turns of phrase, vastness of vocabulary is something that would take time to get used to if I were to truly count myself among them. Within an hour my odd little accent began smoothing out. I began remembering words and how to use them during a discussion. We discussed getting together on a regular basis and inviting other Hungarians aching to chat in their mother tongue too.

When I got home last night I realized that what had transpired was the greatest homage that I had ever paid to my parents and ancestors. I had been ruminating, initially, on how I would set about doing just that. Last week I had spent some time watching Jo Rowling go about searching out her own roots. I had envisioned setting up a shrine of sorts, and spending some time in meditation, or perhaps journaling about what they had meant to me, and contemplating on the far reach of my own roots.

Last night I felt that perhaps, with this thinning of the veil, they had orchestrated this meeting to remind me that they are not so far away after all.

a buyers job market

Over the course of many months I’ve submitted hundreds of job applications, gone on countless interviews, hooked up with four placement agencies and perused every job posting site online that I could find.

You’d think I would have hit pay dirt by now.

When I first got laid off, almost a year ago, I was told by job consultants who were helping me position myself for the new job market that job hunting was a different beast these days.

I revised my resume (multiple times).
We did mock interviews.
We devised job hunting strategies.

There are tricks you can use so that your resume pops up on keyword searches when submitting online, but the truth of the matter is, if you don’t have the goods, you can paste all that info in ’til the cows come home but you still won’t get hired.

I have thirty years of office and administrative experience. Throughout that time I’ve been asked to do all sorts of organizing, planning, tracking, and plain old rolling up my sleeves and pitching in on all aspects of business operations.

How hard could it be to convince an interview panel that I’m The One for the job?

Hard.

I’m good with strategic planning when given real parameters to work with, but often there are SOPs in place and reviewing what was done before serves as a great starting point to take off from.

Even though no one works in a vacuum, I am often asked to come up with “what would [I] do” in a specific situation for an answer on the spot, and I balk. I come up with awkward scenarios and (in retrospect) the most alarming responses, which leave me berating myself for my poor judgement in picking them.

All I can say is that I used to be great in interviews but this past year has shown me that I no longer am. I’m not sure what people want to hear, and to be honest you can talk all you want but until you are in a role and walking the walk, you are an unknown quantity. The job itself is an unknown quantity to the candidate as well.

As an Observer in season five of Fringe said, “you don’t even know what you don’t know”.

Getting glowing feedback reviews from my recent temp assignment:

…wanted you to know that she received lovely feedback from [...] regarding you. They said “she has been truly wonderful to work with”.

doesn’t make up for my inability to come up with a quantifiable itemized list of examples of accomplishments that people are looking for.

Somehow I think my age factors in to this, too.

When you are 25, you have maybe a couple of jobs under your belt. When you’re twice that, and have changed geographic locations seven times over the course of the next twenty five years, the list of places of employment increases exponentially. That doesn’t look so great on a resume. Maybe it even makes you appear fickle.

Some of the moves were my choice, certainly, but many were not. Geographic relocations happened many times. Long distance commutes became unreasonable. Working conditions became untenable or lacked challenge. Staffing cuts were implemented. Through all the changes, I maintained a sense of optimism and the intention of being completely invested with every new opportunity.

I had felt for a long time that I had nothing to prove, that my experience and the level of responsibility I’ve held in many of my positions speak for themselves. I simply get the job done, whatever the job is, and then move on to the next task at hand.

I’ve learnt:
- to ask questions
- to double-check my work
- to build on what has come before
- to treat everyone with respect
- to be kind
- to admit to my mistakes and correct them
- to take responsibility and pride in my work
- to aim to be useful, no matter the context
- that good leadership always leads by example
- that despite all efforts otherwise, to err is human
- that people will forget what you say or do, but they will never forget how you made them feel

I have never been one to focus on minutia in a role, in that I haven’t itemized my myriad tasks in order to justify their (or my) worthiness. It feels narcissistic to me, a redundancy. The job, after all, got done. Apparently it is what I must do in order to thrive in today’s job market.

Do we all need to be Type A’s in this world in order to thrive in it? 
How does one prove that one adds value?

It’s making me wonder whether I do. Although many colleagues and employers may well come to my rescue here, despite a long and relatively satisfying career which should for all intents and purposes indicate otherwise, I am beginning to doubt myself.

Over the last five years, since my return to Canada, I’ve been trying to regain the professional footing that I’d worked hard to gain in the many years of working in California and, prior to that, in Montreal.

The truth is, the job of secretary, one that I thought would take me through to retirement, has changed immensely over the years, and though I have kept pace with the technology and the varied responsibilities, it seems that I, much like the old moniker for the position, have become redundant.

So what does one do at midlife, without a job, savings or a family circle to rely upon and completely out of employment assistance – when everything one has worked for and built is incrementally collapsing?

I don’t know, but if YOU do, I would sure love to hear what you have to say.

I want to thrive in a job that makes maximum use of my skills but simultaneously allows me to grow others. One where my managers are astute enough to see my greater potential even while I am engulfed in carrying out the demands of my role.

I want to work in an industry that I feel passionate about, one that allows me to lay my head down on my pillow at night with a clear conscience, knowing that I didn’t in any way add to the already heavy burdens of the world.

I want to work toward retirement, so that I am left with enough to be able live a relatively comfortable life once I am put out to pasture. In fact, I’d like to gain enough ancillary skills that they will allow me to be useful even when I have retired, so that I may continue to contribute and remain relevant even then.

I never imagined that these things would ever be so far out of reach to me, or that I would be struggling toward making a decent living at this point in my life.

Perhaps I suffer from a scarcity mindset, as I mentioned in a previous post. Perhaps tunnelling has made it difficult for me to perceive what is beyond the tunnel and make solid decisions.

I certainly could benefit from the view of someone who is outside the tunnel, one who could still the mind static currently obscuring much of my cognitive skills and help me hit that reset button… because at the moment I can’t see my way beyond it.