The Deep End

deep endSo it’s time to address the virtual elephant in the room. I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty lately… And a little bit like a slacker. Recently, I’ve barely managed to eek out two posts a week here on this blog, where at one time, I was posting daily. Admittedly, my comments go unacknowledged and unanswered for far too long. And I’m not EVEN going to address how badly I suck at visiting my friends’ blogs.

Except that I’ve been anything but a slacker… in my Real Life. In my flesh-and-blood-non-pixel-people-cyber-world things have been fairly active. So active, in fact, that it has kept me from this thing that I love so much. So to those of you who’ve been faithful readers all along AND those of you who may have just begun following, please accept my apologies.

Within the span of ONE week I began a new job in the Marketing Department of a large architectural firm, started studying Web Design at the Columbus College of Art and Design and fell prey to “The Crud” that’s been going around. I nursed one of my beloved cluster headaches for nearly two weeks while trying to assimilate to 35-minute-long city commutes, brown bag lunches, new passwords, unfamiliar coffee machines, copiers, printers and conference calls that span at least five different time zones.

I was, for lack of a better term, thrown into the deep end of Grownupland without a flotation device. I went from sleeping until 10, lounging around the house watching bad movies on Lifetime and sending out resumes, making calls and receiving countless “you suck” rejection emails while in yoga pants and sweatshirts… to actual WORK. Yes, that is a real, live, alarm-clock-smacking-rush-rush-shower-makeup-pantyhose-heels J-O-B.

But just last night—while brushing the three inches of fresh snow (that had fallen since lunch) from my car after an 11-hour work day—it occurred to me that even though I am thoroughly exhausted and my head feels as though it could explode from all of the “new” information I am taking in on a daily basis… I feel alive.

There is something quite invigorating about being challenged and pushed to beyond what we think we can bear at times. Hopefully soon, when the waters calm I’ll get back on track with more regular writing. But until then, if the choice is between sitting on the couch listening to Hoda and Kathy Lee whine about wine while looking for a job OR getting tossed head-long into the Deep End… I think I’d rather swim.

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A Productive Revelation

Although I find the 6 a.m. alarm to be extremely unsettling — it doesn’t take long to remember why it is so rudely and obnoxiously invading my dreams. I have somewhere to be. My day has structure and meaning again. And it is a good feeling. I am employed… at least for now.

As a freelance graphic designer, the position is a contracted one. Meaning that it will come to an end when the workflow shifts and the company no longer needs me. But it is employment nonetheless and a paycheck and experience and a source for networking as well as a means to generate additional items to place in the portfolio.

However, after seven months of NOT working, it is a stark change when compared to my typical non-structured day of snoozing until I feel like it, noontime bagel eating, bad TV watching and mind-numbing internet surfing. So far (albeit surprisingly) my nostalgia for all things lazy has not overshadowed the joy I find in being productive. I know. No one is MORE shocked than I am at this startling revelation.

It seems I expend vast amounts of mental energy imagining and writing about what it might be like to NEVER have to work. To live a life of leisure and of privilege. To NEVER interact with others… that is, unless I want to. But thou shalt never underestimate the positive power of productivity. Here are just a few things no one ever tells you about going BACK to work…

  • That coffee tastes and smells so much better in your work mug than in your cups at home.
  • That the idle chatter of co-workers can be much more entertaining than Lifetime television.
  • That slipping into a great pair of heels boosts more than your overall height.
  • That too much time spent alone with bagels, bad TV and one’s own thoughts is a dangerous thing. (See previous post)
  • That leaving the house miraculously helps you to pinpoint precisely where you are.

Understanding that my time in this new role is most likely limited… I’ve got to follow the advice of 38 Special and Hold on Loosely. Yes, I know that reference dates me a bit. Please stop doing the math, I’m trying to make a point. Like willing oneself not to fall too deeply in love with a warm, squiggly puppy you realize you cannot keep — I must hold my affection for my new (temporary) lot at arm’s length.

And hopefully—when all is said and done—I will have been reminded of where I am, where I’m going, all I have to offer and how great it feels to be a participant again. Even if that means getting up at the unnatural, ungodly hour of 6 a.m.

Greener Grass

I was jealous of a woman that I passed at the grocery store last week. It was around noon and I clearly remember thinking that she was probably on her lunch break by the way she breezed by at an alarmingly high rate of speed. She was tall, thin and attractive… but surprisingly her beauty was not the object of my scorn.

No, I was envious of her because it was obvious that she had a job. A real, professional job. One with paid vacation, full medical (probably dental too) and a 401k. She was very well-dressed in a crisp, white blouse tucked into a smart pencil skirt paired up with some killer heels. And she walked with purpose — a woman on a mission.

Once upon a time, I knew that mission well. The object is to get through traffic to the store, gather everything on your list as well as something halfway decent to eat, get back through traffic and slide into your parking spot in 60 minutes or less. After all, the day is now half over and there are STILL calls to be returned, emails to respond to and deadlines to meet.

Yes, cruising by her in my khaki shorts, flip-flops and loose-fitting summer top I had plenty of time to take in the scene. I had no where specific to be. I got up at ten, fed the cat, watched Hoda and Kathy Lee conduct a few “ambush makeovers” on the plaza during the Today Show, showered and threw on something I found laying at the bottom of my closet. I had no list. My mission was simple: To procure some bagels and OJ.

But I found it to be quite a curious thing—my jealousy of this woman—because whenever was working, I envied all those women dressed in khakis, flip-flops and summer tops. They always shopped at a leisurely pace, flip-flopping their way around the store… taking time to sniff and squeeze the produce and casually wait for the sorts of food that needed to be sliced, trimmed, weighed and wrapped.

I often fumed at the notion that these privileged women obviously enjoyed the luxury of having no schedule and certainly nothing that even remotely resembled a deadline as I would tensely zip straight to the freezer section, filling my cart with armloads of Lean Cuisine and frozen (not fresh) veggies. After all, my “smart pencil skirt” was riding up, my “killer heels” were giving me blisters and as for my “crisp, white blouse” — there was a strange, unidentifiable smugde on the collar.

I have lived on BOTH sides of this fence and every time—no matter which side I seem to be standing on—I ask myself why it is that the grass really DOES appear to be greener on the other side. Why is it that I am never fully content with my own yard?

While watching a Sunday morning news program one day I heard a scientific explanation of why grass literally does appear to be greener on the OTHER side of the fence. When looking over the fence at your neighbor’s grass, you see only the sides of the blades of grass which look like a sea of green. However, while looking straight down at the grass beneath YOUR feet, you see the grass… but you ALSO see the patches of dirt in between. You’re acutely aware of all the natural flaws and imperfections.

Apparently, vantage point makes ALL the difference. Where we are standing at any given time has a direct effect on how we see the world around us. Literally and figuratively. Perhaps I’ll try to remember that the next time I go to the store and see that working gal. Perhaps I’ll look close enough to notice her frazzled, white-knuckle grip on the cart handle as she heads for frozen foods. And perhaps I’ll pick up an orange or an avocado, give it a squeeze and then casually flip-flop my way over to the deli counter.

The Last Day

When you’re actively employed—waking up early to the nagging of the alarm clock and slogging to work day after day—one cannot help but imagine that the day will inevitably come that is their “Last Day of Work.” Whether it be to retire, begin a new job or explore a life/career change… we imagine it will be miraculous and glorious with the choirs of angels singing and the clouds parting and all that jazz.

Well, dear friends and readers… today is that day for me and so far there are no choirs of angels or parting of clouds. Now, bear in mind that I have never and I mean NEVER left a position without another similar or better position waiting in the wings. Or at the very least several promising interviews on the books and resumes scattering the earth like propaganda leaflets being dropped by plane.

I have always worked. Since I was 15 years old I have held down at least one and as many as four different jobs at a time. So I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be leaving a job with a generous, comprehensive benefits package behind in pursuit of “whatever happens.” But this time… THIS time is unique.

This time I have a supportive and encouraging man in my life who sees my full potential and recognizes that “it will be OK” if I don’t find that dream replacement job tomorrow. Words cannot express the peace and joy with which his calm confidence fills me.

In the interim, my plan is to try my hand at domesticity. (Please pick up reading wherever you left off after the laughter has stopped.) Martha Stewart I am not, but that doesn’t mean I cannot learn the artful ways of the domestic goddess. Right? You’re still laughing aren’t you? Until the dream job comes calling I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity to get back in shape and keep a home. I’m serious.

Ten of the 50 pounds I recently lost have moved back in and taken up residency on my ass and both of us abhor the wallpaper in the living and dining rooms. It’s officially time to tackle my fear of the oven and its cousin, the stove. My wardrobe needs a good looking over and some serious organization.

The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll miss the office gossip, dressing up for work each day and talking to other professionals… but I suspect there will likely be a bit of a honeymoon period for me, my sweats, my yoga mat and the cat. I promise to take as many of you who care (or dare) to join me along on this new expedition—and with the whole domestic goddess goal in the mix—I can also promise that it shan’t be boring.

My Own Private Christmas

This is the day I’ve been waiting for. Two days before Christmas. Christmas Eve Eve if you will. Today I sleep until the Lord wakes me (instead of the alarm clock) then curl up with a nice, warm, artery-clogging breakfast, a good cup of joe and a cheesy Christmas movie… and Stanley, the cat. Naturally.

In my pajamas, wrapped in a soft blanket, the tree is twinkling and all of the presents beneath are wrapped in pretty paper, each topped off with a nice red bow. There is no more shopping to do. No more worrying about what to get and for whom. If they don’t like it… well… it’s too late now.

There are no parties to rush to or concerts and services to attend, therefore the Spanx, control top panty hose and tall leather boots are quietly stashed away in their respective closets and drawers. There is no fuss about a pair of flannel pants and old, college sweatshirt. There is no need for makeup. No one needs me today. And it is a thing of beauty.

Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve—when the family gatherings and church services begin—well, that will be another story. Today is what I like to call “My Own Private Christmas” with my own sacred practices and traditions. It is the gift that I give to myself… a chance to take a deep breath… and an opportunity to reflect on all of the beautiful people and things that make my life so full.

Were it not for all of them filling up the other 364 days of the year… there would be no need for a day like today.

Mini-Resolutions for 2012

With Christmas right around the corner, one’s mind turns to that of the New Year. Now, I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions… probably because I believe that by actually declaring my plan aloud I am pretty much sealing the deal on whether or not I will succeed. And yes… you guessed it… my rate of success usually winds up being a big, fat ZERO. So why then, would I ever consider ADVERTISING my impending personal failure by confessing my “New Year’s Resolutions” to family, friends and co-workers?

Additionally, it has been said by a good many people that declaring a “New Year’s Resolution” isn’t a great idea anyway. This is often due to the fact that said “Resolution” is ultimately too lofty or too complicated for one to actually achieve. Therefore, as an alternative, it is advisable to set smaller, more attainable ”goals” for oneself.

With the idea of “smaller goals” in mind, I have decided to try something entirely new this year… I am hereby resolving to take a few teensy, tiny, baby-steps toward personal change. Some “Miniature Resolutions” if you will…

1. In the mornings, I hereby resolve to only hit the snooze button 2 times instead of 3. This should get me to work 6 minutes earlier each day, which would result in roughly 1,560 minutes or 26 hours annually that I do not feel rushed… hence significantly limiting my chances of receiving additional traffic tickets that I cannot pay or becoming a perpetrator of road rage and winding up in prison. Therefore: ONE LESS MORNING SNOOZE = ZERO JAIL TIME

2. For the remainder of winter, I hereby resolve to wearing snow boots (no matter how ridiculous I look in them) from my house to the office in order to keep from dragging my feet, socks and bottoms of my dress pants through the wet snow every time I leave for work, therefore eliminating the possibility of frostbite to my lower extremities, leading to inevitable amputation. Therefore: SNOW BOOTS = MAINTAINING THE ABILITY TO WALK UPRIGHT

3. During the workday, I hereby resolve to make the switch to decaf. This should enable me to still enjoy my morning cup of coffee but without completely and totally bouncing off the proverbial walls and acting overtly chipper toward any grumpy, hateful, definitely-not-morning-people-co-workers, thus causing them to cease asking me WHY I have so much freakin’ energy all the time… and possibly even preventing them from conspiring against me. Therefore: DECAF = AVOIDANCE OF OFFICE LYNCHING

4. Regarding my daily 3 p.m. ”Sugar Quest,” I hereby resolve to STOP eating snacks every afternoon whilst sitting at my desk. One snack can run up to roughly 200 calories, totaling 1000 calories weekly or 50,000 calories annually! One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. 50,000 divided by 3,500 equals approximately 14 pounds!! Therefore: ELIMINATING DAILY MUNCHIE-FEST = FITTING MY @$$ INTO A SMALLER PAIR OF JEANS WITHOUT THE USE OF A SHOEHORN

5. With reference to laundry, I hereby resolve to wash, fold and put away my clothing on a weekly basis rather than allowing it to pile up to the point where I cannot find a clean pair of socks or underwear ANYWHERE IN THE HOUSE, thus causing me to do an emergency wash at midnight, losing precious hours of sleep and arriving at any given destination damp, disheveled, wrinkled and cranky with a high probability of rockin’ mismatched socks. Therefore: KEEPING UP WITH THE LAUNDRY = ALWAYS APPEARING DRY, RESTED, WRINKLE-FREE AND WELL ACCESSORIZED

There is no need for a major, ritualistic, annual overhaul of one’s lifestyle or choices. I believe the above examples adequately illustrate the point that even the smallest of changes can quite often lead to BIG results!

By being committed to these 5 minor alterations, it is quite likely that I will indeed transform my entire life. If all goes according to plan, 2013 should find me absent of any sort of criminal record, able to use all TEN of my toes, sufficiently-caffeinated yet amazingly-rested, 14 pounds thinner, less stressed, pressed and well-dressed. Who can find fault with goals like that?

Me? A Morning Person?

As many of my regular readers probably already know… I am NOT a morning person. In fact, I am not even really an “awake” person. I love sleep. I adore sleep. I like falling asleep, staying asleep, going back to sleep, talking about sleep, writing about sleep, planning for my next sleep and finding extra time in my schedule for… you guessed it… sleep.

But, you see… I started something this week. It was kind of an accident and now it has snowballed into this whole “morning person” thing. And well, let’s be honest… mornings interfere with sleep… So I have what you might call a bit of a dilemma on my hands.

While trying to make an important deadline for work, I stayed up one night until I just hit the wall. It was only midnight, but I could go no further. So… as much as I HATED the thought of it… I had but one choice. Go to bed right then, set the alarm for an hour and a half earlier and get up and go to the office in the wee hours so as to meet said deadline.

And you know what? I got up, I ate a healthier, low-calorie breakfast, I encountered little traffic on my commute and the time alone at my desk proved to be quite productive. By the time my co-workers began to arrive, my early-morning-I-hate-everyone-and-am-bitter-because-I-am-awake fog had begun to lift. I felt alert and ready to tackle whatever challenges the day had to offer.

However, as with anything worthwhile… there is a price. By 5 p.m., though there was definitely still work to be done, I was done. I could work no more. I was tired and cranky and ready to hit the couch in my favorite baggy t-shirt and sweats. Well, I thought… I guess I’ll get up early again tomorrow and finish up this work before the real day begins.

This time, I went to bed one hour earlier and set the alarm for two hours earlier than usual. I got up, ate the healthy, fiber-packed breakfast, sped to work like a demon, got the best parking spot and finished several projects before anyone else dared darken the doorway.

By today—the third day—co-workers and Facebook friends have begun to wonder what the hell I’m doing up so early. (Like I’m not wondering the same exact thing…) “What are you doing up so early? What are you doing up so early?” everyone keeps asking me. And I tell them that I’ve just been finding the mornings to be a great time to get work done…

Not to mention that (as an aside) I’m secretly hoping the uber-early, super-healthy, low-calorie breakfast of champions combined with multiple cups of coffee may help me shed these unwanted pounds in time to break out my sweater dresses. Because, let’s face it… no amount of Spanx or control-top panty hose is going to hide an extra 10 pounds when it comes to body-hugging knits.

Anyway… back to mornings. So I guess what I’m saying is that there may be hope for me yet. Perhaps I can finally make peace with my alarm clock and stop abusing the snooze button after all. Maybe I can be a morning person! Maybe one day I’ll even get up and do one of the five different yoga DVDs currently collecting dust in a basket by my bed! Or go for a walk in the brisk, morning air… or take up kickboxing again…

But hear this… Morning person or no morning person… Nothing… and NO ONE is going to TOUCH my 12-hours-at-a-time-weekend-sleep-marathons.