I Am Enough

I Am Enough

It’s been an interesting January. Twelve weeks post Hurricane Irma and we finally had office space restored. Now have not only carpet and paint, but a cubby of my own.

But what is interesting is how creating a cubicle with six panels has changed a male superior’s perception of me, even as my title and responsibilities have stayed the same

Many, were extremely supportive and congratulatory. My work load and responsibilities have increased ten fold in the past five plus years. Taking me off “the floor” – just behind the panels, allows our receptionist to handle not just the phone calls, but deliveries, walk- ins and the daily minor disruptions.

Because I’m in a cubicle occupying the same room, I can still hear everything going on, and can insert myself if there’s a problem the receptionist can’t solve without me. So far we’ve had no issues.

The problem seems to be with someone higher up the chain, a male superior. There was a conversation about isolating myself, that I’m no longer accessible and can be perceived now as aloof.

I still act exactly the same. Still handle the same tasks and delegate to the receptionist as before, but I’m now inaccessible. Have I mentioned these are cubicle panels and I have no door to close?

I went home baffled, stung and spent the evening beating myself up. And then I got angry. Why do I feel shame that I did something wrong because I asked for my own office, which every other staff member enjoys, by the way. Why am I told that isolates me when I am still in the middle of the action?

I took the time to sit quietly and meditate.  The message, I am enough kept popping up every single time I felt a negative feeling directed towards myself. I stopped feeling shamed because I spoke up for myself and asked for an office two years ago. I pushed away every feeling of insecurity placed on me by someone more insecure than I.

This morning a different mantra appeared as I sat quietly: I hold the power. The power to keep anyone from crushing my spirit or changing who I am.

©annettealaine2018

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I thought when I was young and at the beginning of my career, that the rookie mistakes and the frustrations projected on me would help me grow a thick skin.

I’m slowly learning, after ten plus years in my new field, that thick skin isn’t enough. There is nothing more strident than the self-righteous conviction of someone who sits in the sanctuary and praises the Lord every Sunday.

There’s an irony to my name, because I act as “a net,” capturing every bit of negative grousing that folks want to get off their chests.

“I don’t want to complain, but…” is often the opening line. The leaders are often exempt because, that’s like complaining that Jesus multiplied those loaves and fishes, but did it have to be pumpernickel bread?

People hate change is the basis for 2000 years of stagnation in the christian church. Serve bagels instead of donuts one Sunday and all hell breaks loose. And somehow, the person who takes the heat is the front office- which by luck, or mischance happens to be me.

Let’s be honest- the customer service field is the worst. People have a consumer mindset these days, and churches are feeling the pressure to create a great product or “guest experience.” Somehow church has become another theme park or restaurant- we compete with each other for that shrinking audience of worshippers. The fable of the man, the boy and the donkey comes to mind. In the quest to please all, we please no one.

And if they don’t like it, I’ll be the first to know.

©2018

So many years I started the day off with resolutions:

I will lose weight. I will exercise more. I will make better grades, and so on…

I read something the other day that pointed out that too often resolutions reinforce the negative aspects of our lives. Our failures and shortcomings.

As I muddle through middle age, I tend to agree with that assessment. Which is why a few years ago I stopped making resolutions and started setting goals. If you don’t meet the goal, chances are you can still measure progress.

There’s also the idea of developing good habits- I will exercise changed to:

    I will strive for 10,000 steps a day. I will set a goal of walking five days a week. 

So the measurable goals:

Last year I set a goal to download all of my poems, sort them by theme and print them for myself. I started, but I didn’t finish. Did I achieve the goal? No, but I did make significant progress.

I set a reading goal last year. Sixty books was challenging, and I made it just under the buzzer, so that’s a goal to strive for again this year.

Some goals are hard to measure- being kinder, or being more positive. I have only my inner compass to gauge whether I am successful or not.

The immeasurable goals:

Here’s one that can only be measured internally- being true to myself, to mentally stop worrying so much about pleasing others or keeping the peace. In business we must cooperate and work as a team, but I speak up more for what I think is equitable in the workplace. I need to apply this to the personal sphere as well.

Finally, the writing goals.

I did not write enough in 2017. I can point to many reasons why I did not write.  Looking back at those setbacks did not shame me, but helped me remove the obstacles to writing more this year.  I can’t create more hours in the day, but I can do a better job of carving out regular time to sit with pen and paper and get some words down.

As I get older I realize January resolutions, goals, good habits or new dreams aren’t so much about changing myself- it’s about challenging me to keep growing and evolving.

What dreams, goals, or good habits do you hope to achieve in 2018?

©annettealaine2018

Short of the Goal

I’ve fallen short of my goal this year. I wanted to write more and figured once we moved and college girl returned to school, I would sit on my porch with a laptop and just let the words flow like the river below me.

Ten months later, I have decreased to the point that some of my old writing pals thought I gave it up.

I could blame it on the longer commute to and from work. I could mention all the creative juices I expend on a normal day for my job. I could point out that my exercise routine has increased dramatically, and as a result I have less time for writing, but the bottom line is I haven’t felt the spark for many months.

I read more than I write these days. I don’t know why the muse has abandoned me, but for now it’s on an extended hiatus.

I read more news articles, and then devour fiction to escape the bleakness of our world right now.  Writing fiction would be a lovely antecdote to the daily newsfeed, but I cannot make up any plot stranger, or create characters weirder than the people running our government.

I write in my head quite a bit as I walk early in the morning. Not poems about the beauty I see, but angry posts as I respond to male letter writers in the local paper who still shame and blame women for “dressing inappropriately” at work.

Mostly though, I’m spending my time re-examining my own voice. Who am I, and why do I feel my work matters?

My goal this year was to get all of my poetry gathered, sorted and printed in some form. The task remains half finished.

I’m not angry or disappointed in what I have not accomplished this year- that’s not productive and never works as motivation.

Instead of lamenting what did not get done, I am going to let myself figure out if writing still fits into my life. And if so, where and when do I make time for it. Developing healthy habits this year was a goal that I’ve achieved physically. Now it’s time to check my creative habits and decide what to aim for in 2018.

©annettealaine2017

Clara, Mr. Tiffany and Me: The Art of Creating

Clara, Mr. Tiffany and Me: The Art of Creating

 

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I’m reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland. It’s an excellent story about the women’s department at Tiffany Glass and their artistic contributions to the Tiffany brand, particularly his famous Tiffany lamps.

The themes of artists and how they create, and how women fought to work in the arts and crafts fields is well documented and sobering. Clara’s struggle is still real in many ways- for me personally it’s the balance of writing while juggling the demands of my life: work, marriage and family.

I’ve read all the books on how to carve time to write. I’ve tried writing prompts, creating a space to write, and formulating a daily routine to sit down in front of the computer (or picking up a pen.)

But, for me, it’s not that simple. I need quiet time to clear my mind of all its incessant chatter. Then there is the clamoring for attention by others. Sometimes I walk with earbuds connected to a silent iPod. I want to get lost in my thoughts as I breathe in the world around me.

I drive to work with the radio off. I often try composing poetry in my head as I drive. Today, I was writing this post as I waited at traffic lights. Sometimes it works.

But, more often I am distracted by the host of other people and tasks that fill my day. Here’s what typically happens:

I went for my walk Thursday evening and passing a mosaic that resides under the bridge I had an idea for my next blog post. I composed some of it as I continued to walk. When I stepped in the door I quickly showered and changed and went out to eat with my husband.

I keep composing in my head as I got ready for bed. I will sit down first thing in the morning and get this down I thought. Then I woke up and remembered my dentist appointment. And then the boss called and I had to go in and fix something at work. And then I remembered I needed to get the cat flea medicine and we were out of toilet paper…

You get the drift. I didn’t write that day. On Saturday I tried again, but by then the words sounded stale and the distractions around me kept me from recapturing the feelings I had Thursday evening.

Maybe I am just not disciplined enough. Or maybe I don’t value my talent or my time.

Clara knew the men in the Tiffany Glass Company did not think she was a serious artist. But she believed she was and she fought for her right to create.

Food for thought.

©annettealaine2017

 

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

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I stood behind a man at Walgreens buying two dozen eggs today. His children bounced up and down beside him. When, Dad, they asked. When do we get to dye our eggs?

I remember my mother trying to clean the house for Easter company, prepare the large ham for baking, all the while fending off our constant refrain: When are we going to dye the eggs?

She would send us out to play, to clean our rooms, to take a nap. Finally a dozen and a half eggs would be boiled. Two for each of us to dye, two for her to dye for herself and my father, and a few extras just in case.

Old chipped mugs and cups would be set on newspaper lining the picnic table in the backyard. McCormack’s colorful hatted liquid food colorings would be dropped in the vinegar scented boiling water: Robin’s egg blue, purple, orange, yellow, green, scarlet, as we discussed among ourselves which colors we would choose this Easter.

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One sibling would drop her egg in all the colors. In the end the poor egg resembled the color of weak coffee. We were fascinated and horrified at her choice to ruin one of her precious eggs.

We fought over colors and bickered over how much time each person took to achieve the perfect shade of orange. Our fingers turned various shades and someone always cracked an egg as they dropped it off the spoon into the cup.

When we had finished and our masterpieces were ready, we trooped to the dining room where seven baskets sat waiting for our artistic treasures. The eggs soon nestled in the green cellophane grass next to a hollow chocolate bunny or lamb, jelly beans and yellow marshmallow peeps.

As I watched the dad leave with a child in each hand, I thought of my own three, all grown now, wondering if their own memories of dyeing eggs was similar to mine.

Do they miss asking mom: When do we get to dye our eggs?

©annettealaine2017

No Regrets

No Regrets

In my line of work, you experience death. We go on the death watch journey with a family as someone’s loved one goes into a decline. Or it’s an unexpected shock- and we must be the calm in their tumultuous storm of shock and grief.

I have answered the phone when someone calls with the news. I have sat and listened as a family sits and waits for their appointment with clergy to plan the funeral. And what I hear over and over again is:

Don’t waste a moment.

Tell everyone you love them.

Hug often.

Fill your days with things that bring you joy.

In a week that in our biz is filled with more tedious busy-ness and mind-numbing details than is the norm, it’s easy to forget those wise words. But this week was the perfect time for me to repeat the sage advice like a mantra as I drove to work each day.

For my children- they are ready to leap to the next adventure. Perhaps my concerns have some merit, but this is the time to fly. I have few regrets, but can look back and wonder how my life would have turned out if I had boldly picked choice A over choice B.

For myself- I’ve already started 2017 with a bang. Our radical lifestyle change has reaped many blessings and giving both of us an appreciation for another chance to turn the page and start something new.

As the grieving widower sat speaking quietly to us with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes,

We had a great life, but the last ten years was more than we were promised. And we did everything she wanted to do, and had no regrets. We loved, we played and we lived every moment.

©annettealaine2017