Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition." ~Carl Sagan

If the tone of my posts seems wildly incongruous this month, it is because my pendulum is swinging wildly. I have felt incredibly out of sorts for the past two weeks, unable to sleep well, concentrate, get things done, and so on. My skin is a mess, my appetite sporadic, and I feel a level of exhaustion that seems inexcusable, given how little I've actually done. The problem is, I can't figure out why.

It appears to me that everything I can control is in order: my house, my work schedule, and so on. But the universe seems to be attacking things I cannot control. I've had three specific items go missing during the past few weeks, and these are items that I have not only had for quite some time, but also ones that I am always particularly careful with: my travel coffee mug (hello, this is my lifeline in the morning!), my flash drive with all of my lecture notes and teaching materials from the last three years, and my iPod. These might seem insignificant, but losing these items definitely disrupts the flow of my personal and professional energies. Yes, it is easy to replace a coffee mug. And I did today. But the years' and years' worth of teaching materials is a significant pain in the rear (though I did give the universe the finger today and managed to recover some of these documents in old email attachments). But my iPod was only a year old. And expensive. And I am not currently in a position to replace it.

I am also plagued by an inexplicable feeling that everything is just... off. It's not something I can articulate well, but the best I can do is that it has to do with energy or vibe. My world just doesn't feel right. I guess when people say they feel "off" this is what they could mean. But it's not the same "off" as when you think there's a cold coming on, or you're hung over. This isn't a physical "off." It's beyond that.

There may be various explanations both logical and other-worldly for these and other disruptions, but the bottom line is this: I feel so disrupted, so out of sorts, and can come up with no logical or workable explanation for these feelings, that it is perpetuating a cycle of anxiety, frustration, and hostility. Now "every little thing" is needling my nerves. Because I don't know what the cause is, I can't fix it. And when I can't fix it, I get anxious. And when I get anxious, the skin, sleep, and all other systems crash.

I'm supposed to find peace or the answer in: sometimes there is no answer. But this is not a skill I readily possess. I am a fixer, a do-er. I like congruity, lines, structure... when the lines get blurred, the congruity disrupted, and the structure collapses, especially beyond my own doing, I (clearly) have difficulty.

So, what's a girl to do? Let it ride? Fake it till I make it? Hold my breath and hope for the best? How does one allow the discord of the universe to work itself out without sacrificing ambition--or a healthy amount of sleep?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Love is much nicer to be in than an automobile accident, a tight girdle, a higher tax bracket or a holding pattern over Philadelphia." ~Judith Viorst

This post was inspired by a project my dear friend is launching on her fabulous blog and will be featured there in a few weeks. Please stop by and show her some love. :-)

Online dating is a daunting journey, full of trickery and confusion...  I'd had my share of digital bullshit and disappointment. It was May, summer was seemingly minutes away, and I was fully prepared to take a breather and get out of the dating pond for a while. 

All things considered, my online dating experiences really hadn't been all that bad. It was more that I just didn't meet anyone I really clicked with. Charlotte had mentioned that OkCupid had a lot of "cute boys with tattoos" so I mentioned this site to my co-worker, who is recently single and back on "the scene." She took a quick peek at the site and sent me four photos of incredibly good looking guys, none of which were bare-chest shots taken in the bathroom mirror... 


I decided to make a really quick profile, copying/pasting from my profile. I only wanted to poke around and goof off with my friend. We were sending pics and profiles to each other. 

And then I came across one in particular. Physically, all the right elements: the right height, the right build, seemingly handsome (if his photos were legit)... His profile was well-rounded and informative. We had things in common. We were calculated as an 88% match. And he lived literally the next town over. So... I decided to write. And then he wrote back. And we wrote lengthy emails back and forth for several days. Turns out, he did not live in the next town over, but on the other side of the Hudson River. (There's a Ridgewood in NY AND NJ. Ooops. Bad editor.) But I was so intrigued, and we were corresponding at such a great level that it seemed worth the shot to keep exploring. Within those several days, we graduated to text messaging, and then the phone. We spent hours on the phone, as if in high school again. We agreed: We had to meet. 

May 21st: Judgement Day. I was excited, but crazy nervous.... I was waiting to be disappointed. And he was too. We had "other shoe" syndrome. We pored over each other's pictures and profiles, looking for a clue, a flaw.... nothing was jumping out. We even told each other what we thought our own "deal breakers" were. All livable. We were certain this was too good to be true. Meeting in person would finally reveal the problem. Both of us figured we wouldn't be attracted to each other in person, that the X-Factor would be missing. That was the only remaining possibility. 

It was a beautiful day in Manhattan, a little warm and humid, and it did eventually rain, but it didn't matter. We finally met face-to-face, and it was as adorably cliche as it can get: better than we hoped for, exciting, there was blushing and grinning. We talked non-stop. There were moments of inadvertent closeness and touching. He took my hand and we both got fluttery inside. Nine swift hours later, we found ourselves on a train headed back to New Jersey because we didn't want our adventure to end. He met my dog. We talked until 3am, until we couldn't keep our eyes open anymore. He slept in my spare bedroom. With the door open. A first date nearly 24 hours long. No kiss. All respect.... And we've been inseparable every weekend since. 

The resounding awwwww is not why I decided to share this story. There are plenty of puke-inducing tibits I could share... but they are not for you.

What I do want to share is, when we set aside the excitement, the strength of the feelings that have evolved, the desire to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after, what we have before us is something that both of us want to succeed. We see the value in this, why it's so special. But this isn't Hollywood. No one has scripted a guaranteed happy ending. Only we can do that. And it can't happen in 90 minutes. Or even 90 days. 

One thing that connects us so strongly are the experiences and the past relationships we come from. We both acknowledge the mistakes we made in our pasts.... We know how we wound up with some of the scars. We talk at length (even now) about our exes... he's a divorced father of two. I'm almost divorced, too (no kids, but we still share the dog). We both wanted out of our marriages, and for many similar reasons. We have both spent a lot of time reinventing ourselves, taking care of ourselves as individuals. We both believe that you have to be whole as an individual before you can be in a successful relationship, that you can't rely on another person to complete you. They can add happiness to your world, but they can't be your sole reason for happiness. We know what kind of relationship we do, and more importantly, DON'T want.

We have been incredibly honest with each other from the beginning. Even if it's something that might not be so great. We talk openly--about everything--even if it makes us uncomfortable. We know that, at the end of that discomfort, understanding is waiting. And likely a hug. 

Balance is something that we actively strive for--relishing in the newness and excitement of it all, but not getting so carried away that we make rash decisions. We joke about running off to Vegas the minute the ink is dry on my divorce decree. We joke about being old together. But we also acknowledge that those jokes mean we're just really stupidly happy together and that we hope it all works out. Because when it's time to get serious about these ideas, we bring the lessons of the past into the mix. We absolutely want to do what is right for us as a couple... but also what's right for us as individuals. Balance. It is possible to be giddy with excitement and to swell with emotion and still make good decisions. We take things day by day, and enjoy what we're experiencing now. We're letting the universe drive. We're just along for the ride. 

So, the moral of our story is: By all means, fall in love. Just don't land on your head.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world--that is the myth of the atomic age--as in being able to remake ourselves." ~Mohandas Gandhi

It’s been nearly three months since I have produced anything worthy of a post, and the reasons for that vary. The primary reason is that my brain seemed to be on hiatus, able to only accomplish auto-pilot tasks, and barely squeeze out the remainder of last quarter. Summer months and a budding romance have also been tremendous distractions, but I do not see these as the primary reasons for not writing. One can be dizzy with glee and still concentrate.

I had also promised to begin a soul-searching journey, a quest for an understanding of my own spirituality and consciousness, and while I did begin and have been poking around in a few books, I have not even broken the surface, and thus, have almost nothing new to report on that. Disappointing, I know. One of the library books I have has been renewed 27 times by now.

I have once again found myself at a crossroad.

Call it burn out, call it exhaustion, frustration… whatever name it goes by, but the end of last quarter couldn’t come fast enough. Grades were due on June 24th. I viewed that day as my parole. This quarter was not typical in it’s ebb and flow of satisfaction and frustration. I had four classes, two of which were great, one of which was okay, and one of which was abysmal. So, the majority of my students really were good. But still, it seemed to not be enough. I was still unhappy, dreading every day I had to go to class. One of my “great” classes was observed, and I received 5’s (on a scale of 1-5) across the board. Rather than restore my faith and drive to teach, my response was, “Great. And that gets me what?”

I was fed up—with everything. More than ever, I resented the fact that I was teaching a full-time course load, but not reaping the financial benefits. I had 75 students, and I still needed my part-time job to fill the gap. I also needed it in case I didn’t have four classes over the summer. What if there was only three? Or two? No job security. I had to do work at home, grading papers in my free time, checking mail and corresponding with students. I couldn’t “leave my job at the office.” No benefits. No paid time off. Vacation? What’s that? The last “vacation” I had was my honeymoon. My ex and I have been separated for two years. I was really starting to feel cheated. I worked SO hard. But the return on investment didn’t seem worth it.

My students, as many of you know, make my life crazy. It was funny for a while. Then it started to become downright frustrating. And disgusting. They don’t want to learn. They just want a “letter.” They’d be thrilled if there was some way they could just print out their degree on fancy computer paper. No respect for education. No appreciation for it. Or for me. I’m not someone who imparts wisdom, someone who influences perception, understanding, or world view. I’m that lady who passes or fails you. I’m the unfair bitch who doesn’t care if you “tried really really hard.”

So, what was the solution, then? Well, get a PhD and teach at a much better institution, of course! I loved school! I would LOVE to go back! I could get grants and loans and stipends! Real academia! YES!


Upon further investigation, getting a PhD in my area of expertise would require the following:

  • Relocating. For some reason, all of the schools in this area only offer PhDs in Literature. Not composition or rhetoric. The closest one was Ithaca, New York. Brrrr. Hawaii? Aloha! South Carolina? Arizona? New Mexico? Maybe I could live in those places. Nebraska? I’m fairly certain there’s no mascara in Nebraska and I can’t date a corn husker. Put “relocation” in the con column, except for Hawaii, because it would be amazing to live there.
  • 5-7 years of education. Well. I didn’t see that coming. My Masters took 3 years. I figured 4 or 5, tops. Take Hawaii, put it in the cons list. It’s thousands of dollars to travel to and from Hawaii. I would never see my family, and I don’t know anyone out there. That’s far too long to be isolated. Other locations would be doable, but again, 5-7 years is a long time.
  • Teaching. While earning said PhD, I would likely be teaching at whatever school I was studying. Now, given the frustrations I was feeling with my current situation, I figured, I’d have this level of frustration plus the added pressure of working on my own education. I couldn’t even keep up with my blog… I was going to withstand the pressure of earning a PhD WHILE teaching? In another state? Away from everyone and everything?

 Hell to the no.

It dawned on me that I would be pursuing a MAJOR degree for a path I wasn’t even sure I wanted to BE on anymore. Another very poor return on investment, I’d say. A risk not worth taking. Too much upheaval for me to handle. I JUST got my life more or less back together… now I’m going to turn around and topple the blocks again?

Now I was faced with a new question: NOW what? What am I going to DO? I had to figure out where my “greatness” lies. I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life, what was going to fulfill it, and make it everything I wanted it to be.

So, I went back to book editing full time. Not because I think that’s where the greatness lies. But I needed stability. I needed calm seas. A regular schedule. PTO and benefits. I needed to stop burning at both ends because I was dwindling. There’s more to life than working.

And there it was.

What if my greatness, my talents, my purpose is not rooted in my career? What if it’s in a hobby, a personal endeavor, something else besides my career? Where is it written that your career HAS to be great? Can’t it just be the bill-payer? The security-maker? I’ve been hearing a lot of, “I/we just don’t want to see your talent go to waste…” But who says it has to? Is it necessarily wasted because it’s not applied to how I earn my income?

I think my “greatness,” my purpose, whatever you’d like to label it, is something more. It has to be applied to another place. I’ll be honest: Every time I’ve gotten a new job, I’ve “loved” that job. For a very short time. And then I hate it. My expectation was always to find that dream job, the job that makes you want to bounce out of bed in the morning like a spry little worker-elf, ready to take on the day.

I have not sprung out of bed for a job. EVER.

The only logical conclusion, to me, is that the sparkle, the brightness, has to come from something else. I’m still working on that part, but for now, the seas are calm, the bills are getting paid, the little messes in the divorce aftermath are being cleared. I go to work, and I come home. I’m still adjusting to my day job schedule, but I’m starting to feel crafty again. I’m starting to feel the urge to reinvent and reorganize. There are books to be read. Ideas to be explored. Sparks to be lit. And what the feeling comes, I know the creativity is soon to follow.