Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Room dividers from hell.

When I was a kid, going to school in LA, we had a lot of bizarre building arrangements in schools.  Especially suburban LA, where things basically popped up in less than five minutes to serve a brand new community.  Because after all, if you build it, they will come.  And they did.  And we did. 

One of the schools I went to, had old fashioned bungalows for the younger set.  We weren't in the main building, but in something that sort of resembled a slightly more substantial food truck.  The bungalows were in rows, and located across the playground from the rest of the school.  My memory of these little buildings is skewed, of course, because I was small.  They seemed enormous to me at the time, but if I were to go back as a 36 year old 5'7" woman, I would probably think they were right puny.

Anyway, later on, as I went to a different school, on the other side of the Santa Susana Pass, things got even more bizarre.  The school consisted of three buildings; one was the office/nurse/counselor's area/cafeteria with patio.  One was lower school.  The other was upper school.  The school buildings; beige, stucco, and flat-roofed; had enormous, thick eaves that I hated walking under.  Earthquakes can kind of do things to your brain, and make you question why the hell someone would design a building that could potentially kill people, just so there was a little extra shelter on the outside. 

And, let's face it.  This was LA.  It rained... maybe 3 days out of the year, there.    Thankfully, I was only around for the Whittier Earthquake in 1987, and the eaves stayed put.

Earthquake drills unnerved me, because they were so unexpectedly rude.  The principal would come onto the intercom and say: "DROP!"  Not "Drop, please!"  Or... "If you don't mind, we need to get under our desks now."

But, I suppose that's sort of how earthquakes roll, too.  They don't give a shit, and neither did that guy.

The rule involved crawling under our desks.  Because a desk is what will save you from a fallen roof.  It will.  They said so.

School lunch at these places, was a trip.  Everything came pre-packaged in cardboard, with plastic over the top.  This included salads. Sometimes, there would be a tiny apple sitting on top of the salad.  I have no idea where they got those little apples, but they tasted like crunchy, mealy desiccant, meant to kill us, or at least make us not want to eat them.  I only ever ate one of those apples, because I was sure they were evil .  The salad was usually wilted, and the other half of the lunch was usually some gross entree that the lunch lady would heat up.

Later, when I moved to Oregon, I was taken aback by food that was actually prepared in the school cafeteria.  It wasn't necessarily better, but eating from a plate with actual metal utensils, was pretty foreign, and almost novel enough to compel me to buy lunch there, rather than make myself a delicious sandwich, made of some odd Jewish delicacy that other kids would revolt at the sight of. (My dad was really into chopped liver, and the like.)

More for me!

Between the three buildings, there was a courtyard that was all lawn, and beyond that, a sidewalk, followed by hill that led to a ball field.  Rolling down that hill with my friends, was always great fun.  None of us cared that we would end up with burrs in our clothing from the weeds that they simply mowed with the rest of the grass.

But, back to the buildings.  This is where it gets interesting.  I am sure you are probably riveted by this point, right?  Anyway, in these buildings; with the exception of the first, everything was separated by enormous, heavy, metal partitions, covered in a rose-tan, fabric that had a really heavy, heathered weave to it.  It reminded me of chocolate milk, poured over Mini-Wheats.  I don't think there were actual walls separating the rooms from the main area, and the partitions could actually be rolled, and folded together, to create one giant room, inside the confines of each building.  They even had doors, and those doors were made of the same materials.  When they closed, they were closed tightly with levers.  It was all very space-age.  The levers had black knobs on the ends of them, that made you feel like you were doing something very official when you were permitted to close them.

Well, one day, some friends and I were playing, during indoor recess.  It was one of the rare days when it rained there.  When it did rain?  You took that shit seriously.  It may not have actually rained cats and dogs, but I had seen garbage that resembled cats and dogs floating down the road when the streets would flood.  Our car would always stall out, because for some reason, water would splash under the distributor cap, and then... yeah.  For some reason, it had no undercarriage cover. We... didn't go out much when it rained.

Anyway, as we ran through the common area of the building, my friends entered our classroom before I did.  I grabbed hold of the door jamb, as if to fling myself into the room, for added drama.  Only... This did not work!  Oh no! 

See, they closed the door, not realizing it closed... on my hand!

And then, I saw the lever rotate.  I am pretty sure my eyes rotated in every direction they would go before  I screamed at the top of my lungs.  I am not a master of  much.  Delayed reactions?  Yes.  Even when reacting is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO! 

Upon receipt of my eventual vocalization, the lever went back up again, and my hand; purple, and quasi-flattened, was released.

I could not write or do much with my right hand for many weeks after this happened.  My friend who made the offending maneuver felt so ashamed and awful, that she carried all of my books, and dictated for me until I could write again. 

And to this day?  The finger nail beds on my right hand are flatter and wider than the ones on my left.

School can be a dangerous place.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The hardest work of all.

I have been pondering a certain, common thought that many people seem to be expressing, lately.  Not sure why, but I have heard it said that: people who pursue their passion, and get lucky; perhaps even famous doing what they love, have it really easy.  Well?  I am here to tell you... that's pretty mythical.  Belief in oneself must come from somewhere.  Maybe it is easier for those who had formative encouragement, and support.  Hard to say.  I am unfamiliar.

I had a brief encounter with this particular belief in oneself phenomenon, once upon a time.  It made me want to see more of it.

But you know?  Believing in yourself?  It's really hard.  Especially when you are the one who must keep it up.  You can't really expect everyone to be there for you one hundred, or even twenty percent of the time.  The mind can be very powerful, for sure.  It really can make, or break you, and your attitude really does make all the difference.  And you know?  This applies to everyone, except the very lucky few who don't have to think about what it is to make a life for themselves.  Although, I have to wonder if they actually are lucky.  That seems terribly boring to me.

At any rate, life isn't fair.  It never has been, never will be. 

It is.  That is all.  

So, you see someone dancing, singing, acting, writing, or selling their art successfully?  Believe me.  Whatever led to where they are now, was not an easy road.  They probably sunk their entire spirit into what they are now doing, and it came at great cost.  They may have had to give up toxic family members, or friends who did not support them, and made them doubt themselves.  But!  They did not give up on their dream, even when people told them it wouldn't work.  They didn't confine themselves to a cubicle after resigning themselves to the fact that... for them, desk work was the only way to make a living.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Unless, there is.

That said, successful artists may have taken really shitty jobs to make ends meet, while pursuing what it was that they were passionate about, and they either hated it, or later, realized that this was not just putting food on their table, but part of the work they would need to do, to appreciate the rest of it, and support their higher goals.

Often, when I think of what I am trying to do in my own life, that line from "Climb Every Mountain", comes to mind:  "A dream that will need all the love you can give; every day of your life, for as long as you live!"

Yeah, try some of that.  It's not easy.  It isn't. 

Sometimes, we need to take breaks, especially when we are faced with challenges that require our attention, and won't let us move forward, until we do.  When that happens, it is important to recognize the necessary detours, act accordingly, and learn from them.  Eventually, those little lessons may very well enrich our experience when we go back to what we are passionate about; that much more!

Conversely, sometimes we get nice little boosts, or coincidental things that just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and we use them, because we recognize that they are opportunities, and not something to waste.  Life will help out once in a while.  Just start noticing when it does, because there really are times when it does.

I am currently implementing a detour in my own life to deal with some important life transitions.  It may be difficult to focus on my original dream, yes, but for now, it is a necessary step for me, and I am learning that this is OK.

Success is never a straight line, people.  It just isn't.  I may be working in a position that I consider to not really be that stimulating, but guess what?  It's not a forever thing, and I know this.  I have not resigned myself to thinking that I have no other skills.  I recognize that while perhaps they are not easily accessed presently because of this other work I need to do in my life, surrounding these transitions; I have plenty of skills, and they are fucking glorious, and awesome.  I may not always be able to generate income using those particular skills.  I may need to fall back on something else from time to time, but I still believe that some day, I'll arrive, and when I do?  It will be worth everything else I have had to work hard at, along the way.

But believing this 100% of the time?  It may be the hardest work, of all.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

On self care...

There are cobwebs on this here blog.  That's OK I guess.  I haven't felt inspired to do much of anything for quite some time.  I even hung up my primary business, and decided to do mindless work that required very little creativity, for a while.  I'm still doing that now, but may go back to the other thing soon.  I want to be ready, because there is nothing worse than trying to create magic when you can barely see what's in front of you in the moment.  That's no good, and frankly, it's not fair to my clients, who I believe deserve the absolute best I can possibly give.

In order to get there, I am learning, for the first time in my life; to take care of myself, rather than abuse myself, and try to squeeze molten gold out of the soles of my shoes.  This is tough.  Apparently, (and this is really hard to admit,) emotional abuse was something that was part of my normal, for most of my life.  So now, I need to figure out how to make that abnormal, and not allow it to be something I do to myself even after I find people who don't treat me badly. 

I will say that I have found the people.  I have lots of good friends who tell me to knock it off when I am hard on myself, and it's nice to feel validated, and not judged, or yelled at for things I have no control over.

Some say that they don't know what normal looks like, or what healthy looks like. This is true for me, even though I see it with other people.  Sure, I have seen family relationships that have been really healthy.  In the past, I have resented those people who have had good relationships with their families.  It made me bitter, and turn even further inward onto myself, saying things like: "It's not something you deserve, because you are you, and she is she."

Not true, I'm finding.

But for 36 years, I sure believed it, and probably still do, somewhere in the back of my head.  But today, I'm having a good day, so I'm choosing to believe, otherwise.

I still don't feel like I am in a place in which I can share (with the world,) what happened, but I do feel like I can share this with a few close friends, and that has been very helpful for me.  In the past, even as recently as yesterday, I have allowed these negative thoughts to percolate inside of me, without letting them out.  After some talk about this, I'm realizing that these thoughts?  They aren't something I can do that with, because they do this thing, where they cycle around.  It seems that with each new thought cycle, they pick up more internal vitriol, and just get worse, until I am in a very low, dark place.  It can be very hard to come out of that.

So, why am I choosing to share this now?

Because.  I am discovering that I am really not alone in this.  Many of us seem to have internal struggles that are ridiculously awful to endure, and work through.  I am also discovering that there are many of us who are sometimes triggered by something that can just knock us out of control.  It sucks, and it can be extremely difficult to regain that control.  And sometimes?  I feel like I am just flat-out, bat shit crazy.

Of course, now I think I know who I can call upon when it gets really bad.  I will refer to these people as my own personal Insane Clown Posse.  I am so glad I have them, and I am so glad that they usually throw me a rope to help me out of the mental chaos pit of despair.

Also?  Self care.  Sometimes, that means taking a day off to just be, or to talk with a good friend.  Sometimes, it means doing something slightly extravagant.  It can look like a lot of different things, and it's nice to brainstorm even that with friends, to figure out what might actually help me the most.  Self-validation is also a good thing.  Realizing that you have been through hell, and that you really should cut yourself some slack, can be pretty powerful. 

So, while this may not be something that is set up for me just yet, because it all takes time,  it's something that I'm working toward.  Hopefully, soon, I will be a much happier person, who can go back to doing what she loves.