Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Six weeks later - Admissions and Gratitude

So... it hasn't been so easy to maintain this blog. I'd like to use the excuse of a wonderful 10-day vacation with my sisters since my last post, or the fact that I actually do have a small consulting gig, but that still leaves too many days with no excuse whatsoever.

I'll admit it: I'm struggling. And it's not easy to be public about it. Cuz you know, I have this perception of my public self that is a certain way-- together, focused, energetic, passionate-- and perhaps most of all: CAPABLE. And most of you who know me have bought into this perception-- in one way or another, through your own lenses.

Well, I've been anything but those things these last several weeks. It makes me wonder: what is TRUE? Who am I REALLY? But starting down THAT path isn't good either.

Yet it is a challenge for me lately to DO what I KNOW is healthy and good for me. And I hate to admit that.

One thing I know to do and CAN do right this minute is The Gratitude List.

I am grateful for the friends and even strangers who contribute so much to me.

Krissi-- a friend of a friend-- posts a query on Facebook, and I am reminded of gratitude lists.

Norma is a genealogy "pen pal" I've never met, and she writes me funny, irreverant email messages that make me laugh and smile. I got one this morning. This made me laugh most (go figure):

The dryer has been screaming my name and I better get busy. I have to do everything myself since the new maid ran off with the handy man. I just don't have any luck with the help. 

My lovely sister, The Queen, gave me a pair of gold sandals, and better yet: a lovely afternoon hanging out at the pool.

Diane is a recently refound childhood friend who posts short witty one-liners to Facebook that make me wonder what's up in her life (distracting me from my own) and inspires me to write.

Tori, dearest Tori, has the cahunas to share with her friends some of the TOUGHEST of life's issues. Much tougher than my own. I worship and adore her.

Dave and Renate and Edward and Micki paint and paint some more and share what they're painting-- some DAILY-- and continue to remind me that I LOVE this form of artistic expression. Gavin encourages me in my own painting, telling me what's great about it and where I can strengthen it.

A single question from dear Courtney reminds me of my promises to myself.

Philip's patience (and even his impatience) reminds me of his love for and commitment to me.

Ah.... that's better. I can get up now and go about the work of the day.

What's on your gratitude list?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What does my soul require?

A dear friend, knowing of my exploration, sent me this wonderful quote from Carl Jung:

Thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life's morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie. (Aspects of the Masculine, page 33, which I believe is referencing "Stages of Life," Collected Works, Vol. 8, Paragraphs 778, 784.)

I really do feel different during this particular life transition. For example, when I see job descriptions or opportunities that call to the Jillaine from my earlier period of life, the prospect of pursuing them feels like a lie. That's not me anymore. I'm someone else. (The only exception to this is the most recent work I was doing: convening people to jointly create solutions to their individual challenges.)

This sent me Googling around where I found a number of references that resonate (or should I saw "generate synchronicity"?) with my own experience.
"Carl Jung believed that middle and old age, like youth, have specific developmental tasks. While the developmental tasks for youth involve turning outward and engaging life, the goal for the mature individual is to consolidate an integrated personality by integrating the conscious and the unconscious parts of self." (The afternoon of life: Jung's view of the tasks of the second half of life, by K. Kelleher.)

Well, I certainly feel this is true of me at this time of my life. And I even remember an early therapist telling me that I needed such internal focus. I didn't get it then. Guess I wasn't old enough. ;-)

Wikipedia on Carl Jung went on to explain:
"Our main task, he believed, is to discover and fulfill our deep innate potential, much as the acorn contains the potential to become the oak, or the caterpillar to become the butterfly.

I've spent these post-layoff weeks in a place of inner exploration, seeking to re-ignite my deepest "innate potential," absolutely certain that something else is calling to be expressed through me than what has been expressed in my earlier years.

Then I found this:
"But this transition requires deeper change and a different orientation toward one’s self and one’s world than earlier transitions... When the middle passage has been navigated, the sun begins its slow descent... there can follow a long period when people are not young and not yet old. I call this period the time of coming to authenticity...

"Our sense of identity is expanded. We know more about our authentic selves and have come to some peace with our mistakes and limitations... We can become more fully who we were created to be, and we can make choices from a place of authenticity and integrity...

"As the darkness of evening falls, the question is not “What does the world require?”, or even “Is this all there is?” Rather the question is “What does soul require?” " (Individuation: Learning to Live by Nancy Millner.)

My soul requires that my inner self be expressed-- through writing, through painting-- i.e., through creative expression. It requires that I maintain connected to the earth Funny that: I type this from the deck of the "Tree House" where the afternoon light filters through the trees and I hear any number of bird species calling to and for their mates.

Meet "Ida"

Please allow me to to introduce you to an alter ego of mine. Her name is Ida, Ida Juana.

She's five.

She tends to show up at certain times of the day when I'm turning my attention to something good for myself or for the home-- cleaning up my clutter, doing laundry, exercising, doing the next round on a painting.

When she sees me getting ready for any of these, she decides it's time to remind me of her name. This morning, it was while getting dressed to ride my bike the 10 miles into town:

"Ida Juana!"

The first time she says it is soft and quiet because she knows that in the past, one mention is all it took to get me to drop whatever I was doing and turn my attention to her. Lately, she's had to repeat herself a few times.

Her timing is also exquisite. She always says her name right before I actually commence the activity-- in that very moment before I commit-- when there's still wiggle room to change my mind and do her bidding (which often involves me reading a cheap novel to her while she downs a bag of chips or the last box of Girl Scout cookies).

She's also very good-- especially for a five-year-old -- at taking advantage of external circumstances.

This morning it was NPR's weather forecast: hot and humid.

As images of a hot and sweaty bike ride passed before my awareness, her voice began to sound amazingly like my own as she repeated her name:

"Ida Juana!"

But here's the deal. She's five. I'm fifty. I've got a few on her. The result: I'm writing this from downtown after a great first 10 miles along the tow path.

Yes, I'm hot, sweaty and overheated but I'm also enjoying a perfectly made double dry cappuccino, sitting in an air-conditioned office and feeling quite good for responding to Idea with:

"I hear you, Ida Juana. I know your name. I haven't forgotten it. And today, we're going for a bike ride."

She attempted to change my mind with a few more repetitions of her name, but I persisted. And ultimately even she had a good time, especially when we saw the two geese leading their six gosling across the tow path. That shut her up for awhile.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

One Fine Day

Actually, two, but we'll focus on one.

We're approaching our one-year anniversary of living in Bannockburn, a former cooperative neighborhood that still maintains a strong sense of community.

Today was the first annual community clean-up day. All around the neighborhood, people came out with yard bags, clippers, mowers, etc. and "beautified" the common areas of the neighborhood.

For us here on Owen Place, that meant the stretch of landscape on the other side of the street. (Houses are only on one side.)

I spent four hours with neighbors with whom, prior to today, I'd only exchanged brief greetings. As we we pulled out ivy (including the poisoned kind) and bagged weeds, we learned of the origins of names, what drew us to this particular community, the story of a lost family turtle... you know, that kinda stuff.

In the process, we discovered lovely plants hidden under the ivy, commonality we didn't know about before, passions and cares. All that while pulling weeds.

Who knew?

And after... we celebrated with a pot luck where we got to know even more about each other. The history of this amazing little community. The intentionality that while not exactly as it was, still persists in little ways.

All this because someone said, hey, let's organize a community clean-up day. And it happened.

I love this place.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two Disparate Passions Interesect for the First Time

Please read At the Intersection for today's blog post about how my "What's Next Exploration" led me to a new intersection of what had previously been wholly disconnected areas of my life.

-- Jillaine

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nothing to say this morning

What do you do on mornings when you have nothing to say?

"Write anyway."

Yeah, but...

Sure I could write a "morning page." (See The Artist's Way for more information.) But BLOG it? Not so sure.

I could tell you that I got up and dressed and walked Philip to the bus, then did a power-walk that made my legs feel GOOOD....

And I could tell you that I'm now sitting on the back deck listening to a bright-red cardinal sing his heart out as he seeks a mate, while the chirping wrens feed on the fresh seed I just put out, and while the cats watch, waiting for their chance (that I won't allow them to have).

I could tell you that there's nothing quite like the morning light as it comes over the hill and illuminates the large tulip poplar before me, and how the leaves respond to the light with that spring green color I didn't know existed in nature before moving here, and how it almost vibrates against the absolutely clear blue sky behind.

This is my morning today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't let success slow you down

On Friday of last week, I had a little success.

A good call with a prospective client. A 99% likelihood that I'll get the contract. A set of next steps for moving forward. A timeline in place for responding.

Parallel to that, I have (this week) a small job for a colleague-friend.

With pressure reduced and given some breathing room, what do I do? I took a day off on Monday. No blog post! 8-O (But I did get in a good 15-mile bike ride.)

Such a choice can be perfectly fine. But I know myself. I know that when I get off track, I have to work doubly hard to get back on track.

So I'm back here, blogging, admitting my weakness, and hauling myself back onto the rails.

The good news? Last week, I also mapped out THIS week's goals, so I have a road map for the week. I'm not starting from scratch.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Key: A schedule, a routine

The routine of 9-5 provides a structure for employed persons to complete and make progress on the items of their job description.

When unemployed, this externally-imposed structure goes away. Initially, this feels great. Like a vacation. And certainly, those of us who have chosen self-employment understand the joy of creating our own schedule.

That said, the creation of a schedule is key to making progress-- no matter what state of employment (or lack thereof) you're in. And at least for me (and I doubt I'm alone in this), sticking to a schedule and routine does not come easily.

I've been working on (with various degrees of success) creating my own schedule-- at least for M-F. And with a special focus on the beginning of the day because I find that if I can get myself off to a good start, I'm much more likely to end the day feeling accomplished.

Here's mine; what's yours?

6:30 alarm goes off. Yes, while I don't have to get up early, I choose to get up early. I wait in bed until Garrison Keillor has read his poem on The Writer's Almanac. Then I get up and make us espresso, feed the cats, etc etc.

7:30 Dressed (this is key!), I get out of the house (also key!) and walk with Philip to the bus stop-- it's about three-quarters of a mile each way. On the way back, I often go out of my way and walk through the neighborhood, trying to stretch the total walk to 2 miles. Some days I walk the neighbor's dog. Some days I go through the woods and look for the latest wildflowers. Other days, I take my bike for a longer ride along the canal. The point is this: exercise outside in fresh air for at least 30-40 minutes.

8:30-9:30 (depending on the length of walk/ride): This is the tough time for me. This is where I can easily get distracted.

Upon returning home, I might swing through the yard to see how the garden is coming. I may weed. At some point, I make myself another cup of coffee and a bowl of granola-fruit-yogurt.

What I'm trying to do now is use this time to write my blog. But sometimes, I find that the morning has shot by because I get caught up in email or facebook or web-surfing, and before I know it, Kojo Nnamdi has come on the radio which means it's noon, and I haven't written a thing.

A note on distractions. Some distractions may not be bad. But instead of starting with them, end with them. Reward yourself with them after you've accomplished something on your list of goals. I love to do genealogy. But I can spend hours on it. And if I get started, the whole day can disappear. Now, it's a reward: when I've accomplished goals a, b and c, then I'll give myself permission to spend some time on it.

Another thing helps with that morning slot is to know just what it is I need or want to accomplish each day. This makes a HUGE difference. I choose no more than three things at any given time. And I write them down as if they are done:

1. The car has passed emissions
2. The taxes are submitted
3. The consulting proposal to ABC organization has been sent in

I may (and do) have a much longer list. But I list no more than three at a time, the things I really really want done.

These things make up the rest of my day.

At the end of the day, I check them off my list and make my list for the next day.

In part because of the work I've started with the book Work With Passion, I'm also asking myself at the end of each day: What did I feel best about today? When did I experience the greatest "passion"?

So what's your schedule, your routine?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Work with Passion

As I mentioned in my opening blog post, I’m starting out this exploration with the support of Nancy Anderson’s Work with Passion: How to do what you love for a living. She initially published this work in 1984. And while not nearly as well known as other such books that subsequently came out, I have always liked hers the best. And over the next several posts, you’ll see why.

I first picked up Work with Passion as I was approaching 30. (For those of you astrology-followers: during my “Saturn Return” -- oh... THAT time of life...)

For me it was that time in life when it’s really hit that school life is behind me, including those early job experiments in retail, administration and temping. It was time to get serious about moving into a CAREER.

I was not one of those people who knew their career goals from birth -- or even upon college graduation. I was -- and remain -- a generalist. With interests in a broad range of topics. How on earth would I CHOOSE?

Back then, this book, with the support of a small group of similarly aged young women asking similar questions, provided a structure for me to explore and establish what would become my career path for the next 20 years.

So it was with some sheepishness that I brought the revised version to the cashier 20 years later (a cashier I might add, who was probably 20 years younger). I mean, c’mon. Shouldn’t I know by NOW what I want to be when I grow up? Hadn’t I figured that out -- at least by my actions -- these last two decades?

I only know that since being laid off, and maybe even earlier, I have had a sense that there is something else out there for me. That it’s time for me to reconnect with what I’m most passionate about. And you know, passions do change-- or at least mature-- along with us. So it really is okay that I’m 50 and picking up this book again, that I’m going to ask myself: just what is it today that makes me feel alive, that moves through my body when (as Anderson describes passion) I care deeply about something, that shows up when I want to do my best and want others to do their best? These things HAVE changed since I was 29. And some that haven’t changed have been sleeping, and long to be awakened.

Please... join with me in the query: When do you feel this sense of passion? When does it show up? How does it make you feel? What do you DO with it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's Next?

I spent my 50th birthday at Esalen, near Big Sur, California. I walked, I read, I ate, I soaked, I wrote. And I came away telling the Universe that this would be the year I would listen for what's next in my life.

Six weeks later, I was laid off from my job. Message from the Universe #1.

Yes, I know. There's an economic crisis going on. People are getting laid off all over the country. So this is some message, just for ME? Hey. I choose to see it that way. If it helps me design what's next for me, so be it.

And this blog? I'm also designing it to help me figure out what's next.

Another six weeks have gone by. I spent the first two "on vacation." Reading, eating, sleeping. Then I got bored. I looked for things to do around the house. I had the car's emissions tested and approved. I finished and sent in the taxes. I took in dry cleaning that's been hanging around the house for weeks. I was still bored.

I started updating my various "professional" things. My resume. My bio. My LinkedIn profile. I signed up for the job listings in my field. I signed up for unemployment. But still couldn't quite get into gear, professionally.

I signed up for an art class. I got out my paints, my brushes, my paper and canvas. I started walking and riding my bike in the mornings. I bought and planted perennials and herbs and vegetables. I pulled weeds and ivy. I read, I ate, I slept.

Somewhere in there, I had dinner with a colleague-- another woman exploring what's next. (Message #2: Find a buddy.) We ended up at the bookstore. She bought Nick Lore's Pathfinder. I bought the new edition of What Color is Your Parachute, and also a revised edition of a book I'd used 20 years ago: Work with Passion.

I brought them home. I forgot about them.

Until yesterday.

I opened up the second one. I started journaling along with it.

And then I thought, let's blog about this.


1. I need a structure, a commitment, a goal. If I commit, if I promise to you that I will write here at least a few times a week, I will be in action and I will make progress. One inspiration was this woman's A Drawing A Day. It's pretty ballsy to commit publicly to making and posting a drawing every day.

2. One of the things I'm passionate about is writing. Blogging is writing. So consider it a regular practice. Inspiration here? The Artist's Way Morning Pages. Not that I'll use this blog for morning pages, but for the practice of writing every single day.

3. I figure: I'm not the only one struggling. I'm 50, I'm unemployed after a strong career of two decades, and I'm wondering what's next. I bet somebody else out there is similarly struggling. Maybe we can help each other.

So... let's get started. What's Next? Work with Passion by Nancy Anderson.