I Still Believe In Love

I climbed up the step-stool to reach the cabinet above the sink, grabbing a box to fill with the medley of cold medicine, antacids and allergy pills. A handful of bottles was too much and two of them fell to the floor below, rattling and popping open, throwing their contents across the tile. I sighed and climbed down the steps and began gathering the small pills. I rolled the bottle over in my hand after retrieving it from the floor. “Patient: May Normand Johnson. Give half a pill with food 2x a day.” My breath caught in my throat, and I leaned back onto the step, eyes immediately tearing up. I was jarred from my manic cleaning by the reminder of my most recent loss and the continuing grief I’d been fighting.

Dearest readers, I have had a truly black case of writer’s block since Sunday, August 6th, 2017. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but something broke in me as I held my dog as she took her last gasping breaths, her heart finally failing her. Failing us. In a short month and half, she had gone from the most energetic and obnoxious dog to a shadow of her former self, unable to play ball due to her shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. She would hold the ball in her mouth, breathing heavy around it, in an act of greatest defiance. She could no longer move around and would frequently pass out, losing control of all of her functions and gagging in a most frightening manner.

On a warm, sunny afternoon playing ball in the backyard, she’d passed out suddenly. Panicked, I grabbed her and took her inside where she came to and looked at me as if I were being silly. She was fine, she said. I took her to the animal ER and her breathing was stabilized with oxygen as she underwent imaging and tests. A couple of grand later, we learned that she had a congenital heart defect that had suddenly worsened. That, for a relatively youthful eight-year-old terrier, she had a bad prognosis of at most two to three months and that there was nothing we could do for her. I spent the next month not sleeping much and spending every moment I could with her, rushing home from work anxiously praying that I wouldn’t open the door to find her gone already. Praying that she wait to go till I could be with her.

And so, on another warm, sunny afternoon in the backyard, it happened. She’d been up all night, unable to get comfortable, so I’d slept on the floor with her, holding her. As the sun came through the blinds the next morning, I had a sad feeling. She looked at me and, though her breathing was still labored, she seemed different. As if she were distant, not present anymore. I opened the back door and took her out to lay in the cool morning grass. She loved laying in the grass, so we lie there together, the sky painfully blue above us. She labored for what seemed like forever. I had coolly thought that, after a month mentally preparing myself for it, that somehow it would be less painful or awful. I’d seen animals die before, but this was quite different. This was my best friend, the love of my life. Save for my parents, no one had loved me more than Normand and, likely, no one ever will again. As anyone who knew us would attest to, she and I were beyond inseparable.

It was awful. It was ugly. I held her in my arms, unable to maintain any composure. She went quickly, but it was death. The whole eyes-dilating, body-seizing, foam-out-the-mouth ugly, ugly face of death. I felt her fighting it, and I held her till she was still. I don’t know how long I sat out in the grass holding her. I’d lost track of all time. Eventually, I picked her up and took her inside to lay her on her blanket. I felt tremendous shame at the feeling of relief that washed over me. So much shame. I took her to be cremated that morning, still consumed with shame and guilt at being able to take a breath in the now overwhelming silence of the house.

By far the greatest casualty of Normand’s death was my other dog’s severe concern and anxiety about what had occurred. I had been dedicating all of my energy for the past two months in the constant care of Norm, which he seemed not to mind. But this event was too much for him. All that he knew was that she was different and then that she was gone, taken away by me. He’d pace for hours at the front door, eager for me to go get her. In my grief, I did not know how to respond to him other than to try to console him through my own tears. He was despondent almost immediately after her death, lacking her constant leadership and guidance. I had work to distract me, but, when I’d get home, he’d be sleeping in her bed. He stopped responding to me and he’d stopped eating by the end of the week. Luckily, he loves my parents’ dog pack and has sense regained his sense of joy since going to stay with them.

I tell you all of this awfulness, dear reader, to tell you this — that I still believe in love. Though my heart is broken and I am changed, I still believe in love because a dog showed me and taught me such an awesome love. She came into my life during a separation and divorce, helped me survive grad school, moved multiple times with me, and braved the cold winters of Maine by my side before making the journey back to North Carolina this year. She had the most enthusiastic and purest love for everyone around her. She packed in so many good memories in her short eight years. I miss her the most when I am driving. Her place was always riding shotgun, Guns N’ Roses blaring on the radio, happy to go anywhere with me so long as we were together. Thousands of miles we’d ride together. Sometimes I see something out of the corner of my sunglasses, and, for a split second, I swear I catch a glimpse of black and white next to me. I guess, in some way, she’ll always be riding shotgun with me.

I know that this is a seemingly dreary post to start off 2018, but I feel that part of my healing will come through sharing my grief. I count myself so very lucky to have been loved by a dog and, as I write more about the other changes going on in my life, I hope to be more of the person she thought me to be. It’s a lot to live up to, but that is my simple goal for 2018.

 

“You’ve been gone for a long long time
You’ve been in the wind, you’ve been on my mind
You are the purest soul I’ve ever known in my life

Take your time, let the rivers guide you in
You know where you can find me again
I’ll be waiting here ’til the stars fall out of the sky
When you left I was far too young
To know you’re worth more than the moon and the sun
You are still alive when I look to the sky in the night
I would wait for a thousand years
I would sit right here by the lake, my dear
You just let me know that you’re coming home
And I’ll wait for you
Years have gone but the pain is the same
I have passed my days by the sound of your name
Well they say that you’re gone and that I should move on
I wonder: how do they know, baby?
Death is a wall but it can’t be the end
You are my protector and my best friend
Well they say that you’re gone and that I should move on
I wonder: how do they know, baby?
How do they know? Well, they don’t”

“Yes I know that love is like ghosts

Oh, few have seen it, but everybody talks
Spirits follow everywhere I go
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night
Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh, and what ain’t living can never really die
You don’t want me baby please don’t lie
Oh but if you’re leaving, I gotta know why
I said if you’re leaving, I gotta know whyOh I sing all day and I love you through the night
Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh and the moonlight baby shows you whats real
There ain’t a language for the things I feel
And if I can’t have you then no one ever will
Oh, if I can’t have you then no one ever will
I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
Oh go on baby, hurt me tonight
I want ours to be an endless song
Baby in my eyes you do no wrong
I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
So go on baby hurt me tonight
All the spirits that I know I saw
Do you see no ghost in me at all
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night”

Sweet Child O’ Mine

I’ve been on a brief hiatus. Partly because I’m working on a set of short stories for submission to a contest this fall. Partly because I’ve been nursing a sick puppy, who recently passed away. Between a lot of changes at work and taking time to enjoy my Normand, it’s been a tumultuous few months, but I am using music, writing and friends to help me get through. I’ll post an actual entry sometime, but the other project will likely take precedence since I’ve been able to break through some of my writer’s block.

In the meantime, here are some of the songs from my most recent playlist. Most remind me of Normand.

 

 

“You’ve got your ball
you’ve got your chain
tied to me tight tie me up again
who’s got their claws
in you my friend
Into your heart I’ll beat again
Sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock
and sweet you roll
Lost for you I’m so lost for you”

 

 

“And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass”

 

 

“Oh, I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, I was wrong
If you, if you could get by
Trying not to lie
Things wouldn’t be so confused
And I wouldn’t feel so used
But you always really knew
I just want to be with you
And I’m in so deep
You know I’m such a fool for you
You’ve got me wrapped around your finger
Do have to let it linger?
Do you have to, do you have to, do have to let it linger?”

 

 

“Don’t leave me high
Don’t leave me dry
Don’t leave me high
Don’t leave me dry

Drying up in conversation
You will be the one who cannot talk
All your insides fall to pieces
You just sit there wishing you could still make love”
“So long ago, I don’t remember when

That’s when they say I lost my only friend
Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease
As I listened through the cemetery trees
I seen the sun comin’ up at the funeral at dawn
The long broken arm of human law
Now it always seemed such a waste, she always had a pretty face
So I wondered how she hung around this place
Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle
But me and Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight”
“So I’ll start a revolution from my bed

Cause you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside, summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out
And so, Sally can wait
She knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by
Her soul slides away
But don’t look back in anger
I heard you say”
“Backbeat, the word was on the street

That the fire in your heart is out
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before
But you never really had a doubt
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do about you now
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how
Because maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you’re my wonderwall”
“You’re falling back to me
The star that I can see
I know you’re out there somewhere out there
You’re falling out of reach
Defying gravity
I know you’re out there
Somewhere out there

You’re falling back to me
The star that I can see
I know you’re out there”

“And it’s been awhile
Since I could say
That I wasn’t addicted
It’s been awhile
Since I could say
I loved myself as well
And it’s been awhile
Since I’ve gone and
Fucked things up
Just like I always do
And it’s been awhile
But all that shit
Seems to disappear
When I’m with you”
“Here’s a toast

To all those who hear me all too well
Here’s to the nights
We felt alive
Here’s to the tears
You knew you’d cry
Here’s to goodbye
Tomorrow’s gonna come too soon”
“Moving forward using all my breath

Making love to you was never second best
I saw the world crashing all around your face
Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace
I’ll stop the world and melt with you
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time
There’s nothing you and I won’t do
I’ll stop the world and melt with you”
“i try to remember a kiss
and i only get sorrow
and yesterday’s faded away
now there’s only tomorrow
and everything passes and changes
and comes to an end i know
but nothing is written but old news
again and again
i know that it’s true
there’s too many tears
but angels don’t cry”
“I miss you, I miss you

I miss you I miss you
Where are you?
And I’m so sorry
I cannot sleep I cannot dream tonight
I need somebody and always”
“She’s got a smile it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry
Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine”
“But the space between where you’re smilin’ high
Is where you’ll find me if I get to go
The space between the bullets in our firefight
Is where I’ll be hiding, waiting for you

The rain that falls splash in your heart
Ran like sadness down the window into your room
The space between our wicked lies
Is where we hope to keep safe from pain

Take my hand ’cause we’re walking out of here
Oh, right out of here, love is all we need, dear”

Breathing Underwater

I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.
The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.
-Rumi

I got a lot done last week, learned some things at work and saw a different side to a friend (both good and bad). I also managed to work out almost every day, which is helping me sleep a lot better at night. Oh, and I’m trying to get down another pant size before September so I can get back into my favorite shorts before my Hawaii trip. That and be healthier in general. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like the last year or so it has become so much harder to lose weight. Maybe it’s my metabolism slowing down, but for the same workouts and lower calorie foods, I don’t lose weight as fast. Just means I have to work a little harder at it. It also doesn’t help that my neighborhood is not very runner-friendly, or else I’d be doing that every night. I think my next move will have to be to somewhere I can run from my house in a neighborhood or on a trail. I miss running in the mornings or right before sunset, like I used to in Atlanta. It became so much easier when it was part of my daily routine and I felt much happier with my body. But I do have my stair-climber/elliptical, which helps me remove excuses. Hard to ignore it when it’s literally right next to my bed. I’m going to try to add some weight training this week to mix it up.

I also realize that part of my journey is also appreciating my body as it is, but that’s always going to be something I struggle with. I have good days and bad days, just like everyone else. I do like my hair growing out again. It’s strange, but I’ve always felt “stronger” when I have my long hair. Same with wearing flame red. One of my old friends and I had a whole conversation about our “empowering rituals.” Those small things that you do or wear that bring you a sense of personal strength. For me, when I walk into the big meetings wearing a sharp red blouse, my black pumps and thick mascara, I feel pretty powerful. And feeling it is half the battle, right? It also helps that working out a smidge makes my clothes fit better. Aside from feeling good for myself, it’s also fun to watch guys I work with (I work with a lot of them) do a double-take versus a few months ago when I was essentially invisible. Definitely an entertaining perk. I can’t say that I always like myself, but I’m making an effort to be more forgiving towards myself, which makes it easier to like myself more often. Finding that balance between pushing myself to be better and taking a breath to enjoy what I’ve been able to do is key. I spend a lot of time loving and accepting other people, so I’m working on doing the same for myself, even if it takes time.

“You know some days you feel so good in your own skin
But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in
‘Cause you look greatest when you feel like a damn queen
We’re all just playing a game in a way, trying to win at life

Most girls are smart and strong and beautiful
Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable
Most girls, our fight to make every day
No two are the same”

“Something like flying
Hard to describe it
My God, I’m breathing underwater
Something like freedom, freedom
My God, I’m breathing underwater

Every moon and every star
Knows who you are, you know
So ever if gets too dark
You never are alone”

“I don’t know why I’m scared
I’ve been here before
Every feeling, every word
I’ve imagined it all
You’ll never know if you never try
To forget your past and simply be mine

I dare you to let me be your, your one and only
I promise I’m worthy
To hold in your arms
So come on and give me the chance
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile
Until the end starts

Halfway, Kentucky

I made it out to Kentucky last week for a few days to meet with some colleagues there working on some fancy projects. It was a good trip, and, though I missed my dogs, I am glad I went out. It was a refreshing trip and, though it was for work, I was able to get in some sight-seeing via taking the scenic route through the mountains of NC and TN. Somehow, no matter where I’m at mentally and emotionally, driving through the mountains with the windows down and the radio on always does something for me spiritually. I especially enjoyed some of the sights. I got to see beautiful farmland and rolling hills on my drive, accompanied by the occasional nuclear tower (or NUKE-YOO-ler if you prefer).


I also enjoyed some of the town names, such as Half Way, KY. Once I made it to Owensboro, I was treated to some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. I also learned that the preferred meat for BBQ in Kentucky is mutton. Different, but delicious! They take their BBQ seriously. As well as their banana pudding.



I like my new job, so this trip was enjoyable and not really a needed “break” from the office. More of a meet and greet since I’m new. For the first time in a long time, I am excited to go to work in the mornings and I feel like I can make a positive impact again. My previous job had started that way and gradually changed as my managers changed–this has a huge impact. I went from being able to work independently with a manager that trusted me to working for someone who barely trusted himself, much less any of his reports. This made work infinitely less enjoyable. Being trusted is a huge deal, and I am hoping to continue building relationships at my new job so I can continue being trusted. Not having it makes you appreciate it even more when you’re back in a situation where you are trusted again. It’s exciting, and I definitely work best when I’m not being micromanaged. They also are investing in my development via training and getting my project management certification. Maybe even an MBA in future if I am so inclined.

I haven’t been posting as much, but it’s mostly because I’ve been working on getting my house organized and I’ve actually been enjoying it. The garage is able to contain my car now! Not just boxes! And I’ve been doing some gardening. Mostly container plants so I can take them with me next time I move. My muscadines are filling out nicely and seem to be enjoying running their tendrils over the rough back fence. My peony is going to bloom anytime soon, which is fantastic–I love the giant, bright fuchsia flowers of the Karl Rosenfield. In the future, I’d love to get some darker red varieties and some yellow ones. I also re-potted all of my succulents to give them new dirt. Love the pale green of those. So visually soothing.

I have lost about 10-15 pounds in the last few weeks, as well. It’s slow going, but I’m trying to take better care of myself. Mostly because last year was kind of a shit show for my emotional health which always makes me stress eat and gain weight. It also helps to be back in warmer weather since I am more motivated to get out when it’s not always icy. After a few months now, I know even more than ever that I made the right choice to start this new adventure. For myself and for the dogs. They love it here, too. The city is quirky and I’m still learning about the area, but everyone has been very friendly and helpful. I have met more interesting people in the past few months through work and made some new friends.

My most common emotion these days is grateful. I have a job I enjoy and I’m closer to family now. I have a new nephew as of last week. I have planned time to catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in years. I am taking a vacation this year for the first time in a long time. I also will get to travel to some interesting places for work and continue learning. Maybe after some time I’ll even contemplate dating again. Crazy, I know!

“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees
I never married but Ohio don’t remember me

I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
I never thought about love when I thought about home
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
The floors are falling out from everybody I know”

“Well I want you as you are
Not some collapsing star
I’ll wait I’ll wait for good
What else can I do

I don’t want you as a ghost
I don’t want you as a fading light
I don’t want to be the weight you carry
I just want to be the man you come home to every night”

“Well I looked my demons in the eyes
Lay bare my chest
Said do your best
To destroy me

See I’ve been to hell and back
So many times
I must admit
You kinda bore me”

 

A Million Reasons

I really should update more than once a month, but really, life happens. And a lot has been happening this past month. I’ve lost over ten pounds by eating better and doing more.  I managed to successfully sell my house in Maine without too much trouble, though I took a bit of a loss on it. Frankly, I wanted to be done with it since the winter has continued into April up there and I was getting tired of paying for the maintenance on it for snow plowing. Having that done is a bit of a relief. I feel like I can focus more on my new NC life now with that piece completed. Here are some winners from Maine Memes:


I also moved my site to its own host. WordPress is great, but they limit a lot of the designs and features when you’re using their hosting. I also spent the last few weekends building bookcases and a desk so I could finish emptying out some of the boxes in my garage. I managed to get all of my books unpacked along with electronics and other debris from the past. Needless to say, I have filled several boxes to take to donate.

I’ve been making an effort to be more social, which is challenging for me. I have been to several movie nights with friends from work, went out to see a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game in Raleigh and even helped one of them pack for their upcoming move. Luckily, I had plenty of boxes and paper left over from my move, so I was able to recycle them by giving them to her to use.

In other news, I booked a trip to Hawaii with Dad for us to go see Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. It will be my first real vacation in quite awhile, so I’m very excited! I have a picture of Kauai on my desk (next to my dogs) as my work inspiration. I’d like to think that if I were any of the islands, I’d be Kauai, based on what I’ve read.  It is also the home of many film locations (Jurassic Park) and lots of wilderness, which I dig. I am also excited to see the volcanoes and observatory on the Big Island, another one of my obsessions. Here are some of my favorite wallpapers.

wallup.net
www.richard-seaman.com

wallup.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work is good and I’m learning a lot. I am glad for the change and looking forward to new challenges and making new friends. I’m also excited to meet my cousin’s new baby coming soon! April should be exciting!

“Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at ninety down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill”

My Own Light

Recently, I decided to get a Fitbit and start tracking my steps. This also synced with my work’s health program, so I saw it as a double perk–I’d be able to quantify my steps AND have it count towards points and rewards. I thought that it was a great way to get motivated, and, initially, I was right. I started walking 8,000 steps a day and gradually worked up to 10k. I found myself getting a mini-high as soon as my little Fitbit buzzed to let me know I’d met the next step goal. I would salivate and awkwardly walk in manic circles in my cube to finish off the next goal. I would check my progress on my phone and laptop constantly, the task almost becoming a reflex every few minutes. I had also been doing this with Facebook, as it served as my main social connection to lots of people and interesting news.

Then, one night I realized that I’d gotten home, fed the dogs, and spent the next 45 minutes pacing and switching back and forth between my step counter and Facebook. I hadn’t played with the dogs. I hadn’t gotten dinner. I hadn’t started my laundry or emptied another box to get closer to completing my unpacking. I hadn’t even noticed the time going by. I lost 45 minutes and hadn’t even noticed. I stopped and looked down at my dog beasts, both of whom had patiently sat down on their pillows watching me with great concern. They sighed and looked at me with big, sad eyes.

I had a small epiphany. I have felt stressed lately without really understanding why–I finished moving and I am enjoy my new job and my new coworkers. But I still felt panicky at the end of the day. My chest was always tight and sometimes I’d get heart palpitations, all well-known prequels to a panic attack (I have those once in a while). I realized as I stood there, desperately clutching my phone, that I had gotten lost in comparing my steps with friends. And constantly comparing myself with people on FB. So many of my friends have kids now and others are out conquering the world in science and the arts, making my successes pale in comparison. So, on top of my anxieties from a constant stream of stressful news stories being injected into my eyeballs every five seconds, I had added anxiety from constantly wanting to match my step-measuring buddies.

I realized that I’d taken a walk around our campus at work on a beautiful day and all I could remember was how many steps I’d done. Not the birds I saw. Not the other people out walking. Not the newly budding trees moving in the wind. Not the lovely symmetry of the long line of oak trees along the boulevard.  Not the way the sun hit the stones in the cemetery across the road, making beautiful tapestries of shadows on the hill behind. All the things I’d previously delighted in observing were now obscured by my obsession with counting and quantifying how much I’d done. How many steps. How many steps. Gotta catch em all. I’d forgotten how to enjoy my walk.

I think that the step trackers work well for a lot of people, but I decided, in that moment, that my addictions both to being constantly connected (FB) and to quantifying (obsessive step-counting) were too much. I needed to disconnect to reconnect, so to speak. I thought about how much time I could get back by removing some of the noise from my daily life. Time to work on writing I’ve been desperate to get back to. Time to spend with my dogs and  friends. Time to finally unpack and get my house in order. Time to focus on getting healthier while still being able to enjoy, truly enjoy a walk in the park. Being aware and present so I can focus on all the blessings in my life. That is what I desire most.

I think technology is ultimately a good thing, but I am disconnecting from FB and social media for a while (other than this blog). I still check the news once or twice a day via the interwebs, but I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone and uninstalled most apps. Suddenly, I can breathe again. I can focus. Just since Tuesday, my last day on FB and Fitbit, I’ve spent more time with the dogs, more time enjoying my walks and more time connecting with friends. I’ve also managed to unpack more boxes and finish my taxes. Most importantly, I have slept better. I no longer have a knot in my chest throughout the day. No more pacing or forgetting dinner. More music. More love. Less noise.

This isn’t to say I won’t try it again sometime. Or that I’ll be off FB indefinitely. But, in future, I will use it with intention and not as a time-killer. Cause we don’t get much of that on this big rock, so we gotta be thoughtful about our souls’ investments.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my back patio watching the willow tree fronds rise and fall in the crisp breeze, dogs all akimbo in my lap and I’m happy. This is it.

 

“Yes I be speaking my peace up in my seventies
Ain’t worry bout ya threatening me, I’m just being honest
I ain’t buying fear just because it’s all you got left
We just want to make love ’til we wake up
I believe whoever made us envisioned greatness
And you know they want to paint us with the same brush
Wanna enterchain us ’til we fill our grave up
Alright okay but when it’s all said and it’s all done
And I look back at the trophies I won
I will only count one
I’m using my heart for what hearts are for

“You’re the only one that I want
I wanna be around
I wanna be around you girl
I wanna be around
Ooh I wanna be around”

“I know it’s hard
Only you and I
Is it all for me?
Because I know it’s all for you
And I guess, I guess
It is only, you are the only thing I’ve ever truly known
So, I hesitate, if I can act the same for you
And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you
And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you

“Love, what did you do to me?
My only hope is to let life stretch out before me
And break me on this lonely road
I’m made of many things, but I’m not what you are made of

Only now do I see the big picture
But I swear that these scars are fine
Only you could’ve hurt me in this perfect way tonight
I might be blind, but you’ve told me the difference
Between mistakes and what you just meant for me”

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Soooo…in the past few weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity in my life, some of it stressful, but most of it good. I have only recently been able to slow down a bit, rest and reflect on all the past few months. Here are just a few of those events/realizations.

I learned to steel myself against unhelpful criticism and find my value. My previous job was in an industry that I knew about and I’d been there long enough to feel comfortable. After some re-orgs, I wasn’t necessarily appreciated as much by my new chain of command, mostly due to their newness to my job function. Despite multiple conversations where I voiced my desire to make changes or improve myself or processes, I met with a great deal of resistance and sometimes even avoidance. I gave it time, thinking that they’d come around. Well, sometimes they don’t. And, despite my eternal optimism about people, I had to admit to myself that the only thing I could change was myself. In talking with others and getting feedback, I realized that I wasn’t just overreacting–I wasn’t being heard. So, what next? I thought. What do I have to offer? It’s a scary question to have to think through, but it is a valuable one. In revamping my résumé, I had a chance to see what new skills I’d learned and how I had grown. With a strong network of friends and family, I was able to recognize where I needed work still and, at the same time, how much I’d accomplished in the last four years.

I had to figure out how to go confidently into job interviews in entirely new industries where I know nothing. Along with the self-examination that had to happen, I was immediately terrified about having to go “out there” and knew that my next steps would involve a huge investment in social niceties and public speaking. Those are not my strong suit, but I can make it work when I need to. The previous step was necessary before I slung myself head first into the world of job applications, awkward phone screenings and talking myself up (again, something I don’t like doing). I prefer to be out of the spotlight, quietly providing massive support and strategy for my teams from backstage. When in the “hot seat” I am most effective when arguing on the behalf of others, but sometimes struggle when I am in a position to fight for myself. Again, it was a good experience that forced me to face both my social anxiety and develop some salesmanship on the fly. I did survive several months of no replies, replies with rejections (primarily because the companies couldn’t do out of region hires), and some phone interviews that ended in rejection. I recognized fast that while I had gotten comfortable in my current job, I had to stress my ability to learn quickly to get call backs from pharma, manufacturers and other industries. And, in the end, my experience with manufacturing and my adaptability were what helped get me my best job offers.

Christmas was essentially non-existent save for some gifts from my folks, but I was genuinely excited about the New Year for the first time in a while. Due to all of my job chaos, I gave notice in mid-December and then spent most of the month dealing with the aftermath of that. I also did a lot of paperwork and coordinating for the relocation.  So, I’ll just celebrate Christmas THIS year. On the up side, I was actually excited about everything happening, even with the chaos and “unknown-ness” of it all.

I had to leave my friends in Maine (along with my comfort zone). This goes along with the excitement–the sadness and uncertainty of leaving my cozy network of good friends and coworkers in Maine. Leaving my best friend and her new baby was the hardest by far, especially since I know it might be awhile before I can get up to see them again. I spent my last week or so meeting with as many people as I could and, ultimately, had two or three going away parties. I was greatly surprised at the people who came forward to tell me they would miss me–people with whom I had only brief interactions came to tell me how I’d made such a positive impact on them at one time or another. I was moved by their stories and genuinely surprised that I’d affected that many people in a short time, especially considering my general reclusiveness. It was a great boost and I left on good terms with a really grateful feeling.

Moving is always stressful. Moving 1300 miles away is more stressful. Full pack and move services help to lower stress. As generally adaptable as I am, I hate change. Well, change over a short period. I didn’t hear back about my relocation plans until the second week of January and needed to start the new job in the third week of January, soooo…that was stressful. What helped was the relocation package included both monetary help and a full pack and move service to make sure I had minimal manual labor to deal with myself. Fantastic. I’m considering it for all of my future moves. All I had to do was do coordinating via the phone and email and then just get in the car and drive south with my dogs.

For less rent than my 2br/1ba small townhouse apartment in Maine, I now live in a 3br/2ba house with a fenced back yard. The dogs were ecstatic to have their own space to play. The low-cost of living in NC was a huge reverse sticker-shock for me. But in a good way.

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I’ve had to start all over at my new job. I went from being the expert to knowing pretty much nothing. Luckily for me, it’s a feeling I enjoy. For an introvert, I’ve seriously forced myself to be social since my move. And that’s not a bad thing. I am learning so much every day and meeting so many new, interesting people it makes it worthwhile. I know that any social investments I make now will always pay off. I am trying to stay open and to say yes to things, no matter how mundane. It has worked for me before in the past and I’m having good luck with it here, too. Getting past the “I know nothing” phase usually goes faster when you’re willing to put ego aside.

Paying for snow plowing at the old house (for the realtor to show it) while enjoying 60F weather here is the emotional equivalent of taking out a $100 bill every few days, setting it on fire and watching it burn. This is just a given until I get it sold. Fingers crossed that it will happen in the next few months. I can feel my cheapo nerve get set off every time I see the weather forecast for the Northeast.

Mom and Dad can visit me now. With the entire set of dogs! Oh boy! It’s nuts, but great fun! So many dogs!

Trips with Mom to Charleston are now a doable thing. It’s a lot of fun and I’m hoping to be able to plan some trips around the Southeast this year.

Falling asleep after yoga or movie night with new friends in a new bed in a new house with my tired, happy dogs = the best. I have so much to be grateful for these days.

 

“But in times of trouble
I can turn to my mother
And I know that she gon’ understand
So at age 18
I cried to my mother
And she told me, “young man”

“There are moments when you fall to the ground
But you are stronger than you feel you are now
You don’t always have to speak so loud, no
Just be as you are
Life is not always a comfortable ride
Everybody’s got scars that they hide
And everybody plays the fool sometimes, yeah
Just be as you are

 

“My soul, is in Africa with you boy
Looking at the stars
On this diamond sky
Giving you my smile
So you can keep it on your mind
Floating on your blazing eyes”