Tuesday, December 27, 2011
This time of year people seem to spend a lot of time thinking about their goals. Must be that looming January 1st coming up. A new opportunity, for sure, a fresh year. But also a moment when you need to face what you achieved in the past year, and what you didn't. The Resistance generally has a field day with the latter. We are so good at breaking ourselves down; if anybody else talked to us the way we talk to ourselves we'd run a mile in the opposite direction.
Somebody on Facebook asked whether we were where we thought we would be 10 years ago. Being a young 'un, she is only 10 years out from high school - in my case, it's been over 30 years. Gulp. What were my goals then, and what have I achieved?
There is no question that I have achieved one of my major goals, although I might not have articulated it that well at the time. I have a husband and three lovely children, all of whom are bidding fair to become people I'm going to want to know when they are adults. Not something to be taken lightly, I assure you. I made a couple of false starts on the marriage front, and I'm very glad I didn't make any innocent bystanders in those circumstances.
When I signed up to study physics in 1983 it was a very wrong choice for me, made for all the wrong reasons. I can't believe I made it all the way to a Ph.D. Just because I'm smart and capable of doing something didn't mean I had to do it. My health suffered along the way as all the wrong reasons went straight for my gut. I'm still paying the price for that. I would never have finished it without the support of my wonderful husband. It is also true that I would never have met him if I had not gone through the agony of trying to become a physicist. Maybe that was the purpose of the exercise?
After we came here, I became a research scientist for a few years. Not the right thing for me, either. Again, I'm smart and capable and I did quite well, but I didn't like it. So I became a university instructor for a few years. I did well, but the university was looking to increase its research profile, so there was no job for a person who didn't want to do physics research. Onwards.
I went back to university and got a Bachelor of Education degree. Now I am a certified teacher, and I do enjoy teaching. I'm also slowly pursuing a certificate in Technical Communication, because writing seems to be one of the things I do best, and is also most compatible with spending time with my children and taking care of my health. Sleep deprivation, in particular, can be problematic for teachers, especially relatively new ones, and my health depends quite crucially on getting enough sleep. It's an issue.
Regardless of where I end up with the teaching, there is no question that the B.Ed., like the Ph.D. before it, was not a waste of time. When I need to advocate for my children, I get a whole different level of respect and cooperation from the teachers, because I speak their language and understand their perspective.
So many twists and turns in the road, and the show ain't over yet. I was talking with a friend today about putting together a resume as a technical writer, and she told me to put in every piece of software I ever worked with. Oh, the memories of using WordPerfect in the 80s, of programming in FORTRAN and C and C++ in the 90s. So many things that had their uses in the past, and may turn out to be unexpectedly useful in the future.
Goals are great to have, but they do tend to shift with time ... how have yours twisted and turned and shook themselves while you weren't looking?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Funny, how that fear works. Something looks like an opportunity, and we are paralyzed. The chair of a volunteer group I'm involved with is going to Florida for a month, and she wants me to be the point person for a huge event we're putting on. Eeek. My first thought is to take up the position of the unfortunate in the picture, mittens and all.
Then I remind myself that I am nominally an adult. In fact, I've legally been an adult for a very long time, well over half of my life. It's a scary thought. There really is nowhere to hide, if you want to present yourself to the world as competent and worthy of respect.
Luckily, there is my friend Holly Jahangiri, whose words of wisdom never fail to calm me down. Eating the elephant one bite at a time is always a good thing to do, and expecting immediate perfection is foolish.
How about you, are you paralyzed by opportunity? How do you make the Lizard Brain shut up so you can go about your business as the competent adult you know you really are?
I was telling one of my blogging buddies, today, what drove me to enter Weblogbetter’s Surviving the Blog Contest. “I had every intention of buying front row seats in the Peanut Gallery and heckling the contestants through comments and blow-by-blow commentary on my own blog. I was finally going to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming the next Simon Cowell!”
“Aren’t you mixing your reality TV metaphors?”
It’s true. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for, here. I was getting excited about this contest, though, because it was going to be something new and unique – not the usual blog contest format. It was going to run a full ten weeks; anyone who has disciplined herself to blog regularly and consistently understands that’s likely to be a worthwhile challenge. And the prize package? When it got up to $1000 plus ownership of the blog itself, plus some blogging goodies like premium themes and such – well, I have to admit, the temptation was almost more than I could stand.
But that’s not why I entered. I entered, because there in the last week before the signup deadline, there weren’t enough participants signed up to hold the contest at all.
I’m going to admit something here that I haven’t admitted until now: That made me a little angry.
I see so many people making excuses, day in, day out. “Oh, I could never do that. I’m too [busy, lazy, untalented, unskilled, inept, stupid…] but it looks like a real blast! Good luck, everyone!” Or, “Looks intriguing. I don’t have enough info. Maybe next time.” What? You don’t have enough information? Then ask questions.
If you want to win at anything, you’ve got to get yourself into the game. I started out just wanting there to be a game, because you can’t play Simon Cowell or throw peanut shells at the contestants or whatever, if there isn’t any game to begin with. And I think seven contestants had signed up. The deadline was fast approaching – you’d think, with $1000 at stake, more people would at least try. I imagined how disappointed those first contestants would be if the contest got cancelled due to lack of participation! On August 26, shortly after the contest was announced, I had officially “voted myself off the island” and tried to avoid temptation – but on September 18, I threw my hat in the ring. Actually, I threw it in the ocean and a shark ate it – so if you ever wonder why I’m working so hard to win this thing, it’s because I know there are sharks around the island, and they’re hungry enough to eat hats.
The truth is, once I’m in the game, I’m driven. Several people have remarked on my “intensity” these past few weeks. The only way to explain that is to tell you what my parents told me, growing up: “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
I see writers who don’t submit their work for fear of rejection. What is that, exactly? You fear rejection, so you reject yourself, first – before a publisher can do it to you? What have you got to lose but a little misplaced pride? The writer who risks their pride by sticking a manuscript in the envelope, addressing it to a publisher, and sticking enough stamps on is eventually rewarded. The one who refuses to get in the game can never be.
Are you driven? Or does fear of rejection cause you to reject yourself before you get in the game?
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Of course when you take part in a competition, you run the risk of losing. I sent off little pieces to two competitions recently, and in both of them, I didn't even get an honourable mention. I have no idea where I ranked because they didn't say. I'm hoping not too near the bottom.
On the one hand, I'm not surprised. I've only just recently taken up this writing gig again, and I have a long way to go. It was actually helpful to be shown just how long that way is ;-).
Still, it's never fun to lose. Having got everything I'd sent to people up until then at least published (mind you, mostly for free, but still), I was beginning to get a somewhat inflated view of my skills. It hurts to be deflated, even when it is good medicine.
This is where my friend Holly's blog post comes in handy. Very encouraging to those of us who might be tempted to give up when things get rough (although G-d knows I have no intention of giving up just yet!). I just need to learn how to improve.
What do you think, what are you perhaps a little discouraged about?
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Isn't it amazing how we use busy to avoid doing real work? You will not believe the amount of time I have spent today on busywork. But what have I achieved?
To be fair, I have tackled a few tasks I've been procrastinating on. There are some jobs I will do today (like changing the sheets on everybody's beds) that will greatly contribute to the comfort and health of my family. But really, when it comes to writing my eulogy, will anybody care?
I struggle with balance. My husband, bless him, has been working hard to make beautiful wooden floors for our house (thereby removing my last vestiges of River Heights envy). If I let dust bunnies collect in the corners of those gorgeous floors, what message does that send? But how much time should I devote to chasing dust bunnies? If I spend all day on my laptop trying to write while ignoring my children, what good is that? But if I spend the day with them and try to write by night and destroy my health, have I improved matters at all?
I think I need to re-immerse myself in Flylady, to get those routines going so my house will practically clean itself. I know it is possible because I have been there in the past. Spend 15 minutes and it is amazing how much you can get done. It's just so hard to get up from the darned laptop.
Housework and childcare are not really the voice of the Lizard Brain, although the LB can definitely use them to fill up the time. See, it says, you don't have time to write anything worthwhile because you are so ... BUSY.
What do you think, how does your Lizard Brain ensnare you?
Thursday, December 1, 2011
After the fun of my 7 Links post, of course many more bloggers flooded my mind. So I'm going to write a post about some of the bloggers I enjoy reading, without any regard to that 7 Links challenge. Of course, if anyone wants to take it up, all the better!
First and foremost, my dad writes not one but two blogs - Pollyanna about things that make him glad, and Titan for rants. If you are at all interested in science, human rights and the situation in Israel, he's the one for you.
Then, there's my friend Hadassah Sabo Milner, who writes a very cool blog called In the Pink. Mommy stuff, from a sassy, smart and drop-dead gorgeous Modern Orthodox lady. Oh, she's a first-rate foodie, too. Always worth reading.
Talking of Orthodox Jews, their communities can be a little secretive. This fascinating blog is written by a guy known only as Dov Bear. He is very knowledgeable, iconoclastic, level-headed and relentlessly logical. With all of that, he appears to live and thrive in a very right-wing, dark-ages black hat community. No wonder he keeps his identity a deep, dark secret. I'm just so glad he shares his thoughts with the rest of us.
Another blog I like to read, although it only appears sporadically, is in over your head, by Julien Smith. If you listen to the audio book of Trust Agents, he's the guy with the charming French-Canadian accent. All about being the best you can be in the brave new world of the Intertubes.
If you are interested in life with a person with special needs, you might want to read Fumbling About in the Dark, by a woman I know only as MissShuganah. Following her on Twitter as she struggles to advocate for her silent daughter has been a true education for me.
There are more, but I'm going to stop now. Let me know what you think so far.