Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Contemplative Holiday

This year, because my brother the pilot is flying on Christmas, our family will celebrate three days late. I still have the day off work, though, which means I get a rare, cherished day by myself in the Hobbit Hole. A list of thoughts I am having throughout this holy day:

-- I can drink before breakfast!

-- I could eat a banana and then make pancakes. Or, wait, I could put the banana IN THE FUCKING PANCAKES!

-- What happens if I put this nectarine on this radiator?

-- Probably gonna poop soon.

-- Whoops, dropseat on the footie pajamas got caught on the doorknob.

-- Hey, look how my tummy's flatter after pooping. Neato.

-- Let's rotate that nectarine.

-- I'll eat a banana, then drink, then put another banana in the pancakes. Fruit.

-- I like that it's cold outside,

-- The sackbut/trombone players on this Renaissance Christmas album are outstanding. Little bit jealous.

-- Radiator burn. Ow.

-- Would Monteverdi have had female sopranos?

-- This shampoo makes my head feel minty. Minty is a feeling.

-- Gah, lotion is cold! Can I microwave it? No, don't do it.

-- Can you put Kahlua in pancakes?

-- I can wear Christmas socks today!

-- Ugh, I don't wanna wear my good underwear. Do laundry.

-- Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. Indeed.

-- Let's play with hair gel.

-- Misread that line from Psalm 92, "They are full of sap," as, "They are full of crap."

-- I should ask the dermatologist about this.

-- The milk is frozen. Should not have messed with the fridge temperature just because the Polaner All Fruit went moldy.

-- Let's play it safe and remove that tangerine.

-- OK, enough Facebook. Time for yoga/nap on the floor. Remove the Smurf hat first.

-- It's not perfect, and it's OK.

-- Based on the impressions on this mat, my heels are surprisingly spherical.

-- The jazz flute on this prophetic worship album reminds me of Ron Burgundy.

-- "Boom diggity, just back it up..."

-- Let this day be what it is.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas Eve

Last week was awful.

There were a couple of profound disappointments, in a week that was supposed to be enjoyable; it contained a huge event at work, our office holiday party, and my birthday. It all ended up being pretty difficult, and I spent a fair amount of time trying not to cry in front of other people. Perhaps worse than feeling let down by others was the way it left me (as it always does) questioning and frustrated with myself. If I were braver, surely I'd be able to face these issues head-on and find resolution! But I'm not braver than I am.

It felt like Christmas was already over, and I was enjoying the lead-up to the holiday even less than usual.

Until tonight. I wasn't feeling Christmassy, but I was doing a reading in the Christmas Eve service at church, so I had to be there. And somewhere in the midst of the stories and carols that I'd heard a gazillion times, I realized that all this imperfection is, in a way, the whole point. God came to a messed-up Earth full of messed-up people who didn't miraculously un-mess up when He arrived. And every year, everything is still messed up. But Christmas still happens. That's actually what's great about it. I can be as weak and afraid and dysfunctional and sad as I need to be, but all that's true about Christmas holds true anyway. It holds true precisely because imperfect people like me needed it two thousand years ago and we need it now.


Have a wonderfully imperfect Christmas, friends. May you sleep in heavenly peace, because peace isn't based on your worthiness, or your ability to talk yourself down from a crisis, or whether you got all the cookies baked and the presents wrapped. It comes down to meet us.

God bless you, my fellow screw-ups!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Christmas Spirit

As a kid, "Christmas spirit" to me meant feeling like the season was special and exciting, and enjoying the specifics of it as special -- the music, the goodies, the decorations, the stories, the TV specials. You look forward to them, and you get a kick out of counting down the days till Christmas itself.

The transition to adulthood brings a wider view, where the rest of your life and the rest of the world creep in and affect your moments. Instead of Christmas having the power to make you happy, the rest of your life has the power to make Christmas sad. Add my own personal predisposition towards melancholy, and by seventh grade I was disappointed with everything that failed to live up to my childhood ideals. It wouldn't be cold enough to snow, or the whole season would just feel so normal, so not special.

That frustration and disappointment has stayed with me. I want to enjoy the music and the lights, and I now suspect that the trying makes it worse. Two days ago, it was gray and damp outside. I was working indoors (not always the case), with Christmas music playing and the smell of yummy foods surrounding me. In that setting, I decided I'd like to take a different approach: letting this season be what it is, rather than trying to force it to be anything. Is it too warm to snow? Let it be. Do I not feel like listening to a certain style of Christmas music, even though I'd felt like it earlier? Let myself listen to what I want in that moment. Do I not feel like shopping for a gift I need to get? Wait until the mood strikes me (within reason). Just let it be. Don't wish for what Christmas was when I was six. Let it be what it is now.

Let it be enough.

Soliloquy: Miss Chestnut

I gave a performance based on my decision to let go on 11/22/13, and there is a video of it now on YouTube. I call it "Miss Chestnut." Here is a link, if you're interested:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9y04qYou48

Hope you enjoy it :-).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

So, What Do I DO?

You know what can really mess with my head? @#$%$# compliments.

Just as I decide I'm going to step back from something that's stressing me out, somebody tells me I'm good at it. I'm such a sucker for that. It happened with improv. It's happened with music. And now it's happening with acting. 

Tonight I had two separate conversations with people who told me that I'm good at acting and that, if I want to do it, I certainly should. It was very nice to hear. But it doesn't align nicely with my plan to stop doing stuff.

Perhaps the question is, if I am going to do something, whether I really want to do it, or whether I'm doing it because I think it can lead to something else. I think I need to do things because I will enjoy them presently and directly, and not because I see them merely as gateways to something else that could, possibly, eventually, be enjoyable. That's a rabbit hole I've gone down before, and it ain't fun.

I probably will end up doing Things. But I still think that Letting Go is an important part of that. I need to be free not to do them. I need to be able to sit in my apartment and watch TV episodes without feeling guilty for not spending the time "pursuing my dreams." I need to be able to watch them without comparing myself to every actor that's in them. I need to enjoy the process, not just the occasional result, or the hope of a result. I need to enjoy the present for itself, not just as a stepping stone to a future that I do not have full control over.

I suppose I should know by now not to make definitive, blanket statements. This blog could well be titled Holly Works Through Some Shit.  But the Letting Go was an important declaration. I don't know how it will play out, but it was important to say.

Maybe my own blog posts are among the things I need to let go. Is that too corny to even make sense? I dunno. It's late and I've had wine.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Letting Go

I resurrected this blog because I had some issues to work through regarding happiness and this felt like the place to do it. Things have recently taken an unexpected turn, and I haven't been sure how to write about it, but I'm going to try.

I think I mentioned finding it difficult to hold, simultaneously, the need to live up to my potential on one hand, and the need to find happiness and contentment in the present on the other. The state of my heart was revealed a couple weeks ago as I was looking at a picture of a dying woman. She was outside on a sunny day, and I wondered if she found any happiness in that moment. Then I wondered if I, who am so good at being unhappy, would be able to find happiness in such a moment. It surprised me that I imagined I would. (It's probably worth paying attention when one envies the dying.) The reason: The weight of my future would be off my shoulders. I think one of the biggest reasons I don't enjoy the present as much as I would like to is that the future weighs too heavily upon it. Perhaps living up to my potential, while a valid need, is unduly taking precedence over the need to find contentment and happiness now. Perhaps contentment is a need whose time has come.

Thus, I intend to let go. Let go of the ambition, so much of which felt too broadly distributed to be effective, but which I am unwilling to narrow down. Let go of the need to "make something" of myself, to prove to myself and the world that I am good at things and a hard worker. Let go of the idea that my life isn't what it should be, and an indication that I must not deserve more. I haven't been happy, largely because I've felt like I shouldn't be happy -- that I haven't reached an acceptable plateau, one that would merit maintaining instead of continued scrambling up the cliffside. But perhaps where I am right now would be perfectly enjoyable if I allowed myself to relax and simply maintain it.

-- I won't need to wait until I've worked up the oomph to learn monologues, so I can then take auditions, so I can be in more plays, so I can be a respected actress, so that then I can be happy.

-- I won't need to keep taking hours out of my precious days off to take awkward auditions for commercials, so that I can eventually get paying gigs, so I can be earning more money, so that then I can be happy.

-- I won't have to wonder, with each blog post, whether it will land me a book deal so I can finally say I've achieved something, and my hard work will have paid off, and the world will listen to what I have to say and everyone will like me, and then I can be happy.

-- I won't need to make myself go out more than I want and pretend to be more outgoing than I am and try to enjoy the same "fun" other people enjoy so I can meet the right guy, so we can fall in love and get married, so that then I can be happy.

-- I can stop worrying about how my jeans fit and whether I'm exercising enough, because disease and illness would of course be my fault, and also I want to be attractive, and then I'll know I'm doing everything right and then I can be happy.

I will just be happy. Now. At last. If happiness is a capacity that we can cultivate, then this choice to let go is how I think I will best cultivate it.

I won't have to be sad at holidays because I'm another year older and my circumstances haven't changed much. My life carries an undercurrent of fear that I don't have much to show for my 39 years on this planet because I'm too shy or too scared or too lazy, or all three, and I'm left in this uncomfortable limbo where I don't feel safe relaxing, but the motivation to do more would only be guilt and fear.

This is what I want to let go of.

My job may not make me rich or famous, but it is good and it suits me and it is enough. My apartment may not be big enough to hold all my stuff, but it is affordable and I have it to myself and it is enough. I may be sensitive and complicated and slow to find my way, but I am myself and I am enough.

Each seed of a moment won't be a disappointment because it failed to lead to some preconceived idea of success. It can just be a yummy little seed that I enjoyed while it existed; and perhaps joy is the best thing I could ask of my moments for a while.

This means I may not have interesting updates when people ask me how things are progressing -- the career, the search for a condo, my love life -- but when asked how I am, I will be able to say, "Well. I am doing really, really well."

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Hobbit Hole

After 8 1/2 years of living with roommates, I was ready to be on my own again. Of course, I live in Boston, which means that I can't afford a place of my own. Even most "affordable" studios are more than double what I can pay. What I needed were landlords who were more concerned with finding the right person than with bringing in a lot of money.

Would you believe that I found it? I moved in at the end of August. It's super-teeny, but I was able to take it happily, largely because I considered it temporary. Reliable people had declared that it's often more affordable to buy a condo than rent an apartment in Beantown, so my plan was to start looking for a condo to buy.

Then two things happened:
1. I talked to a couple mortgage lenders and figured out what I can afford in this area, which is nothing.
2. This little apartment is starting to grow on me.

As a kid, I found small spaces cozy and safe. I daydreamed of having a little clubhouse sort of place, where I could hunker down with my favorite belongings around me, close at hand. This apartment feels like the adult realization of this dream.

Like I said, it's super tiny. Like, no-living-area, can't-have-visitors tiny. But that's OK. It's also underground, in a basement. So I call it my Hobbit Hole. I don't get to sit around blowing smoke rings (I suspect hobbit holes did not have smoke alarms), but I do get to sleep about five yards away from my fridge. I can place one hand on my kitchen sink and the other on my bathroom sink, simultaneously, without straining. The washer and dryer are right outside my door, so I have to exert almost no effort to do that chore. And best of all, the only insanity, dysfunction, or neediness I have to come home to is my own. All my new roommates are spiders, and they are wonderfully low-maintenance.

So I might stay put for a while and enjoy this. I can maybe go the affordable housing route and still try to buy a condo, and have the pleasure of decorating it, but for now, I think I'd like to hunker down. Let's see how cozy this place gets in the winter.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

PodCandy Is Gone

Apparently, one's podcast disappears if it falls into disuse for too long a time. I let Holly's PodCandy lapse because I wasn't up to the task of learning how to edit the material myself. It looks like the page where one used to find the podcasts no longer exists, and the little device to the side of my blog no longer shows them, either. I also see no evidence that it remains on iTunes. This all seems a bit sad.

So Much to Say, So Little Ability to Organize My Thoughts

When I restarted this blog almost two weeks ago, I had all sorts of stuff that I wanted to process here. And it's still running through my mind. But nearly all the possible topics overlap, and I'm having trouble deciding how to break them down into individual blog posts. Also, much of what I have to work through is negative, which is why I have to work through it. I don't want folks getting all depressed, or worrying about me. And I sure as hell am not looking for advice. So I've been running through a lot of possibilities in my head, but not putting much out there that you can see.

I did buy a notebook and some pencils. That was fun. I really dig pencils and paper. And lists. I like making lists of things. I have a whole little Moleskine filled with them, actually: grocery and toiletry lists, to-do lists, gift ideas, books to look for at the library, accessories I should try to wear before the weather gets too cold. It's really satisfying. Anyway, I thought I could do a lot of the brain work of writing if I had a notebook with me during my breaks at work and while I travel on public transportation. It's helped a bit.

Maybe I need to get a bit meta, because writing this blog raises so many issues in itself. For example, I thought giving some attention to the Writer part of Musician Actress Comedian Writer Princess would relieve some of the pressure that had been building up around the Acting part. But no sooner had I decided that, than the pressure just transferred to Writing. I kind of hate that my mind works this way. Why can't things be fun? I always have such high hopes and standards for the things I care about that these things become burdensome, obligatory, and not fun enough to make the difficulty worthwhile. Ugh.

Being happy is not my strong point. Neither is being content. Or OK with most things about myself, or about my life. That tends to make things harder. I would like to be happy. I'm working on it. There's always some reason to feel guilty: The weight gains I've had after my surgeries, not keeping my apartment clean enough, awkward interactions with people that might be my fault, spending too much time on Facebook. It's always something, and if it weren't that thing, it would be something else. It's one of those issues where being conscious of it doesn't necessarily make it go away; in fact, I'll often then start to get down on myself for allowing myself to feel guilty. I'm pretty brilliant like that.

My hope is that I'll occasionally have a little revelation that makes things easier to handle, and then I can share it here. Until then, I may have blog posts that look like emotional Before pictures.

We work with what we have, right?


Friday, November 01, 2013

No Union

I just learned that I missed my twenty-year high school reunion. I got no invitation, and saw nothing on Facebook apart from one oblique reference between two former classmates about seeing each other in October. Over the past several months, I tossed out a few lines, both on my Facebook wall and in messages to friends, asking if anything was happening and when. I never got a response. It's like the universe wanted to make sure I didn't go.

I would be OK with that, actually. I'm a God person, and I believe He does stuff like that. Maybe I wasn't meant to go, even if I don't know why. I know better than to let myself dwell on the possibility that I'm still as invisible to people as I was in high school (I was voted Most Bashful), and to see this as evidence that nobody cared one way or the other whether I was there. Kind of hard not to let the thought slip into my head, though.

It's not like high school was a great time that I wish to relive. It's not like I have a list of impressive accomplishments I want to share with people. The fact that I was interested in going was, in my mind, evidence that I've developed enough self-confidence to attend despite all this. So it's weird that I still would have missed it without meaning to.

But I had a dress in mind. I would have looked pretty damn hot for my 38 years. And isn't that the important, part, really?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blogging to Know We're Not Alone

     In the movie Shadowlands, the idea that "we read to know we are not alone" was posited to C.S. Lewis by one of his students. Though it's been almost twenty years since I first saw that film, I don't feel like I've ever fully processed this idea, and don't know whether I agree with it fully, partially, or at all. In the last few weeks, though, I've begun to feel a new season of blogging coming on, and I do feel like this is one of the main impetuses (impeti?) behind my urge to post again: not merely to know that I am not alone, but so that other people will know that they aren't, either. 

    I haven't posted in nearly a year-and-a-half, which I probably don't need to tell anyone who has visited this page (and thank you so much for visiting!). I actually had a ton to say over the summer of 2012, because I was in a play for the first time since junior high drama club, which had been about twenty-five years earlier. This was within the first year of my pursuing acting seriously, and it was a starring role in small-scale but professional production. There were two main roles in the play, and I had one of them, so new-to-acting me was carrying half a play. It was scary and exciting and I was experiencing and trying to process a gazillion questions and emotions. But I was so busy doing it that I didn't have time to write coherent posts about it. 

    That's pretty cool for someone like me, actually. Most of my life is internal, so to have so much external activity can be a wonderful change of pace. It wasn't sustainable, though. One of the best parts of the experience was being able to give myself over to it completely, to allow myself to think about the play all day, every day, to the point where I was largely ignoring the rest of my sort-of-grown-up life. I didn't clean my room, and was barely paying bills -- not because I had no money, but because I didn't have room in my brain to think about them. Not only can I not do that all the time, but I don't want to.

    Since then, I've only taken auditions for a couple theater productions and a handful of TV commercials. I was on an acting break (and a Facebook break) while I took an intensive course through my church that involved lots of homework and thinking, and I let my memberships to online resources for auditions lapse. They cost money, and I also didn't need the pressure of constantly asking myself if I really should be taking auditions during that time after all. And then I was looking for an apartment, and moving into that apartment, and there were medical issues...

    Now, with the course and other time-consuming endeavors over, at least for the time being, I'm trying to find a way to balance, on one hand, my ambition and desire to take risks and see how far I can take acting; and on the other, my desire/need for a quiet, contented life where I can simply come home from work and relax, without having to worry about trying to build yet another new career in a scary and often brutal industry.

     This is one of the many issues I'm currently processing, and my introverted nature makes me hesitant to just talk about it to anyone who makes the mistake of beginning to listen. I like this blog because you, my audience, are not captive; you don't have to read if you don't want to, so I don't have to worry about boring you. I hope.

    I also keep daydreaming about public speaking, of sharing my questions and processing with people (and perhaps the occasional revelation), on the off chance that people will be entertained and encouraged by it all. But I have no venue for public speaking, so here I am, once again taking to the written word. That's cool. It says "writer" on my business cards already. In fact, it says Musician, Actress, Comedian, Writer, Princess. So I'm totally allowed. And writing certainly is not second best. I'm quite fond of it.

     I am hesitant to make any promises in terms of how often I'll post or even about content, but I do hope to be honest and, as much as possible, non-boring. Thank you for reading, friends. May you find it worth your trouble.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

500th Post: Rest Ethic

Hello, All. Long time, no see! This is mostly because I started my new job, and that keeps me busy. It's also because I like the job, and therefore have less angst to process. In short, my life is interesting in a way that gives me less time for public reflection, but not interesting in a way that would make a juicy blog post.

I do, however, have something I'd like to put forth. It popped into my head a couple weeks ago, when I was at one of several voiceover workshops I've taken lately. Our sound engineer told us that he only gets about 4-5 hours of sleep per night; he's that busy. He likes all the work that keeps him busy, which is good. At one point, though, he mentioned his "work ethic," and that got me thinking. I've heard other super-busy people talk about their "work ethics." And I wonder if what they really have is a work preference. (Note: What follows are my own general thoughts, and not an assessment of this particular engineer, whom I don't know well.)

I'm familiar with what's known as the Protestant Work Ethic, which I believe is based largely on a verse in the New Testament that talks about doing everything "as unto Christ," and the idea that we honor God by working hard, pulling our own weight, and doing things with excellence. There's a moral component to it. I would say that my own work ethic is what pushed me to do a good job for my employers through several jobs which I only took to get by, or which I flat-out hated. And if a person is driven largely by a conviction that they're working hard because it's right, then yes, that's a work ethic. But I respectfully submit that if you just like being busy, or hate sitting still, then that's a preference rather than an ethic.

It's possible for these things to overlap, of course. I don't think that a work ethic is necessarily absent simply because you happen to enjoy the work you're doing. I just think it's worth making the distinction, for three main reasons:

1. Suggesting that more work is more ethical also suggests that less work is less ethical, and the person who gets 8 hours of sleep is morally weaker than the one who limits themselves to 5. Equating your preference for busyness with a work ethic doesn't leave room for people who don't share your preference to share that moral ground.

2. Failing to make the distinction could allow someone to overlook other issues, such as an inability to spend time alone or a tendency to undernourish relationships, while putting a virtuous stamp of "work ethic" on it.

3. Blurring busyness with a work ethic doesn't allow room for what I've begun thinking of as a Rest Ethic.

As you'll have noticed if you've read my posts over the past year or so, I've been growing in my appreciation for rest. Sleep is good for us. It helps us to solve problems. It keeps us healthy. It allows us to be in better moods and focus more during our waking hours, so we're giving other people our best. And waking rest is good, too. The season of unemployment -- or, as I'm increasingly viewing it, my Sabbatical -- was fantastic for me. It was a great transition period during which I was able to explore a new career path and become emotionally ready to enjoy my new job. And I had plenty of time to let my mind wander, to pray, to take naps, to exercise (and I came to love relaxing forms of exercise, like yoga), to read online humor articles, and all kinds of things that I find restful.

Now, I readily admit that, just as some folks have a preference for busyness, I have a preference for rest. I love having blank days on my calendar when I can do as much or as little as I like. If I become too busy, even fun activities cease to be fun. But I think that, as with work, while the preference and ethic are distinct, there can be an overlap. I've been able to increasingly enjoy my own preference for rest -- instead of assuming it was mere laziness and fighting and berating myself, as I used to do -- because I also believe in its value. Part of our creaturely state is being finite and limited. We need food, water, social interaction, and rest. To disregard the importance of one of these is to be unrealistic about our humanity. OK, maybe that's kind of a judgy way to put it. How about this: While there can be virtue in self-control and self-discipline, and in not giving in to every urge the moment we have it, there is also virtue in learning how to take care of our whole selves.

My spiritual and cultural backgrounds are pretty work-centered. The Protestant Work Ethic played a big role in the development of America's character, and many of the churches I've attended also spring largely from this ground. But there are other traditions that place a high value on such things as contemplation, meditation, forms of prayer that center on listening rather than intercession and "spiritual battle," and all kinds of other practices that, to us who are used to being busy, can seem boring, passive... so darn quiet. But the idea that God can move through these quiet means is exciting to me.

Lastly, a disclaimer: I'm not a huge fan of defining something by disparaging everything else. I'm not saying that busyness is bad, or that a preference for it is bad. I'm just saying that the ethic of work is well complemented by the ethic of rest, and that each serves its role best when balanced by the other.

Proportions will vary from person to person :-).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Next Trapeze

I got a job!

But I don't have to do it yet.

When I wrote the last post, I had interviewed/auditioned for a position that I thought could be a great fit for me, and was waiting to hear whether I'd gotten it. I had to wait two weeks, which always feels like a longer time to the person waiting than it does to the person making the decision (one of many ways in which job searches are like dating). I wanted to write a post about how great unemployment has been before I knew the results of my interview, because I wanted it to come from  my perspective while I was still in the middle of it, and not after I knew how it was going to end.

I have my answer now: I have been offered the position, accepted it, and have begun the process of taking drug tests and other pre-employment tasks. Paid training doesn't start till sometime in April, though, and I haven't filled out the official employment paperwork, so I still have a few weeks of "vacation" till I'm back in the working world. In many ways, it's a fantastic situation, where I still have subsidized time off, but I know when and how it will end, and the next stage is exciting to me.

When I'd been unemployed for only a couple weeks, I saw a singer-songwriter perform at my church. He sang a song called "The Bird," about a trapeze artist, and said it was a metaphor for life transitions: Sometimes you have to let go of one trapeze before you grab the next one, and the brave are able to do something beautiful with the space in between. I wanted to make the most of my "in-between time," if I could. I wasn't sure exactly what that would entail, but I felt like my main job in this season of transition was simply not to worry, at least not at first. And I managed to do that with little difficulty. Of course, this season was much easier on me than it is for most people. The money didn't run out, and I had no one else depending on me for support. I was just happy to be free of work that I hated, and, while I didn't know what lay before me, I knew what I was leaving behind and was glad to leave it there.

Now I know what the next trapeze is: I'll be an actress and tour guide with one of the many historical sites and museums in Boston! I get to wear custom-made costumes, in colors and fabrics that I chose myself. I'll lead tours and take on the roles of real-life women, and also be a fictional character or two. I get to dress up and perform for a living! Pretty clothes and attention! It'll be full-time, year-round, and after the first three months, I'll even get health benefits. For an actor, that's virtually unheard of. The money isn't huge, but it should keep all the bills paid, and I may have time to continue to pursue other acting work, which may eventually supplement my income. And even if it doesn't, I'll be spending my days doing something I enjoy! How novel! 

I've found myself thinking and saying the words, "my awesome life," on more than one occasion. In the course of six months, my daily existence went from feeling meh to feeling awesome. In some ways, a change in job is such a simple fix. And in others, it's complicated and hard to get right. I haven't begun the work yet, or even the training, but I'm looking forward to all of it, and that's huge. What a gift!

So, there's the latest news from me. The season of transition is coming into home stretch, and I'm looking to score. While there have been -- and continue to be -- some logistical hiccups, things have been quite pleasant overall. I'm really happy to have such good news to share with you!

And if you happen to be in Beantown sometime after June 26 of this year, come check out the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. I'll be there, chucking tea overboard and, I hope, loving every minute of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Funemployment

Unemployment has pretty much rocked so far.

Not to oversimplify it or anything. but it has. I don't assume that this is the case for everyone -- I know it's usually a stressful, and often a devastating, time. But I feel like I've been spoiled, and I want to acknowledge that gift.

Of course, all this is easy to say, because the money hasn't run out (yet). As I began this season, I felt like my main task was not to worry, and that's been pretty easy to maintain, but I readily admit that that could have been different if I hadn't had severance and unemployment benefits. And I don't have any dependents. Really, if you're going to be out of a job, you probably can't have it much easier than I have. I get that.

Now, disclaimers aside, I want to talk about some of the things that have been cool about this season. I've talked a lot on this blog about things I want and don't have yet, and ways I've been unhappy, so I feel I'd be grossly remiss if I didn't talk about this great thing that has come my way. Here's a list of some ways in which this season of unemployment has been sweet:

1. I'm well rested. Duh, right? It's not always easy, letting myself veer towards my naturally nocturnal habits without completely reversing my circadian rhythm and staying up all night and sleeping all day, and I'll admit I'm often unhappy with myself if I sleep past what I consider "a decent hour," but it is great getting as much sleep as my mind and body need. Tiredness is icky -- we get cranky, it's hard to concentrate and pay attention, our immune systems get weaker, and our brains have less "alone time" to sort through stuff. And I've had the luxury of not having to be tired all the time, and resting/sleeping when I am. And I haven't had that horrible feeling I used to get, where I'd dread going to bed because then I'd only be a sleep away from getting up and going to a job I hated.

2. I'm unstuck. This is a biggie. I felt really stuck in my old job. I didn't want to leave without having something else to go to, because I remembered when things were tight financially and thought that would be just as stressful as doing work I hated. And I didn't know what that "something else" would be. I couldn't really think of another day job that I would hate less. I've had quite a variety of day jobs now, and thought I could turn a couple of them into careers, but I keep veering back to wanting to be a performer of some kind, and that work is hard to find. I also didn't have much formal training or experience in things like acting, which is what I wanted to do. By the end of my old job, though, I was praying every day that God would get me out of there (which was probably my way of saying, "Please give me something better to go to, because I don't know what that would be!"). Well, He didn't exactly provide a dream job as a new landing space, but He did give me severance and unemployment benefits, which were quite a nice parachute. Good enough. And since I took that little leap, I've felt unstuck. I may not know exactly where I'm going to land next, but, at least for now, the freedom feels like freedom, rather than poop-my-pants scary.

3. I've had the luxury of figuring out what I like and pursuing it, without the burden of supporting myself (for a while). From what I've been able to determine, the way to find paying acting work is to get any acting work, even if it doesn't pay, and use it to build your resume (sorry, I'm not sure how to put accents over the E letters in Blogger) and, if you can get copies of the films from the (mostly) students who are making them, put together what they call a "reel" -- a sort of video portfolio full of clips of your work, to demonstrate that you can actually act. I've been able to put lots of time into that, without having to freak out about when the paying work will come and cover my bills. Very nice.

4. I feel like I've gotten a sabbatical. For quite a while before I got laid off, I would find myself wishing for a summer vacation or other extended period of time when I could just lie on my bed and stare at the wall and daydream for weeks, or even months, on end. And now I have it! I've always been a daydreamer, and the better I get to know myself, the more I realize that this isn't a waste of time or a distraction; it's how I learn what's important to me, how I practice life skills, how I pray, and now that I'm an actress, it's how I (often without realizing it) rehearse and prepare. It's part of what makes me a writer, too, I'd wager.

5. I've been working out a lot, and liking it. Perhaps you've had the experience where, once you get into the habit of working out, you like it; it's when you haven't done it in a while that it seems onerous. Well, I've had the time to do it regularly, which means I get to enjoy it pretty steadily. So I'm well rested and well exercised, and thus probably hotter. Oh, who am I kidding? Like it was possible for me to get hotter than I already was.

6. It's easier to be happy when you don't hate 8 hours of your day, then take the stress home with you. In addition to feeling un-stuck, I just don't have to deal with the old job anymore. Sure, they had cookies, but my cupboard has chocolate bars, so that's a wash.

7. I love chilling out at home. Garrison Keillor has described himself as an "avid indoorsman." I'm that. I like lounging around, reading, being on the Internet, lighting candles and listening to music, watching DVDs, stuff like that. I've managed to remain fairly active over the last several months, but I ain't gonna lie -- I've also watched and read a lot. A lot.

I bet there are more items that aren't coming to mind at the moment, but it's now quite late and I want to post this puppy, with the stipulation that I may add to the list in future posts.

And, for what it's worth, I'm not trying to make anybody jealous or anything. But this is the first time in I-don't-know-how-long that I envy my own life, in a way. I look at it and it looks good to me. It's not a situation that is indefinitely sustainable -- I'll have to earn money on my own eventually -- but for a temporary, transitional season, it rocks like a geology seminar. (Was that a bad joke? It's so late...)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

I want to be happy. I've decided.

That was my big revelation today. I went back to get prayer at church, because I'm a prayer junkie, and the woman who prayed for me brought up the question our pastor asks each year during Lent, when our church does what we call "40 Days of Faith." During these 40 days, we ask God for something we want that only He can give. But we're supposed to ask ourselves, first, "What do I want?" And then, "What do I really want?" The idea is that there's usually a deeper desire that underlies our surface desire. For example, perhaps on the surface I want a high-paying job, but perhaps the desire(s) beneath that are for fulfillment, purpose, stability, and security. Or, if my surface desire is for marriage, then perhaps the underlying desire is for fulfilling and satisfying human relationship. Or maybe not. Maybe I just want a job and a man. The point is that it's worth asking, especially since God wants to give us not just what we think we want, but what we really need. It also helps us recognize answers to prayer when they come, because we have less of a preconceived notion of what those answers have to look like.

So anyway, I went back for prayer, because I want a lot of stuff. I haven't posted a ton since my unemployment began in September, despite having (in theory) more time for stuff like writing. But I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I am unemployed, and am thus in transition. I've also mentioned bits about the boyfriend debacle. So, as you can imagine, I'm on the lookout for things resembling careers and relationships. Holly want. Then the woman praying for me brought up the question, "What do you really want?" and immediately I thought simply, "I want to be happy." Then I dismissed that response as too simplistic, obvious, not specific enough to count as a prayer, and so common to mankind that it's like saying, "I want air to breathe." (I'm good at dismissing my own thoughts and feelings; maybe that's one reason why I don't currently consider myself happy.)

But later, I thought maybe happiness is not only a valid desire and a valid prayer request, but its simplicity is part of what's good about it. And, come to think of it, if you were lacking something as basic as air, that would probably be an excellent thing to pray for. I've actually been thinking a lot about air and breathing lately, because I've had a cold, and it makes it hard to sleep. Sometimes I wake up, not getting as much air as easily as I'd like, and I'll think of a couple kids I once saw on TV. I was watching the Iron Man race, and one woman was racing to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis, which both her children had. They described it as feeling like you always had to breathe through a straw. And that sounds like utter torture. Even sleep doesn't give you a break from that. How do you not go insane? I hate even imagining how awful that must be. In that situation, praying for air makes perfect sense.

So maybe praying for happiness isn't stupid. And maybe I don't need to get all particular the way I have in the past, asking for God to "increase my capacity for joy" or to "help me live in the moment." I'm just going to ask for happiness, however that comes, in whatever form it takes. Because wouldn't that make everything else easier? If I had a little job that wasn't great but didn't suck, but I was happy, then I'd still be happy. If I was pretty much paying my bills but didn't have much disposable income, but I was happy, then I'd still be happy. If I stay single but am happy, then I'll still be happy. It's like there's a pattern there or something.

I'm not talking about letting go of dreams or ambition. I'm not talking about settling or giving up or complacency. I'm just talking about being happy.

Holly want.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rohan's To-Do List

I am dogsitting for a Treeing Tennessee Brindle named Rohan while his people parents (two of my former roommates) are on their honeymoon. Here, as far as I can tell, is his list of goals during his stay with me, along with some notes he's made to himself:

To Do
-- Pull Holly down the stairs, thus giving her the gift of flight. She can thank you later.
-- Eat all of her roommate's Oreos -- done!
-- Go through the garbage daily. Spread it around the floor for easier tearing and chewing.
-- Reclaim former bedroom, despite the fact that there's a new roommate living there. He'll understand.

Personal Standards
Stay as dirty as possible. When at the dog park, play until fur is wet and spiky with the slobber of other dogs. Then run so as to kick up dirt that can stick to the slobber. Roll around if needed. For full paw coverage, seek out mud puddles. Run through them multiple times -- don't cut corners!


Human Training
NB: There's a reason why The Man is called "The Man" -- he's human and he's trying to keep a dog down. Fight the power!
-- People should be taking you outside as much as possible. If Holly won't do it, one of the guys will. Whine until someone caves.
-- Pull as hard on the leash as possible. Holly needs to learn to keep up. Don't relent. Remember: You are the boss!
-- Stinginess is considered an undesirable trait in human beings, but they will try to get away with it anyway, especially when it comes to food. By rights, food is yours if you can get to it. If a human is eating it, position yourself strategically and make Sad Eyes. Practice in a mirror if necessary.
-- Furniture is yours. Don't buy into the lie that you can't be anywhere you want to be. Extra credit: Weasel way onto Holly's bed, dirty paws and all. Don't be afraid to use the Sad Eyes. She can't resist forever.