Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thoughts on risk

I've had a few conversations with different people lately about taking risks. I was never one to take risks in the past. Fear has kept me from doing a lot of things over the years. I often wonder where I would be in life had I taken some of those risks. My desire for security, safety, and stability ultimately led me down a path that ended in a place I really don't want to be.

A few years ago, the director of the department I worked in decided that we all needed to read a book called Who Moved My Cheese?. Now I'm usually the first one to scoff at such books, and would never have been caught reading it voluntarily. But it was mandatory, so I read it. And it was every bit as cheesy as I expected. Okay, bad pun... let's all groan together now.

As silly as it was though, its basic message was actually quite good. There were a lot of stupid little sayings in it, and the reason we were reading it was to try to improve morale in a horribly managed department. However, it did make a difference in my life - no matter how much I hate to say so. One of the messages has stuck with me ever since... "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

Ironically, not very long after we read that book, I got an attractive offer to go to work for another company. I hesitated at first, having almost five years at my current job. I was comfortable with my duties, and was extremely good at my job. I knew I was safe there. The new job offered better pay and benefits, and a better potential for advancement - but it also offered the potential for failure. And then I asked myself what I would do if I wasn't afraid. I took the job.

While I have ultimately realized I don't want to do this job, I'm still supremely glad I took it. I've enjoyed working for this company, and these people - much more than where I was - and it's been a great boost to my confidence to know I can excel here as much as at my previous job. I've just come to realize that I don't want to work in this industry, or for Corporate America in general. Hence my decision to pursue grad school once I'm able to finish paying down my debt.

Of course grad school carries its own set of risks... and I'm both excited by the idea, and terrified by it. But I know it will be good for me. That's been my mantra for quite some time now - what scares me is good for me. Obviously there are some times when fear is an appropriate response... but if the only reason I can come up with for not doing something is that it's scary, well that's not good enough.

I've been working under this premise for some time now - definitely since I split with my ex, but I've been gradually taking more and more risks ever since I read that stupid little book. After the ex left, I began to almost systematically go after my fears and inhibitions. Instead of just retreating from something that scares me, I now try to stop and ask myself why I'm afraid, and what I would do if I wasn't.

The expressway may be safer and better maintained, and will probably get you there faster, but it's not nearly as interesting as the smaller highways and back country roads. Just as I've always looked for the little dotted lines signifying smaller roads on maps when I'm traveling for pleasure, I've started looking for those little dotted lines on the road map of my life. Choosing the less risky path may be safer, but you miss out on so much really cool stuff.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


What is it about the sound of a chickadee's call that always makes me smile? I can't think of any other bird song that has the same effect. I love hearing bird calls of all types - can sit listening to them much longer than anyone I may be with cares to usually - but none will put an instant grin on my face like the chickadee.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why do I put my demons on display?

I've had more than one person tell me they think it's brave of me to put myself and my demons out to the general public in the way that I do here. I suppose I can see why they'd think it brave, but it really doesn't feel that way.

It does lead me to wonder why I feel compelled to put my demons on display. Obviously I get something out of it... we rarely continue doing anything in our lives that doesn't reward us in some way or another. But what exactly? It's not as if my posts here always paint me in a positive light. Far from it. I'm always somewhat surprised when someone tells me they've read my blog, and are still interested in getting to know me. I generally want to ask them, "You do realize how screwed up I am, don't you?" But, as I was recently discussing with someone... I've come to realize that everyone is "absolutely bat-fuck bonkers" (his words). We're all just crazy in different ways.

So why the compulsion to lay my psyche bare to the world? There are a couple of things I can think of... First, I've always been able to work things out better when I journal them. And this is basically an online journal. It works better than carrying a paper one around because I can post to it from anywhere as long as I have either my phone and a signal, or internet access. And second, by exposing these thoughts to the light of day, I weaken their grasp on me. It is because I've put all this out in the public blogosphere that I've realized that everyone has demons. Many, many people have read these posts - both friends and strangers - and the only feedback I've ever received has been supportive and complimentary, or commiserating or concurring with what I've written. (How d'ya like that for alliteration?)

I link to this blog in my profile on an online dating site - a move that the same someone referenced previously described as "a little heavy." Although it is less a desire to be honest, as he suggested, as it is a bit of a shortcut. This is me. It's not the entire me, but I think anyone who has read much of it has a fairly good impression of the sort of person I am - at least part of who I am. It provides some of my back story... the sorts of details someone could spend months learning about me. Also, if someone has taken the time to read much of this, and still wants to get to know me - perhaps even wants to know me more after reading it - they're probably more likely to be interested for the right reasons.


Yesterday seemed to be full of serendipity. I decided Tuesday to go down to San Marcos next weekend to visit my mom and family. I received an email yesterday evening that one of my favorite Austin bands is going to be playing in Gruene, just a short ways away from San Marcos, that Friday night.

I didn't realize there was going to be a lunar eclipse until one of my coworkers mentioned it yesterday afternoon at work - to complain that we wouldn't get to see it because of the clouds we'd had all day. On my way home, just a few miles from the house, I noticed I could see the moon quite clearly, and it was almost fully eclipsed. It was a very pleasant night, so I sat in the front yard eating the dinner I'd picked up on the way home and watched the eclipse. It was incredible.

I'd been observing the eclipse for a while, and had just come back out from getting a beer to enjoy while watching the rest of it, when I noticed my neighbor had just pulled up next door. I invited her over to view the moon through my binoculars, and we started chatting. Turns out, she and her husband are getting divorced. We talked for quite a while about it, and then she told me she'd like to learn more about being vegan and what I eat.

This led to a discussion of the evils of our current systems of food production, and the misinformation we all grew up with. I suggested she read The China Study and recommended The American Vegetarian Cookbook from the Fit for Life Kitchen. I like to recommend the Fit for Life cookbook to people who aren't ready to go vegan yet, but want to cut back on meat consumption and try eating more vegan food, because it's full of simple recipes made from everyday ingredients you can find at just about any grocery store. It uses honey in some recipes, and I'm always sure to tell them honey is not vegan, but otherwise it's a great book for someone who just wants to learn some basic vegan cooking. And Half Price Books always seems to have one or two copies available for less than $10 - another plus.

If the clouds hadn't parted at just the right time, and I hadn't been outside viewing the eclipse, we may have gone weeks without catching each other and I may never have gotten the chance to plant the seeds with her that I was able to plant tonight. Serendipity.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ok, the pity party is over

After indulging myself in a deliciously pathetic wallow in self-pity, I'm ready to move along. Hey, if you can't throw yourself a pity party on your first spend-money-on-cards-flowers-and-candy corporate holiday as a single person after 17 years, well when can you?

Being horribly ill for the last week with bronchitis certainly didn't help my mood or energy levels either. Who can blame a person for being a little depressed when they can't sleep because they can't stop coughing at night? Not to mention that I've now used up just about all my sick time for the rest of the year. Guess that means I can't get sick again... did you hear that immune system?

In my boredom and melancholy, I ventured into the world of online dating via OkCupid. Of course all my closest matches are halfway across the country. I get the same feeling filling out the profiles on these sites as I do job applications. And I've never been very good at those either. If they're just looking for experience and qualifications, no problem. But if I'm expected to sell myself - well, I suck at that. I always have.

I gather you're supposed to put something witty in there to distinguish yourself from all the others. It's not that I'm not witty, I'm told I am quite so... but it comes through in conversation, and after I get to know someone. Perhaps I need to treat the profile as a one-sided conversation with an old friend... but then again, I wouldn't have to tell an old friend all these basic things about me because they'd already know. Ack!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day

Perfect day for reflections on love and loneliness I suppose. I have to wonder why I'm feeling so down and lonely today, when this holiday never really mattered to me when I was married. I'm sure it's just the symbol, the reminder that I'm alone... that I'm probably going to be alone for a while.

No matter how much I tell myself that I can and should be happy on my own, I so yearn to find a partner to share myself and my life with. I thought for a very brief moment that I might have... and I know that's adding to my melancholy. It is hard to believe that I'm likely to find another person so seemingly well suited for me - but I have to believe they're out there somewhere.

Friday, February 1, 2008

No babies for me

Well it's done. Two days ago I had the Essure procedure done for permanent sterilization. Within three months, my tubes will be permanently blocked, and I will no longer be able to have children.

I've pretty much always known I didn't want kids. But I left the option open until now, just to make sure I wasn't going to change my mind. At 38, I think I'm past the point that I'm going to change my mind. And even if I do, there are so many unwanted children I could give a home to -- rather than risking my life and the baby's by trying to have one at this age.

I truly believe there are far too many people on this earth already. Unfortunately, as a friend's signature line says, "The stupid people are winning the breeding war." It does seem it's generally the more intelligent and thoughtful who choose not to have children. So perhaps those of us who choose not to have children have a responsibility to try to educate the younger generations and pass on the ideas and ethics we would have given our own children had we had them.