Monday, January 30, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-one

Day 231 - Practice
I spent most of the day doing laundry today.  When it was done, I went back to Aquila to pick up the implosions I did yesterday.  It wasn’t that busy at the school, and I had a great conversation with Scott.  I even took an hour to make a few more implosions.
I’m really pleased with the way these are going.  As I said yesterday, I’m not great yet - I am sort of a one-trick pony, so far - but I’m excited about getting better at it.  (I have decided I really need to get prescription lampwork safety glasses.)  I’m grateful to have the chance to keep practicing.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty

Day 230 - Busy Saturdays
Sometimes the weekend is best spent lounging, reading, and otherwise being lazy.  This was not one of those Saturdays.  Today, I was glad to be busy.
I haven’t been as diligent about my workouts as I should be, so I decided not to take the day off, and went again today.  I had a productive hour there, and was happy for it.  I spent the bulk of the day afterward at Aquila Glass School, working on a business development project, and then sat at the torch for awhile to practice my implosions.  I’m not that good at it yet, but I’m getting better.  I’m thinking maybe the word “artist” isn’t such a stretch....  Soon, though, I’m actually going to have to ask someone to teach me what I’m doing.
I am grateful to have activities that help me to keep my mind focused.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-nine

Day 229 - Time With Friends
Sometimes a few hours with friends is exactly what I need.
I shared happy hour with my friend (and fellow job seeker) Linda and her parter Judith, and had an absolutely delightful evening.  (I probably talked too much, but I had them laughing, so I figured it was OK under the circumstances.)
Afterward, I spent a couple hours with friends Vernon and Kenny - wonderful people - and I look forward to getting together with them again.
The evening was relaxed, without judgement or concern; it was the first evening of feeling “normal” since I returned home from Victoria.  Thanks to these four great friends.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-eight

Day 228 - Intertia
I chose the word “inertia” because I felt as if the force behind today’s activities was outside my effort; I tried to stay out of the way, and let things take me forward rather than pushing them.  
When I looked the word up in the dictionary (to confirm that I am using it correctly), it seemed that the customary meaning was more commonly the negative: “An object at rest stays at rest...” and the synonyms included “sloth,” “laziness,” and the like.  
However, Newton’s first law of motion states, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  The events of today seemed to carry me on, and I tried not to be the “unbalanced force.”
It was a long and relatively busy day: lunch with a friend, some contract work for a client, and most importantly, a phone interview for a job I think I could really enjoy.  I try not to get my hopes up anymore (and so far, so good).  Still....
It felt good to allow the inertia - the force of today’s motion - that brought me quietly to the end of the day.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-seven

Day 227 - Encouragement
While it could have been worse, today was not a good day.  
I didn’t have much on the docket; fortunately, what I did have to do earned me a little money.  A former client hired me to mediate a situation in their office, and they’ll pay full rate for the short amount of time I’ll need to investigate and offer a solution.  The amount I will earn should cover the cost of the new brakes I need on my car.
I wasn’t able to do the work at the glass studio I wanted to do due to my own absent-mindedness when I left home, leaving critical equipment at home.  
I then was given some bad news (that I don’t feel comfortable sharing at this time) that may affect my near future in critical terms.  It has caused me a great deal of anxiety.  I saw it coming, eventually; I just thought I’d have a little more time.  It has definitely placed the guillotine squarely over my head, and the clock is ticking.
Through it all, the two good friends who have been encouraging me to keep going were there for me last night.  They couldn’t offer solutions, but that wasn’t what I was looking to them to do.  Instead, they validated what I was feeling and helped me stay calm.  Their consistent empathy and understanding is an enormous help.
On a positive swing of the pendulum, I received a phone call from a friend about a job that just opened in the past few days, and he put me in touch with the hiring manager.  I don’t know much about it yet, but I’ve sent my resume in the hopes of landing an interview.  We’ll see.  
In the meantime, I have a lunch tomorrow with a networking acquaintance about a referral for a well-paying job (that may be a little outside my normal scope), and then a phone interview for a job in Seattle later in the afternoon.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-six

Day 226 - Empathy
Today was a melancholy day.  
It started out well.  I made it to the King Street Station in Seattle without fuss - the bus came after a short wait, and dropped me off a block from my destination.  Not bad.
I think it took me 30 minutes from the moment I walked into the station to boarding the train - it was a relative breeze, compared to air travel and the long lines everywhere.  I love the train - it’s roomy, easy, comfortable... and while it may take me a lot longer to get where I’m going, I’m not frazzled and queazy.
What I wasn’t expecting was the sense of dread.  The closer I got to Portland, the more depressed I felt.  It didn’t have anything to do with Portland, but rather the return to the existence I’ve been dealing with for the past three years; as a close friend said, “it’s like voluntarily walking back into the cage.”  I don’t feel trapped by the city, but by my current circumstances.  Try as I might, I can’t seem to break out.
Two friends have shown an undying empathy; they understand what I’m coping with (one has been through it; the other is a mental health professional who has the empathy thing down pat).  I don’t think I’d be around except for friends like these.  
Thank you both for your concern and compassion.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-five

Day 225 - Smooth Sailing
Today was a calm day - the weather, and my emotions - and that’s a good thing.  I didn’t want to leave Victoria.  I had a nice visit with Ignacio; it felt comfortable being there.  I could be “normal” again, for awhile, not an unemployed cypher.  Ignacio has been through much of what I am currently experiencing, and is one of only a few people I don’t feel is judging me poorly.  I felt safe there.
The ferry passage back to Seattle was pleasant, too.  The seas were smooth as glass.  I only took one Meclizine tablet (a non-drowsy motion sickness medicine - why didn’t I know about this stuff sooner?), and I probably didn’t need that.
I made my way to the bus stop I had located on the map, though I was unsure about it.  The sign said Bus 28 came to this stop, but it was an express?  Something felt wrong, so I looked at the map again, and realized I was a couple blocks north of where I should be.  Just as I was approaching the correct stop, my bus passed.  Next one in 30 minutes.
That was really the only hiccup in an otherwise uneventful day.  It’s nice to have days where things go right.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-four

Day 224 - Castles
Ignacio took me to see the Craigdarroch Castle - built for the John Dunsmuir family in the late 1800s.  Dunsmuir was a coal baron who, like so many of his contemporaries, had diverse business investments that did well.  He never had the opportunity to enjoy the mansion he had built, and his family only occupied the home for the 18 years his widow lived.  From that point, the house had a variety of owners and uses, including a military hospital, university, and music conservatory, eventually falling into disrepair.  It is now being restored and sustained by a non-profit organization dedicated to its preservation.
It was a fitting visit, as Ignacio and I had gone to see the Pittock Mansion in Portland just a few weeks before; this was Victoria’s version, so to speak, and while the restoration is not yet complete, it is a beautiful structure.
Dinner was at home, and then we watched the DVD of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake - the best ballet I have ever seen.  It loses a bit in translation to the TV screen (and the editing was frustrating at times, as it went to close-ups too often and didn’t show the choreography), but still covered the important moments to remain an amazing theatrical experience.
As we wrapped up our day, I remarked to myself how nice it was to be spending the weekend with a man with whom I shared so many interests.  Life feels easy with him.  If only we lived in the same city....

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-three

Day 223 - Easy Days
Sometimes it is nice not to have an agenda; the only thing planned for the day was the evening performance of the Victoria Symphony, so we had all day to enjoy freely.  Ignacio made breakfast - bacon, eggs, and fresh-baked croissants with raspberry preserves.  And, naturally, delicious coffee.  We walked around town to do a few errands including a stop at the market for food for the weekend.  
Lunch was a cheese sandwich made with a traditional Venezuelan arepa - a corn meal biscuit of sorts - simple and tasty.  (I will try to make them with American corn meal at home, but since he uses Venezuelan corn meal, I have no idea if it will turn out the same; I also don’t have the special press that shapes and cooks them properly, so I’ll have to use the unit I have and see what happens.)
The symphony performance was wonderful!  The theme was “The Rat Pack” - music of Frank, Dean and Sammy, as well as others of the period associated with them; the guest conductor, Matt Catingub (pictured), not only led the orchestra, but also sang, played the piano and saxophone.  He also introduced his drummer - a very handsome young man that has traveled with him for ten years.  (Given the way he introduced the handsome musician, both Ignacio and I wondered if there were more than a professional relationship there.)  
Ignacio had told me that prior performances in this concert series were rather hit-and-miss - some had been great while others were disappointing.  Fortunately tonight was a hit.
It was a great day.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-two

Day 222 - Relative Warmth
It was warmer this morning as I left Amy’s to catch the bus headed downtown.  I was a little nervous, though I honestly don’t know why; I knew the bus stop was one block down 36th Street; I knew that Bus 28 would take me to a stop at 3rd & Bell, and that continuing down Bell Street, I would come to a pedestrian walkway that would take me over the rail road tracks to Alaskan Way; the only concern was whether the elevator down to street level would be functioning at that hour; I knew I would be only three piers from my destination.  I know where I’m going and how I’m getting there.  Why would I be nervous?
I guess it is because I’m always nervous when traveling.  I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s something I’ve never been able to quash completely.
As I walked from Amy’s to the bus stop, I could tell the packed snow that covered the sidewalk was wetter than the night before.  Though sunrise was an hour or more away, the earth had already begun to thaw.  “Snomageddon” would soon be over.
It began to rain as I stood at the bus stop, wishing there were a shelter.  The businesses behind the four of us waiting had no awnings to provide any protection, and I was glad to have my fedora.  I didn’t want to get my umbrella out of my bag - it would be one more thing to carry once it was wet.  Eventually, the rain was heavy enough that I figured it would be better to deal with a wet umbrella than find out the hard way whether my suitcase was waterproof.
As I boarded the bus, I asked the driver to confirm that this bus stopped at 3rd & Bell.  “Uhhhh... yeah, I think so.  This isn’t my route - I’m subbing for another driver.  But... yeah,  we stop there.”  Great.  A few blocks later, he asked the passengers if a regular rider could confirm the name of the street we were approaching, as he would have to make a turn.  Hmmm...
Fortunately, that was the last clue we had that he wasn’t sure of his route.  We got to 3rd & Bell (the driver was kind enough to announce it, too), and I carried my bag most of the way through the ankle-high melting snow.  Seattle really got hit with this storm; I was surprised to see how few roads and sidewalks had even the slightest attention.  The pedestrian overpass was particularly snowy, and as I got to the other side, I noticed the stairs were closed because of it.  Fortunately the elevators were, in fact, running, and I made it over the snow to Pier 69 without additional effort.
The trip to Victoria was uneventful, and I walked up to Discovery Coffee to wait for Ignacio.  I ordered a nosh - a fried egg sandwich with tomato and spinach, and a coffee - and settled in for a couple hours dealing with email and the like.  Thank goodness for free WiFi.
The reunion with Ignacio delightful.  We picked up where we left off - easy and comfortable.  It was the happiest evening I’ve had in the nearly three weeks since he left Portland. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty-one

Day 221 - Detours and Re-routes
It was raining as Mom dropped me off at Union Station in the Pearl, definitely warmer than yesterday.  I was looking forward to taking the train to Seattle - it has been a few years since I did, and I enjoyed that trip.  I like the ease of train travel; no long security lines, no pressing crowds, and the ability to sit in comfortable seats and ample room to move about the car beats air travel on every count except time.  
I went to the kiosk to scan my confirmation printout to get the boarding pass, but it wasn’t working.  I got into line to speak to an agent, and that’s when I noticed the announcement on the TV monitors saying train service north of Portland had been canceled.  Oh, great.  Will I make it to Victoria?  Nacho has arranged for time off....
The agent who helped me was an older woman, possibly close to retirement, or maybe past customary retirement age; I thought the permanent scowl on her face made her look older than she probably is.  Her words were kinder than her looks, but she offered little in terms of conversation.  
She confirmed that all trains to Seattle were canceled, and that the tracks were washed out in... Centralia?  Chehalis?  Kelso?  I don’t remember.  Anyway, a bus would take us to Seattle instead - non-stop - and I assumed it would depart at the same time the train was scheduled.  OK, not ideal, but it will get me to the same spot.
I was so glad I didn’t drive (and certain that Mom would be happy to know she was right).  The freeway was fine until we got to Tumwater, when we had our first traffic; there was a minor accident, undoubtedly weather-related, and the tow truck was sticking out into the right lane forcing us to merge to the left.  
As we continued northbound, the snow was falling and the roads got worse pretty quickly.  Traffic was heavy and slow, and looking at the packed snow and ice on the freeway made me glad I wasn’t behind the wheel - I’d be a nervous wreck long before getting to Fremont.  The man sitting next to me had driven similar motor coaches in his youth, and explained that we were very unlikely to lose traction even on ice, given the vehicles weight and eighteen wide tires on the ground.
The driver expertly got us to the King Street Station as easily as if it were a dry summer day.  As I left the station, I was glad it wasn’t raining.  There was a faint amount of snow blowing through, but nothing that would warrant an umbrella.  I found my bus stop a block away - exactly as Michael at Metro had described - and waited quite awhile for bus 28 to arrive.  The driver - a pretty young woman - was helpful in explaining that I’d pay the fare when I get off the bus, and agreed to alert me when my stop was coming up.  That part of the trip went easily.
I got off the bus in Fremont, and noticed a taqueria on my way to Amy’s.  That’s where I’ll have dinner.  The walk to Amy’s was surprisingly easy (maybe these hiking boots offer more traction than I thought), and Zeus - her friendly huge dog - greeted me at the door as if he missed me.
Dinner at the taqueria - an enormous burrito - was delicious.  I went back to Amy’s and fell asleep for awhile until Sean, her tenant, arrived home.  He walked the dogs and we chatted briefly before I went to bed.
In all, it was a pleasant day despite the detours and re-routes.  In fact, it may have been a little less comfortable, but the changes made the trip that much more interesting.  By and large, it all had gone according to plan.  Now let’s see what happens when I take a bus in the morning to Pier 69 - the Clipper terminal.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twenty

Day 220 - Adaptability
I made another attempt at researching my travel options for the trip to Victoria this weekend.  The weather hasn’t warmed up as quickly as the forecasts have indicated, and I’m concerned about driving to Seattle tomorrow.  I’ve driven in snow many times, but my little Miata just doesn’t care for the stuff.  Can’t say as I blame her.
Taking the train is no more expensive than the gas to drive up, and obviously doesn’t add to the wear and tear on the car (I need new brakes, a new battery, and an oil change, so taking the train will help me put that off).  I have looked into it in the past, but my networking obligations have precluded my use of public transportation.  This time, none of the networking appointments I tried to confirm materialized (possibly because of the snow... yeah, that’s it; that’s the story I’m going with), so the train is an option.
Taking the train will also save me money on parking in Seattle while in Victoria.  The greatly-discounted parking rate across the street from the pier is $10 per day; not taking my car will save me an additional $40.
The other factor, though, is getting from the train station to Fremont where my friend Amy lives.  She will be out of town, but has offered to let me stay at her townhouse.  The Metro bus system in Seattle has a good reputation, but I haven’t been able to figure out the specifics on their website.  I tried calling their customer service line, but given the service interruptions and re-routes because of all the unplowed (and impassable roads), lines are very busy.

Fortunately, I was able to get through before the end of the day, and Michael, the customer service agent who answered the call, helped me figure out exactly which bus to take, where to catch it, and which stop to exit.  He was great - personable, empathetic, and very specific in his instructions.  So I booked passage on Amtrak to Seattle.

I have to count my blessings that I can change my plans at the last minute without stressing too much.  Yes, I’m sure I’ll be anxious as I look for bus stops wondering if I’ll catch the right bus, but right now, I’m feeling good about the trip.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Nineteen

Day 219 - Small Gestures
I had the opportunity to experience small gestures from both points of view today - as the one offering and the one giving.
One of my Breakfast Club participants unexpectedly needed a ride to the Tigard Transit Center after our meeting when his bus never showed up.  It felt good to be in a position to give him a ride so conveniently.
Then, toward the end of the day as I finished some torch work at the glass school, I went to pay for a glass rod and, instead, Scott gave it to me, kindly saving me a couple dollars.
Neither was a big deal by itself, but these little gestures make such a difference in my attitude.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eighteen

Day 218 - Restarting
I had the first Beers Group networking meeting of the year today.  It felt good to get back into something regular.  I wasn’t sure if it would be helpful at all - I’ve been going for months, and haven’t had a good lead from the group yet.  But today’s good feeling wasn’t from a lead, but from the kindness of one of the members.  She asked me how I was holding up, and was genuinely empathetic.  She offered to introduce me to a couple people via LinkedIn.
While it wasn’t a huge event, it made me feel good for awhile, which was nice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seventeen

Day 217 - Recuperation
“Recuperate” is defined on thus: “to recover from sickness or exhaustion; regain health or strength.”  That was my day.
I had two “social” events today; one canceled outright, and I declined the other.  I wasn’t feeling up to either of them.  I did my laundry, which always makes me feel better, and I spent a short amount of time at the glass school practicing some implosions.  I was the only student there, and the peace was nice.
At the end of the day, I felt a little better.  I’m certainly not feeling “100%,” but I’m glad I spent the day the way I did.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Sixteen

Day 216 - Closed Doors
Normally, I would not think about it, but I am grateful to have a room in which I can retreat and close the door.  I can imagine what life would be like if I were living in a shelter (or outside), and at least I have this little bit of privacy, even though I can still be heard and observed.  The sense that I can deal with my emotions without having to explain everything is a relief.  I’m grateful that my mom will let me close the door and allow me this time to myself.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifteen

Day 215 - Memory
Though some say it isn’t good to live in the past, I have to say I have been thinking a lot about happier times in Southern California.  It is not news that life for me has taken a turn for the worse here in Portland; job opportunities haven’t materialized, and the remaining leads have hit dead ends and dried up.  There is little hope for an immediate remedy.
I imagine my remembering good times and pleasant weather of Southern California is my mind’s effort not to fall into total madness.  I have been thinking about my apartment in Long Beach - the best home I’ve had in my adult life - and the great times I spent there.  I think about the walks on the beach, the great shops and restaurants, all within walking distance of my home; I think of my friends there, and the laughs.  It was an easy drive to Palm Springs (which I didn’t take often enough).  And although life wasn’t easy, it was good.
Then I started working for a company whose ethics are questionable, and things began to change for me elsewhere in life.  I took the job because I needed one; after all, it was a job doing what I enjoy most, and I didn’t have to compromise my own integrity if I simply did as good a job as I could.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  When you find out your employer has no scruples, and you stay with them anyway, it does affect you.  And you only have yourself to blame when it does.
So now I’m stuck.  Life is bleak, despite my three-year effort to turn things around.  I have tried everything I can, and so far, I have nothing to show for it.  But at least I can think about the good times and hope that someday they will return. The memories give my heart a rest.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fourteen

Day 214 - Sunshine
It was a little on the breezy side today, but clear skies can be so beautiful, especially in Portland.  I have long commented that this city is spectacular when it’s sunny.  I’m sure part of that is the rarity - you appreciate it more because it doesn’t happen as often as in other cities - like Long Beach, for example.
On the way home yesterday, I snapped a photo of Mt. Hood from my car (in stop-and-go-and-stop traffic).  I had only a brief moment to do so, and as a result, I didn’t get a chance to “keep” the bright pink view the sunset offered.  I saw the same thing today as I crossed over the Fremont Bridge on my way home from the glass school.  The view down the streets of the Pearl District were clean and clear.  There are few cities as beautiful when the weather is nice.
I know this weather won’t last, but I will enjoy it as long as I can.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirteen

Day 213 - An Elbow Brace
You know you’re living a boring life when the best thing that happens to you is finding your elbow brace.  I have been trying to work out with some pretty intense pain in my left elbow; I can’t lift the weights I’m otherwise able to lift, and my shoulders and arms in particular are losing bulk, which is something I don’t have enough of in the first place.  I have been using my neoprene sleeve, but it hasn’t offered enough support to keep it from hurting.  Today, I found the brace I bought (for the same reason) a few years ago, and it worked very well.
Sometimes I think life would be easier if I didn’t go to the gym - think of all the time I’d save, not to mention gasoline.  But then I remember others with genetic information similar to mine (I’m not naming anyone) and that’s all the motivation I need to get back to the gym.
Sometimes seeing younger men with fabulous bodies working out around me helps; sometimes it doesn’t.  At all.  But thinking about what I would look like - and feel like - if I ate the way I easily could and didn’t go to the gym cures my fitness doldrums.  Finding the elbow brace makes the workouts easier.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Twelve

Day 212 - Impermanence
It is said (and well established) that nothing lasts forever.  Sometimes that’s a sad thing - like when a friendship ends; or when someone leaves us, either in terms of proximity or state of being; or working on a great team or on a project or production.  Sometimes, it is a good thing - like when a bad time finally begins to pass, and life gets slightly brighter; the sun isn’t rising yet, but the sky is getting a little brighter in the east.
I have spent the last few days feeling totally hopeless.  It is not the first time I have felt this way, and although I hope it is the last time, it probably isn’t.  Thankfully, I knew this time would pass, too.  Just as the best times aren’t perpetual, neither are the worst.  I will survive this, too.
I applied for a job today.  I know no one in the company, and so far have been unsuccessful in finding anyone who knows someone, so my chances are next to nil.  Still, while I may never hear back from anyone in the company, just finding an open position helped me turn a corner.  Yes, it’s a big corner, and I’m not all the way around it.  My attention is simply on the fact that the trajectory has changed, however slightly, and the sky seems infinitesimally lighter.  I’ll take what I can get.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eleven

Day 211 - The Common Cold
It seems unlikely that anyone could be grateful to have a cold.  I certainly don’t enjoy them, though when you have nothing to do, they don’t get in the way of a lot.  Still, I had a couple of social things I had signed up for, and I wasn’t in a condition to attend either.  This cold has descended into my chest, and the coughing has been perturbing.  I can only imagine standing in a mixer, or seated in a movie theater, hacking up a lung and annoying the hell out of those around me.
I admit, too, that I am too depressed to want to go out anyway, so the timing isn't as bad as it might have been.  I’m glad I have a legitimate reason to keep to myself today.  I did get to the glass school and made a whole bunch of chandelier beads (I’ll pick them up tomorrow), and I had a light workout at the gym, so it’s not like I’ve been a total hermit.  But I’ve been able to stay low, which is what I need, and I hope my friends forgive me for not joining them tonight.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Ten

Day 210 - Nothing
It’s not that I’m grateful for nothing, though I can’t say there is a lot to talk about today.  I’m just grateful that I didn’t have anything that I absolutely had to do; I went to pick up some glass pieces I made for the chandelier, but otherwise, I caught up on reading the comics pages that had been accruing (the only “good” part of the newspaper, as far as I’m concerned), finished one book and started another.  I also made a lot of progress on the chandelier - putting the drops and beads together and hanging them in place.  It isn’t complete yet, but I’m happy with the way it’s turning out.
Other than that, I’ve got nothing.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Nine

Day 209 - Numbness
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the advantage of feeling numb is that you don’t feel pain.  There are times when a certain degree of pain can be a good thing - like when I’m sore a day or two after a workout, and I know my body is working the way it is supposed to.  But when the pain is too great, numbness becomes the survival tool.
I spent the day feeling numb.  It wasn’t a physical pain, though there was a physical aspect to it; my discomfort, of course, came from yesterday’s news that my hopes for a job in early 2012 had evaporated.  I had all my mental justifications at the ready, and the platitudes from well-intended friends trickled in; I could talk my way through all the questions that flooded my conscious mind.  Still, I was bereft when the fantasy of once again having my own home - my own life - dissolved like a teaspoon of sugar in a gallon of boiling water.  The numbness that defined my day was the only way I could cope.
I completely understand why some people give up looking for work.  To be honest, it is tempting, though I can’t imagine how I would avoid ending up in a homeless shelter.  Maybe I can’t.  
I’m glad I’m numb.  At the moment, I can’t cope with reality anyway.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Eight

Day 208 - Love
If not for love, I would not have survived the day.
I still hadn’t heard from the hotel in Bellevue, so I called my friend.  “Oh, I was going to call you today.”  ...I knew how the rest of the conversation would go before he uttered another word.  To make a long story short, the hotel management decided I was asking for too much money; they went with the other candidate because she doesn’t need a living wage.  It doesn’t matter that I was the better fit for their business needs; budget trumps skills and priorities, so there you have it.  He offered to be a reference, though I don’t know how much that could help under the circumstances.
I was devastated.  I have no other job leads; no other connections.  I have no hope left.  Instead, I have more of the same - another 2011 at this rate - which is something I simply cannot face.
I took my things to Mom’s, leaving Denny with clean sheets, towels, and dishes, and a note to express my gratitude for allowing me to pretend I was on my own again.  It was a nice break, and the cats were good.
I went to the glass studio to pick up the pieces I made yesterday and put into the kiln to anneal.  Since I didn’t start to cry when I told Judy the news, I decided I could manage to sit at the torch for awhile.  I was glad that she didn’t belabor it.  I made a few more twisties (shorter this time - I think shorter pieces will look better from the lowest points of the chandelier), and the activity kept my mind off of my present despair.
I cried all the way back to Mom’s.  I wondered if other drivers were watching me, but I couldn’t stop the flood.  I just let it go.  No one really cares anyway, so it wouldn’t matter.
Mom is a gem.  I had informed her via text message of the bad news, and when I arrived, she left me alone.  I simply couldn’t bear to talk about it, and she didn’t press.  I spent the rest of the day in my room - her office - and quietly grieved the loss of my future.
Ignacio sent me supportive text messages, too.  He asked me if I wanted to chat on Skype, and I told him yes, when I didn’t feel so much like crying.  The poor man - he wanted to help, but it’s difficult when you’re 200 miles away. 
Dinner was fabulous.  Mom made turkey thighs and vegetables in the slow cooker, and roasted some broccoli.  I had thought it might be nice to simply starve myself to death, but when faced with food this good, I ate more than I expected.  One cannot go on a hunger strike with food like this.
Ignacio and I chatted on Skype later in the evening, and he offered what support he could.  He is in the unenviable position of having been through much of what I am now experiencing, so he understands on a different level.  He understands how platitudes do not help.  He understands the despair.  Though there are differences in the living situations, he gets it, and I was grateful for his kindness.
It is tough to realize you’re an anachronism.  I’m a real life, modern day Willie Loman.  Dreams are wonderful until you wake up.  
I didn’t think I could find anything to be grateful for today.  But there is one thing.
If it weren’t for the love I receive from Mom and Ignacio, I would not have survived the day.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Seven

Day 207 - Projects
Today, I am grateful for projects that keep me busy and my mind off of things I cannot control.  I still haven’t heard from the hotel in Bellevue, which does not bode well.  I was happy to have a bit more time at the glass studio where I made a whole bunch of chandelier beads.  In fact, I’ve started putting a few pieces on the chandelier to see how it will look, and I’m quite pleased.  I think this is going to turn out well.  
I also had to pack up my things and start a bit of cleaning up at Denny’s - tonight is the last night of cat sitting.  It has been a nice break to be on my own for awhile - a fantasy of being self-sufficient - and I look forward to having my own place (hopefully soon).
Until then, I’ll stay as busy as I can.  One day at a time, right?

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Six

Day 206 - Cold Medicine
Wow, what a day!  I caught a tough cold; it started yesterday, and I didn’t think much of it.  But today was a different story.  This is the second cold of the season for me.  Last year was the first time in a long time that I had more than one cold in a single season - probably since the last year of my marriage - and here we go again this year.  I suppose the stresses of life may play a part in this - no way to know - but I had to skip my friend’s birthday party.  Chicken soup and a salad were all I could manage for dinner. 
I didn’t hear from the hotel again today, so I sent an email to the Director asking for news.  If he weren’t a professional friend, I wouldn’t follow up so soon, but things seemed so good when I left that I figured I’d be OK for asking.  Odd, though, that he wouldn’t get back to me.
Fortunately I have some nighttime cold medicine - I hope to sleep well tonight.  This isn’t a good time to get sick.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Five

Day 205 - Home Stretch
The first Breakfast Club meeting of the year was this morning.  I didn’t expect a lot of people, but I did have one new participant.  He was particularly negative, and I had the impression that it is his personality more than his momentary frame of mind.  I mean no criticism by that; I mention it because he was something of a challenge for me as a moderator.  I thought the meeting went well, though.
I spent some time at the glass studio today, making chandelier beads - the small beads that hang above the drops.  I need 54 of them, and since I’m making them simply (only clear glass, no color), they go together quickly.  I also made a few twisties; Ignacio gave me the idea of where to place them on the chandelier, and I’m excited to try it.  In using twisties, I now have enough of the drops.  I am glad to have them done.
Today was the day I was supposed to hear back from the hotel in Bellevue.  No word.
Not much else happened today, and I’m glad to be on the final stretch of glass work for the chandelier.  Progress is a good thing.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Four

Day 204 - Slow Return to Reality
Ignacio went back to Victoria today.  I had to drop him off at Pier 69 at 7:00 AM; on one hand, it was probably a good thing that it was so early - less time to have to deal with the emotions of “goodbye.”  On the other hand, I would have liked more time with him.  Still, it was a pleasant morning, despite the weather, which wasn't as nice as yesterday (thank heavens for the good weather for a Space Needle visit!).
I left for Portland after a quick shower at Amy’s, and the drive back was easy enough.  I am staying at Denny’s this week, too - he returns on Friday, so I had some quiet time to myself.  I am reminded of when my kids used to visit me - I always appreciated some “alone” time afterward to process all the emotions of having them with me for a short time, and then dealing with the return to reality.  This time, I was glad it was a slow process.  I have four more days “on my own.”

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Three

Day 203 - Happy New Year!
If New Year’s Day is any indication of how the year will unfold (which is never certain), it should be a good year.  Though we were late in starting the day, Ignacio and I drove back to Seattle in good weather and easy traffic, and had time to visit the Space Needle.  The weather was incredible - clouds high enough to show both the Olympics and the Cascades clearly, and not even a breeze to cool things down on the observation deck.  We snacked on Seattle Dogs (sizable, good quality franks with cream cheese and “bacon-onion jam”), and took quite a few photos.  
Changes continue at the Seattle Center - they have done away with the children’s rides, and are building a glass museum featuring the work of Dale Chihuly, a Washington native of global repute in blown glass.  While I am sorry to see the rides go the way of the dodo, I’m looking forward to the museum.
We stayed with my friend Amy, who made us chicken pot pies from scratch for dinner.  She even shared the recipe.  Delicious!
I feel fortunate to have the positive relationships I do, and I hope I adequately express my gratitude to those who bring good things into my life.  I look forward to the new year and the opportunities to do so.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Two

Day 202 - The End of the Year
I am so glad to have 2011 over.  It has been a hellish year - I believe “annus horribilis” is the Latin translation.  As I look to the next year for some relief, I am surprised at how difficult this one has been in retrospect.  I can only think of two other years as challenging, one being 2010, and I hope the worst is behind me.
After a brief visit to the Rose Gardens and a drive through my childhood neighborhood, Ignacio and I had dinner at Mom’s - this would be their introduction, and I naturally wanted things to go well.  They did.  We rang in the new year by watching on CNN the ball in Times Square drop (I find it quite amusing to watch Kathy Griffin push Anderson Cooper’s buttons all evening, making him laugh, which is a delight).  That would be 9:00 PM PST.  After wishing Mom a Happy New Year and saying goodnight, we joined dear friends Paul and Jim at Starky’s for drinks and a midnight toast.
In all, I don’t think I could have had a more enjoyable New Year’s Eve.  Here’s to 2012 - may it bring much better times.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred One

Day 201 - Leisure Time
I took Ignacio to the Pittock Mansion today, and we were joined by my dear friends Blaine and Dan.  I haven’t been to the Mansion since high school, and never during the holiday season when it’s decked out with Christmas decorations.  If it is always a “Christmas Around the World” theme with decorations in each room representing the customs of different countries, I had forgotten.  It is a beautiful home (although I want to go back when the decorations aren’t there, so I can see what the rooms actually look like).
Since I’m staying in NW Portland, cat sitting for Denny, that was our “home base.”  It reminded me of what life was like when I was “on my own,” and I was happy to think I might be again.  It felt good to have things working out as they were.
Later on, we met back up with Blaine and Dan for dinner at their place in Camas, Washington.  Ignacio had asked about the naming of the town, as “camas” means “beds” in Spanish.  It turns out that “camas” is a native american word for a type of flower native to the area.  Who knew?  (I had figured it was probably founded as a bedroom community of Portland.)  
In all, it was a good day, unrushed and leisurely; I was grateful for it, and the time spent with Ignacio.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred

Day 200 - Compromises
I had a “final” interview for a job today in Bellevue.  In our conversation where we set up this meeting, the friend who would be my boss led me to believe that this was a negotiation over details; however, when we sat down together, he told me they had narrowed the field to two.  My competition is a woman who has been a Director of Catering at a downtown Seattle hotel for 20 years.  Anyone who has been in hospitality sales for any length of time will make some assumptions about anyone in a “sales” position at one property for 20 years, and since my friend’s hotel had a significant need for an assertive sales person, I figured I had the upper hand.
I have had misgivings about the position, though.  I am concerned about the fact that this hotel is in a very upscale part of town and pays about $20,000 less per year than the market in a hotel of this size.  It is an older hotel, whose market has gone away, and they don’t plan to renovate their meeting space until later in the year.  I have the impression that this hotel - and maybe the management company - isn’t doing very well financially.  I’m also concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet with a salary that low in an area that expensive.
I was also concerned about the aggressive sales goals they had for this position; they only have one catering sales person, so this job would require attention and effort for both inbound and outbound sales; in other words, I would be taking on the duties of two full-time jobs.  That’s OK - I know everyone is working harder with less, but I wondered if their expectations were realistic.  After all, one person can only do so much, and it sounds like they need a superhero.
Still, the prospect of having a job and being self-sufficient again was enough to make me feel very excited.  I left the negotiations feeling pretty good, feeling as if I could accept the terms even if they came in low.  I would do my best to make them proud and see where the future leads me.
Ignacio arrived by ferry about 90 minutes after I left the hotel, and we drove in the pouring rain back to Portland.  It was nice to talk about some good news.  I felt as if the compromises would be worth it.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-nine

Day 199 - Transitions
As the end of the year approaches in a few days, I contemplate the changes that have happened over the past year, and there is a lot to digest.  My contract work came to a close early in the year, and new leads haven’t materialized - the independent consulting market seemed to have dried up like the fields of Texas.  I moved in with my mom when my brother and sister-in-law could no longer accommodate me.  Being without full-time work for two years was a difficult milestone to pass.  Coming in second for several jobs didn’t help.
Getting involved in some networking groups did.  I have become active in three job finders groups, along with doing other networking activities, and they have helped me emotionally.  I have even taken the helm of one, and despite the irony of trying to help others find work while unsuccessful at my own job search, it has been rewarding on some levels.  The career coaching I’ve been doing has been helpful, too, though again the irony makes me wonder.
It has been a long year.  I was talking to an astrologer at a party who told me that 2012 was going to be a very good year for me.  I was excited about it - I had been dating someone for just over a month, and the networking in Seattle was moving along.  I thought perhaps this would be a good way to start the new year - positive news for positive growth.  Maybe 2011 was a long, arduous year, but it will soon be over.  I have something else to look forward to.
I am hoping for a transition to something better.  Ignacio arrives tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to the New Year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-eight

Day 198 - Focus
I have been working on a glass project for months now - making drops for a chandelier.  I have had some (qualified) success at imploding cobalt blue glass into the clear drops, and I have the potential for 54 of them to hang from the chandelier.  I have 20 that I feel are good enough to use; five others are adequate, and could be used toward the center of the chandelier where they would be less noticeable, but I’d like to make enough that these wouldn’t be needed.  I have a few more that didn’t turn out, but are consistent enough with each other that I could use them; again, I’d prefer to use better ones, but I doubt I’ll take time to make enough.
You see, they take a long time to make - the best I’ve done is 20 minutes to make a single drop - and I usually only have an hour or two to devote to the torch work.  This results in a total of averaging four or five drops that actually turn out (one or two often crack because of an air bubble caught inside, or I have allowed the drop to cool too quickly and unevenly).  It’s a slow process, and frankly, I’m getting bored with it.
Today, though, I did better than usual.  I made seven drops, and only one cracked.  If I can do the same thing tomorrow, I should have enough to complete enough to go at each light (five drops each at the end of six arms).  We’ll see what I can do for the rest of the chandelier.  I’m going to be glad to have this done.