Monday, April 15, 2013
Minnesotans are know for being cold-hardy. We love winter. We think people from other parts of the country are babies when it comes to cold and snow. We joke about "Minne-snow-ta" and hunker down with hot cocoa as the flakes fall. When we do have to drive through ice pellets and the surrounding opaque whiteness, we shake our fists in frustration at people going too slow, figuring they MUST not be from around here. We bundle up until no skin is visible and venture out to sled and plop on the ground to make snow angels, the angels bloated from all of the puffy layers of clothing.
We love winter...that is, until we don't anymore.
This winter simply won't die. There were promising signs of spring a couple of weeks ago. The snow nearly melted completely. There was rain and even a thunderstorm, the surest sign that new life is on its way. The sidewalks were starting to get reacquainted with footsteps as more people ventured out. A brightness returned to the air. But then the bone-chilling cold returned, bringing with it fresh snow, stifling any green that started to rear itself to reach for the sun.
For me, it's not so much that winter won't end, it's that THIS winter will not end. Every fresh coat of snow is like burying my father all over again. Every snowflake that lands on my face, melting and running down my cheek, just serves as a reminder of the worst winter of my life. I need to see signs of new life, of progression, of growth. I need to not walk on this ever-frozen ground.
This winter has obviously been challenging for me with my dad dying a little over two months ago. He died while I was trying to organize a career change and figure out how I could tolerate my current job until I could get my new career going. From a selfish standpoint, he died right before I was going to need him the most. I was exceptionally excited about starting massage school and could not wait to talk to him about it and get his insights in embarking on my new journey, a journey towards a career path that is truly suited for me. I yearned to share with him my excitement about becoming the person I am, who is willing to go to great lengths to recreate myself and work towards the life I deserve. He died before I got the chance to even tell him about going back to school.
Life is not always comfortable. I am comfortable with this fact. We learn a lot in the midst of discomfort, even if we are too busy to notice as we squirm and writhe to relieve the discomfort. Try as we may, discomfort cannot and should not be ignored. Sometimes simply surviving extreme discomfort is a major accomplishment, if not the best goal to set during such times. The other option is to look the discomfort in the eyes, say "F**k you," and redirect the discomfort into something constructive. Even as the discomfort claws at us from the inside out, we have the power to redirect that energy.
Our imagination provides all of the tools we need to redirect negative or uncomfortable energy. It is through our creative powers that the bad can be reworked to become something good. Imagination can express itself in many forms, both within our heads and throughout our bodies. Sometimes the snow doesn't actually need to melt; we can imagine what lies beneath. The possibilities within the frozen ground become real when they are imagined, and then can become reality through our creativity. Our imagination may come alive through writing, through movement, through music, through art, through spoken word, or through something that has yet to be created.
Jiu Jitsu has been my ultimate life lesson in becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I can tell you, I have hardly felt more uncomfortable in my life than trying to fling one 200 pound guy after another as they sit on top of me, all the while fighting off being choked. After an hour or two of that, almost every other situation seems pretty manageable. Jiu Jitsu intimidates me even after practicing for a year and a half, and will probably continue to scare even when I earn a black belt. At the start of a match, my opponent and I watch each other, circling and wondering who will make the first move. As I hesitate I hear my teacher Marcelo say in his thick Brazilian accent, "Don't be scared!" I am learning to dive right in; sometimes my opponent gets on top from there, excitedly crushing me. But sometimes I end up right where I want to be, controlling the match as I see fit. Even when I am in control, there is still doubt and discomfort. I just do my best to remember the moves I have learned and to not repeatedly make the same mistakes.
Lessons from martial arts have been at the core of every major change I have made as an adult. Jiu Jitsu is my favorite form of exercise. It was kickboxing that sparked an interest in pursuing a career in fitness. I have learned to be more patient and have developed the confidence needed to make major life changes. Martial arts has been the ground I have walked upon in becoming the woman I am now, and the woman I will become in my new career path. As I walk upon this ground, I build upon lessons from martial arts by creating: writing, drawing, playing music, moving in different ways. I have found it vital to have that one thing--in my case, Jiu Jitsu--that grounds me and sets my imagination free. From that grounding, I can experiment, nurture, and grow.
I met with my adviser at school this week to arrange my course plan for school. I decided that I might as well tack on a personal training degree, as I only need to take 3 additional courses to complete it with my massage degree. It will only take me 4 semesters to complete the 2 degrees. That means that by the fall of next year, I will be firmly establishing myself in my new career path. I find the thought of staying at my current job much more tolerable now that there is a tangible end in sight.
In the meantime, I am also working at establishing myself as a writer. I have started to look into freelance writing, but I have become engrossed in working on my novels. I find working on the novels to be healing; I can create whatever I want on paper, and I can make my characters as comfortable or uncomfortable as I see fit. I learn about myself as my characters take free reign as they are written. While the writing part of writing is fun, I have also been doing a lot of prep work with organizing novels; in the end, I hope to have published works. So, I have also been reading a lot about writing, scribbling notes in my writing journal, consuming as much knowledge as my brain is willing to take. Writing has been my true saving grace this winter. It is never too cold to write.
The ground will not always be frozen. It will thaw, it will become nourished, it will be dug. There is much to be discovered in the quiet ground beneath us. Right now I am relinquished to hammer at the frozen ground, only tiny bits of frozen earth moving. But I will not always stomp helplessly at the frozen ground, bemoaning the snow covering the stubbornly stagnant ground. Soon I will be able to slip my shovel into the ground, throwing the earth over my shoulder. I may find something I wasn't expecting. I may find a great place to grow new roots, nurturing them from their delicate beginnings until they firmly meld with the earth. But when the world won't cooperate, sometimes we need to get a little creative in exploring the earth beneath our feet.
If the ground is content to stay frozen, then I will thaw my own ground.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Thursday, April 04, 2013
Some events are so shocking and so significant that they change us to our very core. A few days after my dad died, it dawned on me that I would probably never be the same person. But sometimes the worst circumstances cause us to grow the most as a human being. By saying I will never be the same person, I do not mean that I will be some moping depressed person for the rest of my life. Actually, other than the meltdown a couple of weeks ago, I have felt pretty good. I had a great relationship with my dad and although I was sad to see it end too soon (he was only 61), but I feel lucky to have had the time with him.
I have worked very hard over the past 2 years to get a grasp on my eating habits and to change myself mentally so I could uncover what I truly want. I had become the happiest I have ever been in my life. Over the past 6 weeks, the new person I chose to become has had to cooperate with the new person I have been forced to become. I was afraid I would eat my way through my emotions and start gaining weight; instead my eating habits have remained fairly consistent and I have maintained my weight. I have tried to be consistent with my workouts, but as I explain below, there were some barriers. Now I am back to a more intense workout routine again. Life can throw all of the curveballs at me that its heart desires, but I will never give up. I will never stop searching or stop trying.
I was reading something by kettlebell instructor Paul Katami where you shouldn't try to be a new you, just a new version of you. I suppose sometimes this new version will come by choice, or sometimes it will come by force, as it has recently for me. It is not necessarily a bad thing that I have been forced into a new version of myself, but I must be wise about the decisions I make and try to control the direction taken. I am still me, but I am definitely a new version of myself. Something was unleashed after my dad died, a deep desire to live a life with passion. I feel that I am taking the right steps to get to that life: returning to massage school to head into a career that I will find more fulfilling, pursuing personal trainer certification, writing more both for pleasure and to explore writing professionally, and switching to a new Jiu Jitsu gym. I am sure there will be some bumps along the way and the journey won't be perfect, but for the first time in my life, I am sure I will be okay.
When I was going crazy on people a couple of weeks ago, expressing my feelings no-holds-bar, honey-badger-don't-care style, it actually helped me delve a little more into what I truly want from my life. In the end I did not regret WHAT I said to the guys from the gym and my boss, although I regretted a bit HOW I said it. Looking back, I don't feel all that regretful. I am not used to going ape-sh!t on people so I felt like I was being really mean, but if I'm honest, they kind of had it coming. And, at no point did any of them apologize for any of the things that I brought up in reaming them. That's fine, I spoke my mind; I had already moved on from my old gym and am in the process of getting out of my job.
I had been very reluctant to leave my old gym, despite the fact that I felt uncomfortable and I was ceasing to grow in my Jiu Jitsu practice. It took the "F**k it" attitude that came after my dad died to get me to switch gyms. The gym has actually been one of the more difficult situations I have dealt with since my dad died. I really needed some sense of normalcy, and for me, that meant I needed Jiu Jitsu--BADLY--more than ever before. So, feeling uncomfortable stepping into a place that used to feel like home, a place that was my reason for getting out of bed in the morning, the place that could turn around a bad day, was the exact OPPOSITE of what I needed after my dad died. Jiu Jitsu helps me keep my head on straight, and to have that taken away from me was painful. At first the guys just acted like they didn't really know what to say, then they started ignoring me, and then some of the guys started being downright nasty to me. Attempting to talk to them proved fruitless; I had never felt less cared about nor more disliked in my life. My instructors did nothing to support me or try to set the guys straight with their behavior. Well, they all made the decision pretty easy: BUH-BYE.
Enter soft-spoken Brazilian Marcelo Nunes. I knew of Marcelo when he was hired last summer, which was when I first considered switching gyms to go train with him. Marcelo is a black belt, so of course is very experienced, and is a two-time Jiu Jitsu world champion to boot. I knew he was the real deal. However, I loved my teammates so I decided to stay put. I met Marcelo for the first time in November, at the competition where I won the gold medal. He had a calm and comfortable demeanor, very much what I was seeking in an instructor. Once again, I thought about switching to train with Marcelo, but could not bear the thought of not training with my teammates. After the way I was treated after my dad died, I was finally ready for a change and to find out what Marcelo had to offer.
I was nervous starting at a new gym. Actually, it was the gym I trained at before, doing kickboxing and Muay Thai, before I got into Jiu Jitsu. I will not deny what my other gym did for me. My journey of practicing Jiu Jitsu started there and I had so many amazing experiences, like winning a gold medal at a competition and taking a trip to Los Angeles in January to train with world-famous martial artist Eddie Bravo. Now, my other gym was fun, which was why I had stayed; sometimes I think a little TOO much fun. On one hand I liked the informal feel, but that also meant a lot of joking around, which was the ONLY type of feedback I received about my performance. I never got any feedback on my progress in Jiu Jitsu. If a move was demonstrated and I couldn't do it immediately, I was just told that I "can't" do it.
The more I have trained with Marcelo, the more I know I have absolutely made the right choice to switch. Marcelo has already proven his talent for helping people understand how to execute moves. Moves that I was "incapable" of doing are now easy thanks to the way he explains things and points out minor details that make all the difference in the subtle art of Jiu Jitsu. Marcelo has checked in with me a couple of times to make sure I feel comfortable with my training partners (I am usually the only woman in class) and that I feel okay about my training. I was not able to have that type of communication at my other gym. And I am really enjoying getting to know my new training partners. I think I will become a completely different Jiu Jitsu practitioner now. The blinders have been removed, and I can grow now.
Marcelo Nunes: The most gentle bad-ass I have ever met.
I feel a lot more "normal" now that Jiu Jitsu and my workouts have been restored. I am doing kickboxing again, which has been another great outlet (I couldn't stand the kickboxing classes at my other gym). The old me would have wanted to eat to drown out feelings of grief; I now want to move to work through my problems. I now really feel that I can start to move on. Not forgetting about my father, of course, but more constructively work through my feelings and start to focus on my goals. I know that my dad would have wanted me to stay on plan for going back to school. He always supported my educational pursuits. Even though I have always been one to explore what I want, I don't think I have ever really known what I really WANT to do. But if someone asked me what I am truly good at, the answers would be massage and writing. Dreams that once seemed implausible, like doing massage for a living and writing a lot, now seem like a natural fit in my life.
I am all set for returning to school and all I need to do is register. I am excited and nervous to take on school again, but the massage program will primarily be hands-on training. I think it will go by fast and I'll be starting my new career in no time.
In the meantime, I have been networking with personal trainers and am starting to get connections set in motion. I will be taking the ACE exam, but I also might take personal training course work when I return to school; I would only need to take 2 extra courses to complete a degree in personal training. I would like to get some shadowing and other training experience in before I am done with school, though.
Thanks to SMILINGTREE, I am doing a lot more writing. Her collaboration and input have been invaluable. I have started a new sci-fi novel. I have never been more excited about something I've writeen because it actually has a coherent plot line, and I actually think I'll finish the book. In any case, it has been fun to work on it. I am working on a journal article with one of the veterinarians at work to submit to a major journal of veterinary medicine, which will be good experience. I have also talked to my school about being hired as a writing tutor and hope I can make that happen. I may be able to get out of my current job sooner than I expected.
I am at a much calmer phase of grief right now. I do miss my dad terribly and have a big hole in my heart, but I am no longer deliriously angry like I was for a few weeks. I am sure deep sadness and intense emotions will come in waves, probably out of nowhere, but the best thing I can do is acknowledge them and do my best to handle them constructively. My dad may not be here to turn to anymore, but I am my very much my father's daughter. The answers are within me from all those years that I did get to talk to him. I am not alone. This new journey will lead me down a totally new path in my life. My heart will be filled again.
I will be just fine.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Awww, how cute, honey badger is trying to be me.
In reading over this blog before posting it, I can tell it has a pretty different tone from what I usually write. I wrote most of it while I was really pissed off. I also wish that SparkPeople allowed swear words. But as they say: Honey badger don't care.
I am not normally an angry person. Of course I get upset, I GET angry, but I don't usually have this underlying tone of anger almost all the time. I can usually recognize that I'm angry and decide to cool off before taking any immediate action with that emotion. Not stifling the anger, but walking away from the situation, reflecting on it, and not taking impulsive actions while I am still upset. I think I kind of started that "anger" phase of grief a couple of weeks ago and just didn't realize it until it started getting out of hand. In any case, almost no one has been immune to me lashing out to them over the past week or so. Since my dad died February 11th, I have had waves of the most deep-seated anger I have ever experienced. Not only do I feel deeply angry, my brain has apparently decided to have no filter for what comes out of my mouth. I will start mulling over how someone has wronged me in the slightest, and I have just laid into them. Even when I know I'm about to be an as$h0le, I just think, "Nope, it's fine, I won't regret acting like this AT ALL later....RAAAAAHHH!"
I have been in honey badger mode. I make a honey badger in attack stance look like a napping kitten. Normally I pick my battles...over the past few weeks, I have been creating them. I have been spouting off and laying into people. I feel like I am burning bridges left and right. The littlest things seem disastrous, yet I am unconcerned about things like, say...slacking at work and possibly getting reprimanded. At least I have had some self-control. As much as I would like to scream, "WHY DO YOU THINK I GIVE A SH!T!" to every caller I talk to at work, I don't. See what a professional I am? I am just barely able to pull it together to handle one frantic phone call after another for 8 hours straight, and work has made everything much worse since my dad died. Work has become much worse in and of itself. I believe it is permeating into the other areas of my life. I can just never wind down. I get mad while I'm driving. The slightest annoyance when I'm out in public makes my blood boil. But as much as I would like to do a Jiu Jitsu take down and then yell, "F**k you, HAHA!" as I walk past people on the street, I don't.
Okay, so maybe I don't actually have the desire to assault people. But, I have had this very angry dialogue muttering through my head for weeks. It's like that guy who walks down the street muttering to himself and gesturing wildly--you know, the one you avoid eye contact with and stay way over on the sidewalk to avoid--is pacing in my head. Well, that guy seems to be expressing himself through my mouth over the past week. I marched into my boss's (as in our company's president) office and told him EXACTLY what I think of my job, how the company is run, and how I feel about my supervisor. I told him how a lot of the staff feels there is blatant favoritism going on and that a lot of talent is being wasted amongst the staff because of it. I felt free to point out that I am not the only one who feels this way. At least I wasn't swearing, so that's something...I guess.
Me talking to my boss earlier this week.
In any case, even before I started flipping out on everyone, I definitely felt alienated at my gym. Jiu Jitsu is my primary source of sanity, so I tried to keep going to the gym consistently. Since my dad's death didn't really sink in right away, I probably seemed pretty normal the first couple of days after he died. But then my eyes became puffy and I had dark circles under them from crying. I became a little more quiet and joked around less. The guys started to act like they didn't know how to act around me, so they avoided eye contact with me and ignored me instead. I think this alienation played into the feelings of anger. NOBODY messes with my Jiu Jitsu, and I felt so unwelcome and awkward stepping into the gym that I was not going. I felt uncomfortable when I did go. My favorite place on the planet was becoming a source of stress. I needed Jiu Jitsu, I needed my workouts, and I needed my team...and I wasn't getting much of any of those.
I had actually been considering switching to my new gym last year when they brought in a black belt instructor. I knew that the instruction was probably superior to what I was getting. I liked my teachers at my old gym just fine, and still planned on training there sometimes, but the teachers were purple belts, 2 levels below a black belt. But I stayed because I loved my team so much. I noticed the dynamics starting to change a bit; my good pals were training less and the newer guys that were starting were not very respectful and immediately formed cliques. I was watching my beloved team of guys dissipate. I started toying with going to my new gym towards the end of last year. Then, after feeling completely alienated after my dad died, I decided to make the switch official. Without my team, I had no reason to stay and I would not grow as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner. I second-guessed the decision many times, but the more I trained with my new instructor, the more I felt I was making a smart decision. I am also doing kickboxing again, and that will help me get into better shape. Despite finally feeling good about the switch, I knew that I couldn't live without ever working with my old team and still planned on training there a lot of Saturdays.
I was chatting with my old teacher via e-mail about an upcoming seminar and we got to talking about why I switched gyms. Then my teacher told me he had heard from several people that I had left the gym because I had been turned down by a guy there. I was insulted that the assumption was that because I'm a woman, I MUST have left because of a romantic situation at the gym. Needless to say, that pushed me over the edge. I laid into my Jiu Jitsu teacher via e-mail (a first, as I never like to have serious talks via e-mail), I posted a nasty Facebook post aimed towards the guys at the gym (another first), and I texted the guy who I figured must have started the rumor. I asked him if he was telling people that I left the gym because of him. He told me no, it wasn't him, but that he had heard that, too. I could have replied with something classy, but why go that route when you can say something like, "You've been acting like a jerk, so I figured you said it. The person who told me about it did not tell me who they thought I left the gym over...but grown women do not make major life decisions over a boy." I would like to point out that I genuinely thought that response was a good idea. So there I was, 34 years old, picking my first fight via text message. I impulsively unfriended the guy on Facebook. Thaaaaaat's right...I REALLY stuck it to him.
Apparently, grief causes you to revert to a 15-year-old who has just gone through a break-up. All that was missing was the Taylor Swift songs.
In any case, a very unconstructive conversation via text messaging ensued. At one point he asked me, "Where is this coming from?" Of course, the correct answer was, "I am insanely pissed because my favorite man in the world dropped dead 5 weeks ago and is now buried in the ground just a few feet away from my dead brother, and now I have to start being a damn grown-up all by myself," but instead I continued to tell him what a jerk I think he is.
Well, I used to be very sweet:
The problem is, the more pissed off someone is acting while they're grieving, the more they probably just need a hug and a good listener. Even if it seems like a grieving person is attacking you personally, it is unlikely that their anger has much to do with you. I have made a point to not fight any of the emotions that have come with losing my dad, as I know they are a part of the healing process. However, I have no right to lash out at others. My behavior over the past couple of weeks has been very uncharacteristic for me, but I did not recognize what an ass I was being until I laid into my teacher and my teammate. Then I just felt ridiculous. I mean, the way I acted towards them was so absurd that it's almost comical.
I realized why I am so pissed. Yes, anger is a normal part of grieving. But the more specific reason is that I want to talk to my dad so badly going through this career change. I have never made a major life decision without at least some of his guidance. I have especially sought his guidance when it comes to work, as he was an experienced manager and was so good at helping me weigh the pros and cons of a decision. He never made a decision for me, I am my own person, but he was my sounding board and almost always some advice that helped me make the decision in the wisest way possible. On Friday, as I was working of the career change blog I posted, I realized how badly I wanted to be able to talk to my dad. How much I felt like I NEED him in going through this life change.
I had already been fighting back tears for two days...and then the flood came. Uncontrollable, honking, trembling, blinding sobbing. I couldn't get a word out and could barely catch my breath. I hadn't cried like that since the first couple of days after my dad died five weeks ago. Actually, it is possible that I had never cried harder in my whole life. I felt significantly better afterwards; I guess it's all part of the healing process. Damn though, sometimes healing really hurts.
The anger has subsided significantly. After cooling down for a couple of days, I apologized to my friend/teammate for attacking him via text, which he accepted. I apologized to my teacher, and he said he wasn't mad anyways. I did not apologize to my boss; while some of my words may have been frank and harsh, I meant every one of them. Somebody had to say it to him; I guess it needed to be someone who felt at the moment that they had nothing to lose.
I would like to rewind about two months, before my world was facked. Two months ago, I felt like everything was possible and I was experiencing deep happiness. Sure, I still didn't like my job, but at least I didn't feel like I was going to snap. I know deep down that I will feel happiness again, but at this point I feel like "happy" could be a ways off. That does not mean I can't enjoy ANYTHING, but I am certainly far from being the light and vibrant person I was a few months ago. As a matter of fact, I have taken advantage of the strong emotions I have been experiencing to delve deep down inside to try to figure out what I REALLY want, and need.
I know that positive change is on the way; I am still excited about the career change I am making and I am enjoying my new gym. The positive person who has worked so hard to learn to take care of and love herself is still within me. She has made it so I don't eat my way through these horrible feelings. As a matter of fact, I think it is because of her that I am allowing myself to grieve and not be apologetic about being sad. I will just need to be more cognizant of any angry feelings bubbling up and find more constructive ways to handle them...you know, ways that don't involve text-message fighting, attacking Jiu Jitsu teachers via e-mail, impulsively ripping your company's president a new one, etc. The anger had gotten a little out of hand.
Sorry, honey badger, but you need to retreat back into your den. You're in the way.
Okay, fine, I can't resist ending my blog like I usually do with some inspirational quote, so here you go:
"What is responsibility?
Ah--might as well ask, what is self?
It's your responsibility and your self, and no book and no person
can tell you anything about it.
Don't try to find out what your responsibility is.
It isn't a what.
It's a relationship.
It isn't something you know, it's something you do.
Try to get closer to it.
Try to become more yourself."
-From "Das Energi" by Paul Williams
Saturday, March 23, 2013
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now."
My career goal when I was a child was to be an astronomer. Astronomy was my hobby and passion. I started to pursue a degree in astrophysics by taking basic science and astronomy courses in college. I did okay in basic astronomy courses and got good grades in math courses until I got to calculus. I just didn't get it. I could not grasp chemistry and physics. My dad, who was an electrical engineer, tutored me in calculus and physics, both which I failed and tried retaking several times. While he admired my tenacity, he finally encouraged me to pursue another career path. I simply did not have my dad's extreme talent for math and physical sciences. I had taken a psychology course and found biological psychology to be interesting, thus the beginnings of my interest in psychology as a career path.
Sometimes our dreams get dashed despite our best efforts. I was very disappointed that I did not have the brain to become an astronomer. But the more I delved into biological psychology, the more it became a passion. I came to realize that there is not really a wrong path, just a different one. Had I focused solely on the disappointment of not being able to look at the stars for my job, I may never have uncovered new passions. I have uncovered numerous interests over the years, including massage, psychology, neuroscience, exercise science, and veterinary medicine.
My education and career paths have been a little messy. I started and left massage school, moving to Portland, Oregon and then back to Minneapolis. I was in and out of the University of Minnesota, mainly because I was stubborn in giving up my dream to be an astronomer. In the mean time, I was working in the field of mental health. I finally settled on psychology as a major and was working towards that. I was especially interested in the brain.
After several years of working in mental health, it became apparent how much the work was wearing on me. I started looking into other fields, and working with animals was the first thing that popped into my head. I looked into attending school to be a veterinary technician. I have an interest in the science of medicine and, of course, am a total sucker for animals. I had some issues with my jobs in veterinary medicine from the get-go. I just figured I needed to find a good niche. I jumped right into emergency medicine right out of school, as working in a day practice was unappealing.
I stuck with emergency medicine for 3 years, hating the low pay and hospital politics the whole time. I enjoyed some parts of practicing medicine and of course, saving animals. But my hours were awful and I had no life. I finally jumped on the opportunity to take an overnight position at my current workplace, doing poison control. I was not looking forward to working all overnights, but at least the pay was good, the hours were set in stone, and the job seemed interesting.
My current job has had its ups and downs. I adored my company when I first started. I had a great supervisor and the place seemed mostly devoid of typical office politics. We were encouraged to speak our minds. Then the supervisor I really liked left, and a my current "supervisor" took over. It was immediately clear that she was not smart enough to handle the job. They also brought in a new head veterinarian, whose primary concern was advancing herself, not our company. It has just gone continuously downhill from there.
I realized I probably did not want to be a veterinary technician forever and went back to school to complete my Bachelor's in psychology and kinesiology, as exercise and healthy living had become a passion. I planned on pursuing a Master's of Public Health in community health education. I did all the preparations for grad school and got application materials together. After getting through my Bachelor's working full-time and nearly losing my house in the process, I just could not face the stress and debt of grad school. So, I have stayed at my job for another 2 years.
Well, this job has officially overstayed its welcome. I have been passed over again and again for additional responsibilities. I have asked about doing writing for them, such as writing articles, and they have less qualified people doing it. They never ask me to help with projects. It is because they strongly reward extroverts, and I am an unapologetic introvert. That's funny, too, because you would think they would want the extroverts on the phones all the time, and have the smart and quiet introvert doing the research and writing. But, most of the decisions they make do not make actual sense, like so many businesses.
I was talking to my mother a few days ago and discussing the career change I will be making over the next couple of years. She is very nervous about it, just as she has been any time I have changed careers or jobs. I pointed out that I have never regretted a job that I have quit and the career change I made from being in the field of mental health to being a veterinary technician ended up being a smart move. I have indeed found much of my career as a veterinary technician to be fulfilling, but after 10 years, it is not going anywhere. I am not growing as a veterinary professional and most certainly not as a person. I told her that I think work should help you grow as a person and because we spend so much time working, it should be something we love. "Well, you're lucky if you can find that," was her response.
But luck has nothing to do with it. My mother has been a nurse for 40 years. She did love being an emergency room nurse years ago. Her current job as a phone triage nurse has been less fulfilling, but she has stuck with it for the past 15 years for the sake of stability. She has talked about doing other things, mainly pursuing a dream of being an organic farmer. While I admire her perseverance, I have always wished for her that she had made a career change when she started to feel dispassionate about her work. I think she was too afraid to take the risk, so she has stuck with a job that makes her miserable just to avoid the chance that something could go wrong in taking a risk.
Much to my mother's chagrin, I am my father's daughter in that I have never stopped searching for work that helps me grow as a person. He changed jobs several times throughout his career as an engineer, and the most fulfilling job he had was his last one, where he designed pacemaker circuitry at Medtronic. He loved it so much that he read books outside of work about the heart and how it worked. Like my dad, I don't want work that I just coast through. My dad loved his work so much that he said if money weren't an issue, he would do it for free. THAT is the type of work that I seek. I believe that our careers should be an extension of who we are deep down inside, and that work should help foster growth in other areas of our lives. Moreover, life is just too damn short to be doing work that we hate.
The other argument my mother has made is that it is important to have a plan for retirement. I agree with this...but only up to a point. I don't want to have a job I despise and that sucks the life out of me just for the sake for a retirement that I may or may not be able to have or enjoy. Just look at my father--he died at age 61, just a few years away from retirement. But, he loved his career and worked with joy. I would rather actually live my life in the meantime and have work that is meaningful. I would rather do work that I love up until the day I die than be a slave to a horrible job just for the sake of a 401K. Needless to say, I am working on my exit plan.
As some may have heard, I have been admitted to massage school and will start in the fall. Massage is something I have always enjoyed doing, and I have a talent for it. When I am giving a massage, I zone out and my hands practically melt into the person I am working on. I love the deep and healing connection that happens during a massage. I have had some training, but will be starting the program from scratch. I plan on specializing in deep tissue, sports, medical/hospital, hot stone, and infant/pediatric massage. I would like to end up working primarily in a medical and/or rehabilitation facility. I would also like to teach infant massage and to work with NICU babies.
In the meantime, I am going to finally complete my personal trainer certification. I have been hitting the books and plan to take the test in July. Having this certification would open a lot of doors and complement my massage training/career.
And finally, I have heard throughout my life that I have a talent for writing. It is also my longest-standing hobby (I have been writing stories since I was 6) and has always stirred a passion within me. It was not until my good SparkFriend Dava (SMILINGTREE) suggested that I pursue freelance writing that I considered it a viable career option. She is not the first professional writer to suggest that I pursue writing, but maybe I was just ready to really hear it this time. I am looking into this and working with Dava to delve more seriously into writing. I have been enjoying making an effort to write more.
The next 2 years or so will prove challenging as I make this career transition. I am excited for the change. Just I have finally learned that I deserve to live a healthy life through eating right and working out, I have finally developed enough respect for myself to pursue my career dreams.
Facing this major life change has made me desperately miss my dad. This would have been right up his alley, and he would have been the person I would have gone to for guidance. I had officially decided I was going back to massage school the week before my dad died. I don't know why it was important to me, but I asked my stepmom if my dad knew that I was going back to massage school, as I had a chance to tell her but hadn't told him yet. She said that yes, she had told him. I feel a little better knowing that he knew about it. I hope I make a life change that would have made him proud, although my dad always told me he admired my work ethic and passion for learning. He never thought pursuing a goal or interest was a wasted effort as long as it was something I thought would make me happy. It leaves a big hole in my heart, though, that I can't share this journey with my dad. He was always the one to say, "If that it what you want, then go make it happen, no matter what." I will need to be that voice for myself from now on.
"The Prophet" "On Work":
"You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfill a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret."
-From "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran
Monday, March 04, 2013
My dad and my brother Brian when he was a toddler. We could not get them plots right next to each other, but my dad was buried in the same row as Brian.
As most of you know, my dad passed away suddenly on February 11th. The past few weeks have been an exhausting emotional roller coaster. I have felt virtually every emotion there is, sometimes simultaneously.
I had finished watching the series "Six Feet Under" a couple of months ago. For those who haven't seen it, the show is about a family that runs a funeral home. The father dies in the first episode and the show revolves around how the family deals with his death (as well as other issues). I found "Six Feet Under" to be life-changing. It changed the way I view end-of-life and made me accepting of death. It isn't that I was in any denial about the fact that everyone dies. After all, one of my early childhood memories is of my brother Brian's death. But the show made me feel matter-of-factly about death. I know that my grandparents and at some point both of my parents will pass away. However, my dad dying was not on my radar. His diabetes had been fairly well-managed and he never had any cardiac events related to his high blood pressure. I was more prepared to hear that something had happened to my mother when I got a call from a hospital, as she has been hospitalized for heart-related events. So, needless to say, my reaction was utter shock. Luckily my best friend rushed right over and took me to the hospital, where I got to see my dad's body and say good-bye to him.
I almost immediately thought of "Six Feet Under" because the show addresses the different reactions to death and grief and that there is no one "right" way to react. One of the main characters says in the first episode, after his father's funeral, "Four days ago I was a relatively happy guy. Now it's like I don't even know who that guy is any more." I can relate to that sentiment. Just 3 weeks ago, I was a joyous woman who came home from a great workout at the gym, took a shower, and then as soon as I stepped out I received a phone call that changed my life. I was clueless that I was about to become a new person. Ever since, I will get waves of emotions that are so extreme, they are almost irrational. It is easy so launch into disaster mode at the drop of a hat. I have felt at times that I have no love or compassion to give to anyone, even though that's not true. During those periods I have also been convinced that I will never feel better again, even though I know that's not true. Although I may not be able to control my emotions (nor do I necessarily want to), I can reflect on them and try to keep things in perspective.
I accept that I will never be the same person. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just...is. I do not mean that I believe I will be a depressed person from now on or anything like that. Grieving is not the same as depression, despite how depressed one may feel while mourning. Grief starts immediately after hearing that someone has died and as much as the emotions can be extremely strong and horrible, I recognize that the feelings are normal. I let the emotions come forth and I process them as they come. If I feel good or happy, I make a point to not feel guilty about it. While I have experienced extreme sadness, anger, and even confusion over the past few weeks, I have also witnessed extreme love and kindness. My best friends, without hesitation, were there for me (and continue to be). I don't know that I have ever felt more cared for in my adult life than I have over the past few weeks.
Nothing tests how much you have changed as a person than dealing with some of the strongest emotions you will ever experience. I was concerned that I would want to eat my way through these strong emotions. Admittedly, I have had a couple of binges over the past 3 weeks, but my inclination has been to continue to eat in a healthful manner. Even in the midst of binging I realized the eating was not helpful, and the overeating was still not near what I would have done in the past. Part of the overeating was out of convenience. I did not feel like cooking for a while, so it was easier to order food or have frozen pizza on hand. I made a point to still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I just did not feel like doing my batch cooking like I usually do. I finally made a big pot of soup and some dishes, and have basically been back on track. I am proud that I haven't had many strong urges to engage in emotional eating. I am not, however, focusing much on weight loss right now. My goal is to eat healthfully and track my food, but I am not worried about the scale.
Jiu Jitsu got a bit sidelined over the past few weeks. I did go to class the subsequent 2 days after my dad died, but then I think the shock set in and I did not feel like going to the gym. I felt like I was being ignored when I did go to the gym, which made me pissed at the guys at the gym because I thought they were alienating me. One day I just up and left before class even started. I decided to join another gym, which I did last week. I went back to the gym where I used to train (and where my brother John still trains); their Jiu Jitsu instructor is a black belt and I missed my old instructor's kick-ass kickboxing classes. Then I went back to my other gym for a class with a black belt guest instructor. I felt at home again. I felt almost embarrassed at how angry I had gotten at those guys for no reason and realized that there is a reason you shouldn't make big decisions when you're grieving; your judgement is just way too clouded. So, for now, I will do classes at both gyms. I am going to afford myself that luxury for a few months and then decide what I would like to do. Like I am giving myself a break from eating specifically for weight loss, I am going to give myself a break from training for competition. I am not going to sign up for any of the upcoming competitions; I will decide how I feel as the day approached, but I am not putting any pressure on myself to compete. I just need my training to be fun and stress-relieving for now.
Work has been very challenging, and not in a good way. Doing poison control already tries one's patience and is very taxing. I have had almost zero patience over the past couple of weeks. I struggled to provide even the most basic kindness to my callers. Then I took a call from a guy whose dog and 2 cats ingested a supplement. I started talking to the guy, and several minutes into the call, he told me that he found one of his cats was dead when he got home. His dog was already sick. He started choking up telling me about his cat. I wanted to reach through the phone and fix everything for this man. I remembered that I'm not the only one who has problems. My compassion returned quite a bit after that phone call. I can deal with my emotions while also helping others. Actually, extending compassion is helpful to me; it helps me remember that I do have something to offer.
Part of how I am coping with all of this is rewatching "Six Feet Under" (I bought it this time). It is really help me process my emotions and recognize that my dad being gone is a reality. If you have never seen "Six Feet Under", I would strongly recommend it. Be forewarned that the show can be crass and raunchy, but the show is beautiful (albeit the story lines are outlandish). I honestly don't think I would be handling my dad's death as well as I am had I not watched it.
I don't mean for this to be a "poor little me" post. As always, I will be honest about my feelings. I am grieving right now, I will have my ups and downs, but I will get through. After all, my dad would want me to continue to pursue my goals and he wanted me to be happy. Knowing that helps me work through the ugly feelings that bubble up with grief. I may be heart-broken, but I think my heart is also building up from the love I had from my father and from family and friends since his death. I hope to eventually emerge as an even better person than I was before.
Old family picture (my dad, brother Brian, my mom, me, and brother John as a baby).
Picture of my brother John, my dad, and me at his rehearsal dinner a few years ago.
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