Thursday, December 29, 2011

Letting Go

I sit on the floor, my legs splayed and I attempt to stretch. Without really realizing it, I usually take this time to compare my flexibility at 46 with what I had as a dance-troupe member at 16...and then I tighten up.

It makes stretching harder. It takes longer.

I decided to try something new. I emptied my mind and just stretched. I stopped berating myself and started to rejoice in the fact that I'm here and it's now. 30 years ago is just that. It's 30 years gone. This minute, though, is pretty fucking awesome. Look at me. I rule!

I felt my muscles lengthen and relax into the bend. I breathed. I felt warmth flow through the tendons and sinews, causing them to lengthen. I stretched further. My forehead loomed close, not quite on my knee but closer than it's come in a very long time.

By letting go, I stared at my knee, now up close and personal. How long will it take for me to rest my head on it comfortably?

I couldn't say....but sooner if I can just remember to let go.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All Done But The Cryin'

It happened on a Tuesday afternoon. After 3 PM. The chilling words, "Can I see you in my office?" resonated quickly through my ears and into my tense body. I walked in, sat down and proceeded to hear that my fragile career was over.

I wasn't laid off. I wasn't "let go." There wasn't anything delicate about it. I was fired. Fired. FIRED. If my heart weren't pounding and in my throat as I listened to the crimes the company had against me, I might've thought about Mr. Spacely. I surely felt like George Jetson. Only on The Jetsons, Mr. Spacely always hires George back. I wasn't going to be hired back. I knew that just as surely as I knew I would be fired. By reportedly the "nicest woman on the planet."

Hmm. I never saw that side of her. She barely spoke to me. Unless it was to rip on my copy. It all sucked...until she replaced a word, rearranged some sentences and then became genius.

*insert angels choir singing*

My boss actually did not fire me. She let the HR person on the phone do it. "We've decided that your performance just wasn't there, and so you're being fired for lack of performance. Your last day of work will be immediately. You're to gather your things, turn in your badge, make your way to the door and you'll receive your last check on the 16th."

I'd already carted my things home before Thanksgiving.

They wanted to watch me cry. They kept staring at me to see if maybe, just maybe I'd lose my cool. They wanted to witness a breakdown of epic proportions and then report back to the rest of the team how they cracked my veneer. I gave them nothing. Nothing at all.

I walked back to my desk, gathered my Batman lunchbox together and handed over my computer's passwords. They stood gaping at my calm demeanor. "I saw this in a cartoon once. I think I got it," I explained as I donned my coat with what I hoped to be total nonchalance.

They stood. Silent. Unwilling to meet my eyes. I spoke to my coworkers who never, ever wished me a good morning in the 240 days that I was there. "Goodbye. I'm being fired. I guess it's been nice. Good luck."

They also stared at me as I turned over the security key. If I needed a reference, one man offered...lamely. He meant well. "Thanks," I nodded at him curtly. Now he was going to be pleasant, friendly?

I hooked my purse over my shoulder, grabbed my Batman lunchbox and walked out. I didn't look back. Mercifully, the elevator came quickly to take me away from the many sets of eyes that now watched my departure. The doors closed and I relaxed. It was over.

I didn't have to drive into work telling myself to be brave and not to cry.
I didn't have to keep trying to forge relationships with people who cared nothing for me.
I didn't have to hear people invited to lunch without me.
I didn't have to beg my teammates for input on what to do, how to do it and how to improve upon it.
I didn't have to work with an art director who didn't care that columns weren't lining up and images weren't straight and charts were impossible to read because she didn't want to format them.
I didn't have to hear how badly I sucked unless, of course, I deserved it.

Despite the advantages of my termination, it still stung. I shook hands with the maintenance crew and then walked to my car. I let the tears fall. When the folks six floors up wouldn't be able to see me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fear is a Four-letter Word

I once heard Tony Robbins talk about fear. He said, and I'm paraphrasing greatly, that fear is a primary motivator. It can make us do more or avoid more than any other emotion we have. We let it take control. We let it prevent us from achieving our goals. We let it keep us from our potential.

Notice the words: We LET it.

Fear has to have permission to manipulate us. In other words, we have to let it in and take control. We have to lower our guard, and we have to stand by quietly as it changes the natural order of our lives. We have to continue to sit by passively as fear runs the show. Fear tells us what to say, what to do, how to live, who to talk to.

Bravery, Tony Robbins said, is not continuing on with your life with the absence of fear. Fear is a pretty important part of life. It tells us when we need to keep our hands off the hot stove. Bravery, instead, is actually operating in spite of the presence of fear. It's allowing us to put our hands out over the hot stove to detect its heat and to figure out how we can handle it without getting burned. In other words, bravery is walking around fear and then giving it a big FUCK YOU.

Well...Tony never actually said "Fuck you" but you get my drift.

Having the ability to defy fear's iron grip of control is what bravery is about. And for the last several weeks, I've had to remind myself to be brave.

It's my mantra. Be brave. Don't let fear take over. I'm in a situation where there is no way to win. There are only degrees of loss. How I lose will be more important than the loss itself, and so I will have to go down swinging. I will have to do everything in my power to demonstrate my abilities to fight...and then there will be a time to concede the loss.

And so I tell myself: Lose with grace. Lose with your head held high and with the understanding that there are times when you cannot win, but the way you lose speaks volumes about who you are and what you're made of....and sister, you're better than this.

Be brave. Wrench the control from fear and those around who want to see me cowed, beaten down and enslaved. Call their bluff and let them know that they might have all of the strings, but what they don't know is that I've cut the ties.

They have nothing over me....and once again, my loss will be my gain if I can just be brave.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Updates from the Fat Girl's Diary

For nearly my entire life, I've battled my weight. For those who've never had a weight problem, you might imagine that it's as simple as merely cutting back on what you eat and exercising.

But what if you lived in a world where eating 1500 calories a day and running 15 miles a week didn't do squat for your weight loss plan? What if you cut down to 1200 calories a day and STILL didn't lose any weight?

And so now you understand my problem.

My 2011 plan to lose weight began with a vow: this was the year I was going to try EVERYTHING.

I began the year with tests. Perfectly healthy. In fact, sickeningly so. Resting heart rate: 68. Cholesterol: 167. Blood pressure: 110/77.

I consulted a dietician and sent her my stats and a sample menu of what I ate on a daily basis, including the ridiculous caloric binge at Red Robin when I was actually trying to make better choices. The chicken roll up, by the way, has more sodium, fat and calories than a simple burger. Who knew?

She looked at my 3-day intake and declared that I wasn't eating enough. 1500 calories a day and running 15 miles a week? Not enough food. Eat more. Also, I wasn't getting enough vitamin E which meant I needed to eat more seeds and seed oils.

I adjusted and promptly gained weight and shin splints. I reduced my running to 6 miles a week. Still gained weight, shins still hurt.

Someone told me about interval running: Run balls out for 30 seconds and then walk. I quote: It MELTS the fat from you.

I like the idea of fat melting...but balls out with shin splints? Nuh-uh. How about I do an easier version of interval running? A total of 2 miles, including warm up and cool down, with short distances of easy running with shorter distances of walking?

Much, much better. Still not losing...but not gaining. My legs take on a more defined look. I can see a noticeable difference in how my clothes fit. Around June, I decide to take my measurements. They frighten me and I now realize precisely why I have to shop in the fat-lady section.

July: I went back to the doctor's and stepped on the scale. I gained. My doctor looked at my legs. "At least you're muscular." Words every woman wants to hear. "I think you eat too many carbs," he said. "Maybe you cut back on your carbs. Come back in 3 months."

And so I cut back on my carbs. Hard-boiled eggs and yogurt for breakkie. Chicken breast and fruit for lunch. Cheese stick, veggies and a piece of meat for dinner. Peanut butter as a snack. Weekends are tough. I like beer. I switched to light beer. No soda. I drink a lot of PowerAde Zero, iced tea with sugar (yes, sugar) and low-calorie juices.

20 pounds gone as of this morning.

I'm a long way away from the 100 pounds I needed to lose, but I'm 20% there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

30 Days

When I was unemployed, all I dreamed about was having a job. I thought, "Oh, man...if I could only have a job. I'd hug it and squeeze it and call it George..."

Well. Maybe not George, but you get the point. And when I finally got hired, I thought it was going to be great. After 30 months of scraping by, and it was the scraping that made an immediately identifiable fingernails down a chalkboard kind of sound, I thought I had scored a golden fucking ticket when I was offered a job. Oh, boy. It was going to be great. I'd have somewhere to go every day, meaningful things to do every day, people to talk to...every day... Oh, yessiree. It was going to be one giant possibility, and I was going to LOVE it.

Weirdly enough, I loved my old job. And so I automatically assumed that the new job was going to be just like the old one. It was a hard pill to swallow, learning that the new job wasn't anything like the old one.

No file access means I'm an editor and not a writer.
I can't update my own files. I have to hand-write them on a hard copy and then walk them over to a crabby woman who does the minimum. She won't ask for clarification. She won't spell check. She won't think. She'll just do.

Hand-written changes? I'm gonna need a LOT of correction fluid.
I haven't hand-written anything more than "Happy Birthday" or "Please return to sender" for 20 years, and I no longer think in terms of using a pen and paper to express my thoughts. I begin writing and then realize that what I've started isn't at all what I want to say, or I think of a better way to write it out mid-sentence...and then I want to re-write it all. On a computer, you just hit the backspace key. It's like it never existed and I hand over a finished product that looks neat and clean. On a piece of paper, however, I have to reach for the Liquid Paper for re-writes. My hard-copy edits sport scars, scratches and smears from improper or multiple applications.

Failing the Vulcan Mind Trick.
Guess what I'm thinking. No. Go ahead. Guess. The Jelly of the Month Club? Nope. I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 17,363. Guess which number. 7. No, that's not right. Guess again. 33. Nope. 732. Try it again. It's an even number. 9,214. How many times have you guessed? I don't have time for this.

My boss and I play this game a couple of times a week. I try to guess what she's thinking and she tells me I'm wrong. It's fun. When I try to anticipate, I'm smacked down for rushing into things. When I wait, I'm not proactive. When I ask questions, I'm being deliberately stubborn. I'm just not getting the work. I'm failing and it's my fault. Having so many years of experience, I should just KNOW. I'm not working up to my potential. Nobody has time for multiple rewrites...but let's just send out V1 to a client and see what happens. Oh. You've potentially jeopardized our client/corporate relationship by your mistakes...but nobody will show you the comments. They're just. so. long. Pages of comments. Oh. You've embarrassed the company. You've embarrassed me.

I interrupted this tirade: You sent it out without looking at it first?

She blinked: Yes.

I sat back: Oh. That's on you, then. I'm not taking responsibility for that.

30 days.
She signed my employee performance evaluation. F. I received an F. And she gave me a stern warning: If I didn't improve in 30 days, I'd be out on my keister.

Meanwhile, we've been meeting every week in her office. She wants to know how everything's going. I tell her it's fine. She tells me that my latest piece of writing needs changes. I make the changes. And then she "adjusts" them further, writing down how many times she has to look at my assignments before they're "client-worthy."

30 days comes up tomorrow. I'm not feeling good about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Living in the Moment

When the Universe tells me to live in the moment, I want to shout back: I will if you'd do something to improve the view.

I've worked hard, tried harder....hey, Universe...can you meet me half-way? I'm busting my ass down here. Throw me a bone, wouldja?

And then I remember another lesson: when it's hard, it's because I've got a lesson to learn. When it's easy, I'm more likely to become complacent, cocky, lazy, redolent and dependent. I don't learn when it's easy. I coast. I don't develop myself. I follow the same path and, as a result, wear a groove into the rug. That's not life. That's existence. Know the difference.
Embrace the difference. Live the difference.

What does it mean to live in the moment? It's learning to stop wasting precious energy by worrying over what might be versus what is. Ruining now with poisoning thoughts of what may happen isn't productive. It's a waste of time. More importantly, it's a waste of now.

Living in the moment is moving forward knowing that there is fear, but I can't let fear stop me because then it will be my master. I can acknowledge it, and then I have to move past it. Being brave isn't existing without fear. It's about moving forward despite the presence of fear. Have courage no matter what.

Living in the moment is understanding that there are pitfalls and pinnacles both, and I must learn how to ride them equally well. One cannot exist without the other. They are mutually existent polarities, and therefore drawn together by forces beyond my control. Every negative has a positive. Every positive has a negative. Use both and learn.

Living in the moment is taking small pleasures where they are offered, but the hardest part is recognizing them for what they are. Small pleasures are a distinct part of the present and the present is now. Live in it.

How much time have I wasted in counterproductive activities? How often have I ruined today with thoughts of tomorrow? How many times have I railed at the Universe to pick me up and carry me because I'm tired?

More times than I care to admit.

When I'm free of worry, dwelling on the negatives, and able to move beyond fear, it's then that I know the Universe carries me. It feels like flying.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Track Sitting

Way back when I was a college student and an intramural athlete, I trained on my own at the local track. I jogged for a while and then decided to sprint the last quarter mile. I picked up my pace and really pushed it.

Bad idea. My legs weren't ready for it. They gave out around Turn 4. I fell sprawling, arms and legs out, flat on my chest. It knocked the wind out of me. As I laid there, other joggers hurdled over me.

Yes. You read that right. They jumped over my prone body and let me lay there. Nobody offered me a hand up or checked to make sure I was okay. They didn't even look back. My body had become merely an obstacle to get around.

I remember feeling horribly diminished and alone.

The story came back to me again yesterday during the 6-month review that I had to beg my boss to schedule. I knew something felt wrong when almost every project I handled fell into a black hole and I never saw it again. When I followed up with the project managers and account managers, they wouldn't meet my eye. They mumbled, "It was fine."

In the writing world, nothing is ever fine. You can be a Pulitzer prize-winning author and still have a big, red stain of ink across your smartly written paragraphs. As a lowly copywriter, I had to grow elephant skin in order to avoid feeling like a miserable hack on a daily basis...but never hearing anything back about anything?

Not good. And so I had to beg for a review.

Also, not good.

The meeting was, as predicted, a confirmation of my assumptions: Something was rotten in Denmark.

The synopsis: I wasn't getting it. After 6 months, I should know what to do every day. I rush through things and often overlook details. I missed a disclaimer. I don't have the style down. Nobody has time to go through multiple revisions, and as a senior copywriter, I'm not living up to my job title. I shouldn't need multiple revisions. I'm too blunt. I rub people the wrong way.

I listened carefully to how I failed time and time again with concrete examples of my mistakes, oversights, carelessness and inattention to detail. The team felt uncomfortable coming to me about my lack of performance. They didn't feel it was their place to show me where the problems were. They shouldn't have to mentor me. With my level of experience as a writer, I should "know" what to do and have the skill set that my job title implies.

And yet my heart's in the right place. My boss believes that I want to do a good job. And for the next month, we'll be meeting once a week so we can go over my trouble spots and see where I still need improvement.

I realized that I was back out there on that track and people were jumping over me again.