Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Want to Be A...........

My co-worker and I were talking today about what it must be like to have a job that you just love—a job that you couldn’t wait to wake up to each day, a job that made you look forward to Mondays when you could get back to it. Both of us really like our current jobs, feel lucky to be employed at our present company and really enjoy working with our co-workers and team members, but neither of us would say that we are fulfilling our life’s purpose. At least, I wouldn’t say that.

Admittedly, I haven’t met many people that are employed in either (1) the job of their dreams or (2) in the job that they absolutely love, whether it was what they always wanted to do or not. Most people that I know ended up in their job almost by accident or by default.  They graduated from school, went looking for a job, found one (that they probably thought would be temporary until they figured out what they wanted "to do with their live"), developed skills in that industry, and then stuck to jobs in that industry.  My mom never planned on being a social worker, but when she was looking for a job, a friend helped her get one in the county department of social services, probably she thought until she could find something else, but ended up retiring from the State after 25+ years in the social work business.

When I was little, I wanted to be a famous actress and singer. I knew that I would be loved and adored. I even remember riding in the car with my mom and my sister one night, home from school, wondering how my mom felt about "just being a normal person" and not being a celebrity. At the time, I couldn't understand how she bore the weight of disappointment that her anonymity must bring (seriously).

Now, of course, I realize the naivety of that dream. Mainly, I was naive to think that I could be a famous actress and singer when I don't have any talent, especially in the vocal department. But, in all fairness, Barbie never worked for a major home improvement retailer when I dressed her up and made up stories about her, either. There was no Barbie cubicle, complete with overstuffed in-box, whiteboard and coffee ring stains.  There were, however, Barbie stages, Barbie microphones, and lots of Barbie gowns.  The dreams of the young as molded by Mattel....

I think asking young adults to decide what they want to do with their lives at the age of 19 or 20 is ridiculous.  How do they know what they want to do with the next 30 or more years when most young adults haven't even had to do their own laundry?  And we want them to pick a career?  I think that you shouldn't have to pick your career until you are around 40.  By then, you've (more than likely) grown out of the party non-stop phase, so getting to work at 8 am no longer seems like an impossible feat.  You have learned about yourself during your 30s, coming to understand your skills, likes, dislikes, etc.  Around the age of 40 is when you can wisely make a decision about what to do.  Until this point, everything should all be considered "paying research" to help get to that decision.

 If I could choose my career now, I would be one of 4 things:
  1. A soap opera actress (emote a lot and hold a puzzled/mad look for 3 seconds until the camera pans away)
  2. A counselor (though Matt swears that I would get fired the first time that someone didn't take my advice and I told them how stupid they were being, i.e. "I told you what to do, and if you're not going to listen, then I'm wasting my time."  I think he's being a tad harsh.)
  3. A song lyricist, writing Christian rock songs
  4. A book reviewer (though, being an "instant gratification" kinda girl, I always read the last couple of pages first, so I never have any surprise)
Apparently, I have a little creative streak that I would like to get out.  Luckily, I do have outlets, albeit non-paying ones.  No one sings louder with Third Day in their car then I do.  I seem to be a pretty good listener because I often have people drop by my cube for advice or just to talk.  I am constantly critiquing emails.  There are some days when I act up a storm, i.e. "I believe that is a really great, original idea" or "It's no one's fault."  Gotta sell it when you tell it.

I guess that somehow I have ended up expressing myself, in the smallest ways, doing things that I love.  God is good that way.  But if a television studio ever opens in Statesville, looking for soap opera actresses, I'm all over it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beauty Is In the Eye

Insomnia has been my nighttime companion for several years. Normally, a sleeping pill and 30 minutes reading will cure it, but recently, even these reliable helpers have been unable to ease me into sleep. I toss and I turn, then I finally turn on the TV. Nothing great is on during the middle of the night, because, let's face it, if it were great, it would be on during prime time viewing hours. But I do catch some interesting shows, at times. Like the time I saw on the viewing guide that The DaVinci Code was on, but when I turned to that channel, it was two naked women (ummmm) enjoying each other. Having watched the movie with Tom Hanks once before, I knew that I didn't remember that scene, so I double-checked the guide. I was watching The DaVinci Co-Ed not Code. See, interesting, but not great TV. And I've learned to read carefully.

Last night I was flipping late into the night and I came across a show about little girls and beauty pageants. I assume that they were little girls, but it was hard to tell under all the make-up. They could have been 3 or 33....the anklets with the patent leather Mary Janes were what made me first suspect that they couldn't buy their fake eyelashes by themselves. I was immediately hooked--I think it is called "fascination with the abomination".

Let's be clear--none of the little girls that I saw were abominable. They were actually all quite cute, but they in no way resembled little girls. The big hair and the make-up and (I kid you not) spray-on tans masked the things that I think make little girls beautiful--pony tails, missing front teeth, chocolate milk moustaches and skinned knees.

More than being a little disturbed by miniature versions of Joan Collins, circa Dynasty, I worry about the emphasis we place on physical beauty. Anyone who has access to a computer, a TV, a Smartphone, or just waits in line at the grocery store is inundated constantly with images of what is considered beautiful. Tall, painfully skinny, sun-kissed, clear-skinned, big breasted, no hips, women. We are bombarded with ads for products to help us lose weight, firm and tone, get rid of cellulite, pouf up our hair, fill in wrinkles and whiten our teeth. There are TV shows dedicated to turning the ugly goose into a swan, such as Dr. 90210, Extreme Makeover, What Not to Wear. We see images of unattainable looks (let's face it, not even the model attained those looks in real life, it's all due to air brushing and Photo Shop) and then get hit with the double whammy of all the things we need to make us acceptable. Could your self-esteem sink any lower?

I am having some self-esteem issues right now. Most of them, I think, stem from the fact that I am not dealing well with aging. Getting older never seemed to bother me until the last year or so and maybe I'm now having a problem because I'm staring down a birthday that ends with a zero. In our world, young is beautiful....hence, my self-esteem issues.

And the thought that has been running through my head a lot over the last few months has been "What's great about getting older?" I am developing new issues, like cholesterol problems and the inability to eat onions (oh, the heartburn). My joints sometimes hurt; I can't stay awake during a movie, I NEED coffee in the morning. Tell me--what's so great?

The answer hit me out of the blue while I was talking to one of my younger co-workers the other day. What's great about getting older can't be seen on the outside--it all resides on the inside. My life lessons, my bruises, my failures and successes, my experiences that translate into the wisdom that only comes with age. I had book smarts as a child, but only as an older adult have I found a modicum of wisdom.

I know my limitations, I know my abilities, and I know when to ask for help (and not to be ashamed). I know my priorities and I know what really matters in the long run. I know how to say "Thank you" and how to say "I'm sorry". I know when to say that I messed up. I know when to take a stand and when to lose a battle in order to win the war. I know about diplomacy and office politics, I know about telling my husband that I love him every day. I know that I am not perfect and that I will fail, but I know that doesn't mean I am a failure.

Thus, when I'm worrying over my weight, or my not-nearly-so-perky boobs, I remind myself that on the inside things are pretty good. I may not be happy with my looks, but on the whole, I am content with my decisions and my actions. I am beautiful because I acted as beautifully as I could, or as my mama always said, "Pretty is as pretty does." She was so right. So, instead of What Not to Wear the real show should be called How Not to Act, because in the end, who remembers what you were wearing? But everyone remembers how you acted.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Value of a Good Cry

We don't watch a lot of TV in our house.  For one thing, there always seems to be other things that need to be tackled.  For another, we're in the middle of remodeling our house, and we are currently living in only 1/2 the house.  That means the bed is in the living room, and when one person wants to watch TV is about the same time that the other person wants to rest or read.  I would watch more TV, but Matt doesn't like all the noise, so the invention of the DVR was ideal for me.  It makes it easy for me to record my shows and watch them when Matt is outside or at work or just generally not in the house.
One of my favorite shows is Grey's Anatomy.  I like the dialogue and the characters.  And I'm almost always guaranteed a good cry.

Normally, I'm a very even-tempered person.  Matt has accused me of being too even-tempered.  He said once that if he came into the house and announced that he won the lottery or that he ran the car through the garage door, my reaction would be the same:  "That's nice, honey."  I don't think that I'm that even-tempered (I would get excited about the lottery), but I would be the first to admit that most things roll off of me very easily.

I am a true believer in the saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".  I have toughed it out through issues and crises and emotional upheavals that I wouldn't have expected myself to make it through.  Some of my hardest battles have been in my fight against clinical depression.  I have felt like King David in Psalms, wondering
How long, O LORD will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
Psalm 13:1-2
With help of family, friends and professionals, however, I have been able to see my way out of each of my episodes of depression (Thank You, God).  I can recognize the warning signs of an episode and seek out proactive help before it gets any worse.  God has been good (and obviously never forgot me).

One of the interesting side effects of my therapy for depression is that now I rarely cry (I think that it is the medication).  I get sad, sometimes have the blues, but crying is an uncommon event.  Matt can probably count on both hands how many times he has seen me cry since we have known each other.

While I am glad that I don't cry all the time, or at the drop of a hat, I had feared that I had become so cynical or hard that I was unable to cry.  That is why I so appreciate the cry I get each week watching Grey's Anatomy.  It reminds me that I have the capability to be empathetic, sympathetic, and vulnerable.  I am reminded that (even though scripted and sometimes hokie) there are people out there struggling with their own sets of problems, and somehow surviving through what may seem unendurable.  Somehow, those five or so minutes a week that I silently cry is cathartic.  I usually feel better during the closing credits than I did when I sat down.

Am I weird?  Maybe.  Could I find a better way to let go of some pent up emotion?  Probably.  But for right now, I am grateful for some small things, including that God has helped me fight my war with depression, and yet I still have the ability to have a good cry on a regular basis.  I feel like I got my cake and I'm eating it, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A New Year

We're halfway into a new year and I have spent a long time thinking about the year that has just passed. What makes a year a "good year" or a "bad year"? Wines have good years, i.e. "Oh, the '92 pinot was outstanding", but I think there might actually be criteria used to in bestowing that label. How do you decide if it was a year that you are glad to see end? Can a year be full of fun trips, time spent with family and friends, quality interaction with your spouse, etc. and still be a bad year because of one large devastating event?

I spent the last five months of 2009 just wishing to get to the end of the year. After my dad passed away in August, the year became a "bad" year, perhaps one of, if not the, worst of my life. But up to the point, eight months had passed with what I would have judged to be great events: I sold my house, Matt and I finally were able to live together, we started remodeling our house, we took a great vacation to Playa del Carma in February, and neither of us lost our jobs in the middle of the economic downturn. We were blessed and felt blessed.

One phone call changed that stable feeling for me. One call that informed me that my dad was gone. And with that, eight months (actually 39 years and 3 months) of being Cristy disappeared. What was left was Cristy, but one that was different than before, and 2009 changed thenceforth.

So, I looked forward to 2010 with great anticipation, expecting to feel somehow fresh and new on January 1, maybe not as heavy. The truth was that I didn't feel much different than I did on the day before, or that I did two weeks before. I have decided that 2009 was a life-altering year. There were good things that happened to me and mine in 2009--Matt and I made our marriage "official" by finally being able to live together (and living together is certainly life-altering!) and I moved to a new town to do so. I also lost a parent in 2009, and nothing can prepare you for the change that takes place from that event. I will never be the same person I was because he is gone -- I do not have a earthly father anymore and as such, I am altered irrevocably.

Was it a bad year? No, it wasn't a bad year, but it will forever be linked in my mind with my dad's death. As such, it will always be remembered as a bad year because I was forced to face the reality of losing someone I love. I am surviving, though, so I will continue to have hope and faith for the new year.