Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dreams Don't Work Unless You Do

The blank page. The writer’s worst nightmare.

>A story needs to start somewhere. But where? How? What are you going to say? Why do you want to say anything? What is going on?

It’s all up to you. No rules. Just...go!

But what does the writer do? Well, when I’m the writer, I... do the laundry. Work on my counted cross-stitch. Do the dishes. Watch some T.V. Take a nap. Play a game. Read a book. And eventually... maybe look around the internet and Facebook for inspirational quotes. Something that will get me on my way! Something that pushes me to just... go!

But MY BOOK. That... that is so... BIG! So undefined. So much. Too much to take in, to wrap my brain around. Yeah, I say I want to write a book. But to actually do it?! Hmmph. That’s a whole different subject entirely.

And so... maybe I sit down and write a blog post. Yeah! That’s what I’ll do! I’ve got 2 blogs to my name and finding post topics to write about for either is easy. Current life events, one not necessarily connected to the other. No long back story to lay down for the reader. No “hook” to drag ‘em in and keep them reading other posts. It’s just 1 post. The reader can read it and move on. Or explore previous post! Or not. I really don’t care. It’s a free world, after all. Creating my blog was free. I write when I wish. There’s no “due date” for it to be done. I’m not expecting a grand financial reward for “finishing” it. It just is. Blog writing is easy.

But then, what’s that? What did I hear? There’s that niggling voice again. That deep, determined, confident voice that tells me that I am meant to write a book. I made that claim years ago. I have an unusual and important topic to write about. I have a dream. Now I have to just do the work.

You know? I am a softie for all those inspirational sayings going around the internet. Everyday I log into my Facebook account and take in all the awe-inspiring images and artistically displayed “You Can Do It!” expressions that fill up my Wall. The one about trying again and again until you succeed. The one about never giving up. The one about believing in yourself. The one that encourages you to do your best and be your best. The one that says you can’t fail unless you try. You can do it! Yes! Yes, I can! I am awesome! I am deserving! Let’s get going and do this thing!

And then? Well, and then I just sit back down on the couch and watch So You Think You Can Dance. Or America Idol. Or American Ninja Warrior. Or whatever it is that’s the latest and greatest T.V. reality series in which people are living the dream and reaching for the stars. They can do it! Go, them!

Oh, but what’s that, you say? Wasn’t I supposed to be doing something for myself? Wasn’t I supposed to be getting my own dream underway on it’s own path to completion?

Oooohhh!... Completion. That’s the problem! I am much too intimidated by that word. Completion. I have a whole book to write! What, it’s going to be at least a couple hundred pages or so, right? That’s a lot! I can’t do all that. I cannot see myself at the end of that road. It’s a loooonnnnnggg road. I don’t even want to get started on that journey.

But what is it that Anne Lamott of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, said? To paraphrase, she compared writing to driving on a dark road at night with dim headlights. You can only see the road ahead of you as much as your headlights allow. You cannot see your whole journey laid out ahead of you. But you get there, all the same. Just keep following the road for as much as you can see at a time and, sure enough, you’ll arrive at your destination safe and sound. Such as it is with writing. You don’t have to see the end in sight. All you need is the little bit ahead of you dimly light by your headlights. Keep on moving forward, and you will get to your destination - your writing destination - safe and sound.

(Hmmm! Now all I want to do is stop writing here and go pick up my Bird by Bird copy again. That’ll surely get me writing again!)

No. No, it won’t. I mean, sure, just like all the other positive affirmations and inspirational quotes, reading her book would help add to my “can do” attitude. But as long as I’m reading, I’m not writing. All I’ve got to do is write. One little dimly light section of the road at a time. Just write.

So, I started a Kickstarter project. A project for my book, where others can choose to help me fund the actual creation of it. A project that, as I started settling in the details of it, my 9 1/2 year old daughter asked me (in a very Isabella from Phineas and Ferb kind of way), “Watcha doin’?” When I told her, and she asked what my project is, I said, “Writing a book.” - “What’s your book going to be about?” - “You. You and me.” - “It is?! Awe. That’s so sweet.”

And from then on, Sweetie has been excited for me. So interested in this book I’m writing. And that’s just it. I told her I’m writing a book. She believes me. Why not? She has no reason not to. She already knows I like to write and that I write 2 different blogs about her. Why wouldn’t I write a book?! And even so, even if she had her doubts that I could actually do it... I don’t lie to her. She knows that I do not do that. It’s not even a thought in her mind that I’m ever anything but 100% honest with her. And so... she knows I am writing a book.

And so... I am writing a book.

I try to live my life as a great example for my daughter. Or at least reading and feeling and believing all those wonderful inspirational quotes makes me feel like I’m doing it! I’m teaching my daughter that she can be and do and try and believe and succeed at whatever it is she puts her mind to! And she does believe this. As her third grade teacher said, Sweetie is a kid who is as comfortable in her own skin as you can get for her age. She knows exactly who she is. She doesn’t pander to the popular kids. She knows what she likes to do, and does it - whether she can find a friend to do it with or not. She is a great kid who always says she’s great! And completely means it. So, I guess Hubby and I are doing something right. Despite our best efforts - she is a shining example of all the wonderful life lessons I hope to instill in her.

But I can be doing more. Sure, I tell her the lessons. But I am not living them. That is the problem. All those inspirational quotes. I love them! I feel them! But am I really living them? I know how upset I get when I see others posting those quotes, claiming their strong belief in these quotes, and then... completely leading their lives in the entirely opposite direction. They are blatant non-followers of the words they claim to follow! How can they post such words when they do not live by them? Blasphemes, all of them!

As have I been. I post and proclaim and believe and share all of them. And then, I sit on my butt. Telling Sweetie to believe and try and do and create, but not doing it myself.

That is about to stop.

I am on this earth to do something other than sit around watch TV. Something more than creating counted cross-stitch pieces. More than writing my blog.

I said I’m going to write a book. I am going to write a book.

I am writing a book.

One dimly lit section at a time.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crippled Is as Crippled Does

True. We just moved into a new house. A house where we can have 1-floor living. For my benefit. We have the second floor. I just don't have to go up there, except for when I want to.

(We also moved for Sweetie's benefit. Bigger bedroom plus an extra play room. Yay! Many other reasons, too. But these were the biggies.)

Also true that, now, given the choice, I will almost certainly take the elevator upstairs instead of walk up one or more flights when I visit various doctors and office building. I could walk it. I just choose not to. And that's okay.

But, no. I do not need one of those sit-in-a-mechanical-seat-and-slowly-ride-up-the-stairs contraptions. Heck, no! I will not use it, Sam I am!

This point comes up because one of the places I work is seriously considering moving locations. To a second-floor space. Up 1 flight of stairs, 18 steps up (as Sweetie counted when we visited yesterday evening.) My boss asked me to come check the space out, primarily because she was concerned for me about the stairs. No problem, I told her before seeing the place. I can do stairs, no problem.

So, Hubby and I and Sweetie, along with a couple other important people my boss wanted to see the space, headed out yesterday evening to check things out. Yup. Them there are stairs. You weren't lyin'! And... like I said. No problem. I can do stairs. I just don't choose to, if I have the choice.

During our time there yesterday, and in talking with the realtor, the idea of installing one of those mechanical ride-on chairs on the stairs was brought up. You know, for other members of our community (I work for a small alternative spiritual school/interfaith church) who may be elderly or impaired and not easily able to/wanting to climb the stairs. Sure, the realtor said. We can at least bring the idea up to the landlord to see if they would be okay with our adding this on.

So that was that, and the space was big and great and just right. I gave it my stamp of approval, as did the other people in attendance. Then my boss asked me directly:

So, Amy. You said you like the space. You approve. But what about the stairs?

They're fine! No problem. I'll have no trouble getting up them.

And what about the idea of adding on the mechanical chair?

(Oh! They're thinking that would be a big help for me! I didn't even consider myself as part of that equation.)

Oh. I wouldn't use that. I definitely wouldn't use it. In fact, if it was there, it would be in my way. So if you'd only get it for me, don't worry about it. 

You wouldn't use it?

No. I would not. I mean, unless something happened to make me severely crippled. Then, of course. But otherwise, no.

With that, all of a sudden, Sweetie pops into my personal space, demanding to know, "What does crippled mean?!" (Apparently, she asked me politely a moment before, but I didn't hear. So she got in my face about it.)

When I finally was able to attend to Sweetie's question, I gave her my quick, not-really-correct-but-it-did-in-a-pinch definition of crippled - it's when you're really, really hurt or not able to walk at all. Much worse me.

So anyway, after that, my boss and the others kind of agreed, quickly - "Well, then. It's always something that can be added on later if you want." I kind of think that my very certain, very quick and definite answer to the chair question took them all by surprise. They probably didn't know what to do with themselves at that point.

And Sweetie's question kind of took me by surprise. I mean, she has me for a mother and she doesn't know what the word "crippled" means? How can that be?

I'll tell you how that can be. Because I do not define myself as crippled. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, I am limited with how much physical activity I can do. I know my limits and I accommodate. But I definitely am not crippled.

And I don't mean that I take that word as a negative connotation of what I am - physically disabled. I know, logically, that I am physically disabled or, if you prefer, crippled. But it's just that I don't look at myself that way. I don't treat myself that way. I don't have family or friends that treat me that way. I'm just me. I'm just Amy. I'm just Mom. I do what I'm able to physically do - just like any other person out there does for themselves. I don't focus on what I can't do. I just know what those things are and live my life accordingly. I ask for help when I need it. But, all in all, I look at what I am physically able to do - not the opposite.

Back to that mechanical chair - no, I most certainly would not use it. In fact, I would take offense at having to use it. I'd be embarrassed to use it. Choosing to ride the elevator up a flight or more of stairs is one thing. The elevator is there for all to use, and hundreds of people in all sorts of physical conditions use them every day. But the mechanical chair on the stairs - no. That is meant for someone who cannot, in any other way, comfortably get up the stairs. I can. I am able. No problem. I will climb the stairs. Let me at 'em!

Crippled is as crippled does. You're as crippled as you make yourself be. This is true for anyone. I do not act crippled. I do what I am able to do. Just like we all do. This is what Sweetie knows of me. This is what everyone who knows me knows about me.

And I will climb the stairs!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I've Got Skillz - Mommy Skillz

If I look back over my years as a working woman, I find a lot of safety in those numbers.

During college I worked at the local newspaper during one summer. I also worked for years and years, starting in high school, at our local Barnes & Noble. After graduating college, I continued working at Barnes & Noble, and went back to the newspaper, this time full time and for many, many years (about 11 or 12).

I also began my love for tutoring during my senior year in high school. I have tutored on and off ever since.

After my downsize from the newspaper (they're not so much the "thing" anymore, if you didn't already know), I struggled to find employment, tutored where I could, and finally landed a good job with a great boss. Just she and I. Mostly just me. Managing her office. I'm still there and I still love this job, and my boss. It's a good fit for me.

But this job is only part time. I need more income than that. So I've continually stopped and started, struggled and glided into positions to fit my schedule and bring in more cash. I've written, I've receptioned, I've shipped & handled, I've office managed, and I've call centered. None of them, I have to admit, have been the best job ever. But I got the jobs, learned some new skills, met good people, saw how me and given job did & didn't fit, and finally left one way or another - some my call, some not so much.

And all along the way, all I really want to do with my life is be a mom. I know that job. I am great at that job! Please, just let me be a mom.

Yeah, well, that's great and all. But being a mom doesn't bring in the money.

Through all my varying work opportunities over the last several years, I have learned that I am pretty darn good at customer service. Huh?! Who knew? Shy, quiet ol' me. Me, who would way rather email friends and family than use the phone. But give me the phone and a desk and I can interact fantastically with the general public. I am friendly, warm and sympathetic. Tell me your troubles - I'll find a way to help you out.

And so, with that, I am heading back to work - in addition to my regular small office managing job - at the call center. No, it's by no means a glamourous job. I'll be making cold calls to hospital patients who are late paying their bills. But it's a good job that I am familiar with, I know I can do it well, and I really do get a great feeling being able to help those who are struggling find a way to pay down their bills through payment plans, financial aid, or just a friendly reminder to send out the check.

Plus, this job is a "leave it at the office" job if ever there was one. I go in, read the scripts, do the calls, and leave. No stress. Easy repetition. My kind of job. In fact, when I worked so many years at the newspaper, one of the reasons I loved my job there so much was the repetition of it. Sure, it was an important function of the paper (getting the classified section organized and printed), and it could be high level stress from time to time. But the basic operation of the work was the same everyday. I do well in positions like this. It's where I feel most comfortable.

And, the best part of all, is I'll have more time to do what I really want to do - be a mom. Sure, I'll be working most evenings until 8pm. But I'll always be home for bedtime. I'll have a couple daytimes a week off, good for scheduling doctors appointments, and if snow delays or cancellations of school happen this winter, I'll have morning hours to get Sweetie either settled elsewhere or choose to work from home for my office job. So happy that my boss there is very accommodating to my having both flexible work hours and location.

Oh - and another good thing... the call center offers full medical and dental benefits! WOOHOO!!! For 16 hours work a week, I can now, FINALLY, have good benefits. For myself, anyway. And boy do I need them! Oh, the doctors appointments I would schedule if only I had the benefits! Well now I can. And I'll have the flexibility of schedule to go to them. Yippee!

So, yes, you could definitely say that I like to play it safe in many areas of my life. I keep returning to places I'm familiar with, not one to make grand leaps of faith into entirely new opportunities. But you could also say that I know where my skills lie. I may not be CEO material. I'm probably not even a good candidate to manage the neighborhood Dunkin Donuts. But I do know how to interact with people. And I do know how to be a fantastic mom.

I choose to choose work opportunities that let me focus my energies and skills where they truly belong, where they really fit the best.

I choose to be Sweetie's mom.