Monday, March 23, 2009

Time for a change

In the last couple of months, this blog has become a painful experience for me. But it seems that's how I learn. Something--a blog, a job, a relationship--becomes painful and then I realize it's time for a change.

When I started writing this blog, I thought of it as my personal journal. A few friends were reading it, but they were close friends and understood me, so that was fine. The last few months, however, other people have been reading my blog, and judging me to be many things: insecure, arrogant, etc. Of course I am these things at different times in my life. We all are. The difference is that I've been writing about my process for all to see, and it's clear to me that this doesn't serve anyone.

From my perspective, I've realized that I want to keep my personal issues, well...personal. I either want to be left alone to feel what's going on, or I want to talk to a close friend who will support me. Even though I'm not as private as other people, I do need a safe space to process. And a blog is a public space, not a safe space.

While I wrote a book about my personal journey, the events took place several years ago. Those events are no longer painful for me. I don't feel raw. But I do feel raw with this blog. The purpose of my book, and this blog, was to offer the lessons that I learned from my journey in the hope that it would support other people on their journey. My blog, as it is, doesn't seem to be doing that. Maybe my book is. I don't know.

If anyone who has read my book, has a question about something I wrote, or wants me to expand on that, I'm happy to do that. Or if you have any questions and would like my opinion, please let me know. Please know that I will only be offering my opinion based on my experiences. I will try to remember that as well.

I also realized that I need some interaction, and not just when someone is blasting me because they are triggered by something I wrote. I'm OK with people not liking me. That group keeps growing larger and larger, as I discuss what is true for me without thought of what is politically correct. But there's no point in writing, if people are only being triggered, and no one is getting any insight.

Really, I don't know what I will be writing or even if I should continue to write. If you have ideas let me know. I'm open to change and to endings. After all, that's what life is about.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No longer being motivated by fear

I woke up this morning thinking about my reaction to the TV interview and to comments that my friends made afterwards. As soon as I returned from the interview, one of my friends, with all her good intentions, told me in great detail what I had done wrong. And how bad I looked. Twenty years ago I would have been angry with her (yes, we go way back), because I would have thought she was trying to hurt my feelings. This time I knew that she was trying to help. But I still didn't want to hear what she had to say, even though she was making some very good points. I just wanted to rest. I wanted to be left alone. I was pushing myself hard enough and the last thing I needed was someone else pushing me. I only realized this in hindsight, which is why I wrote the last post on perfectionism.

What I realized this morning is that my friend thought she was motivating me, when in fact the opposite was happening. What I realized was that I am motivated differently than most people. Pushing doesn't motivate me. It makes me want to do the opposite or stop doing what I'm doing. Fear doesn't motivate me either. Again, it makes me do the opposite. When someone tells me that I don't have a choice but to do what they are asking, a red alarm goes off in my head. That is the signal that not only do I have another option, but that I better find it because I'm about to betray myself.

So if pushing and fear don't motivate me, what does? Joy and love and kindness and freedom. I work for a boss who is kind, fun, and appreciative. She has never shown any disappointment in me, even when I have been disappointed in my performance. She thanks me for doing my job. She tells me not to work hard when it's a beautiful day out. As a result I am willing to work weekends or drop whatever I am doing when she asks (which is rare.) I am happy working for her. The few times I've had to work with people who follow the theory X style of management--they believe that people are basically lazy and need to be pushed--I have been able to change roles or I have resigned.

When I followed my spiritual teacher, I was attracted by his smile and the love that radiated from him. I hadn't experienced that before, especially not from a man. Years later when his style had deteriorated to something that was more "tough love" I found that I no longer wanted to be around him. I have had plenty of tough love dished out to me over the last five decades. (Not from my mother, ever. Thanks, mom.) Hell, I have been the worst perpetrator of tough love towards myself, from the perfect woman. And frankly I am tired of her.

The same thing with my spiritual community. In the beginning it felt loving and was about celebration. Later on it deteriorated to something more controlling, to appropriate rules of behavior, to judgments about whether people were awake or not. Yuck! If I wanted judgements and controlling behavior I would have stayed in the mainstream.

But I am not in the mainstream and I am not "normal." I refuse to do anything out of fear or because someone is pushing me. I only move towards that which offers joy, love, and freedom. That has been my compass for more than a decade now, and it has never steered me wrong.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The pain of perfectionism.

I've always been a perfectionist. I remember crying because I got a 98 on an exam and not a 100. I thought I had to be a perfectionist so that I could get good grades and a scholarship to college and to graduate school. Then I started working and I had to be perfect at my job. So as a result I got good grades and moved up the corporate ladder. But I don't remember having much fun in my youth.

In the Understanding Men course, they talk about the ideal woman. We compare ourselves to the ideal woman. The ideal woman is in our head criticizing us. Do we look perfect? Are we doing everything right? There is no way for our true selves to show up when the ideal woman is around.

I thought I had relaxed my perfectionism and had silenced my ideal woman, but I was wrong. My ideal woman doesn't show up around household things; she doesn't care if she can cook or clean. You can pay people to do that. My ideal woman doesn't show up around work much either. After all, I have 25 years experience doing what I do and I got myself a job that I can practically do with my eyes closed. There haven't been any big failures there. So I thought the ideal woman had relaxed or gone away.

I was wrong. She showed up big time this week, after I had a TV interview in Sacramento. The interview was only seven minutes and it was my first time. I didn't think it would be a big deal. I thought I would do fine without much preparation. But I didn't do fine. I talked too much. I didn't give succinct answers to questions. I said things I shouldn't have. As if that wasn't bad enough, a good friend let me know that I didn't look good. I was slouched on the coach. My makeup was too light. My clothes weren't right. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I forced myself to watch the interview. Double ouch.

So for the last couple of days I've been staying away from people. I don't need anyone telling me how poorly I did on the show. My ideal woman is doing a fine job of that. Finally I had to tell her to shut up. Another friend, who isn't a perfectionist, helped me relax today. It was my first interview and no one coached me. How could I expect to be perfect? I learned a LOT from all the things I did wrong. You better believe I won't do that again. And it was only Sacramento. It's not like I screwed up on Oprah. So the ego might be bit bruised, but in hind sight I can see how it all served.

So if anyone knows a good make up artist, clothes consultant, or TV coach, let me know. In the meantime I'm going to give myself a break. And I'm going to send the ideal woman on vacation, hopefully permanent.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The opportunity in an economic crisis

Yesterday I had a comment on my blog about my post on the stray cat, by a man who is angry that I care about a cat when the world is going through an economic crisis. He wished me dead. I deleted the comment as I don't want that energy on my blog, but it gave me food for thought. Does an economic crisis mean that we forget our humanity and turn life into a jungle, where we are all trying to survive at the cost of everyone else?

Trust me, I know what it's like to be enraged because you've worked hard all your life to support yourself and your family, and you suddenly find yourself without a job, without an income, with no savings, and not having a clue how you will survive. I know the deep terror that is underneath that rage--the terror of death. How can people around you have a normal life, when you don't know if you're going to make it? I know the loss of identity that comes with all of that too--the feeling of being a failure. Who are you, if you're not productive, if you can't support yourself?
Do you have any value as a human being?

I've been through this several times, as people who know me or who read my book are aware. It was even worse, because I was the only one going through it at the time. No one to commiserate with. No articles written about this. No one else experiencing the same fear that I was going through. I had two options: I could become a victim and hate and blame the whole world for my predicament, or I could take responsibility for my choices and make different ones. The first option leads to hell, the second to heaven.

By looking at my choices, I could see where the self-betrayals were. I had bought into the belief that I had to do a job I disliked to survive. I hadn't followed my passion, the things that gave me joy--like teaching or writing. Everyone said that an MBA was the degree to have so I jumped on that bandwagon and pursued a business career that I never really enjoyed. To make up for that, I bought a lot of stuff, which tied me to the high-paying job even more.

The loss of my job, in hindsight, was the best thing that happened to me. It allowed me to stop and see what I really wanted in my life. It led to downsizing which freed me up to accept lower paying jobs that I enjoyed. It led to tutoring math, editing books, and writing--which I love to do. More importantly, it led me to discover where true security lies.

True security does not lie in a job or a savings account. True security comes from within, from having a connection with God (the universe, whatever you want to call it), and from trusting that this connection will guide you, through the dark night of the soul, Home.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The death of a stray cat--freedom or security?

I can't stop crying. A cat died today. He was run over by a car. He wasn't one of my cats--he was a stray--but it doesn't seem to matter. He was a beautiful big gray tiger cat who hung out in the back yard. The back yard is huge, taking up almost an entire block, with lots of little cottages on the property. There are benches, and tables, and fountains and trees. It's a cat's paradise.

Since most of the tenants have cats, originally I thought he belonged to someone. He was well fed, but I later found out that neighbors would feed him or he would go into people's houses through the window and eat their cat's food. While the weather was good I wasn't worried about him. But lately it's been raining a lot and I would see him outdoors.

I couldn't let him in as Max, my alpha male cat, would have a fit. He seemed feral and wouldn't come in anyway, not if I was there. I thought of taking him to a shelter this past week but didn't know if it was the right thing. He made it through the winter and spring would soon be here. He looked like the kind of cat who preferred having his freedom than having security. Perhaps I was projecting my own preferences onto him. Yesterday when the rain really started pouring I looked for him with my cat carry case in hand. If I had found him I would have taken him in. But I got soaked and he was no where to be seen. He must have had his hiding place.

This past week I prayed to St. Francis of Assisi, who is the protector of animals, to take care of him, to end his suffering, to find him a home, or to help me figure out how I could help him. Perhaps this is how my prayer was answered. His suffering has ended and he is Home. But I can't stop crying. It can't just be about him. It's about the suffering of so many helpless beings, and my feeling unable to help.

Goodbye, tough guy. I am sorry that I didn't know how to help you. I still don't know if you would have preferred to be safe and warm in a cage in a shelter, or if you went out the way you wanted to--free.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Take a leap of faith, and the Universe supports you

My apologies for not writing in my blog for a while now. I was chastised a bit by a friend, who asked me why I wasn't writing. Couldn't I multi-task? Well, I've been juggling a lot of stuff, but she's right. This blog is important to me and I need to write.

The reason I haven't written is because my other priorities have taken precedence. My day job has been keeping me busy, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that I've been even busier with my book. Who knew that an unknown author who just self-published her first book would have interviews up the wazoo? Apparently happiness, in the face of failure and loss, is a hot topic these days. And that's what my book is about. Who knew that my book would be published at a time of economic crisis? I didn't. But I trusted my desire to write a book and the universe (God, whatever you want to call the higher power) took care of the rest.

Who knew that my book would get "editor's choice" and as a result a New York publicist would be available to promote my book? Who knew that the money to hire the publicist would show up within a day of my finding him? This publicist specializes in making unknown authors known. I didn't know any of this, and I didn't have to. I had faith, did my part, and everything fell into place.

This publicist is fantastic. Last week I had three radio interviews and one print interview. Two days ago I had an hour interview with Dr. Carole Lieberman ( I didn't know her but apparently she's pretty well known. Next week I'm being interviewed on TV for the first time.

If it sounds like I'm bragging, I'm not. I had nothing to do with this. I just followed my passion, had faith, ignored the naysayers, and kept the vision. And of course I took action: I wrote the book; I published it; I'm speaking; I'm doing my part. And the universe is doing its part. I am continuously amazed at how easy and fun this process is, and how quickly things are happening.

That's what happens when you follow your dream. It's not about just sitting in meditation and visualizing success; you have to take action. But you don't have to do everything yourself. You do what you can do, and the universe does the rest. You take a leap of faith, and the universe supports you in a magical way. I see this happening over and over, and it never ceases to amaze me.

You can do this too. If there is a deep desire that you have--a dream, even if it appears farfetched--take a leap of faith and go for it. If you are meant to do this, you will be supported beyond anything you have ever imagined.

My prayer is for everyone to experience their dreams coming true, as I am.