Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Lung Capacity

I have recently discovered that I have been holding my breath. I attempted to resolve the issue with a large gulp of air. Only to find that my lungs have atrophied. I began to choke on my efforts. My mouth is dry. I have been gone for a long, long time.

I waited for a single domino to fall and set forth a chain reaction. I waited and I forgot what I was waiting for in the process of said waiting. My vision became blurry. The scenery changed in my absence. And when I awoke everything was unrecognizable. The walls were cracked. The paint peeling.

I have been waiting for everything to become just so. Absorbing minute amounts of oxygen through the surface of my skin during my hibernation. I have been asleep. I have been sleep walking.

In my waiting slumber I have overspent a precious commodity. Minutes have become months and years lost behind the protective walls I have mortared.

I find myself unsure and overwhelmed. My feet are frozen in a block of ice. I can not run. My head is buried in the hot desert sand. I can not see the path before me.

I have given in. I handed all of my power over to fear. But after the seventy-third episode of stress-induced vomiting I realized that I constricted myself in a shallow space. This was the beginning.

My very wise friend communicates most effectively through the use of a mix tape. And while "tape" is no longer an accurate technological description the phrase "mix tape" has a meaning that can only be fully understood using the antiquated term.

You should know that my very wise friend recently created a not-so-secret society in which strangers would be paired up with other strangers. Names and addresses would be doled out. Mixes would be created and exchanged.

As I write this post, I am currently listening to the mix created for me. When I reach the final song, everything becomes clear. This intrigues me because the song is sung entirely in Turkish and I neither speak nor do I understand the language.

I quickly discover - because I must - that "Ince Ince Bir Kar Yagar" is a Turkish protest song by the infamous Selda Bağcan. I am haunted by the melody and the lyrics. The English translations - accurate or not I cannot say, but that is hardly the point - provide me with a framework with which to consider my own predicament.

And although my understanding could easily be described in terms of comparing the trials and tribulations of lives in and out of chaos and turmoil, this is not the point I wish to address in this moment. It is the simple yet eloquent question to those with the power to enact change, why can these necessary things not be done?

It is a question that is self directed. And I begin to breathe again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two Things

People are losing their jobs at a shitdamnmotherfucking insane rate. I am reading the reports of these job losses and I cannot help but wonder if the numbers are a result of the various media organizations failing to properly proof their stories, resulting in a few too many zeros in the job loss numbers.

I know this is not so. But allow me to dream for a moment.

An interesting article was recently posted on BIG NAME NEWS ORGANIZATION FINANCIAL WEBSITE hypothesizing that large job losses aren't going to help THE ECONOMY rebound. Sometimes it's necessary to publish information that overstates the obvious. I'm certain that my posts here would also fall into that obvious overstatement category.

But I do not think that corporate executives are going to read this or similarly situated articles and have any sort of epiphany and revoke the tens of thousands of pink slips that have already been distributed.

I don't any answers for the folks that are unemployed. I can only hope that I do not join their club any time soon.

I will say that for those of us who are currently still employed it is more important than ever to do two things. 1. Keep your job. 2. Save save save.

I am not going to pontificate on the subject of how to keep your job in this post. I know you are all disappointed at this, because I know how much you all love to read my pages and pages of pontifications. Perhaps I will devote another post to this topic in the near future. But you should know that it shouldn't be difficult to lose your job if you've decided that you'd really rather be unemployed.

Now is the time to work harder and ask for less. Everyone needs to become the model employee. Stop surfing the internet. Stop the personal phone calls on company time. Find more work if you don't have enough to do. Offer to help with anything that needs doing. Work a few extra hours on your own time if need be. And STOP COMPLAINING AT WORK.

If you are actually successful in keeping you job and your hours aren't cut in half, the next thing you need to do is "save save save" and I really mean it. Saving money can be an intimidating idea for some folks. Perhaps you think it can't be done. Many of us are spread far too thin financially. That's also a topic for another post. But the first thing you need to know about saving is that it's never too little or too late. Every journey toward a solid savings begins with the saving of a single cent.


I have discovered that the only real way to know where you can cut expenses and what you can reasonably save is to document every cent you spend for a few months. You can do this the old fashioned way with pen and paper or you can get high tech about it and use one of the many free online programs to help you out. I've checked a few of them out and my personal favorite is Yodlee, because I think it's the most comprehensive. It's not pretty. It's not flashy. But it works well. However, you should decide what works best for your individual needs.

It is often surprising to find out how much is really being spent on groceries or dining out or toiletries or entertainment. You MUST MUST MUST track these things to the freakin' penny for at least several months to know what's really happening with your finances. You must be honest with yourself and your spending habits. These internet based programs will enable you to create a budget and they will let you know how well you're doing at meeting those budget goals. Review the tracking information to get a better sense of your finances and to determine what you might be able to save. How to save. Where to save. And how much to save are all topics for yet another post.

I guess I had better get to work writing. The rest of you better get started on your homework!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Econopocalype

Everyone is talking about "the economy" and what a mess everything is right now with it. "It" meaning, "the economy" which is indeed, pretty shitdamnmotherfucking fucked up at the moment. I don't need to re-hash the statistics here. Every media venue has posted and is continuing to post fucked economy related information.

I have been watching things closely. And I have been thinking a lot about money.

For those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that I have been thinking a lot about money. I tend to think about money. And I tend to do it a lot. My father lived through the depression and my mother, twenty-five years his junior, lived during a war in her native county. Living frugally was the norm. But I have discovered over the years that frugal living was not the norm for many of my peers. I have also discovered that many of my peers have no knowledge about how to manage their own finances.

And when I say "no knowledge" I mean nothing, nada, zip, ziltch, zero. Maybe they think they do, but they don't. Not one bit.

Maybe that's how we got into this "economy" mess. "We" don't talk about money. Not really. Not in any significant way. We don't talk about how much money we have or what we do with our money. It's considered rude to ask someone how much money they make. Why? Seriously?

Most people have no clue what to do with their money. And it's no big surprise. There is a wealth of information available from a variety of sources, but it is often contradictory. In other words, financial information, like all information, is mediated through individuals that do or do not benefit in some way from providing the information.

I think that it's time that people begin to take responsibility and accountability for their lives and their happiness. And I think it's time for a return to frugal values. There are many individuals living well below the poverty level that are struggling to eat every day. Those folks need real, substantial, significant help to improve their lives. For the most part, I'm not really talking about those folks. At least, not yet. I'm talking about the folks that may not have much, but should have enough. I'm talking about people who could be making better choices.

I believe that it's time to start speaking openly and honestly about money. We live with a sense of the false dichotomy of instant v. delayed gratification. I don't think it has to be one or the other. Ultimately, I think we've lost focus on what's important and I think the only way things are really going to change is if we shift that focus.

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts by me about my thoughts, feelings, meanderings, and experiences on this topic. I hope for this venue to become a space for an ongoing dialogue and a sharing of information. Please keep in mind that I will be moderating all posts. In other words, no ass clown spammers please!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thermal Runaway

Thermal Runaway: A situation where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature leading to a destructive result. It is a kind of positive feedback. -- Wikipedia

I'm on a roll
I'm on a roll, this time
I feel my luck could change

-- Radiohead

Sometimes starting over is as easy as burning the past. And not as a way to sweep dust and ashes under the proverbial rug, but as a way to reclaim the phoenix. I opened the box and sat with letters written on so many pages of virgin paper that a staunch environmentalist would be required by her own oath and code to begin protest outside my door. I watched the postmarks progress. Almost twenty years of a life (lives) documented on paper. Handwritten. Typewritten. Ink smeared across the page. I read until my heart was full. I read until the letters began to dance around the page and no longer formed words. I lit the match.

Sometimes burning the past isn't as easy as starting over. Especially when a storm takes hold on what should be still, almost-summertime weather. The wind began with a whisper and increased exponentially. It reminded me that a life cannot be un-lived or re-lived. It reminded me that I burn the pages to remember. And to be cleansed. I want to be reborn full grown. I want to wash the bitter taste from my mouth. I want to let go of my attachment. I want the chains to soften and fall away.

I gave the matches to the wind and continued my efforts. I held each page over a flame provided by Q. I tossed the fragments one by one into a glazed ceramic planter until the words became smoke. I inhaled deeply. The fire grew and I was surrounded in the thick air. The planter shattered and a piece hit me in the leg. I am quiet. And listening.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Non Requiem

Sometimes I get stuck. The words for this post have been tumbling around inside my mind for some time. Every time I begin to string them together in an attempt to form sentences I stop. Re-read. Erase. Because it isn't right. It isn't perfect. For some reason I feel that it should be. Perfect. Even though I am not. Even though I have never been. And then I realize that my inability to create perfection is a necessary exercise in order for me to learn the lesson. Again.

I need to start at the beginning. I have a dear friend whom I have known for about ten years. I am typing the words "ten" and "years" strung together and I am shocked. I stop. Re-trace the path. Counting on my fingers. Ten. It is accurate. For the past ten years my dear friend and I have been all of the following: co-workers, acquaintances, friends, roommates, co-workers again, angry, estranged, re-acquainting, friends again. This is not meant to be an inclusive list, but I believe it is fairly accurate representation.

Not long ago I learned that her younger sister, Jenn, was diagnosed with cancer. As further testament to the irony of life you should know that my dear friend works at BIG ASS UNNAMED CANCER CENTER. I followed my friend's posts carefully. Then I received the message. Jenn died after her valiant fight with the disease. She wasn't even thirty years old.

You should know that I am telling you that Jenn died rather than telling you that she passed on, because I too once worked at BIG ASS UNNAMED CANCER CENTER (BAUCC). Typical terminology at BAUCC is that a patient "expired" like milk, but not like UNNAMED PROCESSED CHEESE PRODUCT NOT REQUIRING REFRIGERATION. If you work at BAUCC long enough you are bound to become desensitized about things like death. It is the only way you can survive an occupation like that without feeling the need to throw yourself off a bridge on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why I can say that someone died so matter of factly. The other reason is that I experienced a great deal of death from a very young age. I developed a macabre sense of humor, much to the chagrin of those meeting me for the first time. However, I never became desensitized enough during my life or my employment at BAUCC which is why I don't use the term expired. It is also why I choose a new career.

Besides. Some people are lactose intolerant so comparing their death to dairy of any sort would seemingly be a slap in the face.

I have digressed, but you knew I would. It is important for me to say that this digression is meant with the utmost respect. You might not think so, but I ask you to humor me for a moment. Because I think it is important for us to explore language. What it means. Why we use it. How it impacts us. And because sometimes we need to laugh to prevent ourselves from drowning in our own tears.

With that said you should know that I didn't know Jenn well. Not as well as I would have liked to have known her. I do know that she was an amazing individual. I know that she touched many lives. I know that she will be missed.

It's easy to say nice things about someone when they are gone from this life. We want to sanctify the dead, because it feels good to do so. This isn't one of those situations. I am not merely pontificating for her eulogy. Jenn was amazing.

I first met Jenn under what was intended to be a delightful holiday brunch, but became a train wreck due to several intoxicated and/or obnoxious guests. Despite the unusual circumstances of the day she held her own like a compassionate warrior. I quickly learned that she had a vibrant personality. Every time I saw Jenn she would sparkle when she smiled and that doesn't come along very often. She was a kind and genuine soul with a passion for life. She made the world a better place. Really, she did. How many of us can honestly say that we have done that?

And so here I am going through the typical mundane-esque bits and pieces of life. As of late I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself for one reason or another. And then I stop and think of Jenn.

Perhaps it is egotistical of me to believe that people like Jenn are put on this earth to teach the rest of us how to live. Fully. Completely. Not merely the wake up, go to work, come home, feed the dog, take out the trash, go to bed, rinse, repeat kind of living. But living with joy every day. Honestly thrilled to be alive kind of living. Who doesn't want that?

I would like to believe that I am not being self absorbed for assuming that Jenn's purpose was to teach us (me) this lesson. Because the thought of this both inspires and comforts me. Sometimes I need to be reminded not to take myself so seriously. This is why I write these posts the way that I do. Strangely punctuated. Grammatically daring. Deliciously vague.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that life is happening with or without me. I need to be reminded to let go of my fear and worry. I need to be reminded to live. I feel as though I want to mark this moment. I want to do something special so I won't forget. Again. I am very good at forgetting just as I am very good at making resolutions. Unfortunately I am not very good at the follow through.

I do not have the answer today. I wanted to wrap this post up with a nice bow. Like a sitcom or dramatic television program where everything comes full circle within the hour. I cannot do it. I have no answer. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. But I can't promise. I can promise that I will continue to post what I know and what I haven't yet figured out.

Thank you Jenn. Thank you for living your beautiful life for all to see.