Labor Day

imgresSo, it’s almost Labor Day – the last long weekend of summer (even though summer isn’t “officially” over).  I’m taking a moment here, self-indulgently, to think about what Labor Day means to me.  (Full disclosure:  I’ve spent the vast majority of my career employed by a labor union (the same one, in fact, for over 21 years), and I could not be happier about that.  I’m a lucky girl.)

But sometimes I get asked why I care about the labor movement.  After all, I cannot deny I’ve led a pretty privileged life, even if parts of it were really, really hard.  And while there are both union members and those who do not believe in the value of unions in my immediate family, I saw first-hand the value of the unions to those who were members.

I started college thinking I would be a professional theater artist of some kind – or an entertainment lawyer – but after college, and after being part of an organizing campaign that left me unemployed – I really wasn’t sure.  So, I took yet another regional theater job, and I got fired.  I headed back home with my tail between my legs, and freelanced at local theaters while I decided what to do next.  Grad school had always been in the back of my mind, and in fact, if I had not been fired on the deadline of my school of choice, it might have come a year sooner.   The freelancing got to me pretty quickly – HATED IT – so off I went to study with some real giants of the modern theater (and incidentally, get an MFA in Theatre Management).  During my three years at the school that shall not be named, I did an internship at the union that now employs me.  That internship was a revelation, and when I was staring at the real world after graduation, I called up and there happened to be a job open.  The rest is history – I got not only a job, but a career I love and that adds value to the work lives of others.  As I said, I’m a lucky girl.

If you’ve read this far, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote (yes, I know, it says “men” throughout – historical context is a bitch.  I read it as “people”):

“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.” — Clarence Darrow

And that’s what Labor Day means to me.  Enjoy!

 

Yoga Is Not Life; Life Is Not Yoga

The title of this post may surprise those of you who know how much I love my Bikram Yoga practice, and how it has changed my life.  And it’s not like I haven’t written just a bit about that.

Yoga-Equals-LifeBut lately, I’ve had a few thoughts about how much yoga is not like life, and how it’s important to recognize the differences…so of course I had to share.

The big one, at least to me, is that in life, unlike yoga, getting each step right is not as important as getting to the finish line.  The Bikram Yoga dialogue emphasizes, in many postures, that as long as you get to a certain point (your head on your knee, even with a bent leg, for example), “you’re getting the full benefits of the posture”.  Life’s not like that.  I can only imagine saying in the workplace “but I was trying the right way!”

Which leads to my second point…time.  In yoga, unlike life, you have all the time in the world to keep trying.  I’ve been practicing Bikram for nine years, and no-one gives me a hard time about the fact that I often still fall over in the balancing series, or that I can’t get both legs off the floor in Locust.  Well, I give me a hard time, but no-one else does.  At least to my face.  The fact is, the underlying philosophy that trying is as important as succeeding is a very sweet idea, but it really doesn’t hold up in day-to-day life.

And it’s important to note, in light of the preceding points, that in life, unlike yoga, you cannot always stop and take a break if you get overwhelmed.  Imagine taking a knee during a family argument, or stopping during a tense meeting for savasana.  As lovely a thought as that might be, you usually just have to get over yourself and get on with it.  Though maybe that’s a place where yoga should be more like life?  I’ll have to think about that.

Finally, for now, at least, in yoga, unlike life, it’s okay to let your emotions well up and spill over.  In fact, the openness that allows that to happen is valued.  But most of us know that free flow of all emotions in our daily lives would cause more friction than freedom, and would probably be downright embarrassing.

But take heart, all of you who believe that your practice is a metaphor for your life…even I agree there is one thing that for me is exactly the same in both…the need for “English bulldog determination and Bengal tiger strength”.

Bad Attitude

I just missed being expelled from high school due to my “bad attitude”.  (Okay, well, to be honest, the owner of what was then a for-profit school threatened to pull my scholarship, which would have had the same effect.)  And I’ve always found it more “natural”, whatever that means, to be angry and even unhappy than calm and happy.

I always knew these things about myself, but what I only realized a few years ago was how true it is that misery loves company.  It’s been a very tumultuous several years for me, and I finally realized I needed to make a change to continue.  I guess the first change was actually before all the upheaval, in 2005, when I started my Bikram Yoga practice.  Or maybe even in 2004, when the Evil Ex was finally out of my life – finalized by my moving into an apartment he never shared, early the next year.  Certainly my weight loss journey, which started in 2008, reached a goal in 2009, and is again a journey, was part of it.  But whatever.  Change takes time, and for me, at least, it needs to happen in stages.

And so, I made a conscious decision a few years ago (almost four years ago now, actually), to just stop.  Stop having a bad attitude – stop trying to make it someone else’s, anyone else’s, fault – stop being the force for negativity in the room.  It’s been really hard, and I catch myself backsliding all.the.time.images-5

Most recently, as part of this journey, I came to a very difficult conclusion.  I realized I cannot be part of those circles of people who are like I was.  I cannot participate in those gatherings of negative energy, that no matter what, will spill over into everything else I try to do.

And all of a sudden, I looked around, and realized that I had far fewer friends than I thought, because so many of my supposed friendships had been based on mutual unhappiness.  Now, of COURSE there is still complaining, and sometimes even whining, but now I try to vent it – appropriately – and just fucking move on already already.  It’s been hard to see that distance grow with old friends, and I’ve tried, in many cases, to explain to them how we can stay friends (generally, though I find myself reduced to stammering out something like “I just can’t do it.  I need to stop this.  This negative thing.”), but I know I’m better off.

I mean, we all know that as we move through life, we add and lose friends, for various reasons.  And sometimes, those reasons are because we have to make hard choices about personal well-being.  But in the end, you can only control your own behavior, and you are the only one you can improve, so why the hell not?  At least that’s what I think.  And I’m going to keep trying to move forward, even if it means sometimes I have to leave people behind.  After all, I’m the one person I know for sure I’ll have with me my entire life.

Oh, and this…which I just couldn’t resist: 

No, I Can’t. And That’s OK.

Before we start, I will say I’m not talking about saying “no”…as you know, faithful readers, my default answer is “yes”.  I’ve been thinking about failure.  Honestly, I’ve not failed that much…professionally.  Personally, well, there you go.  But yes, I have failed.  We all have.wrong+turn+okay

There is an attitude out there, and while many people, myself included at times, blame the Gen Ys and Millenials for it, I remember hearing it as a child… but not from my mother (thank God).  It’s the idea that you can do anything.  And while when I heard it first, it was tied to “if you work hard enough”, lately (and for this I do blame parents of people of a certain age), it is simply stated as a fact.

Well, you know what?  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, will fail at some point.  And there will be things you cannot do.  Now, I’d never say don’t try, but c’mon, do you really think everyone can be an Olympic athlete?  A brilliant, innovative scientist?  The author of a novel that is both a bestseller and critically acclaimed?  Win a Tony?  Or more basically, never fail?

I had a conversation with a friend recently about goals.  And mine have changed.  I now acknowledge there are those things that while, maybe I COULD do them, I could not do them to a standard of excellence.  So, at least professionally, I choose to go down a path that I hope leads to excellence.   I do still try and fail, though.  As I learned in my Bikram classes, “it’s a practice, not a perfect”.

So, no, I can’t.  And yes, I will try.  But if I fail, I know that’s just fine.  It’s OK.

Next!

What’s In A Name?

Recently, this article about whether married women should give children their surname, or their father’s surname, has been popping up on Facebook.  Any number of my friends posted it, as did I.  Now, obviously I am not married, nor do I have children, but I do carry my father’s name.  Or, as it’s more realistic to think of him, the sperm donor.  I personally never met the man, though there are a few pictures around of infant me in his arms.  Ugh.

My mother very carefully said nothing against my father until she felt I was old enough to understand the shades of gray she seemed to see in the situation.  She was wrong (one of the few times) – I never did see those shades – to me, it was black and white.  I could accept that he wanted a divorce, that he left, even that he had a girlfriend.  However, the absolute rejection of me (and my sisters), including evading child support, made seeing any gray impossible, especially when we were struggling.  Or when I thought I was going to have to leave college as they wanted information from him for financial aid (thank you, Dean Case and Amherst College, for seeing past my snarky comment of “if you can find him, you can take ALL his money as far as I’m concerned”.)

And yet, I carry his name.  I have often thought about changing it, perhaps to my mother’s maiden name.  But then, that’s the name of another man I never knew, though through no fault of his own.  And I can certainly judge his “worthiness” by the children he raised.  So why haven’t  I changed it?  Well, I’ve been working long enough in the same field that many people know me by name, and I’m getting tired of coming up with biting responses to far too personal questions.  And my sisters.  I’m not sure they would like it, as they also carry his name, and I’m not sure they have the same level of resentment that I do.

keep-calm-and-whats-my-name-againIt’s so funny…if I were getting married, the choice to change my name – or not – would be taken for granted.  But as a single woman who thinks of changing my name for my own reasons, I feel like I would have to explain.  I know, I know, that’s my own problem, yet it is a real one.

For now, I’m leaving it alone.  For now.  I’m never really sure what I might do in any given moment, let alone at any time in the future.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Bad Mommy! BAD, BAD, BAD!

I travel.  A lot.  Most of it for work, but sometimes, for myself.  When I came home from my most recent trip, my Jane was clearly ill.  And it turns out that her issue would have been completely preventable if I had been home more…and perhaps paid better attention when I was.

See, Jane is polydactyl, and the claws on one paw had grown into her pad, necessitating stitches.  And a big ugly bandage.  And meds.  Lots of meds.    poorJaneBad mommy missed it.  Bad mommy thought everything was fine because whenever she was home, Jane came over purring and wanted to cuddle.

And bad mommy was wrong.  Once it was clear that Jane would recover, I spiraled into a major funk, wondering how it could possibly be fair for me to have not one, but two, cats, when I am out of town part of almost every week most months.  Plus, even when I am here, I am out of the apartment a minimum of 13 hours most days.  So what right do I have to have pets?  Clearly, I can’t take care of them properly.  And so on – you get the picture.

Yes, I got over it.  Both Jane and Nutley are rescues, and I know, in my heart, that I take great care of them, and that they are happy with me.  I remembered that these things happen to all parents, of human and of animal children.

So, what’s the big lesson?   You can decide for yourself.  I’m just going to keep a closer eye on Jane’s paws.

September 11, 2001

Yes, before you say it, I do know it is not yet September 11; not yet the anniversary of that day we all remember with such sadness.  But today, for whatever reason, I was thinking about that day, and musing on something I learned.  74651d1315288532-twin-towers-twin-towers-img

We all have stories, many of them tragic.  This story is just a small part of my day, but one that changed me for the better, though I did not see that for a long time.

After we saw the towers fall, after I reached those most important to me (or they reached me), after our office closed, and while I was making the long trek home (a story of its own, for another time), I spoke to a friend on the phone.  Someone who, at the time, I would have called a close friend.   She asked me what I was doing, and I told her I was headed home.  She then told me that she and a number of others were going to a mutual friend’s house, and to get home safe.  She said good-bye, and ended the call.

I went home.  Alone.  I spoke to a few people on the phone, cuddled my cats, dealt with work calls (what a day to be on the emergency beeper…), and after a while, stopped watching news coverage in favor of bad movies.   And wondered why my friend had not said “come join us”.

It was a long time before I asked her that question, and her answer was basically that I should have asked to come, or just showed up.  I was deeply hurt, and said so – and she did not understand why.  And that she did not know me well enough to know that neither of those were options for me, especially that day, told me a lot.  About her, but eventually about myself.

How could I have someone I considered a close friend with whom I had shared so little that she did not have any idea that I needed to be invited?  That I always wonder if I’m welcome?  And how could I could I consider myself a friend if I was withholding those trusts?

So, now, at least to close friends, I tell all.  I mean, after all, what do I have to hide?  I am the person I am, and if you’re sharing your life with me, the least I can do is the same.

But still, I like to be invited.

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