wlotus: (Princess)
Over the weekend I found words to express the anxiety that tends to hum in the background of my consciousness every day. I'm afraid that no matter what I do, I won't have enough money to do all I need (and want) to do in life. It doesn't help that I am making much less right now than I was making when I worked as a hardware engineer. Furthermore, I had always associated my ability to have enough with that career. Even then I worried about having enough; now that I am on a different path, my anxiety has gone up exponentially.

I flung a slew of "What ifs" at T to explain why I was so concerned. Then in her matter-of-fact, blunt way she said, "You need to stop panicking."

*blinkblink* Stop? Panicking? But isn't that long list of "What Ifs" full of very good reasons to panic?

Perhaps so, but there's a problem: panicking isn't helping me be prepared for any of those what ifs. What helps me be prepared is, surprise, what I am already doing: things like making sure I have other skills I can use to earn money, living within my means, paying my bills, and saving some money each pay period...and occasionally buying something nice for myself and/or T. What more can I expect from myself and still be fair to myself?

Panicking is the same thing as saying what I am doing with my life is not good enough. When I don't panic, I am giving myself credit for being on the right track. As for the worst-case scenarios, it is best to briefly acknowledge them (as opposed to panicking over them) and then return to living a day at a time.

That living a day at a time stuff is particularly hard for me, because I have always had a tendency to look down the road and see the possible outcomes of my actions. This tendency has helped me avoid a lot of pain, and I am grateful for it. However, when coupled with my tendency to obsess over bad things, project them into the future, and attempt to find the One Right AnswerTM to permanently avoid those bad things, it has caused me a lot of anxiety. That combination of traits is what led to the weekend's conversation with T and is probably linked to the nervous habits I have of picking/tearing at my hair and grinding my teeth.

"You need to learn how to live in the moment," she also said. Since I have the bases covered as much as I can in my current circumstances, the best thing for me to do is relax. Enjoy now. Stop patrolling the proverbial wall looking for holes to stick my fingers into and embrace what is going on right in front of me. So I have been doing that...and it is HARD. Some moments I feel like I am potentially missing something important, and isn't that a new crack in the wall's foundation, by the way?????????? (No, [livejournal.com profile] wlotus, it's a harmless spider. Stop that!) But my head is quieter. I have been more focused. I have felt happier. My muscles have been less clenched, even though I have been working out a lot of residual nervous energy. These are good things.

Each morning since that conversation (and throughout the day) I say to myself, "Today I am not panicking." I've even been writing it in my paper journal. That's what I've been doing the past two day I haven't posted: practicing not panicking. With T's help, I think I can get used to this.
wlotus: (Eyes Wide Open)
Janelle Monáe has my brain on fire. For a little while I thought I might be having a celebrity crush on her, but that isn't the case.

The truth is that she inspires me.

She is a 24-year-old African-American woman who is defying the popular definitions of "blackness" in her musical presentation. As a black woman who is old enough to be thrilled by the still too rare appearance of a dark-skinned face in entertainment, yet who is thoroughly tired of the hyper-sexualization of black women in hip-hop culture, I am as refreshed by Ms. Monáe as I am by a cold drink on a hot day. Her style fluidly switches between jazz, classical, pop, electronic, and funk, with only the faintest hint of hip-hop/rap. She dances and dresses in a way that showcases her talent instead of her tits and ass. She speaks proper English, as do the black men she creates music with. When I watched the interviews included on the iTunes LP version of The ArchAndroid, I was proud of and impressed with all of them. Because they spoke intelligently and about topics that did not include "da hood", I could relate to them. That isn't something I can usually say about today's young, black performers.

Even more than being impressed with her presentation, her uniqueness inspires me. She and her partners in music-making are not trying to fit someone else's idea of what music (particularly "black music") should be. They have their own ideas, and they are implementing those ideas without apology or shyness, it seems. That inspires me to continue to do the same with my ideas and my life. And not because I want to "make it to the big time" as they have, but because after an early life of conformity (most of the time, though pieces of the real me still shone through from time to time), I have come to the conclusion life is not worth living, if I cannot live by my own unique convictions and vision and gifts and talents.

I'm trying to find my peace
I was made to believe there's something wrong with me
And it hurts my heart
Lord have mercy ain't it plain to see

That this is a cold war
Do you know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
You better know what you're fighting for.

~ Janelle Monáe, "Cold War"

Every time I listen to one of her songs--that has been often in the past week, as I have her two albums in almost constant play--I am inspired to be me and to enjoy being me. I enjoy feeling inspired. It makes me feel alive.
wlotus: (Princess)
Yesterday I spoke with someone I like and respect. She asked me about my job, and I told her. She was not impressed, and she didn't hide that fact. "Are you going to eventually go back into the technical side of things?" she asked, concerned I was giving up on my IT studies and turning my back on my technical background. "When you first started, I got the impression you had more of a sense of urgency about finishing them." I pointed out that at that time I was trying to get out of an abusive work environment as quickly as possible, and now that I am free of that place, finishing my studies is not as urgent. "But just because something is no longer urgent does not mean it is no longer important," I explained. After verifying I intend to finish my studies, she felt more satisfied.

I walked away from that conversation with this statement banging in my brain:

If I decide to do my current job or jobs like it for the rest of my life, that is okay, because it would be my decision.

I and I alone am qualified to decide what kind of work is the best use of my time and talents. I am done pursuing jobs or titles or degrees or accomplishments based on what others may think about me. This season of my life is about owning my life, figuring out what works for me and my partner at any given time, and pursuing only those things. For many years I have cared too much about what others may think of me and wanting people to be impressed with me. I still care, of course, but I do not intend to shape my life based on that caring.

So far, I enjoy my job. It is full time, and it comes with benefits. It is just right for me at this time of my life. After two years of unemployment and per diem work, that is what matters most to me. Finishing my IT studies is important to me--I don't like starting something and not finishing it, particularly when a $15,000 student loan is part of the equation--but this is higher on my list of priorities. Period. No further explanation needed.

As for my job, I shall now happily, gratefully get back to it.
wlotus: (Deep Thoughts)
This weekend (all three days of it, as T had Friday off) was about the beauty of ordinariness. We didn't do anything exciting or out of the ordinary, and I did not allow my brain to roam much further than what I was doing right at that moment.

Ordinariness: buying our groceries for the week. While T did our laundry, I took the car and went grocery shopping for the first time in two weeks. Rather than rushing to try to get it over with, I slowed down and savored taking my time. The sunshine was wonderful as I drove to Key Food, then BJ's. I allowed myself to bask in being able to pick up everything we needed, plus a few extras. I returned home to T amidst stacks of clean laundry, plus a sense of accomplishment from getting it all done early. By 3 p.m. our laundry was put away, our kitchen was restocked, and we were both relaxing.

Ordinariness: watching the Superbowl and fixing dinner with T. We had a yummy dinner of spaghetti with meat sauce, laughed over the cute commercials, groaned over the (many) stupid ones, and cheered the Saints on to victory. And since we got our chores done early in the afternoon, we did not have to moan and groan about what we hadn't accomplished in preparation for the week. That made it even better!

Ordinariness: going to my office administration internship tomorrow morning. It isn't glamorous work in any way, but it is useful, honest work, and I am pleased by that.

While I'm on the subject of work... )
wlotus: (Standing Out)
I am in the computer lab at school, attempting to do practice questions for the 70-291 exam. While I have done five times as many questions today as I did each of the previous two days of the week, I became easily distracted after buckling down for the first 10.

I get the feeling this should bother me far more than it does.

How is your day going?
wlotus: (Tending the Flame)
Mentally exhausted, I declared today a half-day from work. Instead of staying glued to my computer desk, I sprawled on the floor with my art markers, paper journal, television remote, and toys for some play time.

You think I'm joking? I received this magnetic building kit two or three years ago for Christmas and finally made time this afternoon to put it together.

magnetic town hall
Town Hall with Clock Tower

"We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." [Unknown]
wlotus: (Doodlebug)

I think I have figured out why I enjoy watching educational children's programming so much, specifically programs geared for children in preschool through second grade: the lessons presented to that age group are simple and generally do not involve extended angst or complicated communication snafus. (Programming geared towards older children often revolves around those things, like "Arthur" or "Martha Speaks". I don't watch those shows as much, as I have enough angst in my real life. That may be why I don't enjoy most television programming geared towards adults, too!) And the lessons about feelings are things that I did not learn in the environment I was originally planted in, so the reminders are helpful.

Things I Learn From Watching PBS Kids

  • Sometimes people who love each other disagree, but that doesn't mean they stop loving each other.
  • Clean up your messes as you make them, so there will be less work to do later.
  • Using good manners makes things more fun for everyone.
  • It's okay to be scared or shy.
  • Try new things and go to new places; it's how you learn about your self and your world.
  • Sometimes people are not ready to try new things, and that is okay.
  • When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop and take a deep breath to calm yourself down before continuing.
  • Ask lots and lots of questions.
wlotus: (Deep Thoughts)

A young lady I used to mentor has taken on a "Queen" name and joined The Nation of Gods and Earths (also known as The Five Percenters). She seems happy in the photos and posts I have seen on her Myspace page, and she currently lives among other Five Percenters. While I do not embrace their beliefs, I respect and appreciate that this conversion appears to have given her a new focus and possibly raised her self-respect, at least from afar.

I asked her what drew her to that sect of Islam. She said she studied it for about a year before converting, and all of her questions were met with warmth, respect, and information. (The movement is big on black people having knowledge.) She found that was a sharp contrast to the, "It is so because I say so now stop questioning me and just believe!!!!" mentality she had encountered in the Black Pentecostal Christian movement she was raised in. I know that mindset all too well; it is part of what drove me from the movement, too. Being respected rather than treated like a pesky, unwanted child for daring to doubt is appealing. I am not surprised she was drawn in by that...and by the guy she is dating, ahem.

Where does this unwillingness to accept questioning come from in the black community? I think it is part cultural. People whose ancestry includes a few centuries of American slavery no doubt have passed down to their subordinates (whether their children or the membership of the churches they pastor) some of the same mentalities the slave owners beat into them. Questioning authority is frowned upon and, in some cases, is punishable by violence (verbal and/or physical). Believe what the master/mistress says, or at least put on a damn good act of doing so, simply because they said it. The maddening nature of those expectations was enough to make countless slaves risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones to escape. Many of us are still taking considerable (social and familial) risks to escape, today.

It is this desire to be free that may be driving my insistence that there is no true choice without justice, without an evening of the playing field. Mere survival--going along to get along, making so-called choices within the limits of the master-slave relationship--was not good enough for the slaves who escaped, and it is not good enough for me, either. I can do it to survive, but I don't expect to be happy doing it.

wlotus: (Peaceful)
How dare I consider someone's criticism of me and not change my behavior in accordance with their opinion? How dare I decide someone else's viewpoint makes no sense? How dare I decide my viewpoint is more applicable to my life than their viewpoint is and dismiss what they have said?

How dare I not?

The hallmark of adulthood is making up one's own mind about who to be and how to live. I was not raised to think that way; I was raised to please those who criticized me, irrespective of the cost to my sense of self, my time, my energy, and my soul. The burden to please was heaviest when the critic was someone who cared for me in some way. I spent a lot of my life feeling victimized because of that. But gradually, over the past nine years, I have learned I am not a victim of others' opinions. I may have been as a child, but as an adult, I and I alone have the power over my life.

I have also learned I cannot have my cake and eat it, too. Not everyone is going to be happy with my choices or recognize and respect them as the mark of being an adult. Not everyone is going to see reason the way I see it. And not everyone is going to stick around when my decision to take responsibility for my life means to say and think and be and do what they do not agree with.

At that point, I have a choice. I can go back to victimhood, change myself to suit their opinions, and silently blame them for "forcing" me to live in a box. Or I can own my choices. I can recognize that if I live in a box shaped by their criticisms, it is I who have chosen to take their specifications and build the box with my own hands. I can be who I am and accept their choice to not hang around as the consequence of my choices.

I happen to like not being a victim.

I need to find a quote from one of Alice Walker's novels, either The Color Purple or The Temple of My Familiar. Paraphrased, it goes something like this, "Shug recognized that society, having not been arranged for her convenience, was owed none of her loyalty." The longer I shake off the victimhood ingrained in me from my childhood, the more I understand, agree with, and live by that statement.
wlotus: (Peaceful)

There could be drama, but I found healthy ways to handle my angst. I gave my bathroom a thorough cleaning. I updated my photoblog. I made some calls. I clipped the cats' nails. I rescheduled hanging out with a friend who had to tend to an emergency at work. I intend to go out to the park for a ride in a little while.

I feel much better.

I always get thrown for a loop when uncomfortable feelings descend upon me. My first instinct is to run in circles and scream and shout, and not in the virtual way I sometimes joke about with my friends. But this time I hung onto my sanity, remained (somewhat) grounded in the midst of the emotional storm, and it passed. Just like the sun must set every day, so must emotional storms play themselves out, at some point. The question is how much damage will I do in the process of my emotions playing themselves out?

This time, the answer is, "None," and for that I am grateful.

Sunset from the West Side

Sunset from the West Side
18 April 2008

wlotus: (Princess)

Last night I dreamed a man was attacking me and a male friend. I was successfully blocking the attacker's blows and refused to give up my bags, which had my wallet and camera in them. First I told my friend to run while I fought the attacker. I fought off the attacker long enough to run after my friend, but the assailant caught up with me after I caught up with my friend. The attacker was not phased and began attacking both of us. I had wanted him to just back off and leave us alone, but he wouldn't.

Since that wasn't going to happen... )
wlotus: (Happy)

This morning I did laundry. Enrique helped me sort it.

And furry clothes go in this pile...

This afternoon I passed my exam and became a certified Microsoft Word 2003 Expert!

wlotus: (Happy)

For three weeks, now, I have been a full-time student, and I am loving it!

computer lab

Studying in the Mentored Learning Lab
6 February 2008

wlotus: (A Woman's Place)
A friend was recently laid off from a dead-end job with no warning. Furthermore, she was cheated out of some pay and a bonus. After applying for unemployment, she applied for an accredited online university, breezed through the college entrance exam with flying colors, and was subsequently accepted into a bachelor's degree program in information technology. She will complete her degree in just under three years.

Another friend was being underpaid, overworked, and verbally abused on her dead-end job. In the middle of one of her boss' "I'm not trying to be mean, but..." speeches she quit, marched herself to the nearby city, and turned her interest in construction into enrollment in a 6-month training program. She is excelling in her training and will finish the first level in ten weeks. She intends to take a course in pediatrics when she is done, and the second level of construction training when she is done with that.

Being acquainted with people like them inspires me to keep going with my long-range goals. I ran into a hiccup in my plans yesterday, and after some sadness I am back in the saddle at double the speed with a new focus. There is progress, and behold, it is good.

When people aim to piss on us, we don't stand still!
wlotus: (Face)
One of our secretaries retired today. She has always supported my artistic endeavors--she is artistic herself!--and especially loved the photos I've made of Enrique. For a farewell gift I gave her an 8.5"x11" print of one of her favorite shots of him. At the advice of a friend, I also gave her a set of notecards featuring another of her favorite shots of him.

You would have thought I had handed her a couple hundred dollars, she was so excited. She *loves* them, especially the cards. I had told her and the other secretary I had just started my own line of note cards, and this was their first chance to see them first-hand. The other secretary hugged me and told me she is proud of me. Their responses made my morning.

As a bonus, another woman who had stopped by was so impressed, she copied my shop's URL from the back of one of the note cards. That photo isn't up yet; it will be part of the batch of nine new designs I intend to release this weekend. I'm excited by her interest!

After work I need to pick up more cards and my business cards. If someone stops me in the street or on a train (where I am often seen crocheting) and asks about an iPod cozy, I need an easy way to direct them to my shop. Business cards are the way to go.
wlotus: (Photography)

Lately I've felt frustrated with the glacial pace at which certain areas of my life are moving. Several patient souls encouraged me to focus more on the other areas of my life, on areas where I can see progress and where I get joy. Photography is one of those areas. I've been working a lot on my camera and digital darkroom techniques since September, and I can see a marked improvement.

I spent yesterday afternoon in the NY Botanical Gardens with the NYC Digital Photography Meetup Group and uploaded several shots to the group's album last night. This morning I woke up to compliments here and there, and I realized something: making pictures others appreciate as much as I do fulfills me in a way nothing else does. So while I will continue to work towards my goals in other areas of my life, continuing to develop my photography will be my primary focus. My technical career feeds my pockets, and that is necessary to support myself (for now, at least), but photography feeds my soul.

Last night I uploaded my favorite shots from the Botanical Gardens to my Fotki account. I am spending a good chunk of today editing and organizing my photos. When I looked at several slideshows of some of my earlier albums, I immediately saw edits I could make which would improve those shots. The edits are simple crops, but they make a world of difference.

Thanks for the compliments. They, along with my photos themselves, inspire me.

polar bear

Bronx Zoo, 24 February 2007


wlotus: (Default)

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