The moon mocks me
We stare at each other
Round, proud faces
What have you done?
She asks, shining brightly against filmy darkness
Plenty, I counter
She blinks, winks, at my audacity
And slinks slowly against the horizon
When I was a little girl, my family lived in a house with a big back yard. Most of the backyard was nicely landscaped and manicured, but at the very back edge of the property was a dirt slope that was prone to weeds. In the summer mornings, my parents would herd all five kids outside with paper grocery bags, and tell us we couldn’t come inside until we had each filled a bag of weeds.
I don’t think this was cruel and unusual punishment. In fact, thinking about it now, I think it was pretty clever. Those long summer months, with five kids to occupy, must have been stressful to my poor mom. Of course we took summer school (yes, children, in the dark ages, there used to be school in the summer). We had ballet lessons and swimming lessons and went to the park and the beach, all that. But three long months to come up with activities to keep a pack of kids from killing each other, I think today’s modern moms might blanch at the idea.
Anyway, once we were assigned to our garden duties, my older brothers would dutifully start pulling weeds and working towards filling their bags. But Wendy and I had another solution. We would fill our bags about an inch or two from the top with dirt, and then sprinkle a handful of weeds over it, like icing on a cake. We would then present our bags to the warden, I mean, my mom, and would be allowed back in the house to play with our Barbies.
As an adult, I have owned two houses, both with large yards. And I have enjoyed pulling a weed here and there. There’s something really satisfying about pulling a big old weed out by the roots. I walk my yard every day or so, looking for weeds, clipping and trimming flowers, and generally think I do a good job of maintaining the property (with the help of gardeners, who come by once a week to mow and blow).
This weekend, my parents were over, and we toured the yard. My stepmom looked at one of the flower beds and mentioned, wow, you have a ton of weeds here. And I looked down and saw to my horror, that the whole path was lined with weeds. And not weeds that had suddenly appeared. They had obviously been sprouting for some time, and my myopic Mr. Magoo like scope had failed to see them. Suddenly, I was horrified, and felt that I had failed at maintaining my property. I vowed to spend time every day out there working until I had yanked every weed.
Last night, I was talking to Kerry, and shared with her a decision I had made yesterday regarding a career option. She didn’t agree with my decision, and explained why. And while I stood by my choice, as soon as I got off the phone, I felt awful. I felt full of doubt, about my decision, about my future, about the weeds in my garden. I know it sounds like an overreaction, and it probably was. Kerry is incredibly supportive of me, and certainly didn’t intend to set the swirl in motion. And she didn’t, I did it all by myself.
But doubt is a weed. It can grow quickly, and when you aren’t looking, it can choke your mind and your faith. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be open to critical comments and feedback, or even differing opinions. You must be. But, you also have to make a decision to stand by your choices and not let yourself second guess. You have to pull the doubt out by the roots, so it can’t grow back or take over your life when you aren’t looking. I’m headed out to the yard now, to finish pulling the weeds that have sprouted. And, I’m not filling a bag with dirt with weed icing either.
The end, for now
Next week I am participating in a focus group discussion on beauty aids. As part of my pre-work, I had to write a paragraph to my twenty year old self, about what I did as a younger woman to take care of my skin, and what I would want to say to myself about beauty in general. Here’s what I wrote:
First of all, I want you to understand how beautiful you are. I know you don’t always feel that way, but trust me, 20 year old self, in 30 years you will look back and regret that you didn’t have the self-confidence to appreciate how lovely you were. Second, keep moisturizing! Every day, twice a day. Always wash your face before you go to bed, wear sunscreen, and stay out of the sun. I know you think you look better with a tan, and sure you look nice with a healthy glow, but in the future you will pay the price with wrinkles and sun spots. Don’t do it!
That set me to thinking what else I might want to say to 20 year old Kathi. I have no great romantic longing to be 20 again. In fact, in spite of bumps along the way, I think now is the best time, the time where I feel the best and brightest. And sure, I would love to weigh what I did back then, and have fresh skin. But I wouldn’t trade the confidence and knowledge that life has provided for a dewy complexion and small waistline. So, here’s the rest of my note to self:
If there’s only one thing I can tell you, is that everything is going to work out. No matter what, no matter what life hands you, you will survive and thrive. Don’t be afraid, and for goodness sakes, take some risks! Keep your family close and your friends closer—in 30 years, they will still be your core. Work hard, play hard, keep laughing. Try to be as healthy in your habits as you can. Stay open to adventure, stay open to love, stay open to life. Be easy to work with, talk to. Trust your instincts, they will guide you well. If and when adversity strikes, don’t be a worm. Acknowledge your fears and keep going. You will be fine. I promise.
p.s. I love you very much! It took me some time to get that right, but when it happened, everything else pretty much fell into place.
It’s an interesting exercise; I encourage you to try it yourself. And, whatever you do, don’t forget to moisturize.
The end, for now
It’s been almost a month since I was laid off, and it hasn’t been an easy one. I have worked very hard at remaining positive and moving forward, but you know, that in itself is damn hard work!
If you’re used to being busy, and overscheduled, as I was, it’s a real shock to the system to have to create a deliberate path to each day. I’ve learned the hard way, that for me, a day without a plan is a day where it’s too easy to give in to the doubt and clouds that perpetually swirl around you. A mind without purpose is a mind that can too openly welcome negative thoughts and feelings. And the outside working world, that world that I so blithely belonged to a short month ago, suddenly seems distant and so desired.
One of the things I have been doing to both keep occupied and on task, has been to take advantage of many of the classes and programs offered by the job counseling service that came with my layoff. So, several times a week, I dress myself in “business interview attire” and drive over to an office in Woodland Hills, where for the pleasure of paying $8 to $15 a pop for parking, I have learned the following lessons:
- No-one gets a job by applying online (I got my previous job by applying online)
- 80% of all job hires are done through networking (hi, have we met?)
- I may have harmed my chances to become employed by posting a profile picture of myself that showed I was in a kitchen (professional people don’t eat? That may be where I went wrong)
- At the age of 51, with 25 years plus professional and management experience, I have to be concerned that I am an “older” worker and therefore not as desireable in the job market (but I feel so young at heart)
I also attended a Career Fair last week, where every single recruiter asked me the same question: Have you applied to our company online? (see bullet point above).
Okay, enough with the negative. The past 4 weeks hasn’t been all grim, not by any means. I have spent time with my sister, laughed with my BFF, lunched with friends, seen a movie in the daytime with my dad. I held a garage sale, cleaning out my studio and earning a few coins. I have spent time in the yard, ruthlessly weeding and pruning. I started working out, and haven’t stopped, currently three weeks solid of 120 minutes a week of hard cardio, plus weights and other excercises.
I have read several books, mostly pleasure reading, but also Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. Not sure I agree with everything she has written, but it’s given me food for thought. I have had the time to think. I haven’t panicked (yet), and have stayed reasonably calm and optimistic. I have written, fiction and fact, and finally started the blog I have been thinking about for years.
I have survived. I’m hoping for the sprint, but preparing for the marathon. Every day, I wake up, make a plan, and keep moving forward. It’s a job, it’s my job, and I am perfectly suited for the role.
The end, for now