Monday, March 30, 2015

Real Life Practice

Today I got the call.  I haven't totally processed it yet, but indeed, my instincts were correct.  No dice, they want someone more experienced.

That is likely code for "man you really blew it but it'd be rude to say so..." and I saw it coming.

Does that soften the blow?  I don't know.  I'm telling myself that it softens the blow, but what is the truth?  That I'm crushed?  That I'm struggling with self doubt?  That I believe I'm trapped in a substandard job and reporting to a petty dictator who changes the rules as I go?  Or does it mean that better opportunities are waiting, that this wasn't the right time right now?  That I still have important lessons to learn?  That my current employer needs me more than before?  That given a bit more time, I will be even more valuable to my next employer?  That somewhere over the rainbow, there are bluebirds flying?

So, it's time to practice resilience.  Again.  I've gotten quite good at it, actually.  Lots, and lots, and lots of practice.

The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle of the extremes.  I am not dying from the rejection, but it stings.  I do not feel thrilled with this result, and nor was I dying for yet another character building life lesson.  I do not feel diminished to nothing, but I feel the rejection, and I'm shaken.

I have lived through enough of these ups and downs in my life to know that it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (or, if you prefer more original sourcing, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" - whether you prefer Kelly Clarkson or Nietzsche it works for me).  I could have died many times, and I have lived, not because I am better, but because, well, I did.  Yes, I have fought hard to regain my life, both after cancer and after divorce, and yes I'm proud of the work that I've done, but some of it is pure luck, and I know that.  I am alive and okay, so I'm lucky.

But all of this unintentional and unasked for practice has built up some really, really good resiliency skills.

Tonight I've kicked off my shoes.  I'm writing it out.  As luck would have it, another gymnastics mom was on schedule to take Katherine to gymnastics, so I have two hours to myself.  There is an episode of The Good Wife that I haven't watched yet.

I don't know yet where this will land, but I'm going to be okay.


How to be resilient:

1)  Do your best.  That way when it all comes crashing down you have some integrity to fall back on.
2)  Look at all of the crappy things that have ever happened to you.  Realize that you lived.  Know that if you survived them, you can survive whatever disaster you're in the middle of.
3)  Figure out what you're grateful for.  Tattoo it on your brain.  Repeat it ad nauseam.  "I have a comfortable home, and incredible daughter, and good health.  My friends love me.  I have a great education and a good network...." and so on.  When you run out of big things, aim at the little ones.  "I'm glad that the trees are bursting into blossom, that I got up early to go on a run, that I got caught up on the laundry this weekend."
4)  Do a little self care.  Yesterday I had my first pedicure in almost a year (? is that when? I can't remember) and today I got my brows done (painful, but I like the results).
5)  Get out and sweat.  Seriously, work it out.  Pant.  Sweat.  Gasp for air.  Feel the burn.  It'll distract you.
6)  Repeat.  Over, and over, and over, until something changes.  Your mood will change, and you won't care so much, or life will change, and it will become irrelevant, or just enough time will pass that the wound will become a scar.  Scars are hot, right?
7)  When you're sick of repeating because it is tedious and it's not fucking working then you have to keep repeating.  (This is a good time to add a bit of wine, if it doesn't prevent you from getting up early the next day to sweat it out.  Run hard.  Run until you think you're going to barf.  That means you're getting close.)

Somehow, this works.  If it was easy, people would be more resilient, and we all see how they are not.

But I am.  I have nearly perfected resiliency, despite my best efforts to avoid it.  But hey, it's not a bad skill to have.

So I've got that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I'd like to tell you that I'm a Zen master and that Acceptance is my middle name.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Despite chronic optimism, I too am prone to doubt, fear, and most of all, fighting reality, trying to will things into being the way I want them, rather than the way they are.

(Case in point: my marriage.  There were some pretty serious signs that it was over before it began, but I told myself that if I just tried harder I could make it wonderful.  We all know how that ended, 13 years later, in divorce.)

I think I really blew my interview on Friday.  I won't go into the details, but please know that I'm not just being hard on myself, there were several missteps.  I could have done better, and I'm sure of that.  I know that I did not effectively convey what I wanted to convey, and that the interviewers (two of them) seemed to receive me rather coolly, and not with warmth.  I got rattled on one question, and on the others I didn't quite get to the essence of the answers.  It was an off day, not indicative of my skills.

Instant panic.

Over the weekend, I tried to come to terms with what I did and did not do well.  I've looked at it from every angle, and concluded that it is possible, or likely, that the last interviewers would not have been impressed by me.  Given that they're the head honchos, it would not surprise me if the job was not offered to me.

I do not exactly feel acceptance about this.  After the panic came sadness.  I thought this was the perfect job, such a good fit for both sides.  I've done so well in the interviews up until now, I really had a great chance at it!

But now the odds are not in my favor, and I have to find a way to accept that.

It's not easy to accept what we do not wish to accept.  I want to protest, and say, "NO!" the way a toddler does.  I want to snatch at the object, claiming "MINE!" and marching away with it.  Of course, this won't work. (It doesn't even work for toddlers; their mothers come along and say "now, now, give the truck back to Tommy" and such.)  Like a toddler, I want to lie on the floor and kick and yell "But I waaaaaaaannnnnnnt it!"

Of course that won't help.

So now I'm trying to see the good in all of this, trying to cultivate an acceptance that I don't quite feel.

Trying to imagine the job that is an even better fit for me.
Trying to picture what I can accomplish in my current job before I move on.
Trying to see what lessons are to be learned in this situation.
Trying to embrace all of the goodness in my life, and let the goodness outshine the shadow.

I haven't heard back anything officially, but my intellect and gut both say that I blew it.  It is what it is.

So, now I'm working with my heart, trying to soothe my own disappointment, to imagine a different future, to make the best of where I am.  I guess that's what acceptance is: it's simply refusing to throw the tantrum.  It's not a lack of feeling, it's a choice to guide my feelings rather than letting them flood me.  The older I get, the more that I see how this approach is useful, and gives me what I really want.

Crying over cancer just made me....drained.  Fighting cancer made me feel powerful.
Avoiding the problems in my marriage made them worse.  Confronting them gave me hope.
Fighting to keep my marriage made me exhausted.  Ending my marriage gave me my life back.

I wanted to be healthy, to have a romantic partnership based on trust and caring.  Wanting those things did not make them come true, though, and acknowledging that was the first step towards healing.

Sure, I fight acceptance, spinning in my bed at night wondering "what if" and "if only", but I know that my best course is to work on acceptance.

Who knows what the future will bring.  I will work hard to bring goodness to my life, to nurture the goodness already in my life.  There are sure to be many more curve balls, of course, and I will strive to accept them.

Today, I'm working on acceptance.*

*and also checking my phone every three minutes to see if they've called.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

When Good Things Happen

Life is so full of crazy that sometimes it's easy to keep an eye out for the next catastrophe, large or small, lurking around the corner.  Having survived cancer, divorce, and unemployment, I don't have to think too long and hard about what such a scare might look like.

But right now, I'm envisioning something quite the opposite of all of that.  I'm allowing myself to really envision the good things happening, the life that may be mine to make.

Yesterday's interview was nothing short of spectacular.

The V.P., on the telephone many states away, clearly loved me.  She spent a little while asking me tough questions, and she clearly loved my answers.  She then spent the rest of the interview letting me ask questions, and giving me a pretty fantastic sales pitch about the organization in return.  She asked me questions about start dates, and salary, and she said things like, "I think you have just the skills we've been looking for" and "I would be there to support you, and I'd fly out to introduce you to my connections" and other incredibly positive things.  She told me that those I'd interviewed with previously loved me, and had really great things to say about me.  She said that the man who would be my boss (who reports to her) was an incredibly smart, down to earth person and one of her favorites; she told me how much I would like him.

Up until now, I have really felt like I was the long shot candidate, and that a million different problems could get in the way of me getting this job.  I knew that I could do it, but I also knew that it might not happen.

Well, there still isn't an offer on the table, but I'm thinking that it could happen.  That it is LIKELY to happen.  That they are chasing me just as much as I am chasing them.

That in six weeks, my life might undergo another huge change, this one all for the best.


The biggest change that I'm undergoing is believing that not only will I survive, and find something that works, but that the scramble to stay afloat has ended, and that amazing things lie ahead.  That my surprises are the good kind, and not the scary kind.

This job would come with a 50% raise.  The funny thing about that number is that the money isn't what draws me to the job, it's just a lovely side effect.  I'm drawn to the job because it's my passion, and because I believe that it would take my talents and put them in position to make a real difference with my life.  I'm drawn to the job because I'd be fighting cancer professionally, and because that fight might one day save my own life, or my daughter's.  I'm drawn to the job because I'd be working with people at the tops of their fields, smart people that I'd like to be friends with; passionate people.  I'm drawn to the job because they've got a great infrastructure that would allow me to focus on the things that matter to me, rather than the running around in circles that I often do in my current job (don't even ask me about battles with my printer last week - the amount of effort I spent making things print properly and in bulk was atrocious!).

I want this job because I'm passionate about the work, and because I want to work with other people who are as passionate as I am, in a great work environment.  I want to show up to the office every day excited about what I do, and who I do it with.

But I also want the money.

I want to save for retirement and college.  I want to go on little vacations involving airplanes.  (Oh, how I long for travel, near and far!)  I want to know that when something goes wrong with the house - the furnace, the roof, plumbing, whatever - that I can fix it.  I want to replace my tires when they need replacing.  I want Katherine to get the next phase of orthodontia.  And sure, I'd love some great new shoes and pencil skirts - why not?!

I don't need to roll in money; I don't plan on buying myself jewelry, or fancy cars.  (My current car is uber fancy to me.  Did I mention that it's a Subaru Forester?  I don't want a Rolls Royce, or even a Lexus.  I want a car that's safe and comfortable, and takes me skiing, or hiking, or camping, and I've got that.)  I don't need to buy a bigger house, and I don't need to upgrade all of my furniture.  But when I go to the art walk, I'd like to buy some fun art for my walls; I'd like to go grocery shopping without wincing at the total bill.

I think that the odds of this job happening, opening all of these doors for me, are good.  Great, even.  Every single interview (three informal, three formal) has gone exceedingly well, beyond my expectations, and I've got all of these people pushing to hire me, saying that I've got what it takes.  Who am I not to believe them?  I choose to believe them.

Maybe I'm just as good as they say I am.  Maybe it's time I started living up to my potential.

I'm ready for this.  I'm ready to join a bigger part of the world.  I'm ready to have a chain of good things happen.  I'm ready for the next phase of my life.  I can't wait!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I will, or I won't.

Tomorrow is my next interview: my third formal interview (after three informal interviews) for The Dream Job.  I'm nervous: how could I not be?  I have far less than the 5-7 years of experience suggested in the job description...and I really, really, really want this job.  It would be a major pay raise, but more than that it would be working for an organization that I deeply believe in, doing work that is personally meaningful to me.

And here's the thing: I will either get it, or I won't.  Tomorrow's interview will go well, or it won't.  This is the job, or it it isn't.  I will put my heart into it, I've put a lot of effort into my career these past few years, and I will give it my all.

And then it's out of my hands.

There is always someone more qualified.  Someone who knows more people than I do (and in my career, networking matters!).  Someone who is prettier, smarter more polished.  There's always someone better dressed, with one more degree than I have, with one more reference.  I could panic about that, of course - I really REALLY want this job, and what if one of those "more"people swoops in and takes what I want so much?

Then it will be okay.  I will cry a bit, or feel sad, or mourn in some other way, and then I will be fine.  I'll go back to my not-perfect job and keep working, and I'll look at the next opportunity.

This is how life goes, and I've come to the realization that it's the same for all of us: it works, or it doesn't.  Good things happen, or bad things happen.  But the thing is, sometimes these things are totally out of our control, no matter how well we do the right thing,'s okay.

I ate organic food.  I breastfed my daughter for 13 months.  I maintained a healthy weight.  I exercised.  I never smoked.  And yet?  I got breast cancer anyway.  And then I hoped that I would only need a lumpectomy, but they ended up removing both of my breasts, and then some, and I was somehow still okay.  I wept, I mourned, but here I am.  My fake breasts aren't very pretty (that's an understatement) but they don't define me, except as reminders of how strong I had to be to do all of that.  I lost all those battles - getting cancer, losing breasts - and yet I am alive.

I met a man, I married him, I promised to love, honor, and cherish.  I kept my promise, but he did not keep his.  I mourned, I wept, I bought lingerie, I tried turning the other cheek, I did counseling, I stood up for myself, I worked hard on being a better wife and a better person, I encouraged him to be his best and happiest self.....and I got a divorce anyway.  He did not love me (or at least he certainly didn't behave like he did!), and I did not die of the heartache of being unloved.

It works, or it doesn't.  What's amazing is that we have so much invested in things working out the way that we hoped, and yet often it doesn't work out in our favor....and we're okay.  Somehow, despite the disappointments and pain and loss, time just continues, and the world spins, and somehow we are still a part of that world, and it's okay.

I want this job.  I want it so badly that it's a bit frightening, actually.  But if I don't get it, time will go on.  I will continue mothering my daughter, with love and joy.  I will sit by the sea and marvel at the waves on the pebbles, such a soothing sound.  I will go for hikes, I will write stories, I will walk my dog, I will drink wine with girlfriends.  Whatever happens, as long as I'm here and Katherine and I are healthy....I am okay.

But I'm still hoping for the yes.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Small Pleasures

Right now I'm waiting for something big: I want this job I'm going after, and waiting is incredibly difficult.

And yet....

And yet, no matter what is going on in my life, life marches on.  Some of that marching is incredibly painful, because some of life is incredibly painful, but I count myself among the lucky ones because most of my life is pretty damn easy.


Did I just say that?

Today I went to a benefit for an organization that provides diapers and other necessities to families living in poverty.  One of the speakers was a client of theirs: a young mother who had spent eight years of her life homeless.  Six months ago, she, her husband, and their five year old son were still living in a car.  Now they have an apartment - and a four month old baby.  She said she loves her new home, but sometimes she still feels homeless because the apartment is so empty of things.  Her son does not have a bed to sleep in.  And yet, she spoke of gratitude.  She had the courage to stand in a room of over 600 people and tell her painful story of need and humility.

My life is easy.

I had cancer (past tense).  And I had a huge support system to get me through it.  I got divorced (past tense).  And I had a huge support system to get me through it.  I have a meaningful job, even if I want a better one.  My daughter is well adjusted (while I was at the benefit, she stayed home and did homework).  I had to turn down social engagements this weekend because I could only fit so many things in; it's impossible to do it all.

My life is easy.  No matter how difficult some days are, I need to remember that.  My life is easy.  Education, family, friends, health.  Enough money to cover the basics of Maslow's pyramid; more money than many people in the world ever see, even when I'm living paycheck to paycheck.

My life is easy.

This weekend has been filled with small pleasures of ease.  Katherine had a friend over on Friday, and we went out to pizza.  On Saturday we did a day trip to a local island, and we hiked in sunshine, explored a bookstore, beachcombed, rode a ferry....all with friends.  We went in my shiny new car, which I never ever cease to be amazed by.  We slept in this morning, and then Katherine REALLY slept in, and I did chores, including cleaning out my closet and organizing it.

Never underestimate the beauty of an organized closet.

Sitting on the edge of my bed, the closet open, makes me smile today.  Tidy piles of sweaters and jeans; blazers lined up and facing the same way; scarves and gloves and hats in bins.  The order is appealing - so easy to choose an outfit when it's all organized! - and the matching wood hangers are a frivolous luxury that gives me a crazy amount of happiness (they make me feel like such a grown up!).  But the fact that I have a grown up wardrobe makes me happy, too.  I have enough; I have more than enough.  I have work clothes, and weekend clothes, and sporty clothes, and warm jackets, and fancy clothes.  I have casual dresses, professional dresses, and cocktail dresses.  I have heels, and flats, and boots, and running shoes, and sandals, and more.  I am prepared for sun, or snow, or rain.

I have enough.  I have more than enough.

I like to flip through Vogue magazine and look at pretty pictures of people far more beautiful than myself, wearing outfits that cost more than I make in a month, in locations I've never been able to visit.  It would be easy to compare myself to them (hey! I just did!) and feel bad about myself (but I don't).  I don't need to fit into Vogue's pages, and I never will, because though I enjoy the glossy perfection and the crazy quirky fashion (who wears that stuff, anyway?!), it's just eye candy and a bit of inspiration for the shape of a heel or a hemline or a color palette that I DO have access to.

I have enough.

Today, I'm taking in the small pleasures.  The blooms on the camelia bush, the dish of seashells (all collected on various walks), the fat candles I have burning on a Sunday evening as I wind down here and write to you,  The joy of a closet newly cleaned and organized, orderly and practical, and a reminder of how much I have, and how lucky I am.

Who knew that a closet could make me feel so good?  Not I, but I will take my pleasures where I can find them.  Lucky me, that I can.