We are Not Alone

But I do hope there are a few who find inspiration in my authenticity, connection in my vulnerability,  and value in my narrative, for this is how we, as humans, understand each other. This is how we, as humans, recognize that we are not alone.

wordsmithstudios.org

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.  When I was a kid and would spend weekends at my grandmothers, my cousins would give me a hard time for having my nose stuck in a book.

“You’re such a bookworm,” they would razz.

wordsmithstudios.org
Remember Sweet Valley High? I read a few…

It’s true.   I can’t stay awake long enough to read an ACTUAL book these days, though.  Instead I listen to audio books I borrow from the library.  I have listened to hundreds of them.  Audio books are an even better choice for  me since they feed my need to multi-task.  I can listen and drive, listen and fold laundry, listen and paint…It is so satisfying to do something you love while you do something you hate–listen and clean, for example.

I  also really like quotes.  Inspirational quotes or funny quotes, sports quotes…it doesn’t matter.  There  is always a quote out there that communicates whatever message I want to send.  I used quotes to send messages of inspiration when I worked with students in my old job.  I had a student who was in jail at one point and that was our thing; I sent him a special quote, one I thought he would identify with and encourage him to hang in there.

Also at my old job,  I would get a quote a day from this website called Values.com.  If I got a quote I particularly liked, I sent it out to the rest of the colleagues in our department.  You know, I thought it was a nice thing to share.  One day my supervisor was like, “So what’s up with the quotes anyway?  Who do you think we are, Hallmark?”

wordsmithstudios.org
One of my favorite quotes by Nelson Mandela

I stopped forwarding them after that.  Clearly, he didn’t appreciate my inspiration.  Ha!

When my goal of being a teacher crashed and burned–that was during my senior year of college  (a  story for a later blog) I got to experience a fifth year of college.  I’m sure many of you can relate to the 5 year plan, right?

For me,  a 5th year of school was one of the best things that ever happened.   I played another year of basketball, I met my husband, and I enrolled in a bunch of writing classes.

I wasn’t interested in writing, but my  life had just blown up.  The only career choice I had ever known was off the table.  And I was an English major!  The only classes  left in my major were writing or communications classes.  So writing it was.

I also spent extra time in class with my basketball teammate and now world-famous, Andrea Gibson.  If you don’t know who she is, you should google her.  She was awesome in college and I am glad the world knows her now, too.  Granted, we had no idea she was such a talented writer and performer, but we were not surprised to learn of it.  She is pretty awesome.

The discovery that I actually enjoyed writing  wasn’t a HUGE  surprise either.  College was the gift that kept on giving.  I was finding out more and more about myself and I just added writing to the list.

So far, I discovered that on the court I could, in fact, play defense in addition to shooting a helluva 3-point shot.   I sucked at teaching. Not really, but you know, long story.   I was really an extrovert (who knew?!).  Boys kinda dug me, in fact there was even this one boy who really, REALLY dug me (except he was shorter than me), I was going to have student loans for the rest of my life, and I STILL had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But hey, at least I could write.  *sigh*

Well, flash forward 20 years later and here I am,  married to that short boy with 2 kids,  both of whom, at 12 and 18 are taller than he, a topic which is also a fun discussion in our home.

That short boy (he will love reading about himself being called this) also led me to something else I love: My Etsy Shop.

My Etsy shop is something I have grown to love more than I could ever begin to write about.  Maybe that’s because Andrea and I skipped the class that focused on emotional descriptors.  Or, more likely it’s because the description has become way more than words can describe.   Andrea and I only skipped one class and we got in trouble for it. The nuns at my college did not appreciate skippers.  Especially skippers who were on the basketball team.  Welp.

I have told this story before, but pre-Etsy life, Corey (that’s my husband’s actual NAME), was working at the one casino we have in our community.  He  worked there for a number of years. He had been promoted several times, was making decent money, and earned himself decent bonus checks each year.

The money was nice, but the bonus checks, ROCKED.  We used those for our extras.  Paid off a car, went on vacation, remodeled our house… But Corey hated the job.  It was really stressful.  He worked long days.  He was on-call when he wasn’t working.  He worked weekends and holidays–holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He put on a lot of weight because he would stress eat.  He wasn’t healthy.  He wasn’t happy.

I encouraged him to look for another job, but he was reluctant because the pay and the benefits were so good.  He was the provider, after all.

Finally push came to shove and Corey had a choice.  The casino was downsizing.  He could take another position or he could be laid off.

He chose to be done.  It was the best choice.  But that left us a little out of control.  And that’s not good for me.  I like to fix, remember?   I’m a fixer.  I am the Olivia Pope of the Smith family.

Side note:  Except I am not this season’s Olivia Pope.  I am not Command.  I wear and will always wear the white hat.

My fixing brought me to Etsy.  I had done a little research.  Quotes and words on signs was just becoming big; there wasn’t much of it being done by hand.  I had done a little painting here and there.  I had nice hand writing.  I figured, what the hell?

wordsmithstudios.org
One of the first 8 paintings I put up on Etsy. No one ever bought it. Hahaha

And I launched WorDSMITHstudios.

The first paintings I did were horrible.   I look back at them now and I can’t even believe it.  I think Corey was thinking I was a little crazy, too.  Crazy like, whothehellisgoingtobuythatshit, crazy.   Even still, I sold my first painting the very first day I went live.  And I have been painting ever since.

The biggest surprise, and I continue to be surprised, is that I expected Etsy sales to be a transaction on a website, a sale between 2 people who never meet, talk, or interact. However, it has been so much more than that. 

Etsy is about relationships.  It has been about sharing stories about loved ones or about love lost.  It has been about connecting over children and the challenges we have in raising them, about being moms and feeling guilty when we work, or when we don’t.

wordsmithstudios.org
Some of the work I am doing now. MUCH better.

Etsy has been about supporting each other in our craft, looking out for each other and the work we do to create  a community of talent and sharing it with others across the world.

I am not going to get rich off my art.  That’s ok.  But I will be rich in my soul from the tremendous amount of fulfillment the love of this craft brings me.

It’s the same kind of fulfillment writing this blog brings me.  I won’t be a famous writer.  Thousands of people won’t read my thoughts.  I certainly won’t be going on tour with Andrea any time soon, sharing her stage with my spoken word.  But I do hope there are a few who find inspiration in my authenticity, connection in my vulnerability,  and value in my narrative, for this is how we, as humans, understand each other.

This is how we, as humans,  recognize that we are not alone.

This is how we create relationships and relationships are where we find meaning in our lives.  It’s where we find love, happiness,and hope.

Because life is about relationships.

I Used to Be Somebody

I used to be somebody.   I was challenging people as if I had everything together and knew it all, had it all, had The Universe by the balls. What do I do now that I am a nobody?

wordsmithstudios
I used to be somebody

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

When I was working it was a question I asked of  the young people who sat across from me.  These young, insecure, anxious kids were afraid–afraid of failing and afraid of succeeding.  Often I would challenge them with what seemed to me like a simple task, perhaps it was to make a phone call or to arrive to class or work on time or to ask a question during a meeting.

I would say, “Why don’t you ask that question at your next meeting?” or “Why don’t you call your caseworker/RA/supervisor/landlord and ask?” So often the answer would be:

“I can’t.”

What would you do if you knew you could not fail? 

I have challenged my son the same way, though probably not with the exact same question.   He is is smarter than both my husband and I and very outgoing and articulate.

Frankly, being smarter than me isn’t a huge accomplishment, but my husband, HE is pretty smart.  He won’t admit it, but he kinda has a photographic memory.  I say ‘kinda’ because he often forgets when I ask him to do something, like pick up the shit he leaves laying around or that yesterday I told him why I had to leave early today.  But he remembers almost everything he Googles and reads on Facebook.  And judging by the time he spends on both of those, he has A LOT of stuff stored up in that absorbent, photographic brain of his.

Corey’s excuse about not picking up his mess or remembering my schedule is that I never told him in the first place.  That’s stupid and totally his way of messing with me– if I am questioning myself, I can’t blame him.  (Smart, right??)

Did I really forget to tell him to pick up his crap or did I just say it in my head??  Well…who cares!?  He is a grown man;  he should know better.  That’s my go-to argument anyway.  All the while I am questioning myself in my head because I do have a memory problem and forget just about everything I don’t write down on my hand.

Anyway, Kobe is really smart.  The kid loves documentaries and has watched everything he can on Netflix.  So between that, YouTube, and his iPhone, he has harnessed the internet to educate himself and man, he just KNOWS things.  I shake my head in amazement everyday.

He is also incredibly articulate.

Me as keynote speaker during a local chamber awards dinner

And he does really great in school except for one subject: writing.  There is a reason for this, but it’s a long story and doesn’t really matter.  What matters is he hates his class and doesn’t like to ask for help.  The teacher will specifically ask the students if anyone needs help and he won’t ask for help.  If I ask him why,  he just says,

“I can’t.”

*sigh.*

wordsmithstudios; I used to be somebody
When I was in NYC to present at the Federal Reserve

“I can’t,” is so hard for me to hear.  I’m a fixer.  If there is an issue, I hate not being able to FIX IT.   If a challenge comes up in conversation, ANY conversation, I immediately shift  into fix it mode.  My friends will want to vent to me and will have to preface the venting session  with, “Denise, I don’t want you to fix it.  I just want to vent.”  Because they know.  They know for me, it hurts to not SOLVE THE PROBLEM…to take action… to just fix it.

And so here I am, 45 and 3 months into unemployment.  In so many ways I am at peace.  I feel settled at home and continue to enjoy creating a relatively stress free home for my family.   When my husband leaves for work, he even asks what we are having for dinner.  Because he is excited about eating what I make.

Like, when has that ever happened in my 20 years of marriage?

(The answer to that is NEVER, friends.  It has never happened.)

Well, I recently listened to Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I am an audio book listener.  I can’t read anymore.  I just fall asleep.  But I can listen to audio books while I am painting or cleaning or cooking or driving.  So I have listened to a bazillion books.  I LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert.  I loved Eat, Pray, Love.   I connected with that book so deeply. I read it maybe 3 times.  I felt she was literally speaking to me when she wrote it.  I loved her take on spirituality, on God, on life.  I feel like we are friends.

In Big Magic, Liz also asks the question.  She asked me, “Denise, what would you do if you knew you could not fail?  Would you trust yourself, your talents, your work?  Would you put yourself out there and trust that The Universe will provide for you?”

I cried.  I have been busting my ass writing a blog barely anyone reads, marketing mediocre talent in an Etsy shop with mediocre sales.  I just started a PoshMark closet .  I work 10 hours a week for a non-profit that helps juveniles stay out of the justice system.  The most positive feedback I get in a day is that my dinner tasted good.

I used to be somebody.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

I think that’s what hit me the hardest.  I was asking that question to others and I was asking it while on some pedestal in a holier than thou spot in The Universe believing I was all that and a bag of chips.   Challenging people as if I had everything together and knew it all, had it all, had The Universe by the balls.

Because I was somebody.

What do I do now that I am a nobody?

And I Rise Above

Because I am a fighter.  I am a dreamer.  I am Dangerously Optimistic.  And I rise above.  

Above
I was having a bad day yesterday.

I  pride myself on my optimism.  I named my blog Chronicles of the Dangerously Optimistic, didn’t I? I mean, I am truly a glass half filled kind of gal.  I always see the good. I have gotten into trouble many times because I have failed to see the bad.  But yesterday, yesterday I was really feeling shitty. And it obviously showed in my blog post.

I am actually a little embarrassed.

Yesterday I wrote about my ReStart.  Lost my job; blessing in disguise.  You know the story.  The details were just intimate to me.  I wrote about my opportunities.  Annnnnd the challenges.  Because now it’s 2 months in and things are getting harder.  So I wrote about ReTiring from this. Stopping this…

Giving up.

I basically whined. I apologize to the people to read that post.

But I also truly feel like things happen for a reason.   The Universe, it does it’s thing.  So when I saw the word of the day today was “Above,”  I figured The Universe was giving me my chance for ReDemption.

 

Yesterday, I was ready to give up on blogging.  I was ready to give up on my goal to cultivate my Etsy business.  Yesterday, I was ready to cut bait and run as they say.

Artwork from my Etsy shop WorDSMITHstudios on Etsy.com

I think that’s what they say…

But I am not giving up.  Hell no.  I am just going to work harder.

Because I am a fighter.  I am a dreamer.  I am Dangerously Optimistic.

And I rise above.

We’ll need an arsenal if there is a zombie apocalypse.

America, gun violence is a thing.  Having too many guns IS A THING.  And America is known for it. Guns cannot be more important than human beings. Life is about relationships. Let’s start creating some.

Dear America,

I don’t know what’s happened to you. I watch the news and I see chaos.  I watch CNN and see clips of protests—protests I am used to watching happen in other countries—I read my Facebook feed and read friendships and families divided.  People are being deported, politicians can’t do their jobs, women are outing their harassers after (sometimes) YEARS of inexcusable behavior.  And our kids are afraid to go to school because they might get shot down as they learn their ABC’s or algebra.

Admittedly, America looks and feels a lot messier than we want it to, but I am thankful we still live in a free country.  It is nice to know that unless I am on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, just broke out of jail,  am criminally connected to the mafia or in some other gang related occupation, it’s unlikely I will ever NEED an assault rifle of any kind.

My son and I talk about that sometimes—how lucky we are.  We could have been born in a country at war like Afghanistan or Syria.  We could have been born into a country where we have NO rights like North Korea or even somewhere in Latin America where people just get murdered all the time (Wikipedia has the stats if you want to fact check). Those are places we would need an assault rifle. Multiple assault rifles and an arsenal of guns in our basement or better yet in the coat closet by the front door.  If we even had a door.  That would be a luxury too probably.   In one of those countries, we would be fighting for our family’s survival every day.

Oh, and we would need an arsenal if there were a zombie apocalypse.  I’m sure that is an argument someone will make.  Fortunately, it is still general consensus that the zombie apocalypse is not real despite how awesome the tv show is.

I know what I have described is mostly just reasonable thought and lacks statistics, so here is a short video my husband found on Facebook.  He spends a lot of time there watching cat videos since he is getting tired of the crazy shit going on in the news.  I encourage everyone, whatever you believe, to watch it BEFORE you revert to your standard go-to opinion on the gun debate.

https://www.facebook.com/Vox/videos/841874856000118/

Finished? If you are, and I hope you really did watch,  because you saw that yeah America, gun violence is a thing.  Having too many guns IS A THING.  And America is known for it.

And before you revert back to that go-to argument, America, think about how you would feel if it were YOUR son, daughter, wife, husband, loved one who was a victim of the violence?  Would you still say guns don’t kill people?  Would you still say we don’t need to change our situation?  Would you REALLY?

What are we going to do?

Desensitization is also a thing.  I dare say I speak for many Americans when I say I feel like I/we have become a bit desensitized to violence or to situations that don’t effect me directly.

I don’t play video games by the way, so we can’t blame them.

I do tend to compartmentalize things.  Sometimes that is THE only way I can manage my emotions—I put them away in a box in my head and lock them up.  My kids are safe and happy.  My world is safe and happy.  So my strategy has been to look at the TV, feel bad…and move on…

Until a few days ago, I am not even sure I would have written about something like this. Something so controversial and emotional.  Writing  about something so raw rattles at the lock on my compartment.

Except that during the news coverage of the Florida school shooting, I saw the news clips of students talking to the news and they said things like, and I am paraphrasing, “We knew he was going to shoot up the school one day,”  and  “I wasn’t surprised when I found out it was him.”

And that BLEW THE LOCK OFF THE COMPARTMENT.  My eyes bugged out of my head.  I got mad and sad.  Mad at myself.  Mad at the media.  Mad at a system who puts guns into the hands of anyone who wants one.

Quote from Parkland School Shooting survivor, Emma Gonzales

Sad for a system who let a young man become so angry he resorted to violence to be seen…to be recognized…to be heard.

Mad at the culture who just keeps chanting that guns don’t kill people.

Except that there are too many lives lost and too many guns.

I mean, REALLY?  This is where we are now?  We have become so complacent about our fellow classmates, students, friends, humans, that this is where we are?

Can’t we all just SEE each other?  Can’t we just LISTEN to each other? Can’t we put aside the radical thoughts and look at what is best for everyone?  What is best for the vulnerable?  What will keep people safe?  (and we know it’s not more guns). 

From Author Tom Digby https://www.facebook.com/tomdigby3/posts/1445953932167458

The victims of these crimes must be heard and must be examples on which we base our future.  “I hear you” needs to be far more than a talking point on a list held on a piece of paper by our President.  We need action that creates change and change that saves lives.

I am not pointing fingers and I don’t have a solution.

But I know people aren’t evil.  We have created these situations and we need to start looking at ourselves to fix them.

Listen to the victims of the crimes.  Listen to the broken.

America, guns cannot be more important than human beings.

Life is about relationships.  Let’s start creating some.

Respectfully,  A dangerously optimistic citizen feeling dangerously close to giving up on America’s ability to do the right thing

 

 

Out of the Closet

https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/worDSMITHstudios/
I’m working on it!

My newfound extra time has allowed me the opportunity to clean out areas of my house I haven’t been able to get to for awhile.  I have closets full of stuff I literally stuck in there so I didn’t have to look at it scattered about in the house. 

It’s ironic really, I mean, we laugh about my daughter and how she cleans her room by throwing everything in her closet.  So when she proudly announces, “look, I cleaned my room.” She is also saying, Do.NOT.look.in.the.closet!   

I guess I have been doing the same thing for years.   Don’t know where to put this basket?  I’ll just tuck it in the hall closet.  I’ll remember where I put it when I need it.  This quart of paint I don’t feel like trucking to the basement?  Hall closet.  The extra printer supplies for the printer with no ink? 
 
Yup.  Hall closet.  Now where did I put that basket that time…?
 
I have a pretty big house.  And the people who built it did a great job with storage.  I have a lot of closets and cabinet space.  Over these years as I picked up behind the kids or found shit I wasn’t ready to donate, I just stuck it in one of the many storage spots I had all around the house. 
 
If I don’t have to look at it, it doesn’t exist and if I don’t have to look at it, I can resume control of my life with a clean house and less stress.  I adapted the ‘Whatever Works’ philosophy.

Except it’s really still there.  The stress, I mean. The stress of knowing the hall closet and the bathroom closet and pantrys and every nook and cranny is full of crap that EVENTUALLY is going to need to be cleaned out.  Those things, piled up, are really still in the back of my mind. 

*Ohhh Dennnissse* (It’s the musical voice from inside my head) when are you going to get to cleaning out those closets and moving that crap to the basement?  And then when are you going to clean out the basement and take all that crap to Goodwill??? I am writing this as I look at my white board that also lists “clean out upstairs closet.” Like I literally need to nag MYSELF.  (As you can see, I also need to clean the top of my kitchen cabinets. They get really dusty and gross. Especially when they haven’t been wiped in like, 10 years…)  

 
And so here I am, again, unemployed and FINALLY I have time to go through all the CRAP I have collected over the years.  And what do I do?  I spend precious cleaning time reflecting because, of course there are so many things to look at as that cleaning out the closet becomes an all-day affair.   There are pictures the kids drew, cards they made for me, old photos, and of course, the old slate book. 
 
The ‘old slate book’?  Well, funny you should ask.  It’s kind of a long story, but it is all connected.  You may also be asking what this WorDSMITHstudios business is all about and why I said I am ‘back at blogging,’ when you only read my first post last week. 
 
Me looking like I can barely
fit through the bathroom door.

Well, a few confessions:

1.       I have a shop on Etsy.
2.       This is not my first painting gig.
3.      This is not my first blog. 
 
Not wildly surprising?  A bit of history for those just checking in:
I first started painting when I was pregnant with my daughter.  That was 1999.  Y2K was a thing and many thought the world was going to end.   My husband and I were happy and healthy,  living at and managing at a small camping resort in Western Maine. (papoosepondresort.com).  

We didn’t believe the world was going to end (sometimes the dangerously optimistic thing can rub off), so we got pregnant. 
 
Not only was I pregnant, but I was ENORMOUSLY pregnant.  Imagine a summer filled with all the ice-cream and candy and pizza you want literally RIGHT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS and available anytime, steps away from your front door.  Then imagine the freedom from guilt that comes when you are pregnant–I mean, you’re going to get fat anyway.  Why not eat what you want?  I spent that glorious summer getting back at every morsel of food that ever made me feel guilty when it crossed my lips.   
 
Actually, I hadn’t been a parent yet, so it was before I knew was guilty felt like.
 
It was *BLISS*
 
The consequence?  60 pounds gained and pre-eclampsia 7 months in.  The doc didn’t go so far as to put me on bedrest, but I was pulled from working and ordered to stay off my feet as much as possible.   
 
Kinda like bedrest, but not bedrest.  Makes sense.
 
As I type this I am 45.  (And unemployed–as if you could forget).   I am a Type A personality, but I would say I have chilled a lot over the years.  Back in my Papoose Pond days, when I was 27, I hadn’t experienced what it was like to have kids.  Kids help you realize there are some things that are worth stressing over in the moment and somethings you put in a closet to worry about later. 
 
These days, my Type A corners are a little more rounded than they were when I was 27.  Experience softens the edges, blurs the lines, makes everything a little less rigid.  When I was 27, I was mad about everything, stressed about everything, YELLED about everything, fought everything. And I wasn’t the type to sit around much.  I was still figuring it out.   I was a happy person… pretty much.  I was fun.  I WAS. 
   
Anyway, my husband and I were trying to find me something to do to occupy my Type A+ personality and still follow the doctor’s orders.  My husband was trying VERY hard because as you can imagine, I also was still learning how not to take my frustration out on him. (I’m still working on that one.)   
 
Welcome Slate

A trip to the resort’s craft barn resulted in some stone slate, transfer paper, paintbrushes, and acrylic paints. I was to find a picture I liked, trace it onto the slate, and paint the picture. 

Now, I had never done any painting.  Except for walls and I sucked (still suck) at that.  It never fails.  I always roll too high and get an entire roller mark on the ceiling.  Or put too much paint on the roller and drip all over the baseboards.  When I use painter’s tape, paint always gets under the tape–I don’t get that—and if I don’t then, you guessed it, baseboards and trim get marked all up.  I end up doing two paint jobs– the walls and the trim, which of course never looks the same.   

 
Buuuut, hey.  This was going to be different.  And when you’re bored the way that I was bored–the Type A+ way—you grit your teeth and paint as closely in the lines of whatever the heck you traced as you can.  I can’t even remember what I painted, but I remember when I was done, it was pretty good!  
 
Who needs Bob Ross?
So I just kept painting. Corey dug out what was left of those slates in the craft barn and I went to town.  I wrote WELCOME on them and painted one for everyone I knew.  Then I started taking photos of what I made, printing the page, and putting it in a binder.  The binder, aka, The Slate Book or Denise’s Slates, became 2-inches thick. People could flip through and choose what they wanted.  Then, Order UP!  I would make it for them. I charged like $20 a piece.
 

For 2 years I paid for our Christmas and other odds & ends with the money I earned from painting slates.  

A commission I did; a small old photo
transferred to an oil canvas.
Photo is on the right.

Then one day, I was painting 3 of the same slate, side by side sweatshop style.  I vividly remember looking down at those paintings–it was a holiday theme and had a group of  holiday characters together-  Uncle Sam, a snowman, Santa, the Easter Bunny–and saying, “THIS sucks.” 

 
And that was it. 
 

I didn’t paint again for a long time.  Then I randomly started to do a few commissions for people; painting pictures of people from photographs.  Then I messed around with some oil paints.  But nothing consistent. 

 And then my husband got laid off from his job.  And WorDSMITHstudios was born. 

A lot happened in between.  Like how I sucked as a stay at home mom.  How I pretty much sucked as a mom all-around most of my daughter’s first 3 years.  Poor kid.  How I discovered my passion for working with youth.  Had another kid.  Learned I might not have been such a bad mom after all.  Started a blog I LOVED, then used really poor judgement and had to give it up. Read Eat, Pray, Love for the first time and felt blown away. Learned what it means to be a compassionate person. Realized the mistakes and failures I have experienced in my life were not something to be ashamed of, but to embrace because life is about growth. 

Oh wait– *sigh*  I just realized McKenna learned her ifyoucantseeit room cleaning trick from me.  The closet thing?  Great. 

 
Yeah, we can talk about all that. 


So here I am…

Here I am.  45 and UNEMPLOYED. Not the scenario I would have imagined for myself even 6 months ago.  But does anyone? 

I REALLY didn’t think it would happen. Our organization knew our program was in trouble at the state level, but I figured all would be ok.  We were doing what we were supposed to do.  We did good work.  I was really good at my job. (That’s what mattered right?!)  We were all committed to our work.  Our partners and state representatives were in our court, advocating to the Governor.  No one would ultimately take away the resources that provided support and assistance from the vulnerable, yet AMAZING program participants who were benefiting from the services we provided.    All would be right with the world.  

And yet here I sit.  Unemployed. 

I am the opposite of a realist.  I am an optimist in what could be the the worst way. Some could say I am dangerously optimistic.  ( Did you catch that there? )  I try to stay realistic, but in the end I figure everything will work out.  And did I say I was really good at my job?  That my colleagues were really good at their jobs?  We believed in our mission.  We were innovating.  We were meeting our performance measures.  In the world of non-profits, it is all about performance measures.  If you meet your performance measures, you keep your money.  That’s the belief anyway. 

We are fun.

 

You can imagine my shock when we actually did lose the funding. 

We live in crazy times my friends.  I could rant and rave for pages and pages describing how the grant that funded our program was unfairly and unjustly yanked out from under us.  But I won’t.  The fact is there are good people without a job and many, many individuals not able to benefit from valuable programs. 

Myself & co-workers
Aleigh & Nigel

For me, losing my job felt like I was losing a piece of myself.  I was comfortable with my work family. I had a great team. At work. I was the expert.  I was confident. People respected me and I knew the answers to the questions.  What was I supposed to do?  We were a very unique program in Maine.  Maine, people!   I couldn’t just whip up a resume and go down the street to the next non-profit.  I wanted to scream, “What about me? What about MY 5-year plan? What am I supposed to do NOW?”  

And it’s Christmas for goodness sake!! (December 1st was my last day).    
*cue temper tantrum*

And so here I am.  Still 45 and still unemployed. 

Once the dust settled, the tears were all cried, and I had time to just BE, I started to examine my situation.  

Actually, that’s a lie.  I think that’s what I thought I was supposed to say.    

What actually happened was I became so busy shuttling my kids around, running errands, cooking dinner, creating new art for my website (wordsmithstudios on etsy.com), re-connecting with friends…I was running my ASS off.   I was just as busy as I had been when I was working 40+ hours a week.  

My first epiphany was How the HELL did I ever WORK?  How did I do everything, including Etsy stuff  AND work?  

The difference was, without the full-time gig, I didn’t feel as stressed or anxious.  I actually started being a mother.  And a wife.  I was devoting more time to my Etsy shop.  And it didn’t feel all wrong. I was busy, but not CRAZYTRESSEDOUTFULLTIMEJOB MOM busy. 

When I was working, stress was constant. I would be driving like a maniac to pick my son up for an appointment  because I had left my office 15 minutes later than planned, only to stress my son out because he had been waiting for me to arrive during those 15 minutes.  Had I crashed?  Would we be late for his appointment?  Would we crash on the way TO the appointment because I was then speeding to get to the appointment on time? Then in the waiting room, I would be talking to him while checking emails and planning for what I would cook for dinner by way of the microwave.  Leaving the appointment meant booking it back to the office real quick to sit in on a final meeting, sign paperwork, check in with staff, and grab my laptop so I could do whatever work I needed to catch up on because I had been out of the office for that appointment.  Then home I would go.  I’d walk in the door to my house and my stress would spike because there was the messy living room littered with dishes from the morning. Grrrrr.  Keep going to the kitchen and the dishes were overflowing the sink and counter because the dishwasher was full and my daughter won’t unload it unless I remind her 3 times….

*inhale*

…and guilty.  I always felt guilty.  Guilty for going to work. Guilty for staying home.  Guilty if I needed to be home for my kids for something.  Guilty for being at work and not home.   Guilty for not paying attention to my kids. Did I say that already? Guilty when I was relieved they didn’t want me to pay attention to them. Guilty I wasn’t one of those parents who volunteered hours at school or made special signs for athletic events or whipped up cupcakes for the class party. Guilty for not playing more board games. Guilty for not just unloading the dishwasher instead of making my daughter do it.  Guilty that unloading it would not teach her responsibility and that I thought about giving in.  Guilty for paying too much attention to my kids and not enough to my husband. I felt guilty for feeling guilty!   

Whenever I tried to articulate the anxiety to my family and plead for help, the answer was always, “You just have to let some things go.”  “Stop letting the little things get to you.”  

Ok.  Well, what would I let go?  Do I stop doing laundry, because it is surely going to pile up.  And then what?  More stress and anxiety?  What would be a little thing?  Perhaps I stop cooking dinner?  Do I stop working?  Do I stop cleaning? No one could answer those questions.  And so the cycle continued. 

Until  The Universe intervened and decided  for me that the thing to let go was work.  I had no choice,  so I kept moving forward.  And you know what?  I started to feel better.  And pretty soon, I started to feel really good. 

Dare I say stress free?

My family and our yearly crazy Christmas photos in front of the tree.  
I think I look a little less stressed than previous years. 🙂 
My 2nd epiphany came with the realization that for the first time in years, my family was coming first

https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/worDSMITHstudios
A reminder to stand true to myself.
Original art from WorDSMITHstudios on Etsy.com

And by default, so was I.  The Universe had handed me a gift. A blessing in disguise.  For the first time in years, I was present while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office with my kid.  I could listen to what he or she had to say.  I could cook a meal I didn’t feel guilty about serving.  I still hate cooking said meal, but at least my family wants to eat it now.  I could pick up the house a little at a time to avoid walking into messes.  That entire layer of stress I had been experiencing because I had no time, was gone. 

And so here I am.  45 and STILL unemployed. 

And everyday, I am here to say goodbye to my husband when he leaves for work.  I am here to say goodbye to my daughter when she leaves for school.  Some days she even says “bye” back.  And everyday, I drop off and pick my son up from the bus.  Some days, I pick him up after school and we go swimming at the YMCA.  I hate the swimming part, but when we leave and he says, “That was fun.”

Angels sing. 

And so I will blog.  Because I am unemployed.