It’s All About Me.

I am not a ME person.  I don’t like talking about me.  I don’t like people looking at me.  I don’t like people touching me.  All of that makes me really, really nervous…and twitchy.

If you have spent any time around me, you know “It’s all about me,” is something I say.  In conversations with friends, I say it.  My family jokes about it.  At my jobs, present and past, I have been known to wail,  “Come on you guys! Don’t you get it?  It’s all about me!”  When I worked at Job Corps it  was my slogan, “Look at me. Listen to me. Hang out with me.  IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.”

Obviously the reality is/was NONE of it is really about me.  It was really all about the stories, the work, the people, and the effort to make progress, take action, touch lives.

I am not a ME person.  I don’t like talking about me.  I don’t like people looking at me.  I don’t like people touching me.  All of that makes me really, really nervous…and twitchy.

Ohhh I know some of you might be thinking,  “Bull! I know Denise and she is the loudest, most talkative person in the room! Any room!”  And that’s true, too.  I can be that person. Sometimes I am that person. I mean, get me talking and I will probably tell you anything.  Take a road trip with me and you will know my life story. But having a big mouth and wanting to be the center of attention are two different things.

The real me, the one whom only my closest friends knows, recognize that even the thought of people looking at me freaks me out.  My clothes, my hair, my makeup?  That sh*t’s about anxiety.  If people HAVE to look at me at least I want to feel good about myself while they do it.

Once I found out a guy from another department thought I was pretty.  I should have thought that a nice compliment and moved on with my life.  Instead, it freaked me out.  I went out of my way to avoid that guy AT ALL COSTS.  If I had to walk by him, I may have mumbled a hello, but that’s it.  I never had a conversation with the guy.  I was too damn freaked out.

dont look
You can look at my Etsy shop from here though… Wordsmithstudios on www.etsy.com/shop/wordsmithstudios

When the subject of my Etsy shop comes up I get all twitchy.  Yes, I paint.  I sell those paintings on Etsy.  No, I do not want to talk to you about it and please don’t tell me you love my “work.”  And please, whatever you do, don’t open the gift I made for you (probably agonized over giving you) in front of me or the crowd of people here at your party. ugh.

If I have a medical scare or issue, I am not telling you. Or anyone.  Oh, hell no.  I might say something about it later in casual conversation, cause that’s Big Mouth Denise. “Yeah, I had a melanoma scare once, too” But I am not going to call a family meeting to make a health statement. Or call my mom to specifically tell her about it.  I just can’t do it.

I don’t really even want to share the little things.  My first brand new car on social media? Probably not.  Probably not the pics of the first time I run into something with my new ride either.  Or the 2nd time. Or the 3rd…Ok, there might even have been a 4th, but I’m not going to announce it.

All of those things drive my mother crazy.  She feels like she’s always the last to know everything.  She isn’t always and it isn’t personal. The only other people who know are those I run into at the grocery store or the halls at work, but do they even count?  I know, I know,  she IS my mom and feels like I should tell her stuff.  Or I should at least tell her before I tell anyone else.  I get that.  I just don’t tell people stuff in an intentional way.

I guess for me sharing  happens organically.  You know, stuff just comes out in its own way and time.  Or it gets puked out by my big mouth.  Yeahhhh, organically is a good way to describe it.

P.S. Mom, I also use curbside pick-up at the grocery store WAY more often now so no need to worry about the grocery store people at least 😉 

Four Areas of Focus

After my layoff for the first time in a long time I felt defeated.  It wasn’t just the layoff.  It was years in a toxic, unsupportive environment.  So when I walked away (or was pushed),  I felt like I was leaving pieces of myself behind me.  I was this broken hull of a shell and the pieces were falling away bit by bit all the way home.  Like Hansel and Gretel except I was walking away from the scary monster instead of toward it.

The problem was, what I was walking toward was also scary.  It was a form with no shape, and I was a shape with no form.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Restorative Justice helped me bring my life back into focus.  (See A Rebuilding Year or restorativejustice.org for more info) A restorative plan is broken into 4 parts that address Community,  Family,  Self,  and Victim (those who have been harmed.)  Those were the 4 areas that brought me back to life.

Family  

It started with my family.  It was the perfect time of year for that–smack in the middle of the holidays– and I was completely immersed.  I could keep busy with holiday planning and all the cheer and chaos that comes with the holidays.

In my last post I said I would be talking about dinner again and here it is.  Dinner, as much as I hated it when I was working became my grounding force.  No matter what else had gone on during the day, no matter how sh*tty I may have felt, I knew I had to pull it together and make something for dinner.  Everyone was thankful to be eating and that feedback filled me up.  Seems like a simple thing now, but at the time, it was huge.

I am also so thankful for how supportive my family was throughout my layoff.  Even when it was approaching 6 months, my husband never complained to me about money and my kids always reinforced how glad they were I was home.  My parents and extended family never implied I was being lazy; they all just supported the idea I would find something when I was ready.

Self

I didn’t lay around feeling sorry for myself.  I got to work doing things I wanted to do.  I really wanted to blog, so one of the first things I did was start my blog back up.  In the beginning, it helped me to process my situation in ways I wouldn’t otherwise have been able.  I look back at my posts now and I can see my healing pattern.

I revamped my Etsy site and painted like crazy.  Then I started reorganizing my house and cleaning things out.  I blogged about cleaning out my closets.  When I got to my own closet, I was horrified to realize I had so many clothes!  Some things I hadn’t even worn more than once and not because I didn’t want to, but because of the sheer VOLUME of things I had. (The money and time spent on all those clothes is another blog post in itself.)

Some research led me to a selling app called PoshMark.  I literally just started selling off my clothes. (You can get $5 of free credit on PoshMark if you use WORDSMITHSHOP when you sign up).  I can’t communicate the sense of relief I felt from purging my closet. It was like shedding another layer of stress every time I sold an article of clothing. I am still selling and the feeling hasn’t stopped.

Victim

In Restorative Justice, the victim is the one who was harmed and the work focuses on how to repair the harm that has been done.

I never saw myself as a victim during the time I was employed or unemployed.  I would have described myself as angry, defeated, bitter, or hurt, but never as a victim.

God Friended Me
We watch God Friended Me on CBS and Miles the main character, summed up my life during one of his podcasts.

However, when I look back objectively, I can see that I was “victimized.”  I realize that’s a strong word, but it’s also accurate. There was a significant amount of workplace manipulation and intimidation that happened in the company that I had to manage personally. My unemployment was just the grand finale.

I also accept that I made many mistakes as an employee.  Those mistakes were offset by many more highlights.  I learned more than I could ever write about in any blog and I gained more than I ever lost.  That is my truth.

However, my experiences left me scared and my fear snowballed.  The fear made me question everything and the more I questioned, the more fearful I became.  I put pressure on myself.  What if I couldn’t find a job?  Or worse, what if I couldn’t find a job I liked or that didn’t make a difference?  (I can feel my chest tightening even as I write this and relive those thoughts).   If I found a job opportunity or was approached with a job opportunity,  I would panic.  I was afraid of ending up in a situation like I had just left.

Finally, a part-time position opened at a local university that looked interesting. I did my research, applied, interviewed, and got the job.  It turned out to be just what I needed.

A bonus benefit for working there is free education. While I am part-time, I can take classes for free and if I decide to go full-time, my family can go for free.  10 years ago I started my graduate degree, but life got in the way and I never finished.  It has been something I have always wanted to complete.  The timing was perfect.

The part-time hours would also allow me to continue focusing on the Restorative Justice cases which were coming in consistently.  It was becoming clear to me that my passion for meaningful work would be found there.

Community 

Perhaps the single most important lesson I learned in the past year is that I can make a difference no matter where I am or where I work.  I don’t have to sit on boards or gain national attention or even strategize ridiculous office politics to make an impact.

I’ve made important connections in the local community on behalf of Restorative Justice and youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The work is meaningful, interesting, and fulfilling and I enjoy it more than I ever expected.  It really is magic. Magic that I accomplish in only 10 or 12 hours a week.  And I make my own schedule.

It’s All About Me.

The place I am in now is one of balance.  I honestly don’t feel stressed or anxious on most days. I don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty and I am not dropping balls or ceaselessly apologizing to people for missing something.   I am meeting my needs and the needs of my family.  Not only that, I have time for friends.  FRIENDS!

Bit by bit, I have chipped away at the raw, hard, shapeless form I started with a year ago and am starting to relax into this new life I created.

It’s not perfect.  I still question myself and my choices every day.  I question if I deserve to be here, to be happy, to be balanced, to be in control of my choices.  I question my ability to do my job. I question my skills, my qualifications, my potential…But I remind myself to stay in the moment and embrace it.

And I do things to remind myself to stay true.  Like, I got a tattoo with my friend Aleigh.  Something I NEVER thought I would do- the tattoo, I mean.  It was a great day.

Until next time…

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.