Image

I’ve been looking for a full time job for nearly 2 years now. I’ve been working as a transcription contractor most recently to get a few dollars in the door, but then there are weeks like this current one when I’m told there’s little work, and that they’ll get to me next week perhaps. It’s just as well—tendinitis from production typing has been keeping me up nights lately. (Please don’t practice medicine without a license and tell me it’s probably carpal tunnel. It’s not.)

It’s no fun looking for work in a depressed (okay, recessed) economy. The Frederick NewsPost—never one with copious employment ads is down to a couple of pages and only one on a really bad day. Thankfully, it’s not the only source I check.

I suck at job hunting. I don’t “do” employment at all well, either. Because for a lot of my life I’ve been self-employed in some form or fashion, I’m just backward enough to consider it a business transaction. I have something you need; you have something I want. But that’s not the correct picture of it today. I know that. And I don’t care. That’s another post.

I’ve read almost the most current What Color is Your Parachute? I’ve been Myers-Briggs-ed (INFJ—not extremely helpful). In spite of much tweaking close to, though not actually  including outright lies, my resume is appalling. Because so often I “created” my own work that would fit in with my higher-priority home responsiblities, my “employment history” is ragged. I’m a Jill-of-all-trades.  

Mostly, though, I don’t have a college degree. I was in the “college prep track” at my high school, which was the top rung of a very weird caste system that kept me, by all accounts, segregated away from my female classmates with the trendy hot pink stripes in their hair and neon eye color who took cosmetology, for example (and I won’t mention how THEY all got jobs right out of high school). I was 6th in my class. But only 20% of those 1,100 students in my 1976 Baby Boomer graduating class were statistically expected to go on to college. And that’s all students—I don’t even know what it was for women but I know it was a much lower figure. Girls in classes above mine literally went to school to get a high-earning husband and a sorority pin, not an education.

In fact, I can remember news stories about colleges and universities going “co-ed.” They had to. In the new modern era of The Pill (dear merciful heaven), all girls’ or all boys’ schools (which were most of them either formally or informally) just couldn’t attract enough students to keep the lights on. Anti-female policies in your prestigious halls of learning bowed to their finance departments and let more women in because they could pay tuition. Some took good advantage of that.

My parents’ career advice could be summed up in two words: “take typing”–which has turned out to be more useful than I first thought. I have two very less-than-useful certificates in medical secretarial practice (it’s now too hopelessly out-dated) and massage therapy (they neglected to tell how fast I would blow out my hands). After my first semester at a two-year “junior” college (as they were still called in many places) I couldn’t take the extended high school mentality and left to…yes, class, get married. I was going to be a homemaker.

So here I am—married, though not to the same person. I have numerous skills, many of them terrifyingly antiquated domestically-oriented ones like handsewing a fine seam, boxing the bedsheets properly, and serving an effortless dinner for 12. I’m an anachronism in my own time.

 

Advertisements

Icelandingur (ees-lahn-deen-gyur)

Notable Icelanders

I spent nine days in Iceland about a decade ago. If you ever have the chance to go, you simply must. Icelanders are amazing and the country is beyond beautiful. Icelanders work very, very hard to preserve both the land and their heritage, which they feel makes them the wonderful people they are today. I’m inclined to agree. 

One way they do that is by proscribing what they are called. New parents select from an official list of first names, which sounds restrictive and often is perceived to be so even by Icelanders. But the upshot is that historic names are kept in circulation and nobody gets named Moon Unit Bergthorsson. I count this a plus.

A system also exists for last names. Baby boys are named for their father’s first name and then the added “son”—as in the previous case of Baby Boy Moon Unit—Bergthorsson (The only Icelandic guy I know is Bergthor, who indeed is father of fraternal twins so he’s a great example here.) Baby girls are named for their dad—Bergthor followed by “dottir” or the last name Bergthorsdottir. So in any nuclear family household you’ll have a father with his father’s name followed by son; in this real-life example: Juliansson. Then a mom with her father’s name followed dottir–again, my girlfriend’s last name is Borgvinsdottir. Then their children will be the father’s name followed by son for the boys–Bergthorsson, and the girls, father’s name followed by dottir, Bergthorsdottir–so they all have different last names. Confusing to us Americans, but Icelanders solve the puzzle of names by having the telephone directory listed by first name. It’s a small country so they can do that.

Another patronymic group is the Jews. Traditionally, boys were given a first name—traditionally that of a close deceased relative followed the word “ben” (son of) and then the dad’s first name, so David ben Joseph. Girls had “bat” (daughter of) so Miriam bat Aaron. At the naming ceremony, an explanation includes the desire for those traits or characteristics of the deceased person to be continued in the new life named for them.

I wish I could remember what I read that talked about our surroundings, including people and stuff, as “God appearing as ___,” but it really made me think. When you really get around that idea, the world suddenly takes on a different existence. If you look at anything in your life, like maybe this computer screen and consider that it’s God Appearing As the Computer Screen—how does that change life for you? In much the same patronymical fashion of Icelanders, could we refer to each other as Joanne Godsdottir or Marty Godsson, with an understanding of the inherited line implied? Or if it that seems too heretical, take it back to “God-Appearing-As Joanne,” or “God-Appearing-As Marty.” (How’s that for heretical!) How do you react to that thought as you move through your day, adding the mental G-A-A (forgive the shorthand) to everyone and everything? God Appearing As your dog. God Appearing As your spouse? God Appearing As your boss. (ouch!) Who would you be if that was actually the case?

(here’s a hint:  It is.)

Wineskins

I volunteered for a couple of summers as a wine steward at a local vineyard. A friend had recruited me; the high school band her children played in spent the dollars it received for my participation to fund competition trips. Learning about wines was a fascinating benefit to me. Folks would come to the vineyard festivals, and volunteers like me would spritz wine into eager tasters’ glasses and help them select wines. Knowing something about tasting wine was, needless to say, an important part of the job.

The wine tasting process involves systematic steps which tune you in to the wine, this concentration making it easier to perceive everything about it.  First, you lift the glass to observe and admire the color of the wine as the light passes through it. You then will take the first sniff—putting your nose to glass and  inhaling, noting whatever impressions you receive. The aroma consists of the intensity, concentration, expression, complexity and cleanliness of the wine. Next you swirl the wine in the glass to release further aroma; stick your nose into the glass this time and sniff hard and confidently, noting the comparisons and contrasts with that first aromatic perception. Now you taste, not a mouthful, but not just a sip. Holding the wine in your mouth, feel the weight or body of the wine, then suck air through it to aerate it, to release the volatiles. Move the wine around your mouth to warm it and give all your taste buds a chance to be excited.  Then expectorate—spitting out the wine so that you get the lingering “finish,” and can then clear the palate for the next selection. Your evaluation of the wine answers whether you enjoyed it, how balanced or in harmony you felt it all the components were, and combines your perceptions into an overall impression.

I’ve been working with the passage known as The Lord’s Prayer for quite some time now. I do this—I’ll focus all of my attention on a single verse or group of verses like a wine connoisseur sampling the wine to discover all its many layers and flavors. My delving into this section in Matthew’s gospel has included going back to the original Aramaic because I suspected that some of the wording as popularly recited might be, well, suspect. (Note: I’m not a Bible “scholar” and I think this is a good thing.) When I held it up to the light, here’s what I found:

 Oh  Thou from whom the breath of life comes

Who fills all realms of sound, and light and vibration

May your Light be experienced in my utmost holiest.

Your heavenly domain approaches.

Let your will come true—in the universe (all that vibrates) just as on earth (the material).

Give us wisdom for our daily need.

Detach the fetters of faults that bind us, like we let go of the guilt of others.

Let us not be lost in superficial things, but let us be freed

From that what keeps us off from our true purpose

From you comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act.

The song that beautifies and renews itself from age to age

Sealed in trust, faith and truth.

(I confirm with my entire being.)

  I love the sense of this. It’s harmonious in a way I don’t experience the English version to be. Overall, it offers a delightful taste with a robust finish. For another tasteful vintage, go here.

What’s Not is What Is

My parents were pretty certain that I was born with a crayon in my hand. Once I drew a chalk still life on a door; it was well rendered, but not well received. At 11, I began studying with a local artist and continued into college where the informal concepts I was using to draw and paint were placed into a formal discipline involving principles of composition, light and color.

Negative space is one such idea. While composing a painting, you have three elements to begin with: the frame or outside edge, the positive space which is the thing you’re painting or drawing and then the negative space around it. Here’s an example:

Image

One your brain gets past the funny shapes, you can see the chair within the negative spaces that have been drawn. Most artists will tell you for something that’s “not there,” negative space is terribly important—both in the balance of the forms, but also in the rendering of your subject. It seems that you can fool the eye a bit when you concentrate, as in the chair drawing here, on what’s not chair. We are familiar with chairs. They are, in fact, difficult to draw because of that familiarity. Same goes with anything you’re well acquainted with. Your mind takes over and says, “Here, let me draw that chair for you. I know chairs.” You might get something like this:

Image

By instead putting your attention to the negatives spaces, your left-brain now says “Fine! I don’t know what that is. Do it yourself!” and you can focus now on what’s in front of you. (To really get into that whole left/right conundrum, look at this exercise taken from Betty Edwards’ book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. When you actually sit with pencil and paper and do the many exercises in the book, the results are amazing.) By depicting what isn’t, you arrive at what is.

Drawings and paintings aren’t the only demonstration of negative spaces. Music is sometimes punctuated with silences to make what follows more profound. Many of the Oriental arts of home decoration simply use space to emphasize the flower or waterfall or whathaveyou. In written “showing and telling,” writers often omit details on purpose or leave the undescribed for the reader’s imagination to fill in.

A sincere friend who was attempting to read through the Bible finally gave up in horror. In her mind, God is Love and there just wasn’t an awful lot of that going on, especially in the Old Testament. She couldn’t understand all the pillaging, battles and bloodshed. I’m just wondering whether the Bible has quite a lot of negative space experiences that are actually where God wasn’t in order to describe him/her more immediately and authentically—the way you can better convey the form of the chair with all those funny shapes.

Life Isn’t What You Think

Image

Recently I took the Munchkin (my granddaughter) to the movies. She was finally old enough to be able to sit through 90 minutes or so without too much fiddling or many trips to the bathroom.

At the ticket booth, she smiled broadly, saying “Two, please,” and offered hers proudly to the ticket taker inside. She selected a treat from the lobby vendor. We found our way to our theater, chose our seats and settled in. The lights eventually went down and the screen in front of the room lit up with previews, previews and more previews. The Munchkin wiggled and jiggled and finally sat still just about the time the movie started. We sat enrapt watching the animated story. She didn’t want to leave when it was over.

The best movies are those that draw you in by plot, character, and setting. Sitting in your seat you relate to the characters. You begin to see yourself in the setting and are pulled along by the events of the story before you. You laugh or cry. You may be on the edge of your seat or cozily into the plushness of it. Even after the house lights come up and the credits are rolling, you may continue to feel those emotions. Like a dreamer waking from that so-vivid dream, it takes a moment or two to re-connect to your experience as a movie-goer while you make your way from the theater into the lobby and then, ultimately, into the parking lot to find your car. If you’re the one driving after an action-packed movie, you may even feel the urge to drive faster or with less care than usual. Beautiful scenes may inspire you to look into travel to that area. If a friend asks you about the movie a few days (or even years sometimes!) later, as you describe it, you feel again the feelings you had in that theater seat.

The images on screen are ephemeral and have no substance—yet they attach themselves to us as “real” through the power of our minds reacting to the sights, sounds, and the experience of depth and breadth. You “know” you’re sitting in the movie seat, but the action in front of you pulls you in and makes you feel part of it.

In another movie, The Matrix, about a computer geek who learns the true nature of his existence, rebel leader Morpheus explains the nature of the Matrix to the astonished Neo:

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

He later challenges him to define what’s real by understanding that what you feel, smell, taste and see are simply signals interpreted by your brain. In a similar way, a movie can create a reality by appealing to our senses. We even have a term for it–the willing suspension of disbelief. We become absorbed in what appears to be going on around us.

Who would you be if you could realize your life as a movie that only had the reality you give to it? What would your life be like if you went about your business while holding firmly the notion that you were actually sitting in your seat at the picture show? In other words, can you imagine what it would be like if you stopped believing everything you think?

What Inspires You?

Image

The other day a friend gave me a book called Finding a Job You Can Love, because I’ve been technically unemployed for going on two years now. I say technically because I do some contract work here and there, but it would be nice to find work I can do without all the misery of my last position.

Published in 1982 by Ralph Mattson and Arthur Miller, the book has a very traditional Christian approach, which I’ve had to ignore because, quite frankly, I’m not traditionally Christian. I did like, however, a distinction that it makes in the section on determining what job one is best suited to. Rather than the standard interests, skills, aptitudes inventory, this book talks about a “System for Identifying Motivated Abilities” (SIMA). The down-and-dirty definition of your motivated abilities is essentially “what would you do even without being paid?” This perspective gives it a decidedly right-brain standpoint, and one which, for someone so artsy as myself, works much better. Having been through some Category V vocational disasters in my life, I’m hoping to discover better information to help me in my job search.

So how this works is that you note down throughout life periods—childhood, teenage, young adult and so on—achievements that you’re then going to examine for common themes. You don’t have to have received an award or payment necessarily—just things that stand out as significant things you did, though it can’t be simply an experience such as taking a trip to Europe. So I made my list starting out with a very cool exhibit I made in third grade in which I used a Barbie to illustrate a Peruvian woman using a loom. I can still see the bright colors of the yarn I used in the fabricated loom I constructed and the outfit and mantilla I made for her and the clay pots I made for the setting. I don’t remember anything my teacher might have said or a grade given. I do remember how invested I was in fashioning this display.

On and on through my list, there’s a clear theme of over-and-above artistic projects—even in jobs with no artistic component whatsoever. Mattson and Miller claim the motivated abilities to be fairly changeless and indicative of a God-given gift. They also confirm that you’ll inject that motivated ability into any setting you’re in whether it’s appropriate or not. That one really resonates with me because over the years I’ve applied art to homemaking and gardening, in addition to my various “jobs,” but even using my children as a “canvas” at times (especially Halloween). A co-worker once made the comment that I seemed to dress in costumes; I’d have been ticked except she was absolutely right.

The authors had a tough time describing their own theory of motivation, exactly because of the emotional content it contains. Our right brain doesn’t “do” words so much. It just DOES. Motivated abilities can range from mine, which is working with form and color, to themes having to do with persuading, acquiring (!), fulfilling needs, leading, coaching, visualizing, investigating, operating, implementing. It is this aspect of our psyches which is more important than skills or even aptitudes. It FEELS. Your right brain’s been trying to tell you all this time but it’s so hard to get it across without words that the left brain can understand.

There’s also the aspect of it being a compulsion. You’ll see your world through your motivation-colored glasses. I know I do that. I go anywhere and I’ll hear “How can I make that?” in my head. When I go to the beach, I rarely swim or even get more than a toe in the water, but you’ll find me getting a sun-burned back building elaborate snoozing sea creatures or walled cities. You can’t NOT do whatever it is that motivates you.

So now that I know what motivates me, I signed up for a cake decorating class starting tomorrow. While not something that I would have ever thought of (because thinking is so often literal and left-brained)—especially in terms of a career choice—who knows? When I think of how many career interest inventories and skills and abilities assessments I’ve taken along the way, it’s just pretty annoying that never once was I shown to ask my OTHER brain about it, too.

Here’s the book link on Amazon.