Monday, April 28, 2014

It's "Come To Jesus" Time

Isn't it amazing how God uses the people in our life as conduits to send a message to us?  It's up to us to recognize the message, and apply it as we see fit.  Sometimes it's a joyful message.  Other times, it's a wake up call.  And no matter how in tune we think we've become with ourselves, the wake up call will always find a way to show itself anyhow.

Recently, an associate used the term "Come to Jesus" to describe something that he felt that needed to happen between another person and our organization.  What does this term mean, exactly?  Well, to my way of thinking, it means that someone needs to recognize and take responsibility for past actions, and, equally important, to accept the consequences of those actions.

I have done a lot of writing here about the person that I used to be and how I came to recognize that I was not the best person I could have been in my words and actions toward others.  I've also written about my new outlook on life, how much better my life has become because of my new outlook, etc .....  but I haven't really come to terms with the consequences of the first 25 years of my adult life.   Because, you see, 25 years of bad behavior can't be wiped out overnight no matter what you say or do.  In some cases, it can never be wiped out.  That's what I need to accept.

What am I talking about?  I am talking about people I've know forever who assume I'm going to act a certain way  - this would mainly be family members, since any old friends have long since abandoned me.   I'm talking about being at the bottom of their priority lists - because in the past, they were always at the bottom of mine.   I'm talking about the words that I speak being interpreted based on the person I used to be.   And this is me knowing that no matter how hard I work to accept these consequences, it doesn't make it hurt any less each and every time it happens.

The other side of this is that I have to realize that there is no magic wand to wave that will make me someone's darling.   I can't make up for 25 years of insensitivity by cramming every ounce of affection in my being onto the people in my life today.    I've come to realize that it doesn't ring true with those who've known me forever, and it just might be scaring those who haven't.

So this is what it all boils down to.   25 years of "F--K you, followed by "Come to Jesus" moments for the rest of my life.    This is my reality, this is my normal.  I guess the next step is to decide how to deal with the hurt so that it doesn't turn me back into the person that I used to be.  Because, I think that would be a "Welcome to Hell" moment.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Own It or Abolish It

The recent lawsuit brought by some former Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders has awakened a long standing anger inside of me.   "Anger" might be too strong.  Disgust?  Derision?  Whatever.  I am  more convinced than ever that this is, at its core, a women's' issue.  One that is bred in us at a very early age.

A few year ago I attended the Canal Fest parade.  They should have called it the "Cheerleader Parade", because it was essentially one cheerleader float after another - little girls, teenage girls, town groups, high schools, on and on and on.  And you know - on the surface, that's ok.  With all of the disturbing reports about childhood obesity and childhood diabetes being circulated, why not get your daughter involved in a physical activity?  I doubt that any of those girls I saw in that parade are plagued by type II diabetes.   Rigorous physical training, commitment to doing something that they presumably love.  What's not to approve of?  Nothing, until you take it to the next level.   What are they doing with all of this training?   Competing in teams at prestigious competitions?  Fine.   Parading around the sidelines at boys/men's sporting events?   Not fine.   Once they descend into this sexist and objectifying tradition, they have effectively removed themselves from the ranks of "athlete".

I was on a dance team in high school.  We danced with the marching band in the halftime show at football games.  Was it physically demanding?  Yes.   Did we consider ourselves to be athletes?  No way.  We knew what we were and why we were in existence.    This didn't stop us from wanting our moment in the spotlight at pep rallies, however.  On one occasion, we choreographed a dance for the season-opening pep rally and found out at the last minute that it went a minute over the time limit (time limit?  The team members knew nothing about a time limit.  It was ONE SONG, for God's sake).  Well - we performed it anyway, and the cheerleaders flipped (no pun intended) because they had to cut one of their FIVE or SIX cheer routines from the program.  Boo freakin' hoo.   This demonstrated an overinflated sense of importance embedded in high school cheerleaders that stays with some of them into their adult lives, as showcased so superbly by this Buffalo Jills lawsuit.

Lets's say it - plainly and bluntly.  If you are engaging in an activity that involves wearing short skirts and chanting and dancing in support of a male sporting event.......  you are window-dressing, you are entertainment, for some people you are a distraction, you are (to quote the Oakland Raiders) "seasonal amusement", and depending on your level of talent, you may be glorified pageant queens.  You are NOT athletes.  If you think you're an athlete, go try out for a girl's sport.   Think you're great gymnasts?   Why aren't you on a gymnastics team?  And if you think for one moment that you're not there as a symbol of male objectification, ask yourself this - why aren't you cheering at girl's sporting events?

If we take nothing else from this Buffalo Jills lawsuit, let's get to the bottom of what cheerleading really is.   Ladies of the cheerleading world - you are not the center of the sporting universe, yours is a HOBBY, not a career - not a profession.  And if you are wearing skimpy or extremely form-fitting uniforms while cheering on a men's sports team, you are part of a tradition of objectifying activities including but not limited to beauty pageants, sororities, and maybe even escort services.    Know this.  Accept this.  Own this.  Because, as women, we really make ourselves look dumb when we pretend that this type of cheerleading is anything other than this.   Let's own it or abolish it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Downing in an Ocean of Unknowns

There was a Facebook post recently - posted by one of those witty, comical Facebook fan pages.  At the top of the picture was the title:   "Male Emoticons" - underneath was the neutral smiley face emoticon repeated several times, interspersed with the occasional smirking emoticon.   At the bottom of the picture was the title "Female Emoticons" - underneath was every stinking smiley face emoticon known to man arranged in a totally random sequence.  I laughed and thought to myself that there was a grain of truth to that analysis.  Today, I feel like it is a completely accurate representation of my feelings.

I can hardly wait for this job interview to come and go.  This weekend is a relief.  I have spent all week feeling off kilter - do I look like I'm "up to something"?  Am I acting like myself?   I feel somehow stifled, as though I'm afraid that I will accidentally and spontaneously blurt out "I have a job interview on Tuesday!!"  This is ridiculous, of course.  It is all brought on by my fear of the unknown and my intense dislike of not being in control.  Too many unknowns - how will I present myself - when asked about my lack of HR experience, lack of knowledge about HRIS systems, etc...  if I manage to somehow wrangle a job offer out of all of this, then what?  Salary - what is acceptable, desirable, reasonable....? Notice - how much notice should I give?   Would they even want me around?  I'm not taking an offer from a competitor.  Would they want me around for 2 or 3 more weeks.....?  What about the seminar in Minneapolis?  The major project that I'm supposed to be heading up?  I am putting the cart before the horse.  I can't help it.  This is my compulsive need to see the path that is laid out ahead of me.  It is my instinctive reaction to any situation where there are possible issues and no known solutions.  My brain can't rest until I can visualize the path to a solution.  Sometimes I feel as though I am incapable of just letting events unfold naturally.

Then there is my so-called hobby.   Going through the motions in a Board position that I have renamed as "Bored Position" in my own mind.  Resigning myself and willing myself to continue in this position.  Because it is the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.  But what about the rest of the Board - people who are important who may or may not run for re-election?   People who do run for re-election when they are unsuited for their current positions?  How can I force myself to be optimistic about another season of this?   Responsibilities not being met, a Music Director who becomes more entrenched in the immediate present and the past and less capable of planning the future with every passing season.  A  plan for our 50th Anniversary season that we, the Board, collectively seem to be incapable of moving forward on .  A planned concert tour that has so many balls in the air with time ticking, getting ever closer to the magic date.      I am worried - not because I don't have faith in the trip coordinator ((hugs)), but because - once again - it is my fear of the unknown that overwhelms me to the point that I feel almost immobilized - because if I just do nothing - just stand perfectly still -, maybe everything around me will stop too and allow me and everyone else around me to just catch up.   I don't expect to be ahead of the game.  I just want us to catch up.  I desperately need to catch up.

Too many unknowns.  My brain feels like it has a tornado inside of it  - whirling my thoughts around and around and around.   My first instinct is to just survive the next few days and months.  But I'd like to do more than just survive.  It would be nice to succeed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

And so it goes....

I simply cannot come to terms with my religious loyalties, needs, feelings, etc.   This is what I know:

I believe in:

 - God the Father
- God the Son (aka.... Jesus!)
- God the Spirit       This means that, yes, I do believe in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
- the Blessed Virgin Mary (affectionately known as the "BVM").   Really now, do you think that just anybody could have done what she did?
- the Saints.  Let's be clear on this, now.  I do not think that the Saints are as important as any of the above.  Why believe in ancient Saints?  Maybe because there are 19th and 20th century saints whose miracles and amazing lives have been undeniably documented, and we know that these are not fabrications.  Logically speaking, the criteria has never changed, so it's not a stretch for me to believe just as much in a ninth century saint as I would in a nineteenth century saint.   Why wouldn't someone as incredible as, say, Mother Teresa, have more pull with God than your average Joe?  It just makes sense.  Also, there is evidence in my own life that asking a saint to intercede on my behalf actually works.   It's about faith.   If they know that you believe in them, they will help you.
-some sort of organized religion in my life.  This is not to be confused with faith or spirituality.  These things can be intertwined, or they can be mutually exclusive.  Simply put, it's just easier to stay connected with your faith if you use organized religion as a facilitator.
-the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood during Mass.  That's a big one.

I do NOT believe in:

- the infallibility of the Pope.  Sorry, but these guys are human beings who rise in the ranks of the Church just like someone rises in the ranks of any other organization.  Naming them as Pope doesn't change their humanness.  To insinuate that we, the great unwashed, need some sort of infallible conduit in order to fully commune with God is, frankly, insulting and unacceptable to me.  The Pope can and may be a great man, a holy man, a compassionate man, etc... but at the end of the day, he's still just a man.
-the Sacrament of Penance.   This really goes hand in hand with my feelings on the Pope.  I frequently ask for forgiveness for this or that.  Is this not valid because I didn't convey it via my Priest?  Nonsense.  
- Man-made rules of the Church that fly in the face of the real teachings of Jesus.  The litmus test for me are the commandments of Jesus.  If something doesn't ring true to me because it is ultimately harmful or judgmental of other people, then I'm not for it.  There is no real evidence in the teachings of Jesus to support the ban on artificial birth control, celibate priests, or the marginalization of women.   Homophobia is another issue for me.

So, at this point in time, I am officially confused.  Holy week has made me realize how much I love the rituals of the Catholic Church.  The new Pope has the potential to be one of the greatest in modern history.  But I can't deny the issues that I have with some of this Church's "rules"or the anger that is conjured inside of me when Catholic zealots go public with their cultish rants.  These people cannot represent ME!  I may spend the rest of my life attending Mass and wrestling with my issues, and I guess that's ok.   Better to devote conscious thought to this part of my life than to turn my back on it altogether.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Butterfly Kisses

Something just happened.  It took me so much by surprise that I had to write about it.

There I was, practicing my piano like a good girl when I decided to play around with one of my fun piano books.  I looked at the index of titles and saw "Butterfly Kisses."   I opened the book to this piece.  It looked like a pretty simple arrangement, and I thought it would be fun to learn it for Mandy's return home.

As I started playing it, I could feel the emotions churning inside of me.  I don't think anything has thrown me back in time so fast in a very long time.

I saw Mandy's pre-school graduation.  She stood proudly with her little friends, wearing a white dress shirt from her Daddy's closet and a white mini version of a graduation cap covering her blonde curls.  We were in the local grade school auditorium, and it must have been 85 degrees in there.  The slide show started.  One slide after another rolled by, and all of the girls in the class were featured as the strains of "Butterfly Kisses" filled the auditorium.  I began to cry.  The tears mingled with the drops of perspiration already rolling down my face, so I think my reaction was probably unnoticed, thank God.  In similar fashion, the tears flowed as I played this song in my living room for the first time.

The song followed us to grade school.  Every year, Mandy would dress in her finest and accompany her Dad to the St. Amelia School father-daughter dance.   And every year, they danced to "Butterfly Kisses".  It grew in my mind to symbolize a relationship that, on the surface was loving, but in fact was actually incredibly complex and remains complex to this day.

It seems surreal to me that I will be able to play this song on the piano.   It feels like an amazing gift.  Now I wonder if I will ever be able to play this song without crying...... hmmmm.........  I guess I'm going to find out.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Bubble, my Dilemma

At a meeting today, I first heard the notion of our interests as being akin to bubbles.  So, for instance, my job is a bubble?  Chorus is a bubble?  Church choir is a bubble?  As I ponder the bubbles in my life right now, it occurs to me that I am in conflict with each of them to one extent or another.  And what's worse is that I don't have any answers brewing in my head, no ideas about resolution at all.

It occurred to me that I  rarely refer to my job as "my career".   Maybe because I know that it's not what I was ever meant to be doing.  I don't hate it.  I also feel no particular passion for it, and I would not be bothered in the least if something were to happen that would render me unable to work in this particular field ever again.    It qualifies as a "bubble" only by the mere fact that it takes up 8+ hours of my day, five days a week.   I guess I've resigned myself to being stuck with this dead-end and not particularly well-paying profession.   I have no choice when my spouse is the one who pursued his dream.  I'm the stable one with the job with benefits.  That's just the way it's always been, and you can't have both adults just going off and finding themselves.... can you?  Not really.

So I try to turn to other bubbles for fulfillment.  I have always loved to sing for as long as I can remember.  I started in my church choir when I was 26 years old.  I am almost 50 and still in the same choir, but it feels very different.  I am having big conflicts with Catholicism.  So often I sit at Mass and know that if there were no choir, I wouldn't be there.  Twenty years ago, I would not have understood someone who felt that way, and the idea of leaving the Catholic church was foreign to me.  Now I think about it constantly.    I feel a strong connection to my parish because I grew up there, received all of my Sacraments there, but is that enough?  What is the whole premise of organized religion?

The other chorus is a completely different set of circumstances.    I am filling a role on the Board of Directors because I'm good at it.  Ten years ago I dragged the role out of the 1970s and made it more efficient which, in turn, allowed me to be more responsive to chorus members.   But .....  much like my job, I don't love it.   I am now in my 11th year in this position.  Probably the first five years, I challenged myself with new technology.  For the next three years or so, I performed tasks out of a sense of duty, and also because of the environment of the Board itself.   Sometimes Jupiter really does align with Mars, and you find yourself working with a group of people who work so well together that you feel really good about performing even the most mundane of tasks.  When you feel as though the sky is the limit, you agree to do just about anything willingly, for the good of the cause.   But, all good things come to an end, and I now know that one of the biggest challenges that we as thinking and feeling human beings will face in our time on this earth is to live in the moment.  Recognize how great things are while they are still great, and relish everything about them.   Nothing is forever.   Right now,  my reality is that I am continually asking myself this question.....  "if this is supposed to be my escape from the mundane and unfulfilling work life, how can I measure its success?"   How is it lifting me up and relieving from the rest of my day?.    How can I ever hope for it to do so, when not only do I not like what I'm doing, but I've become so busy doing what I don't like doing, I've left no time for singing which is why I joined the chorus in the first place!

This all sounds like a bunch of whining.  The problem is that I don't know the solution.  It is very frustrating to be committed to something so much that you can envision a solution, but you know that it will never happen because there are too many egos involved.  So, you are stuck trying to think of a lesser solution, but there really isn't one.   Why is it that other people are allowed to attach themselves to a role in a group after 1,2, or 3 years to the point where it is unthinkable that they switch jobs, even if they are unsuited to what they are currently doing..... and meanwhile, here I sit.....  ELEVEN YEARS!!!!!!!!   Have I earned the right to be angry and frustrated about this?   Has my behavior become increasingly erratic because of my anger and frustration?  Yes, and yes.    How am I supposed to feel when my only options appear to be  .....  suck it up, or quit entirely?    Both options make me want to throw up.     This is what is supposed to help me deal with my family responsibilities, my crappy "career", etc ,etc.    Frankly, it's a very deflated bubble right now.

I love my daughter more than life itself, and she is everything to me.   I have a friend who makes me want to shout to the world that this is what they are talking about in books and on TV when they describe BFFs and the person in your life who really "gets" you... and loves you anyway.

With these one or two glaring exceptions, my bubbles suck.   End of story.   I can only put on my best Scarlett O'Hara face and keep telling myself that tomorrow is another day.