My running days have been put on hiatus due to a ‘very small’ stress fracture in my femur. I have also had more than my fair share of other health issues this year (misdiagnosed diverticulitis, actual kidney stone, antibiotic-induced C.Diff colitis…). None of them, thankfully, have fallen into the VERY SERIOUS bucket, although I suppose that is a somewhat relative and subjective description. If you counted by the number of benefit statements I have received from my insurance company, or by the ways and times my pelvis has been ‘imaged’ the stats are impressive (and expensive – how on earth do people without health insurance afford to be sick??). But, they are all resolved already or will be within a few months time. Hardly worth complaining about, especially when I consider those with chronic illnesses, those battling cancer, or those recovering from life-changing injuries. My problems pale in comparison and most definitely fit more appropriately into the NUISANCE bucket.
Regardless, I have found myself in a weird space of wanting to talk non-stop to those willing to listen (and/or unable to escape) about my laundry list of woes while at the same time feeling somewhat embarrassed for whining about what are ultimately minor problems. In my more zen like moments I am able to put my situation into perspective. Other times, I want the full-on, self-indulgent, pity-party-rave-of-the-century. And somewhere in between those extremes I simply wonder what is my deal with all this BITCHING I seem to be consumed with of late.
Because sometimes I can be a little dense, it took me a few days to connect the dots between not being able to run and not being able to bitch. I am fortunate to have found just about the perfect running partner in my friend, Duana. We are both pretty slow. Well, I am slower; a lot slower, but not by enough to make running with me more painful than running alone, so we make it work. We made a deal some time back that we “leave it all out on the trail.” This means no topic is off limits. We can bitch and moan about the most mundane frustrations of our day or talk deeply about our greatest fears and anxieties. We do both. Sometimes in the same breath, but if I’m honest there is probably more in the mundane category than life’s deepest mysteries. It’s an amazing gift to have a totally catch-free, no holds bared bitch buddy.
Plus you add running to the equation and it’s win-win. Each step on the trail releases each whine and moan into the pavement and at the end of the run we are tired, sweaty, and a lot less stressed-out. Without the running, I feel like my petty complaints are hanging in a cloud around me, tagging along wherever I go. Talking about them does help and I am so grateful for those who have been a sounding board these past few weeks, but without the running to go along with the talk, I seem to be having a harder time letting the pettiness go.
Meditation would probably help, or yoga, or coffee dates or happy hours, or even a good Rom-Com on Netflix. I don’t discount any of those alternate methods, but I sure will be glad when the day comes that I can lace back up my running shoes.
Tuesday morning will be my first day of a new job with a new company after 5 months of unemployment. I am both excited and nervous about what-comes-next and I’m sure it will be the stuff of future blog posts. As I anxiously await these new adventures, I have reflected a bit on what I learned during my “in-between” time.
My family and friends have been awesome, although I pretty much already knew that. They kept me sane, or at least kept me company, during my darker days. My husband, who knew better than to try and tell me ‘everything would be fine,’ showed me listings for studio apartments in Hawaii along with calculations on how we could sell everything, take the cat, and move to paradise. It was never the reality of moving to Hawaii, but the idea of it, that he knew I needed. My friends met me for lunch, coffee, or drinks and did tell me everything would be fine when they saw that that was what I needed. My family encouraged my search efforts by offering either to move in with me and pay me rent or for me to move in with them and pay them rent… Those ‘threats’ were in jest, but I was comforted by knowing that no matter what happened my family had my back.
This experience, and the support I received, showed me what a truly blessed life I live. I have much to be thankful for and any complaints I have are, at their worst, mere inconveniences.
The biggest surprise for me in all this was the help I received from total strangers. One of my strategies based on online networking techniques I learned in my time at LexBlog was to target companies that I was interested in, based on industry (e.g., technology, social media, online marketing) and use LinkedIn to research local contacts within those companies. Once I had a specific name, I looked to see if I had any connection to them through mutual friends or some other common interest. From there I sent out emails that included specific questions I had about their role or their company and asked if they would be willing to meet for coffee. Of course, some of these emails were ignored or my request was politely declined, but I was delighted to find others who accepted my invitations.
These coffee dates were a godsend to me. One of the challenges of job searching is the amount of rejection you have to endure and yet stay positive and hopeful. Applications go ignored, or you talk to a recruiter and then never hear from them again. Not to mention those times when you make it to the face to face interview stage only to have the company go another direction or select a more qualified candidate, or in the case of one interview that went sideways have them re-post the position you applied for the next day. Your self-confidence takes a beating and you start to wonder if you actually have some sort of anti-job cooties.
Unlike interviews, having coffee with someone is more about sharing ideas than evaluating each other. I loved learning about what the people I met were doing, why they did it, what they liked about it, or didn’t like about it. I also enjoyed talking about what was going on in their particular industry. I was able to offer my own observations and sometimes we agreed and sometimes we engaged in lively debate. All of this left me feeling like I actually had something to offer the world. I would come home from these encounters high on a much needed dose of confidence-building.
Aside from the time these people shared with me (and I view time as a precious commodity), I was time and time again taken aback by the generosity of spirit shown to me. I was encouraged, offered free advice, and connected with yet other contacts. None of these people knew me and had no reason to help me, and still they all said yes. There are lots of reasons to be disheartened by the state of the world these days, but I saw that given the chance there are plenty of people who will reach out to a total stranger and offer a helping hand. None of the people I met with asked for anything in exchange, except perhaps to pay it forward. I was humbled by their humankind-ness and I have made a promise to myself to do whatever I can to offer the same to others when the chance presents itself.
Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word. ~Goran Persson
Duck Dynasty. Eastside Catholic School. Frank Schaefer. Utah. The ‘homosexual debate’ in the media (social or otherwise) is inescapable these days. Everywhere you turn someone somewhere has something to say about it. It’s wrong. It’s love. It’s free speech. It’s freedom of religion. It’s a sin. It’s not a choice. I’m sure I don’t have anything to add to this discussion that hasn’t already been said and probably said better. So, why bother to add my meager two cents worth to the mile high pile of opinions, feelings, and beliefs?
fan addict of Facebook, I have been watching much of the back and forth play out in my News Feed. I went to high school in The South, so not surprisingly many of my Facebook friends from that era are of a more conservative bent. I live in Seattle, so of equal no surprise many of my Facebook friends from this locale are much more liberal. A not un-small number of them are gay. I was raised by college professors, so it’s fair to say that I lean left in these matters. I suppose I could just go ahead and un-friend those right-wing folk who don’t share my views or my beliefs, but I don’t actually want to lose those connections.
There are loads of subjects on which I don’t agree with my lefty-liberal friends, but I’m keeping them too. If I had a dollar for every time I disagreed with my husband on religion, politics, or any other subject under the sun, I would be independently wealthy. Agreement is not a requirement for a relationship in my book. In fact, I will confess that I sometimes get frustrated with my more liberal friends for being so intolerant of other views and building a fortress of like-mindedness. I think it’s healthy to have our convictions challenged now and again. It either reinforces them or, heaven forbid, forces us to reconsider them. I try to be open to the possibility that I still have plenty to learn and how can I know where or how I might learn it if I close off anything that doesn’t fit nicely into my worldview?
So I keep my patchwork quilt of friends and am sometimes beyond amazed by what Facebook chooses to put next to each other in my feed. It’s like the developers have a twisted sense of irony and I kid you not I will see NRA posts next to a petition for gun control. Mostly, I stay out of the debate. I will “like” things I agree with, ignore those I don’t, and otherwise stick to sharing all things cat/internet related.
However, it has begun to trouble me to stay silent on the subject of homosexuality. Like many other subjects, I do have beliefs and opinions on this topic. You could probably piece two and two together based on what I share and like without too much effort, and I have not been totally silent on this, but that is not the same as taking a stand and speaking your mind and your heart. After some internal debate about the best way to do that, this blog is where I share my thoughts and feelings and it represents no other views than my own, so it seemed to be the right place and the time is clearly now.
My one ‘rule’ for friending and un-friending in Facebook and in Life is that people treat each other with respect, regardless of how they feel about an issue, a topic, or anyone else’s lifestyle. So, with that respectfulness in mind for my family and friends who may feel differently, here is where I stand…
I believe that love is love and when two people come together in love, regardless of their gender, I believe God smiles on that love. I believe that the so-called gay lifestyle is pretty much the same as the hetero lifestyle. Hormones may drive our actions more when we’re younger, but eventually that is replaced by true relationships, family, and finding someone you can actually put up with for the rest of your life. I have been witness to two growing families in the past few weeks. In one case, a child was born in an unscheduled c-section after over two years of grappling with fertility issues. In another, a child was adopted from abroad and his welcome to this country was a surprise stay in the hospital for illnesses unknown. In both cases, parents cried tears of worry, tears of frustration, and finally tears of joy at these additions to their lives. I simply cannot believe that God looked any differently on either of these family units just because one was heterosexual and the other was homosexual. Love is love.
My position may cause me to lose friends, but if there wasn’t room for us to agree to disagree, it’s just as well that we part ways. My hope is that those who disagree with me on this will take this as an opportunity to thoughtfully challenge their own convictions and then follow their hearts, as I follow mine. For those who agree, I hope you will see the message behind the message that acceptance of others applies to you as well.
Let us not speak of tolerance. This negative word implies grudging concessions by smug consciences. Rather, let us speak of mutual understanding and mutual respect. ~Father Dominique Pire
Last week on Monday and Tuesday I had two ‘final’ job interviews with two different companies. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get either job. In one case a candidate with more technical knowledge was selected over me. While disappointing, I can’t manufacture a skill I don’t possess, so that one was an easier blow. In the second instance, however, I did not connect well with the hiring manager’s manager. The tension was palpable and I could see discomfort in the hiring manager’s face. Either because of that or because of reasons, I drew a total blank on a question about this company’s industry. It was a stupid mistake and even though I stammered that I didn’t follow their industry, that wasn’t even true. With the benefit of hindsight I had numerous insightful ways I could have answered the question. But, I didn’t, and in interviews there are no second chances, only lessons learned.
Go back in time to the week prior and I was high as a kite with anticipation, excitement, and some anxiety. I studied, I prepared, I did role-plays in my head of how I would answer various questions. Better yet, I literally agonized over which company I might choose if I found myself in the enviable position of having both places make me an offer. I started mentally spending the money on all the things I’ve been wanting to do when I get my next job like go to the spa, or maybe a weekend getaway for Brian and me. Oh, the hubris flowed, and flowed freely, with a nice dash of false modesty on the side (“Of course there are no guarantees of an offer…” she said with a wink). The universe has a funny way of putting us in our place and God surely laughed at my audacity. I meant well, but my judgment was clouded, or rather my head was in the clouds.
I was blathering on to a friend about why this company wasn’t quite right, but maybe it was better than the other one, or maybe not. She rather astutely observed that perhaps neither was the right job. With the wave of a mental hand, I dismissed her comments and went on along my merry way.
When I got the first ‘decline,’ the stress of having to decide was lifted, so I didn’t spend much emotional energy on it. Of course, I already knew in my heart that the second interview was doomed, but I chose instead to torture myself with false hope until the “thank you, but no” email came a few days later. Intellectually, I could see that neither job was really right for me, nor were they what I truly wanted. I had told myself I was following the advice in Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision and focusing on how I could make either choice a successful one. I also gave myself the “the right job will come along, you just have to have confidence, believe in yourself” pep talk. And I actually do believe the right job will come along. I just forgot to remember that I’m human and rejection sucks. Fast forward to today. I happened to watch that WestJet Christmas Miracle video and suddenly all the emotion poured out and I started to cry, and then cried some more, and kept on at it well after the video ended. I mean it’s a heartwarming video and all, but I went on and on far beyond the power of even holiday marketing efforts.
Why did I care so much about two jobs that deep down I knew were not what I really wanted? I suppose there is some element of fear around being unemployed (expressed to my husband as “No one will ever want to hire me ever again and we’ll have to eat cat food and/or move in with our parents!” she said melodramatically with hand to forehead.) But I think the larger pain is that of rejection. We always want to be the breaker-upper (“it’s not you, it’s me”). No one wants to be the dumpee. We want to be loved, we want to be accepted, we want to be chosen, even if we don’t want what is choosing us. Maybe that is a control thing, or maybe it’s about fear, or failure, or all of them. All I know is that rejection sucks, baby.
Fortunately, I don’t stay down for long. After wallowing around watching more sappy holiday videos (seriously, it’s emotional blackmail, people), I stumbled across this quote that made me feel better.
Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent. ~Steve Martin
I am, if nothing else, a persistent person. Or at least I know how to be persistent. My job search efforts so far have shown me that I can actually make contact with companies and get interviews. The good(?) news about being rejected is that it’s not fatal. Not being picked does not actually damage you. You’re still you. So, I dried my eyes, took a deep breath and got back on Craigslist…
When you’re following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first. ~Kelly Cutrone
I love structure and process. Even in my current state of no-job-ness, I have established my own routines and habits for how I manage my time each day (see How to be unemployed for the bulleted list…). After deciding it would be helpful to create meal plans, I actually created a spreadsheet template that I can fill in each week. And one of the reasons I keep going back to Team in Training year after year is that it provides a structured program for my running. I am currently in between training seasons, so I found a running partner who keeps my running on track at least one day a week.
As part of this structural madness, when I go running, I wear a Garmin watch that records my pace, distance, and even plots out my run on a map when I upload the data online where I track my performance over time.
Left to my own devices without all these self-imposed organizational techniques, I am prone to procrastination of epic proportions. When I trained for races outside of Team in Training I was often getting done
as after the sun was setting because I put off running to the last possible hour of the day.
Structure, organization, plans, guidelines are my security blanket. Without them, I seem to flop from the “all” to the “nothing” end of the spectrum. But sometimes I think it’s healthy to shake ourselves up a little, even if only in small ways.
This past week I went out for a solo run. I started my Garmin and about two minutes in, I asked myself what would happen if I turned off my watch and just went for a run? It wasn’t easy as there would be no record for posterity of my efforts on the interwebs, but I stopped the timer and decided to ‘just run’ for a change. My pace wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t know what it was anyway, so I felt myself relaxing. When you aren’t obsessed with your splits and stuck in your head about your run, you can remind yourself why it is you run in the first place.
I looked around and saw the beautiful fall colors, I heard the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet. I was running along a street that overlooks the Puget Sound and saw a ferry crossing the water below me. It was a cool, crisp autumn day. The kind that is perfect for running. I ran simply and only for the joy of it.
How often do we go through the motions and follow our systems and plans without remembering why we are even doing these things in the first place? Sometimes we have to turn off the timer, put away the spreadsheet, set down the calendar and remember to enjoy ourselves.
I went to see my hairdresser Christy a couple of weeks ago. I was telling her about all my job seeking efforts and my frustration at how slow-going it all seemed to be. (The best hairdressers are as good of listeners as the best bartenders.) She commented that if it was going to take a long time, I might as well enjoy it.
There is no rule that says you are required to be somber and serious while looking for a job. In fact, that approach probably hinders more than it helps. Of course, I wasn’t trying not to enjoy myself, but I had gotten wound up in the routines and habits, that I forgot to relax and enjoy the ride. I am very fortunate that I have an amazing support system of family and friends, who have gone out of their way to help me. I have a loving husband who since he’s working from home these days I actually get to spend time with for a change. I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, and I am financially able to weather this storm without being one (or two or ten) paychecks from homelessness. I have much to appreciate about this journey.
When you are running towards an intersection where the light at the crosswalk is about to change and you don’t have quite enough time to make it – but if you run and run hard maybe there is a chance you just might make it. So you kick it into gear and make it across the street with one second to spare. Then you remember that you don’t have to run, you aren’t making a reluctant choice to run, you are lucky that you get to run as hard as you can. I am very lucky in both my endurance training and professional endeavors that I “get” to run and I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy both to their fullest.
Now that I’ve been at home, not working for a bit, I’m starting to uncover a few things about my true nature. Not that these traits are any big surprise, but I think we often see our work selves a little differently than we see our rest-of-our-life selves. As it turns out, I have some habits that are intrinsic to my personality, not a function of my job, workplace, or profession.
Here, in no particular order, are a few observations:
- I have no attention span. I know, I know, I’m an American living in the land of instant gratification, but still I am amazed by my own lack of focus. I interrupt my own interruptions. I will walk out of the bedroom to take a glass back to the kitchen and stop to catch something on TV and then turn from that to check my email, then Facebook, then Twitter, which will make me think of something on the TV and then I will see my glass, but remember there was something else in the bedroom I wanted to get and you get the idea. It can take 12 hours for that glass to make it all the way to the kitchen sink.
- I am a big procrastinator. Given that I have huge blocks of time at my disposal to finally get this or that big project done, one would think I would have started, something, anything. (Maybe I’m just too tired from all the ADD-based activity noted above??) Alas, I haven’t organized my scrapbooks. I haven’t created a menu plan with all new recipes I’ve never tried before. In fact, it took me almost two weeks just to get my cycling gloves back downstairs in my bike bag. Thankfully, I’m not a complete loser – I was able to tackle some of the important job-seeking tasks like updating my resume right off the bat. In fact, there seems to be some correlation between the level of priority and the level of procrastination. I do address the mission critical stuff in a timely fashion. I think I was just a little surprised to realize all those things that weren’t that important when I was employed (e.g., the scrapbooks) still aren’t that important.
- I like helping others more than I like helping myself. This is not to say I’m not doing things to take care of myself – I am still going to Weight Watchers, I’m still running, and I am spending time each day on my networking/job hunt efforts. However, I find when I am doing the job search my mind tends to wander to other folks I think I would great for this or that opportunity. Today, after chatting with a recruiter about what I was looking for, we spent a good fifteen minutes with me telling her about this other friend of mine she should be talking to as well. Of course, I didn’t think that helping people was strictly tied to work, but I guess I had expected that I would become much more self-focused not being in a regular work environment every day. So it has been heartening to know that my desire to think about others has persisted even when home all day.
- I’m still an extrovert. Okay, this is no surprise to anyone, least of all to myself. There is only so much hanging around at home that I can handle. Fortunately, I have been taking advantage of my flexibility to catch up with old friends for coffee or lunch and have been doing a little volunteering here and there to get me out of the house. Yesterday was one of those rare days that I was home all day by myself. When Brian got home, we went to run a few errands and bumped into a friend. We stopped at the corner and chatted for a few crosswalk cycles and it was amazing what a lift to my mood it was to talk to someone besides the cat.
As un-earth shattering as these insights may be, I do appreciate that I have had the mental bandwidth lately to observe and take note of them. I think a little self-reflection does us all good, and seeing some of the same patterns in our different walks of life helps reinforce what is “us” and what is our environment. As much as I would love to blame some of my short-comings on factors outside my control, I am actually glad to know that I’m the same (flawed and complex) me, working or not.
I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done. ~Susan Orlean
First, a couple of points on what this isn’t… This is not a piece on how to become unemployed. Generally speaking, I find most folks are able to figure that one out on their own. This also is not about how to get a job. There are loads of great articles on job hunting and the main suggestion I’ll make on that point is LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. (Oh, that, and I am finding the book Purple Squirrel by Michael Junge to be a great resource.)
This is more about how to spend the time you aren’t scouring the inter-webs and networking a go-go (LinkedIn – seriously, people). I was going to call this “rules for unemployment,” but they are more like pirate-style guidelines and don’t require 100% strict adherence.
- Make the bed – this requires that you actually get out of bed, which is good for you and prevents bed sores. I put away the alarm clock and don’t worry too much about when I get up, but I don’t lay around wallowing under the covers. (No one likes a wallower.)
- Put on clothes – they don’t have to be fancy, but they can’t be the same thing you woke up in. Repeats are okay, but clean underwear is a must.
- Go out into the world – hey, you’ve got clothes on, might as well take advantage. These don’t have to be big adventures and some days it’s just down to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee, but I try to make sure I leave the house at least once a day. Think of it as Vitamin D therapy.
- Do nothing – every day, I sit out on my deck and try to be still for at least 10 minutes. You could call this meditating or praying, but as long as there are no electronic devices present, I just call it being calm.
- Do something (for yourself) – lately for me this has been catching up on my Rom-Com DVDs (50 First Dates, anyone?), but it can be anything that is not job-hunt related that you enjoy. You will never be any good to anyone else, like a future employer, if you aren’t good to yourself first.
- Do something (for someone else) – I believe we’re on this earth to help each other. I try to find a way to do something, no matter how small, for someone else every single day. Maybe it’s volunteering, or maybe it’s helping a friend with their job search. And some days it’s just bringing home a Reece’s Big Cup for my husband when I make my 7-Eleven run.
- Be active – I find physical activity keeps both the cobwebs and the blues away. Some days, the hubby and I go for a long bike ride, and my running buddy, Duana, and I meet for runs once a week. Today, I took my pregnant friend for a walk (double bonus for helping someone else at the same time!)
- See people – setting the networking aspect of this aside for a moment, take advantage of the fact that your schedule is flexible and start catching up with all those folks you always promised you would meet for coffee when you had time. You now have that time. Sitting at home alone seeing no one makes your brain grow mold and who wants a moldy brain?
- Be grateful – I try my best to think of one thing I’m grateful for every day and when I’m having a hard day, I make a list. Again, this can be big stuff or little stuff. It all counts. Sometimes the little stuff is the big stuff.
Maybe your list is different, or maybe you don’t have a list and throwing the list away is part of your strategy. Whatever it is that you do while you are laying fallow, spend the time on your own terms. It may or may not take a long time to find that next job. You can choose to see that time as tortuous and long, or as a gift to be appreciated, but it is a choice – and the choice is yours. When I think about my next employer, whoever they may be, I imagine they would rather have someone positive, calm, and happy as a candidate and not someone bitter and frustrated. Or forget the job search for a minute, why would you want to be bitter and frustrated in any case? Life is precious and short and there’s no use wasting that precious time, regardless of your employment status.
Positive anything is better than negative nothing. ~Elbert Hubbard