Archives for posts with tag: continuing education

I slept in. It’s a lovely summer morning, before the heat sets in. Water is heating for coffee. Internal plumbing means I have hot water on tap for a refreshing shower, and air conditioning keeps the place comfortable for the heat of the day. I caught sight of a bunny down in the yard, from the deck this morning, as I watered. I’m not in any particular pain, right now. I feel good in my skin. So much goodness in this one moment.

A chipmunk grabs a quick bite before darting away.

A bit like small, timid, creatures expecting to be hunted, sometimes we handle our best moments fearfully, ready to dart away at the first “sign of danger”, waiting for disaster to strike, or convinced we don’t “deserve” it, or that it isn’t real. :-\

This morning? I’m just enjoying the moment, and this fine cup of coffee, which I’ve only now finished making. It feels like summer, and I am content to enjoy that. I’ll also note that “this”? It didn’t come naturally. I used to face all the good life had to offer me with terrible anxiety – certain that it would all be “taken away”. Soon. That perspective made it super hard to really relax, and really wholly enjoy myself. Contentment stayed out of reach. Happiness was largely out of the question. Life felt harder than it had to.

I’m not sure how to convince or persuade that there is another way, besides living another way, making other choices, and sharing my experience. Your results may vary. We each have to walk our own hard mile; we are each having our own experience. Still. This is a great place to begin a new journey. Or this. Hell, if you’re into reading, there are stepping stones and mile posts all along this path. Yes, it does require effort. Yes, it’s work you’ll do the rest of your life. I’m not trying to discourage you by calling it “effort” or “work”, either, just being real, reading about doing what it will take is not at all the same as doing the things it will take. Still… the effort, for me, has been very much worth it.

…It’s a lovely sunny day. My coffee tastes good. My heart is at ease. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I had recently noticed that something’s been digging in my container garden. I know the squirrels, who are regular visitors, are likely suspects; I’ve seen them bury acorns in those same containers, so perhaps they’ve also been digging them up? Seems a safe enough assumption. It’s still just an assumption. If I hang on to that assumption long enough, it becomes a belief. As a belief, it sits in my head guiding my expectations of things to come. I expect, eventually, to see a squirrel digging up acorns from those pots, naturally.

A succulent garden in a large pot, thoroughly dug up, peanut shells littering the ground, carelessly left behind by a visitor.

Funny thing about “reality”; it isn’t at all what we imagine, or assume, or expect it to be. It is what it is. (What it’s made of is a lofty topic for other days, and fancy experts, I can’t do it justice, here.) I happened to be relaxing with a cup of decaf, considering the afternoon ahead, and spotted movement on the deck out of the corner of my eye. Squirrels? Not quite squirrel like. And tiny. I turn slowly and watch carefully, waiting… waiting… waiting… My eyes adjust to the “pattern” of the container garden on the deck – there it is. A new visitor, or at least one I haven’t spotted before – a chipmunk. An actual chipmunk has come up onto the deck (which exists on the same level as the single level residence in which I make my home, but from the back of the house, would be “the second floor”, because the property slopes considerably). I sit and watch the chipmunk. The chipmunk darts here and there, behind pots, over pots, between pots, watching me. There is no opportunity to get my new camera, but my phone is at hand. I don’t reach for it right away, I just watch.

My chipmunk visitor pauses perched on a pot.

That’s when I spotted it, a snapshot of a reality I don’t generally see; the chipmunk is my digging visitor. My little visitor hopped up to the lip of first one pot, then another, and just dug like crazy, leaving pock-marked soil, divots, and craters behind. The chipmunk was digging up the peanuts the squirrels had recently buried and eating them, one by one. There’s even a chance it’s been happening right in front of me – the little chipmunk’s camouflage is very good. I sat and watched a good while longer, until my little visitor left.

Some movement startles the chipmunk, which grabs one last peanut and darts away.

I end up sitting quietly for some minutes, contemplating the ease with which I assumed the squirrels to be responsible for the “bad acts” of the wee chipmunks, who I hadn’t considered at all – because I didn’t know they would come up onto the deck in the first place, having never seen that behavior. I was limited by my lack of knowledge, and my reasoning was impaired by my assumptions. It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth getting all “meta” with that experience and recognizing the damage I potentially do to myself and to my relationships to allow unverified assumptions to become beliefs which inform my expectations and guide my decision-making. There’s something greater to understand in that, something that matters. I sip my coffee and stare into the rain.

I sigh contentedly. I don’t need more from this moment. This is enough.

 

I’m excited to be house-hunting. When I am excited, I sometimes also lose perspective. To find perspective, stay on track with my goals and planning, and to ensure I don’t engage in well-intended self-sabotaging decision-making based on fantastical daydreams, I indulge my excitement a bit by really settling in to seriously study whatever I’m currently hung up on, until I am able to make a well-reasoned decision about it in the context of knowledge – and existing plans, and long-term needs.

Take the humble chicken, for example; I’d like to have a couple chickens. I like fresh eggs. I even like chickens. I’ve had chickens, at a different point in life. None of these statements indicates any particular level of expertise on which I might base good decision-making. I spent a goodly amount of time yesterday reading about caring for chickens, looking at plans for coops, reading about diseases and parasites common to chickens, and how to prevent or treat those. I read about the space they need, and the behavior of chickens. I read about how to care for them, and their life expectancy and needs. I read a lot of chicken-keeping related topics. I planned a budget around getting set up for keeping chickens, and maintaining them over time. I compared the cost of having those fresh eggs to the cost of buying farm fresh eggs at the nearest farmer’s market. I looked at likely new homeowner expenses in the first year of homeownership, and the impact of keeping chickens on the funds I would need for non-negotiable home care. I sipped coffee. I meditated. I enjoyed a relaxing day of reading and quiet time.

By the end of the day I was pretty clear on two things: I’d like to keep chickens – enough to justify the cost – and it’s not something that makes sense to do in the first year I have my home. There will be other higher priority needs to attend to. There was no sense of disappointment at all. I ended the day feeling more educated on a topic I am excited about, and well-equipped to comfortably make a good decision about it. I take my daydreaming pretty seriously, and I’ve learned that doing so doesn’t have to be about spontaneous bad decisions that come with major consequences. Far better to harness the power of my dreams to fuel my further education. There is so much to learn! So much to know!

Today is a good day to learn more about what excites me most. Today is a good day to educate myself. Today is a good day for consideration, and well-thought-out decision-making. Today is a good day to take care of the person in the mirror by meeting her needs over time. 🙂

I sat down with a state employee yesterday, a requirement as I go through the various processes involved with shifting gears from ‘gainfully employed’ to ‘not so much’ for the time being. It was inevitable, and as indicated, required. It was a pleasant enough experience, like a jingle or a pop song, purposeful and fairly cheery… with one wrong note. Discussing skills and experience, she dismissed both my painting and my writing as ‘hobbies’ and told me in a frank and practical tone that those “don’t count” and I “should stay focused on real work skills” when seeking employment. I laughed and playfully pointed out what a buzz kill that must be for graphic artists, and technical writers… she looked at me oddly and said she didn’t understand what I meant. Oh my. Say it with me, People, “art is real work, so is writing, so is acting, so is philosophy – yes, people can (and should) be paid to think, and paid to create.

Can we please just make one change in the way we view productivity? Can we please recognize the inherent value of creative works? 🙂 Hell, the most important work I have done as a human being has been artistic work; not a damned thing I’ve ever done for corporate America has been worthy of further consideration once the moment has passed. (This is likely quite true for most ‘gainfully employed’ human beings – most of the effort for which we are compensated lacks meaning, it is simply revenue generating for that employer, and therefore valued sufficiently for [required] compensation – and based on the brouhaha over increasing the minimum wage, they grudge workers even that.)

Again and again, I am struck by how reluctant we seem to be to pay artists. It’s a little weird, isn’t it? We pay the barista who makes our coffee, the cashier who rings up our groceries, the mechanic who services our vehicle, the firefighters who stand by ready to fight fires (and who get paid even when nothing is on fire), we pay CEO types who may do literally nothing besides attending meetings and answering emails (and we pay them very well), hell – we even pay athletes to play games they’d likely pay for free, to secure the reliable playing of the game at a venue large enough for paying crowds to attend. What’s with expecting artists – any kind of artists – to work for free? (By the way, working for ‘exposure’ is the identical same thing as working for free!) How is painting not work? How is writing not work? How is acting not work? I mean, seriously folks… if you allow the average CEO, or executive manager, or pro athlete to identify their compensated activities as ‘work’, then how is a painter not working? How is a novelist not working? How is a poet not working? Seriously? Don’t be dicks. It may not be easy to place a painter in a paid position as a painter – but for fuck’s sake is it necessary to denigrate that meaningful work, by saying it isn’t ‘real work’? I’ll admit to being more than a little irked that the government will subsidize farmers, but not artists. It’s easy to see that filling the stomach of the nation is important… Is it so difficult to see that feeding our hearts, minds, and souls is important, too? Would we perhaps be better human beings if we more easily recognized artistic endeavors as valued work? I think it is worth thinking about. (End rant. 🙂 )

work

Not yet ready for ‘real work’, there is real work to be done to finish moving into my studio. 🙂

It is a lovely morning. I plan to spend the day [working] in the studio, aside from one pause for an interview call. The practical requirements of life must still be met, and I hope to find a position from which I can invest more time in artistic endeavors. I feel unhurried and well-prepared. My traveling partner shared a great quote with me yesterday that fuels and encourages me. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” (Louis Pasteur) I take additional steps to be that ‘prepared mind’ as I live my life and study life’s curriculum, extending my studies into new areas that have the potential to enhance my existing (monetarily valued) skills; I have enrolled in some coursework in analysis and economics. (I continue to be a big fan of continuing education, and it has served me well over the years.)

Today is a good day to be spent on practical matters and taking care of this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to invest in infrastructure (through educating myself, tidying up my studio, maintaining an organized living space, and practicing the practices that build emotional resilience and self-sufficiency). Yes, there are verbs involved. 🙂

The weekend was an exceptional blend of meditation, study, growth, inspiration, and relaxation. Now it is over. I’m okay with that; it puts me one day closer to seeing my traveling partner again. His weekend is over, too. Soon we’ll get together, and linger over the sharing of individual experiences, telling tales, reflecting on growth, laughing, commiserating, and cheering each other on in life. Funny thing about good weekends and my brain, I slept very restlessly last night, waking every 90 minutes or so concerned that I might somehow miss the alarm, checking the clock, and returning to sleep. By 4:15 am, I was done talking myself into more sleep, and went ahead and got up to take on the day.

A different coffee, on another morning, and thinking of love.

A different coffee, on another morning, and thinking of love.

Something ‘clicked’ for me yesterday, and I find myself on what feels like very firm ground, as an emotional being. Calmer from deeper within, more centered, more patient with myself and the world, and capable of acting from a place that leverages the full measure of my 52 experience-rich years. Something a step beyond comfortably me… and I wonder if it will ‘last’, and what it requires to nurture this feeling and build on it? I sip my coffee and quietly contemplate all the many sorts of changes human beings experience in a lifetime, those that are evident to everyone, and those that are less so. I find myself wanting to greet Monday differently… something like “How was your weekend? Mine? Oh, I’m changed…”  That’s not the sort of thing one generally does. I find myself wondering why not…?

Between the practicing and the studying, the growth happens. Sometimes it is something I can feel, or be specifically aware of, sometimes it is more subtle. There are no rules about how this thing called life must progress, or how we grow as human beings, or what kind of time and effort that takes; we are each having our own experience. We can fight it off, if we choose. I’ve tried that, too, and found it frustrating, unsatisfying, and in some cases more than a little damaging. I’ve learned over time that growth isn’t the result of forcing myself to trudge through life from one externally imposed goal to another, or working my ass off to achieve some vision of me someone else holds. Growth is the result of waking up and realizing I don’t need someone else’s goals or guidelines to find my way – understanding why that is, and becoming my own cartographer. Growth is finding satisfaction in the experience I am having, myself, and learning to enact change based on my own vision of who I am along the way. Growth is waking up to how much of the baggage I carry is self-imposed, and setting at least that much down, and walking on. And doing it again when I noticed I’ve picked it back up, and repeating as needed until, over time, I’ve left it behind. I’m feeling pretty good about growth this morning. 🙂

Seems to be very effective so far... probably doesn't hurt that the path is mine, and that I choose it myself.

Seems to be very effective so far… probably doesn’t hurt that the path is mine, and that I choose it myself.

Truth is, I feel pretty good in general this morning, except for the pain – which I haven’t mentioned, because I ‘didn’t notice it’ (meaning only that it wasn’t prominent in my consciousness, and I wasn’t giving it any attention). The alarm went off a moment ago (I got up early, but didn’t think to turn it off) and, in movement, the pain and the stiffness of my arthritic spine shifted to a more obvious place in my awareness. Aging has some pretty annoying elements to it; the pain and stiffness of my arthritis top my list of things that annoy me about aging, this morning. I am confronted with an irrefutable demonstration of the difference between ‘growth’ and ‘aging’.

I pause to reflect on growth and aging, and wonder if medical science has advanced enough to rationally consider 120 a realistically achievable lifespan… If so, I’m less than ‘half way’… that promises so much more growth, so many more experiences, so much more learning, and so much more love! I’m not even having to start the second half with a completely unformed consciousness – it’s like a head start! Only… what if this is the ‘completely unformed consciousness’ with which we do approach our mature years? I mean… I am significantly different in thoughts, values, and experiences than I was at birth, and it seems likely that I will be a similar order of magnitude different at the other end of this experience, given continued growth, learning, and experiences. Is ‘getting old’ more a matter of stopping growth, or slowing it down, than it is additional years of age? There seems to be some support for that in the science…certainly there is very firm encouragement to keep walking, to keep reading, to keep learning, to keep loving…all these things slow cognitive decline. (Are you still quite young, and reading this? Plan ahead! Live now. The future will come to you.)

Meditating, sketching, writing... feeling loved along the way...

A weekend spent meditating, sketching, writing… feeling loved along the way…

...taking time for study, and reading for pleasure...

…taking time for study, and reading for pleasure…

...taking time for pleasure, and the occasional moment of self-indulgence...

…taking time for pleasure, and the occasional moment of self-indulgence…

The weekend seemed almost eternal, and still it manages to be over too soon – but my needs are met, and that is a wonderful feeling. More wonderful still, I met my needs myself, with some lovely sprinkles of affection and connection with my traveling partner and friends. There are things to learn from that, and I face the week feeling more emotionally self-sufficient, and what is becoming, over time, quite typically content. Two years ago I would not have dared set expectations with myself of being in the place I find myself today…a year ago, it might have seemed possible in some remote theoretical way, but self-doubt, insecurity, fear, and stress were not just holding me back – they made it tough to see further down the path than tomorrow. Even Thursday, I might have said ‘someday, sure…’ and didn’t realize I might feel the way I do as soon as ‘now’. It’s very much a ‘now’ thing, too. I’m comfortable not making assumptions about how I will feel tomorrow, or whether every day of my future will feel similarly; this is a human experience, and change is part of that. There will no doubt be opportunities for future doubts, fears, and insecurities, and surely I will find myself, now and again, at a loss for words, feeling awkward, or just fucking clueless in some moment when certainty would have value. I’m okay with all of that. I have more room to grow, to learn, and to experience life’s curriculum. I am okay with only being as wise as I actually am…and I am ready to embrace being every bit as wise as I have grown to be, without second-guessing that, or being discouraged by other voices. (Yes, there are verbs involved, and yes, I expect my results may vary.)

Today is a good day for being, and for becoming. Today is a good day to accept the woman in the mirror precisely as she is, without holding her back from change and growth in the future. Today is a good day to build on the strength of experience, and to recognize that there is room to grow – always room to grow. Today is a good day to treat every being well, including the woman in the mirror. Today is a good day to change the perspective from which I view the world.