“Failure in life does not matter; the greatest misfortune is standing still.” ~Sufi Sacred Text, Gayan 226 – Boula 185
Part 1 – How the White Rabbit Lured Me Off Course
We all know the White Rabbit of Alice’s adventures. He’s always late, always running off to the next appointment. Alice chases him, catches up for a moment, then he’s off again. Too much of that chasing is exhausting and can lead to disastrous consequences, including injury, illness or death. And for what?
After a few years of freelancing and making modest progress, the White Rabbit pulled me off course in the fall of 2007. All around the same time, I lost my COBRA coverage, my stepson came to live with us, and I experienced a professional disappointment in my work with the film industry. While I nursed my wounds I started tutoring at-risk children with a local company in the No Child Left Behind program. I fell in love with the wonderful children I got to work with while I was there.
They were a growing tutoring company, and I saw an opportunity to pitch in with administration. Before I knew it, I was envisioning myself playing a major role in their continued growth, thereby gaining me job stability and health insurance. That eventually came about to some degree. But as my salary and responsibilities increased, my joyful time with the children plummeted.
And I wasn’t finding much joyful time outside of work, either. In hopes of promotion and making myself indispensible to the company, the White Rabbit had me working harder and taking on more responsibility than I should have. It mentally exhausted me, so I wasn’t much fun at home. I gave myself no time for creative pursuits.
When political winds at the tutoring company inevitably changed, I was completely unprepared for how it would make me feel. I knew I had to go, but without a center or any idea of what was next, I was thrown off-balance, threatened, and less-than-graceful in my departure.
That was in the fall of 2011. The White Rabbit had convinced me I would not survive without health insurance and a steady income, and now my means of survival was gone.
The only thing that got me through the depression and grief of the next few months was the birth of my niece, Amelie. She was a bright spot in my otherwise dark days while I was mourning the loss of my latest Career (with a capital “C”) and beating myself up for all the stupid mistakes I’d made.
During this time I attempted to launch a company to help a tutor/friend sell her phonics game, but I didn’t have my heart in it. I circulated my resume with other tutoring companies to no response. I tried to use my tutoring industry contacts to get writing work. No dice. I nannied for Amelie when my sister-in-law went back to work in January 2012. And looked for work. But all my searching was half-hearted, because I didn’t really know what I wanted.
Part 2 – Enter: The Trickster
What was worse, my husband Charlie’s environmental consulting business was also in the tank due to the economy. In the midst of what was becoming our full-blown panic, an old friend of his called Charlie. He had been on Facebook watching our interest in permaculture and he had a proposal for us: Come rent space from him for less than our current rent, while we help him start a non-profit. We would have a working permaculture farm and learning center on his property in Chatham, NY.
In addition to the permaculture project, the friend promised Charlie would have work in the environmental industry through his connections. To the dismay of our family, we began making plans to move to New York. We purged at least a third of our stuff to fit the dimensions of our new place, and marched ahead to our April 15 moving date.
Once in Chatham, the next two months held one disappointment after another. Charlie’s friend didn’t prepare the space as agreed. We had to bag and move 17 industrial sized bags of dirty laundry out of the way to get to the washer and dryer. His friend was working only sporadically and behind on his mortgage. The promised work did not materialize. Worst of all, his friend was drinking hard. I’m talking 100 proof Vodka at 11 a.m. Needless to say, he was disinclined to do any serious planning or work on the permaculture project.
We felt duped. How could we have missed the signals? How could we go back now that we’d invested in a move? How could we face our loved ones and tell them we failed so epically? These were the nagging questions that plagued us before we made the painful decision to cut our losses and come back to Jacksonville at the end of June.
Part 3 – The Road Back to Wholeness
We are so fortunate to have my loving, forgiving family here in Jacksonville. For the first couple of months after we returned, Charlie and I stayed with them while we tried to get back on our feet.
While looking for work we began to spend time with the creative community in Riverside. We knew a lot of people before we left, but we were always “too busy” to get involved. For the first time in years, I was networking with creative people – artists, writers, musicians. Not only was it was nourishing to my soul to be able to commune with people who “get” me, I learned from their example.
It was a rough summer and fall. All summer I was fighting a stress-related urinary tract infection that turned into a full-blown kidney infection. I was anxious a lot, and still struggling with depression. We didn’t get work until September.
Through all this and with the support of family and community, I learned how to be happy with less. In fact, in making the best of a bad situation, I learned my happiness doesn’t need to depend on what I have or don’t have. I learned what a great inspiration and support a strong community of like-minded people can be. I learned that I need – not just want, but need – to give life to my artistic impulses. I learned I really don’t want a Career with a capital “C,” and that’s okay.
My first Facebook blog emerged as we were searching for an apartment in November. I decided to post a little anecdote about our search one night. My friends liked it. They seemed to want to hear more, so I kept posting. The result was “Adventures in Apartment Hunting,” a sort of a micro-blog mini-series on Facebook.
Now things were coming more into focus. I was realizing I am ready to go back to freelancing, and I just need some odd jobs to keep things steady while I find some good projects to work on. I began to dream about having a real blog to promote my writing and other creative work.
In December, after I did “The Gallery of Mall Characters”series on Facebook, my dream started turning into a plan. With the momentum of the new year driving me, I beseeched my friend, the talented Artist and Wizard Katherine Bell, to help me set up this blog and she obliged.
It’s not perfect, but neither am I. I still have a lot to learn. There are tags to add, things I need to learn to do with trackbacks and links, and I need to find other bloggers to interact with. It is a step, and one I am happy to be making today. I hope you will join me on this new phase of my journey.
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