No Woman (or Man) Is An Island

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.   ~John Donne

Contrary to (my) popular belief, my opinion is not the only one on the planet. My way of thinking on a particular subject is not the only way to think about a subject.

As many of you may remember (who wants to?), I wrote a blog a while back about my work title changing to “writer”, and that I was going to do my best to write company blogs and emails and whatever scraps were tossed my way.

Well, months later, and I’m not writing much at all. My company is going through a “transition” (always a great phrase when you don’t know what’s going on), and I often feel that because I’m older I’m being slowly but surely shown the proverbial door. It is a baby boomer point of view.

That’s my island.

Yesterday I read a blog from Blue Settia about the Generation Gap in the Workplace. It is a piece on the problems in the workplace from someone on the other side of the work cycle — someone 40 years younger than me. And she is going through the madness from a millennial point of view.

That is her island.

And it made me realize that corporate America (and other countries) still has a hard time bridging the age gap when it comes to making their employees feel important. Like their contributions matter. And that it’s not just my generation who is feeling the pressure of acceptance and getting along.

I realize a big company cannot cater to the egos of a hundred, a thousand, employees. Everyone has their own needs, their own insecurities, their own drives. And a company’s main thrust has always been, and will always be, making money first.

But when good, hard working people want to contribute, and their ambitions are not heard, what is the point?

Is a paycheck only a means to an end?

The point of today’s blog is to show that you are NOT an island unto yourself. That, unknown to you, there are others going through the frustrations and missed opportunities of becoming more than you are today. The business world is my commuter island today; for others it’s motherhood, their health, finding a job.

Whenever you think the world has passed you by, talk to someone else who is younger, older, or more seasoned. Talk to a stay-at-home mother, a friend who barely makes it living check to check, or someone who is management.

Listen to what each has to say. Really listen. Island hop. You may be surprised how many islands are really connected to yours.

And enjoy that island breeze together.

Balancing the Best of Both Worlds

56179-cat-on-keyboard-typing-gif-hi43I’ve come to crossroads in my life. A strange, positive, yet confusing, conundrum.

I believe I told you I suffer from “be careful what you wish for” syndrome. All my life I’ve been a writer, but never for money. Never for a living. It’s always been mountains of stories, poetry, and rhymes, along with lists, ideas, and doodles.

But lately at work I’ve been doing a lot of writing. And, if things work out, I’ll be doing a lot more. I am enjoying the pace, the pressure, and the chance to see if I have what it takes to be a full-time writer.

One thing I notice, though, is that by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is be creative. I’m pretty well cashed for the night.

And that upsets me.

I have always had a laundry list of things I want to write, to edit, to play with. There is no cork on imagination. But spending 9 hours a day in front of a computer, most of the time bringing life to everyday words, makes for one mentally drained oldie-but-goodie boho chick. By the time I have dinner, do the dishes, and sit down in front of my own laptop, I find myself suffering from brain freeze. It’s like my thoughts are somewhere behind this lovely burled oak door with a leaded glass window that reveals gorgeous vistas, but the door is stuck closed.

This will not do.

I am a writer. A make-up-story kinda gal. I love to write about spirits and middle aged women and time travel and elves and occasional sex. The more creative the better.

But I also have dreamed about writing for a living. Something that, for me, comes easily. Having had grammar and structure and style as my bedfellows for like ever, the prospect of writing full-time is a chance I want to take. Even if I don’t make it, I have to take that chance.

For a long time my husband has been telling me to cut back on computer time. I spend all day in front of that dull light, squinting and studying and reading two computer screens. Then I come home and squint and study and read one laptop screen. I suffer from headaches, and all this extra squint time doesn’t help. So cutting back on the night time does makes sense.

But I still don’t like it.

How do you balance the two worlds? Especially if both of your worlds are places you enjoy being?

It’s not all disastrous — it’s actually a pleasant conundrum. This conflict is forcing me to schedule my time better — writing time is scheduled just like doing the laundry or paying bills.

But I tell you now — it won’t be as much fun.

Let’s Change Our Work Hours

keep-calm-mondayMonday Monday, can’t trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me.    ~Mamas and Papas

 

Monday’s really aren’t that bad, but somehow our culture has psychologically made it the fall guy for all jobs we hate and bills we have to pay.

So I put it out to you — If mankind — or rather the working world — could work their “8 Hour Day” any 8 hours straight they choose, could Monday (or any other day) be still successful — and less stressful?

I will use myself as a shining example. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself to be a night owl. Or rather my body thinks it’s a night owl. I love the evening, the night — I could stay up until 1-2 a.m., windows open, music, writing, folding laundry, whatever the calling.

I also could sleep in until 8 or 9 a.m. every day after that, too.

So why couldn’t I punch a time clock at 11 am and punch out at  7 pm? Or some mornings punch in at 9 am and get out at 5 pm? Or punch in at 1 p.m. and scoot at 9 pm?

I know — first off you say I should get a second shift job. I don’t think they do my kind of advertising work at night.

I know — you also will say that companies can’t have people coming and going all the time; that their utilities would have to be on 24/7, which would cost more money to them, and less to me. Well, my household utilities are often on 24/7 — or 21/10 anyway, so it’s time for companies to join the millennium.

I want to be able to wake up with the birds when I want or sleep until they’re at their noon siesta. I want to wake up and see it’s raining and turn over and sleep a few more hours. I want the freedom to wake up peppy and prepped or sluggish and sluggy, and have both be an okay start for the day.

I suppose it’s one of those wasted daydreams like what I’d do if I won the lottery or lost 50 pounds. But I live on daydreams. I dance with the Arts, with the Muses, with the Dreamers and the Philosophers. Free thinking is a blessing, a gift, and a burden. Rather to carry that burden than others that exist around me.

But back to the flexible schedule. I suppose the truth is that I’d push the start time further and further back until I was working the night shift. Which is time to go to bed. Guess it is all just a continuous Celtic Knot with me at the center.

I suppose retirement is the only out for me. Or lots of half-days off. Or winning the lottery. My best chance is the last one.

Got a dollar?

 

 

Squirrelly

Today has been one of those “squirrelly” kind of days. You know those kind — I’ve misplaced more things today than I have in the past week. I suppose it’s because I’m always in a hurry. Sagittarians never seem to finish their current project — they always find something more interesting to do, and leave things half-way done.

I decided the best therapy was to either come home from work, eat, and head straight for the bed, getting up only to let the dogs out; or to come to the library and use their WiFi to work on my blog’s photo gallery. I kidded my friends on Facebook that I’m always tired, achy, ready for bed (even at 10 in the morning), and yet  all I can think about is writing and researching and brainstorming with friends. They all told me it’s Writer’s Syndrome.

I wish I could say I was in the middle of my breakout novel — that I was working on an article for work or for my friend’s website. But it’s not. I’m kinda done with the novel thing for a while; I’ve thought about working on getting my Gaia and the Etruscans  published, but here in the middle/end of January that just seems like too much work. So I spend my time with ways to enhance my blog.

There is no doubt that that ambition leads to quite a bit of squirrelly-ness.

I come across dozens of articles a week that promise to help me build my reader base, get picked up by search engines, make money by blogging (or writing in general), enhance my blogsite…enough to fill Dumbledore’s Goblet of Fire. There are a million blogs out there; a million ways to build/entice/share/follow — so many that I’m dizzy talking about it. I follow about 30 blogs, and could easily follow 30 more, but with a full-time job I barely have time to read my own writing.

This past year hubby has gotten a new job that is from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Bad for him — great for me. You would think. It is turning out that he doesn’t mind these hours, and I don’t have enough of them. Ah, you say — hours and hours of alone writing time! Peace and Quiet! Inspiration! Musing! Researching!

It’s a nice thought, but for someone like me who can’t sit still for 20 minutes, it’s a circus.

During the day I’m busy entering data, my Muse coming and bugging me now and then with new ideas. She is an Irish Wench, you know, and has no problem speaking her mind. And often times her ideas are great. But not when I’m entering HTML code. So we make a date to meet after hubby goes to work.

By that time I’ve been up 13 hours, let the dogs out three times, washed the dishes, thrown in a load of laundry, wiped the dust off the TV, and set up my writing corner on the sofa. By then my ambition has waned. My energy level slips minute by minute, and what seemed so exciting at 11 a.m. now seems like a mountain I’m too tired to climb. I manage to get a little work done so that pulling out my laptop isn’t for naught, but most times my mind is a blank.

Then about 9 p.m. I get my second wind.

Now, I have to get up in 8 hours, and old people like me are supposed to get at least 8-10 hours a sleep at night. But the great ideas of my Wench sneak back into my consciousness and I’m up writing and researching and downloading until 11:30 at night.

No wonder I’m so squirrelly.

I’m really trying to get into a schedule, a pattern, where I can do a little of everything and still get to bed at a decent time. But it doesn’t seem to be working. I escaped to the library this evening just so I wouldn’t have to let my dogs out three times and give them cookies and push the cat off my lap and look at the dishes I didn’t do or walk around the laundry I conveniently forgot to do.

Sometimes all I want to do is write.

But sometimes wantin’ ain’t gettin’.

How do YOU do it??

TunnelVision

xListening to some mellow middle-of-the-road music yesterday, I began feeling a little melancholy.  A little sad. But not for the reasons you — or I — would first think. A few fellow employees have retired these past few days, and I find that I’m saying goodbye, not to those who are moving into the glorious sunset of the future, but to my own last days before into that same glorious sunset.

The retiring of two more “oldies” was an inevitable step towards the future. The changing of the guard, so to speak. Stepping out the door were two more of the microfiche and typewriter world, making room for the tablet and Bluetooth generation.  And while that is the natural order of things, I found my dreams of being someone, something, more, walking out the door with them. And I didn’t like that feeling.

The working world is built for the fast, the curious, the nimble. It moves too fast for those who grew up on record players and black and white TVs. The harder I try and keep up, the further behind I fall. Which is also the nature of things.  But when I looked at the picture poster boards of those who have left, I saw young workers, bright workers, working and laughing and making the working world a better place. Forty years worth of working and laughing and making the working world a better place. And suddenly those 40 years were gone in a heartbeat; a glance backwards to that ever-growing tunnel of used-to-be.

Through their 40 years I see my own timeline. I see flashes of my kids playing soccer, or sitting on Santa’s lap, or singing in the grade school choir. I see my first job as a linofilm typist and my most exciting job working in downtown Chicago and my failed job as a bed and breakfast owner. And as the retirees walk away from the only life they’ve known for 30 or 40 years, I wonder where my own past 30 or 40 years have gone.

In the melancholy of the last few days of their structured work place, I find a lifetime’s worth of struggle and passion disappearing in a puff of smoke, replaced for a moment by a cake with too-sweet frosting and a card signed by well wishers. How can one’s life achievements be reduced to a single goodbye? To a “thanks for the memories” speech?

I want to stand in the middle of the street and scream, “I am so much more!”

Yet looking backwards it seems I never got a chance to prove it. The fog obscures my vision, 20 or 30 or 40 years looking the same as 2 or 4 or 6 months ago. The mistakes I’ve made, the choices I’ve made, may have brought me to this place, but so would other mistakes, other choices. Life is really a game of craps, throwing the dice a symbol of pretending to have a say in anything. We are our DNA; we are our chemical imbalances and out superstar achievements. So we have to work with what we’ve got.

The tears that stung and blurred my eyes were not so much for the old guard passing as they were for my own life passing. Wondering if all there is to life is 40 years and a super sweet cake. Guess I’ll just have to wait until my own super sweet cake comes along to see how I weather the foggy storm of retirement.

Suddenly the music changed. Kick Start My Heart. I cranked it up.  And all I wanted to do was smush that retirement cake into someone’s face.

Damn, I love being me.

 

 

Not Today

computer-freakout-gifI have finally started to settle down from my week in Eagle River, Wisconsin. “Great Times Come With the Territory” is the ER code. I tend to agree. I went up with my grandbaby and daughter-in-law at the beginning of the week, the Men joining us on Friday. Every day I kept saying “I could get used to this.” Sleeping in late, not much cleaning to speak of, morning walks to the lake, boat rides, naps — you get the picture.

I also found myself slowly melting into a pool of pudding. A little less motivation each day. More of an urge to sit on the deck with a drink (mostly non-alcoholic), making small talk, reading Game of Thrones Book I. Catching rays at the beach. No TV, just DVDs and VHS tapes. I had a slow Internet connection, but it was just enough to check e-mails and Facebook.

And I kept on saying, “I could get used to this.”

But I had a job and a house and two cats four hours south of the “Great Times” town that I needed to get back to. So with a sigh of resignation and a bit of Zen I returned to my ‘real’ ity.  Driving down the backroads to my office computer job this morning, I realized that maybe it was a good thing to come back when I did. Escaping for a week, forgetting after a while to check the clock, staying up late, sleeping later, really warped my reality. I found it so easy to forget about world news and office gossip and all the things that bug me. I didn’t have to compete with anyone, compare myself with anyone, nor push myself past the point of no return. I ran around morning through evening with my favorite four-year-old, screwing up my biological clock and my muscles, not caring about either.

I found myself becoming a Duh. I suppose that’s not a bad thing. If sitting and staring off the deck through the seasons became my daily fare, I imagine sooner or later my A.D.D. would kick in and I’d be rabbiting around town in no time. I’m sure I’d get back into the groove and write up a storm and maybe even put enough energy into it to get published. Or start a real live exercise routine like walking to the lake (and further) and back every morning.

Then there’s the winters up there. From November through April it’s snow boots, snow shovels, and snow flakes (both the water and people kind). Unless you are a snowmobile babe (which I definitely am not), the most action you get during the week is running to the grocery store. Writing time — maybe. Sleeping time — definitely. An easy road to Winter Duh.

So I suppose for now it’s better to be tied to a computer entering data eight hours a day, feeling overworked and under-appreciated, never having enough time to do what I need to do, less what I want to do, having problems sleeping and waking up, trying to find a way to work out my day shift with my husband’s night shift.

Better to be a frazzled, burned out Duh than a sleepy, pleasantly lethargic Duh.

At least for now.

 

Ohhh Oh…Working for a Living…

workingAh, the proverbial “working world.” It’s so much more than ten letters. It’s heaven, it’s hell. It’s boring, it’s busy. We love it, we hate it. But for better or worse, it’s a means to an end — our end being a place to live, food for our table, and dog cookies for our  pets.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with most of my jobs through the years. I’m sure most of you have, too. Sometimes we make a difference — in our little way we help the company run smoother and more efficiently, and maybe help them make more money. But all that do-goodery often entails endless multi-tasking, long hours, and missed soccer games. Part of the American dream, I suppose. But we persevere and keep on working.

What today’s blog is about is, if you HAD to work and could do anything you’d like, what would you do? I suppose you could go whole hog and say be an astronaut and walk on the moon or swim with the dolphins, but it’s much more fun if you could be a little more — down-to-earth. More like the almost-dreams. The shoulda-turned-right dreams. Not actually regrets — more like — my next-life plans.

Like, for me. I’d love to be a full-time, money-making book writer. At home. With a housekeeper so I wouldn’t have to break my concentration folding laundry. My stories would be spicy, funny, adventurous, with wonderful twists. You’d love them.

Another great job I’ll never have would be a graphic artist, especially for a pop publication or upscale eatery. Great creativity, open minds, exacting details. Creativity out the gazoo.  If I were a graphic artist I’m sure I’d have the finesse to impress.

Of course, my favorite jobs aren’t always practical ones. I’m sure they, too, have down sides. But since I’m pretending, I’m stretching the parameters a little. Isn’t that what pretending’s all about?

So tell me, my friends — what would your ideal job be? If you have it, what is it?

And if it’s a great, fun job, do you need an assistant?

 

Oh Solo Mio

tv_gif4I tell you, middle age keeps getting curiouser and curiouser (as my friend Lewis Carroll says). Just as you think your life is as quiet as the morning breeze, a hurricane bobbles along and wobbles your weeble.

My employment has been one joy ride from beginning to end. Well, it’s not at land’s end yet…anyway, this blog isn’t about that.

My husband has been on the rat’s end of jobs for the past few years, and he’s further away from retirement than me. He’s finally found a great job, and is happily in training for a position which will hopefully carry us into my retirement.  But there is one hangup about this job. Training for the next few weeks is 3 pm till midnight, then he goes full blown second shift, 6 pm through 3 am.

I imagine some of you have worked odd shifts recently, a while ago, or ages ago. My closest brush with nights was working the Boston Store 5 until 10. Now, though, those hours were nothing vs. my hubby’s new worldly hours.

Funny thing is…I think I’m going to like it.

I have known many moms who have taken one road while the dads took the other. Two different shifts — it doesn’t matter who does when. It’s a rough time, but they made up for the madness on weekends and evenings and vacations. Lots of love goes into bringing up children when one’s up is another’s down.  I am fortunate that my” baby” boy is 24 and needs no babysitting. I have three pesty dogs and two mauly cats, so there is no problem with company.

There are downs, of course. Not being able to cuddle with my sweetie at night. Or not being able to ask him a thousand questions while we watch a movie. Or me vacuuming while he fills the dishwasher. Being married as long as we have, we have lots of conversations without either saying a word.

But there are strangely attractive things about holding my own five nights a week. We are still in the “dating” phase of two different job shifts; he comes home at midnight, kind of wakes me up, and I tiptoe around getting ready for work in the morning while the dogs argue about who gets to sleep on his legs.  But the dating phase is soon going to turn into serious marriage times, as he takes off for work not long after I get home and slips back home two hours before I get going. We will exchange love and kisses over a quick dinner every night, which is a positive.  And I may be able to squeeze a snuggle or two before I get up for the morning.

But I see the look in his eye. That look of … apprehension. Concern. He is worried what I will do — or not do — when he’s not around. That makes me laugh. Hardy har har laugh. But not for the reasons you think.

I suppose he thinks I’ll sit around and be a vegetable every night.

He’s not worried I’ll go party or shopping or something a wild 61-year-old might be inclined to do the minute authority is gone. (Are you laughing yet?)  He’s afraid I’ll come home from work and sit on the sofa all night and eat and drink and watch TV.  I think he’s concerned I’ll become even more pretzel as time goes on.  And I ask you — what’s wrong with that??

You see, I have a way of doing things that are not always the way others do things. I get them done…I just spread them out. A bit. Lots of little bits. I know it’s not the “right” way…the “right” way is do a project until it’s d-o-n-e. Why not? Get it out of the way. Finito. Then you are free to dance the night away if you’d like.  My problem is that if I finitoed everything at once the only dancing I’d do is in my dreams.

So I fill the dishwasher, then do whatever. I throw a load of laundry in and do whatever. Then when the dryer beeps I unload it and do something else. Maybe I’ll throw in another load of laundry, maybe I won’t. The thing is, I LIKE being sporadic. I LIKE being impulsive. And I LIKE doing it my way.  Something I couldn’t always do with hubby around doing his linear thing.

I admit that I am trying to schedule one “task” per evening. One working task, one play task. I’ve only tackled two nights so far, but I’ve stayed to task. Last night…sewing. Tonight, my blog.  I want to be able to go to bed at a normal time, to be able to take care of my personal hygiene and wardrobe and psyche. I want to take care of myself so I can take care of the man who has changed work shifts to take care of both of us. Some of our dreams have been run over by a locomotive; others are still out there, waiting for us.

So all I need to do is keep my tasks in check and manageable. No more superwoman. No more overachieving. And when we do meet twice a day, we will be connected in so many more ways.

Like — I will be sure to leave a list of what TV shows I’ve already watched. Favorite TV shows wait for no one — no matter what shift they work.

 

 

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst

Now that the last of Indian Summer has made its way to the teepee, I find myself losing energy and creativity. Maybe it’s the lull between seasons, between holidays. I haven’t even thought about Christmas, even though its a mere 40 days away; I have to get ready to deal with the big 6-0 and the desire to throw my own party (I don’t trust the rest of my family); and work is pure madness.  (Black Friday has never seen the likes of my desk…)

Some of you have been with me from the very beginning — I love ya’all for it.  For those newcomers who are too busy to rummage through my past ditties, I’m pulling one out of the preverbal hat.  It kind of reflects my mindset these days.
THE IMPORTANCE of UNICORNS and BRATWURST

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst. This is one of those ethereal, out-of-body titles that try to connect the cosmic to the ordinary, the magical to the mundane.  I was hit by this title some time ago, not having a clue as to what it meant or what I would eventually write about.  Even now, as my fingers hit the keys, I have no idea where this storyline is going.  But isn’t that so much like our everyday lives?

We start out the week with the most noble of intentions.  Perhaps we have a satisfying experience meditating or going to church Sunday morning, or sleep in a couple of extra hours.  Maybe our football team finally won a game.  Nonetheless, our day is delightful, and we end the night feeling satisfied.  All is right with the world, with our dreams and our desires. 

This is the power of the unicorn.  It is the magical sensation that connects earth and sky, dreams and reality, kids and parents.  In this hazy-yet-authentic state, the world is a soft, mystical place, offering rewards and blessings at every turn.  Our children clean their room without being asked; the washing machine doesn’t screech when spinning; even the movie we choose to watch had one of those feel-good endings.  In the unicorn state the world holds unlimited possibilities. You could actually lose those ten pounds or finally clean off your desk, or even finally start reading that novel you bought five months ago.  You are still based in reality, but the remnant good feelings are enough to move you towards the light and find satisfaction in the simplest things.

Monday comes along, a tough day for many.  A majority of us will drudge our way to work, blinking at the shortness of the weekend, and find our nine-to-five groove again.  Tuesday seems to be a lot harder than Monday.  Our failure to go to bed early over the weekend now is catching up with us, along with laundry that has mysteriously piled up and the bills we swear we mailed yesterday.  Our favorite TV show is coming on too late for us to watch with any coherency, and the last tape we saved to record said-TV-show was used to record a football game that everyone knows we lost.

Wednesday is hump day and we wonder just who is doing the humping.  Our resolve not to eat ten chocolate chip cookies in a row is weakening; our commitment to walk a mile or two after work is being thwarted by thunderstorms or ice storms or plagues of locusts.  We can never get our hair to do what our hairdresser did; our plans to cook Coq a Vin has gone by the wayside, seeing as the chicken is still frozen and we don’t have any red wine in the house to cook with anyway.

Thursday creeps into our lives with a thread of hesitancy.  After all, school has scheduled your son’s basketball game at the same time as your daughter’s piano recital, both of which are at the same time as your bowling league, which is at the same time your other favorite TV show is on, which you would have recorded had the football game not taken up the whole tape.

By Friday your resolutions are out the window along with that novel you can’t choke down anymore, and your thoughts try to center, not on what has been, but what will be.  The weekend is coming; that means a thousand activities shoved into a mere 48 hours.  It means going to visit your mom on the way to dropping off your kid at the mall, fighting the Saturday morning free-sample crowds at the grocery store, and coming home to an overanxious dog who just dumped the garbage all over the kitchen floor.  It is hoping the video store still has a copy of that brand new movie that everyone is talking about but you, and trying to decide whether to cook a gourmet meal or just throw sausages on the grill.

This is the bratwurst part, the raw-meat-of-reality part. Bratwurst is a wonderful German sausage, filled with flavor and spices and grilled to perfection.  How metaphoric that little pocket of meat and fat is!  It is the answer to all the cosmic questions in life! It fulfills the need for sustenance (it is a food group), it nurtures your creative side (sauerkraut?  Mustard?  Hot or German?)  It is available in abundance (you can buy them in three pound boxes), and it affords you the freedom of choice  (10 minutes on the grill; burble them in beer and onions for 15 and grill for five; slice them up and fry with potatoes for 20).

How clear it all becomes!  This little sausage is the answer to all metaphysical speculation, the answer to who we are and why we are on this planet.  It is tasty and filling, satisfying those inner child needs and outer kid bravados.  It ties the madness of the week up into a link that goes down easy and can be burped out in a satisfying form later through the night.  It is the spice of life.

I never thought of unicorns and bratwursts as the symbols for Life; I always thought that symbol was that little stick person with the big egg head.  Now that I have been enlightened, I can see that symbol does look like someone celebrating the bratwurst of life, arms out, joyous and all encompassing.

And the unicorn part?

 I’m not quite sure, but I will ask the one standing behind me after I find out if he wants sauerkraut on his bratwurst.

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst

   The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst. This is one of those ethereal, out-of-body titles that try to connect the cosmic to the ordinary, the magical to the mundane.  I was hit by this title some time ago, not having a clue as to what it meant or what I would eventually write about.  Even now, as my fingers hit the keys, I have no idea where this storyline is going.  But isn’t that so much like our everyday lives?

We start out the week with the most noble of intentions.  Perhaps we have a satisfying experience meditating Sunday morning, or are able to sleep in a couple of extra hours.  Maybe our football team finally won a game.  Nonetheless, our day is delightful, and we end the night feeling satisfied.  All is right with the world, with our dreams and our desires. 

This is the power of the unicorn.  It is the magical sensation that connects earth and sky, dreams and reality, kids and parents.  In this hazy-yet-authentic state, the world is a soft, mystical place, offering rewards and blessings at every turn.  Our children clean their room without being asked; the washing machine doesn’t screech when spinning; even the movie we choose to watch had one of those feel-good endings.

In the unicorn state the world holds unlimited possibilities. You could actually lose those ten pounds or finally clean off your desk, or even finally start reading that novel you bought five months ago.  You are still based in reality, but the remnant good feelings are enough to move you towards the light and find satisfaction in the simplest things.

 Monday comes along, a tough day for many.  A majority of us will drudge our way to work, blinking at the shortness of the weekend, and find our nine-to-five groove again.  Tuesday seems to be a lot harder than Monday.  Our failure to go to bed early over the weekend now is catching up with us, along with laundry that has mysteriously piled up and the bills we swear we mailed yesterday.  Our favorite TV show is coming on too late for us to watch with any coherency, and the last tape we saved to record said-TV-show was used to record a football game that everyone knows we lost.

 Wednesday is hump day and we wonder just who is doing the humping.  Our resolve not to eat ten chocolate chip cookies in a row is weakening; our commitment to walk a mile or two after work is being thwarted by thunderstorms or ice storms or plagues of locusts.  We can never get our hair to do what our hairdresser did; our plans to cook Coq a Vin has gone by the wayside, seeing as the chicken is still frozen and we don’t have any red wine in the house to cook with anyway.

 Thursday creeps into our lives with a thread of hesitancy.  After all, school has scheduled your son’s basketball game at the same time as your daughter’s piano recital, both of which are at the same time as your bowling league, which is at the same time your other favorite TV show is on, which you would have recorded had the football game not taken up the whole tape.

By Friday your resolutions are out the window along with that novel you can’t choke down anymore, and your thoughts try to center, not on what has been, but what will be.  The weekend is coming; that means a thousand activities shoved into a mere 48 hours. 

It means going to visit your mom on the way to dropping off your kid at the mall, fighting the Saturday morning free-sample crowds at the grocery store, and coming home to an overanxious dog who just dumped the garbage all over the kitchen floor.  It is hoping the video store still has a copy of that brand new movie that everyone is talking about but you, and trying to decide whether to cook a gourmet meal or just throw sausages on the grill.

 This is the bratwurst part, the raw-meat-of-reality part. Bratwurst is a wonderful German sausage, filled with flavor and spices and grilled to perfection.  How metaphoric that little pocket of meat and fat is!  It is the answer to all the cosmic questions in life! It fulfills the need for sustenance (it is a food group), it nurtures your creative side (sauerkraut?  Mustard?  Hot or German?)  It is available in abundance (you can buy them in a pack of six or three pound boxes), and it affords you the freedom of choice  (10 minutes on the grill; burble them in beer and onions for 15 and grill for five; slice them up and fry with potatoes for 20).

How clear it all becomes!  This little sausage is the answer to all metaphysical speculation, the answer to who we are and why we are on this planet.  It is tasty and filling, satisfying those inner child needs and outer kid bravados.  It ties the madness of the week up into a link that goes down easy and can be burped out in a satisfying form later through the night.  It is the spice of life.

I never thought of unicorns and bratwursts as the symbols for Life; I always thought that symbol was that little stick person with the big egg head.  Now that I have been enlightened, I can see that symbol does look like someone celebrating the bratwurst of life, arms out, joyous and all encompassing.

 And the unicorn part?

I’m not quite sure, but I will ask the one standing behind me after I find out if he wants sauerkraut on his bratwurst.

Feng Shui in the Cubicle

           One day I was sitting at my desk at work, green computer screen glowing, honky-tonk music spurting out from a speaker not far above my head, trying to concentrate on a long list of numbers that needed to be entered into the computer, glancing at pages waiting to be proofread and images to be downloaded, when a word drifted across my consciousness – Feng Shui.

            For those who need a bit of a refresher course, feng shui is the ancient Chinese practice of arranging one’s personal space in order to achieve harmony with the environment.  This harmony is known as chi, the “life force” or energy that exists in human beings, nature, and all animate and inanimate objects. It is everywhere.  There are books and classes and consultants and everything in between to help us stressed-out people calm the flowing water of our psyche.  Of course, people like me who jam ten pounds of sugar (daily duties) into a five pound bag (24 hours), rarely have time to read the back of the brownie mix box, let alone sit down and read a book about harmony and the environment.

            But I wanted to learn about feng shui so I could bring a little bit of peace to my corner of the office.  With indigestion and carpel tunnel threatening every turn, there had to be a way I could tap into my calm center somewhere between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  So I called a friend of mine who is into energy and higher levels of vibrations to see if she could give me a crash course on harmony and flowing water.  She told me feng shui was not something you can learn overnight; it is a gradual meeting of mind and space, of openness and channeling.  Wanting to know more, we scheduled coffee and chi for the next night.

            She talked, I talked, we drank coffee and ate chocolate cream pie and I brought out a pen to take notes.  But we never really got around to talking about feng shui, because we talked about kids and sushi and Nicholas Cage instead. Still wanting to open my pathways just in case chi came by, later that night I went online and Googled the term, and came across a few guidelines to bring harmony to my cubicle.

            When sitting at a desk, the entrance door should be in a clear line of sight, and you should have a view of as much of the room as possible.  Well, I struck out before I even got up to the plate.  My desk faces the wall — worse, it is a corner unit, so it faces two walls.  The only line of sight I have is where the two walls meet.  That, and an oversized computer screen. Hopefully everyone else’s clear view of my back is enough of an opening to get the energy flowing.

            When lying in bed … well, I stopped reading that suggestion.  If I was found lying down at my desk, my chi would not only flow but be flushed down the toilet.

            Straight lines and sharp corners are to be avoided, and especially should not point where people tend to sit, stand, or sleep.  See interpretation and explanation for point number one.

            Avoid clutter.  How can anyone who works in an office not have clutter?  How can a spiffy multi-tasker like myself give up piles of paper or a dozen catalogs within arm’s reach or stacks of manila flats or thirty CDs with images or weekly bulletins from Human Resources?  Oh, and don’t forget the pictures of my kids and my stapler and tape dispenser and staple remover and yellow highlighter and white-out and my pink pen for corrections and stickies for emergency notes.  Strike two.

            Roads to and from ancient towns were often curved and winding, an attempt to disorient and keep away evil spirits, who were believed to travel in straight lines.  Now, I admit I have to maneuver through hallways and around cubicles just to get to my desk, so I wondered — if I circled the halls long enough, would I be able to ditch the bad spirits and run into feng shui?  This wasn’t quite a strike, but more like a ball. 

            Some objects are believed to have the power of redirecting, reflecting, or shifting energy in a space. These include mirrors, crystals, wind chimes, and pools of flowing or standing water. This suggestion is a cousin of the “lying in bed” dilemma. I didn’t think my boss would let me bring in a water fountain, and, although there is enough hot air coming and going around here to tinkle a dozen wind chimes … mmmm, no.

            So I sat and pouted in front of my computer, realizing that there was no way I could rearrange my daily grind and surroundings to let the energy flow freely.  Feng Shui would have to wait until I got home.  I knew that at least there I would be able to rearrange chairs and hang mirrors and listen to the wind chimes that hang on my balcony.

            But wait!  There was one more point — not really a point, but a closing statement.  Every environment is unique with its own energy, challenges, and possibilities. By becoming aware of your surroundings, connecting to its energy, and using the inherent wisdom and inspiration of nature, you can create surroundings that reflect your highest potential and support your personal and professional goals.   Let’s dissect that for a moment.  I am aware of my surroundings.  I can feel the energy that flows through my body, through the pen and onto the paper.  I can gaze at the fields of Ireland through my screen saver, I can listen to Mozart while I type, and I can read about astronomy during my breaks.  Becoming aware of one’s surroundings is nothing more than living in the here and now, taking what you can and making the most of it.

            For all the hoopla, I think I have finally found the secret of feng shui.  I finally know how to arrange my space in order to achieve cosmic harmony: keep my kids’ picture in sight, eat lunch outside when the weather is nice, and make sure my M&M dish is always full.