Monthly Archives: May 2011

Perfect Moment: Weeding the Side Stairs

I was sad to learn that Lori’s Perfect Moments is going on hiatus. I totally get why. It’s just, I love the exercise. And, appropriately enough, I finally had the first one in weeks today. So I had to get this one in under the wire…

Yard work and I have a love/hate relationship. Growing up, my Dad assigned me many chores in the yard. We had a pretty large lot, with both a front yard and a back yard dominated by enormous trees. The tree in the back yard shed some kind of debris 365 days a year. Mainly though, it would lose all its thousands of leaves in the fall, sprout many weird fuzzy caterpillar oddities in March, shed those in April, then grow the thousands of leaves back in May. I was in charge of sweeping, bagging and disposing of all this material, a task worthy of a Greek myth. I detested that tree. I had fantasies about chopping that jerk down for firewood. I wish I knew what kind of tree it was.

We spent much of today gardening: planting tomatoes, a lemon tree, repotting some flowers. You know, the fun stuff. Everything looked so pretty and tidy that our side steps began to really bug me. Our pebble-studded dirt side steps go to an unused hillside that I have big plans for someday: it’s a bucolic spot perfect for raised vegetable beds, a chicken coop, a treehouse for the kids. That hillside is raw potential. And the steps had become overgrown with weeds, leaves and grasses. It didn’t seem right, and I decided after I put the kids down for their naps that I would tend to those steps.

It was not fun or glamorous to pull countless green and brown matter from the stepping stones, but there was something peaceful and still about the activity that put my mind at ease. I focused on clearing inches, then feet of dirt free from the ravages of nature. Soon the full eight stairs were finished and I was inordinately proud.

I showed Darcy, who was impressed. At the time, I thought it was the zen-like pattern of activity which pleased my brain so much, and I’m sure that is part of it. But the “Perfect Moment” came when I realized this: clearing those steps was a metaphor. By showing myself I could do something tedious and hard, I was able to understand that if I get through the dull tasks with pleasure, with pride, I’ll reach my raw potential, that hillside full of possibilities.

Like Yoda said: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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The Journey

“Life only really has one beginning and one end, and the rest is just a whole lot of middle.”  Will Shuester, Glee

I finally finished the first season of Glee.  I have had my ups and downs with the show: my main complaint has been the series features the same story lines over and over.  The Glee club members finally achieve some success, then get slushies thrown in their faces.  Will manages to scrape together some resources to help the club, then Sue yanks them away.  There have been a few really grand moments, like Rachel singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” but for every grand moment there are a million failures and battles to win just an inch of acceptance.

Finally, the season finale featured a really unusual storyline: a rapid approach of failure and the end of dreams.  The Glee Club is going to shut down, the members who found acceptance and talents and joy are getting those things taken away from them.  In the face of this scenario, the Glee Club teacher gives a speech.  Life is a JOURNEY.  There’s a lot of middle before we die.  But:

“Who cares what happens when we get there, when the getting-there has been so much fun?”

I cried and cried during this speech.  I wasn’t sure why it affected me so much.  Then I realized why.

Glee is a metaphor for life.  Life is a bunch of the same battles over and over.  Life is getting a little success before you get a slushie thrown in your face.  If you’re lucky, you find an outlet, whether your job, a hobby or a talent that provides some camaraderie and glory in a tough world.

Then I realized it: the blogosphere is my Glee Club.

Here, I have people who understand my struggles.  Here I get to do what I love: write.  Sometimes I’ll hit a high G, more likely I’ll blow at least a few sour notes.  And, doh: Glee is another word for Joy.  No wonder I’ve been so obsessed with the show.

I have said a few times, I think, that I learn more from my commenters than from anyone else.  I think that’s why I pose so many questions: I know you guys will have the answers.  I have been so touched by what people have said in answer to yesterday’s post:

From Maura:

“Do I think you should continue to try and seek joy? Absolutely! I think we all should – but I also don’t think you should feel guilty if you don’t find the positive in every single situation. For lack of better words, life sometimes sucks.”

From Bodega Bliss:

“And I think the day you stop seeking joy would be a very sad and very dark day. Don’t ever stop seeking joy. Joy is why we get up in the morning. Joy is why we fight the battles we do. Please don’t stop.”

And finally, from Stumbling Gracefully:

Maybe it shouldn’t be just about the joyful things, but about your journey to joy. Or your journey in search of joy and how elusive that joy can be. I think exploring why you find being joyful difficult is just as valuable as achieving it easily. In fact I would say it is more productive, because many people struggle to find joy in their lives and interestingly, it’s usually the people who have very much (like you and I) that struggle the most with that. Those people (like me) would find your journey very enlightening.

Life IS a journey.  We are in the middle.  Thank you, everyone, for being here for me.  It is here, in this world, that I have experienced true Glee.  I have had a few big moments in my life, like Rachel’s “Rain on My Parade,” but every day for the last year, I have been able to joke around, sing, cry and laugh with you.  And it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages.

So I hope that you will continue with me on The Journey.

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Tina Fey, and My First Job

Like every other woman over the age of 30, I have been reading Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”. She somehow writes her way through deadly minefields (breastfeeding, working moms, being a boss, Sarah Palin, theater geeks and cruise ships), and comes through not only unscathed, but triumphantly witty. She’s a treasure.

My favorite part of the book is about the dead-end job she took in Chicago to pay for improv classes. She was a receptionist at a particularly grim YMCA. She worked terrible hours so her workplace became her whole world. In this world, she only had a few romantic interests: Eli, a guy “with no shoulders” who strung her along, a YMCA “guest” who gave her a box of SweeTarts, two used Linda Ronstandt tapes, and a note attached that said, “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?” (“Needless to say, we married in the spring.”) And a sixty-something toothless mailroom guy whom she tried to strike up a rapport with in lonely desperation. (He repaid the favor by telling her co-workers that the two of them were doing the nasty.)

It reminded me of how important my first real job was to me, and how it became my whole world. I was an account coordinator at a
big PR agency, and I treated the job as seriously as a heart attack. If those press kits weren’t finished in time for the conference, LIVES would be lost. And the clients were ALWAYS right. One of my poor colleagues was given the assignment of trying to drum up publicity for a THIRD edition of a boring technical book on coding at some junket. Whereas many would just dump the pile of press releases in the nearest garbage can and pretend they had been “distributed”, this earnest friend actually approached real-live journalists with the stapled, carefully worded documents heralding the earth-shattering news of JavaCoding 3: The Reckoning.

At the same time, there was a real sense of comraderie there, and the president of the company was a really smart guy who gave lots of yoda-like advice that I remember to this day. My favorite bits:

1. Lying is for energetic people. Telling the truth is for the lazy. It’s much easier.
2. Clients won’t remember the time you got them on the front page of The New York Times, but they will remember the time your directions got them stuck on a one-way street in Framingham, Massachusetts.

What was your first real job, and did you love it or hate it?

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