Posted in Writing

When Your Passion Becomes Your Bread and Butter

I am sitting in Starbucks today, trying to write something. Anything. For once, I have a break in the things that I “have to write,” and have an entire day to write the things I “want” to write. And what is that? I feel like I don’t remember anymore.

I have spent the last hour going through old projects, and making new notes over old ones, just trying to get somewhere. And I’m getting nowhere. And it’s frustrating.

I spent an exhilarating decade going through my starving artist period. I lived out of suitcases. I ate instant oatmeal three meals a day. I held a series of part-time odd jobs, and slept on couches, all so I could indulge my unhealthy addiction to coffee and Microsoft Word.

It was a great time, and I am so grateful that I even got to have those years. So many people get snatched right into the corporate world, and never get to pursue their passions until their golden years.

Or, that’s what I kept telling myself every time another one of my friends got married, had a baby, or closed on their first mortgage. I am doing exactly what I want to do with my life, I told myself. I get to write. This is the price. Now, I am no longer a starving artist. I am certainly not ready to close on a mortgage or anything.

But I can afford to buy a car produced within the last ten years, and my answer to the question, “What do you for a living?” isn’t precluded by that cliche post-collegiate-millennial response, “Well, right now I’m…” No. My answer is a one hundred percent truthful, and simple, “I’m a writer.” And I’m so incredibly grateful for that. Don’t get me wrong.

But yet, somehow, by monetizing my passion, I’ve found as of late, I seemed to have sucked the life out of it. So much so, that I can’t find the part of it I truly loved. So, here I am in Starbucks, trying to find my passion again. And all I can find is the work.

It’s my day off, and I choose to spend it sitting in the same coffee shop I frequently work out of, and typing away on the same word processor. And the familiarity blocks my creativity.

I’ve never understood people that would rather not spend their entire lives pursuing their passion. It’s never made sense to me. Now, I get it. Not that I would want it any other way at this point. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else in this world for money.  Or at least being happy doing it. But, maybe, in retrospect, they had the right idea.

There’s this song, a fairly cheesy pop song, that says, “Every time I run you’re the one I run to.” I think that line describes how I feel about writing. There’s a part of me that wants to take a break, and “get away from it all.”

 

But, when I envision what this blissful, heavenly break would look like–it looks just like my daily grind. Just maybe with some waves in the background, and a different coffee shop. So what is that?

Maybe I’m just uninspired and need a hobby. But, there is something about making your bread and butter out of the one thing that truly makes you happy. I haven’t got it all worked out yet, but I wonder now if it’s an entirely good idea.

I guess I can say this now that I’m there. If I weren’t in this place, I’d probably be sitting in a darkened room, sobbing, and drowning in Jack Daniels, while lamenting on why God gave this passion and never gave me the opportunity to use it. I’ve been there.  It’s no fun, and your eyes get sore, and you’re snotting everywhere, and maybe slobbering, and your face is all sticky. Nah, no fun. I think I’ll have this problem instead.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Life

We’d Like to Think We Are Better Than That…

When I was a kid and I learned about the Nazi Holocaust in school, it amazed me how such horrible things could go on, right in front of people, and no one did anything. I would imagine myself in Nazi Germany, saving Holocaust victims, or red faced in front our own presidents with the horror of human rights violations.

Surely, our Congress, our people, would do something about it. I remember in junior high, reading books from concentration camp survivors, and thinking that we are so much better now. We wouldn’t stand for such atrocities.

But, here we are again. The latest pictures coming out of a Syrian military prison, show the same thing, chilling in similarity. Not to mention, what’s going in the Muslim refugee camps. The starvation. The rape. The child abuse. The misogyny. The death and violence. The nightmare of life for these people. Not unlike the Nazi victims.

And yet, in our culture, we are so much more informed than any other civilization that has ever occupied this planet. We literally have the world, complete with all its photos and videos, in our back pockets. A scroll, and a tap, tap…and there it is. The shame and degradation of people groups. The genocide. The horror.

And what do we do about it? Nothing. We live our lives. We pretend it’s not true. We downplay it. We rationalize. We politicize it. Anything to cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed at the atrocities. Because honestly, there is nothing we can do.

And that’s how they must have felt in the 1930’s. How do we handle it? What do we do? We live our lives as if the world isn’t falling apart just beyond our shores.

We’d like to think we were better than them. But we’re not.

Posted in Writing

Poem: Closeout

Into the spinning vortex we travel
Shutting doors and sealing portals
Another here, another there…

Deeper and deeper we plunge
Closing out what took us
All those years to build

Like divers into the sea we go,
Another door discovered,
Yet another window shut
So many, so many

Levels and levels we go down
Now we’re breathing on tanks
The air is scarce down here

We’re nearing the vortex floor
It’s dangerous to go this deep
Here lies bare, raw, exposed tendons
The very flesh of the human soul

This kind of mystic depth
Is where only God and his angels
Are meant to be, and even they
Are sparing with the key

We shouldn’t be this far down
We know, no mortal man
Should ever aim to comprehend
Let alone traverse, this sacred place

But here we are
And even here,
There are doors and windows
All of which must be closed

In silent reverence, we tread lightly
Daring not disturb, a single cell
We shut, we seal, we closeout

And we erase…the past.
And that which we held so deep
Now never was.

Posted in Writing

Pajamas Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be: Thoughts on Working from Home

Everyone paints working from home as this idyllic picture of waking up late, going to work in your pajamas, running errands at will, and “being your own boss.” Don’t get me wrong, it can be all of those things. But, in reality, it’s not always everything it’s cracked up to be.

You do have to work–well, that is, if you want to make any money. So, the sleeping late part, and running errands during the workday, ehhh…not as much as you would think.

Your specific schedule all depends on the job and the company. Some jobs simply give you work and a deadline. Whatever hour of day or night you get it done, is up to you. So, in that sense, yes, you can run errands and sleep late.

But, it will catch up to you with some wicked late nights before deadline. You learn pretty quickly that regular office hours are probably a good idea. Other jobs, require you to be available during regular business hours, and expect certain productivity levels throughout the day. Late mornings and errands, have to be snuck in with “artful explanations.”

The truth is, whoever is paying you–be it an array of independent clients, a company down the road, or in my case, a virtual boss whom I have only ever spoken to through a corporate messaging service—they know the market value of the work they are asking you to do. And they are going to pay you accordingly. Therefore, you’re still going to have to work as hard as you would if you were doing the same job in a regular office.

As far as pajamas in the workday, sure. Knock yourself out. But, the truth is, how a person is dressed effects their attitude. Chances are, you’re not going to be inclined to behave as professionally, when you’re working on your couch in a tank top and underoos, while endless episodes of The Office stream in the background. (If you can, kudos to you).

I have found, it’s best to get fully dressed to start my work. That is, jeans, and a casual top, socks (because my feet get cold), no make-up, and haphazard ponytail. Otherwise, I start to feel gross when it’s two pm and I’m still in my sweatpants from last night. It does something to your head–especially day after day.

The being your own boss part–somewhat. If you’re self-employed, your clients are your boss. So, you do answer to them in some respect. But, if you’re just telecommuting, then you still do have a boss somewhere. Granted, they’re not bothering you all day long, but they’re still there, just an e-mail or phone call away.

I have also found it gets pretty lonely working from home all day. It’s just you, and your work–for the most part. Some jobs have messaging apps that allow you to communicate with your virtual colleagues. That helps to some degree. But, you’re all working for the most part, only available to make random comments here and there.

Now, if you’re in a client-based position like sales, it may be easier. You’re constantly out meeting new people. But, if you’re the type that just does work and turns it in–it can get lonely. And boring.

I do love working from home. No commute, and it saves on gas. It also saves on food, because you’re eating from your regular groceries instead of going out all the time. It’s healthier too. You can make nutritious meals, as opposed to processed food on the go. There’s also no dry cleaning or expensive business attire to keep up with.

In a creative position, you can take advantage of all of your gimmicks and tricks to get your creativity going. You also don’t have all of the co-worker drama you would have in an office. That’s a plus.

I love it. But, it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes I miss co-workers. I miss getting up, and getting in full business dress code and heading off to join the world. I miss the energy of business, and the vigor of new people coming in and out.

So, I have to remind myself when I’m working from home, that I am still in the middle of the business world. I am creating files, that are used to fill web pages, that someone somewhere uses to whine and dine advertisers and investors. I am very much contributing. I am still generating and exchanging new ideas, and people are still connected to me through my work. I just can’t see any of it.

It’s just a weird way to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in God

Five Minutes From Perfect

My life is about five minutes from perfect. Five minutes from being absolutely, divinely perfect. And I am petrified. I am scared that all it takes is one wrong move, and then everything will go toppling around me.

It’s ridiculous, I know. But, some of these roads I’ve been down before, and they tend to play tricks on me. I’m wiser now (I think. I hope) and I’m trying to remember those mucky, miry places that trip me up. Like the pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress, I’ve fallen prey here and there. And there goes everything I’ve worked for. Slip away. Start again. Start anew.

And now, here I am. Almost perfect. It’s a fallen world, so it isn’t right to have a perfect life, right? It’s somehow, against nature, it would seem. After all the missteps and muddy bogs I’ve fallen, surely this time it’s not for real, right? But, a girl can hope can’t she? And, I can see it. Just forward on the horizon. A glimmering city of gold, so close, that I can smell the luscious treats just on the other side.

And I am grateful. So grateful. My prayers everyday have been “please” and “thank you.” Thank you God, for this almost perfect life, and please, please God, let me keep it. Please don’t let me screw it up in my humanness.

I guess it’s all about trust. Learning to trust in God in and not myself. Learning to live day by day. And knowing it is by grace we have been saved, and not from ourselves.

That’s a hard lesson I’ve learned. Veteran church kids are taught that God loves good kids better. Now, we aren’t exactly taught that, but that’s what we hear, anyway. Be good, obedient, respect your parents. Keep your room clean. Obey your teachers. Study. Do your homework. Be as “perfect” as possible, and then pray for forgiveness when you aren’t. Don’t smoke. Don’t do drugs. Don’t hang around with people that do, to “avoid the appearance of evil.” Don’t drink until you’re 21, and then only in “moderation.” Follow all the laws (unless they conflict with God’s laws).  Don’t watch porn. Keep your bedroom door open when you have a date over. And on and on….

And somehow, we get the message that if we do all of these things, we’ll have more “credit” with God than other people. This will make God want to do cooler stuff for us than for other people. One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn was that’s not true. God doesn’t love me because I studied hard in school, and didn’t engage in underage drinking. He loves me because he’s God. And loving people is what He does. I still don’t quite have my head wrapped around all that yet. It’s a scary idea.

So, why, then, do we do good works? Why then, do we not sin? For two reasons–for one,  intrinsic value of it, I think. We do good works so that we will reap the benefits of good works. Study hard= Get good grades. We don’t sin, so that we don’t have the consequences. Don’t do drugs = escaping the mire that is a drug-addicted lifestyle.

Secondly, sin creates a wall between us and God. A wall in which we cannot hear his voice. We cannot feel him. We cannot discern his will. We cannot feel his love–which our souls desperately need. We are separated from God because of our sin. Something like, if you’ve angered or hurt your spouse or boyfriend, or girlfriend. You don’t quite feel “normal” inside, until you’ve made it right. Until that “wall” between you is removed. We don’t sin, because the more we sin, the bigger that wall gets, and the more distant you get from a God who loves you, and you need.

THESE are the reasons we do works, and don’t sin. To keep our relationship with God clean, and to stay away from natural consequences of sin. It is NOT to make God love us any more. It’s not to somehow manipulate God based on some sort of “works based accounting.”

And so, I conclude by saying, I’m learning there is nothing I can do to make God bless me. I just have to trust him. And that’s so hard. Because trust requires your whole heart. And when you’ve been burned by life, it becomes harder to trust. At least I think. Because there’s something in you that says, “But, God, you failed me last time.”  You have to keep reminding yourself that it wasn’t God that failed you. It was your inability to plan. It was your lack of self-discipline. Or, you didn’t fail at all, you learned and grew…and the list goes on. It’s hard to hear the truth. That’s why it’s easier to blame God.

So it is, on the edge of yesterday and today, that my life is almost perfect. And I just have to trust that it will stay this way.

Posted in God

God, Mel Gibson, and The American Revolution

A few weeks ago, I watched that movie The Patriot. I saw it once many years ago, but given the intensity of the topic, it’s something you don’t watch often. But, on this day, as I watched it I was overcome with some interesting thoughts.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a Mel Gibson movie about the American Revolution. Mel Gibson plays a single father of seven, living in South Carolina. He is a pacifist—certainly frustrated at the actions of the British government, but sees no desire to enter a bloody war. He thinks more diplomacy is in order.

But, his son, played by Heath Ledger, brings the fight literally to his doorstep, when he enlists in the Continental Army. So, the pacifist father must make a decision, and ends up leading a faction of rebel militia. Key scenes involve a Braveheart-esque moment on the battle field as Mel Gibson gallops into a throng of redcoats carrying an American flag, with a rebel yell.

And as I watched this scene, and the bloodshed on the battle field, I wondered what God thought about this moment in history. The movie made no small point of the horrid bloodshed of the war. In one battle scene, Heath Ledger watches from a window, and sees a teenage boy’s head blown clear off by a cannonball. In another, we watch Mel Gibson shoot a soldier partly responsible his son’s death, and then unleash his rage upon the corpse with a Tomahawk until his shirt was about as red as the British uniform. And so it goes…

As I watched this, I thought about these soldiers. How God is passionately in love with each and every person on the battle field. God knew every single soldier’s name, and delighted in their company. God knew their intimate thoughts, and knew everything that was good about them. So, did God weep for their loss? Did he mourn as they lay in a field, choking on blood, staggering their last breaths?

But, at the same time, Old Testament history shows God to be a warrior. He is constantly telling Israel to take cities, and conquer and plunder. He believed in battle, and war and fighting to “Take the land.” And of course, now, centuries later, we have seen the result of the American soldier’s sacrifice. An amazing country, a leader in the world. And we know that God’s grace is upon us. So, does that mean God sanctioned their cause? Did God condone the bloodshed that created our society?

And as I watched Mel Gibson’s horseback character, stars and stripes unfurling behind him, I was overcome with sentiment. These men were carrying a country. Did they feel the grace of God upon them? Did they know that they were birthing something? Did they know the freefalling sensation of being on the edge of something great, something beautiful. Did they really know, they were building something for their posterity? And was the hand of God upon them?

We think of God as this tender hearted, laughing, peaceful being that would never want us to hurt anyone…and that’s definitely a side of God. But, God is also a warrior. And whose side was he on in that war? And if he was on our side, did that mean he was against our enemies–who loyally fought for their own country?