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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

River Wide, Mountain High...Getting Past Obstacles

It has been a while. I haven’t written because I had a lot on my head and heart but I wasn’t in a place to wax poetic about my situation. Once I was ready, I was busy and kept putting off my writing time. Then, today, I was opening the door to go outside at work. I wasn't venturing far. I just needed to get in range of my car, press my key and set the alarm on my car. An older female co-worker saw me and in her motherly way admonished me for not wearing a coat. I explained that I wasn't going all the way outside and was just opening the door. The woman with her exclaimed "Leave her alone. She is young and healthy!!" Given that the statement couldn't be further from the truth, I started to think about how my outlook on life has influenced my outside look. In some way, it is all connected to my quest to become a new me. A person that is positive, happy and in control of my emotions for the most part. I can’t control what is going on with my body or my future but I can control how I react to things. Because of that, I choose to react to each disturbing medical diagnosis, each job application rejection, each denial letter from a publisher with a positive outlook. That is not to say that I won’t every get upset. In fact, I cry, stress, panic and yell when I need to. I am not a robot and I am not advocating being emotion free. Eventually, though, you have to take a step out of your grief bog or you will slip into quicksand. Actively seek the lesson and if you can’t find one, make a concerted effort to find the silver lining. Can’t find either? I’ve been there. In fact, I am there now. The only thing left to do is to encourage myself. I have been through worse and I have learned that no matter how wide the river obstructing my path through life, it can always be crossed. I may meet another obstacle on the other side BUT at least I got to that side…and if I got there, I can get through the next obstacle too. As I face the latest obstacle before me, I remember a quote I was given by a friend when I graduated from law school: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, December 7, 2009

Entitled to Boldness

I have been in my new job for less than 3 months and I already want a promotion. I know how that sounds. Crazy, right? A position opened last week and here I am, still on probation. I don’t have benefits and can’t accrue vacation time BUT I know I can do this job and excel. The problem is that I still love my current position and am just getting comfortable. So, in order to apply, I am going to have to sell myself and my idea for the position, which would change the way the job is currently done and how they planned to fill the position. In short, I want both jobs. In short, I want a new position created just for me. As I thought about how to present this to my supervisor and the executive director of the agency, I started to doubt myself and ask if I wanted to be that person who tried to upset the balance. What made me so special? Why would they create something for me? I am the new kid on the block. Should I even ask for such a thing? By the end of it, I had doubted myself into not even asking but then I decided not to run away from being bold. What’s the worst that could happen?

Being bold is not part of our DNA. It is something that is either encouraged or stifled by our parents, mentors, teachers, friends, and eventually by ourselves. Usually, at some point in our journey, we get to a point where we remain stagnant because we don’t want to ruffle feathers or we think that acting on our idea will paint us as a person who upsets the balance, asks for too much or thinks he or she is special. What we never ask is why those things have come to be categorized as unappealing? Why not be someone who upsets the balance. Civil rights, women’s suffrage, gay rights…none of that is part of the balance. It is when the balance is upset that we find progress as a society. Most people acknowledge that and admire those who fight for change.

Why don’t we do this in our own lives? We only have so much life to live. Why spend it going along with the status quo when it doesn’t make us happy. I say do your part to knock down the walls in your life. Want a promotion? Ask for it. Want more out of your relationships? Ask for it. Want more education? Go back to school. You may not know how things will work out or if the answer waiting for you on the other side of your question is “no.” At the end of the day, all you will know is that you tried. Live your life as free of regret as you possibly can. Upset the balance. You are entitled.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Compassion Fatigue

I learned a new term for burnout today: Compassion Fatigue. I usually don't get technical in my posts but I will give the actual definition. It refers to a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among victims of trauma and individuals that work directly with victims of trauma. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt. The condition is also known as Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Thank you Wikipedia.)

Learning about this condition made me think of my former life in a large corporate law firm and of the lives of so many people that I know working in corporate America. They may not experience these symptoms because of working with people who have experienced trauma, but they certainly experience most if not all of these symptoms. The so called detrimental effects described how I felt nearly every day in my old job. The interesting distinction is that in my new job, efforts are made to treat this condition whereas my superiors in my old job often seemed to have a vested interest in making sure you stayed mired in most of the symptoms. There are a couple of exceptions. Anything that leads to a decrease in productivity leads to a decrease in profit, so that wouldn't be tolerated. Its not that they would encourage treatment but more that they would cut your salary or get rid of you all together. As for the inability to focus...well, it depends. If you can't focus on anything but work, that's fine. No one cares about your home life but if you can't focus on work, that's a problem.

I understand why I am just learning about compassion fatigue. Its a term unique to the social services/social change industry. But, in a world where most of us seem to be suffering from a stress disorder bought on by work, family, relationships, or otherwise, why am I just hearing about the need for treatment and just meeting a supervisor who takes time to process issues with their employees so as to try to prevent the condition in the first place? We have all seen the sporadic Today Show, 20/20, and Nightline reports telling us that stress can cause (among other things) depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, obsessive-compulsive or anxiety disorder, sexual dysfunction, tooth and gum disease, ulcers and possibly cancer. Yet, we keep showing up for the abuse on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we should all quit our jobs and make a mass exodus to Walden Pond to decompress. I am suggesting that most jobs should provide some sort of way for their employees to decompress beyond paying for perks like yoga sessions in the office or free cookies in the break room. If our marriage is failing, we can go to counseling or get a divorce. If our friends are stressing us out, we can cut them off. But if we work in a toxic environment, we are stuck...especially in this economy. There really should be a neutral place for employees to discuss their burnout without the fear of being fired, left out of new assignments or being moved from the career track to the lame duck track. If we really believe that paychecks are wages for work as opposed to a purchase price for your life, then change has to take place. It doesn't seem revolutionary to me...just logical.

Growth Headache

Working in a career focused on social justice/societal change has given me a growth headache. It sounds a bit negative but it is truly a good thing. The issues that I didn't pay attention to before (beyond the occasional "that's so sad") now consume hours of my time. Its not just about counseling and outreach. Its learning (truly learning) about history (full and honest...not 6th grade social studies and 7th grade units on WWI and WWII) and how it has shaped society. I have spent so much time challenging my own ideas and talking through the analysis with others that I've had a headache for days. The bright side is that I'm growing. You know those little sponge creatures that start out tiny but grow exponentially when you put them in water? That's the best way for me to explain what's going on with me. Most importantly, I feel like there's purpose in all of this. It goes beyond clients. It's grooming me. I'm on a path that I couldn't have planned. In giving up some control and just going with what's in front of me, I have learned so much about myself. I've also healed the scars left by my previous work experience. In doing so, I've cleared a path and found a new road-one that I am happy to travel now that I have unloaded some of the baggage from my former life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perks and Titles

This is going to be a short entry but I had to share. Last night, I was working on an article proposal and I got to thinking. Back when I was at the firm, the perks were the best part of my job. I was working in a huge law firm in New York City. I had my own office with floor to ceiling windows in Times Square. I had high quality business cards and when I responded to “What do you do for a living?” I was met with respect and admiration. After five years at the firm, I was taking home over $10,000 a month after taxes. Seriously, I was living a dream, but not my own. I hated my work because I wasn't fulfilled. I went home run down, tired and empty at the end of each day. I took on pro bono work in an effort to make a difference but it wasn’t enough because billable work always had to come first. I got to a place where I put my job before my health, my relationship and my spirituality.

Today, I got my first paycheck at my new job. I worked for a little over half of the pay period and my check was just shy of $700 after taxes. I didn't spend my day sitting behind a big desk in a skyscraper with my back to a huge picture window. BUT, I did attend a conference focused on human rights. At various moments during the event, I was inspired, tearful, hopeful and amused. When I signed in at the name tag table this morning, the spreadsheet included a column for my name, my agency and my title. In the title column beside my name, it said "Activist." Imagine that. It actually made me a little giddy. After all, it's why I went to law school in the first place. I wanted to make a difference...to ACT in a way that could change someone's life. Dreams realized...now THAT is a perk.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Milestones

Today marks my 45th blog entry. It has been quite a journey to this point and I feel, in many ways, that I am just getting started. I am starting on my second week at my new job. I have accepted the financial changes and brainstormed ways to supplement my income. I worked on a financial plan with my mom and while I lamented needing help from her at 31, I have accepted it. As soon as I did, goodness came flooding in. Last week, I cried despite rejoining the work force because I didn't think it was what I spent so much energy praying for. This week, I cried because I know that my new path is one that will exceed my highest expectations.

The transformation started with a conversation I had on Saturday. I was at a friend's birthday party when the person next to me asked how I knew the guest of honor. I said we used to work together. She responded with, "So you're a lawyer too?" I said yes and paused. Then, I tried on my new job for size. I said, "I don't really practice anymore. I work at an NPO now as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence." She paused and then flashed me a huge smile and even clapped her hands. "I think that's awesome. Good for you!!"

In all my years as a lawyer, I have never gotten a reaction like that. People would say, "That's nice." or "Do you like it?" If they were also lawyers, they sometimes asked, "What type of law?" and when I replied, they nodded and that topic of conversation kind of died. So, back to the dinner. After the "awesome" comment, the person across from me started talking about her work with abused children. She noted that the work was trying and emotional but that she was happy. She wished me the same as I settle into my job. I took that gift and reflected on it. Sure I could stand to make more money but am I happy with this new job? Yes. Milestone #1.

Monday at work, I talked to my supervisor about work we could do as outreach in the community. To give me some ideas of things we did in the past, she told me about a workshop they did to teach a form of therapy that people could do on their own. What form of therapy, you ask? WRITING!!! Yep! A writing workshop. There it was clear as day, a way to incorporate my passion for writing with my new job. I didn't see how that was going to work when I was chasing the actual writing job I talked about a few posts back. Milestone #2.

Last night, I met an attorney who talked to me about keeping my licence and things I could do to supplement my income and still give my heart to my work, while incorporating my passion for the law. Thanks to my supervisor, we are having breakfast on Friday. Milestone #3.

In just a few short days of work, I have been in a local high school helping teach students how to be effective allies to their friends who may be victims of domestic violence/sexual assault and providing them with resources if they are victims. I have been to a community activist meeting and met the executive board. I have attended seminars aimed at creating ways to free the world from the bonds of racism, sexism, and hate based violence. I have witnessed people help women in need of solutions to move on in life. It has been busy and at times overwhelming but I can honestly say (especially after talking to a few friends at my old firm) that I am happy that things happened the way they did. Milestone #4.

It's only up from here. It's not what I expected but I think it might be just what I needed. Some...ok, most things are way more important than money and happiness is chief among them. I have been fortunate enough to feed a baby elephant, ride on the back of its big brother, go on safari, see a sunset in Hawaii, Turks & Caicos and San Francisco. I had a great wedding and have an even better marriage (maybe I'm biased). Don't get me wrong. It hasn't been all roses. In my life, I have lived through the misery that the women and children I now work for are living. I have been depressed, afraid, angry and uncertain. I have been jobless and at times, pretty destitute. But with all of that, I am still standing. I survived. In the next chapter, I plan to thrive.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Acceptance and Faith

So...it has been a while and a lot has happened. I did not get either of the jobs that I was so confident about. I did however get a job. That's right. I am finally gainfully employed. After 10 months and a few weeks of making job searching my full time job, I finally have a job that pays, albeit not much. I am employed by a non-profit organization catering to abused women and children. I am not employed as an attorney but rather as an advocate. I am nervous about working in a new arena and more terrified about living on an eighth of my former salary BUT I am excited about seeing my life come full circle. I should explain...

Several years ago, when I was writing my admissions essay for law school, I had to answer the question: "Why do you want to go to law school?" It was easy for me to answer. I wanted to be a resource for abused women and children. I wanted to put abusers and rapists behind bars. I wanted to be a positive force in the lives of people who had been beaten down both physically and mentally. I wanted all of this because for a while in my childhood, I was a victim and in the midst of pressing charges, I realized that the laws and those advocating had a long way to go before they truly provided justice.

I went to law school. I tried my hand at this type of law and quickly learned that in family court, no one really wins. In abuse and rape cases, juries, judges and sometimes victims are jaded and defendants are usually let off with a slap on the wrist. After a clinic, I decided I didn't want to spend my career hovering between tears and anger so I went for the job with no emotion and a big paycheck. In that job, I quickly realized that I had traded empathy for hazing. I was still under stress but this time, it was based on wanting to please a boss that refused to be pleased. I still cried but it wasn't because I was feeling for a rape victim. It was because I got yelled at after spending all night writing a brief and improperly writing a citation. Then I lost my job and traded that stress for a new brand, which you have read about on this blog.

So, if I take a step back from my fears, I can see that God has put me in the place where I should have been years ago. Perhaps, I was supposed to push through my fears back when I first started working with abused women and children. I didn't so now I am not in a position to be a domestic violence/rape/child abuse attorney...but I will be in a position to learn once I start working. It is interesting how life comes full circle. I am grateful for a bigger plan and look forward to starting a new life. I will, of course, share the journey.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Baby Eagles

I haven't posted in a while...I needed a break. To be honest, I wasn't in a place where I was capable of encouraging myself and I didn't want to memorialize my negative thoughts in writing. After a little time and distance (and a fun getaway with hubby and some friends), I'm ok and back in the game. After all of that, I guess I don't have to say that I am still not employed. I mentioned in my last post that I didn't get the job that I had dubbed "perfect for me." I haven't directly heard from the second job but I heard through the grapevine (through the friend that referred me) that I am on the B-list. In other words, they are moving forward with their top choices and if the ultimate supervisor doesn't like those choices, they may call me back. I went for my callback interview for the third job on Friday. If I make it to the next round, there are at least two more rounds, so there will be no certainty there for quite a while. if I get that job, it will mean the end of me using my law degree...at least for the near future. The job pays next to nothing in a New York market BUT I think it will offer me a lot of personal fulfillment. It's all pretty frustrating and I don't know what I am supposed to learn from all of this. Trust me, I have tons of questions for God...but I am putting them on hold because I don't even know if this third job will work out. I want to ask why I went through law school if I am meant to end up in a job where I don't need the degree or why I got married and built a life based on my previous income when it was just going to be taken away. The reality is that this job might not be in the plan either. So, where does that leave me? It leaves me right here. I got so high on my expectations last time that the door closing in my face left me completely stunned. This time, I am still trusting that there IS a plan. It may not be MY plan but I am trusting that it is all going to work out as it should. I am still exploring other ways to create income.

I heard a sermon today that included a lesson about baby eagles and how they learn to fly. At some point, the mother eagle clamps on to the baby and flies off with it. The baby is there clamped securely in its mother's talons enjoying the breeze when all of a sudden, the mother drops the baby. The baby freefalls towards the earth and the mother catches it right before it hits the ground. The baby is saved and goes back to soaring with the assistance of its mother's wings. Then the process starts again. Eventually, the baby gets the hint and starts to flap its wings. God does the same thing to us. When he wants us to grow, he takes us from a place where we are safe and secure and drops us into a place of uncertainty. Eventually, we learn to fly. Right now, I am in a freefall. I'm flapping my wings and for the moment, my effort is stopping me from crashing into the ground BUT I haven't yet started to soar.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Updates and Flashbacks

Well, I got word today that I didn't get my first choice out of the jobs I interviewed for last week. Their policy is not to give explanations for their hiring decisions. I am truly disappointed. I was certain it was perfect for me. I would be getting paid to write for goodness sake. I would be on a fixed schedule and I would be at a company that prides itself on charity. In my head, I was already visualizing how my first day at work would go. As you can imagine, it feels a little like the wind has been let out of my sails but I will be ok. In situations like this, my only options are to let my boat sit still or start to paddle. I got online and looked at more job listings today so the oar is in my hand but my spirit isn't in it. I think I may just sit still and drift with the current for a minute. I have said it a million times, "Sometimes, God's plans are not the same as our own." Today, I am taking that in and holding it close. I am also hoping that there is something out there for me even more perfect than I could imagine.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Abrupt Endings


Last week, hubby and I got terrible news that our friends lost their 11-month old son. Even though I believe that God has a reason for everything, it is hard to accept the loss of such a young life. He was the first child for his parents and back in July, hubby and I were at his paternal grandmother's funeral. She also lost her life much too soon. Such tragic events are hard to stomach but for me they put things in perspective. Nothing that I am going through is nearly as bad. That family is going through so much and they are the picture of grace. I am sure there are private moments of heartache but they are still trusting in God. I take strength and courage from that. Things break us but we can always be pieced back together, often with lessons and stories that make us stronger, braver and a light to others who cross our paths.

"Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy." -Author Unknown

What a Week!

I don't have much in the way of updates but my oh my, what a week. I had three interviews last week. All are for very different jobs. None are in a law firm and all three are jobs that I think would bring me fulfillment, albeit in different ways. As I interviewed for each position, I was myself. I have never been so comfortable while talking about my greatest weaknesses, how I work in teams or how I would handle a variety of situations. Two of the interviews were panel style (me and multiple interviewers) and one was 3 one-on-one interviews in a row. I spent hours at each potential employer. At the end of my last interview, I had never been so tired of talking about myself. My throat was a little sore and when I went to sleep, I dreamed about...what else??? INTERVIEWING! That said, it was a great week. I am so grateful to have had these three opportunities and after months of silence in response to my resume submissions, I am really hopeful that something is going to shake out for me. I know which job I want the most and I am holding it close to my heart. It would allow me to write for a living AND it would allow me extra time to write because of the predictable schedule. Its like I prayed for an opportunity that would be right for me and God sent it to me with a big red bow. I know our plans and God's plans sometimes differ but I am hoping that I will be able to claim this gift as my own.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When it Rains...


It really, truly pours. Blessings are raining down on me in a wonderful way this week. I went from having no responses to my resume submissions to having 2 interviews last week. This week I got word that I am being called back to meet with more people for both jobs. I have a great feeling about both and these positive changes are serving as reminders of what I have always believed. Faith gets you through. Normally, I would be freaking out a little. I would be tirelessly preparing myself to impress people to get a job that I don't really want. I would be putting on my corporate face and hoping that I seemed impressive. After these last few months, I have learned that I am made of strong stuff. I don't have to settle for jobs that I will hate and I don't have to pretend to be someone I am not. I am a much better me than anyone else. I go into interviews differently now. I am more confident than nervous. I still prepare for the interview but in that office, sitting across someone who has the power to employ me, I am just me. I am armed with faith and I am being honest when I say, I want this job.

“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” -Patrick Overton

I was on the edge of darkness when I lost my job earlier this year. Actually, I was on the edge of darkness well before that. I sold my happiness for the price of my salary. When I first lost my job, I used to say (through the tears) that I knew all of it was for a reason and that I would be happy in the end. I never really took a leap into the darkness. I was clearly pushed (hard) but somehow, I never hit bottom. I sprouted wings and I am slowly gliding to solid ground. Some may say that I should stop celebrating. I don't have an offer yet. That's true but that is what having a positive attitude is all about. I am already claiming one of those jobs. I have been close before but for whatever reason, things didn't feel right. I wrote law firm names on my vision board. I cluttered my prayers with partner names and potential titles. In my gut, I knew none of those positions were right. I just wanted a job and a paycheck. The jobs I am trying to get now will allow me to write becuase the hours are better and I think I will actually be happy going to work everyday.

“I have had prayers answered - most strangely so sometimes - but I think our heavenly Father's loving-kindness has been even more evident in what He has refused me.” -Lewis Carroll

This time, it's different. I feel like I am supposed to work at one of these places. I know I don't have a firm offer from either job yet BUT I am filled with expectation. I am thinking positively and I truly feel that everything I have been through has been for a reason. Next week, I'll let you know how the call back interviews went.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Recommended Viewing


Tonight, I watched The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant on HBO. I wish I had seen it months ago. It would have helped me put things in perspective. On one hand, I identified with the feeling of loss experienced by the workers being let go from their jobs. They grieved over their loss and over the uncertainty of what was ahead. Many of them cried about facing the possibility of reinventing themselves at mid-life. I related to that grief. I felt their stress over not knowing what tomorrow held. On the other hand, I took a step back and was able to take stock of all of the positive points to having lost my job. I am not at mid-life. I can reinvent myself, start a new career and still have plenty of working years to re-build my savings/retirement fund. I went to school to be a lawyer and though large NYC firms seem to think I am invisible, there is a whole other world outside of those firms-a world that is bound to be happier-and I am going to be part of it once I find a new job. As I get ready for this week and all of the news that it will hold with respect to the jobs that I interviewed for last week, I continue to be hopeful, thankful and joyful about becoming a new me. There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think today (9 months after I was let go and 6 months after my last day in the office), I can finally, truly say that I am on acceptance. I have accepted the loss of one job and I have made room for another. It does help that every time I start to lose faith or stress about money, God sends someone or something to shake me up a little and push me back down the road. The message is loud and clear: CONTINUE THE JOURNEY! Last week, it was a crying friend frustrated with large law firm life telling me to be glad I'm gone. Earlier today, it was a friend reminding me that faith is all I need and that fear is just false evidence appearing real. Tonight, it was The Last Truck. Watch the documentary if you can. Even if it doesn't give you perspective, it may let you know that you aren't alone (if you are faced with job loss). If you are happy with where you are, it will remind you to thank God. For more information about the movie, check out their facebook page or their page on the HBO website.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What's Mine is Mine!

Unfortunately, this week I was faced with a friend that may not have my best interest at heart. Whether her behavior is motivated by self interest or something all together different, it may result in a setback for me. I'll be honest with you, it threw me off and I had a moment. I talked to my best friend and hubby about it. I read into things so I bounced my ideas off of them to see if I was on to something or totally off base. Both agreed that something didn't smell quite right. I let my negative thoughts get the best of me and proceeded to work myself up wondering what would happen and how it could have been different. When I was just about to surrender myself to a lost opportunity, I forced myself to pause at the risk of ruining my own weekend. As I tried to find a sense of calm, I remembered a saying: "What is meant for me is mine."

If you believe that to be true, then you know there is NOTHING anyone can do to separate you from an opportunity. God has a plan for each of us and sometimes, that differs from our own plans. In the same way, if something is meant to work out for us, no amount of interference by others will result in the loss of the opportunity. As long as I do all that I can do on my end, there is no need to stress. I will be where I am supposed to be-where I am really happy-no matter what. If God is for me, who cares who is against me? Bring it on, I'm still going to succeed...and I mean that in the nicest of ways.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Marathons


I am learning that life is about marathons. I am not a runner but I know that when running such a long race you do it in a way that will conserve energy until needed. You train and plan and when the starting shot fires, you run to win. Sometimes, that means that people will seem to pass you by and sometimes it means you will lead the pack. In going through this process of self discovery, I have come to see my starting shot as the loss of my job. The deafening sound of my office door closing on my last day forced me to move forward. I have been running for months now and though I don't know what lies around every curve in the road, but to find out, I know I have to keep moving. Some days that means working on myself (writing, job hunting, meditating, praying). Other days, it means working on others (volunteering). So far, just moving forward is helping. I haven't found a job, but I have interviewed for a couple of opportunities after months of silence in response to my resume submissions. I am throwing myself into my volunteer work and taking time to be thankful for where I am. Instead of focusing on the fact that I'm still not gainfully employed or that I haven't heard back from the publishers I contacted, I am focusing on being happy about what I do have and reveling in the support of those who love and encourage me. In doing this, the negative feelings surrounding my joblessness have gotten fuzzy and out of reach. I am staying positive and I really feel that something is going to shake out for me very soon. Either opportunity would be great for me. Both are for jobs that I REALLY want and feel would be good for my development. I have only done screening interviews at this point but the optimist in me is shouting "KEEP RUNNING! You're almost there." As it turns out, I won't have to choose between a job I'd likely hate and one that I would likely love based on financial concerns. I haven't been presented with anything that I would hate. God has a funny way of working things out. I can't see the finish line yet, but I feel like I am in the home stretch. I know I will finish this race on top and start another one with better perspective about what is important. I hate to quote one of Aesop's fables but sometimes, slow and steady really does win the race.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Celebration!


Yesterday was my 31st birthday. As you all know, hubby and I have been saving money so I expected breakfast in bed or dinner out at a nice but reasonably priced restaurant. I got up (after lingering in bed for a while), took a shower and planned to hop online to find good restaurants close to home. When I got out of the shower, I saw a birthday card propped up against my cat (who was surprisingly cooperative in not shredding it to pieces). I smiled, gave hubby a kiss and picked up the card. I took it downstairs with me and sat it on the couch while I booted up my computer. After clicking the button to log onto the internet, I opened the card. It was filled with the sweet sentiments and cute line drawings I have come to expect from him. Something new was written in the corners of each page of the tri-folded card though: "But wait...there's more!" It beckoned me like an infomercial to keep reading and then, under the corner of the decorative paper inside of the card, I found 2 tickets for In The Heights! I screamed. Literally. I saw a special on this show before it opened and knew I had to see it. I have been talking about it for over a year but it was hard to get tickets after it won the Tony. The closest I got was when my old firm took our summer associates (law students working (and getting wined and dined) for the firm as interns) to the show last year. I was on my honeymoon so I missed it (not that I would trade that situation). Anyway, I was finally holding the tickets in my hands and we were going to see the show.
We got dressed, headed to church, came home, changed and headed to midtown Manhattan. We had dinner at a place we used to go to when we first started dating. After dinner with a whopping side of nostalgia and a couple of potent cocktails, we headed to the show. As we sat there waiting for the lights to dim, an usher approached hubby who must have looked uncomfortable in the close together seating and asked if he wanted to move to another seat. "Sure," he said and we followed the usher to BOX SEATS RIGHT BY THE STAGE. Seriously, we were practically on the stage!!!! I loved every moment of the performance. For a synopsis check this site: It touched me, it inspired me, it made me dance in my seat. If you can see it, go! Ok...I think you get the picture. After the show, we met friends for a drink and then headed home. Hubby was in the driver's seat and I was somewhere on a cloud...ok, that's cheesy...somewhere in a heightened state of happiness? No? Well, you get my point. I started the day being truly thankful for all that I have. I was sitting in church in full acceptance of where I am and finally appreciative of all of it...I was in the same place last week and just like that, my life started to change. I don't have a job yet but I know the right one is coming. I may have a solution to my townhouse issue because of the love and generosity of my mom. I have a new computer and can do much more writing. I saw a dream fulfilled on my birthday. I am in a zone of appreciation for all that I have been given in this life. As I go through my 31st year (and every year that I am granted after that), I will try to be in this place as much as possible. It is only when you are thankful for what you have that you will be trusted with more!! It's not profound but it IS true!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Think Happy Stuff



So...I'm turning 31 tomorrow. How was 30? Well, I could say it was a year of a torn achilles, multiple computer crashes, a health relapse and a lost job BUT, it was also the year I got married, was the healthiest I've been in 3 years, and found out that there are more important things in life than a big paycheck. I lived through a lot in my 30th year and some of it will carry over into my 31st but I will say that I am better for all of it. Life is all about how you look at things. All considered, 30 was pretty great and I am looking forward to finding out what this next year has in store now that I know myself a lot better. At the end of the day, its all about how you think about things. I got a great gift in the mail today that sums it up wonderfully. Its a coffee mug from Think Happy Stuff, Inc. and it says "Change your thinking, change your world." First, THANKS RR!!! Second, who knew there was a company out there focused on happy thoughts! I never would have known if I hadn't gone through all of this. Sadly, I would be trudging forward on my old path and falling deeper into misery. At the end of last year, if someone had told me to think happy thoughts when I was in the midst of work-induced hell, I would have told them to bite me. In starting my new journey, I have learned a lot about how happy thoughts can change your outlook and your situation. I have nothing to do with Think Happy Stuff, Inc. but I feel like people should spread the word about them. Visit their site and buy some products(they donate a percentage of their proceeds to non-profits "who are committed to lots of really good stuff"). Good thoughts really do change your world and makes you appreciate all that you have even more. Life brings storms but when the dust settles, you realize that things aren't as bad as they could be and there really is a lot of happy stuff to focus on.

-This post was made possible through the generosity of my Mom (thanks for the new laptop!!!) and her loving friend (thanks for introducing me to Happy Stuff RR!!).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Overdue Explanation


I have been asked to explain the name of my blog quite a few times since starting it. Before butterflies are fully matured, they are caterpillars. They mature and grow a tremendous amount. Despite this growth, they are still not fully formed. To achieve their full potential, they have to go through a resting stage in a cocoon. When they are ready, they emerge in their full glory. So, this blog is a journal of my resting stage. I grew to a point and then circumstance changed the direction of my journey. Now, as I try to figure out my next steps and my place in this world, I am in life's cocoon. I am bound by my circumstances but I am changing inside and out. All of the drama is working together to turn me into a new, brighter individual.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. ~Richard Bach

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Divine Plans

Accepting the reality that our plan and God's plan are not always the same is a jagged little pill. We pray to whatever God we worship or ask the Universe (if you are a believer in The Secret) for the things that we think will make our lives great and wait for divine favor to work for us. A published book, a new job, a comfortable place to live, financial security...all of them have been part of my prayers throughout my life and given my current circumstances, this stuff of life is all I can focus on as of late. Then, on Sunday, I went to church and the message was about being able to accept that our idea of a good life is not always the same as God's idea. I often think it should be that easy. Pray for the desires of your heart and you shall see them come to pass. Then I remember that many great spiritual teachers were poor, homeless and often engaged in an extended fast. Reality sets in. God doesn't care about my townhouse the way I do.

I pout and I wonder why it can't always be easy. Sometimes, I feel like a trust fund or a lottery win would make things all better...or at least a lot less stressful. You can substitute your desire for the money in the previous sentence based on your circumstances. The point is that we have all thought that things would be better if I had...If it was as easy as praying with faith, we would all have what we wanted. But would we be better? Though I cringe to say it, I think not. If our desires were only a genie bottle like request away, we would never grow. We would be content in our existence until we hit a road block. Rather than putting forth the effort to get around the road block, we would just rub our metaphorical genie bottles and change our circumstances. Block in the road? Here's a new road. Your wish is my command. I mean no offense to The Secret and its "Your Wish Is My Command" philosophy but I don't see how life can be all straight roads and happily ever afters. Proponents of positive thinking would call me an unbeliever and tell me that my doubts are why I am still struggling. I say to heck with that. I do believe that good things will come to me if I remain positive and put out good energy. I also believe, however, that everything I want out of life might not be what I am meant to have. Maybe real growth or true spirituality stems from accepting that and being greatful anyway. Sure, I don't have a job despite hundreds of resume submissions, numerous recruiter meetings and countless hours of prayer. I don't have the money to buy and renovate my townhouse. I have an incurable illness. I haven't heard back from any of the publishers or agents that I contacted...BUT, I made it through 30 years of life. I had a job that I hated but taught me a lot about standing up for myself and taking control of my career. I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was 8 years old and I became one. I met and married a wonderful man despite years of throwing fish back into the ocean. I have what I am convinced is the best family around. I love my friends and they support me even when I might not deserve it. I was in remission and though I am not anymore, I am on medication and it seems to be working. I have a cat that still likes to cuddle up next to me after 11 years. I have the chance to re-start my life at 30. I will be 31 next week and I am greatful that I have had this time out to work on being me.

Yes, I am still struggling to figure out what life had in store for me. But, I would imagine that achievement without struggle or effort can feel hollow. I say I imagine because I have never gotten to the next rung on life's ladder without some serious effort and often, some serious waiting (save for gifts given on special occasiions).
Things are not perfect. In fact, parts of my life have totally crumbled but sometimes, things crumble around us so we can pick up the good and salvegable pieces and re-build. Someone pass me a hammer and nails.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Behind Door # 1

As you know, I started volunteering a little over a week ago. In that time, I have noticed that the doors of many of the offices at the agency I'm working for are decorated with small sachet-like door hangers that say things like "Peace," "Love" and "Joy." It got me to thinking. What if it was that easy to find one of those emotions. Feeling stressed? Choose the door that says "Peace" and go inside. Sad? Don't worry. Joy is just behind the door at the end of the hall. Unfortunately, life isn't quite that easy BUT perhaps, we can accomplish the same results within ourselves. Arm yourself with positive thoughts that you can go to in any situation. Find solace in a friend. Pray. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Scream. Check you aggravation at the front door of your house and find joy in the loved ones (or silence) just over the threshold. Do whatever you need to do to get past the emotion that's troubling you. At the end of your life, the time you spent seeking peace will be worth much more to you than the time spent mired in negative energy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rainy Season

Last week, I finally fulfilled a promise to myself and started volunteering during my unemployment. I applied at a couple of places but, like most jobs I applied for, I never heard back from anyone. Last week, I finally heard from an agency that assists abused women and children. I went in for an interview on Thursday and I started on Friday. I'm just doing office work at the moment but I feel good about helping others and getting outside of my thoughts. Its also nice to see people working in jobs that they are passionate about. Don't get me wrong. There are still office politics and people still disagree on administrative things but everyone seems passionate about the common goal. Its a nice contrast to my last workplace where the only thing most of my colleagues were working towards was their own success.

My new position also comes complete with new kid novelty. I'm something different so people like to talk to me. Two have offered to give my resume to people they know and one likes to talk about why I became a lawyer in the first place. It is working to give me some perspective on the law and working in a firm. It comes at a perfect time because last week also led me into a meeting with a recruiter that is confident that he can place me at a firm. He, of course, said I should have found him months ago and he would have placed me right away. Now, his obstacle is that I've been out of work for a few months. He's still pumped and ready to get me a job and get himself a hefty commission. His confidence is refreshing after months of hearing, "Oh, you went to Pace. That's...well...I'll see what I can do." At the same time, I'm afraid. If I get an offer from a large firm, I'll jump at it. Let's be honest, I need the money. I also feel like everything happens for a reason. I talked to my best friend and she noted that my declaration that I would take another large firm job despite my fear of jumping back into the 7th circle of Hell (ok...maybe I'm exagerating a tad) is me putting a price on my happiness.

In a way, I agree but why is there such a negative connotation to that? I mean, of course, in an ideal world, money wouldn't be an issue and we could all say that we choose happiness over long hours worked in pursuit of someone else's bottom line. But, does happiness have to be the enemy of the paycheck? I am not exactly passionate about corporate law BUT I am miserable about not working and consequently, not earning. Also, I don't know that a new firm will be totally miserable because it will be a whole new set of people.

All that's not uncertain at the moment is my desire to buy my current townhouse, having and raising kids in a financially stable environment, starting a scholarship fund for underprivileged high schoolers, and traveling. I want to write books and focus on philanthropy. Clearly, I have big dreams. They are not impossible...indeed, they are common, but New York State unemployment is not going to fund any of it. So folks, assuming that Mr. Aggressive Recruiter drops a job in my lap, I'll be jumping back into firm life. Everything has a season and a purpose. I've been struggling over the past few months but I've been keeping track of the lessons I've learned. I am not as wasteful. I am mindful of the difference between what I need and what I want and I am a lot more comfortable with putting my foot down when it comes to protecting my own needs. If this is my season to focus on earning money so I can get closer to my dreams, then I'll call it a rainy season and try to distract myself from the gray skies by maintaining a sunny disposition. From this moment, no matter where I land, I'm not saving for a rainy day, I'm saving for a sun-filled life.

All that said, I still don't know what's coming. I don't have any offers yet. The difference between now and last week is that if I'm led to a firm job, I'm convinced it's where I'm supposed to be for now. I'm not selling my happiness to the highest bidder. I'm buying my peace of mind with the work that I'll do. Having suffered through these jobless months, I can confidently say, its worth every minute. Of course, that lottery win everyone dreams about would be really nice too.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Crossroads

I am at a crossroads...well, kind of. Let me explain. After lots of time with no opportunities, I now have a few. Some are of my own creation. Some are more practical. None are absolutely certain (hence, the "kind of"). I applied to replace a friend of mine in a job he is leaving. After months of hearing "its all about who you know," I am finally in a position where I know someone on the inside and because of his reference, people are excited to meet me. Then, on Friday, I heard from a partner I used to work for. He talked with a recruiter who, like most recruiters, says he has lots of opportunities. The difference is that he has been given a briefing on me by a well respected senior partner. Ironically, I've dealt with this recruiter before but it was over a year ago when I wasn't thinking of finding a new job. I'm thinking its no accident that he has been steered back in my direction. Then, there is the stuff I am working on with regards to writing. I've started submitting to potential publishers. I've done extensive research and I've even started working on a marketing plan. In short, I'm deeply invested in the book deal process. So, what do I do? Do I go for the lower paying job that I will probably like more or the higher paying job that has the chance of spinning me back down into the corporate misery that I felt before? Was my firm experience unique or will it be the same roller coaster, different park? Where does my book fall in all of this? Will I have time for it or will I sweep my creative passions back under the rug for the pursuit of a paycheck? More importantly, if I sacrifice my passions for money, what was the point of this so-called cathartic period? I'm certainly going to interview for all that comes my way but if I'm honest, I want one thing (job fulfillment) and need another (money). I wonder if I can find both in one place. Today, someone said, "Don't be afraid of failure. Be afraid of success at the wrong thing." I am a chooser of stability but a lover of writing (among other creative pursuits). How am I going to make all of this work? I have already had success at the wrong thing. Maybe there is something to be said for taking the risk of failure at the right thing. Maybe the point of this was to take me through a time where I cultivated my creative talents to a point where they will forever be at the forefront...despite where my regular paycheck is coming from. I think I'll take a step back until I actually have some job offers to contend with. Right now, I'm at the crossroads alone, but I can make out a couple of opportune shadows just past the horizon. That's usually enough for me to start trying to figure out what to do if...and when. Oh, how I'm hoping for the WHEN!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Choosing Happiness


I woke up today with a smile on my face. My husband (who is always up hours before I am) was in his office working. I walked into the office still smiling and gave him a bear hug. His response was not "Good Morning,dear." It was "What are you so happy about?" I told him I didn't need a reason other than being alive. He smirked and said "You were alive yesterday, babe." That was his way of saying that I had woken up in a sour mood for many days (ok, weeks) in a row with few exceptions. I was either annoyed with the lawnmower interrupting my sleep, the tiny, bickering dogs beneath my bedroom window, or my cat firmly pressing her nose to mine in an effort to say, "Mom, I'm hungry!!! Get your lazy bones out of bed already!" It always seems to be something, which over the years has led many (myself included) to say that I am not a morning person. What it really means is that I, for years, have let the little things distract me from what's most important. Hello, my name is Nicole, and I often sweat the small stuff. Let's be serious, most of the annoying things in life are, in the grand scheme of things, small stuff. The rude person that bumped you out of the way in their effort to get on the subway before you, the screaming toddlers running through the grocery store pulling things off of shelves and throwing them at each other while their parents ignore the chaos and keep shopping, the taxi driver behind you that lays on his horn and yells out the window for you to go a full 30 seconds before the light turns green...even the co-worker who stabs you in the back to get ahead...all equally small. I guarantee that they won't get a moment's thought at the end of your life. I have spent years giving those people (or the stupid things like broken nails and lack of leg room on airplanes) the power to alter my mood. There is a silver lining though. I have been more mindful of that lately. I have been reading a lot of self help books and the common thread in all of them is the suggestion that you start the day by giving thanks. I have started to do my thank you's using my thank you beads (or sometimes just doing them in my head) before getting out of bed. I have found that it sheds a totally different light on my day. I wake up smiling despite worries because I am faithful that everything is going to be fine. It might not be my current definition of fine and it may not happen when or how I want it but, I will walk away from this transition period stronger and with quite a few lessons learned. I'm not saying I'll be a robot. I am sure I will get annoyed sometimes and sad about setbacks. But I can choose to be happy most of the time. Choice is a powerful tool. I'll be a better person because I am choosing to be grateful for what I have rather than freaking out about things I can't control. If that's not a reason to smile, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Legacy

Unfortunately, I ended last week by attending a funeral. My husband's friend lost his mother. As I sat there listening to all that she accomplished in her life, I began to think of what really matters. People remembered her unpaid service to others, her easy laughter and her positive attitude. It made me realize that I have spent a lot of time over the course of my life worrying about what people think and other things I can't control. I rarely give thought to what I want to be remembered for. What is it about me that outside forces can't control or influence? What stands out despite my law degree, my big fancy job or my quaint townhouse? Now that all of those things (save my law degree) have been or might be stripped away, who am I?

I think we all theoretically want to make a difference in the world. Yet, we spend a lot of time focused on the pursuit of the paycheck and worried about what our boss, our neighbor, the cashier at our grocery store, our doctor, and so on think of us. Most of us tailor what we say or how we express our feelings based on what people will think of us. Its only our true essence that will be a treasured legacy for those who survive us. The freedom of our belly laughs, the meals prepared and occasionally burnt, the willingness to admit and comeback from failures, the real love we gave. It will not be in the stylishly appointed outfit or the biting your tongue to spare another's feelings while trampling on your own. At the end of your life, it will not be about the people who thought you were a little uncouth. It will be about those who loved you most and their appreciation for knowing someone who lived in free pursuit of their best life. That's the real difference we make in the world. Its what we remember most about those we love and what they will remember about us.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Battlefield

My favorite song as of late is Battlefield by Jordin Sparks. The song is about love always feeling like a battlefield and the line "Get your armor" is repeated throughout the song. The reason I love this song is not for the reasons that you may think. My marriage isn't on the rocks. If anything, its less like a battlefield and more like a big open field of wildflowers straight out of some cheesy dream sequence from a movie. Inside our little world, things are peaceful, warm, funny, tender and supportive most of the time. Yet, there I am every time I hear that song on the radio singing at the top of my lungs telling myself (and everyone in earshot) to "Get your armor!!" I was singing just that on my way home from a pre-4th of July party at a friend's house this weekend when I felt a lump in my throat. At first, I was confused. I was having a great weekend. My husband was away for work but I had spent some quality time with friends and escaped my jobless reality for a while. For me, that is usually enough to be in a good mental space for a while. As tears welled up in my eyes, I realized that I love the song because its a battle cry for survival. In writing, praying, planning and searching for my next opportunity, I am strapping on my battle gear and pushing myself to fight for my comeback. Satisfied that I had sorted through my emotions, I pulled my car into the driveway and headed into the house to relax. I spent the day hanging out with Storm (my cat), watching TV and doing some clean-up on my book. Honestly, I didn't give much more thought to the battlefield epiphany because its been a continuing theme since I lost my job. I'm always giving myself a pep talk about pushing forward towards my new life. Then today, after watching hours of coverage on Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Steve McNair, I needed a break from death and media scrutiny so I started flipping the channels. I came across a show called I Survived on the Biography channel. It is about people who have faced everything from brutal stabbings to animal attacks and lived to tell the story. Whether they had to play dead or literally fight, they all lived to tell the story. The message in each of their stories is the same: Its your life. If you want it, fight for it. It was the same message from the song I had been belting out in the car. In life, we're all going to find ourselves on a battlefield at one point or another. You can either lay down and be defeated or get your armor. At least at the end of the battle, even if it doesn't turn out how you'd hoped, you can look in the mirror and see a warrior with a story rather than a victim hanging her head in defeat. I hear chainmail is the new black. Get your armor!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ostrich No More

I am uplifted and renewed this week. After a week of stress and insomnia, I am finally back on a semi-regular sleep schedule and thanks to the kindness of my mom, I finally spent some time worrying more about being happy than about making money (Mostest, mom!). Before my mom waved her magic mommy wand and sprinkled love and generosity into my life, I had spent a lot of time over the last few weeks wallowing in my own issues. Her love and pep talks taught me that I need to step outside of myself. Sure, there is a lot going on in my life BUT there is a lot going on in everyone’s life. I can’t let my worries become so big that they take me away from the things that really matter. I have been neglecting the people that matter to me the most. Because of that I forgot my best friend’s birthday and my Dad and his wife’s anniversary. I had been feeling pretty guilty but I realized that the guilt just plays into my issue. By wallowing in my guilt, I am still only spending time paying attention to my own feelings. I am making a resolution to be better about stepping outside of my own sadness. I decided that my time is better spent focusing on the happy things in my life: friendship, family, faith. There are so many people who have been praying for me and trying to lift me up during this time. I am on a journey to try to find my new path in life but it doesn’t mean that I have to leave those from my former life behind until I have something positive to report. They can hear the bad just like they can hear the good…and alternatively, I should be available to hear the bad and good in their lives. They will support me no matter what and I know how lucky I am to have people like that in my life. They (unlike me) haven’t turned into themselves despite the hardships they are all suffering. I should be just as good a friend/daughter/sister to them. So today, I declare myself ostrich no more. I am pulling my head out of the sand and though my eyes burn a little, I can see things for what they really are. I need to shape up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Insomnia

I am laying here with my little family. Storm (my cat) is laying on my belly and periodically trying to push my blackberry out of my hand. My husband is snoring softly beside me. I am awake after 3:00 in the morning for the 4th night in a row. For some reason, I am suffering from insomnia yet again. In the past, my sleep schedule has reversed (I'd sleep all day and be up all night) but this time, I don't seem to be able to sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours in a given 24 hour period. I have been using my time to be productive with respect to my book. I got comments back (thanks MP) and have had to do some heavy editing. Fresh eyes provide great perspective. The rest of my life has fallen to the wayside. I haven't cooked since sometime last week. I need to go grocery shopping and the house is a mess. I have spent time with friends (catching up and celebrating birthdays) but I seem to be off center. Its like I am moving in slow motion yet the days are passing so quickly. I have a goal but I don't know what my next step will be. I don't know how I'll make money while I'm shopping my book. Heck, I don't know how to shop my book. Should I be going back to school instead? Should I find some continuing legal education classes and try to convince people that I'm more than a bankruptcy lawyer? Should I represent people in personal bankruptcies? So many questions and today I feel like I don't have the energy to create the answers or give myself a pep talk. I am still learning to accept that I can't control everything and that the answers aren't always there. All I can do is keep working on making a career out of my passion and hope for peace in the process...and sleep. I am working towards a solid 8 hours of sleep.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Drafts and Doubt

Last week, I finished the first draft of a book that's been almost three years in the making. I also finished one that I started at the beginning of this year. The proofreading process has started and while I am happy I finished the first drafts, I am being plagued by doubt. She's knocking and ready to move all of her baggage into my de-cluttered world. Finding a way to publish a book in a down economy might be a bigger challenge than finding a job. I'm nervous because I don't know what is waiting around the corner. I have been nervous since I wrote the last chapter of one of the books last week. I even started back applying for legal jobs with more fervor.

Then, after a morning filled with cover letters and resumes, I started going through my books and making edits. The television was on in the background and I was only half listening when I heard someone say "Your purporse in life is to let your hardships be your passion. Use your voice to tell your story." It was reassuring to me because in trying to write my first non-fiction book, more often than not, I have asked "Who cares?" Hearing that quote reassured me about what made me write the book in the first place. Someone shares my story and reading my story may help them or help them better relate to a loved one. Later, at the end of the same newscast, there was a story about an increase in book sales. Of course, it was more about fiction and how people need an escape, but it made me smile towards heaven anyway. It was the pat on the back I needed. The mantra has to be one step at a time and my first step is to get through the proofing process.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Year In The Life

One of my favorite musicals of all time is Rent (the stage version). As cheesy as it is, I often think of the song "Seasons of Love" when celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. I know it sounds cheesy but its important to take time to think about how we measure each passing year. My husband and I just celebrated our first year anniversary and a lot has happened within that time. We have lived through each of our vows. Better, worse, sickness, health, richer, poorer...check, check, check, check, check and check. For sure there are more debilitating diseases than lupus and worse things than losing a job. That said, for us, it has been a roller coaster of a year (mostly on my end). Since my last post, I have been to the doctor and I am no longer in remission. I still don't have a job. I am still writing and still focusing on positive thoughts but if I had to look at this year on paper and it was about someone other than me, I might view it as pretty tragic. Since it is me, however, I can step back and take stock of what has happened. I am not in remission but I found a great doctor and a really good medication that I am hoping will work just as well the second time around. I don't have a job but I am not stuck working for people I don't like in a job that I am not passionate about. I have a partner that supports me when I break down and makes every effort to pull me close when I try to push him away. So like the song says: "How do you measure a year in the life? How about love?" Our first year of marriage had ups and downs but we still love each other and personally, I love myself a little bit more. I am finding my passion rather than slaving for a paycheck and even though income would be nice, I think my story will be better for all of this. So, even though I'm feeling a little down, I choose not to measure the previous 525,600 minutes by tallying how many minutes/days I felt like crap or in how many tears I cried. Instead, I am keeping count of how many times I laughed so hard that it hurt and how many times I felt loved and appreciated. I measure the huge opportunity I have been given in being forced to start over and find my passion at 30 when I have worked long enough and hard enough to know what I don't want to do but I'm still young enough to not be terrified at spending my retirement money (though living on my savings still makes me pretty uneasy). All in all, it has been a year full of great moments and lots of love. If I focus on that, the other things fall away. Who needs to measure setbacks anyway? It's no way to live. So, measure in love (even if you hate the song)! And if you love the song (or on the very off chance that you have never heard it): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcSDli-Byn8

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thank You Bracelets


Recently, in going through my clutter, I found 2 beaded bracelets that I got back in law school. I put them on my wrist and kept cleaning. Later, I was hungry (and lazy) and wanted to go out to dinner so badly. I didn't want anything fancy. I just wanted something other than something I had to cook. So my husband and I drove to Five Guys. Its a burger joint. We walked in and I looked at them menu. If we each got burgers, regular fries and a small soda, we would have spent about $20. Knowing I would have felt guilty about that the next day, we walked out. In the car, I started to cry a little. I reconciled myself to cooking at home but as I stood in the kitchen feeling sorry for myself, I decided to re-create the restaraunt appetizer nights we used to enjoy. I made spinach and artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms and garlic and rosemary french fries (all out of things I had at home). It actually turned out good and gave me a chance to test some recipes. Through the cooking, I cleared my tears and as I worked,I kept noticing those bracelets twisting around on my wrist. Then, I had an idea. I would start to use those bracelets everyday. I would thank God for one thing for each bead on each bracelet. If I can come up with that many things to thank God for (39), then things can't really be that bad...even if a $20 meal has suddenly become a splurge.

Losing Control (again)

Lately, I've been having a recurring dream that someone is trying to break into my house. Last night I dreamed I was getting ready for my wedding and someone was breaking into my hotel room. The circumstances are always different but the robbers are always the same and they are always out to steal something from me no matter who else is around. So, being the research freak that I am, I went online to search for dream symbols. What I found was that these types of dreams represent financial insecurity or feelings of being emotionally or physically drained. If you've been following my blog, you know I've been fighting hard to release all of the feelings of insecurity that came with losing my job and instead focusing on hope for the goodness that is sure to come. Then I had these dreams and a bit of a wake up call.

I went to the doctor Tuesday and after we discussed how I was feeling and the probability that I was no longer in lupus remission, she asked if I was on vacation. I asked why and she said noted that my jeans were a dead giveaway. I couldn't bring myself to say that I didn't have a job anymore so I said I was taking some time off. In that moment, I realized that I have not moved on. I am still insecure about being out of work. I am still scared that at the end of the year when my savings run out that my husband and I will be forced to downgrade as we lose our townhouse. I also realize that I am still struggling with control issues. I can't control my job or my income so I control how clean my kitchen is and what we're eating for dinner. I write because I control the process (at least until I try to publish). I turned away from the legal job hunt (at least through the 10+ headhunters I've used) to control the amount of rejection coming into my life.

So, I've suffered a setback but at least I realize it. Admitting it is the first step, right? I have been spending the last few days sending out more resumes, writing and engaging in armchair philosophy with a great friend. I have concluded that the one thing I can count on is that things will rarely go according to plan and that strength and resilience comes from being able to bend rather than break. Maybe the best way to be prepared for the obstacles in my path is to maintain a sense of hope that I will get around the obstacles and hopefully be better for it. At least I'm finding myself and my true passions in the process. The same is true for the locally famous weatherman who is laid off and is forced to live on less money but is working his dream job as a veternarian and the woman who lost her thriving businesses but now feels empathy for the struggling families at the food bank...and for the former high powered attorney who is now forced to come to terms with how she took things for granted but now gets to focus on her passion for writing rather than he passion for a paycheck. Many of us are at a crossroads but perhaps we're becoming better for it. Nothing can be that bad about losing control when the trade off is becoming more empathetic, more united and more of ourselves. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just Like That

I woke up this morning to the sound of my cat making friends with a manicure square. I have no idea if that is what it's really called but that is my name for the block that buffs on one side, shines on the next, files on another side and does something else. You get the point. Anyway, Storm (my cat) was busy pushing the block across the floor, pouncing on it and then licking it like it was her newborn kitten and the noise of it all broke me away from my sleep. 6:02. I rolled on to my side and looked through the small space between my purposely dark, heavy drapery panels (I like to sleep in sometimes and they help block the sunlight) to see that it was no longer dark. As I lay there trying to will myself back to sleep, I started to become aware of a change in my body. First, I noticed that my knee was warm and swollen. Next, I felt pain in my shoulder. Familiar with this pain, I performed my tried and true test and balled my hands into fists. The right hand couldn't quite obey. I got up to go to the bathroom where I could find real light without waking my husband and I saw that 2 of the fingers on my right hand are extremely swollen and tight. The fingertips are almost purple...and there it was. Just like that, life reminded me that I am not quite in control. This swelling and warmth are part of my personal hell. I am reminded this morning that I have lupus. Maybe the symptoms will just visit today and be gone tomorrow. This has happened a few times since I went into remission so maybe its just that. Maybe later today, I will feel fine and I'll be able to bend my fingers to type (which, as you can imagine is pretty critical, since I have started my new journey through life as a writer) but for now as I use my blackberry to type (my thumbs are working just fine...thanks for small favors), I can't help but to think of all the people, including me, who have seen life change in an instant. Just like that, we have to make new plans and exist in new realities. It's almost like the world shifts and shakes to constantly remind us to be flexible. So today, I'll bend a little to the left and keep focused on the one thing that doesn't change: my faith that all of this bending and adapting, adjusting and recovering is for a reason and will all work out for my good in the end. Maybe that's the real key to dealing with all of our issues. Be flexible when life doesn't go how you had hoped and be faithful that whatever trial you're experiencing is for your higher good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reality Check

I just wrote a check for over $500. What, you may ask, could I possibly be willing to pay so much for given my current circumstances? Tax penalties? School loans since the government hasn't granted my forebearance request? Nope. That large check would be for my reduced price COBRA health care coverage. Yes, that is the price WITH the 65% government subsidy. Total reality check. I've been watching my budget and counting how many months I would have before my savings ran out but not factoring in that I would be paying so much for heath care. I want to climb up on my health care reform soap box but I will resist. After all, this is not a political forum. That said, if I am still paying over $500 a month for health care AFTER the government subsidy, how does someone, especially someone with a medical condition like lupus, survive for very long after losing their job? Unemployment maxes out at $1620 a month in New York. That doesn't begin to cover my bills. With so many people in my position, I imagine that many people have to choose between mortgage and medication every day. What kind of life is that? I have always thought that health care was way too expensive in this country but I was never vested in the cause. I've seen lots of documentaries on the topic over the years but I was always working and I always had access to health care. Now that I don't have a job, all I can think about is the fact that I have lupus. Insurance is critical for me and without my doctors and my insurance, given how bad my health was a year ago, I might not be alive right now. Now, I too, may have to choose between shelter and medical attention. Suddenly, its not someone else's problem. When society's problems become your personal house guests, your outlook changes quite a bit. Medical care should be readily available for everyone. No matter your political posture, you have to agree that there is something wrong with the fact that it isn't.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shopping trip!!!

In my effort to de-clutter my life, I've been de-cluttering my house. Today's project was the cabinets in my bathroom. On the road to peace and cleanliness, I discovered that I am (or was) a beauty product-aholic. Don't get me wrong. I have never been one to stock my bathroom with $200 face cream made from the finest caviar and crystals for at home resurfacing and youthful glow BUT if it was on the shelves of my local drug store, target or Sephora (within a certain price range) and it moisturized, defrizzed, volumized, firmed, tanned, curled, straightened, concealed, or provided a lovely new scent, it was in my shopping bag and ultimately in one of my bathroom cabinets. I tried many things once or twice and moved on in an effort to find my favorites. I never threw anything away though. Waste not, want not, right? Well, want not indeed! Today, I hit the jackpot. No more lamenting the fact that I have had to trade my Olay moisture ribbons body wash for the Target version. If I want a pick me up, I can look in the cabinet and indulge my beauty product habit in all of the gifts and hasty purchases that I've made over the years. So today, I had a fun shopping trip. Some may find it sad but I found it fun. Hey...I've given up shopping for everything but groceries and medication. I gotta get my thrills where I can. Its nice to know that when I want to try something new (or at least new-ish), I need look no further than my bathroom. As for the de-cluttering, I threw out all of the expired things. I am not in the business of giving money saving tips (especially since I'm just learning) but If I am to give one, I would say, take frequent shopping trips through your clutter...maybe even trade unused gifts with friends. Smelling like an unused bottle of cucumber jasmine body spray (at least for me) is a good way to get past not buying that cute green dress that I can only admire from afar while they ring up my prescriptions.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Permission to Thrive

Today, during one of my many "what's going to happen when my savings run out" moments, my husband stopped me in my tracks by starting one of his "We'll be ok" speeches. Normally, I would blow this off. Don't get me wrong. Its not that the pep talks don't make a difference because they do. Its just that he's always been a bright side of life person until the last minute. He stesses once his back is against the wall. I stress on the journey to the wall. In any event, he started his pep talk as we walked the aisles of the grocery store. I was busy looking at things to inspire new recipes and not listening that closely. He stopped and looked at me and said "you're not listening." I smiled and apologized. Then he said, "Babe, I think writing is your calling. I know you are stressed but you are happier than I ever saw you when you were working. If you want to write, then write. For once, let me worry about how things will get paid. I believe in you. You need to do the same." I could have cried right there in Pathmark. I didn't of course(somehow tears and summer squash don't go together) but I felt overwhelmed. Hubby has always been supportive. That's why I love him but he has never come right out and given me permission to dream and to follow my dreams. I was the risk averse one with the steady job and more importantly, the steady paycheck. He was always the dreamer. I was always stressed and he was usually relaxed. Now I am worried, needy and trying to start a new career. I am unsure of myself and scared to fail...afraid that I will wilt in these circumstances...and there he is, right in front of the summer squash telling me its ok and giving me permission to thrive. I am lucky despite my circumstances and I am going to stop worrying so much. Its distracting me from reaching my full potential. As my one year wedding anniversary approaches, I am going to stop worrying about the uncertainties of tomorrow and snuggle just a little closer to the certainty that my husband is here and he believes in me and my dreams. I will have that whether I am in our cozy home, the guest room of a relative's house, or a cardboard box (but let's be real...I am hoping it never comes to either of the last two options).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hamster Wheels

I always envied people who got to do jobs they loved...but only when those jobs seemed like fun to me. Painters, chefs, clothing designers, musicians, you get it...the happy people whose work was not really like work but more an expression of self. I think it was because I was a right brain person working in a left brain environment. I also worked so much that I didn't have time to use the right side of my brain except in two instances: gift giving and wedding planning. Over the years, I had tried to do crafts for therapy. I knitted several "scarves." I put that in quotes because a 2 inch by 12 inch strip best suited for my cat was all I ever really made. My cat did not appreciate her holiday attire. I made bracelets, christmas tree ornaments and watercolor paintings. In the end, so many things were incomplete because I had to get back to focusing on work. I blamed my waning creativity on a lack of time. Now that I have nothing but time to pursue things I like to do. I said it out loud (see my previous post). I am a writer. The issue now is forcing myself to have the discipline to see my once loved hobby as a job. To write on a schedule and to trick my mind into seeing this a job. As I sit here procrastinating, I can't help but think about how wierd it is that we spend our lives in search of something we are passionate about but we often forsake our dreams in pursuit of money only to turn back at the end of our lives and wish we hadn't "wasted" so much time on life's hamster wheel. Now that I have been thrown off of the hamster wheel, I am trying not to sink into the mulch on the bottom of my cage. The only way to do that is to keep reaching up so at the end of my life, I can say that I made the best of this time. Right now that means writing, writing, writing...so that when I am older, I can tell my kids that life threw me off the wheel but I kept running and eventually, I found a new direction and happiness by living my passion and loving my work.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saying It Out Loud

I realized today that when I was working as a large law firm lawyer, I never enjoyed it. Sure, there were great moments with colleagues and personal achievements that I was proud of but there was never a sense of fulfillment. At the end of the day, I was most passionate about my pay check...and even that wasn't enjoyable because most of the time, it went to pay bills and the massive amount of loan debt I amassed in law school. Don't get me wrong. I still love the law but corporate law firm life was NOT why I said "I want to be a lawyer when I grow up" when I was 8 years old. Now that I am in my current pickle, I have found myself looking for another job with a certain sized paycheck. I haven't been looking for something I can be passionate about. And, as you know, I haven't met with any success. So today, I am saying it out loud. I don't just want a job. I want to earn money for something I love doing. During my down time, the thing I've been doing is writing. It's my outlet. Its something I've always loved so, despite my aversion to risk and my need for a steady paycheck, I want to write. I have already been forced to scale back financially. I may need a job to help everything move along (and to get health benefits) but writing for a living is the goal. I am scared but I know I can do anything I put my mind to. Fear ends where faith begins, right (thanks, RR)?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Shining Brightly

The sun never seems to shine as brightly as it does in Manhattan on the first 80+ degree day of the Spring/Summer season. Maybe its all of the reflective services for the suns rays to bounce off of. Maybe its the sheer energy of the city. All of the people sharing food and drinks outdoors, the beauty of the parks and all of the flowers blooming around fountains and on medians...and me being part of it. That's right! I got off of the couch and out of the house this weekend. I met up with a good friend and we shared good wine, great appetizers and hours of chatting. At the end of it all, I felt so much lighter...despite all of the guacamole we inhaled. It was fun not to focus on the downside of my jobless life and just laugh and eat. It energized and renewed me and now, despite my situation, I have hope and I am shining brightly...bouncing off of life's reflective surfaces and hoping my positive energy bounces back my way.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hibernation

Today, I reached over to scratch an itch and to my horror, I discovered that a hair had sprouted on my once smooth right shoulder. I panicked for a moment wondering if there were others and then I gave in to the nap that was begging for my attention pre-itchy hair discovery. As I closed my eyes, my cell phone broke me out of my haze. I reached for it with a heavy sigh. It was my husband telling me about a birthday party he had obligated us to and forgotten. As I tried to fight being annoyed at having to go out and tried to decide what to wear, I realized that I hadn't been out in a social setting since my last day of work. I haven't put on a stitch of make-up, let my hair down or worn anything other than pajamas, work out clothes or jeans for those fancy moments when I got to the grocery store. The only exception has been the one time I left the house for an interview and temp agency registration. I have sent out more resumes than I can keep track of and the phone's not ringing. My friends are all busy with work. I stay in one spot on my couch. I sleep all the time. People!!!! I am hibernating and as of today, I have the furry undercoat to prove it!! I have GOT to get out of the house.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beauty in the Breakdown

I have been on a sort of self-imposed time out. My computer crashed and I lost what felt like the last 6 years of my life. It was having issues last week but I ran malware anti-virus and it came right back to life. Now everything is gone. Its useless. Luckily, I had backed up some things but the day that it happened, I had been so productive. I was 5 hours into a project when it gave me the "blue screen of death." Maybe you're familiar: Error! We are beginning a memory dump. Involuntary shut down never to fully restart. Well, I had a breakdown. And I don't mean I shed some tears. I mean a full on loud, soul shaking, shoulders heaving, gasping for air, sobbing breakdown. I was sad about the computer but it was just the icing on the bitter cake I've been eating for the last few months. I cried for how much time I spent in a job I hated and for how hateful people were to me in a job I sacrificed so much of myself for. I cried for all the doors that have closed in my face since I've been job hunting. I cried for the time I've missed with friends and for the hopeless way I feel in the worst economy I've ever known. I cried for the unknown and what will happen if my husband and I have to uproot the life we worked so hard to build. I cried for my health, which now seems to be veering away from remission. I cried for having to put children and house purchasing on hold. I know that's a lot, but I have only gotten misty eyed over this situation until this point. I am not a crier. I am a look forward to tomorrow because crying won't fix anything type of girl. But there I was, sobbing and wailing on my husband's shoulder and for once not caring if I looked weak. Finally, I stopped, blew my nose and went to bed. I logged on to my computer the next morning hoping that I'd dreamed the whole thing but I didn't. I pulled the covers over my head for a few hours and then went for a drive. There wasn't a moment when I wasn't on the verge of tears. Today, I stayed in bed until 5:00. Then I got up, took a shower and did some self-help reading. I did some cleaning and tried to clear my head. Now, after a couple of days under ground, listening to torrential rain storms outside, I am ready to turn my face to the sun once more. Like I said, I am not a breakdown type of girl but sometimes, even for those of us who try to remain "strong," there is beauty and necessity in the breakdown. It reminds us that we have feelings and sometimes- whether we are focused on bringing good things into our lives or not-we need to let it out. If nothing else, it brings closure and gets the bad feelings out...and makes room for new, happy times.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yellow dandelions


When I was young, spring and summer trips to the park were times I relished with my mom. I would always pick yellow dandelions for her and present them as if they were the prettiest flowers that nature could provide. She would always stick on behind my ear. As I grew up, I realized that those pretty bursts of color sprinkled across untouched hillsides and springing out of cracks in sidewalks and driveways were viewed by most as a target for Roundup or some other weed killer. On my way to the gym yesterday, I noticed that there were dandelions all over the untended hill beside the road. I swear they weren't there a couple of days before. It was the first warm, sunny day (no jacket required) that I have experienced in a while, and I guess the dandelions seized the moment. They were there waiting under the surface of the ground for just the right moment and they will last for the rest of the spring. Its like they knew their time to spring up was coming, though they were cold and buried for what seemed like the longest winter ever. Its like the sun. Its always there. On some days, dark clouds may block its rays but its still there, just beyond the clouds waiting to shine. I think that's like me. Its cloudy right this moment. My talent is under the dirt/behind the clouds waiting for the right opportunity to spring forth and shine. The key to keeping my faith is knowing that the right season or the right conditions are coming and I will be given the chance to shine once more. SO, today, on a rainy, cold Monday in New York, I am still underground but I have a yellow dandelion tucked behind my ear.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

$17.99 and $27.10

Friday afternoon, I stopped at Target to re-up on Advil--excuse me, Target brand gelcap--on Friday. While walking towards the pharmacy, I passed a simple kelly green maxi dress similar to one I fell in love with during a trip to Old Navy last summer. It was sold out and never restocked. I gave up on it until I saw its fraternal twin hanging on a rack...a SALE RACK!!! Only $17.99. I checked for my size, I held it up to me in the mirror and I remembered that there might be a day very soon when $17.99 would be the difference between dinner with water and water for dinner. I placed it back on the rack and walked away. Sadness overwhelmed me. There has never been a time since I was 16 that I wasn't working. Sure, I might not be able to get every shoe, bag, meal or kelly green maxi dress that I wanted but I always knew that I could just wait for the next paycheck and go pick up what my heart desired.

When I left college behind, I also left the days of having under $100 in the bank on any given day. Well, things come full circle, history repeats itself, etc., etc. ad nauseum. I paid this month's bills after I had to abandon my ideal summer dress (not that I am not thanking God for being able to pay the bills this month) and when the smoke cleared, there was $27.10 left in the bank. I looked at the number for a moment, swallowed hard and walked away from the computer. I needed a drink of water to swallow the dose of reality stuck in my throat. I gathered my thoughts and made the call I had been dreading. "Hello, Fidelity. I need to roll over my 401(K). Yes, I am unemployed. Yes, I have been diligently seeking employment. No, I don't have any other options at the moment." I have been putting this off for a while because I kept holding out hope that I would find a job before I started dipping into my retirement account. I'm only 30...and I have been building that account since 23. I didn't always max out because, like most people, other things got in the way...namely, my fancy New York City wedding and my South African honeymoon. So I am sitting at $27.10, glad for experiences that I had before joining Generation L, hoping that I don't have to burn through ALL of my savings and mourning my former shopping ability. Silver lining? At least the bank balance isn't $7.60, which is what it would be if I gave in to my urge to buy the dress (I can subtract...that number accounts for tax). In my dreams though, I am sitting on a beach in Turks and Caicos in my green maxi dress drinking something with an umbrella in while my husband runs our jet ski rental company from a stand a few feet away. At least that's where my 401(k) was supposed to go.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

America's Got...Something!

Today is not what I would call a good day. I know, I know. I am supposed to be immersed in the practice of positivity. I should say this day was a lesson in patience and not a BAD day....when my thoughts got pitiful and my eyes got weepy, I should have rolled out my rarely used yoga mat, gotten into lotus pose so I could breathe happiness in and exhale toxic thoughts out....yeah (pregnant pause) Rome wasn't built in a day.

BUT, this post isn't going to be about my virus infected computer (ERROR! Your computer will shut down in 60 seconds. Save your files...did we mention 60 seconds??) or my umpteenth rejection letter from a potential employer (your resume is exceptional but we've decided to go with someone more exceptional or someone with the same resume who got to us earlier, or no one because of an unexpected job freeze, or...you get it...we're rejecting you). Nope. This post is going somewhere different.

So, I got ready to go to the gym with the same scowl/pout on my face that I had when I was 3 and couldn't have gum from the display in the checkout line at the grocery store. My mom and my husband know that look better than anyone. Sensing my funk, my husband tried to cheer me up by holding my hand like we were school kids. I thanked him for the gesture. I even cracked a smile but I was still sad inside and my pout soon returned. We got to the gym, I grabbed a balance ball and started my ab work. Hubby got a ball and plopped down beside me. He poked me in the arm a couple of times and just when I was about to shoot him an annoyed look (when I'm deep in a funk, I tend to wallow there for at least an hour), we were interrupted by The Walking/Jumping/Dancing Crazy. This guy came bolting into the room with a loud "WOO-HOO!!" Then he started running around and clapping. Then came the real performance. I kid you not, he broke out in a full on disco/techno dance performance while singing at the top of his lungs. He stopped, did a couple of bicep curls while screaming bloody murder and then he gave someone on one of the circuit machines a lesson on his form. A woman stretching on the floor shot him a look when he broke out into part 2 of his song and he screamed "Am I too loud?" She knodded and he said "Yeah. Headphones!" and danced out of the room. I caught my husband's eyes in the mirror and we both burst out laughing. He noted that maybe they should ask "Are you crazy?" on the gym membership application. We decided to leave that room and I went to the women's training room (because apparently we need a separate space) to find some peace. When I finished with my weight training (I sound like such a health nut don't I...makes me laugh as I sit here planning what dessert I'm going to have after dinner), I went out into the main gym to do some cardio. I chose a bike and about 1 minute into my 6 mile trek, the woman next to me decides to sing. Mind you, I was wearing headphones and was listening to Oprah on full volume (to drown out the dance music blaring over the gym soundsystem) so when I say sing, I really mean shriek loud enough to blow out my eardrums. I turned to look at her and I see a woman that looks to be about 60, with her eyes closed, hands waving in the air belting out a song like she is auditioning for America's Got Talent (or America's Got Off Key and Crazy Sewed Up and Locked Down). Again, I laughed (this time to myself so as not to blend into the brand of crazy that took over the gym today) and leaned into my 6 mile ride. She was still singing 2 miles in and the dancer from earlier came dashing by and paused for a clap, dance, WOO-HOO combo near the row of bikes. He moved on and a man came to join my row of bikers. As soon as he sat down, the singer silenced herself and remained that way for the rest of my bike ride. I smiled and remembered that God has a great sense of humor and I instantly rose above my self pity. So, America's Got...Something and I got my lesson: self pity takes you nowhere but down and, as cliche as it is, laughter often is the best medicine.