Monday, July 25, 2005

It's Not Easy Being Me

As I was heading east on SR 500 today to visit my favorite Michael's store (damn you Michael's, and your cheap, easy framing materials, and outrageously expensive art materials!) and PetSmart (damn you, Annie, and your stinky poop that I have to pick up in little baggies!), I was thinking how much extra I must pay to be me.

I'm sure it doesn't hold a candle to the facials, manicures, Nordstrom shopping adventures, and elective surgery required for some persons, but it adds up, I suppose. Well, now, after that last sentence, it seems puny, and actually ruins my whole premise for a post, but I'll just keep going, like a dork, like nothing has happened...

For instance, the closest Michael's store is probably four miles away, right across the river at the Jantzen Beach humongo-mall. It's brand new, and since it is in big-box land, it's probably three times as big as the one I go to. And the bonus is that, since it is across the river, it is in the mythical tax-free land of Oregon, saving me about 8% of everything non-food that I buy.

The Michael's that I am required to go to is about ten miles away (add gas), on this side of the river (add 8% tax) and smallish (add, well, less selection?). But it's right next to the PetSmart that I'm required to go to, so there's that.

Required? Well, for all intents and purposes, yes. This is the shyness tax. Shy people tend to develop routines that feel comfortable to them.

Developing the routines themselves takes enough out of you, believe me. Taking that first adventure out into the unknown that is Vancouver is scary enough. Now that I know that there is a good chance that nothing terrible will happen to me if I go to the Michael's store off SR 500, I will keep going there until something terrible happens to me there. Then the ordeal begins anew. Believe me when I tell you that it is best, blood-pressure-wise, to avoid ordeals.

This same tax requires me to plan my gas tank fillings around my husband's and/or my son's schedules. If I am low on gas, I make sure that they need to use my car for something, and oh, would you mind filling it up while you're at it? No, they don't buy that line, but they are sweet enough to oblige my gas-filling-phobia. If I ever find myself with an empty gas tank and no support system, then I head for the river. Because in the mystical, tax-free land of Oregon, it is illegal (but not tax free - they're not idiots) to pump your own gas. Hence, at least some (although not all) of the anxiety is avoided.

Oh, yeah, and I paid a $74-a-month tax this last year by signing up for a gym membership and then deciding that it was just too icky to work out in front of other people. I'm not sure what the difference is between spending an hour on the elliptical machine with a bunch of strangers and spending an hour running by these same strangers' houses, but it's different. Plus, I am not required to stare at the Fox News Channel for an hour this way (I know that doesn't seem shyness related, but come on! Is it fair? I certainly can't ask them to turn the channel, now, can I?).

And don't forget, if it requires a phone call, I would rather pay the difference, whatever it is. So next time you pick up a phone, or a gas nozzle, thank yourself for being so fearless and stout-hearted. Because we're not all that lucky.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Days of Life-As-We-Know-It Are Numbered

Dean is planning to move out in September at the start of the new fall term.

Yay! Empty Nest! Party in the playroom! Clothing Optional! Line up for the Conga!

But...who will dance for me? Who will walk around the house on oak tree trunks for legs from all the bike racing and a waist measurement that Scarlet O'Hara would die for? (See sample picture of the tree trunks in a Red Cyclocross Riding Hood Get-up, Annie and the scariest thing I could think of to carve last Halloween. For enough cash, I will post the rest of the picture...)

Yet again, who will make the basement smell like dirty socks? Who will always, always, forget his towel in his room and "borrow" one of ours?

But who will hook me up with new sweet tunes from NY, NZ, PDX and LA? Who will climb up the garrett stairs to give me an honest (and always admiring) evaluation of my latest painting?

Then again, who will eat everything in the fridge before I can get home from work to cook it into dinner? Who will leave dishes in his room until they grow new civilizations?

But who will make the cat purr by whirling her, ceiling-fan-like, across the kitchen table? Who will make the dog so excited she forgets that she's the girl (if you get my drift), and, oh yeah, she's spayed?

Who will clutter up the garage with bikes, bike parts, and tools that he "forgot" to put away? And who can we get to pressure-wash and de-con his room so that we can re-colonize it?

But then who will make MST3K-like wisecracks during movie time? Who will give me a crazy smile and know that that will be enough to make me smile, if not guffaw (depending on the state of his hair and/or Goodwill-flavored outfit)?

And who will dance for me?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Random Thoughts Part 4

This is going to have to be short, because I am in the middle of a painting, and my left brain is limping along on partial power, kind of like the Enterprise after a Klingon encounter that ended badly.

You know what bugs me? Since my newspaper refuses to carry my favorite comic strip, I have to read it online, and then I end up reading it in reverse order because I can't remember where I left off last time I had enough time to surf over there, and then all the serial jokes are completely dulled into near-unfunnyness (what is Agnes doing hanging by her swimsuit from the end of a diving board? How did that little scamp get out there? etc.) You try. (Did you notice that this is a visual issue? Then extra points for you!) I will now try a verbal-issue entry:

You know what else bugs me? I love to read good books. I don't like to read bad books. But do you have any idea what the ratio of bad books to good books is out there? Me either, but I know it's high! So I end up wasting a lot of time reading bad books, hoping that it will turn out to be a good book before I get to the end. What? You say just quit reading it when you realize it is bad? Yes, but what if I just got a bad impression at first? What if the book is good and I'm just a bad reader? Besides, my mom always told me to finish what I start. I am getting better at putting a book down when I realize I am not enjoying myself, but it takes some getting used to. Especially for someone who ends up taking most of the blame for the book-completion failure.

Band names for today:

The Levi Leipheimer Experiment
Partial Power
The Floyd and Agnes Show
Tour de Frank

That's all I got.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Coaching the Human Becoming

Have you heard of the new career opportunity for people who can't do, but can teach? It's called a life coach. For a fee, they will come to you (or even talk over the phone - some of them are that good) and tell you what you should do with your life.

I don't even know where to begin with this concept. Have we come to the point where we are so far removed from our friends and our family that we have to pay someone to tell us what we should do? Or has life become so complicated that our friends and/or family are useless in helping us make sense of our lives and careers? I mean, how much can Old Dad tell you about the future opportunities waiting in the field of semiconductor vacuuming? Maybe tomorrow they will invent a replacement for the semiconductor vacuum - maybe a semiconductor wet-vac - or maybe they will invent a replacement for the semiconductor. Maybe they already have and I'm just too hopelessly doinky to know yet.

I know somebody who could use some life coaching. I wish I could help him, but I have just recently figured out my own life. (I think. Ask me again next week.) For what it's worth, here's my career advice:

Oprah says follow your passion. This is very good advice. However, I must caution you that it's not enough to be passionately interested in something, or to passionately want something. You must passionately like all the crap it takes to get it. Some cases in point:

I majored in psychology in college, expecting to become the next Bob Newhart (does that date me? so be it). I was passionate about psychology. I still am. What the hell makes us tick? Why does the squishy grey goo in our heads make us write poems and limited liability company agreements, make fondue, pray to God, and wear polyester leisure suits? Yet for all the curiosity I have in my own head about psychology, I was not able to talk to strangers - especially disturbed strangers - about their problems. That is too scary for A Very Small Animal such as myself. The passion did not get me through the practice.

I spent the better part of two years in nursing school. I was passionate about nursing. I still am passionate about medicine for the same reason I was passionate about psychology. What make us go? Why do some peoples' pancreases just give up the ghost one day and say "f**k it, I'm done. Find another way to get insulin. I'm pooped"? Why does my heart just keep beating, when my leg muscles get so tired after a couple of hours? How does my thumb know to replace the thumb part I cut off with more thumb cells instead of eyeball cells? ...where was I? Oh yeah, nursing. Turns out that nurses have to attend to really sick and really, really grumpy people all day. And if they make a mistake, it's curtains for the patient and lawyerland for the nurse. It freaked me out and I changed my mind about nursing. The passion did not get me through the practice.

Now, I have a job that I like. No passion, but I like it and I'm good at it. What I'm passionate about is what I do between work days: painting. And I can use everything else I'm passionate about in my art. What turns up in my paintings is rather telling - animals I like, places I remember, people that inspire me: bears, bunnies, beaches, dogs, and Dean. This passion may not get me anywhere other than surrounded by a lot of pictures, but it doesn't matter, because I love doing it. It's challenging - horrifying when things go wrong and thrilling when things go right.

The fortunate few are the ones that have found a way to make a living from something they love to do. Like Drew. He comes home from the fire station every morning with a good story, and leaves every workday hoping to score a trifecta: fire, trauma and death (well, you can't be a fire fighter without a rather dark sense of humor, now, can you?). Of course, he gripes, but it's the griping of someone who cares about doing it right, and doing right. Lucky.

The key to passion is not the end result but the day-to-day fun of it. If you are reaching for something you are passionate about, but the road to your goal is filled with stuff that you cannot make yourself get out of bed to do, then you need to re-think your goal.

If, however, you are working towards a goal, whether glamorous and lucrative or totally not, and yet you would gladly spend your day this way anyway, whether you reach your goal or not, then you are on the right road.

And please remember this: You Get What You Pay For. I say this not as a consumer, but as someone who has benefited only from her own efforts. The more I work, the better the result. See? The more I pay out, the more I get in return. Be generous with your effort and your time - not just to others, but to yourself - and you will be repaid in kind.

There. That should do it. I believe I'm empty of life coaching advice. Unless the price is right. Call me for a quote.