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Transition March 16, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search.
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3 comments

There is nothing like getting that call: “We would like to offer you the position of…” It is like sweet music to the ears, tasting the finest Bordeaux, watching a sunset over the ocean, the sound of a beautiful woman saying “yes.” I have longed for those words for close to two years, and last Monday, it happened. I will be in my dream position, doing what I was trained and educated to do, working with wonderful people inside and outside the organization. It is perfect.

But there is no time to celebrate. I never planned for the chaos that happens after those words. There are things to do and it has been a whirlwind of activity since that call. First of all, I have my foot in two offices at once. I am basically wrapping up projects and cleaning out my desk in one and studying, preparing, observing and participating in another. I am the kind of person who likes to be as informed and prepared as possible when I enter a new position – yes, type A all the way. That would be fine if that were all I needed to do but holy Moses, that is just the tip of the iceberg!

I am moving to the community where I will be working. This is taking a fully engaged effort on my part. Here is the list of things to do:

  1. Find apartment
  2. Shop for household items
  3. Shop for furniture (a bed!)
  4. Find truck to move stuff
  5. Find new bank
  6. Get in to see dentist and doctor (so I don’t have to take time off right away)
  7. Shop for more professional clothing (this is an administrative position)
  8. Pack, pack, pack
  9. Pack some more
  10. Move stuff in truck
  11. Unpack, unpack
  12. Unpack some more
  13. Set up living spaces
  14. Connect utilities/cable/internet (gotta have my internet)
  15. Settle in (optional since I will basically be living at work anyway)

These are just the main bullet points. There is so much that has to be done in order to accomplish each one. But I am happy to announce that the first thing on the list is completed. I found an apartment!  After a week of looking, it happened. When I saw the location, before I even went into the apartment, I got excited. It borders a city park complete with gazebo, pavilion and a statue of a WWI soldier. Even better news is that on the other side of the park, there is an Irish bar! I was always told to step into a local establishment to see what the natives were like before you decide to settle there. So I did and had the time of my life! These people knew how to sit at a bar and have fun and I made friends with them quickly.

As soon as I walked into the apartment I knew this was going to be my new home. It is all newly renovated with very spacious front rooms, three bedrooms and an incredible kitchen. I love to cook so this is huge for me. I began envisioning great parties, get-togethers, cooking for people, having friends and family overnight. It is only 2 miles from my office and it will be an easy commute.

Find apartment – check.  Now on to #2

*Update!  I just heard from the owner. It looks like I move in on Saturday. Better find that truck!

My new apartment!

and a bannister to slide down!

Dining room facing the front room

The Kitchen

The front master bedroom (out of three)

The Park

The Irish Bar

Roll With The Changes March 12, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better – King Whitney Jr.

Reach for your Blue Sky Objective

Being paralyzed by fear of change for many years, you reach a breaking point that throws you into radical chaos. Once the dust settles, you sit down with pen and paper and construct a strategic plan. The plan consists of “Blue Sky” objectives that, at the time, seem completely out of reach. Regardless, you reverse engineer from those objectives and strategized step ladder goals and strategies in an attempt to proactively bring you to a life better suited to your core values and persona. The critical path is determined by identifying core events and use of a time-specific Gantt chart. The goals are achieved one by one. The low hanging fruit is gathered. Everything is in place for achievement of the objective and then… an external variable is thrown into the mix. Trying not to fall off course too far, you begin crisis management and re-structure some tactics to place yourself in a holding pattern. Time goes by and resources dwindle. There is more crisis management to stay off the breaking point for just a little longer so that you can optimize as much opportunity as you can.

And then it happens. There you are, staring change in the face. Not just any change, but change that you yourself designed – change that will bring you over the threshold and place you squarely into your blue-sky objective. It is uncanny how the opportunity before you fits your goal statement. All the work you have done for the past five years is about to come to fruition.

But you blink. There is a moment of hesitation. You forgot to account for a variable in your plan. The core reason that this whole journey began in the first place – you are afraid of change. It paralyses you. Luckily you are given time to absorb the tremendous opportunity ahead of you and the enormity of value it brings. You also realize that the stop-gap tactics you had to engage in to extend the original time line have given you essential tools and experience that enabled you to get to this point. They always say, “Everything happens for a reason.” In this case, it is so true.

Your feasibility study finds nothing but a win-win situation and the initial hesitation is purely just unjustified fear of change. You remember that this is change that you designed, change that you desired, change that is now a reality.

Yes!You are ready now. With a smile on your face and warmth in your soul, you confidently stand and say, “yes.”

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

What strange thing is going to happen to me today? February 5, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Friendship, Relationship, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Some of my graduate colleagues and I in Cincinatti

There was a time in my recent past that I would wake up in the morning and think to myself, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” I was in what I call my “transition period” at the time. I had left a good paying secure job for a chance to better myself with an opportunity that I could not say no to – a free education in the form of a graduate assistantship for a prestigious graduate degree. I was living in a small studio apartment by myself and totally immersed in engaging, exciting work with 30 other students on a day-to-day basis. We were a close family. We ate together, we worked together, we drank, danced, laughed, cried, obsessed and even slept together (overnight study sessions – that’s my story and I am stinking to it ;) ) When people experience an intense part of their lives together, they become very close. Those ties are never broken and I will always consider them my brothers and sisters. Thank God for Facebook since we are now scattered around the globe.

I know. I got off track there but the fact is that I was experiencing an incredible time full of friendship, opportunity, hope and promise.  I miss waking up in the morning and thinking, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Today was different.

We would gather after class at a local brew pub

I already knew it was going to be an unusual day. I had a very important meeting this morning and the anticipation brought back that feeling of opportunity, hope, and promise.  With it was also the waking thought of, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” – and something strange did happen…

So I am driving to my meeting and my phone vibrates. It is a text from a number I don’t recognize…

“Hi! It’s just me. How is it going? Is the wacko still screwing with you? You ok? Well, let me know.”

Just me?  Who is just me?  When I was in my transition period, I was also in a relationship. It was intense and horrible at the same time. It was a toxic relationship and I was blind to the effects of it and the damage that it eventually did to me. This toxic lover would always start a voicemail or text with “hi, it’s me” and for a minute I stopped breathing thinking that this text was from her. But in this case, the wacko would be her so this text didn’t make sense.

I text back…

“Who is this?”

“Don’t be silly, u know who it is! U r the one that keeps calling me. U think u would forget after these years and all u did to me. I didn’t look u up.”

I am now thinking, ‘oh my God, it is her! What does she want? Wait a minute! I have not been calling her. I have not called this B&%#h in well over a year. This can’t be her.’

I text again…

“I am sorry, none of this sounds familiar. I think you have the wrong person.”

She simultaneously returns…

“Gerry, look at the pic I sent you. You’ll like it ;-)”

Whew!  It is not my previous toxic lover!  I am not Gerry. Wait!  Now I wish I was Gerry. I wouldn’t mind seeing that pic!

She obviously gets my last text and responds…

“Gerald Sr. and Judy you r still nosy fuckers. Why not just put your adult son’s phone down!”

Ok, now that I know I am not Gerry, this is getting very interesting.

She sends a second text…

“And while you r at it tell him not to call me or bother me anymore too! I’ve got my fiancé and my 3 girls and life and don’t need him fucking shit up for me!”

Ouch!  Here is a woman who is trying to respond to some previous lover and she is engaged to be married with three kids? What a tangled web we weave!  Yes, this is getting very interesting indeed.  Now, I could take this conversation into the land of impropriety and irresponsibility pretty quickly but I have had my share of that in my life, so I decide to go the route of the gentleman…

“That is all fine and good but I am not Gerry, Gerry Sr. or Judy. Sorry, I hope things work out for you.”

She comes back with…

“Whatever. He called me from this number. That’s how I got it in the first place and I called it too and Gerry left me a voicemail. So whatever, Teresa”

Well, at least I know her name now. This implies that she now has some doubt about whom she is texting and that I am gaining her trust. I will continue in that manner. After all, I know her. My toxic lover of the past was very similar to her.

“Hi Teresa, this number is 607 244 XY02. I have had this number for many years now. I am not sure how that is possible. Sorry to disappoint you. I hope things go well for you”

She now realizes her mistake…

“Sorry, but someone was screwing with me and it’s YX02, not u. I apologize – Teresa”

“No problem, sorry for your troubles, we all have them. “

We were like family

It was a full day of living in the feeling I had when I was a full-time student working with people I love, learning exciting things and engaged in collaborative work – a day of opportunity, hope and promise. Even with the huge relationship mistake I made during that time I truly miss that feeling. Even though I feel for Teresa and her situation, however warped it may be, she completed my day today; Something strange did happen to me today as well.

Thank you Teresa.

Dreams of Sex, the Past, and Bob Barker January 30, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, inspiration, Sex.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments

“Come on down! The price is right!”  What?  Me? The dream was so vivid I could feel the heat of the studio lights. There I was, on the Price is Right Show. Bob Barker holding the microphone in my face and asking me, “…and what do you bid Steve?”

What am I bidding on Bob?

Wait! … where are my clothes?

It woke me up instantly. That is the only way I can remember my dreams; when they are so intense I am thrust into consciousness with the dream scenario still embedded in my thoughts. There I was in bed, still hearing the theme music and wondering, what was that all about?

Some dreams are so bizarre (thanks Bob Barker) and make no sense to us. Others have a clear connection to what is happening in our lives at the moment. Some are from our past. Some are of our future. Whatever and whenever they are, we want so much for them to have meaning. We want our dreams to guide us to our future or give us understanding of our past. We want our dreams to give us the answers to our current situations.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, leading sleep expert, there are reoccurring dreams that we all experience that may have a common meaning. These Dreamscapes include; falling, being chased, visiting or seeing someone you knew who is now deceased, being back in school or college, or finding yourself naked. In general many of these dream scenarios indicate some current stress happening in your life.  However, it is important to understand that the same common dream can be interpreted differently between individuals. For example, let’s take the dream about being in high school. This is a reoccurring dream I have had for close to 25 years now. My dream focuses on the restraints of the high school environment; hall passes, bells, teacher authority, etc… I hated my years in high school and this dream reflects the restrictions I felt while attending. It may even extend to the limitations I felt growing up with an over-protective mother and under-loving stepfather. I find that I have this dream more often when I am in a financially or personally restrictive time in my life. Others who have this dream may interpret it in an entirely different light. If they found their high school years to be personally enriching and socially affluent, they may have this dream in times when their lives and relationships are going well.

Sex and being naked

We have all had this one. Having sex with a friend, your boss, your mother, past and/or present and/or future lover – you name the person, people dream of having sex with them. Think about what sex is. Yes, having sex normally reflects a mutual intimacy between two people. However, it can also be an act of dominance or power over someone. Some even associate sex with pain. Combine your meaning with the person you dreamed having sex with and you can come up with all sorts of conscious parallel meaning. Personally I have never dreamed about having sex with my mother or boss (ewww.) My sex dreams always are with past, current, or desired lovers. More important to my personal interpretation however, is the fact that when I am feeling overly stressed, limited, restricted, I don’t have sex dreams at all. It is in a time when I have hope and high self esteem that my dreams become sexual. Apparently for me, sex is about confidence.

Suddenly lose your clothes during your dream? You are not alone. This is a common one usually meaning that you are afraid of having something exposed, insecurity or low confidence. It can also reflect on the anxiety you are experiencing about an upcoming meeting, doctor’s appointment, presentation, or performance. Not many get naked in their dreams and like it. For the ones who do it can reflect a bit of a narcissistic need for attention, to stand out in a crowd, or a need to be noticed by work colleagues or a recent romantic interest.

The Price is Right

So what does this all have to do with dreaming about being on the Price is Right Show? I have not seen this show, let alone thought about it since I was a teenager. Bob Barker was a young man back then (and that is the age he was in my dream.)

What does this all mean?

It has been a few days since I had this dream and I have used this time to reflect on it. My belief is that this dream mirrors the doubts I have been having lately about pursuing some big dreams of mine. Maybe I am wondering if the cost is worth it. Is the price right?

It is natural to have doubts. It is normal to lose some self-esteem – confidence – as you challenge yourself with change. But what is the alternative? For me, compromising is not an option. “What do you bid Steve?”  Bob, I am not going to make a bid because what I am doing – what I am going after – is priceless.

As for being naked? If people can’t respect me for the challenge I have put before myself, then they need to step aside and let me pass. I have no shame in what I have started. I have no regret in the hard work I have done and am doing to get there. I have no remorse in what I have left behind. I have put myself out there. I have exposed myself and it feels wonderful.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

Resources:

Recurring Dreams and Their Meanings – Dr. Michael J. Breus

Blood on the Sock January 24, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, fitness, Job Search, Life, running.
Tags: , , , ,
4 comments

On my first attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I blew out my quads. A runner will turn his hat around when his goal is lost.

Here I am. After an 18 mile run I am in bed with a cold pack on my heel and a corn bag on my left thigh. I am a mess and this is only the beginning of the training for the Boston Marathon, my last bastion of freedom.

So I started out this morning, already sore in the heel (now thinking that it is the return of an old injury – Plantar Fasciitis) and new soreness in the knees. At mile nine, a quick stretch on each leg calmed the knee soreness but from there a malaise of pain gradually took over my lower body until around mile 15, when it felt like my legs were on fire. After the run, while slowly unraveling running gear (it was very hard to bend over) I discovered blood on the top of my sock where a persistent hot spot has opened up despite Body Glide ®, and taping. Yes, I am in sad shape and it is only the beginning.

I remember the training for my very first marathon. My buddies and I were experiencing a whole world of hurt that season. I was popping ibuprofen like it was candy. During the carb-loading pre-race dinner the night before the race, I made the grand pronouncement of, “Hey, maybe because we trained so well, it won’t hurt so bad.” My buddies, having run a marathon before, just laughed and laughed at that statement. They laughed again when I discovered that I was wrong – very wrong. I couldn’t go up or down stairs for a week.

I don’t know what is up with my thought process. Yes, I have embraced change. Yes, I am working hard on making my life the life I want. However, I always think, “Oh this will be easy.”  What the hell am I thinking?  My run in Boston this coming April will be my 7th marathon. You would think I would remember how painful the training is. It doesn’t get any easier, and now that I am 50, I have the age thing working against me.

At one point in my life I loved being able to say, “I have succeeded in everything I have done.” It was a hollow statement. I never challenged myself. I never thought that maybe if I took control of my life, I could make a better life. I was in an unsupported career, working with people who were not collaborative or open to new ideas. I ignored a relationship that had become nothing but a conciliatory, domestic partnership. I had the body of a 75 year old, wearing out before its time, and I didn’t care. Of course I am going to be successful accepting mediocrity and compromise. Anyone would. Things have changed. I have given myself monumental challenges in a quest to become the true me with a life better suited for me.  At one point I remember saying, “Changing careers will be a snap. Creating a relationship rich in intimacy, passion and commitment – no problem. Running marathons – bring it on.” Now it is mile 18 and I am feeling the pain.

Break it down into parts

Since the winter season dictates that I leave my bike on the rack, my cross training for this race is swimming. This will serve two purposes; Cross training for the marathon, and streamlining my stroke for a future triathlon this summer. My coach has us doing drills that break down the mechanics of swimming into individual elements. He has us focusing on each part in an effort to slowly rebuild a new, more “efficient forward propulsion,” as he describes it. Again, you guessed it, I found myself saying, “Oh! This  will be easy.” Wrong! I have completely forgotten how to swim! Rebuilding something new after years of doing it wrong is not easy. Frustratingly, painfully, incredibly difficult to say the least. Damn right.

“Rebuilding something new after years of doing it wrong,” that is what I am doing. I have to remember that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Breaking each element down into its smallest parts is the best way to approach this. I am not ready for the end result yet. I still need to tear it down, correct the misconceptions, practice each part, rebuild from scratch. You can’t rush the end result if the end result is to be successful. Patience and persistence will get me across the finish line when the time is right. Toss in a little blood on the sock as a reminder that this is not easy, but it is going to be worth it – someday.

Living Separately – Together January 21, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Dating, Divorce, Life, Relationship, Unemployment.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

Nancy Partridge and her ex-husband, David Snyder, pose outside the home that they share in Westminster, Colo., on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. The pair divorced in January after six years of marriage but when the house failed to sell and Partridge ran out of money to pay for an apartment and her half of the mortgage, she moved back in with Snyder in August. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In a recent post by Big Little Wolf entitled Living Together – Separately, she points out how the economy has forced some couples to live in different cities in order to maintain jobs and careers. Unfortunately the economy has not only hurt healthy relationships but also relationships on the rocks. With today’s economic challenges, it is  not uncommon for separated or divorced couples to move back in with each other, thus living separately – together.

Economic Suicide for a Family

In normal situations, when couples move toward divorce there is a liquidation of shared assets including not only real estate but also investments. Typically, there are gains in such transactions but since the first quarter of 2007, single-family home values have fallen 20 percent or more in some areas. Many divorced couples who would normally sell are stuck with houses worth less than what they owe their lender. As for investments, any securities in stocks and bonds, including retirement accounts that are tied to the market, have seen significant losses. With the unemployment rate currently at 9.7% (December, 2009) it is likely that many of the separated/divorced are also struggling with job loss.

PDP’s – Purely Domestic Partners

Whether it is a recent loss of income or sinking real estate and investment values, more and more separated/divorced couples are making rational sense of their situation and finding solutions by splitting living space up in jointly owned residences as a way to maintain property investments or living standards for themselves and their children. This is especially true when children are college age. There is no contest when a child’s future is hindered by a separated couple’s selfish actions. In fact, much to the divorce lawyer’s dismay, many are even postponing divorce proceedings in an effort to conserve resources. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers states that 37 percent of attorneys polled reported fewer divorces in a bad economy. Regardless, couples that have left the relationship because of abuse, or infidelities do not make good candidates for PDP’s. More than likely most estranged couples that manage shared living space successfully have had amicable separations in the first place.

Successful PDP housing is dependent upon several factors.  There must be enough living space as well as an appropriate floor plan so that each person is comfortable with the ratio between private space (bedroom, bathroom, closet, etc..) and communal space. Negotiating specific understanding about space, behavior, childcare, assigned duties, socialization and dating must be done beforehand. A time limit or a situation benchmark is also important to stipulate for the termination of the joint housing agreement such as an acceptable purchase offer on the house, employment, or unmanageable living differences. If there are children, keep in mind how they feel about the situation. It is quite possible that this transitional time can be easier for children to process. However, if there is constant arguing and fighting, think twice before moving back in.

PDP Caveats

None-the-less, temporarily postponing one problem can easily create other problems. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of a joint living situation. Keep in mind that this type of agreement is not the social norm. Many couples will find themselves the target for ridicule and disapproval. Mainly an assumption fueled by the divorce lawyer syndicate, society expects horrible financial ruin and emotional strife to be associated with any separation and divorce regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Dating can also be difficult. Moving on into another relationship while sharing space with a previous relationship can be unorthodox to say the least. PDP’s may find it challenging to find anyone willing to date someone in their situation let alone have a relationship with them. Plus, the opportunities to be intimate with a newfound interest is essentially impossible since it should be a fundamental understanding that neither partner will have overnight guests, especially if there are children in the house.

It is important to remain clear on the reasoning for a joint living arrangement and not be influenced by external dissention. Financial maintenance, preservation of assets, standard of living, child stability and comfort are all good reasons to weigh the benefits of such living arrangements.  If anything, to have a little power of decision in such restrictive economic times is enough to at least think of it as an option.

Resources:

Huffington Post – Couples Staying Together Because of Poor Economy

Recession and Divorce: Living With Your Ex to Make Ends Meet

The Great Divorce Recession of 2009

What’s in Your Wallet? January 15, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Family, Job Search, Life, Unemployment.
Tags: , , ,
15 comments

They say you can tell a lot about a man by what he carries around in his wallet. I see the truth in that statement simply because with a wallet, a man has to be very selective in what goes in it, and stays in it. None of us enjoy a wallet in our back pocket. Since I lost a ton of weight, my ass no longer has that fat cushion. Sitting on a chair with a wallet in my pants is like a stone in my shoe – painful. These days my wallet goes in my jacket pocket or brief case. Whatever the reason, a man keeps his wallet lean just because it is generally, and literally a “pain in the ass.” The contents of his wallet must have purpose. There must be monetary value, functional value, historical value, or emotional value. Either that or he just forgot to take the crap out, and even that will say something about the man.

So here is my charge for the evening. I am sitting here with my wallet in my hand. What I am going to do is go through it and report what I find. Here we go…

…Opening wallet now…

Money

Let’s go for the obvious first. I have exactly $20 in cash in here – one 10, one 5, and 5 ones. That is a lot less than what I carried around with me before working on a career change. Semi-employment, which I know is much more than what many have these days, has made my wallet thinner but the reasoning goes much deeper. At one point in my life, I could not wait to buy the latest in technology, toys, gizmos, possessions. Buying made me happy – for a day or two. Then I returned to my miserable state until the next newfangled widget was purchased. Now my money is in my wallet for a different purpose. I don’t buy stuff anymore. I buy time. Whether it is drinking a beer together, a game of pool, seeing a movie, or a cup of coffee, time with friends is what makes me happy now. I make sure I always have enough just in case I have an opportunity to meet up with someone.

Cards

I seem to have an overabundance of business-like cards in here. I am going to take a closer look. Most of them are coffee discount cards, all from separate coffee houses I frequent. When you buy a cup of coffee, the barista stamps the card for you. When your card is full with stamps, you get a free cup. My favorite place is Stella’s, a small dark elongated café where students from both Ithaca College and Cornell hang to work on projects, collaborate on papers, engage in academic discussion or just gather for some down time. I am a product of this culture and it is here where I feel the most at home.

Plastic

Wow, I see to have a bunch of these stashed in various slots. 4 credit/debit cards (I have been spreading the dept around these days. That way it doesn’t seem so bad.) 2 clothing store credit cards (I need professional clothes to go on professional interviews so that I can continue to get rejection letters.) 3 grocery store cards (I don’t think they let you buy food anymore unless you have one of these!) finally, an AAA card. This is one thing I will never go without anymore. I have been in several situations where a tow was needed and the cost sunk me. So far, being a member has been a good ROI.

Membership Cards

I have three in my wallet. They are professional organizations in which my membership has lapsed. I can no longer afford to be a member. I am not sure why I keep carrying them in my wallet. It could be because I have hope that I might be an active member again at some point. More than likely it has more to  do with denial tactics.

License and Registration

Standard issue for a wallet, no surprises there. The only problem is that my license still has the picture of me from when I was fat. It doesn’t even look like me anymore.

ID Card

Even though I make very little money, I am very proud to be working where I am working. I love the work, I love the mission, and I love the people. I am proud to have my work ID card in my wallet. It even has a more recent picture of me on it!

????

What is this?  It is a 3×5 card folded in half. Old and ragged, there are several dog eared corners and frayed edges. Written in bold faded marker on one side is written, “SHUT UP – 1 hr.” I remember this! A long time ago, for one of my birthdays, my oldest daughter gave me a series of index cards as coupons. Similar to the coffee cards, the idea was to redeem them back to her in exchange for the service printed on them. Some were quite unique. She was and still is quite unique.  She is an in-your-face kind of kid – always passionate for whatever she does, always excited to learn something new, always driven to do her very best. When she was little it was no different. The coupon cards offered take-it-down-a-notch behaviors such as: “Let you talk first – 30 minutes,” “Eat with my utensils – one meal,” “Sit in my room alone – 2 hours.” The card from my wallet is one of those. Apparently she would “shut up” for one hour if I redeemed this card.  I wonder what she would do if I gave it to her now after all of these years? My bet is that it would make her talk more. The card would trigger her into a vivid discourse of her childhood; the days of tutus and Easy Bake ovens, the days of Little Mermaid and Polly Pockets. Talking about those times would be fine with me. Now that would be priceless.

Put that in your wallet.

Is it Time to Make Banana Bread? January 13, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Job Search, Love, Relationship.
Tags: , , , ,
8 comments

You look at those last few bananas and think, “Should I make banana bread out of those today, or should I wait? Maybe someone will eat them today.”  How long to you wait before you make banana bread?  How far do you let the bananas go before giving in? Do you wait just ‘one more day’ in hopes that someone will still eat them? But what if you wait so long that they aren’t even good for bread anymore? What happens then? They just have to be thrown out and then all is lost. So when do you make that decision? When does the oven get turned on?

We all have hopes and dreams – fresh bananas that we just bought. They are so green. There is so much optimism there. We make the right moves. Do all the right things. Our bunch is set on the table in a cool dry place – preferably propped on the kitchen table where they are displayed well and noticed more often. It feels so great when one is taken, sampled, tasted. Maybe it was that interview for the dream job. Possibly a new romantic interest. A phone call from a prospective client. A banana is taken, but for some reason, you just can’t get anyone to take the whole bunch. They just sit there and turn darker and darker. How long do you wait before you make banana bread and settle for what you have?

Is that a banana in your pocket?

Don’t ever underestimate the power of self-promotion. Sure there are many apples and oranges out there but how many bananas are just like yours? You have unique qualities. It is important to identify them and then display them. It may be great interpersonal communication skills. Possibly you are a talented writer. Maybe you have a flare for creativity. Whatever it is, know it and show it. Some people advocate splitting the bunch up. In this way, the ripening process slows down and you have more time. Get that resume out there! Network! Diversify your job search engines. If it is a romantic connection you seek, networking is just as important. You know people who know people. Mix and mingle. However, unlike posting your resume on job sites, I do not advocate the use of online dating services. They are just meat markets and really do not cater to fruits and vegetables. In any circumstance, your bananas are rich in vitamins and sweet to the taste. They are a nutritious value for the price and somebody is looking for them. All you have to do is display them properly and in a variety of venues.

Ripen first before eating

Many people want to look at their bananas and eat them too. If they are eaten too early, they don’t have the rich taste that people are really looking for. You have time. Aiming for that dream job? Maybe you have to return to school for new training and skills. You might have to work in a position that will give you more experience for a while. Establishing a good friendship with a person before any romantic interests develop is important.  All of this can take time but will make your bananas look better and taste better in the long run.

Yes! We have no bananas

What happens if no one is hungry for bananas today? This is certainly a commonality in today’s economic environment. There is simply no demand for bananas. This is also a cause for how few are actually actively looking for a new relationship as well. With so many financial difficulties, family issues, career bumps – people are putting their bananas in the refrigerator in hopes of preserving them until there is a demand again. This is the absolute worst thing to do. Everyone knows that hiding bananas in a cold dark place will make them rot even quicker. Something about the gas they produce makes them turn brown or worse, never develop the rich sweet taste that is so desired.

What is in your oven?

What is wrong with making bread? Is it settling when you reassess your goals or maybe tweak that dream? Reinventing yourself to fit the current situation is not always about settling or giving up. Maybe it is adaptation. Maybe it is taking what you own and transferring it into a more marketable package. After all, variety is the spice of life. I am not saying that if you can’t sell your bananas that you have to make banana bread. There are so many other possibilities. How about a banana cream pie for those who are sweet and compassionate? Banana muffins are a good choice for those who are more structured and analytical. A banana split may be a good opportunity for someone who is balanced in creativity and critical thinking.

Don’t wait until your bananas go bad. If someone moves your cheese, it is time to coordinate your dish to match what is on the table. And if you do make that banana bread, just add nuts please. Everyone needs a laugh now and then.

For unique banana bread that will surely be eaten, try this recipe

The Toxic Lover January 10, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Love, Relationship, Sex.
Tags: , , , , ,
8 comments

Have you ever had a partner who doesn’t play by the same rules he or she imposes on you?  How about a girlfriend who continuously holds you down in a continuous pit of depression and hurt? Maybe your companion was so possessive of you that you felt imprisoned within an emotional cage. These are all strong indicators of a toxic lover.

There are many abuses that can metastasize in a relationship. It is so hard to comprehend at times that we DO hurt the ones we love. Some abuses are overt, such as physical abuse. Others are not so apparent and can easily be masked by the blinding effects of love and passion.

Scenario #1

The relationship moved quickly in the beginning for Bob and Linda. It was like magic. Before Bob knew it, he was feeling a close bond with Linda and felt she was coming closer to him as well. When he tried to discuss these emotions, Linda would just say, “I feel that way too Bob, but I can’t make any promises right now.” Promises or not, Linda began to display possessive behavior. She insisted on knowing Bob’s whereabouts constantly. She would demand that he return her texts immediately even when he was in meetings or classes. If he evaded her questions or was indisposed, she would blow up at him and accuse him of infidelities that were completely irrational. Worst of all, when Bob wanted to go out with friends, even though he would invite Linda to go with him, she would relentlessly monitor the evening through calling, texting, or showing up unannounced. At first, Bob felt excited and loved. After all, a little jealousy is an alluring thing. But after a while, Bob found himself staying home instead of going out with friends for fear that Linda would get upset. He felt enclosed and restricted. Bob finally realized that Linda wanted a commitment from him without making any promises or commitments to him.

Scenario #2

Karen met Matthew in her accounting class. He was deep and mysterious in his thinking. To her, this was alluring to have a man so connected to his emotion. Their discussions centered around feelings and connection, passion and love, pain and suffering. In the beginning Karen believed that the relationship they were building was itself, deep and passionate. However, when Karen had good news to share, or just wanted to involve Matthew in positive discussions or do something fun with him, he would make her feel guilty about her happiness by dragging her back into the darkness of his life. She began to feel as if the only way they could connect was through his lens of emotions. She began to feel guilty about feeling happy, wanting to do something fun, or sharing good news with him.

Scenario #3

Patrick thought Crissy was beautiful. She was the woman of his dreams. After a few dates, he was quickly finding himself falling for her. She had no problem telling him everything about herself. It seemed so easy for her to share her life with him and he loved every minute of it. As the relationship grew, she began to include him in her life in various ways. He would help her prepare class notes and prepare meals to take to her nutrition class she was teaching. She would ask for his advice about finances, include him in helping her study for an upcoming exam or writing her papers. When she was upset, she would come to him for consolation and advice. At first, this all made Patrick feel needed and wanted by her. Unfortunately, when Patrick wanted Crissy’s help on something, or even to spend time with her, in most cases she was unavailable for him. He started to wonder how Crissy even knew who he was. All they would talk about was her life. All that they would do together, was her projects. He began to feel used.

I am sure if you look back on your past relationships (or even your present one) you will see yourself in one of these situations.  They are more common than you think. All of these scenarios first feel like true love, want, longing, and trust. However, they quickly become a pattern of inequality, emotional abuse and mistrust. Why does someone tolerate a toxic relationship then? Love is blind that is for sure. The overwhelming excitement of a new love can mask many of the early signs that you are getting involved with a toxic lover. The rationalization that you may be partly to blame makes you feel like you have to work on the relationship. The fear of being alone can keep you there. In general, change, whether it is good or bad, is always difficult. Internally we tend to rationalize because it is much easier than changing our behavior (see Cognitive Dissonance) but it is even more difficult when you are under the mental and physical influences of love and sexual desire. External wake-up calls can be useful in this case.

Have you or are you experiencing any of these external indicators?

  • Does your partner expect you to follow certain guidelines in the relationship that she/he does not place on themselves?
  • Do your friends or family tell you that they see problems in your relationship?
  • Are you hesitant to go out with friends or even on your own for fear of upsetting your partner?
  • Do you feel you have to consistently change your plans to satisfy the needs of your partner?
  • Are conversations with your partner consistently one-sided?
  • Are you pulling away from your friends and other activities that you enjoyed before your relationship?
  • Do you feel compelled to consistently satisfy the needs of your partner before your own?

In the end, it is about balance. If you are feeling more like a possession rather than a mutual partner, maybe it is time for a change.

It Takes a State of Mind, Not a Place in Time January 2, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Health, Holiday, Life.
Tags: , , , ,
5 comments

Happy New Year?

Are you sure about that? What difference does one evening, one day, make in your happiness? Will writing 2010 on your checks be that much more thrilling and exciting to you than writing 2009?  I doubt it.

I have been travelling the blogosphere in the past few days and reading everyone’s thoughts on how, in this New Year, things will be different. Losing weight, exercise more, quit smoking, do more of this-do less of that – Resolutions such as these are made only to be broken within a short time span.

Cognitive Dissonance

Rationalization of bad behavior can be a powerful influence. A smoker will rationalize by thinking, “I won’t get cancer, other people get cancer.”  A dieter has thoughts of, “One more cookie won’t matter.” A couch potato will reason, “Running is bad for your knees.”

The psychological theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Leon Festinger, 1957) explains just this type of human rationalization. It is more difficult for a person to change behavior than it is to change their thought. Thus, rationalization is conceived and the behavior remains the same. In fact, the process of Cognitive Dissonance is so powerful that marketers use it as a basis to sell you products you don’t really need. They force you to make superficial decisions that make you believe that you must buy their product. “Oh! Chef Boyardee says my kids will be happier if I serve them mini-bites micro ravioli.” “Oh! I will get ‘girl-approved hair’ if I use Axe hair products.” These marketing techniques are banking on people not taking the cognitive energy to understand that these superficial connections are completely irrational.

Superficial Rationalization vs. Reality Perception

It comes right down to Ontology – the way in which people perceive their reality. There are two basic meta-theoretical perspectives on this: Determinists – the thought that prior conditions determine human behavior, and Pragmatists – the thought that people plan their behavior to meet future goals. Determinists believe that their life is all determined by fate. This is the “Forrest Gump” philosophy of “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” People who think within this paradigm are behaviorists. They believe that their world is just a series of events and awareness levels that are slowly unveiled throughout their lives. They have no control over the outcome. These people tend to rationalize more (they are more susceptible to Cognitive Dissonance.) The Pragmatists however understand that their whole world outlook is based on previous experiences and connections and their future is completely malleable through their actions. These people are interpretivists. They understand that for every action, there is going to be change and they have previous experiences to prove it. They learn from their past mistakes, they adjust future actions by assessment of prior events, they plan accordingly for long-term improvement.

The Transformational Learning Experience

How do we learn to think like an interpretivist? How can we gain the knowledge and experience that will give us the constructs to intrinsically understand consequential behavior? What do we need to obtain the cognitive complexity needed to think long-term benefits rather than frivolous unsubstantiated pronouncements of change that will be consumed by cognitive dissonance the next day?

I was fortunate to be involved in a research project on transformational learning during my last degree work. Transformational learning has three elements; the learning experience must be memorable, it must change behavior or attitude, and it must be continuously referenced within a person’s self-narrative (Wilson, Switzer & Parrish, 2007). Long-term behavior change begins with transformational learning. There must be a personal stake involved that transforms thought into entrenched action – action that will not be shifted by cognitive dissonance or any other external influences.

Specific examples might include:

  • Personal health scare or one of a close companion = healthy living changes
  • Birth of a child = value of life and need for longevity
  • Divorce/separation = broader understanding of long standing relationship values
  • Job Loss = value in acquisition of transferrable employment skills
  • International travel = understanding of acceptance and value of diversity

The list is limitless on the powerful learning possibilities and the long-term values that are gained by them. What is important to understand is that life change cannot be frivolously decided upon just because of a date on a calendar. True behavior change must come from previous experiential learning events that are transformational. Personal change comes from personal experience. Something must be at stake for you, or your loved ones. Use the New Year not as a reason to start a new behavior, but as a reaffirmation of your devotion to your journey towards life-long action. Action that is based on previous powerful learning which puts true consequence on change.

Long-term personal change comes from a state of mind, not a place in time.

References:

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wilson, B., Switzer, S., & Parrish, P.(2006).  Transformative learning experiences: How do we get students deeply engaged for lasting change? Paper presented at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology proceedings, 2006, Dallas, TX.

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