Words to Live By

There has been a lot happening in my life. Some good, some not as good. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what I learned in all those years of behavioral therapy. 🙂 Yes, yes, how to behave. 🙂 Although I doubt I’ll win any blue ribbons for best in show. *grin*

I just finished reading an article that came up in my Twitter feed: The key to loving your job in the age of burnout by Cassie Werber. I don’t usually read these articles. I’m not burned out (yet) and I rather like my job and my work. I clicked through on this one because the associated image was interesting. It looked like footprints on water, but had to be mud or sand, but there was someone on the dock next to the footprints. 🙂 It was the picture – I thought if I could see it more clearly I’d be sure of the substance. I’m still not 100% sure of the photo and I’m not sure I am completely comfortable with some of the observations in the article about the nature of work, the gig economy, part-time versus full-time employment, and bespoke careers. That may be because of my age and experience. But I do know that there are several key observations that I consider “truths” to a happier life.

“More and more, our sense of self is connected to the kind of person we believe ourselves to be—a combination of profession and meaning—and not to our place of work. In this, we’re reverting to an earlier mode: before we had companies and careers, we had professions (for example, stone mason) and tasks (build a bridge.)”

Yes, absolutely yes. My corollary to this is that we need to appreciate ourselves and value ourselves in order to be confident and content. To phrase that differently: other people cannot ‘fix’ us. Happiness (contentment) begins within. The foundation is internal, not external. Yes, other people and external factors can make us unhappy, sad, stressed and other negative and bad things. But if we can see that as OUTSIDE of our core, we have the strength and belief to keep going and not despair. Or so it is for me.

“Despair, and railing against the unfairness of the system, are both reasonable. Many people, globally, do not have the freedom to choose. Some work situations—losing your job through no fault of your own, being bullied, suffering discrimination—are certainly unfair. But the narrative of entitlement to a fulfilling job obscures the fact that it’s not our job’s job to be meaningful. It’s our job to find meaning in what we do. Some of us have the option of changing our work situation if that becomes absolutely imperative. But we can also change the narrative we choose to explain our work to the world and to ourselves—and in so doing, change our experience.” (Boldface my addition to highlight the text.)

WORDS! The words we choose to express ourselves and describe our situation make so much difference. I used to say such things as: “I can’t STAND IT ANYMORE”, “This is killing me”, “I HATE him”. It’s very hard to feel as if I can make a change when I use such absolutes. I’ve learned to dial the emotion back a notch: “It is so frustrating when this happens”, “This is so uncomfortable”, “That behavior is not enjoyable”. The latter group of phrases gives me room to maneuver. Did anything about the external situation change? No. But how I perceived it did. I can handle frustration and discomfort. Those are normal experiences.

“… the difference between finding a situation bearable—possibly, indeed, happy—and unbearable is about whether we experience ourselves as performing a willing sacrifice, or simply as suffering. When working hard tips over into working too hard, or with too little reward, sacrifice has slipped into suffering. … “Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice,” he writes. “Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive.””

You need to read all of the article to understand the “because” part of sacrifice. We sacrifice for a goal. We tell ourselves a narrative to put the sacrifice in context, to make us feel that the ‘suffering’ is bearable and acceptable because of the end goal. We have choices. There are at least 2 choices in this sacrifice/suffering discussion. The first choice is that we choose the language to describe it, we CHOOSE whether we make it a sacrifice or suffering. The 2nd choice is the harder one. We can choose to change the situation (leave the job, leave the relationship, not fix the roof). I used to argue this one over and over and over and over. “It’s NOT a choice” I’d scream, “I HAVE to fix the roof if it leaks!!!” And Howard would say, “No you don’t. You can let it leak.” And I’d point out that the wood would rot, the house fall down and on and on. And he’d reply that it was a choice I was making – to NOT let the wood rot. There are obviously practicalities involved. But there is also a choice, when you stop, breathe and look at it. Once you frame it as a choice, it’s easier to confront. If you can confront it, you may also see how you might bring about an actual change, not only an emotional perspective change.

One of my former co-workers, Jim De Piante, had fantastic presentations about managers and project management. I have always remembered something he said (and my apologies to Jim for any mistakes in the quoting): “Think of your management as your client.” That change in wording shifts the perspective radically. It goes back to the point that words matter. It goes to the point we have a choice. The difference in connotation between ‘client’ and ‘boss’ is HUGE. When we have clients, we are in the driver’s seat, helping to make our clients successful. When we have a boss, we are powerless with no buy-in to the outcome. I think of this approach whenever I have the endless tracking and administrative work that comes with being part of a huge corporation.

“Unreasonable conditions and real misery need to be met with concrete changes. But other conditions, Petriglieri says, can be radically changed by reframing what we expect from ourselves—and how we see what we do with our days in the context of our lives as a whole. “There’s some pain that needs a solution, and some pain that needs a story,” Petriglieri says.”

Tell yourself a story, and choose your words with care. 🙂

Headlines I’d Have Preferred NOT to See

11+ Brutally Honest Tweets About Using A Menstrual Cup
Seriously – there is nothing I can add to that headline other than the fact I’d never heard of that particular approach. I was living a very full, productive life having never heard of that particular item.

Tourists In Utah Throw Dinosaur Tracks Into Lake Thinking That They’re Regular Rocks
It was a kid. Maybe we need to start vetting folks before we let them into our national parks. I’m not sure who is more culpable with these stories – the parents or the children. Disgusting.

Bounce house flies onto California highway with child inside
Yes – the child was safe.

He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.
Sigh. I can’t even…….

Ukraine says military dolphins captured by Russia went on hunger strike
Again – I can’t add to this. You needed to read the article, which was even more unbelievable than the headline.

Bear breaks into SUV, eats 24 cupcakes
Okay, the bear one made me smile. And then I read the article where it says this particular family has had the bear visit before and eat food, THAT THEY HAVE LEFT ACCESSIBLE. They want the bear killed. As one commentator said – why not STOP leaving food OUT???

The Unseen Posts

Among the bloggers I read there is another discussion going on about “real” identity versus avatar identity, meeting avatars in “real” life, are you your avatar?  My avatar is not even 4 years old and I think that discussion has been around easily 6 or 7 times in my “life”.   I am Ahuva and Ahuva is me.  I see that Chestnut Rau, one of the very first, if not THE first, bloggers I began to read has come to much the same realization about herself. I am more than just Ahuva and Ahuva gets to be more than I can be in the biological tangible world  (simply consider Ahuva’s clothing choices as a start).   I’ve met many many SL avatars and Plurk avatars in “real” life.  Quite honestly – for me – it’s ALL my real life.   One of my mentors is a biological male and is a drop-dead sexy female avatar.   No, he’s not gay, he’s not gender confused, he’s not a cross-dresser.  He had his own reasons for his avatar.  I interact with him/her.  I have no problem with the picture in my head.  They both coexist because they are both him.  And I always know with which aspect of his personality I am interacting.   Maybe it’s because for me, when I interact, it’s an overall emotional response that drives me, not images.  I don’t know and I don’t care.

Blogging is intensely personal for me.  *grin*  Life is intensely personal for me.  *bigger grin*  But you knew that. What concerns me is not the integration of RL/SL, nor is it the exposure of my SL to my RL. Most people in my RL know Ahuva, or know of Ahuva. Many people in SL know my RL information. Let’s go back to the concept that privacy is dead, that there are no secrets on the internet, that you can run but you really can’t hide.

I want to post about many many topics. I hold back. Why? Am I a coward? No. Or rather – maybe I am. But I’m getting old, folks. I’ve got a son who has reached the age of majority. I’m in what I “lovingly” call the downhill side. It took me a LONG time but finally I have absorbed some lessons. First – the way I feel today, no matter how passionately I feel it, is not necessarily the way I will feel tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll feel that way tomorrow but next year I will have changed my mind. Second – words on the internet live forever. That may not be true, but from all my knowledge – that’s how I see it. Third – We are judged by other people’s perceptions. Their perceptions can impact our lives dramatically. Fourth – words wound. I might be writing what I see as simple truth, or my opinion, but people read my words through their own filter. If they are in a bad mood, perhaps they read my words in anger and therefore hear anger and hate. I don’t want to add more ugliness to the world if I have the opportunity to avoid it. There’s a time and place for constructive criticism and my blog is probably neither.

Which leaves me with my unseen posts. The ones where I talk about the lessons I learn in the workplace: working with others, managing expectations, the effect of good and bad management, the frustration of the current economy. The posts where I talk about being a real person who is aging: becoming the dreaded grown-up I swore I’d never be, realizing what is important in personal and familial relationships, the fear of the future, death of loved ones. The posts where I talk about being a woman: sexuality, love, parenting, sistering, daughtering, the effect of full moons. The posts where I vent the judgmental views of being a person: OMG, who let that person sing? Who let that person write? That has to be the ugliest build I’ve ever seen. That is the stupidest approach to that situation. And all the other posts where I let flow my momentary anger, frustration and fear.

I feel I have learned so very much in the last few years. I owe a good part of that learning to the fact that I freed part of myself into an avatar and then brought that avatar back into me. I want to try to explain to other people what I’ve finally learned about life and love, speaking and not speaking, acting and not acting. But I lack the skill to say what I want to say without getting the lesson bogged down in the personal details of how I learned it.

I’m not afraid of tying my avatar to my RL. I’m afraid of tying myself to the wrong moment in my life. I am evolving, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but I AM changing. Words posted to a blog capture a moment of time in my life to me. But those very same words may stand as my image engraved in stone, stuck fast, all that some other will know of me. I cannot tell in the present tense what I wish to represent me in the future tense.

Or if you’d rather end on a lighter note – I’m afraid of writing under the influence of a full moon. 🙂 Which is when I wrote the first draft of this.

Lessons from Working Out

No, I’m not going to talk about “no pain, no gain” or “mens sano corpore sano” or even “suffering builds character”. Today’s workout lesson came from my iPod. From Bonnie Raitt and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, to be more precise.

I got angry and frustrated a few days ago. Someone did not do something I expected they would do and so I missed doing something I planned to do. NOT the end of the world. But frustrating. I will be taking action today to make up for what I planned to do and didn’t, so it has been on my mind. Then while I was rowing, this song came up. Let’s start by saying I love Bonnie Raitt’s voice, so even though it’s not really the kind of song that makes you row harder and faster, it does help the mind drift away from the rowing repetition.

I’ve talked about psychology before. People do what they do because, for the most part, life IS all about THEM. We are, in our minds, the center of the action. Very few of us set out deliberately to hurt, harm or impede others. Yet often that is the result of what we do or don’t do. The key for the “others” is to realize – it wasn’t about you. While that is reassuring on one level, it is still hurtful on another. We all have emotions and we’d all like to think that others care for us above and beyond all else. That is unreasonable.

Bonnie sings:

Mornin will come and I’ll do what’s right
Just give me till then to give up this fight

My fight, and I fight it daily, is to remember that I am responsible for my actions and my behavior. It is unreasonable of me to EXPECT certain behavior from others. You accept people for who and what they are. Let it go. Move on. Love them. And hope that you are not stepping on someone else’s toes as you move through the center of your universe.

By the way, Bonnie also sings: You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t. I happen to disagree with that to some extent. A very wise man told me: smile as if you mean it, and soon you will find that you do. He was right.

Ahuva, Alpha Dog

AKC photo: http://www.akc.org/images/breeds/border_collie/lg_artwork.jpg

In my house, we use 2 different words for that description. Alpha is replaced by “Top” and dog is replaced by… I’m sure you can fill in the blank. *grin* It was all the fault of my pekingnese, Ching Li. I didn’t even LIKE him all that much at the time, and couldn’t understand why he always came to me. The dog trainer explained that was because he considered me the lead dog, the alpha. It is probably the nicest way anyone has called me bitch.

I tend to have dogs that resemble me physically: small with messy hair. My current dog is my beloved Shihtzu. They do say that dogs and owners tend to resemble each other. But if I were to be transmuted into a dog, I think that I would be a border collie. The AKC website describes border collies as “the workaholic of the dog world”. Border collies herd sheep and do this “with stalking movement and an intense gaze known as “eye”. Hmmmm. I think my son would confirm the “eye”. The AKC continues the description thusly: “They thrive when they have a job to do and ” …. “they do best with mature, well-behaved children”.

I am afraid that I can indeed be described as a workaholic. I have a passion for my work. I need goals, going for the prize. I really prefer people who are mature and “get it”. I expect everyone to be as driven as I am. And yes – I know that is a VERY foolish, non-useful, self-defeating expectation. *grin* I work at trying to manage that expectation. Having said all that, this limerick occurred to me the other day. *smile* It made me laugh.

There once was an av named Ahuva
Whose outward appearance might fool ya
But her inside is steel
Her intensity real
And she’ll nag and nip heels til she’s schooled ya.

If I Were My Evil Twin

I want an evil twin. I want an alt. I am tired of being mature, healthy, reasonable. Sometimes I appear to be surrounded by people who feel no similar compunction. At times my life feels filled with people who truly believe the world centers around them. Oh sure, they would deny it if asked. BUT. That is how they behave. That is how they treat me and others. And you know what? I’m tired of it. I want to release my inner 6-year old. /me hurls self to ground, kicking and screaming yelling “It’s not FAIR!!!”

Oh sure, I know how totally stupid and pointless that is. I did a trial run. *grin* Poor Oura. Yeah, I let my evil twin run loose in our IM. Other than an amusing penchant for alliteration (my alt is the Nadir of Negativism, Narcissism and Nastiness), EvilTwin really does not have much to recommend her. I did not feel any better afterward for having raved and ranted and vented. Well. Okay. Let me amend that. It felt GREAT while I was DOING it. *grin* Oh yeah, that WAS fun. But after – nothing had changed. 😦 Sigh. I guess that’s what all the self-help books and therapists say.

I told friends I wanted an evil twin to blog for me and to go where Ahuva cannot go in SL. One friend searched the name “EvilTwin” in SL. There are already 18 EvilTwins. Sheesh. There are only FIVE ‘Ahuva’s plus one Ahuvab. I’m going to need a different name for my alt, obviously. Please submit suggestions inworld, so no one else SEES them and steals them before I can use them. 🙂

EvilTwin will have a blog where she will get to report on interesting conversations that Ahuva never has. Ahuva is very big on denial. 🙂 EvilTwin will deny nothing. EvilTwin will wear all the fun outfits that Ahuva tries on only in dark of night. Okay – yeah, that’s an exaggeration. But I don’t leave the house in them!! LOL. It seems that everyone in SL has an alt. Yes – if everyone was jumping off the bridge – I would TOO!!!! Hey!!! That could be her name – Lemming!!!! 🙂 Someone go do a search, please!

Ahuva Does High School

Maybe take this blog with a grain of salt. Let’s see where it goes, okay? I’m facing a lot of frustration in my atomic life (if I were a real atomic person, which I deny. So much easier that way.) Nothing that earth-shattering or important. But taken in combination, well, they tend to suck the energy out of me. And energy, unlike passion and love, is a limited resource. Even two days basking on the beach have not fully offset the garbage factor.

It’s time for yet ANOTHER high school reunion. Now I enjoyed high school. I was in the band, the choir, a gymnast, played volleyball, had friends, went to parties, was in the top 10% of the class, graduated with awards. I was active and participated. I did go to the first reunion. It was tolerable, ending on a sour note, as I recall it. I haven’t gone to any subsequent reunions, which seem to occur every other year. I REALLY don’t get that. Why???? *I* have moved on. Who cares??? It’s done. Over. Yet I have close friends and family who think that reunions are FANTASTIC!!! GREAT!!! What the heck is WRONG with you, Ahuva??

I don’t KNOW what’s wrong with me. I have no desire to go. But for some reason this year, I am being pressured by many, many people. Besides the usual culprits I encounter in my daily life, I have had 5 classmates email me to convince me to go, using both overt and covert methods (our 1st grade teacher will be there; would you like to ride with me?; I’m renting a house down the shore). Maybe this is sour grapes but I don’t want to see these people. I’m glad that they are alive and well. I hope they are happy. But how many times can you stand there and say: yes, I still live in Hometown, USA; yes, I have a son, he’s wonderful, I’m so proud of him, he’s going to college at my alma mater; yes, my husband is wonderful – still on #1; my family is fine, thank you; my job is fine thank you, I work for Company Z; yes, I do software engineering, who’d have thought it?” I’m bored, and that was one time. What are the odds that I am going to reconnect with someone and have the most fabulous time of my life? Or make a contact that opens new doors for me? Or meet an old flame and fall in love? Oh, gee, wouldn’t THAT be convenient. Not.

But. I look at that attitude and I think: could you be any more negative? Is that who and what you want to be? Maybe now is the time to go back and say hi to the people that were once so close to me. Honestly – I don’t see why, I don’t really understand why others are compelled to do this. But I think of the Nickelback song I use as my anthem these days: If Today Were Your Last Day. While the lines that REALLY speak to me are the ones beginning “It’s never too late to reach for the stars”, the song also includes “Would you call those friends you never see? Reminisce old memories?” I’m not sure that you are allowed to pick and choose which part of the gospel you want. 🙂 Hah – THAT is a whole other discussion, is it not??? 🙂

So Ahuva is going to her high school reunion. Most of me thinks this is a big mistake – a waste of my time, money and will further ruin any fond memories I hold. But I will put on my best Ahuva jeans, shoes and top. I will remember that I am She Who Throws Herself Under the Bus and Emerges Stronger and Happier. I will gird myself in the knowledge that I have already accomplished more in the last few months than I could ever have imagined. I will fasten my ribbon-chains on my wrists and dance. Right before I walk out the door – I will turn on my AO. And Ahuva will saunter into that reunion, head held high, knowing that she lets nothing stand in her way. 🙂 If today were her last day, she’ll do it right.

Ahuva Does HS

I Don’t Play Games

KillerI “killed” my coworker yesterday. I used the gun she gave me. I tried to avoid the issue – missed twice by simply firing without aiming. But she insisted. She wanted me to SEE how the laser tag team-building game worked. She stood still and ignored my “I stink at hand/eye coordination” and repeated instructions about mouse-look and cross hairs. Sigh. I actually DID know how to do it. So I took aim directly at her chest and fired. She died. She fell to the ground, dead. It wasn’t fun. I didn’t enjoy it. She lay there dead for 15 seconds. Look – this coworker can seriously annoy me (*grin* – EVERYONE can annoy me at some point). And yeah, there are times I’d like to smack her. But kill her?? Until she stood up, I really felt “wrong”.

So. I do not play games. I can’t say it any clearer than that. I don’t play game-games, I don’t play emotional-games, I don’t play mind-games. I’m not killing anyone any more. Don’t ask me. I don’t want to play pool on my pool table. Yeah, I tried out the dart board. Eh. Big deal. The mazes aren’t too bad. They don’t feel especially game-like. But I’m not killing anything or anyone again. And my emotions are my real emotions – they are not manufactured for SL. No games.

The Effect of Swimming Ducks on Out-Of-The-Box Roosters

Sigh. This was to be a light-hearted post. But in one of life’s cruel ironies….. Frenis was slaughtered last night. Yes, I know by whom. Yes, we are attempting to resurrect Frenis. But we have not had any luck with the healing kit so far. 😦 So, this will have to stand as Frenis’ obituary…. Frenis – I’m going to really miss you. I was getting quite fond of you, my not-so-little roosck.

Theory: Environment, not genetics, plays the greatest role in determining species orientation.

ducksThere are those who will argue that all that we are is predetermined. That our genes make us. Our genes set the pattern of our days from birth to death. That we can make no move, no action, that has not been etched by millenia of genetic evolution. That we are born what we are and live that path until the very last moment.

Frenis and I say “Rubbish”. We are MORE than mere chemicals. More than simple genetic instructions. We are the result of every action and event that plays about us as we move through our world. In the score of our being we reflect every note once heard. In the tapestry of our life we show each thread left by passing encounters. In the flavor of our choices we signify each cook in our broth. The fault, dear Frenis, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are ducklings.

chickensI was given a ROOSTER. Alright, to be accurate – I was given a sionChicken. Of the male variety. A rooster. Poultry. With thanks to Wikipedia:
I was given the sionChicken food set. The rooster came in a sionChicken transport box. It had a “chicken status” attachment. There was a sionChicken FAQ notecard to answer all my questions about my chicken. Vital questions such as:
Q: My chicken is eating too much??!?!?!!?
A: ONE chicken needs ONE food bowl per week. This is a fact.
Q: How do i feed my chickens?
A: Just put a bowl on the ground.

Q: I wanted to put my chicken into the inventory, now its dead! Why?
A: You cannot put chickens into inventories, backpacks or pockets.

A Chicken.

Except THAT is genetics. Environment has turned my chicken into a DUCK. Frenis is a duck. QUACK QUACK QUACK. Okay, the stupid bird still crows, but he tries to quack. Sigh. Yes, I admit it. This is all MY fault. It is ALWAYS the mother’s fault, is it not??? Movies show us endless scenes of patients on the therapy couch whining about how their mother did them wrong. Pffft. Fine. I TRIED. I did my BEST. I WARNED Shen that I was not a suitable parent for a chicken. /me lifts my chin defiantly.

4 DucksHow was I to know that unpacking the chicken down by the ducks would change his life forever? What could I, a liberal arts major, specializing in ancient Rome, know from filial imprinting? I thought that Frenis would be happy to be with the other poultry. Convivial companions as it were.

roosckFrenis is a duck. No matter where I place that rooster, he wanders back into the water. He NEVER wanders OUT of the water. (The ducks never leave the water.) He never eats. But he is never hungry. (The ducks don’t eat.) The ducks and Frenis now form a circle. (The ducks used to ignore him.)   Frenis has become a duck. He has overcome the mere matter of his digital genes and followed his environment. The proof is conclusive. The theory holds. Can evolution (or plastic surgery) be far behind????

When I get a dog, I’m not letting it anywhere near the water.

Dancing in My Chains

dancing-in-my-chainsI forgot a very important saying yesterday, in my rainy day musings. My sister, Melissa, reminded me. You remember Melissa – Melissa wanted ducks in my landscaping project way back in the fall. 🙂 Anyway, Melissa reminded me of something important: the words that we use to describe ourselves and our situations have power. Don’t say “oh I can’t take it anymore”. Try saying “yes, this is a bit stressful and problematic”. And notice how suddenly the issue seems much more manageable. So we were talking about how Freedom is learning to dance in your chains and I was struggling to dance in my chains. Melissa said: “Don’t think of them as chains–think of them as colorful ribbons. Didn’t you say that re-languaging things changes the reality?” *grin* Yes, I say that all the time. When I read it I went pfffft and made a face. But then I thought about it. And the minute the image changed to colorful ribbons, well, many of the things that had to be done no longer seemed so oppressive. *hugs* Thanks Melissa!

But it was more than that yesterday. I was scared. I love my job. I love that I get to play in virtual worlds as part of my job. You know that I’ve volunteered for things that I didn’t know how to do: landscaping, making hair, building/running a shopping mall. But now…. now I have to build and script. I’m not a great scripter (yet. *grin*). my-chains-are-ribbonsBut I have faith that I can muddle through. Building? It terrifies me. I was frozen in fear last night. I had no idea how to start building the things that I need to create. I was fairly certain I needed to explore sculpties and flexis and such. My brain simply wouldn’t work. I do NOT want to build. 😦 I want to script. But that’s really not my role in this project. This project is SO important to me. This isn’t volunteer work. This is something about which I am passionate. To which I am committed. Even if it doesn’t make it to the end, I must do the absolute best that I can do. This is integral to my sense of self. So I was talking to a friend last night, trying to figure out how I could move past the terror and the paralysis and accomplish what I needed to do. Like taxes – it won’t just happen on its own or go away.

I thought of Melissa’s ribbons. I thought of dancing in my chains of project obligations. I thought – if I could build my ribbons, I could break through the paralysis and fear. I could find an approach to building that was ME, that was who and what I am. I envisioned myself dancing on the beach in colofrul streaming ribbons. 🙂 I returned home, logged in, and IM’d Shenlei. *hugs* Shenlei gave me a very quick intro to sculpties and flexis and helped me shape the “manacle” and create the ribbons. The manacle is a sculpti, the ribbons are flexis. 🙂

I am dancing in my chains. I am light-hearted. I am full of energy and ideas of how to tackle the work that needs to be done. I am free.