Monday, October 12, 2015

Nobody Said It Would Be Easy

I wonder if I should rename this "My Cactus Cadenza" now that I am living in the desert.  But as new as this feels, I think it's a part of the same mini ending.  You know how a cadenza works?  It's an ending and a beginning.  Sometimes it's at the end of a piece, sometimes at the end of a section.  Sometimes it's long and glorious, and makes you forget the whole piece.  Sometimes it's short, and you barely notice it's happening.

I think this is the long, improvised sort.  I am two months into my doctorate and I see why nobody said it would be easy.  My brain is full.  It's full of a combination of medieval music, George of the Jungle, a thousand bills we are just barely making, hope that our cars and gas will survive, wondering if either of us will make it to the doctor when we need to.  It's full of happiness, and wonder, and I love being in school.  It's full of dread, as so much rides on whether I will get a REAL job after this, not just another adjunct position that pays me less than $10K a year.

I am here.  And hubby is fighting his awful schedule, and I just wish he'd smile a bit more.  I wish he'd express moments of joy.  I am fighting to keep the family happy too.  Maybe that's the part nobody mentioned.  As I try to do all of this other stuff--three part time jobs, college exams, kid stuff....I feel happy an awful lot.  But it's so hard to see it in him.  So much complaining over money (who needs it?) and sleep (what's that?) and he's happy FOR me but not FOR him, even though his life is kind of awesome.  So much love here.  Cute puppies, a great house, kids who say "You're BACK!" when you come in the door.  Every time.

Someone remind me that this is what you're supposed to do.  If you feel things are stagnant, you make a hard change.  You play the cadenza and see what the next melody is.  Maybe we're due for a whole different piece.  Maybe it's just a new, slower section.  A ballad, perhaps, a love song.  You know?

The holidays are coming.  We like the holidays.  But I also miss the spiritual life I used to make time for, and this year's holidays are probably going to be too material, too secular.  Somebody stop the world, man.

I need a little rest.  And so does hubby.  Maybe this is a little prayer.  . . could he have some sort of vacation?  I don't know what kind.  Just some sort.  Obviously won't be paid days off of work.  Why do people take that for granted?

Ok....I need to listen to a bunch of monks chant and figure out how to tell one from another.  Wish me buckets of luck.

Never mind, wish me a gentle faith coming back.  One that finds me.  I am not ready for a kick in the butt, but a whisper of promise would be awesome.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Doctor Jitters

Tomorrow morning I start my journey to have "Dr." In front of my name....that singular gender equalizer, that thing that says I worked hard and I'm smart, or at least qualified to sit on the other side of a table at a college audition.  I have planned to do this for 8 years.  I tried in Iowa--what a pain that was....auditioning at 12 weeks pregnant after months of putting together an audition that frankly felt like a recital, and then being told there was no money for me.  Nothing.  No assistantship, scholarship....just a nice little "come here if you can" and me with bills and a bun in the oven.  It wasn't right.

So we waited, and we made another baby, and I taught sometimes 50 private students a week, and had a second job teaching at a college for about 12k a year.  And then of course the thing we knew would eventually happen (because of the field):  a new news director came in and hubby got canned.  We moved across the country.  I applied for ASU and they didn't even accept me for a live audition.   Out of work and another $200 down.  I was discouraged.  Depressed.  I went on Lexapro just to stop the daily tears and anxiety.  Rough times.

The clouds parted, and really on a whim I applied for U of A.  Sleepy Tucson, a million people in the desert, and me getting a DMA.  The audition went well, I believe, as they gave me a full scholarship. Tomorrow I start my (mostly) tuition-free doctoratal journey.  I am grateful.  And I feel like puking.  Because honestly, 3 years of hard ass school, 4 recitals, 2 kids, a teaching job to pay bills that's 2 hours  Seriously, how?

Sometimes you know when something's right though.  All weekend I've been in a panic because I stupidly forgot to "push the last button" and realize that there's an immunization hold on my account. So I have to drag the 2 year old around town tomorrow while I try to prove to U of A that I won't contract or spread the Measles.  This is the true life test....can you get through the red tape?  I found my scared, anxious mind imagining that my whole education would collapse, my dream would stop, because surely this one issue would do me in.

What has two thumbs and is always waiting for disaster to occur?  This girl.

I thought I'd write to remind myself that God has brought me this far.  It seems right...not exactly from my gut, but in that way that I couldn't possibly have orchestrated this massive symphony of errors and come up with tonight....laying next to my toddler in our tucson home and blogging away that tomorrow was both well earned and earnestly prayed for.

What is that quote?  The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  Better keep my eyes down for a sec.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Best You Can Do

I hear the term "shaming" used pretty often lately.  It's a big internet thing, "mom shaming", "slut shaming", "fat shaming", etc.  I suppose to define this term is to say that someone is making you feel bad for who you are, when who cares?  You are who you are, you do your best, or maybe you don't, but there's a great deal of manufacturing ways in which "your life impacts mine" and the truth is, it usually doesn't.  Usually, you just don't like what they do, you don't agree.

All that is pointless, though, because most of the shame I've had (and I bet you have) is self-shame.  Years ago I went to a church conference thing.  It was all about shame.  It was actually about something else, which doesn't really matter now, but the real text, the real thing they talked about, was how shame isn't about God.  It isn't about positive change, it isn't good, productive, helpful.  It is detrimental.  It leaves you, wallowing in whatever addiction you have, in a pit of "I can't get out of here".  It's just about the ugliest thing about the human race.  It exists in every culture I've lived in, and I've lived in a few.

Shame is the thing you feel when you realize you've done something wrong.  I wish it were just "awareness".  I wish you woke up one morning and realized you signed a contract you didn't want and you just went, "ok, let me deal with this, let me get out, help me get out God," etc.  But most of us, we silently accuse ourselves of being idiots.  We feel anger, swirling around inside with nowhere to go, and we probably eat it.  Because we fear where it might manifest.  We feel shame and damnit, if you don't know what that feels like, you must be some sort of supernatural angel-like creature.  Because humans are creatures of shame.

As I repair things that have gone wrong lately, I find sometimes my feet are stuck in cement.  I cannot move and I feel shame.  I feel so much shame that I didn't spend more time working on my family's spiritual center during our year of trials.  It really put us back.  And where I could have shown everyone the real strength that Jesus allows me to have in the eye of fear, I just showed a bunch of weakness.  I feel ashamed of that.  I feel ashamed that my kids saw so much of that.  I feel ashamed that I didn't take care of my teeth in the last few years (I'm not actually having any problems, I just know I should have!)  I am feeling ashamed over every penny I spent that I could have kept.  Every moment where I said, "Screw this, I need to do something fun with the family because I'm tired of another night at home, crying over what comes next".  I feel shame that I spent $20 that night, or $70 that weekend.  SHame.  Shame.  Shame.

Last week I heard Dave Ramsey screaming about Americans and their poor financial decisions and I felt nothing but shame.  I hated him.  I went from being someone who made all the right decisions, to someone who swam for shore every day and just prayed it didn't get worse.  I still feel such shame from the things I heard him say.  But I guess that's me.  That's my reaction to things, given how tired I am, and how much I miss my family's "nuclear" existence.  When the motivation to move forward is missing, shame takes over like a big blanket of lead.

I am all full of hope right now.  THings are getting better.  I might actually get that doctorate I've been trying for, we have money coming in.  I can make plans, I can pay things off.  Life is good.  It's more than good.  I've got a great husband and great kids, and I even feel like less of a crazy spiritual pendulum.  But I am still dealing with regrets.  Shame over regrets, fear over whether this could happen again.  And right now, this might be the best I can do.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Spoils of Credit

I just want to write a quick rant about life.  This probably will be nothing but angry right this moment.

Then I will go off and teach, I will feel important and loved, and joke around, and then I'll be fine again, since the following isn't what life's about anyways.

We lost a job.  So, big whoop.  And for 14 months we lived off of next to nothing.  But what's hard, the difficult part of the recovery, is all the ways in which folks try to profit off of your misfortune.

We had to sell our house.  Quickly.  So we sold it for less than it was worth.  Our neighbors saw our desperation and tried to make some extra cash off of us.  That was a fun legal battle.  My hubby really should have had unemployment, but his company found a loophole to not give that to us, so that they could save a buck.  And that meant none of the money we paid into unemployment for 6 years came back to us.  Our credit cards, which I had for 15 years prior to this (the same cards) and never missed a payment or even had a late payment, re-evaluated our credit, lowered our limits to less than what we owed (we had owed next to nothing before this experience, but ended up having to put something like 12,000 on cards for moving, unexpected costs, fixing cars, medical and dental things that happened before the loss of job, etc).  then they raised our rates from 7.99 per cent to 19.99 per cent.  Because that was the most they could legally do.

I always think it's funny when people talk about companies should have fewer regulations.  If a company could, it would hire children, pay them $2 an hour, never do any health care, and charge millions of dollars for the project.  Why not?  We're evil.  We are inherently built of sin.  At least that's what I believe.

So each morning I start "repair".  I throw money into a pit that seems will never get smaller, I scold my husband for buying a $1 burger on his way to work, and I try to convince him he can live in a trailer on the outside of town.  I feel like throwing up.

When I took a volunteer position at a church a few years ago, they did a credit check on me.  And even though at that time I had great credit, I yelled at them.  How crazy that we define people by a system that can crush you, by a system that rewards wealth and punishes those trying to do something else with their lives.  We blindly live by it.  We encourage people not to save, but to take out loans, and then we punish them when it isn't possible to fulfill them the way it would happen if life were "ideal."

I have learned a few things from this experience.  But I hope what I've learned most is to remember that often people are not a sum of their past.  They are complex individuals who need help sometimes, they all hope to be the ones able to help, they long to not be someone who talks more to credit collections than friends.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Then It All Changed in a Moment

I haven't written in weeks.  I have been falling to sleep, helpless, crazy, sick of my kids, and not blogging when I wanted to blog.

In December, the very last "hoorah" of 2014, I got rejected from ASU, and cried a little and felt like the world was over.  And then I told hubby to start applying for jobs in Tucson, 2 hours from Phoenix.  I figured I'd try for the university, and who knows....maybe he could get a job that fit him.

2 days later hubby had an interview in Tucson.  4 days later he had a job.  So 2015 starts with an end.  An end to our year of unemployment.  We are 24 hours from hubby's first paycheck (well maybe 36) and it will go quickly --piling bills, etc.  We are seeing the end results of a year of unemployment.  A profound drop in our credit score, a bunch of anxiety we don't know what to do with.  I rack my brain trying to figure out what bad choices I made, when most of them were not exactly "choices."  We made the best of what we could, what we had.  Now the clean up.

There is more good news--of course more good news--I am teaching classes!  I am now teaching a class called "Voice and Diction" which is not singing but speaking.  I LOVE it!  I walk on air.  And today I heard one student say to another "this class just flies by" and I welled up with happiness.  Yes it does! Well, honestly I find it very hard to structure a 1 hour, 15 min class when I have never done that, but it does fly by in some ways.   THEN, I was asked to do a musical theater workshop.  Did you hear that?  A musical theater workshop!!  And I have more voice students than last term.  None of this pays terribly well, but it makes me so happy.  And part of me thinks, why did I do this thing with the marriage and the kids?  Wouldn't I be so happy just making a tiny bit of money and living in a little apartment and teaching this stuff I love and feeling happy, satisfied?

I suppose this feeling will pass.  It's not like I don't love them.  Last week at the zoo my son disappeared.  For 5 minutes he slipped behind the jungle gym and disappeared, and hubby and I tore the area apart and I started having what felt like an anxiety attack and in my head I thought, "what will I do without my little joy?" and I know how very very much I love these guys.

So I want to dance and sing.  My heart is lighter, and lots of this is happiness.  But I am also scared.  I am also anxious.  We are living apart, and single mothering BLOWS.  I have the kids by myself four days a week, with help from friends, from mom, and still I am trying to figure out how this is going to last four months!  (until the term of my teaching and baby S's school ends).  I don't know how to commute up, but I also don't know how to do this away from hubby.  I don't like him in another place.  I don't need him.  I don't get all that wonderful "benefit" you get from marriage.  I just get the work.  Yawn.

I wish I could paint a picture of transition.  It's a jumble of colors tumbling around in a big bowl and you have no idea which colors will emerge.  It's a massive stressful headache to watch.  You stare into the bowl, you hope for the best.

U of A contacted me and said they might have a scholarship for me.  It just gets more and more hopeful.  We only have one more desperate day.  One more day without a paycheck in the bank after ALL THIS TIME.  I should just be smelling the roses.

Damn this thing where you always have to be planting.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Love in the Time of Defeat

2013 was a tough year.  It was a year of challenges, but also victories.  We had a healthy baby, but it wasn't easy.  I lost an audition, hubby lost a job, and we welcomed in 2014 with hope and uncertainty.

But hope.

This year is much harder.  I can't help but feel whiny.  There are people living under sticks and sheets of metal, praying it won't rain, hungry.   They are everywhere.  There are people who lost loved ones this year.  Suddenly, was a hard year for people in a way I have never known.

But this year, we just lost so much hope.  Tomorrow hubby has a job interview in a new city.  And  every job interview makes me feel so DESPERATE.  So scared. I hate this feeling.  And now, not knowing where I might get a DMA is so tough.  Where the hell are we going and when and how?  I hate feeling blind, at 40, with two kids.

The hardest thing is how much I've lost connection to my God.  I keep trying to figure out how that happened.  When it happened.  8 years ago, I was aware of God, working through my worst moments, weeping in my pain, and His promise of victory.  I was sure of so many things.  And now, I  am overwhelmed by the questioning in my head.  I don't believe there are better things coming.  If I can't find it in the Bible, I'm not even close to setting my finger on it.  I don't believe all those nice things people tell me, that God's with me in my battle, that the best is yet to come.   Maybe after death....maybe that's what they mean?  Because the best....that could've been my one time on stage at Santa Fe.  That could've been the first time I held Baby S.  It could easily be over.

And that's why I miss hope so much!

I recently told a story to Hubby that I rarely tell.  Years ago, I was having many dreams involving certain numbers.  Repeatedly, those numbers would appear.  And then one day, I considered making a life-changing decision.  I had been praying about it, but I needed to hear some answer.  And there was no answer.  And then one night, I was driving down the road and an overwhelming feeling of --I can't describe it--other-worldness?  hit me..  I started sobbing.  I didn't know why, but I was overcome with emotion.  The voice of God tingled all around me and He said, "pull over."  and I did.  It was a dark night on a California highway.  And I said out loud, "what do you want me to do?" and he said He wanted me to read the scripture He'd given me.  I had no idea what He was talking about.  I said again, out loud in the dark of my car, "I don't have my Bible."  He said, "You do.  In your trunk."  and I got out, opened my trunk, and among all my crap was a Bible missing the cover.  I thought, "where am I going to look?"  And He said "you know."  And the numbers from my dream, clear, came through.  I knew where to look.  I did, and I got my answer in one sentence in scripture.  And then the feeling left.  My tears dried up.  And I felt at peace.  And I drove home.

I know having that kind of experience is once-in-a-lifetime.  But right now, I'd give anything to hear something that solid.  I just want to hear His voice so badly.

God, please teach me how to pray again.  Help my unbelief.  No more false hope that the world will live up to something.  I just want to be His again.