Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ticked me off

At least I didn't have to make that dreaded, demoralizing, degrading call.
"Um, yeah. I'm sick today. I can't come in." Didn't have to say it. There was no one to call. The only things waiting for me this morning were ticks and tree limbs, spending the morning planning my demise. We'd just have to rumble another day.
I woke up around 3 a.m. a little dazed and confused. First, I wanted to know why I was awake. Second, I wanted to know who had cracked my head open while I was busy sleeping.
I was sick. A summer cold - the worst. I got up and read a little, drank some magnesium (because it's good for headaches) and wondered how in the world I was going to get myself to work feeling the way I did. Then I remembered. I DON'T WORK! Oh yeah. Slipped my mind. I am now a woman of leisure, at least until the repo men come. I don't HAVE to get myself anywhere. So I went back to bed.
Mostly, my day was filled with old movies, kleenex, and wondering who was messing around with the thermostat. It literally took me hours to realize the temperature change was in me. (Fever is a beautiful excuse for delirium.)
Where did this cold come from? Who knows. I had a few thoughts of Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever and then realized I usually only socialize with local vermin.
So I went back to the fact I'm weak.
It's true.
I caught a cold because I got overheated. Plain and simple. I was just some girlie girl office worker who thought driving without air-conditioning was really toughening me up. Now I'm outside in Oklahoma in JUNE - I couldn't go through this career crisis during a mild October, no - and thinking I'm Superwoman with a penchant for fighting off the Little Shop of Horrors.
Just like every job or responsibility I've had in life, I attack it. And, while in my war, ignore the subtle signs of battle fatigue until both legs go missing.
Why isn't it okay when we can't do it all? When we can't control our circumstances? When we can't fix our problems? When we can't overcome difficulties just by sheer willpower? Why do we push ourselves so hard? Is it really just independence, or is there some thick pride mixed in?
So, for now, I'm relearning a lesson I've learned...oh...just a few times before. Pace yourself. Do what you can. Realize your limitations (everyone has them). And trust God to fill in, up and over the gaps.
What's on the agenda tomorrow? Work? Nope. 'fraid not. Tomorrow I boil new potato soup and up my Vitamin C intake.
May the weeds enjoy a day of reprieve.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Just weed it

There were weeds in the garden. Rocks in the trailer. The weeds were to be pulled out. The rocks were to be put in.
Ooookay. Got it. No problem.
I pulled on my psychedelic pink and green gardening gloves (because they're cute), tied a purple do-rag around my head, and went to work. This was going to be great. Work. Yes. Just what I wanted. Something physical. No brain power needed. Just weed pulling and rock putting.
The sun came out. The clouds rolled in. The rain came down. The sun came out. The clouds rolled in. The rain came down. All day long with this cycle. I kept waiting for nature to throw in a couple pieces of hail just for variety.
But that was okay with me. Everything was okay with me. This was good work. Honest work. Sweaty work, I thought, wiping my face on my sleeve.
I pulled those weeds like a pro, like a woman on a mission, like a pioneer seeking undiscovered territory that was also weedless. And oddly, I didn't really notice the stinging on my arms. Not really. Not at first.
Then it grew. And started to burn. And when I glanced down at these anti-weeding machines of mine, I started to see the first signs of blood. Hello? Those wretched plants - not the weeds, mind you, the blasted plants - were like little razors disguised as innocent grass. Stupid plants.
I refused to succumb. Refused. No way was I going to get fired from a one-week assignment to clean out some flower beds. NO WAY.
I moved down the line, removing the nasty little weeds while being poked, stabbed, and assaulted by these docile looking kermity-colored creatures.
What were they?
Who knows. Not petunias, I can tell you. Certainly nothing earthly, if you ask me. Some hybrid alien plant form sent here to gather blood and skin samples from temporary, ignorant gardeners like myself.
No matter. I fought them anyway, determined to do as much damage as possible before the mother ship arrived.
And when it came time to move the rock, baby, I moved that rock. I moved it until it couldn't move anymore. (Or maybe that was me.) I moved it like no body's moved rock. I moved it and it stayed moved.
Then I went home, showered, and collapsed.
Day two.
Same assignment, bigger area, more plants, more rocks.
Here's the odd thing. The really odd thing. Despite the cuts. Despite the sweat. Despite the heat. Despite the blood loss and eventual skin grafts I'll be needing. Despite the overwhelming urge to shove my face in a river and drink until it runs dry. Despite the grotesqueness of me when the day was over. I had a blast. I mean, I really had a blast.
I was outside. I was working. I was breathing in oxygen, breathing out old deadlines, working with and sometimes against nature, and finding joy in the simplicity of it all.
Dang it. It was DIFFERENT! And I couldn't get enough of it. I even broke into spontaneous laughter or sometimes song, exchanged some entertaining jokes with myself, and burned my nose. People, it doesn't get much better than that.
What does one do in their third week of unemployment? Whatever one must. Might as well enjoy it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

the salty sweetness of carpet

Beth Moore describes it as laying prostrate on the floor. I call it face time. It's the time I spend laying on my face.
It isn't a new exercise regiment. I'm not playing dead. And I don't find comfort in smashing my nose into the floor and chewing on my carpet fibers. It's less of a physical reaction and more like a spiritual destination. It's the end of it. The end of all of it. The end of me.
I've been there a few times over the last year or so, and carpet isn't all that tasty. Trust me. Leaves me wanting.
It isn't comfortable, attractive, or a stupid human trick. It's a revelation, a realization, an acceptance. It's coming to the reality of yourself and your abilities. It's the end of ego.
This is the moment you find yourself at the end of all the stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. If I could rewrite them, I'd slip an addendum between depression and acceptance, and I'd call it face time: A fun little trip to self-awareness and reality acceptance where you literally drop to the floor because standing takes more than you've got. This is where I mumble my sincerest of prayers, into that flavorful cut pile rug. And possible, this is the only place I finally shut up long enough to hear any answers.
It isn't that God only speaks from the ground. He doesn't settle to the floor like aerosol air freshener. He's everywhere at all times. At the top of a mountain. At the base of the pit. He can be reached while sitting peacefully by the lake or standing in the center of Mardi Gras.
But I hear him better in the carpet. Down prostrate on the floor. Face stuck into the ground. That's as low as I can get. From there, the only direction to go is up.
Does that mean God is only satisfied when we're broken? He doesn't move until we've sunk to the bottom? He likes watching us grovel?
No.
The truth is, it isn't until we run out of ourselves, when the tank is empty, the engine no longer sputtering, and no life left when we turn the key, that we seek to be filled by God. It isn't until then, until our face time, we stop looking around for our answer and start looking up.
Just make sure to vacuum regularly.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A question...

Just going to leave you with a question today

And the most important part is who is asking:

Jesus.

"What do you want Me to do for you?"

He asked this twice, when being sought out by two different people for two very different reasons.

I'm not concerned about the answer. What I want to know is your motive? Or more so, MY motive.

What do I want Him to do and WHY?

Now I'm going to go answer it.

Beet still my heart

She had misplaced her juicer. My mom just couldn't find this rather expensive piece of machinery anywhere. She looked high. She looked low. Nothing.
Maybe I had it? No I did not. Maybe someone borrowed it? No they did not. Maybe it was stored in the barn? No it was not.
It had just vanished. Poof. Just like that. One minute there. The next minute gone. No scientific explanation to it. Aliens had finally made contact, traveling billions of light years to suck up my mother's juicer in their space ship and hightail it home.
The end.
Not quite.
You know what it's like when you lose something. It eats at you. It disturbs your sleep. It feels as if something just slipped out of your control when you weren't looking. And you use all your God-given senses to ransack your life in a frantic search for what's missing.
I've lost things before - an earring, a CD case, several indistinguishable white socks, and one perfect man. (Note to self, buy more socks, forget about the man.)
Tonight, my mother and I visited. She's been upset about certain things going wrong in her life (She's got an unemployed loser for a daughter. Not me. The other one. Wait. I am the only daughter. Bummer.) and has been seriously questioning whether God is all that concerned about the details of life. Does He really care about what she cares about? That was her real question.
She had been up nights. Not eating. Stressed out. Beginning to feel numb. So many things weren't going well and then, of course, as if she needed any more to worry about, her daughter loses her job.
Geez.
Was God up at night? Was He losing sleep? Could He eat while she found swallowing a chore?
Then the oddest thing happened, she decided to start searching for the juicer again. Yes, again. She had been given an excellent deal on several pounds of beets. And they just wouldn't keep. They HAD to be juiced.
Besides, she had only put in about five weeks of solid, sun-up-to-sundown effort into finding it. She needed to try again.
So tonight, resigned to another futile effort of searching, she walked to the storage area and began again. Check above, check below. It wasn't here. It wasn't there. She had looked all these places before anyway. She knew the answer. And as if crying out to her Father in one last exerted effort, she asked Him again, "God, if you care at all. I really need to find that juicer. Will you help me?"
She turned once again to her hunting and without breaking a sweat, there it was. The juicer. Just like that. The prayer, be it ever so humble, was answered.
"He was waiting until this time to answer that prayer. I wasn't finding it for a reason," she told me, a revelation in her voice.
"Uh huh," I said.
"He knew I needed something, anything, to tell me He was listening. That He cared," she said, realization dawning.
"Uh huh," I said.
"He...used...the...juicer," she said, pausing after every word.
"Pretty cool, isn't He? He's always got a plan," I replied.
"Uh huh," she said.
Things are going to be a little different in the Thompson home by morning. Mom will start the day after a good night's rest. Dad will start the day with a lifetime supply of beet juice.

Friday, June 8, 2007

In lightning

The Grand Canyon I get.
Niagara Falls.
Paricutin Volcano.
Even Mount Everest.
I completely understand - or at least to my own satisfaction - why God created these wonders. I mean, think about the Grand Canyon. I've been there. I bought rock souvenirs. I put a quarter in the binoculars and looked all the way down. And I've gotta say, that's just one really big hole. I mean, REALLY BIG HOLE. It must be admired.
The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia,
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Mount Fuji in Japan.
I get them all. I really do.
But this evening, standing with a friend, talking about the hand of God, watching a thunderstorm move in, what I didn't get, what I couldn't quite grasp, was lightning. The jagged flashes, the blinding light, the fidgety movement, it just seems like a lot of work for a natural occurrence that doesn't occur all that often. I mean, it's here, it's there. And when it's here, it moves so fast you think it's there. It really serves no purpose other than keeping those Cox repairmen busy.
It wasn't too concerned by my doubts. It just kept moving in closer and closer, no hesitation, no awkward social greeting. It invaded the evening without even an "excuse me, is this a bad time?"
For me, lightning has always served as a warning. This is the light show before the big guns get going. Lightning means I need to check the weather channel for tornado warnings. Lightning means I'm about to get rained on. Lightning is the precursor to big things to come.
And as my friend and I stood there, watching this electric symphony, the thought became clearer and clearer. This thing, this natural spasm of positive ions and electrons, this deadly and untamable reaction, is just to get our attention. God didn't want us to ignore what was coming so He sent the attention grabber on ahead.
It isn't all that different from life. Sometimes God sends us a little lighting, a little bolt of heat that cracks our sky, shakes things up a bit, rattles our senses, and leaves us blinking in the dark. It could come through disasters, disappointments, or even...I don't know....budget cuts at work? Just a thought.
So now, ending my fourth day of unemployment rather late (because I was out watching the lightning storm, you got that already didn't you?), I'm wondering if this is only the attention grabber. Maybe this is the pre-show, an act I couldn't ignore because God needed to get my attention to prepare me for bigger things to come. (I'm not alone here. You might want to check your skies.)
Here's how I'm going to handle it. I'm not going to hang out under trees. I'm not going for a late night swim. And I'm not going to stick my tongue to a metal pole. I'm going to shut up and pay attention and hope lighting really doesn't strike in the same place twice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Leaving Los Larvae

I kept chanting it in my head. "They're just cute little baby flies. That's all. All babies are cute. Cute little baby flies."
This is what one does on Day Three of Planet Unemployment. They become responsible homeowners and realize, to their abhorrence and dismay, there are MAGGOTS in their outdoor garbage can.
Oh help me Jesus. They were there.
What does one do? One buys gallons of bleach and eradicates said baby flies.
I drive little these days. Gasoline is too expensive. And my bike is broken. Instead, I walk. Or go nowhere. For a person use to living in their vehicle, I've suddenly, and quite surprisingly, discovered I own a home. At least for now.
Being an adult, yet being single, is a nifty little demographic status that keeps us quite comfortably in the adolescent stages of life. We work. We pay our bills. But dang it, we aren't home enough to spend that much time wondering if we should repaper the front closet.
Buying a home does not mean I've suddenly become a full-fledged adult. No sir. I bought it because it was pretty.
Anyway, I'm learning that upkeep is just one of those things, like repainting your toenails. Just hunker down and do it. Too much spare time and I'm beginning to see this place through all new eyes. I mean, dang it. I actually thought about repapering the front closet.
So here I am with a problem. Lots of little bitty problems actually. And let's just preface this by saying, Tara has a weak stomach. I know. I'm a bloody reporter. I know this. I've seen a lot of nastiness in my day. I know this too. I've been in meth houses where the oxygen was no longer human friendly, homicide scenes you can't quite scrub from your memory, and accidents that ended your innocence. But you tell my stomach not to get queasy. Maybe it will listen to you.
I breathed in and out a few times, kept chanting my mantra "they're just baby flies," grabbed my gumption, and went outside. Armed with my funky green and hot pink garden gloves, garden hose, and the ability to hold my breath for three to seven minutes, I attacked this monster. And once the kill was complete, once I had ended this tribe of larvae, I removed all evidence of a crime and vacated the scene.
You could say this is just unemployment. But let me tell you, this is no minor leaguer time wasting. This kind of uselessness is only for the brave hearted, low pain tolerant, and minds of solid steel. This is kill or be killed nothingness. This, my friends, is life in the no lane.
Tomorrow? I'm pulling weeds. Watch out world!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

they claim to be

Here, fill this out. Oh, and this. Now, fill this out. And when you are done, come back to my desk and we'll fill everything out.
Welcome to the reason most of the unemployed in America find themselves on the shoulder of a bridge, weighing whether to file a claim for unemployment or jump off.
It wasn't all bad. There wasn't a bad smell to the place or hateful workers. In fact, the woman helping me was very friendly and looked exceptional in turquoise. And a man filing for some kind of retirement benefits walked in wearing an unnamed cologne that increased my body temperature.
It's just the sheer madness of it, really. The belief you'll fill out all these blanks, answer all these questions, and the perfect job will seek you out like the wet nose of a puppy in your open hand. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm just saying I'm doubtful. Okay, I'm still an unbeliever. I just don't believe a resume tells you diddly about me. In fact, I know it doesn't.
This is like filing out a dating application and believing chemistry will strike when you read the candidates middle name. "Henry. Yes. That's him. I knew I'd marry a man with the middle initial H."
Perhaps I should have been better behaved. Perhaps I should take it all more seriously. Perhaps I just don't fit well inside a box. The squeeze is just too tight. It reminds me of a double-breasted vest I own that forces my figure out, instead of holding it in, because the space allowed wasn't designed for my unique form.
That's a resume. I just can't fit inside of it.
It was around the second set of yes or no questions when the electrolytes in my brain began slamming themselves into my skull in a vain attempt at suicide.
Can you "provide information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person?" Interesting. So you're asking me if I know how to use a phone, a piece of paper, a computer, and my mouth? Sure. Think so. Next.
Can you "see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer)?" And the English translation of that question is: Do your eyes and brain work together? Why yes, yes they do. Next.
Can you "understand information and ideas presented in writing?" Survey says: Yes, I can read.
Can you "understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences?" Translation: They want to know if I'm deaf. No, but I do walk around the office with headphones shoved in my ears playing anything from the 80's heavy-metal era. Hope that's not a problem. Next.
Can you "write synopsis?" Yes. Much better than you. Next.
Can you "arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules?" Absolutely. I know how to count all the way to 75. And I learned the alphabet song last year. I'm a go.
My apologies, most sincere, to all those who made it through various forms of these questions and did not snap in the end. I, however, am not one of you. By the time I got to the section to write my objectives, which in normal speech means to sell yourself, I wrote this:
"Tireless experience in writing. I can produce it myself, produce it from others, edit it, juggle it, grill it, organize it, tweak it, squeeze it, plump it, stump it, brighten it, thin it, excite it, invite it, take it, leave it, bring it, brought it, toss it, enlighten it, sizzle and flambé it.
And that's just the writing part.
My communication skills are excellent. No, better than that. Superfantastic.
I work well with others and play nice. I'm energetic and love a challenge. LOVE it.
But you can't know me or know what I can do by reading a resume. Not possible. I'm three-dimensional - in body, mind, skills, personality, goals, and shoe size. A resume is not."
I signed off, signed out, and hit the road. If a prospective employer wants to know who I am, just ask. And I promise to answer in English.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Day ONE on Planet Unemployment

This is a strange little place. There are no alarm clocks here. No expectations. No one expects anyone to be anywhere at any time. And pressed clothes are optional.
Eating occurs whenever and often. Silence is profound. And the phone rings, but they are all personal calls.
There are no meetings, no desks. Work is done by sitting on the floor and using your lap as a table. Naps can happen spontaneously. And NOTHING absolutely must be done by the end of the day.
Unemployment. I've never visited this strange and unusual place before. I've seen brochures, but never had the courage to check it out. Now I'm here but not of my own doing. My boss, or what was once called such, sent me here on Friday afternoon due to budget cuts. I packed light.
You can always take more. But I didn't. I took my books and my paperweights and walked into the sunshine, leaving the deadlines, the disappointments, the daily schedule behind. I haven't missed them yet. But then again, it is only my first day.
I left without a tear. And they haven't really come since, not enough to pool, not enough to really bring me sadness, not enough to even earn mentioning.
Instead, I left, wondering if it was too late in the day to enjoy the park. I walked for over two hours, heading north along the River, not sure if I'd stop until it got dark, not knowing if I'd stop once it did. I just needed time to think, to speak with God, and hear Him speak back. You see, this is my answer. This trip. This adventure. It's exactly what I asked for. I wrote it on my Christmas list. I asked during a falling star. I blew out birthday candles, and it wasn't even my birthday. I've been wanting an adventure. Not just any adventure. I wanted one with God. Me and Him. Some me and He time. I asked him to knock me off my feet and take me on a journey. And our first stop, our first destination, it's Planet Unemployment.
What does this mean?
I don't know. It isn't important that I do. I'm just going along for the ride, anxious to see the scenery while not particularly concerned about the destination. The way I see it, God is moving in my life. And He's given me a first-class ticket. Now I'm going to spend my time exhaling, asking for a fruity drinks with umbrellas in them, and taking in all the sights. I can't wait to buy some souvenirs.