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This pin acknowledges my time as a public servant in the Air Force, as a NOAA weather forecaster, and as a Decision Review Officer with VA. I am proud to have been able to give so much to my country.

While texting a friend last night about his career as a musician, he said he has been overcoming challenges and right now is focused on manifesting something much better.

This morning I got the email reminder that my Leave and Earnings statement from my federal government job is now available for review on the .mil website. It’s the one I’ve been worried about, and it took me a while to open up the website and take a look. With relief, I see that it was the best I could have hoped for, which is 73% of what I usually receive. It means that I was credited every last hour of vacation leave and sick leave I had left. Until now, I wasn’t sure if there were any wonky rules that would end up restricting use of some of those hours. But yes, I was paid for it all.

While Human Resources helps me through the paperwork, I am now in Leave Without Pay status. It makes me anxious. Today I received my last paycheck from VA. I’ve been questioning myself over and over and over: what the heck am I doing? Trulove, are you crazy?!

My job at Department of Veterans Affairs is stressful, and I may have expressed it now and then over the ten years I have been blogging. They do not manage people well, and it is hard on employees. The government takes forever to fix a problem, and that is only after they’ve taken forever to even admit there is a problem. VA has not yet realized, as an agency, that it doesn’t manage people well. Clearly the fix is not going to happen soon enough for me.

With the new White House Administration, the screws have been tightened more than ever before, and our managers are being squashed under unrealistic demands and expectations. It trickles down even though many managers try to shield us.

On a personal level, I have been struggling more than usual. I have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to multiple sexual traumas in the military. Since my job requires reading medical records of veterans so that I can make decisions about benefits, I’m reminded often of my own trauma. There is a case on my desk with someone who has PTSD every single day. It’s that common.

October 2017 sexual allegations against Harvey Weinstein exploded into the #metoo and #timesup movements. I wrote, at that time, about how I can feel this kind of news story in a physical way. A jab in the stomach every time I hear the news. It has literally been in the news every single day for a year.

Beginning October 2017 my performance at work began to decline, and it just got worse. My managers had to get creative to protect me from getting fired due to my mistakes. A month ago, I hit a wall and could not go back. The combination of everything spent my resources and I couldn’t get out of bed. I have not gone back to the office. That explains why I used up every last hour of paid time off.

So here I am.

FYI, I can afford this for right now. I have talked with my financial advisor, and it’s ok for awhile. Tara can stay in college. I can make plans without time pressure. It’s a relief.

And I’m doing better. I’ve been sleeping through the night, which I think is the same as medication. I’m painting much more. I’ve had time to visit friends. I’m working on my photobook for my trip to Myanmar. These are the things that fill the fuel tank rather than drain it.

The surge of anxiety this morning with the notice that I just received my last paycheck was the most anxiety I’ve felt for a couple weeks. It feels normal to get anxious now and then over some scary news, instead of anxious every day.

A few hours ago I sat at my computer, carefully updating my financial spreadsheets, and worrying about future unknown expenses. The words from my musician friend came back to me and I realized he had given me the emotional boost I needed today. As scary as change is, I am doing a good thing. I am manifesting something much better, though I don’t yet know what that is.

Good Things Jar

A long time ago I wrote a post called Good Things Jar, in which I explained that I had heard about this project and had successfully completed my first year of recording good things in 2014. I never wrote about it again.

The idea is easy to find in many versions on the Internet. And as blogger friend at Contented Crafter mentioned in my first post on the topic, it’s been around for years. You find a container to hold notes, and simply drop in your “good things” thoughts all year long. Then at the end of the year, you review them. It helps you remember how much you’ve come through emotionally in the year, and it gives you perspective. It also allows you to feel joy for those things again, even if they happened months ago.

The good news about the good things jar is that Tara and I have kept it up ever since! I’ve saved all the little slips of paper because I knew that some day I would do another post. Tara and I kept up the tradition of reviewing the notes together in January of 2016. However, this year, with Tara staying at college more and more, the only notes in the jar were from me.

I still use the original jar, pictured here. It’s an antique glass canning jar of my mother’s. The lid says it was made in Canada, and that makes sense, since Mom spent nearly her whole life in Idaho, close to the Canada border. Back in the old days it was easy and common to cross the border without any fuss, planning, or paperwork because all the authorities cared about was whether you were bringing in cheap cigarettes to sell. She may easily have picked it up at a shop in Creston or Nelson, BC.

Disneyland

In the spirit of looking back on New Year’s Day, I reviewed the good things we’ve been thinking about during the past 3 years.

Steam! It’s great

2015 favourites

In 2015 we both wrote a lot about the new house, since it was the biggest thing going on that year until Tara started college in the Fall, which itself earned multiple notes. Tara wrote about Disneyland multiple times. Macaroni and cheese made it to Tara’s list again, to my amusement! Oregon’s wild daffodils made it to my list again. I think seeing items repeat year to year says something about us. We both repeatedly mentioned our friends, and I included my brother Ian twice. We both also wrote down self-affirmations, like mine that says “I am beautiful.” The power of statements like this can’t be denied.

The parts in parentheses are comments I added today that were not on the original pieces of paper.

Tara:

I met awesome and relyable and relatable people @ OSU

  • Your own room and bathroom again
  • I met awesome and relyable and relatable people at OSU (Oregon State University)
  • Finding the perfect squirrel gifts for Mom for Christmas (I agree that squirrel things are good.)
  • Steam! It’s great (I have no idea what this is about, but it’s hilarious)
  • Sudden cookies 2-21-15 (again, don’t know what this means, but I think we can all agree that sudden cookies are a good thing)
  • Friends that you remain friends with even after separation 8-31-15 (the date shows that Tara was still connecting with friends after starting college)
  • Making cosplay is awesome! (costumes for Tara’s favourite annual anime convention)

Me:

Genevieve

  • I managed to keep my spirits up while trying to buy a house 6-20-15 <– still no close
  • Stand up paddle! 4-24-15 (this was in the top 5 of best first dates ever)
  • Ian is an awesome brother & I got to visit twice in March and April 4-9-15
  • My blogging community is filled with real friends 6-20-15 (I love you guys)
  • I was born white in America 9-8-15 (I do not know what prompted this comment. It is a good thing, but saying it publicly makes me flinch a little. I wish I remembered the context.)
  • I had the courage to ask for help 8-7-15 (a pack of friends came and helped me at my house)
  • I am beautiful
  • I have the confidence to apply for the DRO position 10-1-15 (Not only applied, but got the job!)

    A pile of joy

2016 favourites

mac n cheese

Tara only dropped three notes into the jar in 2016, due to hardly ever being at home. They had the idea to start up a Good Things Jar while at college, but I don’t think that has happened. 2016 was a transitional year for both of us, while Tara reconciled a new self-image that included successful college student and let go of the comforts of being a kid, and I learned to take care of my new big property and got used to living alone.

Tara:

  • Snow! 2-15-16

    U-cuts when forests let you down 12/14

  • U-cuts when forests let you down 12-14-16 (ha ha, this pretty much explains itself. We couldn’t find a good tree in a national forest, and on the way out of the mountains we came across a U-Cut Christmas Tree Farm, whipped in and found a gorgeous 10 foot spruce tree for only $28.)
  • Kahlua 12-15-16 (Uh, methinks someone was into the liquor cabinet… But at 19 years old, I’m not concerned.)

Me:

  • I get to watch Spring happen across my land 2-17-16
  • My employer allows me to take the time off that I need 8-3-16
  • Tara has embraced being a student 11-18-16
  • Genevieve! 9-17-16 (I had this same exact one in 2015, but this year there was an exclamation point. Three cheers for best friends.)
  • I can forgive 8-31-16
  • I love my chickens 1-6-16

    A storage system I also adopted from my mom.

2017 favourites

I love my chickens. 1-6-16

This past year had the fewest contributions, partially because Tara was gone, but also because I am growing more accustomed to seeing the Good Things Jar on the countertop among the other jars, as you can see in the photo above.

  • I always rise back up. I smile. I laugh. I see beauty 6-28-17
  • Tara is brave and strong 5-31-17 (You only know half the story, but this young person… is so brave and strong.)
  • Sometimes, when I least expect it, I find out lots of people love me. 11-18-17 (I made a purely casual facebook post that said only cryptically that both good and bad things happen in a person’s life and it’s up to us to choose which things to focus on. Blam! In 24 hours I had been contacted by fb messenger, text, phone, and email by eight separate people checking on me. It was not at all my intent, and I was startled by the reaction. And then… I was touched.)
  • I became a squeaky wheel, and it worked!! 11-24-17 (Speaking up about injustices done to myself is hard for me to do. I am overly concerned about being perceived as acting whiney and entitled. But finally, I was convinced that people needed to get off their butts and do right by me, and I started rattling cages and calling in favors and talking to people up the chain, and viola! It got done.)

    Romain and I love and appreciate each other. 4-21-17 (with the 4-21 underlined for emphasis)

  • Romain and I love and appreciate each other 4-21-17 (Romain is a Rwandan priest I met in school in 2005. He has a tough time every April, the anniversary of his personal tragedy. Note, I underlined the date.)
  • My blogger people always make me feel better
  • My cards to Suz worked exactly as planned 3-15-17

    My cards to Suz worked exactly as planned 3-15-17 (Susie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the year. She lives on the East coast and I live on the West coast. I couldn’t think of what to do for her. So I began writing cards and postcards in which I talked about only non-cancer related topics. I never expected a response, but she took the time to tell me that’s exactly what she liked about my correspondence: no cancer for just a moment.)

I have a hunch that writing this post places this tradition squarely into my conscious mind once more, and when I see it I’ll act. Because, you know, I can always think of something. Every single time I look at the jar and ask myself, “What is a good thing, right now?” There is always an answer. And that’s probably the best good thing of all of them.

 

A sign we spotted when using a drive way to turn around. Tara and I thought it was hilarious.

A sign we spotted when using a drive way to turn around. Tara and I thought it was hilarious.

In my “About Me” page, I say that this blog is my online journal. And it is. But it’s public, of course, and thus some of the more complicated personal stuff is left out or glossed over. Happy happy happy: that’s me.

I have been sensistive to the fact that I nearly dropped out of the blogging world completely this Spring. Some of you I haven’t read in a year. I can hardly stand it. I miss you more than seems reasonable for a group of people I have mostly never met. I’ve been resisting telling you guys what’s going on with me for a long time, but I now have a way to bring it up that isn’t painfully awkward. Just painfully real. Sorry. Like everybody else in the world, I’ve got layers. 🙂

I’m leaving in a couple of days for Chile! Isn’t that awesome and amazing? It is! A couple days in the capital, then down south to the wine country and the lake country. I’m nervous and excited and hopeful, and I’ve been casting meaningful glances at my Nikon, every time I pass her, sitting on the desk. “You are getting ready for this, right? You have a lot of work to do.” It’s the first last-minute, spontaneous overseas trip I have ever taken. It’s the first trip I have not been the one to orchestrate. All that is kind of surprising, so let me explain.

One of the most brilliant things about me is that I have a crazy intense will to Live. And by Live, I mean that with a capital “L.” Not staying alive, but living with intent, Consciously Engaging with my life because it’s the only one I’ve got and I am loathe to squander it. Things knock me down, and I do not stay down. When there is an obstacle that threatens to make my life begin to resemble merely existing and surviving, things inside kick into gear and get me out of that spot. It is a very good thing. That’s why I’m going to Chile. But…. let me back up a little bit.

Because of some traumatic events during my military service, and the fact that I had no support group of friends or family back then to ease me through it, I developed posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. I didn’t know it at the time. Over the years I built a toolbox for myself of defensive strategies to get through life that are good in times of crisis, but unhelpful when there is no crisis, which is nearly always. So after 20 years of wondering why I was struggling so much, I finally got a therapist that specialized in military trauma, who helped me learn how to give up my crisis strategies. She began to teach me a more accurate way to view my life: not as this enormous, uncontrollable, scary place, but just a place with good and bad things, and none of it was to be taken personally.

In May 2015, my therapist retired. I was doing so well with her that I announced that I did not need a replacement therapist. In July 2015, I moved from the city out to a big property in the country and began country living for the first time in my adult life. In September my only child left home for college, and I began life alone, really alone, for the first time in 18 years. In October I got a new, challenging job. Blam, blam, blam, all these big life events. And it was too much. I sort of lost control of the organization of my life. The old crisis strategies took over.  And by November, a year ago, I nearly fell to pieces.

I worked too much. I drank and smoked too much. I was depressed and angry and irritable and yelled at Tara when they came home from college. I didn’t clean the house. I didn’t buy groceries. I cried. It has taken me all this time to come back, and I’m still not totally better, but I am confidently on the path to better. I got a new therapist. I’ve been binging on your blog posts now and then. I even won the award for Most Comments On Blog Posts In A Single Day, on Curt’s site, ha ha!

My girlfriend Margaret called me earlier this month and said, “What’s new?” Because something is always new with me. I am a woman who keeps pots going on all burners at all times. Even the small stuff is interesting and exciting. And I replied, “Uh, I’ve been working. And Tara’s still at college. And…um…” While I was saying it, I realized that when she called the last time, 4 or 5 months earlier, I had said the exact same thing. Margaret must have noticed it too. “Meet me in Santiago at the end of the month,” she insisted. “yeah, right, Margaret.” In my mind I was thinking, now wait…in what country is Santiago?  She said the trip was already plannned, I’d have to split the Air BnB costs, and taxis and stuff. I explained about the big property, and the chickens, and the fact that vacation time at work is always set in January, so it’s too late anyway. She wasn’t buying it. “That’s no obstacle,” she said. I think it was her brassiness that caught my attention. I mean, we’ve been friends for 16 years, but was that appropriate? I asked, “Did you just tell me that the responsibilities I have in my own life are no obstacle?” “I did,” she said with no humility at all. “Crystal, I know you. You are smart and capable and you can figure it out. I’ll call you in two days and get your answer.”

And that will to Live sparked up like when a breath of wind hits a bed of coals.

I realized the trip was just the slap in the face I needed. I made a bunch of phone calls and 24 hours later I texted Margaret to say we’d be on the same plane from Houston to Santiago.

My flight leaves Portland at noon on Tuesday, and arrives in Chile at 10am on Wednesday. That’s a lot of time in a plane. Wish me legroom and no crying babies! (I know, impossible request) I’ll bring the laptop, and with any luck, my brassy friend will indulge me at an occasional wifi hotspot. If not, I’ll be gone two weeks and my beloved Nikon and I will share our stories with you when I get back.

Tara with the TARDIS blanket and hot cocoa, and the good things jar.

Tara with the TARDIS blanket and hot cocoa, and the good things jar.

A year ago I read a blog post from a friend who had a “good things jar.” (A quick browser search shows that many bloggers have touched this topic before my friend and I.) All year long, when there were notable events or thoughts or accomplishments, it was written onto a piece of paper and put into the jar. The post I read was about the day my friend pulled all those notes out of the jar and read over them.

Our jar

Our jar

I was so inspired by the idea, I put together my own good things jar!

I chose one of the large, old-fashioned jars my mother had given me. She was in love with anything old, and particularly loved the old canning jars with glass tops instead of the new metal ones we use today. This jar remains fully functional, with the metal ring still able to tightly hold the glass top. If I were to replace the hardened seal with a new rubber seal, it might be good as new.

Tara chose a piece of artwork, a block print made in art class, to decorate the jar. We screwed on the metal ring lid and then rested the glass piece on top. That way, any time a good thing needed to be added, it was easy-peasy to lift the glass, drop in the note, and put the glass disc back into place. Tara cut up a small pile of scrap paper and put the blanks on the shelf next to the jar. (I have to make things easy for myself – good intentions are not enough to keep me motivated for a whole year!)

Our pile of good things

Our pile of good things

Tara and I both added to it all year long. Though we never discussed this in advance, an unspoken agreement grew that we never told each other what we had included, and we never looked into the jar during the year. On New Year’s Day 2015, we pulled out the jar and sat on the floor in the living room, and took turns removing the pieces of paper, one by one. We read the papers we selected out loud to each other, even if the other person had written the note, and then spent a moment remembering the event that caused us to write what we did. Sometimes we didn’t remember. Sometimes we disagreed today (with 20/20 hindsight) that the thing we wrote was a good thing after all.

"My ballet has drastically improved. I am skilled and beautiful."

“My ballet has drastically improved. I am skilled and beautiful.”

Some of Tara’s:

  1. (written on part of a score sheet) “games with Mom, particularly Scrabble”
  2. “living in an open-minded home” & “welcoming online communities”
  3. “Daddy got a house”
  4. “The kind of lonely where you know exactly when you’ll feel better.”
  5. “the ability to forgive and be forgiven”
  6. “henna”
  7. “Dungeons & Dragons” (new group meets at our house Sunday evenings)
"I'm glad we have health insurance and that Tara is healthy." We have only had health insurance for a couple of years - previously couldn't afford it. This note after talking with a pediatric cardiologist about the state of Tara's heart. Yikes.

“I’m glad we have health insurance and that Tara is healthy.” We have only had health insurance for a couple of years – previously couldn’t afford it. This note after talking with a pediatric cardiologist about the state of Tara’s heart. Yikes.

Some of mine:

  1. “I had a wonderful conversation with Javie this week.” My sort of father-in-law, my ex-boyfriend’s dad, was in the hospital. We visited for a long time, I went on a walk in the halls of the hospital with him, he told me Navy stories, we laughed and cried, and he told me he wasn’t scared. He died two days later.
  2. “identifying birds in my back yard” I’ve become a total bird geek.
  3. “Thanksgiving. I am grateful that Dennis is the father of my child. I am grateful that we shared this holiday together.” Dennis could not afford a hotel room, so he stayed with me.
  4. “Tara and I trust each other.” & “Tara and I have a great relationship.”
  5. “Arno (ex-boyfriend) and I are perfect when we’re not afraid.” Aren’t we all?
  6. “The AC is not cranked at my workplace anymore!” Now that I work at home, climate control is all mine.
  7. “Every time something expensive happens, I can afford it. (Malware on computer.)” Yeah, I’m still recovering from the trauma of financial ruin in 2007-2009. Makes me grateful every time I have the money I need. As it should be.

We both wrote about how much we love the cat, ha ha! I wrote multiple times about daffodils and my ability to recover from setbacks. Tara wrote multiple times about having a best friend, and about macaroni and cheese.

Powell's is a local famous bookstore. If you have ever been there, you will agree.

Powell’s is a local bookstore. If you’ve been there, you’ll agree it’s a good thing.

"the ability to forgive and be forgiven"

“the ability to forgive and be forgiven”

In the beginning, I thought it would be a nudge to help us remember to think of the good things in our lives, day to day. And I was right. Every time I’m in the kitchen and see the good things jar, I ask myself, “Is something so good right now I need to record it?” Now that we’ve gone through the whole process, I see that there is also value in looking back and reevaluating each thing with a different perspective. I also got to know more about the secret life inside my child’s head, and I am more in love with Tara than ever before.

Obviously, the jar is already back in its place, waiting for new slips of paper in 2015.

my vote waiting to be collected

I FINALLY made a decision on a presidential candidate, and marked that damn oval. Shit.

I moved on to fill in some other ovals, and aaalllllmmoossstttt went back and erased it. That’s why I did it in pencil: just in case. But this morning I ceased further agonizing and sealed the envelope and stuck it outside for the mail lady to pick it up and take it away.

I’ve been working on my ballot for a week; studying, considering, watching ads, reading ads, perusing the countless endorsement that show up in the mail. You don’t know HOW close I came to writing in Hillary Clinton. Or HOW close I came to writing in Mickey Mouse. Or HOW close I came to making the realistic, reasonable, sane decision of blowing off that section entirely. How can a person choose between a series of bad choices?

Halloween porch, with the ballot signed, sealed, and at the mailbox, ready to go

I’ve always said the person that I would want as my President would never stoop so low as to enter the contest.

Funny, at work, where we get the stupid Hatch Act pop-up every morning when we boot up, we’ve been talking a lot of politics. A couple of my friends at work have proudly impressed how vital it is to vote; how we must take action to get the right person elected. I was reminded by one co-worker how in a recent election there were only 700 votes between the person who was elected and the person who came up second place. “Your vote makes a difference!” she said.

No it doesn’t! Grrrrr!!

If we’re talking Presidents, you understand, if we’re talking the Big One, our votes really and truly do mean diddly squat. Nothing. Na da. Come on, people. Don’t lecture me about how important my support for one presidential candidate or another is, because my vote means nothing. And, I’m sorry to say it, but your vote means nothing too. Not unless you’re a member of the Electoral College.

In the year 2008 with technology so astonishing, unstable, convention-shattering… we are reduced to having others vote for us. And, as we saw in 2000, reduced to watching helplessly as they failed to vote along with the popular vote as we were assured they would do because they said they would. Oh, didn’t you know? Unlike every other country in the world throughout history, today in America, people in government keep their word.

But even if popular vote did elect a President, my vote would still not matter. Yours wouldn’t either. Not unless you’re a lobbyist with some exceptional skills. Not unless you’re filthy rich and powerful, or have the last name of Kennedy. Not unless you head some ragtag little committee like AFL-CIO, or CBS, or FOX, ExxonMobil, or Shell, or NEA.

As my brother commented in an email, elections today are all about winning. The question is no longer what can we do to fulfill this office, but How Can I Win Today? That’s what every major campaign is about. He’s right. And that’s sad. It explains why heads of gigantic corporations do have a say, because those are the people who have the money to back a relentless campaign, and they have the power to “encourage” others to cast their votes in a particular direction.

My buddy Earnest knows how I feel, but he tries to talk me out of my negativity. I showed him my workbooks and flyers and my ballot on Monday. They rested on my desk, waiting patiently for more attention. Oregon’s got all these measures that really require some studying up on (hint: you’re better off to ignore the flyers). Earnest realized that despite my consistent bashing of the system, I’m putting my full effort into a conscientious vote. He took a step backward and rearranged his Yankees cap over his dreads.

“So why do you vote?” he asked.

“I vote because I can,” I answered with no hesitation. “I am so grateful that I live where I have the opportunity to vote. A lot of people went to a lot of effort to make it so that I have the freedom to vote, and I respect that and I don’t want to waste it or disrespect the honor. So I vote.”

And, like I’ve said before, I’m an incorrigible optimist. Maybe, maybe, there’s something to it all. I know I can make a difference on measures at a state level, I believe my vote can influence the outcome of the Sheriff elections, and that possibly even an Oregon state senator will have help or hindrance from my tiny voice. So … perhaps my effort will make a difference in the outcome of President as well.

Sadly, I can’t affect the quality of the contenders though. Not this year. But with hope, perseverance, and the drive to share my thoughts with others, I’d like to believe that some day my voice will join those of others. I’d like to believe that with enough of us, we’ll change the climate of our world, and maybe we’ll stop responding like mechanical puppet consumers and send the message that we are the rightful leaders of the country and those we elect are our servants. Maybe then we can bring people of quality into that office again.

Comments from the old blog:

ladybug

wow i completely follow here. and i too am torn, knowing full well that my vote is nothing compared to the power of dollar bills and corporate backings i still vote because it’s my right and even more because if i believe it makes the difference then others will believe too and one day as a collective we will reach the same goal of actually making the difference we want to see. politics is exhausting. all it is, is using language in war instead of bombs. (you should read my blog “more fuel for your fire?”) i totally agree with your idea that my ideal president would not enter into such a conflict. with all it’s corruption, my ideal president wouldn’t have a chance.  thank you for sharing. and i’m glad you cast your vote.

crystal

Thanks for your thoughts Ladybug. Thanks for your blog too. Ha ha, I like your comment that politics is exhausting. Yes! I think that means you’re doing it right. Love to you…

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