Casting my simplified birth chart

I picked up an astrology book (The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk) from a thrift store the other day and have had a lot of fun reading through it, learning about the zodiac and decided to cast my own birth chart, following the directions in the book.

Whether you believe in astrology and horoscopes or not, you have to admit it’s an interesting read:

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My simplified birth chart, complete with 12 Houses, 10 planets and 12 zodiac signs

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My Sun sign, Pisces
My Sun sign, Pisces
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A cusp is the point at which a new astrological sign begins. When someone speaks of being “born on the cusp”, he or she is referring to a birth time at or near the beginning or the end of an astrological sign.
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Each astrological sign is divided into three parts, and each part is called a decanate or decan.
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What sign Mercury was in on the day of my birth

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The position of the Moon in your horoscope is second only in importance to the position of the Sun. The Sun sign (in my case, Pisces) is the part of you that is most apparent on the surface; it is what others see. The Moon sign (in my case, Aries) is the part of you that you see.

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What sign Venus was in on the day of my birth

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What sign Mars was in on the day of my birth
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What sign Jupiter was in on the day of my birth
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What sign Saturn was in on the day of my birth
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What sign Uranus was in on the day of my birth
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What sign Neptune was in on the day of my birth

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What sign Pluto was in on the day of my birth
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What Chart Type Are You? This interesting personality guide was devised by the well-known American astrologer Marc Edmund Jones. Jones formulated seven distinct personality types based entirely on the pattern that the planets form in a chart.
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In What Part of the Horoscope Are You Strong? The various parts of the horoscope circle all have specific meanings.
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In What Part of the Horoscope Are You Strong? The various parts of the horoscope circle all have specific meanings.
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One of the things to look for in a chart is which elements are dominant and which are weak or lacking. Is there more earth than fire? Does this chart accent water more than air? Does one element dominate or is one element missing? Is this chart evenly balanced between all four elements? My chart: Deficient in Air – The subject is likely to have difficulty expressing exactly what he or she means to say. There may be misunderstandings or crossed wires in communicating. He or she is probably not too interested in abstract ideas or intellectual pursuits.
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You should study a chart to see which “qualities” are prominent. The astrological signs fall into three groups of Qualities: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. My chart: Weighted in Mutable – The subject is likely to be vacillating, unreliable, or unable to accept responsibility.

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The first things an astrologer examines in a chart are the four Angles of a horoscope. These four Angles are the most important points in a chart; they indicate power, strength, and activity. In astrology, they are sometimes called wide-open doors, because planets here can act freely and unimpeded.

Babylonian astrologers named twelve separate categories of life, which have come down to us from that time almost unchanged. These twelve divisions are called Houses…each House represents a separate area of specific function of your life. There is a House of domestic life, a House of personal wealth, a House of marriage, a House of career, etc.

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FIRST HOUSE – It is the most personal and most powerful House in your chart, for it symbolizes you – your mannerisms, your style, your disposition and temperament.
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SECOND HOUSE – This is the House of Money and Possessions. It relates to what you own in life and what you will acquire, your income, and your financial prospects.
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THIRD HOUSE – The Third House relates to your immediate environment in three major areas: self-expression, your family ties, and day-to-day travel. This House governs the way you think, speak, and write.
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FOURTH HOUSE – This is the House of Home. The Fourth House governs your home life in the past, the present, and the future. It indicates what kind of home you had in childhood and your relationship with your parents. What you have brought into this life from your ancestors is in its domain.
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FIFTH HOUSE – This is the House of Creativity and Sex. The Fifth House rules over everything you do for pleasure and to express yourself creatively. This is the House of your heart.
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SIXTH HOUSE – This is the House of Service and of Health. Often called the House of service to others, it indicates your need to help others and to be useful in the world…this House rules your relationship with people you work with, with those who are subordinates, and with your employers. The Sixth House also relates to your state of health and especially applies to illness brought on by worry or emotional upsets.
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NINTH HOUSE – This is the House of Mental Exploration and Long Distance Travel. The Ninth House can be thought of as a widening of the Third House; study, travel, and mental pursuits are expanded in the Ninth House onto a much wider plane. This is the House of the higher mind. Under its domain are higher education, philosophy, and the study in depth of profound subjects.
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TENTH HOUSE – This is the House of Career and Public Standing…the Tenth House rules all matters outside of the home – your profession, your status in the community, and your public reputation. This House also reveals in what esteem you are held by others. This House has a great influence on your material success in life.
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ELEVENTH HOUSE – This is the House of Friends and of Hopes and Wishes…the Eleventh House has to do with long-term dreams and goals and with intellectual pleasures. This House often indicates the kinds of friends and acquaintances who can best further your interests and objectives in life.
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Your Ascendent or Rising sign (the terms are interchangeable) is a very important part of your horoscope. Your Ascendent is the sign that reflects your outward demeanor and to a great extent determines how the outside world looks at you…the personality you outwardly project is almost always a perfect blend of your Sun sign and Rising sign. Your Ascendent is the sign that was rising at the time of your birth.

**All images and quotes are taken directly from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk (2001 edition)

Indiegogo campaign: BUST Mag Internship or bust!

 

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I’m reaching out to ask for your support for my online fundraiser: “BUST magazine internship…or bust!.” I have been offered an unpaid editorial internship with BUST magazine beginning April 1, 2016 and I’m raising money for living expenses while setting aside a good portion of my own money also.

There are two ways to help:
1. Donate – even small donations raise our popularity and give us more visibility on the site.
2. Post to Facebook – in the end, the more people hear about us, the more likely we are to meet our target.

Indiegogo Life has no fees, so anything we raise goes directly to our goal.

Thank you!

Grandma Ruth…one year ago today

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My family tribe lost our maternal matriarch on August 10th, 2014.

While everyone was grieving, while no one was watching, I witnessed her last breath. There were pauses before this one that made us all think it was over, but then she’d draw another breath and we’d hold ours. I don’t know if it was a reflex in the chest or if it was actually her final breath, but it was incidental in its movement and came within 30 seconds of the last one. Then it was over.

My aunt, who lost a baby when I was a child, asked her mother to look for Jenna Rose when she reached heaven. The idea that my grandma would still have a chance to be a grandmother after leaving all of us will make me smile the rest of my life. I also witnessed my mother ignoring her searing lower back pain in order to lean over her mother and whisper in her ear that it was okay to let go. She touched her mother’s shoulder, then her head, then ran her fingers through the silvery, unkempt hair. All throughout my grandma’s last 45 minutes, my mother was encouraging her mother through tears to embrace the angel who visited my grandma each night.

Oh yes, there was an angel. I believe that wholeheartedly. I didn’t see it, but my grandma told me three days before she died that an angel had been witness to her prayers and her singing each night before she went to sleep. He was more beautiful than she could describe, more colors than she could define, and as she fell asleep, he would wrap his arms and wings around her in an embrace.

In her final 5 seconds of life, she opened her eyes wide and her mouth formed an O-shape. She wasn’t looking at any of us and didn’t even seem to know we were there anymore. Later, John described her expression being like a little kid watching fireworks. Whatever she saw, wherever she was going, she was in awe and wonder when she finally saw it.

To watch another person die is profound. I’ve never had the honor in my 34 years of life but now I have. It is hard to process the experience while grieving. Sometimes the memories bring tears to my eyes and a stabbing pain to my chest and other times I’m able to smile fondly and thank the universe for putting her in my life. We have only been grieving 9 days. It has only been 4 days since we buried her.

Each family member who made it to the hospital had a private moment with her. She slept soundly in-between visits in order to conserve energy for the next person. Each time, we told her that so-and-so was almost there and if she could hold on a bit longer, they would be at her side as quickly as they could. We gathered from California, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Vienna, Austria and stood vigil in the waiting room just down the hall from her room. Because there were so many of us (7 cousins/grandkids, 1 great-grandson, spouses, parents, etc.), we claimed the waiting room as our own and left our belongings there, slept there, and ate meals there. Nurses told us they’d not seen a family like us; most families came for a visit and then departed. We stayed 12-14 hours a day, my grandma knew we were at her fingertips. When she was craving her treat (sherbet and Sprite Zero blended together), we were on it. When she needed ice chips to soothe her throat, one of us had the spoon at hand. When she needed the towel on her forehead re-moistened, we were ready. On her last morning, all she needed to do was tap her mouth and we’d give her water via a small sponge.

Her passing shakes up and redistributes the roles in our family now. My aunt is now the matriarch. My grandpa is now a widower in a big house that was organized and managed by a wife no longer there. My uncle, who flew in from Aigua, Uruguay for the funeral, is conscious of his upcoming role as patriarch which he will attain someday far, far away from the rest of the family. My mom, the youngest of her siblings, is next in line after my aunt. The three of them, along with my grandpa, are now in charge of clothing, memorabilia, canned food items, jewelry, decorations, toiletries, unused medications, kitchen utensils, and potted plants that encompassed the life of a woman now gone.

To see her lipstick in her vanity drawer with the indentations from her lips still on them is unsettling. Her curlers still carry strands of her hair in them and her bedroom lingers with her scent. Most items in the house are inscribed with her handwriting; she left notes telling the short story or history of where these items came from. The necklace I wore to her visitation and her funeral was housed in an envelope saying it was from my Uncle Ryan and his first wife when they lived in Alaska. On the flip side of the envelope, she wrote: “Hope someone takes this”.

Her toiletries tell a story of a woman who did not want to grow old. Not only didn’t want to, but fought it every step of the way. She bought wrinkle eraser creams and oils and anything promising to give you a more youthful glow. I remember her telling me many times that I shouldn’t grow old; that it wasn’t any fun. I would say to her that I didn’t like the alternative and she’d grimace and say, “Wellll, that’s true.” She was incredulous that her body wouldn’t allow her to do everything she could do in her youth and to my knowledge never made peace with the betrayal.

She stubbornly held onto her two story house, long since paid off and way too big for her to maintain properly, because it held memories and allowed for a gathering place for the family even though she eventually had to concede that she wasn’t able to clean it properly anymore and hired one of my cousins to clean for her. My grandpa had long since hired a neighbor kid to do the lawn and the family was in the midst of encouraging them to hire someone to plow their driveway in the upcoming winter.

A year later to the day.

We all remember her from our corners of the world. We reach out to each other via modern technology and spread the love that drew us together a year ago in Indiana. I can’t believe it’s been a year already. It’s felt longer. It’s felt shorter. I see photos of her and I hear her voice immediately. My grandpa has been adjusting to living on his own and I couldn’t be more proud of him for grabbing the life given to him each day and making the most of it. He’s busier than I am most days.

She wasn’t a saint, but she was my grandma. I inherited my control issues and my stubborn streak from her. My forgetfulness, even my restless leg syndrome. I hope I don’t inherit her diabetes. Or her brain aneurysm. Or the seemingly hundreds of illnesses that wore her down in her last couple of decades. She grew bitter at times, resentful that her body had given up on her. She sometimes took that negativity out on those around her.

I get that from her also.

But in sharing the good and the bad, in remembering it also, I hope to present her as a whole person. Someone who lived her life for 85 years and made a mark. If I live to be at least her final age, I have 50 more years to do the same.

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Rune Life Path Reading

I did a rune life path reading at The Root Cafe today. I chose five runes from a bag and laid each one down in a straight line between me and the reader. The first and last runes I laid down were upside down (reversed). The other three were laid down the correct way. The final rune is what I am ultimately working toward and the other four are what I will experience along my path toward that goal but not necessarily in the order that I drew them.

The five chosen runes for the reading:

1. Constraint (reversed)
2. Initiation
3. Protection (Spiritual)
4. Journey
5. Warrior (Spiritual) (reversed)

1. This Rune (lesson of Nauthiz) represents the obstacles we create for ourselves as well as those we encounter in the world around us. Reversed: Nauthiz is the great teacher disguised as the bringer of pain and limitation. A cleansing is required here; in undertaking it, you fund a will and strengthen character. Begin with what is most difficult and proceed to that which is easy. Thus you are required to undergo the dark side of your passage and bring it into the light.

2. This Rune (lesson of Perth) is concerned with the deepest stratum of our being, the bedrock on which our destiny is founded. If need be, let go of everything, no exceptions, no exclusions. Nothing less than renewal of the Spirit is at stake.

3. This Rune (lesson of Algiz) serves as a mirror for the Spiritual Warrior, the one whose battle is always with the self. During times of transition, shifts in life course and accelerated self-change, it is important not to collapse yourself into your emotions, the highs as well as the lows. Control of the emotions is at issue here. If you find yourself feeling pain, observe the pain, stay with it. Do not try to pull down the veil and escape from life by denying what is happening. You will progress; knowing that is your protection.

4. This Rune (lesson of Raido) is concerned with communication, with the attunement of something that has two sides, two elements and with the ultimate union that comes at the end of the journey, when what is above and what is below are united and of one mind. The journey is toward self-healing, self-change and union.

5. This Rune (lesson of Teiwaz) is the Rune of the Spiritual Warrior. Embodied in this Rune is the energy of discrimination, the swordlike quality that enables you to cut away the old, the dead, the extraneous. Reversed, Teiwaz calls for examining your motives carefully. Is it self-conquest with which you are concerned or are you trying to dominate another?


(The above explanations of each rune are from The Book of Runes by Ralph H. Blum)

The reading

I am on a journey to discover and embody my authentic self. I will achieve this but there will be challenges along the way and I will need to make a sacrifice (“to make sacred”, not always a negative connotation).

The path that I am on right now is directly related to the choices I have made in my past, whether positive or negative, and I must see this path through. I’ve been avoiding it and trying to change it based on guilt and shame from the past, but I must put those aside in order to see it through.

I live always in the past or in the future, but never in the present. The past is represented by guilt and shame and it uses those two things to keep me there. The future is represented by anxiety and worry and those two things dominate me most of all. In order to live in the present and continue on my path, I must shed guilt, shame, anxiety, and worry and realize there is nothing I can do about any of them.

There is a new path that has presented itself to me and many obstacles have sprung up to keep me from pursuing this path. I must push these obstacles aside in whatever manner possible so that I can continue on this new path as well as following the current path. They will join together. The new path must join the current.

My role is as an Initiate. An initiate role was chosen for me and I cannot leave it behind. The role I have always chosen for myself is Master because it gives me the control that I feel I must have. But because the role of Master conflicts with the role of Initiate, I am suffocating in identity crisis and experiencing more negativity than I need to be feeling.

My name, Clara, means, among other things, “clairvoyant” and I have been suppressing this gift for awhile now though I embraced it for a good portion of my life. I must let this gift flow through me once again in order to become my authentic self.

I am going on a trip in the next year and this trip will give me answers that I have been seeking. It is immensely important that I go on this trip no matter what. I alone know the questions and answers I am seeking and I will recognize these answers when they are made apparent.

The Spiritual Warrior is who I am and who I am working toward becoming. While I am on the journey and once I have attained my authentic self, I must not feel compelled to stray from it or be anything less than authentic at all times. No one around me is owed an explanation for my authenticity but if I give explanation to a loved one, it is with the full knowledge that this is an honor, not an obligation or expectation.

Fear has dominated my life, as well as guilt, shame, anxiety, and worry. Control (and the perceived notion of having complete control) has led my actions, my words, and my life. It is an absolute necessity to let go of each of those things (and continue letting them go) in order to achieve my authentic self and to rid myself of their negative attributes.

 

Honesty edition, part two

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If you haven’t read “Honesty edition, part one”, please click on it here and read first.

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I wasn’t weak but I had been weakened.

Tremendously.

I wasn’t even aware of how much as we pulled off of our last lot with the circus in Fort Worth, Texas and made our way north to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Why Fort Wayne? I was born there and still have extended family there. My grandma had just passed away a few months before and I really needed that family connection to help me through the grieving process. I wanted to be there for my grandpa and I wanted to visit her gravestone after the final date was etched there.

We stayed with two of my cousins who rented a house in Fort Wayne. There was room for our RV to be parked out back and we covered it with its winter cover, moved our stuff into an upstairs bedroom and re-acclimated to conventional towner life.

It was unfamiliar. I reeled at the space we had to live in, at the size of the bathroom, the forgotten pleasure of immediate hot water, the ease of washing and drying clothing whenever I wanted to. I slowly remembered how to cook meals again, to sleep in, and I scored an amazing temporary bookseller position at Half Price Books about 10 minutes away.

I was surprised at how difficult transitioning back into towner life was for me. At times, it felt easy but most of the time, it felt as though I was a ghost floating through, unable to touch anything.

The morning stress of praying we would wake up to the alarm and not get left behind on the lot stayed with me for weeks.

The edge I felt going to sleep hoping I wouldn’t hear a knock on my bedroom door in the middle of the night (usually due to an emergency jump to the next lot because of weather or, when we were doing PR, a police officer telling us we couldn’t park there and had to move on) still hasn’t left me.

The immediate smile and canned enthusiasm I would display when people asked about my time on the circus was reminiscent of my forced customer service protocol drilled into me or my reaction when I used to be asked “just how awesome is it REALLY to work for Z Deli?!” (no comment).

Then I would feel conflicted. Because there were good times, there were great people, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for a lady like me who didn’t grow up on a show. I traveled. I lived next to tigers and elephants. I became friends with a fire breather, two contortionists from Mongolia, a tiger groom, a ringmaster and many more. I learned face painting from a woman who rode elephants. I mean, come on…

So I focused on that. I focused on the beautiful people who welcomed me into the family and who took care of me. I focused on my opportunity to hang out with an elephant who liked to sniff my shoes when I brought her my veggie scraps and who always enjoyed having her tongue petted (sorry, Armando, I tried to resist Tracy’s charms). I focused on the people I met along the way and who have since become good friends.

We settled into a routine in Fort Wayne. We had our favorite coffee house (Firefly Coffee House on North Anthony – nicest baristas and best coffee around!) that we visited every day and kept us rooted and connected with our loved ones via the coffeehouse’s free wifi. I settled back into selling books and John worked aggressively on making and selling our handmade puppets.

We hadn’t yet realized how radically our relationship had shifted in the two years we were on the road and even in the two years we were in Ann Arbor. He and I were both caught up in our own versions of survival mode: I was shutting everyone out with my walls of defense up, trying to appear strong and together, believing that if I acted strong and together, I would magically embody it. I felt as though I needed to fix things in Ann Arbor: we were there for me to go to school, I wasn’t in school, so therefore we were there for no reason. I needed a new reason.

He and I weren’t connecting like we used to but we didn’t yet know what that meant or how deeply it went. We still felt like we were in survival mode in Fort Wayne because it was only meant to be a temporary situation but we didn’t know where we needed to go next. The detox we experienced (and are still experiencing) dredged up a lot of poison, insecurities, and questions from the last handful of years that we hadn’t wanted to deal with and had blocked.

When we finally made the decision to move back to the Cleveland area, it was reminiscent of moving back there from Oregon a handful of years ago. Life had moved on without us and while we were happy to see our old friends and vice versa, we hadn’t been a part of things there for four years. People didn’t hang out as much as they used to, new relationships had formed, old relationships had ended, and we were just all…older.

There’s been a wide range of emotions felt in our household since our move back to Cleveland: excitement, trepidation, joy, and the feeling of following the right path and everything working out perfectly were some of the feelings we were having when we first moved back in February. Life was just clicking into place: our former duplex was available for rent again, we both had jobs in Lakewood (not an easy feat as anyone who lives here knows), I reconnected with a close friend, John was recommended to a local entertainment agency, and everyone we knew was getting rid of furniture and household items that we could use.

Somewhere along the way though, the poison began seeping out again. Miscommunication, tiredness, and a couple of sudden, lost friendships were wearing us both down. The loss of the friendships hurt pretty badly. They were new friendships that were invested in and believed in, but they ultimately didn’t stick around. The term I recently found out for what they did to us is called “ghosting”. Quite hurtful to be left in silence with no answers and no control over what happened.

Now it’s present day. We are both working for a cafe in Lakewood: he’s a barista, I’m the bakery manager. We work gigs over the weekend set up for us by Flower Entertainment: he does clowning and/or balloon twisting, I do face painting. Our house that we moved into March 1st is still a mess, nothing’s been hung on the walls, and most days we only have the energy to do some dishes and laundry. Our 14.5 year old cat has recently been diagnosed with feline diabetes and must get insulin shots twice a day.

Honestly? We are struggling. A lot has come back to haunt us, to teach us, to challenge us, and to make us ask a lot of questions. We are no longer certain of what the future holds and that uncertainty scares the hell out of us. We’re still figuring out our place in each others lives, let alone the lives of those we moved away from four years ago.

Honestly? Our relationship has always been unconventional for 16 years and it’s either going to grow even more unconventional or we’re going to morph into something different. It’s uncomfortable, it’s sad, it’s not fair, and it’s exhausting. Most days, I feel as though I’m losing my mind.

Honestly? My blinders are still set to survival mode but this time, it’s because I’m fighting for my future and I have no time or energy for anything extraneous.

Honestly? There are certain important aspects of my life I’m not going to share here out of privacy for me and the others involved. They may come to light eventually (with agreement from all parties first) but for now they are my own.

Honestly? This is the most terrifying birth. I’m not sure if I’m ready but that doesn’t matter…it’s going to happen whether I’m ready or not.

Honesty edition, part one

Me at the gate

I’m going to practice a bit of honesty here. A bit more openness than I normally exercise. A tad more straight ahead nonfiction rather than creative.

Firstly, I’m not approaching this honesty post with the intention of wanting to sit down and talk with any of you reading this afterward. Please don’t be offended. I am simply aware that what’s currently going on in my life is spilling over from private to public anyway and I wanted to share some insight.

Secondly, I am self-aware enough to know that most of you who read this may not know me or see me in real life and will think this is pretty narcissistic. I won’t argue with that. However, it’s also very therapeutic for me to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper/computer screen, etc. There’s always the off-chance that something I write will help someone else or give them a different perspective as other bloggers/writers have done for me in the past.

Okay, onto honesty:

A little over four years ago…

John and I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We made plans to move there because I had applied to graduate school at U of M and since I had already been accepted into another school (that I ultimately turned down because I didn’t like the city or campus when I visited), I felt confident that I would be accepted at U of M also.

I wasn’t.

I didn’t find this out until the evening before we were moving there. Looking back, it was ridiculous to have finalized moving plans before actually finding out if I had made it in or not, but we didn’t. We were full steam ahead.

Getting that rejection letter (not even a letter; an email) changed the course of my life. I was devastated, I was embarrassed, I felt stupid, and I very quickly felt as though I needed to fix things. Immediately. On my own. We were moving out of state for me and now we had nothing.

Once in Ann Arbor, I proceeded to lie to anyone I met about what happened with grad school: “Oh, I decided to defer a year until I am a Michigan resident so that my tuition costs will be lowered.” I said this so often that I began to believe it. It saved my sanity at the time and helped me feel as though I still had a chance at going back to school.

But I never applied there again. Instead, I jumped from job to job, frantically trying to find The Job that would justify us moving to Michigan and would get me started on my life’s path.

I worked at a grocery store to start and applied for an assistant manager position there. Then I worked at Zingerman’s Deli, then Relaxstation Massage Therapy, then Nicola’s Books. In the midst of that, I volunteered at a local farm and learned how to plant, manage, and harvest from a 15(?) acre farm.

One of those places could have been It (more than likely the farm) but I was still so focused on the future that I wasn’t living in the present. I had put walls up around me in self-defense, I had blinders on to anything that wasn’t career-focused, and I was living in my own little world.

When John was offered the circus job, it felt like a relief. Ann Arbor was quickly spiraling into a rut that wasn’t giving me any direction. Looking back now, I realized it wasn’t the city; it was me. But at the time, I was so relieved to have a direction, a path handed to us that we wholeheartedly agreed to it and spent the next six weeks selling most of our stuff off, storing the rest, subletting our apartment, financing and buying an RV, learning how to drive an RV, and giving notice at our jobs.

Before I knew it, we were driving from Michigan down to Arkansas to meet up with the show before beginning our PR jobs in Illinois. My life had suddenly become held together by a 29′ RV with frequent overnight stops in Walmart parking lots, fire stations, parks, stranger’s driveways, industrial parks, and even stranger places I don’t remember now.

To say that the first few months were traumatic makes it sound too blissful. I had one long continuous panic attack that lasted those three months (and then floated in and out of my consciousness for the next two years) that resulted in me crying uncontrollably every day. The stress of the new job and all of its demands on both of us didn’t allow me to process my panic and tears so I swallowed them as I could and assured John I was in.

I wasn’t in. But I didn’t feel as though we had a choice to be out. We had financed and were paying on an RV, we had nowhere to call home and no other jobs to go to. In retrospect, I wish we had given notice and left the job. I don’t know where we would have gone but it would have been better than what we went through.

I tried to keep a positive face on everything in my travel blog. I didn’t want to admit to the world that I felt as though I was failing this HUGE thing that we had proudly announced we were doing. That people were telling us they were envious of us doing. That we were supposed to be having the time of our lives doing. And I didn’t want to let the circus down.

So we kept going. Eventually things were better, we established a routine, we saw friends along the way, and it started to feel normal. I felt victorious. I told myself that I just needed to adjust to this life and that it took me a bit longer than some to do so.

By the middle of the season, we were made privy to the knowledge that the ring clown position would be opening up the next season. John wanted to go for it; I wanted him to go for it. Being on the show had to be better than being all by ourselves traveling for nine months.

At the end of the season, John had auditioned in the ring a few times and the season ended in Oklahoma. Not knowing if he had the job or not yet, we parked at winter quarters and waited. The wait ended up being longer than we had planned and after going through the money we had saved to travel back home for the holidays, we settled in for an Oklahoma winter.

It was hell.

Well, not all of it. We had the chance to hang out and socialize with friends on the show. We learned how to carve foam into props, how to latex it a million times and how to paint them realistically. The office manager invited us to her house for Thanksgiving and the elephant handler graciously invited us to his house for Christmas since we didn’t have anywhere else to go.

But we’d blown through our savings already with no other income in sight. So I applied at every business with an open sign in Hugo, Oklahoma and finally ended up getting offered a job at their Pizza Hut up the road.

Free Personal Pan pizzas and the meager earnings of a server barely kept us afloat and it was only through a loan from the show and another loan from a loving family member that got us through to the beginning of the season in February.

But we’d made it…the season was upon us, we were going to both be earning paychecks every week and things would be good.

Except they weren’t. Because of immigration laws and the hoopla surrounding them at the time, the show wasn’t able to secure most of our crew from Mexico or some of our international performers for the first 2-3 weeks. It fell on everyone else there to do double and triple duty.

Therein was our first newbie mistake. We offered to help a couple of times and we were told thanks, but it wasn’t needed. So we stopped asking and concentrated instead on trying to finish John’s props and costumes for the impending first show. Because we were holed up in our RV for most of the day, every day, I believe that some folks thought we were just being lazy and unhelpful. Some bad feelings emerged, not helped by the added stress of no crew members, and I don’t think we ever outgrew the lazy stigma the rest of the season.

I won’t go into details about the season. Suffice it to say, there were good times, fantastic times, exuberant times, and then there were deeply depressing, lonely, and frantic times. And everything in between. I felt like a towner playing circus and though we succeeded in finishing the entire season (though we took two weeks off to be with my dying grandma and to attend her subsequent funeral), we made a lot of mistakes along the way and didn’t feel too great about ourselves by the end. There were a number of loving, caring people on the show who reached out to us and though we accepted their friendship and support, we accepted many of them conditionally, wondering if by accepting help we were somehow showing weakness. We didn’t want to appear weak; there is no place in circus for weakness.

To be continued…

Do You Worry What People Think of You?

(inspired by http://mbg.to/NJwQWgg)

Yes, I do. All the time. It’s a disease.

1. What is the story you’re telling yourself that’s making you care about what other people think?
2. What consequences has this story had in your life?
3. What has this cost you so far?
4. What is your life going to look like five years, 10 years, 50 years from now if you keep this story or belief?
5. What is it that you truly want?

My answers:

1. What is the story you’re telling yourself that’s making you care about what other people think?

I internalized early on that it’s very important for people to like you no matter what. No matter what. I think it mainly has to do with the stereotypical expectation of women being people pleasers and having that ingrained through all outside influences my entire life. I dislike conflict because it throws me off balance, it flusters me, and I lack the confidence sometimes to stand up to it, to stand up for myself. Any chance I get to avoid it or brush it to the side is a win in my book.

But it isn’t a win.

If I can make everyone like me, then I won’t have conflict. If I don’t have conflict, I won’t feel flustered and self-conscious.

This is impossible.

It makes me uncomfortable when other people have a misconception of who I am. If you were to sit my in-laws down along with my best friend and ask them all what they think of me, they would each give you very different impressions of me. Who is right? Who is wrong? Is anyone wrong? Is it possible that they are both right? My in-laws haven’t talked to me in 10 years; even if there was any truth in how they perceived me then, is there any truth in it now?

I logically know that not everyone is going to like me. I don’t like everyone I meet either. I am probably making unfair assessments of some of them too. Does that really matter? If I never interact with them again, does it matter?

2. What consequences has this story had in your life?

Immense consequences. I have tailored most of my life to making others happy even at the detriment to myself. I have put others before me to the point where I have sacrificed my own happiness, my own goals, and my own wants, desires, needs. I compromise in big ways and small ways in order to make and keep people happy.

Working customer service has been the ultimate expression of this.

I remember having a friend in high school who was deeply depressed. I felt for whatever narcissistic reason my teenage mind could come up with that I was the only one equipped to help him out of it. I put him first in everything and ended up compromising my immune system from neglect and got sick. Nobody won. His parents stepped in and got him the help he needed and things became awkward with us afterwards.

A college friend and I have recently been discussing the Smile women automatically give when we are in an uncomfortable situation. We immediately try to put others at ease even when they are being inappropriate with us. We feel it is our place to still make sure others think kindly of us even when they are strangers rubbing our backs, commenting on our looks, or lifting our sleeve to look at our tattoos.

The ultimate consequence of caring too deeply what others think is never taking a second to think about myself. To realize that I usually put myself last even though I’m the one who lives with myself 24/7 and should take better care.

3. What has this cost you so far?

It has cost me regular growth in self-esteem, in doing things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t so far because I’m too afraid of what people will say, and it has cost me myself.

I don’t know who I would be right now if I had internalized a healthy response to this. I don’t blame anyone but myself. And I don’t even blame myself; I’ve done what I’ve needed to do in order to get to this place in my life. At 35 years of age, I am learning to care less about what others think and more about presenting peace to those around me and especially to those I do not like.

I am in the midst of renegotiating and reconciling the traditional trappings of what society thinks a wife should be, a woman should be, a childfree person should be, a college graduate should be, an ex-daughter-in-law should be, a writer should be, and an introvert should be. I am realizing some of my paths are going to seem pretty extreme and confusing to some but I can no longer stall my journey down them. I am being unfair to myself and I only have this one life to live.

4. What is your life going to look like five years, 10 years, 50 years from now if you keep this story or belief?

My life is going to look very similar to what it looked like five years ago, 10 years ago, and even 20 years ago. It will be filled with little regretlets following me around, tugging on my pants, reminding me of each time I failed to stand up for myself, failed to follow a dream, and failed to pursue happiness. It will be glazed over with resentment and pointing fingers with an extra healthy dose of bitterness served on the side.

I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned so far and I am cognizant of the fact that I will always have lessons to learn. But many of these lessons need to be put into practice before its too late. There are only so many times you can keep bashing your head against a wall and expect a different result.

5. What is it that you truly want?

Whew.

I want:

– to live my life without fear directing it.

– to be every day honest about who I really am, what I really care about, what my passions are, what my beliefs have evolved into, and how fluid my thoughts really are on gender, sexuality, marriage, and religion (just to name a few).

– to be open about love.

– to celebrate my individuality yet mindfully honor my place in this world.

– to proclaim myself in confidence and remain sturdy when others respond with hesitation or questions.

– to commit to something I’m fearful of and prove to myself I can do it (ie. roller derby…I love the entire idea of it; I am incredibly, immensely fearful of injuring myself. I have yet to break any bones or get stitches. I have arranged my entire life in safety and I feel as though I’m missing out.).

– to go on a vacation all by myself and navigate every aspect of it by myself…just to prove I can do it. I’ve always relied on others when away from home, especially when things go wrong, and I’ve never had to stand on my own two feet in a situation like that.

-to feel wholly comfortable in my skin…regardless of my weight, my body shape, my hair color, or the number of tattoos I happen to have at the time. Regardless of what I think others are thinking of me…because most of the time, they are not thinking about me at all; they are thinking of themselves and their perceived flaws.