So far the most fun part of moving has been setting up my new “living room.” There’s just something about getting a fresh start with organizing my bookshelves that leaves me feeling all giggly and excited!
If we’ve been friends for any significant amount of time you are most likely already familiar with my love of organizing and list-making. If we haven’t known each other long, or we have but you were too distracted by my ferrets to notice, no worries; consider this your crash course.
Living Room, View 1: Desk
- Red: Philosophy
- Pink: Education
- Orange: Writing
- Yellow: Crossword Puzzles
- Green: Journals, notebooks, stationary
- Dark Blue: Dream dictionaries and theory
- Light Blue: Dictionaries
- Dark Purple: Language, style guides
- Light Purple: Grammar textbooks, poetry/ prose collections/ reviews
White Circles (L to R)
- A picture of Jenny K. and me after a performance of The Actor’s Nightmare at Carroll University. We played Sarah and Ellen, though Lord knows I can’t remember who was who any more.
- A ceramic piggy bank I got at an Irish fair with my high school boyfriend; Susan, the talking Aflac duck I got from one of their reps peddling their wares at a former job. I got her for answering a question correctly. When I answered a second question correctly the rep offered me a larger duck. *pfft* As if I could part with Susan!
- A seashell my friend Sarah M. brought back for me in high school from her family’s vacation to Florida, during which her appendix burst. Whoops!
- The Orrefors candle holders my great-grandma Ruth brought over with her from Sweden. My parents passed them down to me last Christmas.
- A picture of the ladies of The Actor’s Nightmare: Jenny K. (Sarah? Ellen?), Mariya G. (director), Kate G. (Meg), me.
- A flower-covered woven thing I wore on my head for the Ophelia costume I wore to a party at Corey R.’s house in high school.
Living Room, View 2: Bookshelves
- Red: Fiction, literature study
- Pink: Poets and poetry
- Orange: Sociology, miscellaneous non-fiction, politics
- Yellow: Gender studies; CDs
- Dark Green: Remodeling, house styles, interior decorating; a gigantic dictionary
- Light Green: DVDs
- Dark Blue: Fiction
- Light Blue: Arty things
- Purple: Videos (The rest are inside the cabinet below.)
White Circles (L to R)
- Votive candle holders I got from my Uncle Steve years ago. He also gave me a decorative bag of scented, orange votives to go with them, which I’ve hesitated to burn since he passed away last December. I know they’re just candles, but it feels strange to think of using up something that cannot be replaced.
- A baby walrus on its mother’s back. This ceramic beauty has been in my collection for over twenty years now. It set me back a whole buck at the local dollar store on a shopping trip with my Mimi when I was about seven years old. I don’t know what prompted me to buy it, though the interest I would later develop in The Beatles certainly made room for it.
- A long dead lighting instrument I grabbed (with Scott B.’s permission!) from the upper storage space at Carroll University during a work day. I have two of them, actually. I like to think about all the exciting moments they lit up, all the stories that are never retold the same way twice, all the effort and laughter and tears. I won’t keep them forever, but I’ll keep them for now. They’ve seen so much. More than you or I ever will.
- A stuffed pig my mom received from a student ten or so years ago. Somehow I ended up with it.
- My senior year of high school our theatre department attended a theatre workshop at Wisconsin Lutheran College. One of the available sessions dealt with mask-making and masked performance. I hadn’t planned to take that class, so my attendance turned out to be one of those “happy accidents.” I believe Deborah Solomon-Phillips led that session. Every part of the exercise taught me something. I settle the mask onto my face every couple of years to see if it still fits. It does, but only on the outside.
- A light saber from a friend and former employer, Jennifer C. Yes, everyone at work had one. Yes, we had battles with them when we were done having Koosh wars and playing hide and seek.
Living Room, View 3: Couches
- Red: Miscellaneous books
- Pink: Photo albums
- Orange: Records
White Circles (L to R)
- A picture of Jenny K. and I at the Carroll Players’ annual Theatre Banquet her junior and my senior year. She has always been just the cutest stinkin’ thing. Love that girl.
- Somehow I ended up with two of Jennifer’s light sabers…
- A wire basket of dried flowers from Donna D. Ah, but from which show, which show…
- A purple Ao Po’i table runner I bought with Christie H. at a shop in Itauguá (though it may’ve been elsewhere; those last few days are a bit of a blur!) during my trip to Paraguay this past January.
- A picture of Amanda H., Brent J., and me at the Blood Center on September 11, 2001. Everyone wanted to do something helpful, something positive, something proactive… but what? The lines at the center were long. We were put on a waiting list and told to come back hours later, which we did. They couldn’t tap my first elbow, so they bandaged it up and moved on to the other one. After drawing a pint of my spaghetti sauce blood they bandaged up that elbow, too, leaving me unable to bend my arms. You can’t see it in this zoomed out image, but in the picture Amanda is holding up my juice for me so I can drink from the straw.
- A turtle candle Jessica C. gave me for my birthday some time during high school; a Speech Meet trophy for first place in Humorous Interpretation.
Is there anything one can possibly do on a computer that feels more mentally fulfilling than completing a detailed list?! Ahh… Refreshing as an ice-cold lemonade after a summertime lawn mowing!
I, uh– I haven’t ever actually mowed an entire lawn…
The bedroom still looks like it was attacked by sea monsters despondent over their banishment to land. But never fear, Nerdfighters: Further bookshelf pictures will make their way up here as soon as I’m done hanging up all my clothes and sorting my non-fiction!
I was looking for a book at the library. I found it, but the cover art and dust jacket description totally turned me off so I took home the book next to it instead; I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, by Barbara Sher. Don’t feel badly, Other Book; it happens.
I Could Do Anything… description from Amazon:
A life without direction is a life without passion. The dynamic follow-up to the phenomenal best-seller Wishcraft, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (the New York Times Bestseller) guides you, not to another unsatisfying job, but to a richly rewarding career rooted in your heart’s desire. And in a work of true emancipation, this life-changing sourcebook reveals how you can recapture “long lost” goals, overcome the blocks that inhibit your success, decide what you want to be, and live your dreams forever!
As many of you know I’ve been looking for a new job of late. There is always more than one reason to conduct such a search, and most of the time those reasons are uninteresting unless you’re a) the one experiencing them, or b) the one asking about them in a job interview, so I’ll spare you, Gentle Reader, by leaving them out. You’re welcome.
With my job search in mind I performed a few of the exercises in Sher’s book, then decided to go out on a limb- breaking every goal attainment rule in the process- and share my responses. I’m doing this because goodness knows I process information best when it’s weighed and measured in thoughtful discussion (I’m counting on you, Nerdfighters!), but also because I’m eager to read how youwould answer the following questions and can hardly ask you to share your responses unless I’m willing to share my own first. Right? Right.
Ready? Let’s go!
Chapter 3: Resistance, or What’s Stopping You, Anyway?
Exercise #1: Meaningful Work
Here Sher asks readers to write down what the world considers “meaningful work.” She goes on to say “…in the back of your mind is the thought that somehow you have to make a contribution to something, be acknowledged, do something that matters–or you’re just fooling around.” I wrote down what I consider “meaningful work” since, frankly, the idea of pursuing a path simply because the world considers it meaningful sounds exhausting and a little silly.
For work to be meaningful to me…
- It must involve creating something new, which will hopefully be acknowledged by its intended audience as 1) truly different from its alternatives, and 2) helpful.
- It must involve working with people, either in person or through the written word, to help them understand something better, or appreciate and be enriched by something they hadn’t previously given much thought.
Exercise #2 Part A: The Job from Heaven
Sher instructs readers to include what the job entails, where it would be performed, and who it would be performed with, and not to ”limit [themselves] with reality or practicality, because this is Fantasy Time.”
- Blogging about every day life
- Travel writing on back road gems, Americana road trip culture, and introducing readers to towns that barely make it to the map
- Publishing interviews/mini-biographies on “folks” I meet along the way. Not the rich, not the famous, just the folks.
- Reading to kids at the library, homeschool groups, churches, etc.
- On my laptop at the table in my ground floor hotel room with the curtains open no matter how drab the parking lot outside
- In a notepad during walking tours
- On my laptop at a large, clean desk in a home office. A home office with a door that locks, plenty of natural light, a love seat, a coffee table, an electric tea kettle, and lots of green and wood and overflowing bookshelves and a giant map of the U.S. painted onto one of the walls. A home office outside the big city, on the edge of a small town– maybe even just outside of it– but with easy access to the city, the library, the theatre, and maybe a local museum or two.
- When writing I need to be alone, but when traveling I prefer the buddy system
I think I may have missed the point ever so slightly because “Fantasy Time” this ain’t. Is it too late to tack on something like “…and spend every other week riding horses in India and make $80 gajillion dollars a year”? Or should I just be glad that my dream job is more realistically attainable than, say Ballerina or Astronaut?
Exercise #2 Part B: The Job from Hell
- Processing bills. AP, AR, doesn’t matter. If I had my druthers I wouldn’t process payments.
- Scheduling international travel itineraries
- Customer service (for past-due payment collection) over the phone
- Answering a multi-line phone
- Being the final decision maker on things involving big costs and make-it-or-break-it deadlines
- Business professional dress code
- Long hours on weekdays, with lots of weekend shifts and mandatory overtime to top it off
- Working for a company which creates goods or provides services I care nothing about, or which I actively dislike
- In a cube farm surrounded by windowless gray or institution-green walls
- In a large metropolitan area
- In a building with more than four stories, or with a configuration that necessitates taking an elevator to my floor
- In a room that’s always extremely loud or always silent
- More than a half hour commute in bumper to bumper traffic
- Intense, high pressure coworkers who start the day stressed out
- Coworkers who are cool and stand-offish and who don’t want to sit with me at lunch or show me the ropes when I’m learning my job
- Coworkers who are perpetually dramatic, narcissistic, jealous, who harbor cruel opinions, and who are more mouth than eyes and ears
- Screaming customers upset about issues I have no power to correct or change
- So many coworkers I can never hope to know all their names
- Supervisors who make politics part of the job, with the understanding that agreement is the first step to advancement
Two things struck me about the second part of this activity: 1) I was surprised (and slightly embarrassed!) at how much easier it was to come up with the things I don’t want, and 2) the “professional” skill set I’ve spent the last nine years developing lends itself to the kinds of jobs that fit this bill. Uh-oh…
Chapter 4: The Sure Thing
Exercise #1: What Are Your Escape Dreams?
Per Sher, “…make sure they’re true fantasies, and not practical in any way… Escape dream[s hold] a powerful clue to something you really need. It’s like a photo film negative of your life. Whatever in your life is missing, wherever a blank spot exists, it shows up in this fantasy. …[W]e should do something about what’s missing. Because if you don’t use that information to improve your life, you’re using escape dreams to help you avoid life.“
Yeah, I can see that.
- My escape dream involves having enough money in the bank that my needs are met; enough that I can afford to travel simply on a regular basis (road trips, trips to other countries where I could stay in friends’ homes or mid-range hotels); and enough to give generously to support charities and friends’ projects and dreams; all while being able to help family members in need and to put funds aside into a retirement account and into college funds for my kids.
- In this dream I write, I read to kids, I act in plays, I road trip, I help community theatres in out-of-the-way towns to organize themselves and reach out to their communities, and travel throughout Latin America.
- I live with my husband, kids, dogs, ferrets, and home library in a ranch house somewhere out West (not the coastal west; the north/central West) where the outside of my office door is painted to look like the TARDIS, and where we own acres and acres of land that will one day go to the kids. It’s land with hills and woods and open fields and creeks and animals you don’t want to run into at night, and there’s a fenced in area and a barn where I house transient livestock rescues for the local animal shelter, and a special room to house all my ferrets, and a tree which for some reason is always filled with crows.
My constantly recurring themes? Family, Security, and Writing. Okay you three, you’ve made your point.
Chapter 6: I Want Too Many Things; I’m All Over the Map
Exercise #1: Time Management for the Person Who Loves to Do Too Many Things
This exercise is geared toward people Sher refers to as “Scanners.” These are folks who “want to taste everything. … Because our culture values… specialization and determination, we too often think of scanners as people who simply won’t get down to work. This is a foolish cultural oversight. … We’re trained to believe that we only get one choice in our lives. But to scanners, one choice sounds like someone’s saying, ‘You can have a coloring book or you can have crayons, but you can’t have both,’ and they’re onto something. Scanners know that life is not stingy. If anything, life is too generous. The choices are dizzying. But there’s a way to manage the riches.”
Part 1. If you were ten people, what would each of you do with your life?
- Documentary Filmmaker
- Wife and mother
- Something with independent ministry projects, focusing on providing education and technical training for children and young adults
Part 2. Quickly answer each of the following questions with one of your ten lives.
- Which life can you devote yourself to this coming year?
- Which life can you do when the first one is completed?
- Which activities can you do for twenty minutes or less each day?
- Which ones can you do on a weekend?
- Which ones can you do once in a while?
Naturally I was able to match up bits and pieces- or sometimes even whole “lives”- to each of those questions. And that’s the trick, isn’t it? Being faced with the fact that if you really want to do something you can probably find- or make- time to pursue it? Given that I don’t have much of a natural inclination toward the sciences, and that some of these pursuits can take years just to get the degrees necessary to engage in them for profit and to create the necessary relationships and contacts to make them fulfilling, it’s clearly unlikely that I could pursue each of the above “lives” to its fullest professional extent. But that’s okay too, because if I achieved some of them on a professional level I’d have to spend a great deal of my time doing *mostly* those things, and that wouldn’t satisfy my inner scanner either!
The book is 322 pages long and I’m only up to page 187, so I can’t speak for the whole thing. What I’ve read so far, though, has provided a thoroughly worthwhile reading experience filled with useful advice and approachable anecdotal support for the author’s opinions. It’s a charming, simple enough read, and I’m looking forward to working my way through a few more of the exercises, particularly those in Chapter 13: A Rage Against the Ordinary, and Chapter 14: The Red Herring, or Trying Hard to Love Something You Don’t Really Want.
I’d love to hear your answers to one, a few, or better still to all of the above exercises. If you’re up to playing along you can leave your responses in the comments, or provide a link in the comments to wherever you’ve answered them elsewhere. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!
Half Price Books‘ Labor Day weekend 20% off sale is my Christmas. Already awesomely priced books available at even lower prices than usual, a cozy shelf-packed shop buzzing with book lovers sharing recommendations with each other over what to read next; it’s like a physical manifestation of Nerdfighteria.
Today’s highly successful haul demands yet another post wherein I brag about my awesome finds. (Scroll to the bottom for a full list of HPB posts.)
Link-clicking fingers ready? Let’s go!
Books | Grand Total: $8.48
Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
God Emperor of Dune, by Frank Herbert ($0.80)
Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert($0.80)
The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin ($0.90)
Something with “mumpsimus” and “hobnail” on the cover and which I can’t name because it’s a present! ($5.18)
Grand, ain’t it?! I’m especially thrilled to be making such good progress on filling my Frank Herbert shelf. So far all I owned were Dune, and the Atreides, Dune, and Harkonnen chapterhouse books after having read the rest of the original novels via the library. In fact– now that I think about it, all I need now is Children of Dune and I’ll have completed my set of Frank’s originals. I just get cooler and cooler…
Also: I wish I’d been trained as a Bene Gesserit (by Donna Kummer).
There. I said it.
CDs | Grand Total: $12.80
On My Way, by Ben Kweller ($1.60)
A Passage in Time, by Dead Can Dance ($1.60)
To Venus and Back, by Tori Amos ($1.60)
The Hour of Bewilderbeast, by Badly Drawn Boy ($1.60)
Whatever and Ever Amen*, by Ben Folds Five ($1.60)
Seven Swans, by Sufjan Stevens ($1.60)
Moon Over the Freeway, by The Ditty Bops ($1.60)
O Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack ($1.60)
*I might already have this. If I do, this one’s all yours, bro.
And after all that I still have $6 left on a gift card I received for “actual” Christmas. I’m fighting the urge to go back tomorrow and put the remainder toward completing my Dune collection. Ah Life and all her accompanying difficult decisions!