It Has Been A While…

My last post was a little over a year ago. I was not in a great place, in all aspects of my life, but things are better now, I’m glad to report.

I am working again, (in a field I had never considered), and am enjoying immensely! The not only employed but in a field, a company and a role that gives me he fog that had veiled my mind has lifted and things are sunny again, and I have a renewed self-belief and self-confidence.

Actually… “renewed” is probably the wrong word, as I am probably at the highest level of confidence in myself and my abilities, in the workplace, that I have ever been at, and as I have more to learn about the industry I am now part of and the role in which I find myself, I can only grow, professionally and personally.

My personal perspectives have changed some and mostly I haven’t felt the need to “push” a particular ideology. Right now that ideology is anarchy, and by that I mean the freedom and liberty from “leaders”, bureaucracies and layers of government, so that we may all live our own lives, as we see fit, so long as we do not interfere with the right of others to do the same. I also feel that more people are waking up to this kind of way of thinking, as well as becoming more spiritual. I do recognize, though, that it is a painfully slow process of evolution, and one that seems to have more steps backwards than forwards, to get to this point of existence for humanity, but I believe will will get there sometime in the future, (likely long after this physical body has become ancient dust).

I am going to try to get back to blogging and tweeting, but it will be without any regularity and with this more enlightened, (for want of a better word), point of perspective…

Growing Up. Changing Attitude.

Sitting on the porch, sipping coffee, contemplating life and realizing I am slowly learning life’s lessons, but they are very expensive ones that leave me indebted in ways I never thought imaginable and to which I can only strive to repay.

Some of the problem is the transition between being a man of limited thoughts and ideologies to one of free thoughts, ideas and actions. The Christianity I absorbed by osmosis growing up and the Wicca I dabbled in in my 20s both have a theme in common with the idea of a life of unrestricted freedom: as long as you are not hurting others with your actions, go ahead and do what you want. It’s an idea I’ve always adhered to but it seems to get harder and harder to live up to it.

Despite this mature outlook to life it feels like only now, at 40+, as certain aspects of my life feel out of my control or out of synch with the way I want to live my life, am I growing up! Isn’t that meant to happen, magically, at 18 or 21? Life just hasn’t been that idealized image for me of a school-college-job-marriage-kids-promotion-big house and car-… progression and I realize now that somewhere in my subconscious this has bothered me and greatly influenced the situation I find myself in, (how could it not, right?).

Only once in my life have I jumped into a situation without fear and procrastination, (which on reflection, are very similar), and I gained so much from that, but I’ve let the good I gained become tainted with my old ways, which have only amplified the way things are.

Last night my wife and I were talking about it and we realized that in a lot of life’s situations, people have a tendency to “bury their head in the sand”, until suddenly, the problem they’ve been avoiding becomes real. We live reactive lives rather than proactive lives.

From here, the mentality I’m aiming to achieve and maintain is one of seeing and planning and doing, not of dreaming and hoping and waiting. Only I can rectify the things I see as detrimental in my behavior and outlook. As much as others in my life may want to help, it is only up to me to do it. And only me.

Just Not Happenening…

I finished my last entry with the line

I think it is time I looked over them all, pick one and take the plunge, finally listen to the decades old advice of my family and start regaining that self-worth I’ve been missing for so long…

Come on, its easy, right…

  1. Pick an idea.
  2. Open up a Kickstarter or Indiegogo page to raise $$$.
  3. Sell product(s) on Etsy, etc.
  4. Make some money.

Like I said. Easy.

Except during part 2., a panic attack sets in immediately on opening the websites in a tab. And I get a similar reaction during job applications, as the idea that I’d get called for an interview terrifies me so much, just thinking about it as I’m writing this is causing me to feel short of breath and tight of chest.

Time To Succumb And Jack In The Cubicle…?

I’ve been unemployed a good long while now. Being unemployed as a married man with commitments is different to when I was in the same circumstances as a young twenty-something, still living at home with Mum. Being unemployed as a married man is depressing.

Sorry. That’s the truth of it.

In 2007, I was desperately looking around for another job whilst working out the remaining time with a company in a position they had had the great idea of outsourcing to an Asian country. For once, I lucked out. I went in for aptitude testing and an interview for an administrative-based job with a company closer to home, (literally a five minute drive away), and came out with a second interview date for a position completely not related to general clerical work, which eventually lead to a great offer, which I accepted. I finally felt things were going my way, but then the crash of 2008 hit and eventually our team was pared down like so many other in the company had been before us, and I was gone.

I took the opportunity to be an SAHD, but the blow to my career ego and self belief was huge. Almost two years later, I eventually found a temporary position on a project with the company I had left in 2007 and my self belief was so low I was very nervous. To overcome these jitters, I took to wearing a shirt and tie to the job, instead of the business casual the company allows. I jokingly told everyone it was because I was aiming to be taken back as a permanent employee with the corner office and important meetings.

“Dress for the job you want!” I would say, managing to force a twinkle in my eye.

The reality was different. Once we were in our cubicles I felt a strange juxtaposition. I found myself loath to standing up, for whatever reason, thus enabling me to see across the tundra of the powder blue cubicle tops, yet it took no time at all for the cubicle walls to feel stifling. I remember one time standing there, during our designated break time, watching the people scurry from their 6’x6′ pieces of corporate real estate and thinking, “This is it?”. It wasn’t what I wanted for myself. I was missing my family every hour I was away from them and the special needs of our eldest made me nervous about being so far from home…

Maybe the day I first stood there with these thoughts in my head was the day I sabotaged myself, because as soon as the project was winding down and they were looking around for the dead wood to drop from the project, I was front and center, apparently.

I was a SAHD, once more and, for a while, things were good. But then the money started to run out and soon we were living moment to moment, staggering the payments of utility bills, and eeking out every last cent when grocery shopping – Manager’s Special is the name of the farm we get all our meats from!

I’m starting to get a few nibbles, so maybe the economy is finally turning around, like they say, but its all been very depressing. The damage from 2009 cracked the very foundations of how I perceived myself and the walls have just crumbled these last couple of years. Even just the mere thought that someone might want me to go for an interview makes me short of breath, the thought of being in a cubicle, once more tightens my throat, and the thought of answering ‘phones makes me want to find a dark corner and assume a fetal position, complete with soft sobs.

Through all these five years of despair, there have been plenty of people I’ve thrown the blame at – the managers, the bosses, the politicians – but I also accepted my own role early on.

Maybe, as an immigrant, maybe I don’t have that American “gene” – my Naturalization papers apparently didn’t come with a free course of “Kick Ass” injections or free sessions with a “Go Get ‘Em” counselor that Americans apparently get from birth!

Maybe I’m built differently. It seems many Americans people the world over accept their lot in life and do what’s needed to keep it going or improve it, but all I found myself doing was wallowing in a vicious circle of inner self loathing and unbelief.

About thirty years ago, I started cooking in my mother’s kitchen. I was always a little adventurous out there, and remember that early on I was reaching for the recipes my Mum wouldn’t bother with – like most mothers, at least when I was a kid, she could cook great tasting food, but its variance and adventurousness was minimal – and I remember pulling souffles, gingerbread loaves and trays of very sticky treacle toffee out of her oven. I still love cooking. I burst with pride that someone I love has told me that the dish or cake I just cooked was awesome. It doesn’t have to be fancy and most always never has a recipe, after the first couple of attempts.

Before I left the UK in 2000 one of the most popular tv shows was on in the mid-afternoon, aimed squarely at the SAHMs whose darling little angels would soon be home from school, ready to empty the pantry and refrigerator. Ready, Steady… Cook! took two “celebrity” chefs, two audience members with about ten quids’ worth of groceries and twenty minutes to knock out a meal. The first time I saw it, I loved the show, used its formula of “groceries + ((basics + staples)on hand)” from then on and I still mostly cook like that.

My Dad would call me “Tony Stopani”, after a local West Country tv “celebrity” chef from the 60’s & 70’s. I would happily sit for an hour or more, thumbing through Mum’s cookbooks, whether a modern offering from the OXO stock cube company, a Reader’s Digest recipe card collection from the late 60’s or the Mrs. Beeton’s book from 1926 that Mum got when her Mother-in-Law passed away. When the all-boys school I attended for my secondary education decided to offer a CSE level Catering course, I jumped at the chance and was in one of the first two classes in our school.

Catering was always a suggestion on peoples’ lips around the time it came to choose career paths. I was more interested in the sciences, though being the poor scholar I am, I failed them. Miserably. By the end of Sixth Form, all I needed was any passing grade in my Biology “A” level – my last remaining course, and a subject I still love to read about, to this day – but it wasn’t to be. My train of thought was that if I didn’t know it by the time of the exam, “swotting” for two weeks beforehand wouldn’t help. Besides, spending free Summer days on the town’s beach, eyeing the girls and splashing around like kids seemed much preferable. A classic example of youth wasted on the young…

Anyway… catering…

All I could see when I heard the word catering or chef was long hours in a hot kitchen, getting rude customers whining about the food you just spent hours preparing and cooking. My reticence to go into this field was probably helped, too, by my “work experience” for my CSE which consisted of two weeks – or maybe it was one week that just felt like two! – in the increasingly dilapidated, soon-after-that-closed holiday camp – Billy Butlin had had the sense to get out of there before the place finally died – in the touristy part of town, where my jobs were running the dishwashers and using the kitchen scissors to cut up roasted chickens into the ubiquitous quarters so beloved in British “cafes”. In contrast, the only other work experience I had provided for me, as part of my studies, was a week in the local Dow Chemicals plant, using x-ray spectroscopes and gas chromometers and all other manner of cool toys. Catering? Nah… a mugs game. Science it was for me.

The bravado and self-assurance of youth rode roughshod over commonsense and perspective.

Of course, now I live “Stateside”, I miss good old British cooking, on occasion. Fare like steak & kidney pie, faggots & peas – if the name of that dish offends you I suggest you Google it – bara brith, Dundee cake and bangers & mash aren’t very likely to be on the menu at your nearest Denny’s or pre-prepared and sat in the freezer section at your local Wal-Mart.

Over the years I’ve had many business ideas. If I were to guesstimate, about one-third have been based around food. I think it is time I looked over them all, pick one and take the plunge, finally listen to the decades old advice of my family and start regaining that self-worth I’ve been missing for so long…

Maybe Arthur Jesus Is Better Than None!

In late 2009, I lost a pretty incredible job. It wasn’t the paid at the top rate in its industry, by any means, but it was the best wage I’d ever earned and it was a job that I was a natural fit for, (in fact, I had applied and interviewed for a different position, but some test results had the HR and management at the company ask me to me re-interview, for this other job!). The people were, on the whole, great, the work enjoyable and it was a short 10-minute commute. Then the economy started crashing and that was that. Lay-offs started and being fairly new to the company and not the most productive, (I can do high quality work, but it is apparently low in quantity), the axe fell upon my corporate neck. In those four-and-a-half years I’ve worked a total of seven months.

My wife & I sit, and plan and talk about all the stuff we want to do around here – the little businesses we want to start; the landscaping of our double lot into a self sufficient, crop growing wonderland – but it never happens. Most likely wont happen here, now, either.

The depression is terrible. It kills everything.

It hasn’t helped that, quite literally the only risk I’ve ever taken is coming to the USA to see if the internet romance we started could work in real life. My natural propensity is to have an idea, only to almost immediately dismiss it as a failure. Depression just makes this happen much quicker. So quick that anymore even mid-idea the vision of its total failure fills my mind and the thought dissipates.

I know I’m better than this. I am certain my wife and kids deserve more than this. But I just feel so lost in this whirlwind of life.

Sometimes I see the downturn in my fortunes and demeanor and that of this country and wonder… am I the King Arthur to the USA’s ancient Britain?! The apparent death of my homeownership on Good Friday has also made me wonder if this means that in three days I will rise from “the dead”. Maybe I’m just being delusional. Maybe its my mind just looking for patterns, as you do when looking at the whorls in a piece of polished wood and see the eyes and ghosts. Maybe all I need is to find that Holy Grail or to have someone roll away that stone. (Just noticed another link there, between the Holy Grail and Easter).

Oddly, the fog of depression and resignation has lifted a touch, as I write these words. Strange…

I Dreamed An American Dream…

There was a time when life seemed kind
Its circumstances soft
And the future inviting
There was a time when life was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed an American dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that youth would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid
So American dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

As I grew up, it turned the tide
And filled my days with endless stresses
It took my childhood in his stride
But it was gone when hard times came
And still I dream it’ll come to me
That I will live the good years again
But these are American dreams that might not be
And there are storms we might not weather

I had an American dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The American dream I dreamed

Woe, Woe and Thrice Woe…

Well, well…

As if one of my recent entries, concerning our financial situation, wasn’t whiny and self-centered enough, in Monday’s mail we got two awesome letters that will provide more “woe is me” drama.

Firstly, I managed to get our disconnection notice for our natural gas delayed two weeks. That was the good part, the bad part of this is that in a letter we received Monday, we have to pay the whole outstanding amount, ($400+), not the $180+ they were asking for to prevent disconnection.

Oh, but then the icing on the I-can’t-see-a-way-out-of-this-shit life situation I have lead myself into, dragging my wife and kids with me. Two letters from the lawyers office dealing with our foreclosure. Been waiting for this for a while, wondering when the process would restart. Oh… its restarted, alright. Restart, as in, picked up from where we left off, before the forebearance agreement. We have a date, next month, for the Sheriff’s sale of our house. I was fully expecting a restart of the process, not a continuation.

Fuck.

I don’t suppose the government will bail me out, like a Wall Street bank, will they? It’ll cost a fraction of the amount, (barely $25k should do…).

This house is, like my life, full of clutter and needing a damn good renovation. Just don’t know where to start, in either case.

I’d shake my old coffee can, but I doubt it would find $25k in it by the end of the month…

Wait… shit happens in threes, right? Oh, by the Gods…

*sigh*

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