Tuesday, January 10, 2012

what i’ve learned (so far) while not working

In late November 2011, I resigned from my full-time position as president of a small career college in Pennsylvania. I made the decision to do this because I wanted to be back in the Atlanta area to be closer to family. It has taken longer to get relocated than I had anticipated, however, so I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.

I’ve watched a lot of television: 
  •  There are at least 18 different pills you can order direct from the manufacturer (but can’t buy in any store) that will allow you to lose a lot of weight without making any changes to your diet or exercise routine. Many of them have “miracles” attached to them. Clearly they work because each advertisement is accompanied by photos of women (and a few men) back when they were fat and right now, wearing their skinny clothes. Typically, they looked sad and pale and wore tan colored clothing when they were fat. But now that they are miraculously skinny, they smile a lot and wear primary colors. Although I am a few pounds heavier than I should be, I can’t see spending money on these pills, even though it is exciting to think that I could lose weight while sitting on my ass in my recliner eating bacon, lasagna and ice cream.
  •  Medicare is not enough. I know this because supplemental insurance is offered by multiple companies. The spokespeople sound very urgent and the seniors who tell their stories are very compelling. I will not be eligible for Medicare for quite some time, but I am glad that I have this advance warning about the inadequacy of Medicare.
  • There are some amazing kitchen gadgets out there. Usually, you can get two, even if you only pay for one. Interestingly enough, many of these gadgets have “miracles” attached to them too. I’m not sure how often I have managed a miracle while standing in my kitchen preparing dinner, so maybe one of these gadgets would help. But again, since I currently have no income, I can’t justify spending the money on a gadget, no matter how many miracles it can perform.
  •  If I fall down, I will regret that I am not wearing a button around my neck with which to summon an emergency response team. It’s always interesting to me how young and handsome emergency response team members are when they are portrayed on television, both in commercials and on television dramas. Clearly, if this were true, I would buy that button right now and begin summoning teams of good-looking, muscular men right away. But I know this is just a ruse. I’ve seen emergency response teams in real life. They look just like … well … me. 
  • That actress from Glee, Jane Lynch, is in a lot of television commercials. I deduce from this that she is a very intelligent woman. She knows her time in the spotlight is probably limited and she is putting money in the bank any which way she can while she has the opportunity. I like her, but I really hate her commercials. She is entirely too perky for daytime television.
  •  It is possible to watch three or more television programs simultaneously. When I grew weary of commercials for diet pills, Medicare supplemental insurance, kitchen gadgets and whatever Jane Lynch was selling, I started changing the channel as soon as the commercial came on. I found that I could find at least one other good program to watch until the program on the original channel came back on. The only problem was that sometimes the commercials overlapped and I found myself watching a third show and maybe even a fourth. Unfortunately, I found that when I got up to four, I sometimes forgot what the first show was. I remember getting caught up in Dog The Bounty Hunter, 48 Hours and A Baby Story and completely forgetting that I was watching House Hunters International. I never did see which house in the Dominican Republic that couple selected. I would have gone with the one with multiple views of the ocean and the open floor plan.
Other than television, I have also spent a good deal of time on my computer.
  • Minesweeper is still fun. I had forgotten all about this game! (8, 46 and 184. I know that isn’t great. It’s been a while!)
  •  The people who play World of Warcraft during the day are very different from the people I have been used to playing with on the weekends. In general, WoW players fall into several categories. There are pre-adolescent boys who play extremely fast, wiping out monsters and enemies left and right while I’m still trying to figure out what the objective is. (These boys also get carried away with the anonymity of WoW and say and do some spectacularly stupid things, then can’t back down to save their lives. I’ve witnessed some brutal verbal take-downs when they get into an altercation with an adult who has no empathic understanding or memory of what it’s like to be a 12 year old male.) There are adult male computer geeks who play WoW every minute they are not doing essential things like earning a living. These are the two groups I have been used to playing the game with on weekends. But the people I play with during the day are different. There are a lot more female players during the day. And there are older people playing. Although they are still primarily men, the testosterone levels are a lot lower. This can be a good thing when you are trying to all get along in a group. But it also means there are fewer kamikaze players who generally lead groups and get everyone through difficult times. So – fewer fights, but more situations where everyone gets wiped out.
  • Facebook is actually a wormhole.
  •  Stumbleupon.com is a really neat tool for finding interesting stuff. Sure, you have to click through some crap, but you will eventually be rewarded with something that will make your eyes grow wide. It will be something that you would never have seen no matter how many more decades you occupied space on this planet. And you will be glad that you kept clicking.
  •  Spotify has taught me that I have missed out on some really spectacular music because I was listening to my Ipod. Three songs in particular (so far) that I have found that are just amazing – Creep by Radiohead, Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams and Wake Up Alone by Amy Winehouse. (Younger people reading this are shaking their heads because these songs are already “old”.) I’m just amazed that I allowed myself to miss good music. I am a musician, for Pete’s sake. (I wonder who the heck Pete is?) I realize that I’ve allowed myself to gradually fade away from my musician days. So one of my resolutions for living in Atlanta is to find some people to make music with and to go listen to live music.
A few other random things:
  • The United States Postal Service employee who services my building gets very angry if I let a week’s worth of mail pile up in that little box downstairs. I know this because he happened to be in the lobby when I went down to get it one time. He delivered a stern lecture about how critically important it is to notify the post office when one is going to be out of town. When he was done, I briefly considered making up a story about a very sick neighbor for whom I was collecting mail, but decided that he really just needed a hug more than he needed an undeserved guilt trip. I didn’t give him the hug, though. He was carrying a huge ring of keys and I wasn’t sure exactly how on edge he was. I did not want to meet my demise in the lobby of this building.
  •  My cat sleeps a lot.
  • My apartment still needs cleaning almost as much today as it did six weeks ago. I always used work as an excuse for not having the energy to clean. I was too tired to clean, I told myself. Clearly, my face should be next to the word SLOTH in the dictionary. (I started to use ABLUTAPHOBIA there, but it includes a fear of bathing, which I do not have. And I can’t really claim to be afraid of cleaning.) I have done some cleaning, certainly more than I did over the last year. But there is still much to be done. But at least my toilet is white again. I need to step it up so I’m not stuck doing everything at the last minute after the movers come.
  • Time passes very slowly when you don’t do anything. I worked for the same company for just over nine years and it feels like it was three years. I’ve been out of work for six weeks and it feels like six months. It’s amazing. The European countries that have 3-6 weeks of vacation really know what they are doing. My body is more relaxed today than it has been in decades. I believe that the American work ethic is sick and it’s making Americans sick. I have no idea what the solution is. But I can clearly see the problem now. I was blind to it while I was working my butt off.
  •  I haven’t read nearly as much as I anticipated I would. I am surrounded by books that I have not read. But I haven’t finished a single book in the six weeks I have not been working. I’ve done more writing, however. I’ve also composed some music.
  •  I’ve rediscovered my cookbooks. I really, really love to cook. One of the things I am most looking forward to in Atlanta is hosting dinner parties for family and friends. Atlanta friends, hold me to this!!!
Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got to get back to the television. They’re having a Law & Order marathon on A&E and I don’t want to miss it. Have a great day! Or, if you’re still working, have a great ten minutes!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Sixteen wants love
Sixteen has been absorbing stories
about love
about being complete
about looking cute & sexy
about making music
Sixteen first meets you

Nineteen has dreams
Nineteen has been absorbing experiences
about love
about betrayal
about success
about learning
Nineteen falls in love with you

Twenty-one runs away
Twenty-one has no clue what she is doing
about life
about a future
about decision-making
about what to do with all this EMOTION
Twenty-one thinks about you from afar

Twenty-seven is married & pregnant
Twenty-seven is full of excitement
about the world
about the tiny life inside
about the husband who soothes and comforts
about helping those in need
Twenty-seven isn't even thinking about you

Thirty-two means a new divorce
Thirty-two means recovery
from painful reality
from a broken heart
from the need to control everything
from the expectation that love could fix anything
Thirty-two is answering the phone to hear your voice for the first time in 11 years

Forty-five's heart dances with excitement
Forty-five believes that FINALLY out of chaos will come deliverance
from part-time love
from never being sure of where a heart stands
from on again, off again, on again, off again bullshit
from being on the outside looking in
Forty-five is wrong, but doesn't know it yet and embraces you upon your arrival

Fifty is leaving
Fifty is determined to make a life
with joy
with financial security
with outward focus and inward strength
with warmth
Fifty is walking away from you, with one eye glancing over a shoulder

Fifty-three rests
Fifty-three takes stock and creates a new path
of freedom
of giving
of listening to God's voice
of metamorphosis
Fifty-three feels your hand trying to grasp the back of my shirt