Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Shattered Mirror of Unforgiveness

I was laid off a few weeks ago but am just blogging about it now. I guess I had to let it all sink in and have the seething feeling simmer away.

“We’re having cash flow problems,” She said. “She” being in " " as an off-handed way to refer to the owner of the company without using her name. Like Elizabeth Edwards, the betrayed wife of John Edwards, failed vice-presidential candidate, I don’t feel like using the business owner’s name. Not for the purpose of protecting her identity… Oh, no…

When Oprah interviewed Mrs. Edwards, her condition for appearing on the show was that Rielle Hunter’s name, John Edwards’ other woman, would not be spoken on air. I get that. Even though Mrs. Edwards’ higher self projects forgiveness and resilience, there’s that human part of her that rears its imperfect self and refuses to acknowledge the existence of the woman that brought shame, pain and anguish to her seemingly ideal marriage.

I was pissed to get the news of my lay off, quite understandably.

But more pissed because just the day before I had made a successful presentation to a potential big client, a client that would have been a rich source of referrals for her private duty in-home health care company for seniors. This client would have been unreachable and inaccessible to “Her." She is incapable of articulating her business services in grammatically correct English. Can you feel my derision?

I was pissed to get laid-off yet again, twice within the past year. I can’t take any more of this. I’ve gone through enough already.

I was even more pissed because the week before I did a bang-up job giving a PowerPoint presentation to the Case Management department of a huge Napa hospital, a task she could never have accomplished on her own because of her deathly fear of public speaking. Couple that fear with her cringe-inciting English, why-a, that would have killed any future business referrals, for sure. Am I oozing bitterness?

Ghandi said that and he was right. Why do I think that pointing out the shortcomings of another would boost my own stature?

All I’m doing by demeaning someone else is painting an unflattering image of myself. It gives me momentary pleasure, for sure. Like loosening a valve and letting some steam escape. It may relieve the pressure but the heat could sear my own skin. How can I bear to look at this image of myself spitting bile? Might as well walk around with snot and saliva dripping on my chin, wear tattered clothes and dirty underwear.

I’m glad I recognize the taste, smell, physical discomfort and ugliness of these human emotions. It serves as my internal guidance system for what I need to work on spiritually.

If truth be told, I’m more pissed at myself for having taken the job out of desperation. I have only myself to blame for selling out and giving my services away for “free.” From a six-figure income I allowed myself to accept a nothing-job so I could pay the rent. My anger towards her is nothing more than unforgiveness of myself turned outward.

I forgive myself and resolve never again to diminish my own worth. I forgive myself for getting pissed off and externalizing it. I forgive myself for sounding ungrateful, however fleetingly. After all, the experience has opened my eyes and cracked open my heart. Sometimes the work of enlightenment means having to see your wholeness through the shattered glass of unforgiveness.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Owe, I Owe…So Off To Work I Go!

I recently took a position as Marketing Director for ComForcare Senior Services, a private duty home health care agency focusing on elder care. While the title sounds hoity-toity, I suffered a severe hit in salary, with scanty potential for monetary rewards. But the upside is unquantifiable.

We can choose to experience the downside of the situation, or enjoy the upside. Traffic on my commute…

We can choose to focus on the withered tree, or see the beauty of the scenery…

We can bemoan the crushing bane of life, or praise the blessing on the vine…

When life looks like it's hurling one thing after yet another, we can always choose to see blessing after blessing. And so it always is.

"People do not seem to realize that their 
opinion of the world is also a confession of character." 
~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 12, 2009

Anonymous Woman

(Author's note: This blogpost is a draft, a work in progress. I wanted to write down my thoughts about Anonymous Woman before the experience, emotions and impressions fade into oblivion. By posting this draft, I am signaling my intention to memorialize her.)

I had seen her once or twice before, sitting on a green canvas folding chair, the kind with armrests with scooped out pockets for beverage holders.  Once in summer I saw her under a skimpy tree seeking shade from the scathing sun.  She was a passing blur in my peripheral vision, old and obese, and black as a prune.  Her ashy gray calves as big-around as tree trunks left a dent in my memory.


She is anonymous to the world, a homeless woman, living on the sidewalk under a tree or the eave of an abandoned building.  Cars drive past her without slowing down, the same way I drove past her once in the summer and again in the fall. 


On Christmas Day I saw her right smack in front of me as I turned on Tennessee Street towards the 80 freeway.  It was a beautiful winter day in the bay area, sunny and bright, beautiful but bone-chillingly cold.  She sat in the sidewalk on her folding chair like a lump of overstuffed trash, covered by a dirty gray fleece blanket from head to toe, except for slits for her eyes.  

My heart broke. 


No, I thought.  Not on Christmas Day.  Not on a day when families were cozy and comfortable in their homes, opening presents, feasting heartily, heavily, indulgingly. But now I was running late for lunch and a movie date with my closest friends.  I headed out to Oakland with a humbling sense of gratitude.  There but for the grace of God go I.  I told myself I would come back that night and get her, feed her. 

(To be continued..)



Sunday, January 4, 2009

From Dawn To Dusk

“However long the night, the dawn will break.” 
-- African Proverb

“Too low they build who build below the skies.” 
-- Edward Young

"Let the sky and God be our limit and eternity our measurement.” 
-- Marcus Garvey

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky." 
-- Rumi

"Thank God men cannot fly, 
and lay waste the sky as well as the earth." 
-- Henry David Thoreau

“When you realize how perfect everything is 
you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky." 
-- Buddha

"I thank you, God, for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, 
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, 
which is infinite, which is yes. " 
-- e.e. cummings

“Beware of the man whose God is in the skies” 
-- George Bernard Shaw

“Dusk is just an illusion because the sun is either above the horizon or below it. 
And that means that day and night are linked in a way that few things are; 
there cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. 
How would it feel to be always together, yet forever apart?” 
-- Anonymous

“What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, 
and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, 
all in the same sequence.  The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned 
and you with it, dust of the dust!'  Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 
'Never have I heard anything more divine'?” 
-- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Excuse me while I kiss the sky."  
-- Jimi Hendrix

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Arnold's Walk In The Hood

It's a joy to walk Arnold in my neighborhood.   We love the giant sycamores lining the streets. The walk is as much for me as it is for him.  In fact, without him I wouldn't walk as much.  

I often hear myself saying, "I'm taking Arnold for a walk" instead of "I'm going for a walk."  It's more fun with him.

Arnold looks to his left before crossing.

A well-manicured front lawn and facade...

Amazing color!

The first poem I ever memorized was "Come Little Leaves" by George Cooper.  I was 6 or 7  in Grade 2 at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo, Japan.  Even now I still mumble the words to myself when I see brilliant fall color...

"Come, little leaves" said the wind one day,
"Come over the meadows with me, and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold."

Pit stop!

This blue door always catches my eye.  

And this majestic Tudor commands attention.

"Sit, stay," Mom says, as she takes photos.  I would normally keep walking to the
 nearest bush but by this time I'm too tired...

I love this white-picketed Hansel & Gretel house and its side yard...

And rounding the curb is this nice tropical red hot chili pepper house...

Homeward bound... 

"Look, Ma!  No hands!"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Brand New Day

“Hey, c’mon over and share a glass of champagne with me,” my neighbor Michelle said the minute she heard my voice on the phone.

Looking up at my wall clock, I said, “Now!?!?!”  It was a little past 6 PM, a long way to go before the ball drop.  

“Why not?”  Michelle said, matter of factly, “It’s new year in some part of the world!”

“Okay! I’ll be right over!”


I stopped vacuuming and bungie-corded the fridge.  Arnold, my five-year-old newfy opens my fridge and eats everything on the shelves while I’m away.  I had a box of Omaha steak defrosting in there, a special gift from my friend Jonie, and I wanted it for myself when I got back.

The vacuuming and housecleaning is a family tradition leftover from childhood.  The idea is to welcome the new year without the literal dust and figurative detritus of the past.  My mom always instructed our domestic help to clean every nook and cranny of our house every year in preparation for the new year.  As midnight approached, all the lights were turned on to help guide good spirits into the house, and all the windows were opened wide to cast evil spirits out.

How silly and superstitious, right?  Nevertheless, I still observe the practice to this day and by now it has hardened into a personal ritual.  I guess throwing the old pages of a calendar outside building windows holds the same symbolism.

It was an impromptu celebration.  I thought I was just coming over for a quick toast but Michelle’s friend Bill came over shortly and pretty soon we were all settled comfortably in cushy, cozy sofas chatting around a  roaring fire.   


Thirty minutes before midnight we switched the channel on to NBC to watch the ball drop.  Times  Square was aglow with neon lights.  Celebrities were clad in their holiday best.   Crowds were cheering and rocking to the sounds of Ting Ting and Ludacris.  The camera panned to people wearing funny hats and glittery 2009 glasses.  It looked so festive! 


I was there last year.  I had watched the ball drop from Times Square for decades.  When I had the chance to fly to New York last year, I made sure I would be at Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  The experience was not what I had hoped.   I blogged about it here.  


When the countdown started Michelle and Bill poured the champagne and I filled my fluted glass with the last half of my diet coke.  We stood up and clinked glasses, toasted, screamed Happy New Year and hugged one another tight.


It was a sincere heartwarming moment.  We were cozy and comfortable by the fire.  We forged new friendships.  We were where we were meant to be --  living and loving the now.


Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the 
Verities and Realities of your Existence.
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And Tomorrow is only a Vision;
But Today well lived makes 
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Anecdotal Woman

Even though I’m between assignments at the moment I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been. When I’m working full-time I do nothing but work, and everything else falls apart. Laundry and dishes pile up; dog and cat hair turn into furry tumbleweed on the floor; resumes, books, magazines, and receipts are strewn everywhere and cover every flat surface.

Now that I have the luxury to decompress, I find a gazillion things to do. I often wonder how women ever get anything done. It boggles my mind to see women juggle work, family, household chores, and all the other things women do.

Sometimes when I see a mom at the supermarket with an infant strapped on her chest, a kid in tow, a toddler on a stroller, bags of groceries hanging from both arms and stroller handles, bags piled on top of the toddler, I shake my head in wonderment. And Sarah Palin thinks she can do all that and be VP? Well, I guess if you a have a staff that you can fire at will, then anything is possible.

I’m starting a series of posts that I’m calling Anecdotal Woman about women I’ve met along the way who have left an impression on me (good, bad or indifferent). They will all be called Maya because Maya means illusion. The illusion is that of separation. But the truth is there is only One of us. Your triumph is my triumph. Your failure is mine. Your joy is my joy; your sorrow, mine.

There but for the Grace of God go I.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\,
noun (German): A malicious satisfaction
obtained from the misfortunes of others.

Forgive me, God. I thought I was above all this. I thought my heart was filled with nothing but compassion. Last Friday I watched The McLaughlin Group (like I always do), and the pugnacious host John McLaughlin ticked off the declining fortunes of some famous billionaires and fallen CEO’s. I could not help but chuckle with guilt-free glee.

From the transcript:

Henry Paulson, former CEO, Goldman Sachs, current secretary of the Treasury, from $809 million to $523 million.

Daniel Mudd, former CEO, Fannie Mae, $26 million to $476,000.

Richard Syron, former CEO, Freddie Mac, $11 million to

Martin Sullivan, AIG, $3.2 million to $173,000.

John Thain, Merrill Lynch, $28 million to $16 million.

Richard Fuld Jr., Lehman Brothers, $827 million to $2.3

John Mack, Morgan Stanley, $225 million to $80 million.

Charles Prince, Citigroup, $89 million to $33 million.

And get this -- James Cayne, Bear Stearns, $1.1 billion --
that's "b" as in "boy," billion -- to $61 million.

And get this -- Maurice Greenberg, AIG, $1.25 billion -- that's
"b" as in "boy," billion -- to $50 million.

How ticklishly delicious to imagine the misfortune of those greedy assholes! How fun it is to type "greedy assholes" without moral misgivings!

As the German proverb goes:

“To feel envy is human;

to savor schadenfreude is devilish!”

Cartoons courtesy of The New Yorker

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Atheists In The Foxhole

Yesterday I got an email from a recruiter friend announcing his availability for a new position and directing interested parties to a website where the company’s resume book would be available. Blah-blah-blah. There was the euphemistic “company restructuring”, “impacted employees”, blah-blah-blah. My heart bleeds for him. Really. I know how it is.

Out of loyalty to the company who just axed you -- mind you! -- you put the best spin on the situation, not just as a face saving mechanism and for your own psychic wellness, but just as much for those candidates you’ve ushered into the pipeline of the hiring process. It’s an ethical dilemma.

His email was quite a surprise because just the week before this recruiter friend gave me a shout out – “Hey! Know any scientists with skeletal muscle biology experience?”

Now this. News of his lay-off. I guess it was inevitable. Even before the NYSE opened on Monday morning the cable news channels were already abuzz with the crash of Lehman Bros., the imminent buy-out of Merrill Lynch, and the looming failure of AIG. Employees with bankers’ boxes packed with their personal belongings where shown leaving the building at midnight. Needless to say, Elvis left the building in a golden parachute.

600,000 out of a job in the last eight months alone! I’m not even included in that statistic because I haven’t applied for unemployment. How many more are out there like me, holding off on EDD, with faith in God and the eternal flame of optimism in their hearts that the next gig is just around the corner? What’s the real unemployment number? I got two weeks severance for a job well done, taxed at 25%. Whoop-tee-doo. Carly Fiorina got $42 mil for a job badly botched. I was finding work for people; Ms. Piggy in lipstick was offshoring them.

My inner sense of justice tells me that the Church of Greed and the worship of the Almighty Dollar are on the wane. I pray fervently that this financial Armageddon drives the atheists out of my foxhole.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Step down, Joe… Step up, Hillary!

I had a vision during my early morning meditation today. In the same way that Hillary Clinton backed away with grace and class to nominate Barack by acclamation, I saw Joe Biden abdicate his VP slot to Hillary for the highest good of taking back the White House.

Why not? It would truly be a revolution, and it seems that that is what’s needed now to storm the Bastille and free the American people from the ravages of the last 8 years. “Enough!” would be the battle cry.

Seriously, why not? I’m just a laid-off worker from a sleepy town in Northern California. I don’t know the arcane and archaic rules of the DNC, but what’s to prevent Joe Biden from stepping down on his own? Debbie Wasserman Shultz can make a hasty nomination for Hillary as VP and Nancy Pelosi can just as quickly gavel it to order.

Imagine this – Hillary Clinton debating Sarah Palin on foreign policy, national security, universal health care, the economy, jobs, stem cell research, choice, and so on. Sarah would Palin comparison. Indeed, the hottest governor would most certainly melt from the heat. Why play phony lipstick politics when we can have the real deal? This would stare sexism down, give women a real choice, and truly make this election herstoric.

“Change is coming, change is coming, change is coming,” wags McCain. I bet this is one change he would not have seen coming.

Let’s shake things up one more time. Step down, Joe… Step up, Hillary!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Conviction of Things Unseen

I haven’t posted in a while. Life has been too full, too hectic, too fast, quickly wheezing by. Every time I remember to write, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to sift through in my own mind to find that which is blog-worthy.

Last Saturday I accomplished so much in just one day that I felt I had to memorialize the moment. That night I sat in front of my laptop but the deluge of ideas quickly overtook me. I slumped back in my chair, exhaled and released the urge to write. It was the path of least resistance. Sitting and sifting would’ve been the harder thing to do.

I have deep respect for authors, literary and otherwise. I now understand the absolute discipline and drive to do the dang and dirty deed. Incidentally, when I was growing up my parents, who were both writers, never seemed to lift a finger and appeared to my young eyes like people of leisure. I never saw them sweat over a typewriter. To write a book is still my absolute, ultimate goal, and I know someday I will. I cannot escape the on switch in my genes. In the meantime, living day-to-day is the book I write in invisible ink.

Yesterday our guest speaker Rev. Robert Collins spoke about moments worth remembering – moments of joy, moments of sorrow, moments of consequence and impact, moments of limbo and nothingness.

Rev. Robert reminded us that summer is nearing its end. He invited us to observe more closely how a leaf just gently detaches from the tree at the end of its season, and ever so slowly and gracefully drifts with the wind without resistance, softly falling and landing wherever fate takes it.

Two weeks ago I was given notice that the economic slowdown had taken its toll on my company and five of us were being let go at the end of the month. There was soft mention of project re-assignment but no cigars.

My first thought was, “Oh, no.” I felt the physical reaction of my gut turning inside out. I just moved into a new house two months ago, and there are inescapable recurring bills, necessary expenses and unforeseen emergencies. A lay-off now couldn’t have come at the worst time. As a recruiter, if companies are slowing down and hiring is frozen, what need is there for my expertise?

But looking back on my life, no matter how difficult and seemingly crushing certain circumstances have been, I’ve always come out stronger, wiser, whole and at peace.

I may be feeling a little resistance about giving up my job and holding on to the "safety" in it, but the metaphor of the falling leaf reminds me that God, the forces and resources of the universe – call it what you will -- are present in this circumstance. I have learned that one end is merely the beginning of another. I have learned to roll with the punches, to gently blow in the wind, so to speak, and I know there is nothing to fear in the landing.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Monday, July 28, 2008

Garlic Ice Cream, Anyone?

The 30th Gilroy Garlic Festival was a hit again this year. The empty Green Lot, one of many giant parking fields, filled up in minutes. If you build it, they will come...

It was a food fest of mega-proportions! 10 tons of beef, 4 tons of pasta, 2 ½ tons of garlic...

...4 tons of calamari, 2 tons of scampi...

...Pollo y mas pollo…

Garlic ice cream, anyone?

Pyro chefs at the cook fest...

Siesta time!

Shop until you drop! How 'bout some garlic haberdashery?

Garlic head!

What’s a California fair without the tie dye?

And what about a tat?

It’s not just the garlic roasting… at temperatures nearing triple digits, we need rain!

That's it! Time to call it a day...