What a super intense month it has been! An image came to me today of the whole earth shaking, as if an inconceivably large force from the cosmos is literally shaking our planet free from the forces of darkness that have gripped it for millennia. We are in the midst of unprecedented shifts on a collective level, and no one is immune from their effects. Are you feeling the intensity, dear Readers?
Here in the United States the most obvious example of shakeup is the presidential impeachment hearings. This week was extremely tense, as the House Judiciary Committee held long, bitter and contentious hearings to present the two articles of impeachment against President Trump. After two days of rancor, they finally voted early on Friday morning along perfect party lines. The vote on both articles was 23 ayes / yes (by all the Democratic members), and 17 no (by all the Republican members). The vote will move to the full House of Representatives next week.
Reflecting on the impeachment process over the course of the past month, a couple of points stand out. One is the degree of seriousness with which lawmakers and aides have treated the procedure, and the sheer amount of hard work that has gone into all the moving parts. It’s been fascinating to watch the spectacle unfold, produced by many people both behind and in front of the cameras and devices. I am struck again and again by the fact that, at its core, our government is made up of ordinary human beings who have chosen the work of governing one of the largest and most unwieldy governments on Earth. Aside from jibes and attacks from certain Republicans who complained repeatedly about the supposed farce of what they called a “waste of time and taxpayer money,” many people, from the House Intelligence Committee, to the Judiciary Committee, to those who read and commented on the news reports, care deeply about American values, its constitution, its democratic ideals, and the Rule of Law. The fight is about the interpretation of those ideals and rules. It’s a good time to be a government lawyer in Washington D.C. these days, as there is no shortage of work!
The other striking thing about this moment in time is, of course, the fact that the United States feels anything but united. In fact, I’d argue that it is as divided as it was before and during the Civil War of the mid-19th century. We seem to have entered into a new era of civil war, only now it is being fought on social media sites rather than physical battlefields in the southern states. The terminology is similar—battlefields, war chests, attacks, scorched earth, weaponization, casualties and so on. Families are divided about where they stand on the issues, and the future of our country and world. It has become so surreal that it appears we are no longer all living in the same reality. And yet, we all ARE living upon the same and only planet we all call Home.
We are in the midst of an impasse. People are moving ever further to the extremes of polarity and dualism. Unity, oneness, harmony, peace, justice and love are being violently overturned at every opportunity as the forces of separation and power-over-others jostle for the front spot on the world stage. This is occurring against a backdrop of the continuing destruction of our environment and unprecedented weather changes which are portending serious loss of life in the very near future. We are hurtling towards the cliff edge. And once we go over that cliff, the question is before us: What will happen next?
Today I walked in the peaceful park near my home. In one area were gathered about a hundred crows, having a large council meeting. Crows are such interesting birds. They are unintimidated by humans or most dogs, and their society appears very orderly and cooperative. Crows understand they are one family, all connected, and they cooperate with each other. Certain ones have particular roles, whether to be the guardian, the messenger, the speakers, perhaps the leaders. They never harm one another, rather they work together for their common good and safety. I have read of crows attacking humans or animals if they feel threatened. We have old stories passed down through history that paints crows in a similar light to wolves and other predators. Yet crows are generally peaceful birds, who have their own kind of society. For a fascinating look at crows, watch this video on Vimeo.
Human beings would do well to take some lessons from crow society. We are the only species on Earth that seeks to destroy itself and does not understand that we are one family, part of one another by virtue of the fact that we are all human. We have mastered amazing feats, learned how to do incredible things with our bodies, minds, and will. Yet, we still do not understand that our hearts are connected to all and each on this beloved planet. This is the underlying malady that is harming our species and our entire ecosystem, while seriously endangering our collective future. What will it take for us to finally awaken to the truth of who and what we are? To end the bitter polarity which divides and destroys us?
It is the end of this last year of this decade. In a couple of weeks, 2020 arrives. The start of a new decade, and an energetic reset button for Earth. It is a new opportunity to change for the better, to embrace our unity as humans on our planet and to bring compassion and empathy into our daily lives. My personal affirmation for the new year and new decade is that we all realize the truth of ourselves—we are One, there is no separation, we are a human family and it is time to end the enmity which has divided us for so long. We must cut the cords of deceit that have determined our destiny for far too long. Justice and truth must prevail now.
Ahh, September! The month that signals the end of summer, the start of the academic year, new projects, cooling breezes, blue skies and more grounded energies. I’ve always loved September.
This year is the first in the past few that I’ve not returned to classes since I graduated with my bachelor’s degree last December. Instead, I find myself with the intention of meeting my new, perfect, long-term professional work in the very near future. Sounds good, let’s get right on it!
Except that there’s a bit of a problem. I am one of those humans who has a very difficult time claiming to be an expert at any one particular thing. In fact, I’ve had several careers in my adult life that are seemingly unrelated. I’ve also done all sorts of paid work for money that could hardly be called a career. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’ve done what I needed to so I could keep my life and my family’s needs met and going as well as possible. There’s getting by, and then there’s that all-powerful, shiny, castle-on-the-hill word: Success.
Dear Readers, we all know that Success is a slippery slope by its very nature. It’s a word loaded with connotations in many directions, depending on who you are and your point of view. There’s worldly success, which is synonymous with money, fame, recognition, accomplishment at a career and all the trappings of such. We look to famous people we admire and believe they have achieved that shiny goal of worldly success. Then we might look at our own, much more humble lives, and wonder why we haven’t been able to achieve similar status. This is a familiar human pattern to many, and a painful one.
Throughout the years of my working life, I have come to know that my success at work is measured by a few key factors. They include: how happy am I when I’m at work? To what degree is the work itself interesting and worthy of keeping my focus and attention? Who are the people I’m working with, my colleagues, and how much do I enjoy being around them each day? Do I feel that the work I do there is making a positive difference to others and to the world? And, do I feel that my work and who I am as a person is valued and appreciated by the people I work with and for? These are important questions for all of us to ponder when considering a change in our worklife, or when doing the work of applying for new positions.
When I was preparing to finish my individualized degree program last year, I took a course to help promote my degree. The instructors emphasized the importance of memorizing our elevator pitch, the 30 second soundbyte version of what our degree is about. They even made us practice our elevator pitch in front of the class, which most of us managed well. In today’s internet-data driven world, even 30 seconds can feel like a long time. Technology seems to be relentlessly driving humans to do everything faster, including reading (mostly scanning), making decisions and yes, finding that ‘perfect, dream job’ that matches your skills, talents and deliverables with the needs and demands (often unreasonable) of the employer. As I search through job postings on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, it’s nearly unfathomable to me to read the sheer amount of skills, talents and experience many employers expect the candidates to possess. One could even argue that some employers are looking for superhuman (AI?) candidates who can perform super feats of amazingness on a daily and hourly basis, all the while keeping a smile on their faces, a can-do attitude and retaining grace under pressure all day, every day.
There’s a whole new language for these job descriptions, compared to even a decade ago. Deliverables, flexible, nimble (like Jack of nursery tale fame), passionate, innovative, strategic –we are at a point now where humans are expected to create a brand for themselves, the same as a business or corporation does. My personal brand? This might not strike some of you reading as strange if you are a Millennial or Gen Z person. But to someone like me, who remembers a world where people were simply people, and our name and a simple resume of who we are and the experience we bring was enough basis for a decision to interview, the new personal branding strategies smack of artificiality and egoism. (Think Michael Jackson and David Bowie, who basically pioneered the personal brand phenomenon a few decades back.) Here’s an example of a portion of one job description I read this week:
Creates strategies around vetting, developing and implementing identified priorities, Ensures successful implementation of all initiatives through the development of action items, performance measures, timelines and evaluation processes, Provides financial oversight of initiatives to ensure they stay within budgetary constraints, Oversees the implementation, necessary revisions, and data analysis of the Client Input Survey, Supports the necessary implementation and advocacy required for the success of the program
What makes you unique? What do you have to offer that no one else has? These are the kind of questions career coaches love to ask. In a world of nearly 7.8 billion humans, it is clearly becoming a little difficult to stand out as unique. Yes, we are all snowflakes, but at the same time, it’s not easy to see the individual beauty of one when standing in a field of billions. And when AI robotics are culling through thousands of resumes, looking for matches with certain words to determine if that human will make it to the next phase of the recruiting process, well it just takes all the fun out of the whole shebang!
One site I looked on today asked me straight up: What is your profession? Now that is a loaded question for a person like me. For someone who has had a straight path in their career, and has one solid title for what they do (think attorney, professor, executive director, musician, etc.) this is a no-brainer. But for those of us who have explored many different paths during their work lives, answering that question can bring anxiety. Indeed, what is my profession at this point in life?
I’d like to answer that for both myself and all of you still reading this post. It may take longer than 5 seconds, so be prepared for more than a soundbyte answer. Here goes:
My profession is in supporting humanity to awaken to their potential as more evolved, self-aware and compassionate beings than they currently are. There is greatness inside each human, but most are asleep to their vast potential as creators of their own lives and caretakers of Earth who is their source of life. My work is to offer ideas, suggestions, inspiration and information, in order to assist any and all humans who wish to awaken to the truth of who they are, and change their ways of living to be in harmony with that truth. This work involves a high degree of idealism, faith in human potential, and extreme courage. It requires a kind of strength of character and tolerance for human folly that takes a lifetime to cultivate. It is arduous, tedious, and even excruciating at moments. But the rewards, when actualized, are greater than most can currently imagine. This profession is one that many humans have taken up during this lifetime, once they awakened to the great need that humanity is facing.
Dear Readers, this is my profession. It’s not one I can tick in a list of boxes, nor quickly explain in an online application to be read by a computer bot. This is why it is so difficult for me to “find a job” or “create my dream career” as the coaches like to suggest. They simply don’t know what to do with people like me.
Once again, I’m reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us and the world will live as one.”
Hello Readers, it’s been a while since I engaged in the blogosphere. The past couple of months I’ve been working, both externally in the world and internally on myself, in deep and profound ways. This resulted in exhaustion on several levels, leaving me with no energy nor motivation to write blog posts. However, now that August has arrived, I’d like to share a story. If you are one of the readers who likes posts about the various climate crises and protests that I report on, you may want to skip this one. But for those who are interested in the personal narrative, I hope you will read on.
In mid-June, I left the College of Business at MSU Denver, bound for New Hampshire. I had gotten a gig as head cook for a family summer camp in the White Mountains, a place I’d never gone before and knew very little about. The interviews with the director had gone well, and so when offered the job, I accepted. Ready for an adventure, I boarded the plane in Denver with high hopes for a fun and busy summer working as the head of their kitchen.
With characteristic enthusiasm, I plunged right into the work. The camp was old, the buildings even older, and things seemed, let’s say, rustic and quaint from the start. The staff was an eclectic assortment of humans of various ages, genders, socio-economic backgrounds, spiritual beliefs and just about every other variant one could imagine. Most seemed kind, friendly and willing to help me learn the ropes. What I couldn’t have known then was that other, older and historical forces were also present, and would soon come into the comedy-drama that was about to unfold.
Let me set the scene. An old, large wooden lodge was the main building. Built on multiple levels, it contained a main floor with a wonderful wrap-around screened porch for guests to lounge, chat and relax. The office, kitchen and dining hall were on this level. Upstairs were guest rooms, named after historical people who’d been important to the camp in some way over the past nearly eighty years. Filled with dark, wood, antique furniture and old pictures, the rooms felt quaint, even charming and offered beautiful views of the nearby forest and mountain peak. There was an extra-long bathtub in one of the bathrooms, where a grown man would be able to lay in comfortably.
The ground level of the lodge housed the economy rate guest rooms, as well as several bathrooms, the laundry room, staff sink and fridge, and the cook’s room, a small room with a bed, dresser and writing table where I would sleep and hang out when not working upstairs. Once I swept up the cobwebs and mouse droppings in the corners, it seemed okay enough. The room was underneath the grain room, a corner of the kitchen area where bulk foods were kept and was the access to the walk-in refrigerator. Without getting deep into descriptions, remember that this place is decades old, and has not had any remodeling during at least the past few. This translates to old equipment, old surfaces, animals and insect populations residing in the walls and between floors, and the natural consequences of these. In other words, Trouble brewing.
Then there was the outside world to contend with. Coming from Colorado, I hadn’t given much thought to the perils inherent in a much more humid woodland area to live and work in for the summer. Big Mistake. The mosquitoes were thick from the moment I arrived, in a most unpleasant way. Alongside that, we were warned continually about the ticks which were everywhere there was grass or high weeds (which was all around the camp), and that there were both wood ticks and the more perilous deer ticks that carried Lyme disease. These ticks could be as small as a sesame seed, and once embedded within your flesh, chances are good of getting its debilitating disease without even knowing it and it can last for months or even years. Ugh. Not exactly the happiest welcoming committee for my first days on the job.
The directors had warned me that they were short-staffed, having had trouble finding enough young people to fill all their staff needs before the season opened. Because of this, our kitchen crew consisted of me, a 20 year old guy who had worked there the summer before, an older woman who was the stalwart volunteer for a few hours around dinner service each day, and then we’d see who else was willing and able to help out with prep for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. I quickly learned that the former cook (who had gone on to bigger and better kitchens) was some kind of bodhisattva-saint type character, loved by all and who offended none, kept her cool even under duress, stress and even gangsta rap couldn’t offend her. An impossible bar had been set, it seemed, and so trouble also began early on with the two who’d worked with her in previous years. Not only was I not a kitchen bodhisattva, but I tensed up under pressure (the closer to service time it got, the shorter my sentences became), couldn’t abide rap or other kinds of inappropriate musical genres, and my hygiene standards were considerably higher than those of previous chefs. The stage was set for interpersonal trouble from day one.
Then there were the ghosts. Like I said, this place was old, and there were lots of spirits hanging around, wreaking havoc big and small. They decided to have some fun with me, starting on day two. In the middle of the workday, I fell into a heap of black floor mats piled up in front of the ancient mop sink, which felt like falling into quicksand. It took all my strength to get back up, and I injured what I thought was my right arm at the time. However, the following morning, as I bent over to brush my teeth, my lower back went out as a girdle of pain stretched around my lumbar region. Yikes. That was the morning of day three. Then there were the fire alarms going off in the middle of the night, three nights in a row for no reason. Turns out, apparently the nearly million dollar, modern fire alarm system that was installed a few years back was so finely tuned that even an insect walking across the light beam (infrared?) would set it off (at least that’s the story we were told as to why it happened, repeatedly?). I am firmly of the belief that it was those mischievous ghosts messing with us. They probably thought it was hilarious fun to watch us all have to get up and go outside in the pouring rain at midnight for no reason.
There was also the strange phenomenon of time fluidity at the camp. One day could seem like several ordinary days anywhere else, all compressed into a continuum that seemed unending. Life for me there was ruled by the wall clocks (there were three, all showing different times) which told me when breakfast, staff lunch, guest lunch, staff dinner and guest dinner were supposed to be served. Often, I would begin work after the breakfast cook (fortunately most days we had one other than me) was finished serving, and stay in the kitchen until dinner cleanup was done. I averaged 12 hour workdays, and when I was on for breakfast shift, sometimes 14 hour days. Basically I showered, slept and hung out in my little room after the day was done, since going outside in the evening meant getting eaten alive by mosquitos, possibly bitten by ominous ticks, or engulfed in the rainstorms that occurred regularly.
Still, I was managing it all as best I could until the day the ovens stopped working two hours before dinner service. It was a Friday, which meant roasting forty pounds of cut chickens in six roasting pans, using all three of the old commercial gas ovens. After less than an hour in, two of the ovens decided to give up the ghost. I called the director to let him know what was happening. He later confided that he had smelled natural gas that morning, which clued him in to call the gas company to come fill the tank. But unfortunately it had slipped his mind as he got busy with other tasks. So on a Friday afternoon, when I was responsible for feeding over a hundred hungry guests and staff, we were down two ovens. I went into panic mode, and remembered there was a working oven in one of the guest houses up the hill. So I took the pans of chicken, wearing long oven mitts, and with my favorite helper we walked the pans over to the guest house oven and threw them in to roast off for another hour. Not to mention the tofu steaks for the vegan crowd. Then it poured down rain as I returned with the now-roasted chicken for service. We saved that dinner, but happy I was not. This was the end of week four, out of an eleven week contract (and I didn’t even mention the freezer going out the following day, which nobody mentioned to me until a couple days later as I noticed how soft the ice cream had become).
That night, laying exhausted in the bed, I had a good, long talk with myself. I realized that I was in the danger zone of exhaustion, while it wasn’t yet halfway through the summer. Up until that night, I’d put up with all the problems, the people, the ghosts, the obstacles, one after another. I’d been a good soldier. But that night, a voice inside me said, No. More. Of. This. I knew I’d reached my boundary of what was healthy and manageable. I went to sleep that night, asking my higher self for guidance. The next evening, after another long, hot and uncomfortable day in that kitchen, I wrote out a letter of resignation. I texted the staff coordinator, a lovely, positive woman whom I respected, and asked her to arrange a meeting with her, the director and me for the following afternoon. In that meeting, I handed him my letter. He read it carefully, and then without hesitation agreed and accepted my resignation. I truly felt sorry that I was unable to fulfil my contract and told him so. I suggested that perhaps he could find another cook to take my place by talking with all his contacts and board members. He looked at me kindly and stated, “I think you’re looking at him.” Then he went on to discuss that chicken disaster evening, and told me that I hadn’t handled it properly from a leadership perspective. “You should’ve called a meeting right there and then, with me and the other cook. We should’ve looked each other in the eyes, and agreed on a plan. Then you could have taken the chicken up to the other oven.” I breathed that in, agreeing that I’d failed on the leadership part. He is a kind man, however, and said all this without malice or anger. He told me not to give up on being a leader, because I do know what I’m doing in the kitchen. I just needed more practice with stressful situations. Uh, yeah. Just not there.
A week and couple days later, after two days of travel via bus to Boston, pouring rain, long waits in Logan and JFK airports and delayed flights, I finally landed at DIA outside of Denver. Even the airline not bringing my luggage to Denver couldn’t ruin my mood of elation and utter relief at being home once again. Even though it was still nearly 80 degrees at 10 pm, at least it was Colorado—dry, relatively insect-free, and beloved to me.
Now that I’m back in Denver, my hometown, I am pondering what’s next on this life journey. The major takeaways from the five weeks in New Hampshire are: I love to cook for other people, knowing I am nourishing their bodies and souls through healthy, good food; never again will I take a job or any position sight-unseen, trusting in another’s perspective of what is workable and manageable; New England is not a region I plan to revisit anytime soon (or ever) without a really good reason; my appreciation for hygiene, equipment that is in good working order, and love of people who can follow directions without giving me attitude has been heightened exponentially; and finally, Colorado is (as I have long known) one of the very best places to live on Earth.
Thanks for reading my narrative, if you managed to read to the end. Stay tuned for further updates and musings on our interrelated lives on this amazing, and sometimes extraordinarily difficult, planet we all call Home.