Here’s a thought - if you don’t know what to do to make things better, then at least figure out what not to do anymore:
“…the choice not to do something was in some ways more important and more interesting than the choice to do something. We may not know what we want to do, but we sure as hell know what we don’t want to do.
So you construct a series of self-imposed limitations that will guarantee that you cannot do what you no longer want to do, and then that kicks open a door; and if you’re willing to go through that door and follow wherever it leads, you will have programed change.
Now you are doing something else, you compare that to what you were doing, like it better…If you don’t like the direction it’s going you stop, aim in another direction and move on….through limitations you will push yourself somewhere you could never otherwise have imagined being.”
Chuck Close, from Wisdom, by Andrew Zuckerman
Photo copyright Conteska photography
I recently started a new job as social media strategist for an ad agency in Montreal. Going back to a “real” job after a year away from any form of boss was a big decision, even if it was partly dictated by my dying bank account.
The past 14 months of working as a freelance writer, photographer and translator were my gift to myself (and to my Visa card, apparently). I wanted to explore everything: the world, my love of photography, my need to write…my credit limit. And see where it took me. And who I’d be at the end of it - a sort of rinse cycle for the mind.
I started in the summer of 2009 with an amazing photography workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place that reminded me that I don’t need to leave the continent to witness incredible beauty:
Then it was off to Goa, India with my sister Daisy. I can’t think of a better way to express what it meant to me, except to quote something I wrote while I was there: “I’ve needed this so badly for so long – to be under this sun, by this sea – to be this far away. It’s as though the further I get from what’s familiar to me, the more I recognize myself”. And this image perfectly illustrates how I felt while I was there.
Then it was off to Calcutta to work as a photographer for an NGO called Calcutta Rescue. Kolkata was chaos at it’s finest and most stimulating: 90% humidity, 37c heat, millions of bodies, layers of sound over layers of noise…I can’t wait to return.
Then off to California to spend a week at a friend’s place, writing and exploring.
…with a brief stop in New York to see friends, and Connecticut to see my grandmother.
Then a family reunion to celebrate my father’s birthday in a big house in Croatia with my geographically scattered siblings:
And a side trip to the mysterious and unexpectedly beautiful Montenegro:
By now, Visa was upping my limit every 20 minutes, which might sound like a good thing, but is a sign that I was spending too much and repaying too little. So I stayed home for a few months and started mumbling about the need for a job to anyone who would listen…until my father called and invited me to spend Christmas in Beirut.
Somehow I managed to drag my sister Daisy to Damascus, Syria for 36 incredible hours. Given what’s going on there at the moment, I’ll be posting a lot more of what I saw there in the next couple of weeks…in the meantime, and if you want an insider’s view of what’s happening over there, read my Syrian-American friend’s blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus”. The Syrian secret police are now looking for her, so please “Like” her Facebook page under the same name too - the larger the community, the harder it is to “disappear” her.
So now it’s home sweet home for many months. I swear. It’s time to focus on what to do with what I’ve learned. Once I unpack from our trip to the Cayman Islands.
What else was I supposed to do with all the airmiles I’ve accumulated over the past 2 years?
I’ve had my fill of attending almost everything and anything just to feed my starving mind, to soak up sponge off breathe in the creativity of others, just so I can tap into my own. I’ve also had my fill of paying hundreds of dollars to my babysitters in order to do it.
Hello sleep, hello couch. Hello old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. It looks as though I’m hibernating, but in my head there’s so much going on that I search for articles on “How to be Efficient” and “How to Get More Done in Less Time”, then can’t focus long enough to read them fully.
It’s like Iran is using my mind as a nuclear test centre. Boom.
My mind is as hyper as my body is exhausted. If I don’t get all these words, images and stories out of my head soon, I will become Girl, Interrupted, complete with Mackage straightjacket.
It’s time to stop pulling at my life, to make it give me what I want. Time to breathe. Time to talk less and do more, to play Snakes ‘n’ Ladders with my 6 yr old, to accompany her on her school trips, even if it means apple picking in the rain (and it did), to open up some of those cookbooks and actually cook something.
So I’m slowly but surely pouring the contents of my mind out - into working as Director of Communications for an amazing NGO called kanpe.org, into this blog, into writing for Monster.ca, for the Westmount Independent, for Vox (the 357c newsletter), about great minds such as James Carville (see video), into a new project called MentalMoxie with one of the wittiest women I know, into writing for a new publication (tbc), into building myself a photo website. Ah yes, and into starting to look for a (preferably part-time) job. Anyone? Anyone?
Along the way I’ve noticed that the more interesting the work, the less it pays. That said, my work is VERY interesting…
I used to run, box, do Pilates, and yoga on a regular basis, while working two full-time jobs (project manager + single mother, in case you wondered). Ironically, now that I work freelance, I can’t spare the time. Consequently, my shoulders are so high up around my neck, they think they’re earrings. So the money I’ve saved on sitters goes to a massage therapist, and osteopath and a therapist.
My massage therapist digs into my shoulders while repeating “wow”, “WOW”, “wow”, like some kind of mantra. “You know, you’re supposed to release a muscle after you use it, right?”. Ha ha. Now get back to work.
My osteopath asks if I’ve had hot flashes recently, wiggles my head like Oui Oui, then puts me on a pork diet. My therapist? Well, let’s just say she earns her fee.
Balance. Seek and ye shall find. Right?