Dear Great Pumpkin,
I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude for your gifts; I have stared at this blank bit of canvas for weeks without quite knowing how to bleed the ink that can paint my feelings for the last year. In seasons past, the knife has been swift and flashing when I come to this time for your honor, this passing of one cycle to another, and the black has flowed out like a river to besmirch the page.
But this is a new beginning, and the ending of a strange year, and more care must be taken to find the right words.
Thank you for the vigil in the distant pumpkin patch. I learned so many important lessons about myself, about other children, about all the ways that you are celebrated even by those who don’t know your name. Some might call you a narrow construct, newly minted for a young consciousness in faraway lands. It must make you smile, your crooked grin bathing them all unaware in all the fear, delight, uncertainty, and wild glee that represent your being. I hope that I represented you well to them, because we all need stories to sustain us and keep us from becoming too grown up.
I stumbled, I think - I didn’t internalize that your visitations are not limited to just one night, let alone one variety of pumpkin patch; I didn’t see that you are for expansion in one season and for pruning in another as the seasons reverse around the world, and so I was caught unaware when your tricks were played upon me in the hours when normally I dream of rain and flowers and Spring. As always , I tried to accept the penance of your wicked abstraction with my own peculiar grace.
And here I am in the patch I know best, where I can blindly run the furrows and vines with an unconscious understanding of paths and roots under my feet. I know where the gates lie, how the streets and walls frame the soil, and how the moon shifts across the leaves as they rustle with the wind. I feel at home in my vigil. I feel the presence of the boy with the blanket beside me; wise fool, young sage; and feel the kindling of the flame inside me lighting a candle - I hadn’t expected you to send me a present early, but I am glad of it with all my heart. Thank you for the love.
Yet there are still so many other children in the dark, who neither dress up in costume to go door to door, nor linger safe at home under the auspices of their night lights and stuffed guardians. These children have been on my mind, caught between the delights of youth and the dark shadows of fear, unable to find the balance that allows them to embrace both as part and parcel of the same season.
How do I help them set aside the noise of absurdity, to accept the witchy shrieks and alarums which pierce the night and still own within them the stillness and quiet of a leaf trembling in the Autumn breeze?
Perhaps I need more silence in myself, so that I can share it with others and teach them how to listen for the dying of the roots, the sloughing of last season’s growth in preparation to lie fallow in the earth so that next season we can grow into something new. In that stillness I will find a sharper blade.
I am, as ever, your obedient.
I’m in marketing, and I can tell you for free that much of what you read on the internet is all about click bait. Something for people to hang advertising onto. Litmus testing to find out opinions, key words, what are people interested in and passionate about. What goes viral. Why? Do you think people care what is actually in your brain for purposes of building a better world or constructing a platform that represents your interests?
No. I’m so sorry, my best beloveds, but basically you as an online presence are only a commodity to the people writing the ads and hosting the forums.
That said, let’s look at the short article as a species, or at least, the one that caused this rant. This was the latest: http://www.alfiekohn.org/blogs/bonus
Truth - external rewards do not really work the way people want them to, or in the way that reason says they should. But then, people are not reasonable. The logic behind them is flawed. The blog here is a short one, pointing that out. But when a friend posted the blog online in context of school rewards, someone immediately said, “But it doesn’t say what we should do instead!” But. People forget that the word but tends to create a situation where the first part is then disregarded. “But it didn’t tell me what was better so I’m going to keep proceeding as I have been because I have no other choice.”
(If anyone cares, this tells you better what does motivate people - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=
What fundamentally worries me is that people read these short content blurbs and say, “But if you don’t give me a call to action/tell me what to think or do, I’m not going to change my ways.” That scares me a little. It reminds me of how many people are basically authoritarian, or respond to authoritarian ways without critical thinking and the self-determination required to go find a better, more correct path for them.
So they’ll always be victims of marketing, messaging, and FUD. Alas.
Many times in the last year you overwhelmed me with your trickster ways. I couldn't laugh but that it was tinged with salt, and I could not cry without tasting candy sweetness on my tongue. I have wandered in darkness through the dream-scape amusement park you built in the pumpkin fields, my path lit with flashing lights, my feet tripping and dancing over furrowed earth to the sound of calliope music. I loved it all.
Your roller coaster was magnificent, the slow climb full of anticipation and nerves, the crested view of the the wilderness outside of the park fences, the fast plunge and double barrel roll leaving me shrieking and laughing even as the tears escaped to drain sideways into my hair. I was glad to start there, even though it left me unsteady on my feet for a long time as I walked away wiping at my eyes, feeling the whirling slowly subside in my chest. I will ever treasure the snapshot of my face, that flash of surprise and delight in the moment.
I was fascinated by your hall of mirrors. I think we all need to look long at every image we see of ourselves, to learn the truth about the surfaces we use as part of our self study. When we see our faces distorted, our bodies thinner or fatter or crooked, it is up to us to remember that these images are all external. Reality waits for us to close our eyes, and run our own hands down our flanks so that we can feel the truth that we have not become grotesque with a mere turn of a corner. You remind me always that truth is on the inside, not in the twisted images we see in the dark.
I will ever keep a pocket of change in your name, so that other children can keep joining me in your midway games. It is only when we play together that the game is worthwhile, when the shadows that bump and move around us in crowds become individuals and with names and faces, and we can share a night of tricks and treats. In our play the best memories are made, time stolen and hoarded and brought out to relive as we stand around the fires burning in cans warming our hands in winter.
But the wild night faded into pale grey, and it was time to go. I turned to leave your circus with a sour stomach from too much cotton candy and popcorn, tired but with wild adrenaline still poisoning my chances for sleep. Then I saw your sign. A simple thing, paint peeling and old as it hung by a mere twist of wire: Help Wanted.
I gazed out through the chain-link fence to the parking lot and the distant city beyond. Out there lay common-place things, and a responsible life filled with purpose. Then back over my shoulder, I looked at your carnival and saw it for what it is - Halloween illusions of the night, a beguilement of time, memories that never fade. A slow smile grew on my face as I turned back to the ticket office to go ask for a job. Because this celebration of harvest and Halloween is important. This is fear, pain, and laughter; this is the need for chills and thrills. This is vital to being alive.
I hope all the other children find their free tickets in the pumpkin patch.
So here it is a year later, and I'm going to play in 2 leagues and try for a level up if I have enough XP this fall. Really love this sport. Even in games where I'm frustrated with myself, I'm only frustrated because I know what I want to learn and do and be, and I have a clear vision at last. Now it's just the work of getting there, of getting my feet and body moving well enough to keep up to what my brain wants to do. Stupid body.
I feel blithe again, in the best sense. Work isn't happy presently, but everything else is splendid. It's an interesting and somewhat stormy season going on around me, but I feel solidly on my feet and engaged in a good plan. I'll find either a happier job later this summer, or fix what I have going on where I am or by changing departments. Not sure which yet, and I'm open either way. That's the happy thing, feeling ready for anything.
Still working out what I want to do when I grow up. But I have a lot of editing to do. And a lot of hockey to play, and some pounds to lose, and some fitness levels to achieve. I think I should be able to run further. On a comfy treadmill - running on ground hurts.
Love is precious. Tell people if you love them. It's just about the most important thing in the world, and far above any of the fears and doubts that keep the words from being said. It may change nothing in the greater scheme of things. On the other hand, on the day that I die I plan to pass on smiling with the memory of how many have loved me, and told me.
Oh my beloveds, I do adore you all. Never doubt my affections, even for a moment.
One darker night in Pennsylvania hills
The sky was gathering clouds, and threatening rain
Sent everyone to batten down their tents
When Bain arrived at last, fresh off the plane
His squires arrayed behind, to view events
And meet the fair folk, lake dwellers,
Puckish denizens of the woodsy deep.
With long strides and arms wide
His loud voice calls, banishing sleep -
Jet-lagged, weighed down with sandy eyes
His smile would not diminish ounces,
Dimples deep, to make the maidens sigh,
He greets them all and on old friends pounces.
Laughing, rolling, thanks it were not day!
For sunshine's blessing not a soul would want
As heavily bedecked, long sleeved, woolens frayed,
All warm against the chilly night, and flaunt
The slaggards lying still a-bed
For who would not wake to greet the mighty Bain?
All adventurous, stirring heroes one and all
Our bully boys paraded every night
The Maenids themselves know no wilder games
A Bacchanalian feast of lust, with every bite
Of life a little black book fills with names;
Of russet hair, and shining gold, and brown
Recruiting eagerly for racing skiffs, but missing
Feminine allures, so dragging smiles down
The skirt-clad squires drink, and dodge the kissing.
But what can drink engender, a challenge to the pride!
The wildness rises! A kiss of leather teases
And shirts are doffed to mount that edgy ride
And lost, whilst torture mayhap pleases?
The chastening stripes upon the flanks will stay
And morning brings to light contrition
A plan is hatched! A rumor of the new play
Some woad to cover up the night's condition.
Battle sings: By day the fray, by night the lash.
Distilling spirits dance throughout the crowd
Bench after bench, in mild intoxicated unity
Our heroes sit, and sometimes laugh too loud
As single malt from pain provides impunity
Then all the muses trip upon his tongue
As Bain extolls the beauty of the night,
Of the bottle, the company, the music sung,
Every girl Athena to his sight
And softly waves he back, hand falling
Over the shoulders of his kith, his kin,
That carry home our hero, farewells are calling,
But Bain hears nothing, sleeping sweet as sin.
Gosh, they seem to say. I get home from work and I'm tired and I just want to.... insert something here that probably involves TV and food.
It would be nice to meet a higher-energy type. Someone with a gleam in their eye. I can't be the only slightly manic, adventurous, Type-A personality out there looking for a buddy to do things with, can I?
Quel dommage. Still, there was at least a flicker of chemistry. Toujours de l'audace!
Apparently its also okay for me to tell the analyst relations people how to do their jobs. It is very hard for me to learn object lessons about humility and keeping to my limited job duties when other people let me run their lives.
I also had an ex-IBM boss reach out via IM and chat, which was lovely. He's in the middle of some adventures in business process mapping with a new acquisition, and feeling the pain. But he said he missed me - it was just the sort of problem he would have thrown me into the middle of so that he could work a normal hour count. And that he loves following me on FB, as I'm apparently the most eclectic person he knows. Well, that was a given!
Then one of the more troublesome Product Managers from the old department IM'd and said "Wow, totally miss you. You were the best." Really? Cool, cause you fought with us all the time. Still, it's nice to get the nod from the old nemesis. Apparently no one else is worthy of the name.
Then my ex-Symantec second line IM'd and...wow. Said some of the nicest things about me I'd not expected to hear. Apparently he wanted to start me at an even higher rate and title (than now, let alone then) last January; basically he had to fight to get me hired on FTE when instead they wanted to cut the position by calling me a 'cannot lose this person' asset. He's standing by to give rave reviews for when I leave big yellow. Not that I'm thinking of it any time soon, but it was still a warm fuzzy feeling to have someone rave about my brilliance at a totally new field I'd only been doing less than a year.
Plus I've got a new schmooze. The guy from the coffee shop that gave me his business card - well, irony has it that he's just starting divorce proceedings and has a bunch of kids. But it's nice to be liked, and timing-wise I could really use this schmoozing distraction.
So end to end it was the universe being kind and flattering to me today, and I wanted to say THANKS universe! I had a very nice day, and I appreciate your efforts. I am more cheered.
I'm on a stricter budget. On the other hand, having no work laptop, I've blown through my budget on roaming charges for the phone. And yet on a third hand, I'm informed my manager never sees those charges. Hm. I want to see if I can believe after I get back and the expenses system returns online after it's current month long outage.
The talks were good, the south pacific team is fun, and we had delicious Thai for dinner. Then I walked off to find my hotel in the dark. If anyone wants to know, in Sydney they number the streets and buildings exactly like they do in Canada. Which is to say, they are strict adherents to consecutive order and be damned to details like the end of a block. Going from 80 to 310 was many, many blocks of walking. But the sidewalks were beautiful, starting from inlaid stone and transitioning to patterned brick.
I can't seem to stop giggling. My 'affordable hotel near the SOC' would, in real estate terms, be called 'Charming'. I found my key because it was in an envelope with my last name on it left at the front reception desk, which is apparently not manned after 7pm. My suitcase very nearly didn't fit up the narrow staircase to my room.
The owner/operator of the hotel is a nice man named Wade, who has a daughter named Sophie. I know this because of the password for the internet for my room, since I couldn't get the main temp login to work. I looked up his name on the business card tucked into the introduction to the hotel, and called the reception answering service number to ask if he had any kids - the woman nominally on duty to take care of guests told me so. So at last I am internet-enabled (for free because I'm a horrible person who guesses really well), and can lounge here listening to a neighbor practicing the bagpipes.
I was promised a hotel above a bar, but staying in the Bates Hotel is a complete scream. I am having a grand adventure.
I feel ever so slightly guilty for how little pre-work I put into the idea. I whined a lot about the slides, because I suck at them. But I put a few sentences in each area as seemed appropriate for the topics as I interpreted the market-ese.
When I went up to pitch, I was maybe the third general topic. Our area, Information Security came after Backup/Storage. I watched the guy for backup before me get picked at by circling crows - and he was really well spoken, good clarity and vision. So I got some nerves, but made myself breathe and pretend to a confident posture I didn't have.
My turn. I stood up and told a story. I didn't look at the slides, because I not only didn't remember what was on them but I didn't really care. No one interrupted me. There were some questions toward the end, but mostly they were about quantifying my criteria for success. Which I am simply crap at, and wasn't asked for at that point anyway so I smiled quietly and waited. Hands at my sides. Open, neutral posture. Calm looking.
Just got the results back tonight. My idea was accepted as #2 corporate priority.
That is one hell of a dress.
Skinny. No one has ever called me skinny before. It was a magic moment. I mean, I'm not skinny by any stretch of the fashion definition, but someone said it enviously. And I was glad.
Now, I have envy too. One of the new gals on my hockey team had stripped down in the locker room, and this girl had GUNS. I mean, upper arm and shoulder development that was as ripped as Jess'. (Which is saying something, if one doesn't know Jess. Because Jess is made of awesome Judo goodness.)
I want them. I know how to get them. I just need to do it.
Envy can be a very powerful motivator.
I'm returning with a renewed enthusiasm for helping clean up and downsize my new domicile. Clutter breaks up space, and space creates peace. Plus I miss my stupid cat.
I've remembered how to get a lot of things done at the same time for work. I feel a corner is turned in the new department. I've found happy exchanges with my team, where we each seem to do that which the other finds most horrible. October is going to be much better now.
I wanted out. All of the stuff, gone. I was sure I could fit everything I really needed in life into a couple of suitcases and disappear off into the horizon to a land where I don't speak the language.
Plans for next spring: I need some basic mechanics classes on engines. And probably some on plumbing. Then sailing lessons. I need to be able to run away from home without a reliance on gasoline.
Now, on the list of things that make me smile, my darling roommate Deena is very encouraging and welcoming. She even talks of the next house we buy together, which is more of a future than I'm ready to contemplate as I'm just trying to get through September. When I got home from work today, she'd watched that 'express gratitude to increase happiness' video, and had written out something to read to me. I hugged her, hard. I don't think she knows how firmly she's keeping my feet on the ground just now. Or maybe she does, because she's a clever girl who reads the things I don't say.
I am suspicious of Lulu and Celestial wanting to come snuggle with me before bed. The cat, you see, was snuggled on my other side. She bore their touch with quiet stoicism.
Tomorrow I get on a plane and fly out to Annapolis. Yay for the seeing of friends, and celebration of love that is there. I am very rich in friends and love. I know this. My morning coffee club makes me smile every time. The weekly family dinners. I am conscious of what and where I am. Just for the record, all of you reading this? I truly love you. More than I remember to say, so I'm saying it now.
Secret - I'm still shy in my heart, and when I'm doing something new I doubt myself all over the place. Usually that's enough to make me try harder in classic overcompensation. At hockey I was slow to engage everyone in conversation, because with a whole room full of chattering gals that all seemed to know each other, it's hard to just jump in for me. I don't have a lot in common with them outside of hockey.
Sometimes it's enough of a warm feeling to be included in a group of people you admire, people who recognize that you're trying hard to get better at the same things they are. People who share your love and passions. I've read the emails twice now because I'm horribly sentimental, and it makes me smile.
This was illustrated at work too - we had a gal that was new to the team. She was quiet, kept to herself up until we were going to do a team off-site meeting. Deena and I stopped in to say hey, please come. It wouldn't be the same without you, and we really want to get to know you better because you seem cool. That gal blossomed on the spot, and ever after is one I've called friend.
Don't forget to reach out to people, when you're good at things. Try to see when someone else cares too, even if they're quiet or shy or afraid. They'll be glad you did.
When I was working three part-time, horrible schedule, minimum wage, insurance-free jobs to be able to live independently, eat, go to school, buy supplies, and still play SCA and celebrate holidays? I had a fantasy that one day I'd make a six-figure income. My job was going to be awesome. They were going to let me travel the world, entertain myself, and maybe even make the world better. I didn't know what that job was going to be, but I knew that when it came along I'd take it, grab hold with both hands, and be good at it.
My choice of majors did not support this fantasy. Let me tell you about what a music teacher makes in an American school system - bupkis. So I fell in love with health care. (Again, a surprisingly under paid field.) None of the things I thought I wanted to do for a living turned out to get me anywhere near my childhood fantasies, which I kept alive.
Whenever something new or good opened up, I went for it. I tried, I applied, I threw my hat into so many rings that people wondered if I had a hundred heads. It didn't matter to me whether or not I was capable of the thing, the job - only that I was interested, that I was with good people, and most important that I'd learn something. I once turned down a good paying job (EDS) for a slightly less good paying job, because the cheaper place (IBM) was going to teach me more. Best decision ever. Go with the passions.
I believe in fantasies. I believe in the long vision, hard work, sacrifice, and occasional pain you have to go through to make your fantasies come true. I'm not sure how that will translate into me having a boat and a second home of a small cottage on an island in the South Pacific, but I know I'll get there one day. Rain on my parade is only temporary. Life is for the determined, and for the passionate.
"When love beckons to you follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully."
These old guys have the right of it.
Lilacs blossom just as sweet
Now my heart is shattered.
If I bowled it down the street,
Who's to say it mattered?
If there's one that rode away
What would I be missing?
Lips that taste of tears, they say,
Are the best for kissing.
Eyes that watch the morning star
Seem a little brighter;
Arms held out to darkness are
Shall I bar the strolling guest,
Bind my brow with willow,
When, they say, the empty breast
Is the softer pillow?
That a heart falls tinkling down,
Never think it ceases.
Every likely lad in town
Gathers up the pieces.
If there's one gone whistling by
Would I let it grieve me?
Let him wonder if I lie;
Let him half believe me.
I have to say, your latest reward for being the avatar of your trickster ways is something I had not expected. And like all your blessings, I find myself exulted and pricked to the core at once. But I am grateful for the privilege to be pierced by your truths, merry and fearful alike.
When you beckon, I must ever follow as you soar through the cloud-filled skies that hide away the moon, like the Sidhe on the wind and following the paths of the wild hunt through the sky. And how we've ridden, you and I! The wind in my face, my hands cold holding to the bundle of skin over sticks that you've given me to ride; all of this worth it for the vistas of the world spread out like night-cloaked jewels on the breasts of the earth below me. Children hear the wind of our passing, and dream of doors to be opened, of tissue-wrapped boxes to be unlocked. Lovers hear the rustling of sheets, and dream of their exultation, and of their beloved, and their own mortality, and hold to one another close in the night. And the old and lonely shut their eyes at midnight's tolling, their hearts cracking open enough to hear our wild laughter; in that moment, they are one of us, riding the wild north winds once more before their bones rattle.
And then down we swoop, earth-bound into the most sincere of pumpkin patches and into the roots that cling to the soil, disturbing the worms. My heart is in my throat for the fear and unease of this roller coaster ride, as I poke aside the bones and rotting vegetation of that which has gone before. I yowl with the black cats on their fences as we shake the vines and pull them loose from their soil to scrabble across the surface, leaving their tender cilia exposed to the cold, cruel air of fall and the winter to come. There is no mercy for that which gave birth to your glory. It must die away, yellowing and dry to blow in the wind and be buried under the snow to nourish the soil for the spring that may come one day. The gourd is carried away in state, the vine left alone.
Finally, the jack-o-lantern sits proudly on the steps, grinning at the children in the night. Without care or thought for the patch left behind, the carved pumpkin sits and nods in self-deluded wisdom over the tricks and treats of the children who pass before that candled gaze. Eventually, they find their way to bed, chocolate-covered hands gripping their sheets as they shiver in their dreams. Yet the night of shadows and air still remains full of tricks. The older children come at last, resentful of losing their youth or the privileges of wearing a mask over their tortured visages. They bear weapons in hand, and with mighty swings smash the pumpkins off down the sidewalks into the streets.
Then does the jack-o-lantern despair. For what was she carved but for this? To end up an orange smear on the black of the pavement in the road, food for crows? And then do you lean in, Great Pumpkin, and whisper yes. That we are precisely made beautiful to be destroyed in an act of wild rebellion. That just as we left behind the vines that nurtured us, so our insides will go on to be food for crows. And then, through inelegant means, dropped once more into fields without thought, without hope, without dreams, only to sprout tiny roots and grow again. To remake ourselves a thousand thousand times, until the end of the world.
I have your dark songs in my ears, bleeding out of my fingers onto the pages. I promise you, my beloved GP, that I will fulfill all you desire of me with courage and humor. Do not be merciful to me. I do not wish it. I merely wish to continue to endure your favors for as long as I draw breath, and shout into the night sky my invitation and defiance alike.
I had the loveliest night out at a party in the con suite of friends. I tended bar, doled out psychiatric advice, and told stories. Yes yes, and drank a lot.
Meanwhile, I was left with some observations. The first - there were many pretty girls at the party. Two of the ones I would have said were the loveliest ended up chatting with me, and clearly they did not share my vision. I tried to convince them to fake poise and a sense of security even if they don't feel it, because it's a hot commodity in a world where everyone is equally insecure and nervous.
The first didn't believe me, so I fetched some attractive young lads in her age bracket over and quizzed them all about their relative sense of security and confidence. She was surprised at the results.
And to the second one, who will probably never read this, I just want to say this: Girl, go find a dress that makes you feel beautiful and wear it. Don't wear less because you don't feel beautiful. Don't schlep around and slump because you don't feel beautiful. Don't look for validation in the eyes and lips of family members who have never built you up before. In fact, stop looking at anything when you decide how fucking awesome you are.
There are so many people who say out loud, "I could have been X if it weren't for those meddlesome kids/y/z." I cry bullshit. If you were going to be X you would have been. The person holding you back is you. So stop it! Go for it!
Five cents please. Also Oklahoma means Oklahoma.