Friday, July 30, 2010

Path Finding: Teach Abroad?

The Path, originally uploaded by Arkadius Zagrabski.
I've been a job-search schizophrenic lately. In just over one month, I've sent out emails to my poor, poor patient friends and family with the following subject lines: "Massage therapy! Info please," "What do you know about broadcast journalism?" "Nutritionist, could that get me work in a developing nation?" and "Hey, Obama, will you pay for my grad school?"

That last one may have put me on a watch list.

Perhaps I should take my meds, you might be thinking. Unemployed over a year, receiving no feedback from flinging my resume far and wide, feeling undereducated without a masters, but underemployed to afford said masters, I'm spinning myself in circles. My meds in this case include deep breathing, closing my eyes to slow the spinning, and to look at what is connected in all my dream jobs.

Helping others (massage, nutrition). Hearing and telling stories (journalism). And most of all, always, travel. I was recently reminded of one of the quintessential quirks of my Sagittarius sign, the willingness to try new things. The get up and go of life is what makes me feel alive.

And suddenly, it came to me, a little voice or possibly an ad via gmail: teach English overseas! "I can't believe we didn't think of this sooner," a friend said. "It's perfect for you!" And from my mother, my biggest champion, and the woman who helped finance my first adventure overseas (Serbia & Kosovo): "It's perfect! You could have taught English when you were 7." Granted, though I was a geeky kid whose idea of a fun car game was asking for harder and harder words to spell, I was also so shy I couldn't be found in crowds, hiding behind my mother's skirts. But now? I still love the bizarre rules of the English language, and bonus! I'm WAY too tall to hide behind anyone, thus accustomed to being on display.

I'm researching the best online programs for certification, and would prefer to be placed back in Kosovo, or Eastern Europe. I understand the pay is not great in developing nations, but that's where I want to be, to help those who are hungry to learn. If you know anything, please email me! (rebecca.snavely at gmail) Especially if you know of an organization known to help supplement the local pay, as incentive for native English speakers to work in developing countries. Student loans must be paid, or else I'd go for the people, their stories and live on peanut butter, bananas, and Turkish coffee.

This feels less schizo, more right. Ready to jump in to the unknown.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dream Decorating: Soul Space

"Your emotional impulses could push you toward extravagance, which might mean that you could be more inclined to indulge in buying things that aren’t necessary today. This need to treat yourself might be rooted in a much deeper desire, however—the desire to feel completely satisfied. Perhaps you can reflect on what you think you lack in your life and the things you feel you need to be fulfilled; the items you crave could give you some insight into where the emptiness inside may lie. Try asking your deeper self what your true emotional need is. ...
"Once we understand our unmet desires, we are able to treat ourselves to what we really need. With the messages we get every day telling us that we are not nearly as good as we should be, it is easy to buy into the idea that we have to acquire more to feel good about ourselves. Turning our focus inward, however, allows us to realize that while we do need to indulge ourselves once in a while, it is usually our spirit that needs love and pampering; this is something that no material good can fulfill. Seeing that there is a connection between your material desires and deeper yearnings will help you find satisfaction in something that is infinitely more meaningful today." (Daily OM)

Unemployed, I have no extra cash to blow on my unmet desires. But if I did, what would be my indulgence? I'd makeover my apartment, my space.  I'm talking real makeover, upheaval. One for which I'd need to enlist one of the handy men from HGTV, to tear up the nappy carpet and put down beautiful, aged hardwood floors.  To make some built-in bookshelves and an outdoor space to feed friends and sip cocktails. To invest in luscious fabrics from India (oh, yeah, let's throw in a trip to India in there, while we're at it). 

While I can't redecorate, I can rid my life of excess stuff, to open up my space.  And I can pay attention to that impulse to make things more lovely, to create space and ask what that means for me in a spiritual sense of self care.  A little organizing, re-decorating and clearing of space in my soul.

Based on my dream decorating photos (below), I like simple, open, light and airy rooms, filled with books, greens and twinkly lights. I haven't felt very open or sparkly lately, more bogged down with stress of a never-ending job search, uncertainty about the future. Unsure of what I bring to the world, if I can live the dreams of a writing life that I want. Sitting with this meditation, looking at what I'd buy for my soul care, if purchases could fix my inner angst, I realize I need to clear my head of all the clutter and clanging. To write and let myself get creative, without fear. To seek out beauty, green and sparkle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walkin' in L.A.

One thing's for sure, he isn't starring in the movies.
'Cause he's walkin' in L.A.
Walkin' in L.A., nobody walks in L.A.
(Missing Persons)

Life lived outside the box and outside the car gives you a different perspective, a closer view and proximity to people. I love living car-free in Los Angeles. I wonder about the 20-something girl with sad eyes who laughs at her son's stories. About the man at the back of the bus, his head buried in his arm, leaning against the window, wailing and sobbing into his cell, unintelligible through his tears and language. The giggly 3 year old girl trying to turn the attention of the teenaged kid from his phone.

The driver who stops in the middle of the road to ask the wobbly woman, who looks drunk? off her meds? if she needs help. She waits til the woman makes it safely to the sidewalk before driving on. The driver who drops us at Book Soup, and circling back on his route a half hour later, honks to see if we need a ride back down the hill. It makes L.A. seems a little smaller, a little less of a sprawl, a little more a community.

We’re caffeinated by rain inside concrete underpasses,
rolling along treetops, Chinese elms, palm trees, California peppers.
(from "We're Caffeinated by Rain," ~ Sesshu Foster)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Song for Saturday: Michael Franti - Sometimes

Sound body and sound of mind
Sound of the rhythm and sound of the rhyme
Somebody marchin' out all of the time
Biggest mistakes are the humanest kind
Judge not, lest you be judged

Show love and love who you know
Family wherever you go
Tokyo to acapulco
Bravissimo, magnifico
Peace to the people who be losin' their head
Peace to the people who be needin' a bed
Love to the people who be feelin' alone
Spreadin' love upon the microphone
Hope to the people to be feelin' down
Smile to the people who be wearin' a frown
Faith to the people who be seekin' the truth y'all
All of the time, and i say

Sometimes, i feel like i can do anything
Sometimes i'm so alive
Sometimes, i feel like i can swim ‘cross the sky
Sometimes, i wanna cry

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Researching sadness

As my close friends know, I often revel in the melancholy. It makes my extroverted happy-all-the-time friends quite nervous, but I need it. Some days I crave the grey, the unknown, the mood in between. I'm having a quiet day today, and took a break from job searching and picked up Words Under the Words, a book of selected poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, and opened it to "The White Road."

The White Road

I can't even count
how many of my own feet
walk the white stone road today.
As if the feet of past years
tramped alongside,
and the future feet,
anchors already forming
in the sea of blood,
Why should such a simple sadness
well up like a crowd?

Now I've even forgotten
whose sadness it was to begin with.
May it belongs to the nun
who waits for the 6 A.M. bus,
whose headscarf is white
and always tied.
Maybe she feels lighter today
having dropped it.
Or the man at the state hospital
who kept singing
"These are a few of my favorite things"
though his cigarette trembled
and he wore pajamas in the afternoon—

These stones have smooth backs.
They could be praying, or sleeping.
I could be anyone else,
researching sadness,
finding out how it adheres to the world,
bubbling and thickening, flour in broth,
how women who have lost children
sometimes feel like women
who have lost homes in fires
or men in their fifties who feel
the days shrinking in front of them
sometimes weep for a neighbor boy's dog.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Stories: Are You There God? It's me, Rebecca

The little boy slouched further down the back of the pew, sliding until his neck seemed to disappear into his tee-shirt. I don't want to, he whispered desperately to his mother, who said, Fine, and grabbed the hand of his younger, more pliable brother, leading him to the front of the small church to sit to listen to the story being told for the children. The boy left behind crouched down into the wooden pew, leaning as far back as he could to become one with the wood, hidden in the bench.  

Seated right behind him, too tall to lie down length-wise in the pew to hide myself, I nodded my approval. This was all a bit much, wasn't it?   

As the woman in the brightly colored dress started reading a story to the children gathered at the front of the church, the boy squirmed and wriggled, well-hidden and ignored. Having ditched my church-going ways a few years ago, I thought about the rational, positive, progressive points of the Episcopal church. They openly ordained gay leaders and welcomed all. Madeleine L'engle, one of my favorite writers, was Episcopalian and loved the liturgy. The church was 20 yards from the front door of the house where I was staying for two weeks.  

During the announcement time, a man stood up at the back of the church and asked us, if we cared at all about the environment, to check out, to see photos from the organization's recent gathering. If you're concerned about the oil spill and global warming, and, you know, want to save the planet, he added. A lady with long braids, big hips, and daring cleavage bounced around the aisle, her announcement excited and unintelligible. During the prayer time, people raised up names of those in pain and need they wanted to remember, and the visiting pastor asked for blessings and care for the animals affected by the oil spill in the gulf. This was definitely a northern California crowd.

Something was tugging at me. When the service started with a procession of the cross, some old, ancient part of my churched soul stirred. A low-church protestant, I had to follow along with the Episcopal high-church service by the bulletin, all those phrases to recite in unison: God is Goods and And Also with Yous.

The kids up front were engrossed in the pictures in the storybook reading of the 23rd Psalm, and I saw an arm in front of me shoot out from his hiding place. Grabbing a hymnal from the back of the pew before him, he pretended to be bored, flipping through the pages. You could almost hear him sigh and see him look at his pocket watch, as if he were an old man waiting outside the salon for his wife. His head cocked in curiosity when the church lady read from the story: Thou anointest my head with oil, she said, pointing to the illustration of two polar bears. Huh? said one little boy. Where'd a polar bear get oil? asked another. The boy hiding in the pew raised his head and scuttled to the edge of the bench, looking down the aisle at the group up front.  

The pastor called out for blessings, and the crazy lady with deep breast-baring cleavage dragged her husband to the front, (if you don't ask, you may miss out! her voice sang out) where she bounced from one foot to another, asking for traveling mercies for her husband's upcoming trip and a blessing for their wedding anniversary. Hearing it was another woman's birthday, the lady grabbed her and placed her in a squeeze between herself and her husband. The pastor gave the blessings for the coming year.

During story time for the adults, the pastor reflected on Luke 9: 51-62.  He spoke of centering, and his own story, when he had felt lost. Studying for his PhD, involved in the activism of the 60s, he said, I was doing everything I could to be good. And I realized that there was a dead feeling inside, that what was real and was truly me was dying, and if I didn't do something, I would die. One day, he said, I opened a book about pottery, and read this quote by John Middleton Murry: "For the good man to realize that it is better to be whole than to be good is to enter on a straight and narrow path to which his previous rectitude was flowery license."

What does it mean to be whole, versus being good? Years of church, Sunday school, bible study, youth group and Christian college courses, and I too am tired and dead inside from being good. But when I start to open myself to what it means to be whole, I feel that spark of life come back. I was shocked to find it sparked inside a church, but maybe that is right. If church is where I got bogged down by do-gooder-ness, perhaps that is where I needed to be reminded of the beauty of metaphor and story of Jesus's teachings, that he taught in stories. 

As the little boy leaned into the aisle for a better view, he gripped the edge of the pew, willing himself to stay in the spot he had claimed. Suddenly he was up and in quick, jerking, jogging steps rushed to the front of the church, nestling into his mother's arms, absorbed in the story. 

I leaned forward to take in the pastor's story, to be reminded of Jesus's stories, and the ongoing stories all around me. To wonder where polar bears would get oil with which to be anointed. To be reminded of people who live authentic lives of faith and questioning, who bounce to the beat of a different drum, who demand blessings and join hands to save the planet and each other. Stories that call us to justice, love and being whole, being who we are, my story different from yours.