Unpolished gems unearthed from spelunking expeditions through my mind.

Life

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As many of you may know, I pulled the short stick several years ago. No need to regurgitate the details, it was awful, dreadful, unthinkable circumstances. It was inexplicably unfair. Very few would disagree with the magnitude of unfairness heaped upon my plate as I sought desperately to exit the cruel buffet line that continued to dish it out. It was a vortex of emotional and financial destruction that I could not escape. My trust had been violated on so many fronts, there was barely a stable floorboard on which to stand as I battled just to stay vertical.

Adding insult to injury were the people who were supposed to be my friends, my support system, the ones who were in a position to do something about it, to testify in court, to fill out a deposition detailing the truth — but they didn’t. They were afraid and unwilling to stand up to the bully who had put me where I was. As witnesses to his wrath and mental instability, they feared retaliation.

In the end, the few who were brave enough to stand up and speak up were not enough to undo the wrongs. My already short stick was broken in half. Not fair — again.

So, fast forward through the years, tears, panic, and prayer and here is where I share how the Fairness Police came riding in on their white horses to right the wrongs, lock up the monster, and save the day, right?  Ummm, not so much.

Sorry Virginia, there may still be a Santa Claus, but there is not such thing as the Fairness Police. Seriously, you knew that already, right? It’s a very valuable  lesson — life isn’t fair. Chances are good that you will be dealt a bad hand more than once and not allowed to get up from the table.

So, what do you do about it? You move forward. You get up, get ready, get moving — one incremental step at a time in the direction of what is next. It doesn’t matter how right you are about how much you were wronged. In the end, it’s highly likely that you can do very little to change anything more than the direction to follow after you pick yourself up and dust off the shrapnel.  Let go of the hurt, betrayal and disappointment — don’t allow it all to weigh you down.

Trust me, I know of what I speak, and I know it isn’t easy advice to follow. At the same time, I know it is the right thing to do next.


Delicious Ambiguity

“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…” — Gilda Radner

Gilda Radner was an amazing human being. Not only was she hilarious, but she showed tremendous courage and strength in circumstances that would level most people. She seemed to just take things as they hit her and find joy and humor where others wallowed in sorrow and pity.

I strive to find that magic in everything, no matter how crazy fucking painful or obscure it might be. However, in spite of her quote being one of my most favorite, and one I take to heart, I constantly question the things dished my way via the omnipotent universe, wondering why. A friend (well, let’s just say someone who calls themself my friend but who very well might need a swift kick in the dictionary — but that’s a story for another day) accuses me of always trying to label things as good or bad, suggesting that there is something wrong with my quest for the why of things.

Just because we search for some rationality in the unpredictable chaos of daily existence does not mean we are necessarily left of center. When we analyze situations and use words like good or bad, isn’t it just the recognition of the yin and the yang of things, that there are elements of both in all things. Good is not always positive and bad is not always negative. Even something as devastating as cancer can leave behind a positive residue when viewed from a certain perspective.

Gilda Radner’s devastating ovarian cancer raised awareness of the disease so that millions of women have since benefitted from early diagnosis and survival. For many of us left without friends and family members due to the ravages of cancer, or those suffering alongside loved ones still fighting their battle, among the pain and the sadness there is also room for increased compassion and a realignment of life’s priorities. It hurts like hell, I know, but there is good among the bad, and sometimes answers among the questions.

Life is unpredictable, sometimes so much so that the urge to jump off has an overwhelming appeal. But then, you’d miss the next thing thrown at you which might just be amazing. There is only one ride on this roller coaster of delicious ambiguity. Questioning, analyzing, trying to sort out and prioritize all that is lobbed our way along the twists and turns is just part of our search for ways to keep on track without losing our minds. Being able to make the best of anything, to be brave and accepting that you just never know what’s going to begin, end, or reappear, is absolutely brilliant.


Life Is Like Swiss Cheese

So, I was thinking. In and of itself pretty normal as I think a lot, all the time, about almost everything. I think, rethink, overthink. I think, therefore I am, right? Ok, I digress.

On a recent thinking binge, it occurred to me that life is like Swiss cheese. Yes, a bit nutty perhaps (and sweet too as a matter of fact), but the description fits the flavor of both the cheese and life as well, so there it begins.

It’s whole as it is, but with holes in it that allow for some flow, for things to creep in, for no two wedges or slices to be exactly alike.

It can stink at times. It can even go bad– however you can usually just remove the bad parts and continue to enjoy it.

Swiss cheese can be enjoyed on its own, a solitary pleasure. However it’s enhanced by good relationships with things such as ham, rye, apples, and French onion soup.

So, meltdowns and all, life is indeed a bit like Swiss cheese. Some moments are just more delicious than others.


Rebranding Good, For It Is Not Greed

“What a mockery is made of the brief battle for possessions, that makes so short a life.”
— Virgil

Gordon Gekko was not correct. Greed is not good. There is a reason it is one of the seven deadly sins. Virgil was much closer to the truth. Much like lust and gluttony, it is a sin of excess for the few and, more often than not, a dearth of the essentials for the masses. Greed has crept into our society in the masks of status and power, not just material wealth. Greed, by definition, is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth. By course of action, it is what breaks down society into the haves and have-nots and may very well be our eventual undoing.

How does it serve us as a community when the minority possess the majority of wealth and the majority are struggling to feed their children, keep a roof over their head, to just stay alive. Yes, yes, I know there are those who are lazy, addicted, irresponsible and may very well deserve their lot in life. But really, the larger percentage of those in need work their asses off for a pittance. Many are in the positions they are BECAUSE of the wealthy minority greedhounds (Enron, GE, Ford, etc.). How do the uberwealthy justify their existence when children are living homeless in the streets, left to make choices between being hungry or selling their bodies so they have money to eat. How is that ok? It’s not, it’s a repulsive side effect of greed, of excess.

This has been a topic of ongoing conversation of late. I recently saw I Am, which if you have not yet seen, you need to for Tom Shadyac is a pioneer leading the way in the right direction. While I agree whole-heartedly about the content, the direction, the need — a question has nagged at me about HOW to push the requisite masses in that direction, to unclench their fists from the money, the power, the delusions of success wrapped in a noose of excess.

One of the early guideposts for me in this quest was a post by Jonathan Fields about Karma Capitalism. As I was reading his blog a few days ago, it occurred to me that while the post is ostensibly about business and branding, by the end I saw a parallel to what needs to change in the world. The core of the problem is that greed has been branded as good. It comes with a slick marketing machine that is self-fulfilling, an engorging media-fest.

The alternative does not come in packaging that is nearly as sexy.

Therein lies the crux of how to affect the masses, to possibly harness the majority who are secretly hoping for something better/different, who “get” that they are living a lie but who have not yet figured out how to get out of it. Rethinking, reengineering needs to be branded in a way that shows the sexy benefits (brotherhood, community, sustainability, living without the strain of the joneses mentality, etc.) so that it can compete with greed.

It is time to change the game, reverse the process. Much like civil rights movements in the past, it is a game of the haves vs. the have-nots. There might as well be segregated and clearly marked bathrooms and water fountains, the divide is so ubiquitous and so obviously enforced. How to change it, I am not sure of just yet. I suspect it will be slow-moving. The pennies in a can theory. I Am and things like it are good to start/encourage the thought process, but it will take more to have any kind of larger/faster effect. We need to believe that we can dismantle the cultural barriers that forestall reform such as apathy and denial.

So, Jonathan’s words at the end of his blog that nailed it for me were:

Uncertainty, properly harnessed, is manna for innovation.

Lean into it. Dance with it.

The challenge is to focus not on how to be incrementally better, but how to change the game.

It ain’t easy, but if you can pull it off, it’s worth it.

Just something to think about. And isn’t it about time we started to think differently?



Value and worth are subjective currency

So, I have been struggling with writer’s block for about a week. The irony here is that I have quite a few (well, 11 to be exact) posts sitting collecting dust here in the untamed brilliant nest. It’s getting crowded. And I’m feeling, well, like my value as a writer is a bit compromised because I cannot quite finish any of them. They all started quite brilliantly (if I do say so myself), but then stall out as I hear the question of their worth (or lack thereof) to a reader run laps around my brain.

Meanwhile, life has dealt a few extra cards my direction that have caused me to fold, to pull out of the game and collect my thoughts, hoping for a new deck before I can gamble a seat at the table again. Just not feeling like I have what it takes to play, to compete, to keep up sometimes. What do I really have to offer since so much has been stripped away from me?

And then sometimes gifts arrive — ones you go ask for, and the one that just shows up on your doorstep (or email) unexpectedly, but so much more needed that you even realized until you opened it. Last week friends listened. Today one spoke. She reminded me of a gift I had given her a while ago, that I did not even realize at the time would have such an impact or be worth much more than a fleeting comfort. But more than a year later, it has been re-gifted to me with recognition of its value along with some special brilliance that reminds me why life is always better than it may seem and that while we can always get through anything on our own, it is always better, worth more perhaps, with a friend to hold your hand on the journey. Friendship is one of the most valuable currencies there is.

Here is part of the gift I received today, and I’d like to share because it is so valuable, worth reading several times until it is the ticker tape that encircles any questions of self-worth you may ever have.

Gifts come in many different shapes and values. Love, kindness, forgiveness, and caring (for one’s self as well as others) are gifts that even a pauper can give freely in the present. Value comes from within although the world sometimes conspires to make us believe it is equivalent to money, material things, or the next bauble. Truly believing one’s inner value takes strength and care.

The only gifts that I have for you today (and really everyday) are my love, caring, and sharing one of the most important lessons of my life (look for the beauty and good in the smallest things in life around you). Some days that smallest thing is the best you will get but it is a wonderful reminder of the good and beauty in the world.

And then of course, there is a quote that is very dear to me that I share regularly, words of encouragement from Christopher Robin to Pooh Bear: “Promise me you’ll always remember that you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Brilliant. I may just dust off some of those unfinished bits this weekend.



No More Pigeons

Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.

Really, just the two options?

I’ve seen that quote a number of times, meant to offer comfort at times when things just aren’t going your way, a means of encouragement to endure, to persevere. Good advice — suck it up, could be worse, blah, blah, blah…  BUT, it occurs to me, in my new rebel mindset, that there is at least one more role to be played that cuts the shit out altogether, and I like it MUCH better — I am going to be the sculptor.

Yep, I am SO done being the one who gets crapped on, I have never really had a desire to do it to anyone else — it feels so much better to build people up, to cultivate good relationships, meaningful conversation, hope, love, and wisdom. And so I aspire to be the sculptor who crafts the piece (otherwise known as my sense of self) which both inspires brilliance and impedes shit from sucking the joy out of life. And I am pretty sure it’s possible.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can hear you out there, you naysaying pigeons — it’s just not that easy or everyone would do it. Well, guess what, in my tour of reinvention I developed a bulletproof pigeon shield that deflects the bullshit. It’s made from equal parts of laughter, joy, and acceptance. Mix up a batch and see what brilliant thing you can sculpt for yourself.


Why Is Not The Question, It’s The Answer

OK, so if you are reading this, you probably know that I only recently started this blog. Granted, the first post took a couple of weeks to get off the ground; but now it’s moving at a pretty awesome pace, thank you very much. I have no idea what a good amount of traffic should be on a blog (I’m solidly in triple digits now) and, hey, who cares, right? Well, someone (who shall remain nameless because they might feel stupid after they read this) asked me, “Why are you writing that blog anyway? Who reads it?” (Yes, yes that is a slathering of superiority covering anyway that you heard.)

Here is where the English major in me needs to make an overt swap of a misplaced interrogative adverb in favor of a far more useful noun. I write this blog because it offers a place to express the shit that rolls around in my untamed brilliant head (OK, still not completely sold on brilliant, but I’m gonna hold out hope a certain someone was right, even just a little bit). So, I tried to explain that it was a way, not a why — that I really think I am not the only one who wonders some of the same things I do, or questions the same things I do, or that just needs to blow off some parenthetical steam. And, well, if I am the only one who reads it, OK. (But I am not, so there.)

(For the full effect of her next query, picture a squished expression of whatever combined with I’m too ignorant to even know the difference between an adverb and a noun, let alone that WHY can be both.)  “And that language, do you know how many times you said fucking in that one post?” (Well, yes, now I do — nine.) “Why did you need to be so vulgar?” (Um, because it caught your attention, made my point, AND I warned you.) Needless to say, I changed the topic as quickly as I could and made my exit.

Because I don’t think she will ever read this (and if she does, possibly all the better), I’ll tell you I feel sorry for her. She’s too uptight to be able to unleash anything uncensored that might be trapped in her head. And so instead she judges me for doing it (and most likely others too). I’m so happy to be (almost completely) on the other side of being affected by the judgement of others, that I can stand confidently in my own skin (freckles and all). I have no idea if what I write strikes a chord with those who have read it. I can only tell you that another part of the why behind the writing is a hope that it might inspire someone else to find their voice, to speak their truth, and to tap into their own untamed brilliance.


Luck Of The Irish

The luck of the Irish indeed. A certain wistfulness occurs for most at the sound of this iconic idiom. History would suggest that the phrase is wrought with irony as the Irish were a spectacularly unlucky race (unless of course existing on a diet of only potatoes for a few decades makes your socks roll up and down). Oh, yes, there was some lucky respite from the spudaciously monotonous menu — impromptu fasting was brought on when there were no potatoes to be found in the fields. Invading conquerors consistently proved to be poor house guests by forcefully occupying the land. Cruelty dished out to the Irish extended across the pond to the United States in the form of ethnic and religious prejudice. My ancestors who came over from Ireland were among many forced to amend their last names — in our case to drop the O from O’Carroll to sound less Irish and blend in with the newly formed melting pot.

So, is being Irish really all that lucky? 

I would argue yes. The tales of torture and woe speak volumes of the enormous resiliency of the Irish — lessons well suited for us all, even today, maybe even especially today since everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

There is something innate about being Irish that makes us inherently lucky and able to consistently land on our feet when bad circumstances occur. I have had to call upon my own inner Irish endurance to survive the special hell of the last couple of years. But, just like the Irish, I know I am stronger for the experience — I would even say I am lucky to have had to endure the challenges foist upon me for I know I am better because of them. My priorities have never been more in check and my sense of self is approaching awesome.

While it may be difficult to see in the thick of the hell, next time unpleasant or unhappy circumstances make their way into your world, consider how lucky you might just be. Certainly something to think about on this blessed day of Irish celebration.

Good times, good friends, good health to you — and the luck of the Irish in all that you do.


Enough Already

Why is it never enough? Never enough _______ (confidence, prestige, money, time, sex, shoes). Fill in the blank, seems like as a society we always feel the need for more of whatever IT is. So many people walk though their lives feeling incomplete, looking for MORE of something. It’s what feeds addictions, therapists’ offices, and divorce/bankruptcy courts. What if we really are enough, have enough, and give enough already and the problem is that we just can’t see it well enough

It’s easier to look at someone else’s struggle for enoughness (yes, it is officially now a word) rather than deal objectively with our own battle to be above the meniscus. When we see our friends lament over doubts in their abilities, their worthiness, what they have to contribute, or mistakes they have made, we can easily point out where they really do measure up, and quite often exceed expectations. It can be maddening when they are not able to see the awesomeness in themselves that we can.

What about our own ability to quantify our adequacy? Some of it can probably be traced back to whose yardstick we are using to calculate our level of sufficiency. I admit I still use an outdated yardstick to beat myself up with sometimes instead of using the right one to mark my accomplishments, my enoughness. Thankfully, my friends (one in particular) are always ready to kick my ass off the island of Not Good Enough.

It can be difficult to see that we really are enough. Societal expectations are constantly telling us what ELSE we should have, do, or be. It is easy to compare our inventory to others’ and feel we are coming up short. It’s time to challenge all of it. It’s time to own who we are and BE enough. When your internal gage starts to tip toward failure, get recharged by the amazing things you do (if you can’t remember what they are, borrow your friends’ perspective, they can see your talents quite clearly). It is time to know that we each are enough. And to the voice in your head that suggests anything to the contrary? It’s time to turn it off and tell yourself you know better. Enough already.


The Audacity To Be Awesome

Well, I survived the first leap of faith. As of this morning, 44 people (not counting me) have actually read my first post. And, wait, even better — THREE have actually commented (and said nice things!). Imagine that, I might actually be able to do this (well, at least those three people might be willing to read the next post — I could just be kidding myself, but I’m writing this one anyway).

So, this leads me to my next thought, which is my ambition to be awesome. OK, not like in that narcissistic, “Look at me, I am so awesome,” Paris Hilton kind of awesome. No, I am talking about the Julien Smith kind of awesome. The man is a fucking genius (click the awesome link, read the article, fucking was necessary, and I might even need to say it a few more times, so prepare yourself). I think I may actually have awesome in me somewhere, crumpled up in one of these boxes of shit in my head. I just need to let it out and stop worrying about what anyone else thinks about the crazy ass things that fall out of my mouth. The filter is gone and it feels fucking awesome (hey, I warned you).

The problem previously, the biggest fucking roadblock to my impending awesomeness (yes, it is a word) has been the yardstick I’ve been using to measure my potential. My first yardstick was handed down by my mother. It had a pointedly-worded mantra shellacked in big, bold, nun-induced cursive letters across it which said, “You never do anything right, if only you would try harder you might almost be worth something — but in the meantime, don’t even bother because you suck and you’ll never amount to anything.” Would have made for a snazzy cross-stitched throw pillow, eh?

I managed to ditch that one for a while, but then, without even realizing it, I traded it in for my not-fucking-soon-enough-ex-husband’s yardstick. He and my mother could have stitched their pillows together — we’ll leave it at that (for now).

I know it happens to others as well, and it kinda pisses me off to see it in action. A friend of mine is an artistic genius  — fucking awesome if I do say so (again, warned you). But, he is so afraid to put it out there that this beautiful stuff just sits, collecting dust while he laments his possible wasted potential. Really, ya think?  Another friend recently said he didn’t know what he had to offer and some bullshit about shoes he didn’t think he could fill. He’s another fucking awesome human being that needs a new yardstick, or at least to stop worrying about filling shoes. Wear your own fucking shoes, they fit just fine — or, follow my daughter’s lead and just go barefoot everywhere you can (even when you are not supposed to — I do love being a rebel). Imagine how much more we could accomplish, how much happier we would be if we just used our own measuring tools — our own assessment of what was good, perfect, or even just enough — instead of the expectations imposed by anyone else.

So, my new yardstick is my own. It is a beautiful mess of glitter, duct tape, and brilliant quotes tacked all over it to encourage me to have the audacity to continue to try, to do and be whatever I think I can, whatever I want to be. I can only hope it’s fucking awesome.


Ready To Fly

Well, here I am, sitting in my untamed brilliant nest. It’s cozy in here. Do I really need to leave. And by leave, I mean actually POST something for the world to read? Geez, that seems drastic. Can’t I just revel in the success of having set up my blog (mostly) all by myself, kick back and rest my feet on the edge of the nest for a while? Of course I can, and I have been for about a week and a half, telling myself all the while that I’ll get to it right after I _______ (fill in the blank with the stall du jour). What’s the rush? Who is gonna wanna read it anyway (yes, that is the whooshing sound of torrential self-doubt whipping through the trees, threatening to topple my roost to the ground before I ever stand tall on my little birdie legs.

Leaving the nest, WTF am I thinking? What if this crap I pass off as writing doesn’t fly? What if someone laughs, judges, mocks, or even just ignores me? What if I’m not really brilliant? Untamed, that’s not a problem, but brilliant? I have a few friends who have suggested I might have some smarts. Carol tells me all the time that I am one of the smartest people she knows — she went to Duke and MIT, so that’s saying something, right? Chad told me I was funny, told me to write, that I am brilliant. What if he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, that could be awkward, what with the blog title I’ve chosen. Is it too late to amend it to be untamednotquitesureifimbrilliant.com? Probably. Better get my shit together and figure out how to be brilliant. No pressure.

Did I mention I have a fear of flying? My friend Julien wanted to take me skydiving with him, said it would cure me. He told me that when faced with a challenge, face it head on. He was brilliant. I wish he could see me fly here, I think he’d be proud. He might tell me that there are other birds in the trees watching what I am doing, watching me hesitate, waiting to see what I will do. And every time I stall, talk myself out of it, or otherwise doubt my abilities, it gives them a reason to do the same.

So, what if I just take a colossal leap of faith? It’s time for a running start into what comes next. But what if I jump and I fall flat on my face? Well, then I guess I’ll be able to show what it looks like to take a chance, do it wrong, start over, and try again. And, if that inspires another bird to jump, what might that bird accomplish? Possibly something brilliant.