A Mini-Break to Ocean Shores

Every once in a while it’s nice to have a change of scenery. It’s like a palate cleanser for the soul. I could definitely use one of those every now and again. And since I had yet to experience the Washington coast, we decided to take a little overnight trip to Ocean Shores, which is only about 2 1/2 hours from Seattle.

I have only seen the Pacific three times in my life, and never toward the end of December, so I was braced for drama, and it didn’t disappoint. Stormy, rough, ice cold, it isn’t a place for sunbathing or swimming. And yet it was beautiful. I always manage to breathe more deeply when embraced by the salty sea air.

What I wasn’t expecting was the town of Ocean Shores itself. It may be clinging to the coast of the Pacific Northwest, but if you subtract the cold rain, it could have just as easily been a Florida beach town. The kitschy little souvenir shops (one of which you entered through the mouth of a shark), and the delightful little restaurants (one of which was in a mini lighthouse), could have easily been overlooking the Atlantic Southeast.

Given the time of year, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, but I could easily close my eyes and imagine it in the height of summer, chock full of guys in board shorts and children wearing water wings and making sand castles. It almost made me homesick for Florida. Almost.

Another weird connection is that Pat Boone lived in Ocean Shores for many years, and he was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where I lived for decades. So there’s that, too.

If ever I feel the need to reconnect with Florida, now I know it’s only a few hours away. That’s kind of comforting. I suspect I’ll be back.

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News Blackout

The entire two weeks of my Alaskan vacation, I did not access the news. Not once. No newspapers, no radio, no streaming media. Nothing. Aliens could have invaded the planet and I wouldn’t have known. Cheeto-head had to fend for himself. The human moral compass no doubt continued to spin erratically in search of true North. I was not subjected to the vertigo that that can cause.

It was pure bliss.

Oh, I was already aware of the stress that news causes me. I knew that not a day goes by without my feeling frustrated, helpless, and outraged because of the things going on in the world. I knew I needed a break.

But as they say, a fish doesn’t know the quality of the water it is in until it jumps out of it. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t expect to feel my blood pressure drop. I felt physically better. More rested. My attitude improved. People didn’t seem to suck nearly as much as they normally do. (Well, most of them, anyway.) It was cleansing.

I’m not saying that we should bury our heads in the sand as a general rule. Our leaders must be held accountable. We must bear witness. We have to strive for change or else society will sink to its lowest common denominator.

But every now and then, it’s nice to be reminded that the earth is going to continue to revolve around the sun with or without my help. It’s good to take time to reassess and revitalize. It’s important to live to fight another day.

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Mental Health Days

Raise your hand if you’ve NEVER, not even once, called in sick to work or school when you’re weren’t technically sick. Anyone? Anyone? (I didn’t think so.)

Back before I was a bridgetender, I pretty much hated every job I had. And I called in sick a lot. Of course, I was younger then, and believed I could get another job quickly and easily, even if I pushed my luck. It also never occurred to me that catastrophic health problems could ever be in my future, and that it might be a good idea to hoard my sick days.

But every once in a while, you just need a break. You know? (Of course you do.)

I think the need for mental health days has increased over time. The world is just too crowded and there’s too much information flying at us from every direction. The pressure is building. It becomes increasingly impossible to keep up, emotionally, financially, politically, and culturally.

Sometimes you just need to push the reset button. Sneak out and see a movie. Or sleep in and hug your dog. Or take a walk in the woods. Or read a good book.

And that’s okay. If you checking out for just one day means the world will stop spinning, then you seriously need to learn how to delegate. Just sayin’.

slow down, relax, take it easy

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Flexibility

I’ve met a lot of very rigid people in my lifetime. I always feel kind of sorry for them. It must be exhausting to get worked up over the minutiae of life. There is plenty of significant stuff to focus on.

For example, I know someone who writes furious e-mails to superiors if someone doesn’t leave paperwork at exact right angles to their desk edges. Seriously? Is that all you have to worry about? Then you are in pretty good shape in the overall scheme of things, if you ask me.

There are two types of people. The ones who ask themselves “Why is this important?” before overreacting, and the ones who don’t. The ones who don’t tend to lead very tense, miserable lives, and they pile undue stress onto those who are unfortunate enough to fall within their circle of influence.

It is important to have some sort of scale to determine what is worthy of your rage. Someone putting the dish soap in a place you haven’t specified should not get a reaction equivalent to someone firing a mortar through your living room window. If you think otherwise, you must be operating in a realm of post traumatic stress that’s worthy of professional help.

The older I get, the less energy I seem to have for petty foolishness. I can’t be bothered. I’d much rather take a nap. The planet will continue to circle the sun without my assistance.

Here’s a rule of thumb. I can go days, weeks even, without being truly angry. If you’re someone who gets angry several times a day… well… you might want to rethink things a tiny bit. Learn to bend or you will surely break. Just sayin’.

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National Compassion Fatigue

No matter who you vote for on November 8th (and please, please do!), I think there’s one thing that most Americans can agree on: we’re tired. We’re tired of this pervasive feeling that everything in this country is going to hell in a handbasket, even if we can’t seem to agree on the root causes. I think, as a nation, we need a vacation.

Here are a few things that, rightly or wrongly, I am sick of hearing about.

  • Politics
  • Violence
  • Corruption
  • Reality Shows
  • The Economy
  • Poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Disease
  • Fraud
  • Terrorism
  • The Environment
  • Rights, or lack thereof
  • War
  • Abuse
  • Police
  • Money
  • Child Rearing
  • Anything that ends in “ism”, “ist” or “phobic”
  • Health Care
  • Celebrities
  • Scandals, especially as they pertain to celebrities
  • Unemployment
  • Advocacy
  • Natural Disasters
  • Hunger
  • Mental Illness
  • The Internet
  • Debt
  • Crime

Please understand. I realize it’s important that most of these things get discussed and acted upon. They need to be part of the national conversation. (Well, except for the celebrity bs.) But in this day and age we are bombarded with these topics every waking moment. There seems to be no respite. I think I’m speaking for pretty much everybody when I say, “Can we just… not? For even 5 minutes? Pretty please?

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Waiting to Exhale

I’ve been through some of the most stressful months of my entire life. Death, job hunting, moving, evil and unscrupulous landlady and her ex-convict son, even more evil and unscrupulous internet provider (more about that in a few days) all piled one on top of the other, and it makes me tired. If I were the gun loving type I’d probably be a menace to society right about now. I’m on the ragged edge.

What I need more than anything is to be cut a teeny tiny bit of slack, m’kay? Could you do that, universe? Just for a second?

And I have to constantly remind myself that the average asshole on the street has absolutely no idea how close I am to the breaking point. It’s not their fault that their behavior just feels like piling on to me. So I am forced to cut everyone else the slack that I so desperately need right now, and it’s taking an enormous amount of effort on my part.

I admire my dogs. They can go from states of extreme agitation to complete and utter relaxation in 2 seconds flat. Apparently it just requires turning in a circle three times (never two, never four) and then heaving a heavy sigh, and whoosh, they’re the poster children for total tranquility.

I need to learn to do that. But in the mean time I am learning how important it is to treat strangers with courtesy and respect. You have no idea what they might be going through. Your kindness may be just the balm they need to carry on for a few more minutes. Many of us are taking life just one minute at a time. So be good to one another. Please.

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[Image credit: claimthevictory.org]

Give Me a Break. Please.

Recently I met a new artist in the virtual world of Second Life. He is amazingly talented but lacks confidence. He’s desperate to break into the art scene, but doesn’t know how to promote himself. I remember what that’s like. When I first started making fractals, I was so inexperienced I was afraid to show them to anyone. (And frankly I should have been. Looking at my early work makes me cringe.) Then I met my friend Bau, who took a chance on me.

Before I knew it I had a display in a gallery. I was so excited. I was so nervous. I was so proud of myself. Bau had to teach me how to display my work and set it up for sale. I was that green.

Since then my confidence has gown and I’ve shown my work in dozens of virtual galleries. I also have a (woefully out of date) website, and I sell my work in the real world in the form of posters, mugs, greeting cards, ornaments, ties and puzzles on zazzle.com.

None of that would have happened without Bau giving me my first break, and I’ve never forgotten that. Since then, I’ve done the best I could to pay it forward by helping a few artists get their start, and as soon as I met this guy and discovered how talented he was, I knew I’d like to help him.

To make a long story short, I got the most amazing and influential artist in all of Second Life to check out his work. This was no mean feat. It took me years to get a display in her gallery. I didn’t really feel like a successful artist in Second Life until I got a display there.

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, as the saying goes. This guy was so rude to my friend that I was mortified. So here I handed him an opportunity on a silver platter, and he handed me back the platter with poo poo all over it. I have to admit it. I went off on him. I mean, I really lost it.

I don’t take these types of things lightly. If my trust with that gallery is broken, the next time I want to help an artist, she might hesitate. And that’s SO unfair for the next person.

The next day I get an e-mail from this guy saying, among other things, that I needed to apologize to him, that I’m a harsh and angry person, I’m crazy, and I need to check my ego.

Omigod.

I hate being misunderstood. I hate doing an over-the-top amazingly wonderful thing and then getting hostility in return. I stewed on it for a day, and realized that OF COURSE he’d think I’m a harsh and angry person, because I was, indeed, harsh and angry with him, and since the world apparently revolves around him, he naturally must think that this incident was a demonstration of my overall demeanor despite all my previous kindness.

But you know what I hate the most? Seeing such an amazing opportunity go to waste. I’m on the ragged edge, financially and emotionally and spiritually, so I would LOVE to get a break like this, especially if it were related to employment, housing or romance. It could be the difference between my keeping a roof over my head or sleeping in my car, the difference between a life filled with love or a lifetime of loneliness. So if anyone were to give me a chance right now, even one tiny little break, I’d grab it with both hands and run with it, and I’d be grateful for life.

So that guy will be waiting an awfully long time for an apology from this harsh, angry person. And it turns out he’s decided to not display in any gallery, proving that if things don’t go your way, you should take your marbles and run home like a little girl.

Come on. Give me a break.

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Even this cat knows the guy screwed up.

[Image credit: disruptingdinnerparties.com]