Renaissance Woman

I’m keeping the name of my blog (unavocis), but I’m changing the subtitle from “Finding my voice” to “Renaissance Woman.” It’s just so much easier than writing a bio or saying what I’ve done with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem talking. Quite the opposite. But I am sensitive to people waxing overly poetic about themselves, and so I really try to not talk about myself too much. By that I mean my accomplishments (which aren’t many — I haven’t solved any crimes or discovered a cure for cancer or anything — yet). I’m not even sure “accomplishments” is the best word… Perhaps “experience” is better. I think that sounds better. You see, I’ve done a lot, but you could say I haven’t accomplished much. Truly, I’m not trying to put myself down! I can list the degrees I have and that would just p*ss people off. What’s the point? You did this and this and this and…. so what? Have a student loan you’re still paying off? Uh, that would be me.

So, what I’m trying to say through all this jabber is that it’s easier for me to just change that subtitle than discuss myself too much. <cough> Not that that or much anything else has been going on at this blog the past few months. <cough> But it actually kind of fits. I’ve done this and that and this some more, and I love it all, but for one reason or another, decided it wasn’t my dream or wasn’t fulfilling or wasn’t the best fit. I believe I have found that fit.

Since I last posted (how many months has it been?), I’ve changed jobs, moved, started volunteering again, moved again, got an A in my first prerequisite (more on that below), and am now about to start my next two prereqs. And they are hard core! And if I needed any more confirmation that the move and change were good not only for my future, but for my SOUL, my mother told me a few weeks after the move that I was a much nicer person LOL. (Gee — I hope I wasn’t too awful to her otherwise!) Isn’t it amazing what a more peaceful, less toxic environment can do? It heals. And that’s what I needed — healing. The healing is still going on, don’t get me wrong. Five months after the move and I still don’t like talking about my previous place of employment or the conditions there. But I’ve had a new job to focus on, family to see lots and lots of, and old friends to reconnect with. I still haven’t had much time off to do _nothing_, and that’s not about to start. But I can handle school-related stress much better than work and toxic environment stress, any day.

So — what prerequisites? Well, I have hinted about it a few times on this blog, but basically, I have decided to fulfill my dream of working with animals. It will take a number of years, of course, but if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing. Especially given my age and previous education, this is not a decision I made lightly. If I want to do this, then by gum I had better be serious and put a plan together. And I have.

I probably won’t post too many details about my work with animals, and I will not post any pictures, but I will try to post more regularly. I will try to do one post a week or so, to make sure there is some interesting content. If you have any requests or interests, please !!! let me know. I will do my best to write a post on topics that entertain not just myself, but you, too!

Wishing you all the best!

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A picture is worth (more than) a thousand words

I volunteer at a wildlife center. I wear the whole not-so-flatteringly colored requisite volunteer shirt. The much-used, older pair of jeans. And shoes for that work, only, because I am paranoid about bringing home any zoonotic diseases to my animals.

Other than a few people who know this, however, it’s not really, well, documented. I mean, I say I go, and no one has doubted my word, but I realized the other day that I had no pictures of any of the adoptable exotics or myself at the facility, at all. So, while I was holding one of the birds, I asked one of the staff members to snap a picture of the two of us, using my phone. Then I put my phone in my pocket. Picture forgotten.

Fast forward to later that night, while having dinner with my family, visiting for from out of town. I took my phone out of my purse, and thought, this would be a great picture to show someone! It actually proves I’m there, working and helping out! So I flip open my phone, and scroll through to the photo.

And I start to dissolve into tears.

I don’t see the 30-something who is unhappy with her job. Who needs to lose some weight. Who has no makeup on. Whose hair is pulled back into a not-so-flattering _something_. Who needs a makeover. And more.

I only see one thing: The look of absolute, rapturous joy on my face.

I can’t stand it. I knew I was happy there, and I knew I was happy starting on my coursework for the next phase of my life. And I know that I’m working on getting another job to be closer to family, have support, etc. I know what I am working on, who I am, and what my future is (insofar as I can plan it).

But what I didn’t realize was that I was missing that joy. I have never, ever seen that look on my face.

I feel like a stranger in my own soul. Someone was communicating to me through that picture: the 5-year-old Unavocis who wanted to work with animals but somehow didn’t follow through. The person whose outlook on life didn’t include my now-ever-present cynicism in all matters related to the position I’ve held for the past 4.5 years. When did this girl get so lost? She evidently hasn’t died, thank God. But when did this bright-eyed, efferevescent, find-joy-in-life person’s presence begin to dissolve from my outer core?

I will say something on this blog that I never, EVER thought I’d put out there. I am quite anonymous, thank you very much, and I will always be. But seeing that picture of myself really did something to me the other night. I have been thinking about it ever since. Whenever I try to develop a coherent thought about it, I literally start to ball.

And the thing about it is? I’m not sad. Not at all. I am crying for profound joy. Profound, rediscovered joy.

The sub-title of my twitter account (and blog?) were something along the lines of “finding my voice.” How odd are those words, now, looking at what I’ve been through the past 12 months. I have decided what I want do, and have moved mountains to do so. And though there are a tough few years ahead, more schooling, etc., I’m serene. I’ve discovered my joy. And truthfully, I think it’s been the first time in a very, very long time. Perhaps since I was a child.

I was abused as a child. I will not go into detail, but I do remember it. I have never discussed it openly. But it definitely occurred after I had made my first out-loud statements about wanting to work with animals. I will not make any claims, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, around the age of the abuse, I began to lose that joy.

I have always been a pretty happy person. I am a good actress. Not having soul-filling joy doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. And I have been searching for that joy for years now. I do believe God is an important part of finding joy, but what I was seeking wasn’t God. God has always been there. I’ve known that. I was seeking to recapture Joy.

I do not discredit anyone on his or her own path, and their own way to find Joy. Each person must have their own journey. But my journey has begun (for I truly think that I have rediscovered her, but it’s just started, this process of rediscovering her and respecting my true calling), and while it has been a lifetime in the making, it did, quite literally, begin with a picture.

In my case, a picture was worth a thousand tears of Joy, having been rediscovered after a very, very long absence.

Welcome home.

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My treasonous nose

Back in high school, a friend and I had a big, BIG, big crush on this one guy. Let’s call him John. He was popular in general, though not a jock, and was definitely the #1 male in the drama department (yes, I was a choir and drama geek). He was the male lead in every production, play and musical. But I digress… So I already had the hots for John. John wore Obsession for Men. I’d never even been interested in finding out what anyone wore, EVER, and here I was, in love with a fragrance. (I’ve even considered wearing it myself. — I’ve heard that’s not as uncommon as one may believe, a woman wearing men’s fragrance.) So my feelings for him transferred to the cologne. Of course, if it had been nasty smelling, I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked it. (I have a killer sense of smell, by the way… I can smell plain Chapstick when applied across the room.) So here I am liking both a young man and his eau d’. Ever since then, the moment I smell that fragrance, I’m back in high school. (I had a good high school experience, so this is not a bad thing.) I’m thinking of him and the plays and the performances and the slumber parties my friends and I had, watching him on tape (our families purchased VHS tapes — back in the day — of our productions) over and over. And over. (We were such typical teenage girls.) But while I remember all of this, and how I felt and what I did, I don’t experience the same types of feelings (i.e., I don’t go all gaga for John at the ripe ol’ age of thirty-something). I do, however, get the general sense of “oh-my-goodness-this-smells-good-who-is-wearing-that-I-need-to-meet-them-I-wonder-if-they’re-cute,” etc. Old habits die hard. This would be a very illustrative example, I believe, of how strong our sense memory is.

/anatomy lesson

OK So at least part of the reason for all of this ado about “sense memory” is literally in our anatomy. Inside our skull, just above and behind our nasal cavity, there is a bone called the ethmoid bone. This bone has something called a cribriform plate. This is a horizontal part of the bone that has many small holes in it (foramina). These holes are where the many projections of the olfactory bulb, our olfactory nerves, pass through. (The olfactory nerve begins in the brain – on each side – CN I.) Here’s a decent image of a lateral view of a saggital section of the nasal cavity. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/835585-overview You can see just how close the olfactory bulb is to our brain and nasal cavity.

/anatomy lesson

Isn’t that fascinating? I love it when things can be explained by our anatomy. So anyway — here I am, smelling this ambrosia-like smell, and then I see who’s wearing it. Enter me running into a cartoon brick wall (doooiiiiing). Yeah, not so cute. Missing some teeth, actually. Not quite approaching carnie, but too close for comfort. (I have a thing about teeth.) So how do our psyches deal with this smell-sight disagreement? Can it damage our attachment to a certain smell/sight/sound? I’m not so sure about that. My correspondence was created so long ago, and it wasn’t a one-off. It seriously had 4 years of conditioning/strengthening. I think that puppy’s here to stay. (I just have to make sure that the next person I date — whenever that is — is open to wearing Obsession for Men once in a while. Then I will erase any surprising, uhem, not-so-attractive associations that have affronted my previously hard-won smell-sight correspondence.)

Have you had any experiences that have been jarring to any of your senses? Please share!

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A new daily task

Just a quick post to plug Damn You, Auto Correct, a ridiculously funny site which lists users’ uploaded experiences of the oddities (and sometimes downright embarrassing corrections) of the iPhone’s autocorrect feature.

Please check it out whenever you have a minute or 30. I’ve never NOT ended up with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

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Counting your blessings isn’t always so easy…

I believe I may have alluded to attempting to find new employment earlier this year. I am still in this process.  Let’s just say that part of the reason nothing has worked out is due to the economy (likely, mostly to blame), but I must also take some of the blame.

I have always (usually) been a positive, optimistic person. I grew up seeing the good in everyone, and was, likely, sheltered. The only good thing I can say about my current employment is that I have shed the bulk of any naivete I may have had, and I have tremendously strengthened my backbone. Just a few years ago, I was easily wounded, emotionally. If someone looked at me cross-eyed, I would have perhaps not burst into tears, but I definitely would have spent countless hours trying to backtrack and figure out what I may have said or done to make someone want to look at me so meanly. Yes, I was that sensitive. Today, I certainly do not go out of my way to anger or hurt someone in any way, but I have a much more, let’s say, healthy way of going about in the world. So “healthy,” one might say, that I am bordering on cynical. This does make me somewhat sad, because there are so many things in life that did and do thrill me, interest me, make me laugh, make me sing, and just make me thankful for being alive. I still do feel. But this experience has also made me a more angry person, a less trusting person. And I do not want to be that.

I cannot give any specifics about my employment, but it is a very sad, dangerous place to work, emotionally. So not only do I feel like I’m stuck, in that I haven’t gotten out yet, but it’s worse: I’ve decided in the past few months to pursue an entirely different field, which requires prerequisites as well as more schooling (laugh, it’s OK; I did). Oddly enough, this is the first calling I had, even as a 5 year old. The beauty: I have made a decision, planned out the required debt repayment, education, complete with time line. The tragedy: I cannot start with anything I’ve planned until I’m out of this position. All of my plans are contingent upon me getting another job (literally, almost any job, even at a 30% pay cut), move to a particular area where the cost of living is much cheaper, and start taking classes while paying off my last credit card, and saving up for the time when I will not be able to work at all.

When I start to feel overwhelmed or sorry for myself, I try to make a practice of counting my blessings. I’m healthy, gainfully employed, can pay all of my bills, and live close enough to family that I can see them pretty much whenever I want to. I have health care, a retirement plan, and many other employer-funded benefits. I have two beautiful cats whom I love and cherish, I’m able to provide them with a very good life, if I don’t say so myself, including preventative care, pet insurance, healthy food, fresh water, toys, and a pet sitter for the times I go out of town more than one night. I have friends whom I love, family whom I treasure, and talents I am not deserving of. I have a roof over my head, light to read by, food in the cupboards, a car (paid for), all the appliances I need. I have been blessed with the education I have received, and the opportunities to travel and perform. I am conscious of a Being higher than myself, outside of time and space, whom I cannot begin to comprehend, yet whom I already do. And yet–

And yet all of this is inconsequential when one feels trapped. Caged. Smothered. Threatened.

Granted, it is NOT inconsequential, not at all. I can look at my list of blessings, I can even acknowledge every one. But the crushing a  human soul feels as it’s confinement contracts, more and more, is greater than any blessing man can contrive. It overshadows all else.

I’ve been blessed enough to be busy with work, class, and life in general, so that I made putting out applications a general check-off list. It was something I had to do, so I did it, dutifully. But not as regularly as I should have or could have. Today, I hit a wall. Or broke through one. I’m not exactly sure what set it off. That signaled to me to look at not only WHAT I was doing, but HOW I was going about it. Am I putting in applications? Yes. Enough? Certainly not. So while I’m positive the economy is and will remain to be the #1 reason I have had such difficulty getting a position thus far, I know that a close #2 is myself. I can admit that.

I have spoken with trusted confidantes and they have helped me get back on the path I was previously on. They helped me ask myself the following questions:

Has anything changed from yesterday to today?  – No.

Have your goals changed? – No.

Are you doing everything you can right here, right now, to reach your goal, no matter what step it may be in the larger plan? – Yes.

With that, I have been able to refocus. My plans haven’t changed. I have had to adjust a few things, and it’s possible my time line will be affected by 3-6 months, but in order to do anything, I have to get out. And getting out, as was made abundantly clear to me today, is the most important thing. For my sanity, for my mental and physical health, and for my soul.

Do I still feel trapped? Somewhat– but not in a soul-smothering way. More like a bird who has flown into some leaves and has been knocked to the ground, thankfully uninjured. I still know where I am trying to navigate to. I have the map in my head and on my heart. I have to get up, and find an open space wide enough for me to take flight once again. There is no if, only when.

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Please consider, reconsider, and reconsider, again, if you want to adopt a pet

When I was in kindergarten, I said that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I had talents, too, related to music and performance, and that was the first direction I went in. In college, I studied music. But I have always loved animals and have never ever stopped wanting to “make them better.”

Though I never became a veterinarian (and I still have fantasies about going vet school), I know there are many ways I can help animals’ plight outside of being able to stitch them up. I’ve recently taken a pet first aid class, and I plan on educating myself about how to do a veterinary exam on my own girls (this includes listening to breathing, heartbeat, examining eyes, teeth, and ears, as well as taking their [yes, rectal] temperature). None of these are invasive (well, except for the temp), and all are 100% possible to do if correctly learned. It may sound odd, but I remain in contact with the vet who diagnosed, treated, and later helped my sweetheart girl pass from this world a few years ago. I trust her implicitly and know her caliber of care and bedside manner to be second to none, because I saw, first hand, how she treated my darling girl at the very end. I have SEEN how peaceful (though emotionally painful, yes) a humane euthanization can be. And if animal shelters truly do euthanize animals the way the posted letter on Girl with the Red Balloon’s blog describes, then my estimation of humanity, which was already suffering, I admit, has dipped even lower.

I have known people who have surrendered their cat because “we’re moving to X and we can’t take him,” yet they took their dog with them. I’m sorry, dogs are lovely, but they are much, much more work than cats. When you adopt a pet, you are making a COMMITMENT to a LIVING BEING. Pets (all animals, for that matter) require more than food and water and basic wellness care. They require love, play, interaction, and TIME. In my NOT SO HUMBLE opinion, if you commit to an animal by adopting it, then you should plan on having that animal for its entire life, either until its natural death or until such time that it is kinder to help it pass from this life. I know that working full time AND going to school full time is hard. It’s very hard. And yes, I am single so I was “just” taking care of myself and my pets. But if I can handle working full time (and some overtime) and attending graduate school full time (and graduating with a 3.8 GPA, thank you very much), and tend a kitten and an elderly cat with cancer, then yes, I think I can expect just a little out of someone who adopts a pet.

I certainly do not hold everyone to my own “standard,” which includes purchasing pet insurance (with cancer inclusion), using only superior quality wet/canned food (they do rarely get dry, if I’m on an extended trip), hiring a pet sitter for any length of trip over 1 night, buying several battery-operated cat toys (and rechargeable batteries and charger) to help assuage my guilt at not being able to spend more time with them, taking them for the odd walk in a pet stroller (yes, you read that correctly) (purchased from a friend who purchased it used from Craigslist), keeping their microchip info, vet info, insurance info, etc., in coded sections of my phone’s address book, having a plan for their care in the event that I die before they do (and they’re still quite young), keeping them solely indoors, letting them sleep on my bed, baby talking them, keeping a pet seat near a window so they can see outdoors, arranging furniture not to best suit them, but to suit me so that they do not get into things, arranging all maintenance appointments at my apartment for times when I am home, otherwise, no one is allowed in (outside of an emergency, of course), giving them only filtered water, and I’m sure the list could go on.

I do not hold any other person with a companion animal to these standards. I realize quite well that rare is the person who is as particular as I am about their pets. But even without holding others to the standards I have for myself, I do hold them to some basic standards, as mentioned above. There is no reason, I repeat, no reason for not giving your pet the time and care it deserves. And if there is any doubt in your mind that you may not be able to afford a pet financially or time wise, then by all means DO NOT GET A PET. Adopting a pet is a serious commitment that comes with serious responsibilities and of course great joy, as well. But your want for a pet should not outweigh what any animal deserves: a human companion who cares for them, who plays with them, and who can assure the little soul that she has a home until she draws her last breath.

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Day 40 – Imperfect success

Well, uhem, it appears I miscounted. Not consecutively, but the days of Lent. Apparently I forgot that the Sundays in Lent don’t count as “Lent.” That is, they are normal “days of obligation,” but are not part of the official 40 days of Lent. (If I’m mistaken, someone please correct me and cite your source.)

So, today would have been, consecutively, day 40, but then one must count the next 3 days (well, today, Tues. and Wed.), and I guess not count Ash Wednesday, or something. Because technically Lent has 40 days. I take full blame/responsibility for my lack of Lenten counting ability. You see, I was not raised in a liturgical church, so it wasn’t until I was 23 or so that I’d even really understood what “Lent” was. (You mean it’s not the stuff in your belly button?) So, though my count was off, the point of this exercise really has worked, I think. And though I didn’t make every single daily post, I think having an imperfect Lenten journey is the sincerest kind. So I’m  OK with it not being perfect. That is not to say, however, that I don’t want to do better next year on whatever I choose to take up or give up for Lent.

So, now that the end is in sight, how did your Lenten journey go? Were you imperfectly successful?

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