I’m reading “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. 802 pages long, the first in his trilogy about the 20th century. Since he is 62, I suspect this trilogy will take years of research and writing, and may be his swan song after a long, successful career that began with “Eye of the Needle” when he was 27. Prior to this, he had already published five books before striking the mother lode. He is one of those dedicated, working writers who can now choose to write the books that he wants to.
After reading about him, I ask myself, What if I had stayed on the writing path that I started on when I was 12? Would I now be a recognized author? Maybe, but I would have spent my life doing something that I loved. While I also loved my advertising career, the difference is that I worked for others to promote other people’s products rather than my own.
When I was 12, and reluctantly living in Mexico (after being informed that we were not going home to England), I sat down at my mother’s Remington and typed my first book, “The Glass Stag.” 240 pages, double-spaced. Then I revised and rewrote it three times. My next book came at 13 (considered and rejected by MacMillan as excellent but no audience for a book written by a teenager). At 14, I joined an adult read and critique group, where I wrote my third book.
I knew for certain that I would become a writer.
Then why did I stray from that path?
Young love, having fun, moving, a career, New York and London took over my life. Until I was 21 and in a dull marketing job where I wrote lots of poetry. One day, I looked out of the filthy office window and thought, Is this how I want to spend my life? I quit, typed scripts at the BBC part-time for a living, and spent several months writing a book. This time, I was on track.
Until the day I met the love of my love who whisked me off for a year of high style living and travel before we broke up.
Back I went to a high-flying job as PR for an airline (pun intended) until marriage and a kid led me back to the corporate world and to Mexico, another marriage, another child, and then as a single mother supporting my kids.
Once, a friend from my first read and critique group, who had published several books, took the manuscript written years before in London to his top New York agent who got all excited about it. “Just clean it up and send it back,” he asked. It was a week before my second marriage, I was about to start a new job, and I had a two-year old to look after. The timing was off. I never did.
Fast forward to forced early retirement from advertising, a failed business, and the urge to create came back. In a golden four and a half months, I typed out (yes, an electric typewriter) the first draft of my opus, “Recognition.” As I rewrote 2nd and 3rd drafts, I supported myself with part-time work teaching English and selling my belongings. The agent from before, one of New York’s best, agreed to read it twice, both times sending me encouraging rejection letters. Over the following years, I wrote another seven drafts, joined several writing groups, and often followed up on comments made by agents in the numerous rejection letters. My first chapter won an award. But after seven years with “Recognition,” I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I stuck it in the closet.
I wrote another first draft of a novel, and a personal memoir (five drafts) that everyone, except for me, in three writing groups praised and loved. I was a weekly newspaper columnist and had shorter pieces published.
Next, inspired by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”, I took a Writers Digest book proposal course. When I approached several agents, they all wanted to see the book. For several years, while working freelance as a Hispanic report writer, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up!” Initial response from agents: great book, excellent writing, current and relevant theme, “but you need credentials for a publisher to be interested in it.”
An impasse of sorts until online opportunities unfolded before me.
Another writers’ conference and I knew where I was going: Found a small publisher willing to publish my book if I’d promote it. Put up my website, contacted a publicist, ready to go, and …
Hit by the economic downturn that depleted my resources, left me jobless again. And book less.
However, I still had a blog so I decided to make a go of that. Try to create interest in “Don’t Hang Up!” and then publish it.
I became addicted to blogging, not so much writing posts as to reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them. Many blogs inspired me or filled me with such enthusiasm that comments flowed, and I’d spend the better part of a week happily blogging.
I realized I’d lost my focus.
I wasn’t looking for or doing much work.
I got hustling and found freelance work. A lot.
That issue solved.
The other, my writing has been on hold. Meanwhile, several friends have published their books. Where am I with mine? What have I done to get it published? Too busy blogging.
Do I want to be a blogger or a book writer?
I already asked this question in a blog post months before, “Out to Sea. To Blog or Not to Blog.”
The answer is right in front of me.
I’ll never have the time or experience to aspire to reach Ken Follett’s level.
However, I do have two finished and edited memoirs, one first draft, and the outline for a trilogy that starts with “Recognition” (needs another go round/editing).
For me, at 68, time is at a premium.
So I’d better get going – and fast – with my writing.
And I can’t let life and work get in the way again.
Photo credit: Jacob Tron
What does “It is as it is” really mean?
Is it just a cliché?
Or a useless phrase to shrug off something that can’t be explained, which I guess, might make it seem profound.
I heard it again, the other day in a movie, “Company Men.”
And on TV at least three times in the past week.
I heard it from someone I care about who had lost his job and couldn’t find another. “You know, the economy is lousy, no one wants older people. It is as it is,” he told me.
There you are. Defeated by one phrase. All he could say.
For me, it’s a sign of helplessness, giving up, and – a lack of imagination. I’m resigned, can’t do anything about it, and therefore, I’ll just accept things the way they are.
Vanquished by a worth-nothing cliché.
Or is that what “It is as it is” really is?
So I decided to research it and yes, “It is as it is,” has been used/is used in everything from transcendental meditation to motivational courses to TV series and movies, etc.
Voted by USA Today as the #1 cliche of 2000.
“The past has no power over the present moment. ... It is as it is.” Eckhart Tolle, author of the bestsellers, The Power of Now and A New Earth. In 2008, an article in the New York Times referred to him as “the most popular spiritual author in the United States.” According to a 2009 article in the New York Times, Tolle is “not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible”.
Thomas Henry Huxley: “Is there a God? I do not know. Is man immortal? I do not know. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.”
Stephen Hawking: “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
“The Way It Is” by Venerable Ajahn Sumedho “We can observe the sensory realm for what it is. We’re not trying to get rid of it. We’re not complicating it by trying to add to it – we’re just being aware of it as it is. This is what we mean when we use such terms like: ‘It is as it is.‘
GuruBob’s Posterous Blog – It is…as it is!
Are you ready to do away with the phrase “it is what it is”, where did this come from and how did most of the country including actors, news commentators, and politician adopt this phrase?
The movie “Heat” (1995) that made it big! A scene between Al Pacino & Robert De Niro. Pacino then says, “That’s pretty vacant.” De Niro replies with, “Yea, it is what it is… That or we both go do something else pal.”
Literature and Poetry
1983 poem in German by Erich Fried: “It is What it is.”
At least in Parmenides’ contemporaries Pindar and Bacchylides, that involves tracing it to its origins, showing how and why it is as it is. …
“The Original Sun of God” – Dennis Diehl “Something that bright got humanity’s attention. Venus always was and always will be a planet on the inside orbit between earth and the sun. It behaves as it does because it is as it is ever sparkling, ever steady, unmoving and unchanging…”
“Are you ready to do away with the phrase “it is what it is“, where did this come from and how did most of the country including actors, news commentators, and politician adopt this phrase?”
Some replies to that were:
“A phrase that seems to simply state the obvious but actually implies helplessness.”
“It is what it is” can be considered rude within the context of its use. It’s very passive and can show a lack of concern for human interaction on a more personal level, and it lends itself to condescension. It’s a phrase that asserts that sometimes people have to simply accept the way something is, which I think too many people refuse to do anymore.”
Do I have to say any more?
How do you interpret, “It is as it is”? Do you have another take on this or is it all a lot about nothing?
Picture credits:Veronica Valades
Job loss often signifies much more than simply that. It can be an emotional loss – especially after long-term employment – or as bad as losing a dear friend of family member.
Many people experience something similar to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) as a pattern of adjustment.
What I saw, and experienced, were reactions that varied from anger, resentment, confusion, disappointment, mourning, fear, and bravado to sometimes, but not always, acceptance and/or renewed motivation. Unlike Kubler’s stages, these reactions had no specific order, tending to jump around or back and forth between one and the other, until settling into a specific mode.
I had bravado – oodles of it.
I could not admit to anyone, least of myself, that I was also out on a limb. No, I had to show them that I knew where I was going, and I told all and sundry just that. It helped that a lot of other co-workers had also been laid off at the same time.
So I pretended and then my pretense became fact and I chose to ignore that little inner voice warned me against it.
In other words, I had to show the world and to convince everyone, including myself, that I was not a loser.
“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” Tom Stoppard
Here is another excerpt from my book about midlife job loss and making a new start Don’t Hang Up!
What Do You Do When the Good Times End?
Our favorite word is: “Salud.” Over drinks and lunch and more drinks, a group of the Ax Man’s victims share our dismissal from Paradise.
Most of us, in shock and disbelief over our situation, have dawdled in our job searches, blaming the delay on elusive contacts who promise and promise, but don’t fulfill. In the meantime, we live off our severance packages, while convincing ourselves, and each other, that we will find work before the money runs out. Some talk about potential interviews as if they were fact, and behave as if they are being pursued with job offers when they are, in reality, the seekers.
We are lost souls wandering through an unknown jungle. Stripped of our trappings, we have few survival skills. We are sinking, drawing down each other under our mutual load of delusions of past grandeur.
“Stop deceiving yourselves,” I tell them. “Once word gets out that you don’t have a job, ad agencies aren’t interested in you, just give you the runaround. I’m not willing to go through that hassle.”
They turn angry eyes on me for bursting their imaginary bubble.
Truth is, for me, the vista is barren. I can’t look for a job in another ad agency – they would have to call me first. And if I’m not seated behind a desk in an office, it’s doubtful they will. Nor can I, a former top executive, stoop to lower levels or bow my head before people who have been my inferiors. It would give the impression I’m a failure or have lost my edge – and who wants leftovers?
“I’m going to set up my own business,” I tell my friends. “And I can use any help you can give me.”
I have no clear idea how I can use them – the words came out before I could stop them – but I need my comrades beside me. They make me feel that I’m still someone.
“A restaurant and catering business.” I outline my plans as if they were fact and not being made up as I go along.
Their faces are eager, grasping at this hope I extend to them.
“Call it Pennie’s.”
“Pennie’s Deli sounds better.”
“Everyone in the advertising business knows you and they’ll flock to it.”
They all want a finger in my pie. It will give us a mutual goal, like working together on an ad campaign. The difference is that, in this case, I’m the one who will put up all the money. They assume I got a good severance package, and I did. Little do they know that a chunk went on taxes. Or that I’ve lost my focus and have only a vague notion of how to replace it.
Keeping up appearances and my five-bedroom house is important. I can’t give it up; it’s my children’s home. Their rooms are intact for when my older son, who lives in Dallas, and my younger one, studying in Italy, come to visit. For company, I have a live-in maid, a collie, a rottweiler, two chow-chows, and a floundering relationship with my long-time boyfriend.
After years of devoting my energy to the workplace, it’s hard to sleep at night. I stay up until the wee hours drinking Scotch, sleep late in the morning, and nap whenever I feel like it. No reason to keep regular hours. No kids to awaken, no office to go to. Who cares if I’m half sloshed? I dream of making a splash in a new field, and conduct a (frenetic) search for cooking ideas, scouring recipe books and magazines, and making lists, lists, lists.
Nothing will deter me from turning my restaurant project into reality. Not even if I have to invest all of my severance pay in it.
How did you react after job loss? Did you make some bad decisions?
Picture: Gustave Dore
“Beware of judging [people] by their outward appearance.” Jean de La Fontaine
When I worked in the phone room, I often misjudged people, assuming they were something they were not. I found out that many were very different from what I thought them to be at first, and vice-versa, others wondered what someone like me was doing there. Below is an excerpt from “Don’t Hang Up!”
“You Never Know Who You Will Meet in the Phone Room”
“Don’t you people have anything better to do on the Sabbath?” the man on the other end of the phone asks. “Today is the Lord’s Day. To be kept holy. Not for material gains.”
He hangs up before I can give him an answer as to what “material gains” represent to people in low-paid jobs. Things like a week’s groceries.
Why should I give a damn? I’ve had a good day. Not like the young man next to me who is struggling to get surveys. Perhaps it’s the slow, hesitant way he reads the opening statement. From his appearance, he doesn’t seem to be “one of us” phone room people. More like an executive doing a weekend stint here. Too well groomed. Trimmed dark hair and beard, suede jacket. Mid-thirties. Attractive.
It sounds like he got a survey until, throwing up his arms, he stands and shouts, “That f… computer just cut me off.”
Hope he’s not freaking out. I’ve seen interviewers break down over surveys gone wrong – bursting into tears, shrieking, or wrecking a phone. Crazies smash computers and one assaulted a supervisor.
“Don’t worry, that happens to everyone.” I try to keep my voice calm.
Anger recedes from his face. He nods and sits again. “What did I do wrong? I was half way through the survey and it went blank.”
“Sometimes it cuts you off for no apparent reason,” I tell him. “Ask the supervisor.”
He returns with a dispirited expression. “She gave me some half-assed excuse about how this happens when a quota’s full. Let me see if I got it right. First, to qualify, the respondent has to be between forty-five and sixty. Second, he/she ate dinner – no lunch or takeout – at this Chinese restaurant chain at least once in the last three months. Third, only week nights, but not Fridays. Come on. Talk about looking for the proverbial needle.”
In the next two hours, I dial over a hundred times, twenty people answer, four agree to do the survey, and only one qualifies.
Would it really affect results if a respondent went to that restaurant on a Friday? Or had lunch instead of dinner? Or is sixty-one instead of sixty?
By this point, I’m sure many interviewers, desperate to get surveys, are twisting answers. It’s tempting.
Every so often I glance at my neighbor to see how he’s doing. Only two surveys vs. my ten. The supervisor is sure to send him home yet, when she checks, all she says is, “Pick up the pace.”
Another sign he’s special? Lucky man. It’s not as if his livelihood depended on this. Tomorrow, he’ll be back upstairs thanking God he doesn’t have to work down here for a living.
Great. I get another survey.
I feel his eyes on me. Probably feeling exactly what I felt not so long ago. “You really know how to get them,” he says.
Why should it matter if he’s an executive posing as an interviewer? I say, “Let me give you a tip,” and tell him what I learned from Lucky León, our Star Performer, how to tweak the opening statement. “And put a smile in your voice.”
“Hey, thanks, I really owe you.”
Talk about coincidence. On his very next call, he gets a survey.
But with the quota filling, every interviewer is struggling with the almost impossible task of finding someone who fits the profile – and agrees to do a survey. My neighbor is literally begging people, a tactic that rarely works.
I hear him slam down the receiver. “Why can’t those high-and-mighty bible thumpers understand that people like us need to work on Sundays?”
“People like us?”
“Working poor, who else?” He gestures at other interviewers.
“Is that what you consider us to be?”
“What they pay here is just one step above poverty level.”
“How would you know?”
“My paycheck, for one. I’m almost embarrassed to cash it.”
“So you are working here?”
“As far as I can tell, though who knows about tomorrow?”
“Why this job?”
“Because it’s all I could find, and it’s work, and a lot better than being homeless.”
“Yes, homeless – as in people who live on the street. I’m sure you’ve seen them around, kind of a blot on the landscape of America’s finest city.” Sarcasm shades his voice. “Last month, I was one of them. Not that a lady like you would know anything about that lifestyle.”
“I can’t imagine you sleeping in a doorway next to filthy drunks and bag ladies.”
“I couldn’t imagine it either”
“Why the streets? Why not a shelter?”
“Ever tried to get into one of those places? Let me tell you, I did and on cold nights they’re stuffed to overflowing. I was afraid to sleep – they steal your shoes right off your feet – and there’re guys crying out from booze or drug withdrawal, or honking away because their noses are clogged up with shit. You get used to the smell but it sticks to your clothes even after you go outside. So I found a couple of homeless, interesting guys – one plays chess in the park and the other reads anything he can lay his fingers on – and hung out with them a few days.”
I shiver. Being homeless seems only a couple of steps from the phone room. “Dressed like you are today?”
“Course not. Hocked my watch, left my bag in the Greyhound terminal, except for an old army jacket and sleeping bag. You’d never tell the difference between me and the real thing, though people don’t look at the homeless – not if they can help it. Finally, I got hold of some cash and rented a room in a downtown hotel. Not the swankiest in town, but it’s heaven after that.”
As the day wears on, the room becomes silent. Surveys have tapered off. It’s hard to be cooped up in here while the California sunlight beams through the front windows. Three hours before our scheduled leaving time, the supervisor tells us, “Everyone, clock out for the day.”
I step into the bright, semi-deserted downtown. After the refrigerated phone room, the March sun on our side of the street is warm and welcoming.
“Isn’t this great?” My neighbor smiles as if we were old friends. “Days like this, who cares about leaving early?”
“$24 less on my paycheck.”
“Didn’t think of that.” He shrugs. “Hey, wanna go for coffee?”
“This your regular work?” he asks. “You don’t sound like you belong in a phone room. More like you should be upstairs with the executives. Sure you’re not just posing as an interviewer?”
“Funny, I thought the same about you,” I say and we both laugh at how misleading appearances can be.
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” Wayne Dyer
Should I blame or thank Thom Brown of “To Gyle and Gambol” for “inflicting pain” on me – his words not mine – for asking me to select seven of my blog posts, and also nominate four others whom I admire? I see this as more of an honor, or a challenge. In addition, he saved my day since my Hard Drive crashed last night and my ready-to-go blog post was lost, so this is also a relief of sorts.
I already had a pretty good idea of which blog posts would fit the seven categories listed below. However, in one case, I’m including a guest post that is particularly relevant to my message and because of the outstanding person who wrote it.
My most Beautiful Post was the hardest to choose, a toss-up between three, but eventually I decided on, “Farewell, Old Friend!” because of the reactions and comments that it received.
My most Popular Post was a tie but I chose, “Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.” This post seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people who are making late life new starts.
My most Controversial Post, “I’m Mad as Hell!” occasioned a flurry of e-mails that varied from “Are you O.K.?” to “I recommend you seek help.” Probably the only time I ventured to air my political views, it was based on a journal entry two years earlier. I didn’t dare post the entire entry, which broke every politically correct rule in the book.
My most Helpful Post was one of my earliest, “I Never Thought This Would Happen to Me.” Words uttered across the country and indeed, across the world by many bewildered men and women who have lost jobs, home , status, etc.
Who knows why this post was Surprisingly Successful (not in comments but it has had more views than any other)? A funny little true story, “What A Slip!” about an unfortunate New Year’s incident. The only reason I can think why it’s had so many views – and comments that I haven’t dared approve – is the bright red pantyhose photo that must have appealed to every porn or physical services site in the world.
A post that Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved was, “Better Late Than Early.” A guest post written by bestselling author, Elle Newmark, about her Cinderella story that led from self-published author to a multi- million dollar book contract two weeks later. Her second book, “The Sandalwood Tree” recently came out just before her death two months ago. At least, she lived long enough to see her dreams fulfilled.
The post I am Most Proud of is, “I Will Not Go Gentle Into the Night.” In this, I ranted, raged, spoke my mind, gave it my all, lifted my – at that time – sagging spirits, and received the kind of responses I needed to hear – both times it was posted.
Now for the four Bloggers whom I would like to nominate to carry on the baton – if they so wish.
Giulietta Nardone at Giulietta, The Muse constantly exhorts her “rebellious” readers to “Take Back Your Life” and not be a follower.
Sonia Marsh at Gutsy Living wites about gutsy people, gutsy accomplishments and gutsy ways with her own special blend of humor and dedication. She led the way when she uprooted her family from American culture and comfort to live a year in a shack on a beach in Belize.
If you want to read about travel and living in Turkey, read Mary Holan’s “The Adventures of Cilgin Kiz.” Her posts always have both beautiful photos, lots of information, and her crazy descriptions and antics make me laugh.
I hope that you will enjoy these four bloggers as much as I do.
Again, thanks to Thom Brown at To Gyre and Gambol for choosing me and to Hajra at Hajra Kvetches who started this challenge.
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BLOGS I LOVE
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- Just My Thoughts
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- The Adventures of Cilgin Kiz
- To Gyre and Gambol
- Unlock the Door
- What Little Things