Posts Tagged ‘Overcoming Obstacles’
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
“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
There are some days, I admit, when I see little except for a gray existence ahead for me. At 67, I wonder if I will ever fulfill my life’s dream to become a published author. I fear that I will never find security in my old age. The aches and creaks of age wear me down. And I fall into “stinking thinking” that I’ll never find my way back up again.
None of this lasts for long. I don’t let it.
I can’t waste time on negative feelings. Rather, I have to use the next years of my life to accomplish as much as I can.
We all have our gray days. As we get older, we may feel age has caught up with us and overtaken our dreams to achieve what we set out to do. Maybe there isn’t enough time left, or we’re just too old, physically unable, mentally unwilling, or tired.
On the other hand, if we’re interested in the world and passionate about certain subjects, then we can still accomplish what we set out to do.
History and the arts are full of men and women who made surprising comebacks, achieved greatness, or who revived/had prominent careers at an age when most would have given up. And there must be a myriad of other less known or unrecorded cases.
“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in.”
Winston Churchill, after an up and down career, and ten years as a political pariah or, as he put it, “Out in the wilderness” during the 1930s, returned at 66 to serve as a wartime Prime Minister in 1940. His leadership and great speeches helped inspire the nation’s morale against the would-be Nazi invaders that were pummeling the cities and coast of England. He told the people of England, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in white dominated South Africa, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 and served 27 years, 18 as a classification D prisoner – the lowest scale – in the notorious Robben Island Prison. Released in 1990, he returned to lead his party in negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. He was 72 when he became South Africa’s first democratically elected South African president in 1994.
“You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.”
Golda Meir came to the U.S. from Russia at the age of 8, and was brought up in Milwaukee, WI. In 1921, she emigrated to Palestine where she worked on a kibbutz and as a teacher before moving up in the political ranks. At 71, she became Prime Minister of the State of Israel in March, 1979. The world’s third woman to be head of state (after Shri Lanka and India), she was portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.”
“I made a resolve that I was going to amount to something if I could.”
Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65 when his restaurant folded and because his pension was so small; after two years, he went on to wild success. A Kentucky Colonel (in-name military designation only), he gave the chain an image by dressing up in that all-white southern gentleman garb.
“Painting’s not important. The important thing is keeping busy.”
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76, when her hands became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle and she found herself with nothing to do. She’s usually cited for succeeding for the first time at her art work in her nineties and up to her death at 101. Her paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as well as in museums in Vienna and Paris.
“I never had a great role in a great film.”
Gloria Stuart, a movie actress in the 1930s, returned from obscurity at 86 when she landed the role of 100-year-old Rose in James Cameron’s “Titanic.” She remains the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar. The above quote must have been before “Titanic.”
“You cannot just waste time. Otherwise you’ll die to regret …”
Harriett Doerr finished her Stanford degree at 67. In 1983, at 73, she became a darling of the literary world with the publication of her first novel, “Stones for Ibarra,” which went on to win a National Book Award.
“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book. God knows what other potentials lurk in other people who keep going into old age.”
Harry Bernstein published a short story when he was 24, in 1934, but it was not until he was 96 that his well-received debut novel, “The Invisible Wall” was published. Bernstein turned to fiction only after his wife of 67 years died, as therapy for his loss and loneliness. He published two more books after his debut.
“If I had known at the beginning of my life that this is where I would get to, I would have said, “Not possible.”
Jessica Tandy, a well-respected actress came out of a career slump in the mid 1980s to a career revival in her seventies when she won both a Tony Award and an Emmy Award for her role in “Foxfire.” She became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989.
There are many other such stories of late life success that I’d have liked to include but then I’d have to write an e-book about them. It’s a fascinating subject – what drove these men and women to not give up despite rejection, imprisonment, lack of education or opportunity, sexism, ageism, defeat … you name it.
Do you know of someone who “made it” late in life, particularly after overcoming problems, losses, rejection, or other setbacks?
If you do, please share their stories with us.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
At 67, I am not dying. Yet. However, my age group is often treated as if we were at the start of a prolonged death march.
And I will rage and rage against the dying of my light and that of my generation.
We gave light and warmth to a world darkened by war and oppression.
Our generation was the offspring of The Greatest Generation, those who fought in WWII. My English father and American mother met during the war, and I was a war baby born in England to the sound of bombs, and spent my childhood in grim post war England.
Meanwhile, the 50s generation in the U.S. were smug, conservative in their victory, swathed in security and newfound luxuries, and determined to lead lives centered on doing the right thing. A woman’s place was in the home and a man’s in the workplace. Frank Sinatra sang, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Then Elvis shocked the nation with his, “I’m all shook up!” until the bosses found a way – military service, movies – to calm him down, and eventually turn him into an overweight, drug addicted Las Vegas entertainer.
We grew up to become the generation of the 60s. We changed popular to have meaning – Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary. Women lifted their hemlines from mid-calf almost to their thighs, men were released from hats and formal wear, changed customs and attitudes relaxed – men and women could actually sleep or live together openly, and we protested when we disagreed with politics and national policy (Vietnam). Women aspired to and found work in former male only professions.
We overcame a stuffy Establishment to start the modern world, the one inherited by the current generation.
Then we stopped raging and protesting, and most of us settled into respectability, using our creativity and energies to create a better world for our kids. Women carved careers for themselves in a male dominated world so that nowadays, female executives are as much a part of the corporate world as their male counterparts.
We never thought we’d reach an age when the younger generation would start to shove us aside like old relics. We never dreamed the day might come when formerly successful professionals would be out on a limb, scrabbling for work – any work – in mid-life. Or that many of us would be no longer employable despite our qualifications and experience, or broke because of lost jobs, or family homes foreclosed or, except for some notable exceptions, shunted aside. We never thought we’d become victims of another depression caused by the greedy generation that followed ours.
Perhaps some of you can accept this and go gentle into the night of your life.
Or the alternative:
Rage, rage against the dying of our light for as long as we can.
I, for one, prefer the latter choice. What about you?
We raged when we were young and got things done. We still have our voices and we can rage again.
One voice added to another. Mine added to yours added to someone else’s and so on can build up to a lot of middle age voices clamoring to be heard.
Just imagine if a large number of us protested, for example, age discrimination in the workplace.
The same way we used to.
For one thing, it would shock the younger generation. That we still have it in us. That we’re not going out without a fight. That we’re capable of moving again in tandem, but this time against the entitled younger generation that has not learned from history that it repeats itself over and over again.
What awaits them in 30-40 years?
I’m not ready to be shoved aside. Nor are many of my generation or even older.
Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 67 after 28 years’ imprisonment.
John McCain was a presidential candidate (a grueling ordeal) at 72.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi may be making a long overdue return after years of house arrest.
The world is rife with people over sixty who have more than enough energy to go around.
To mention a few: Hilary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Martha Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, Arianna Huffington, Isabel Allende, Doris Lessing, Steven King, Michael Bloomberg, Donald Trump, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Richard Branson
How about the entertainment world? Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese, Cher, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney.
I could add a lot more names and so can you, to that list.
Join my voice that you will not go gentle into the night.
Instead, you will rage, rage against the dying of your light.
Photograph courtesy of Veronica Valades
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