Friday, October 24, 2014

500 Words- Day 25 (Fear Part IV)

As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     I’ve spend the past three days talking about my life and the history of all the jobs I’ve held. The prompt that I got three days ago was to write what I was afraid of. I had something on my mind and I got right to work. The thing is that I allow for less than an hour each morning to write. 500 words takes less than an hour. So each morning I would pass the 500 word mark, then get to a good stopping place and leave off until the next day. Three days about fear? Am I really that much of a worrier? I didn’t think so.
     I concluded yesterday in the present day with a description of how my life is now. It might be a bit obvious what I’m afraid of already without me saying it. My life is comfortable right now, but I have all my eggs in one basket so to speak. My home is dependent on me having this job. Part of my salary includes this home. The tenant in my mobile pays very low rent because of that. Maybe it’s bad business, but I hope to keep her this way.
     I don’t have any real marketable skills. I’ve taught school and I’m pretty good at it, but I don’t have any credentials. I’m a good fiction writer, but that won’t put food on the table. It feels like everything I have is reliant on me holding this job.
     Do I feel my job is in jeopardy at all? No. But I still get anxious. I lost two jobs in a row in 2003 and 2007. And while there were warning signs for both of those times, I denied them. So am I living in denial now? I don’t know, I’m a much healthier person today than I was.
     So what are you afraid of, David? I didn’t have to ponder this question for very long when it was a writing prompt earlier this week. Once in a while my imagination goes too far and begins to cook up worst-case scenarios. I try not to dwell on them, but they won’t leave me alone, following me like a case of distracting hiccups that interfere with everything. So when I got the prompt, I thought about how afraid I was of losing my job.
     We would have to get rid of most of our pets, all the chickens and the big dog at least. We would have to get rid of most of our furniture. We had no room for couches in the mobile home. My wife and I would both have to go to work, and we might not be able to homeschool our kids anymore. That’s just a start. The worst things in the world really compound after that.
     But over the past three days I’ve kept up at work. Done my job, said hi to coworkers, and done well at what I do. Tuesday morning when I got this prompt my fear was tangible, but after a few days not so much. I tried not to dwell on it as much, instead, I wrote out a long explanation of how I felt. By the end, my fear was vaporous.  
     I’m done writing about what I’m afraid of, at least this way. In the future, fear will take its rightful place in my writing, in fiction. I’ve got a week before NaNoWriMo and that’s what I want to be dwelling on instead.
     Get behind me, fear. You’re just vapor.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

500 Words (Fear part III)

As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day. I’ve spent the past two days writing about fear. I’ve discovered something worth sharing.
     My wife was still working at Starbucks in the mornings and I was working custodial at a church in the afternoon and evenings. We were living in a mobile home park in a single wide with two add-ons. It was a little cramped, but we managed. One morning in September our phone rang. We still had a land line.
     It was the executive pastor of the church we went to. We had been going to the church for 10 years and new most of the folks there. My friend on the phone was more of a businessman than a pastor. There was an opening at my church for a custodian. I liked the idea of working at my own church. It would be the same hours and the pay would be a little higher.
     The next thing he told me made me want to politely refuse. We would have to move. Wait, what? I hated moving. Moving was a scourge, forget it. But I didn’t refuse the job. The church owned a house just to the north of its property. They needed a custodian who was also in charge of living there, answering the alarm and locking and unlocking as needed.
     When I thought about the job, I realized that the church would become part of my family’s life. My kids could attend any event they wanted to. They could come over and visit me or even help me at work just about any time. I would be the on-call keeper of the keys. I accepted the position, put in my two weeks at the old job and started my new job in October of 2010.
     The previous residents of the house stayed in for another few months. Then when it was empty, my family painted the insides. We moved in February and the move was just about as traumatic as I feared it would be.
     We now owned an empty mobile home that we paid both a mortgage and space fee on every month. We cleaned the place up and tried to rent it with little success. After a bad experience with a realtor, we lowered the price to just what we could get by on and got a tenant. The place is still a money pit and needs more work than we can afford to do.
     But the house we live in now is a real house with a huge backyard. We own chickens that give us eggs. We have two dogs and two cats. The boys have the master bedroom, but one son built a fortress in the side yard that he lives in instead of his room.
     The house is small compared to many houses, but it’s perfect for us. It has a living room separate from the kitchen/dining room/family room. I have a corner with my writing desk. My only daughter has a room of her own.
     I am responsible for locking up six nights a week. I’m there every day, even my days off. Once in a while the alarm goes off in the middle of the night or when someone accidently sets it off. I respond in the golf cart that the church owns.
     My duties are cleaning and setting rooms along with some general maintenance. I have offered my knowledge in other areas like scheduling and planning of events. I spend most of my work days alone listening to my iPod.
     Of all the jobs I’ve had over the past 30 years, I’ve never loved one like this. I would keep this one for the rest of my life if I could.
     So, David… what are you afraid of?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

500 Words- Day 23 (Fear Part II)

As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day. Yesterday’s prompt was to write about fear, and it’s taking me more than one day.
     The feeling when I got back from two years of teaching in Hungary was similar to the feeling I had after college. Okay, I’ve just spent years of my life at something, now what? I was thankful when I finally got a job as a substitute teacher, but the pay was not so good and we had to go on food stamps for the first time ever. I did the best I could to feed the family, but we put our condominium up for sale and planned to move to Southern California where I would try full time teaching.
     Then in the summer of 1999 my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. I worked off and on as I could, and spent a lot of time at the hospital too. We sold our condo at a loss and moved to SoCal where we lived with my parents.
     I spent the longest time of my life with no job then, from the fall of 1999 to the late spring of 2000. When my daughter went into remission I got a job working at a boy’s home, eventually teaching at its school. But the dark times grew worse.
     My daughter died in the fall of 2002 and I lost my job a few months later. I franticly searched for work, mostly other teaching jobs, and finally got a job working as a land surveyor. This job was the best paying job I ever held. It was physically taxing and took a lot of hours from my days.
     During that time, we got notice that the house had been renting for 6 years was being sold. In a bit of a panic, we bought a mobile home and moved into that. Never having it inspected, we were shocked when the first heavy rains came cascading down the inside of a wall. Financing through acquaintances, the monthly payments were almost twice what we thought they would be. But it was okay, I was making good money.
     Less than a year later I lost my construction job. I had held it for just under four years, a record then. But the national economy, along with the fact that I wasn’t making an effort to learn the trade, had me as one of the first to go from the company. I spent as many months unemployed as before, but this time not taking care of a sick child. My wife got a job while I collected unemployment and looked for anything that might pay well enough to feed us.
     I finally got a job as a custodian at a church. It wasn’t the church I went to, but it was a job and the work was full time. I struggled with life issues for the first year. Getting suspended for my attitude was a wake-up call and I finally got help for myself. I settled into the job and felt secure.
     But all along I had the feeling that I’d had on most jobs. Is this it? Will I be here for the rest of my life? I may have wanted to hold my job at the radio station forever, but that was when I had nothing else really in my life. I may have wanted to teach at the school at the boy’s home. I was even trying to get my credentials as a teacher. But most jobs never captivated me and never gave me a sense of permanence.
     Then four years ago things changed. I was helping my kids with school one morning when I got a call.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

500 Words- Day 22 (Fear part I)

As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day. I’m following the suggested prompt today, which was to write about fear.
     I passed a milestone last week when I marked four years at my current job. I’m 47 years old and I’ve now been at this job longer than any other job in my life. My current boss asked me why I thought it was, never holding a job for more than 4 years in my life. I had to reflect. I sound like a shiftless drifter in some ways, or perhaps a romantic jack-of-all-trades with wanderlust. The truth is a little of both.
I was a young kid I wanted to grow up to be a policeman or fireman, this was mostly so I could drive a vehicle real fast through the streets with flashing lights. As I grew older I liked to draw and design things. I thought I might design cars or be an architect. I liked writing even back then and made up stories all the time.  Then I discovered acting. I performed in community theatre and decided I wanted to be an actor.
     My first job was mowing lawns for my dad’s church. I took my first real job working for a paycheck after high school. All day long I cleaned hotel windows. I worked slowly, daydreaming I supposes. I was fired after about two months. Then I worked as a pizza cook for nine months.
When I went to college to study acting, it was not an acting college and the theatre department was very small compared to performing arts schools. But I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I studied a lot of humanities as well as the few acting courses. I worked in the mailroom and the switchboard for work study. Over the summer I worked fast food twice and drove pizzas one summer.
     I graduated college with a useless degree and tried to get into radio. The major stations in Honolulu may or may not have been interested in an intern, but I only applied to my favorite station once. I went back to delivering pizza for several months until I took a leap of faith and moved back to Maui where I’d grown up. There I finally got a job at a radio station.
     At last, I was at a job where I had fun, mostly. I worked graveyard, which was fine as a bachelor, but not so good when I got married and started a family. When a day shift opened up, they didn’t give it to me. I was reliable and needed on nights. I realized it was time to move on. I had been there 3 years.     
I thought I had a job lined up, but I didn’t. I spent a few weeks unemployed while my wife had National Guard Duty. Then I got a job driving shuttle vans to and from the airport. I spent two years there building seniority. The job had fast employee turnover. Soon I was getting the nicer vans and the hours I wanted, which was first thing in the morning. I was often at work at 5 to do a pickup at 6. I worked for tips as well as a salary, bringing home different amounts of cash each day.
In 1996 I applied to teach overseas as mission work. We were accepted, and after 5 weeks of training, I went with my wife and two young children to Budapest, Hungary where I taught English as a second language for two years. We came back with 3 kids and my wife was pregnant with our 4th.
We moved back into our first floor condominium on Maui and I looked for work. I cleared lots for a few weeks, did some stage setups with union guys and finally found a job as a substitute teacher.
Then in 1999 the worst thing in my life began.
And I haven’t even written yet about what I’m afraid of. I know what I’ll be writing tomorrow and look forward to sharing more.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

500 Words- (We and They Who Hurt)

As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     Sometimes writing character-driven stories can be more exhausting than any other kind of writing. But in real life, it’s people that make things happen. Sure, there may be natural occurrences, that affect our lives, but how people react to them is still what drives humanity.
     When we start out our life as infants, we’re selfish and hungry. If we develop normally we eventually learn empathy and how to care for other’s needs. But do we ever lose our selfish desires? Do they just lay underneath our conscience, under control most of the time? I think so. It’s why there’s conflict in the world.
     When I hear or read someone’s story, their testimony or an account from their life that explains who they are, that person becomes more real to me. In my few years in Celebrate Recovery I’ve heard some powerful stories of people’s lives. Each time, I’m reminded that these people have been shaped by events of their life and choices they made. They’ve been hurt and betrayed. They’ve had role models, good and bad. They’ve made choices they’ll regret forever.
     I’m reminded that these people are just like me.
     While I know a few people that it’s hard to imagine them ever being unkind or selfish, there are the other people. I don’t know most of them, but I see them being rude to cashiers or driving their loud vehicles above the speed limit in a school zone. Then there are people I know whose character flaws are all I seem to notice most of the time. These people might seem very selfish. They might make other’s lives more difficult for no apparent reason. They might be bullies, passive-aggressive saboteurs, or power-tripping micromanagers. We all know people like this, do we?
     But what’s more, are these people any different than us? The man in his illegally parked Corvette who’s rude to the girl at Starbucks. The woman who spreads hurtful gossip. Even the schoolyard bully. We all have a past full of incidents that shaped us and people who’ve hurt us. We all have coping mechanisms that we use to deal with life’s hurts. I have them and so does every person who irritates me or makes my life difficult.
     We all have a past that defines us. Some of us may not like what we’ve become from it and feel the need to act in a certain way, hoping to find security or identity. Some of us may not be aware of how we are and we think we’re doing the best we can. I know I’ve been there. I’ve thought I was doing it right, indispensable, and doing no damage. I had a cold wake-up call when I finally saw how I had been with others. The damage took years to mend.
     I’m not offering a solution to my observations other than this: I think we all know people in our lives that we don’t care for. Personally, I’m going to try to remember how it is for me sometimes. I’ve felt insecure and alone. These people do too sometimes. They’re coping with life in the way they can. Yes, it’s hurting others, and sometimes these people are poisonous to the point where they just need to be cut from our lives. But they’re this way for a reason.
     Readership on my blog has been down. If you are reading this, you might wonder if there is anyone in particular on my mind and this is my own passive-aggressive way of dealing with it. If you have questions, please message me. The point of today’s blog was to write 500 words about what’s on my mind. Mission accomplished.