Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009: A Year in Review

Let’s face it. It’s been a rough year. For many… including us—it’s been a rough couple of years.

When we rang in 2009, we drank a bottle of champagne and literally grinned with joy and adulation because it wasn’t 2008 anymore. We didn’t think it could be “just as bad”; we didn’t think it could get “worse”. We were determined to make 2009 a better year.

The thing is… that’s easier said than done. My husband was still unemployed, and even though he’d gone through some pretty amazing changes in his attitude and the way he approached life and made choices (thanks to Pathways), we still had that money problem. He was still out of work, and the unemployment benefits were running out.

And worse, I was still a contractor at the time, and prospects for me were all but zero. I got a few weeks worth of work here and there, but the stretches in-between work were getting longer and longer.

Surely this can’t continue, we thought. We were so full of hope. Couldn’t that carry us through?

For a while, yes.

It’s hard to hold on to hope when you’re watching the bills pile up, and you can’t pay them. It’s hard to hold on to hope when you’ve already lost so much, and you’re afraid you don’t have much more to lose except yourself.

And that is never a good feeling.

Faith wanes, hope turns from bright pink to the palest, faintest brush stroke, and the black hole of despair grows wider and stronger. It longs to suck you in.

And it’s easy to disappear into that hole, too.

I should know. I’ve let it happen so many times before.

For some reason, this time was different. It was different because I was so incredibly determined to make it different. I was tired of letting the black hole win, and I knew I had to fight for what I wanted: security, stability, and maybe just a little bit of peace, and a whole lot of trust.

Trust in myself.

Certainly, things worth fighting for…

There comes a time, though, when you’re fighting to stay upright, fighting to maintain sanity, fighting just to continue moving forward, and it feels like you’re stuck in the mud. Like no matter how hard you fight, no matter how much determination you have… you’re still getting nowhere.

You know what that moment feels like, right?

I learned to do something different this year.

I learned to fight for what I believed in, and when it felt like the fight became impossible, instead of only hard, I did something that felt altogether foreign, yet magical.

I let go.

The first time I did it was in my job search. I did everything I knew to do. I emailed everyone I knew, including copies of mine and my husband’s resumes, asking for help.

I searched for jobs—full time, part time, temporary, contract, whatever—as many as I could. I applied to so many jobs that often by the time I’d get a call back, I forgot I’d even applied with that company.

I expanded my LinkedIn contacts. I networked with everyone I met, introducing myself and letting each person know what my skills were and what I could offer a company, in a casual and non-salesy way. (As an aside, this step alone is a huge move forward for me. I had no networking skills a few years ago. Not only was I shy, but I wasn’t sure what to say about myself. Once I realized just how powerful networking really is… I changed that!)

In the mean time, I also made jewelry and posted it regularly to my Etsy store, making sure to keep the postings consistent so I’d get more hits. My sales went up, which helped us some.

In other words, I fought hard for what I believed in: me.

I was determined to keep our home and at least one of our cars. I knew I’d do whatever I could to make sure that happened.

For a long, long time, I got nothing in return.

It felt like I was trying to climb up a never-ending wall. The fight had morphed from hard to impossible.

In the past, I would have felt desperate. This time, though… I had faith that everything would work out. I had no idea how, but I also realized that I didn’t have to know how.

In other words… I let go.

Sometime around then, we received a very unexpected gift: two nice men delivering four bags of groceries to our door.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more humble or thankful or human than I did when I answered the door and saw those two men.

And soon after that, I got a phone call. A fantastic woman I’d worked with a couple of years ago thought of me when a position came open in her group. We had become friends since then, and she remembered seeing my email asking for help. She thought I’d be a good fit.

She was right!

I started my job at the end of June, and a pretty magical thing happened.

After being unemployed for a year and a half… my husband got a job with a great little company in August.

And now? We’re still recovering from our long period of drought, but my level of stress and anxiety are back to normal. My blood pressure is back to normal, too.

And, thanks to Pathways and getting to be in the training room (as a trainee when I refreshed the last session of the training in August, as well as being a TA [training assistant] in April and October), I gained more and more faith and trust.

Faith in this life I’m leading… and faith in myself. Trust—which is a huge deal for me—trust in the process. The process of just about everything, honestly: learning to see myself as I am—a strong and good woman who has managed to not only survive but thrive despite going through so much, learning to stop discounting my talents and abilities and start giving myself a little more credit, and finally, trust that as long as I give it my all, and let go when it feels right to let go… that I will receive so many precious gifts!

And honestly… it could have been so much worse. We could have lost everything material. Which… while it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, it would have been much, much worse than what actually happened.

We could have lost our minds, or lost each other, or lost ourselves. We could have lost family or friends.

We lost nothing of the truly important stuff… but we did receive many precious, priceless gifts.

Dear 2009,

All in all, you were pretty good to us, albeit in a round about way. Thanks for being here, and for giving me so many chances to see and feel redemption, trust, and faith. Not to mention the value of letting go at just the right moment.

You taught me some valuable lessons that I’ll cherish from now on.

Best Wishes,
Linda Lee

How was 2009 for you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sherbert Supreme - Add some color to your world!

Hands down, this is my new favorite. Isn’t that focal bead just yummy? I’ve used lots of equally yummy gemstones to accent it, too: citrine, peridot, aquamarine, plus some matching lampwork beads and sparkly Swarovski crystals.

I could really almost eat this one, but I'm not sure it's wise to eat glass. ;-)

This is the perfect necklace to wear when you need a little pick-me-up. Or when you want to draw some attention. Or… when you’re in a playful, fun mood, and you want to give others a smile.

I adore bright colors, and putting them together in a way that’s successful is a challenge I love taking on.

This necklace definitely won’t disappoint… I can’t wait to see who snatches it up!

Now, you may ask: What on earth can I wear this with? I have lots of ideas. It would really pop against a white or ivory-colored shirt... or a black shirt. Or, pick one of the colors in the necklace to wear (a solid shirt) - green, yellow, aqua, pink, orange, or blue. Pair it up with jeans, khakis, or dress-pants... or a skirt! This necklace will definitely beg for attention, especially paired with the lovely citrine and peridot, which are both attention-getting stones.