28 January 2011

Choices & Chances

"Some choices hold you down.
Some chances set you free."
author, singer-songwriter, inspirationalist

I first read these words over a year ago. I think that they were on the chalkboard of quotes at my coffee shop, Emy J's. I scribbled it down on a piece of paper and propped it up on the dashboard of my car. I read these words every single day.

I recognize that we are the sum total of the choices that we make. Oftentimes our choices force us to miss out on a chance that may set us free. And sometimes those things that we see as the next big opportunity can have dangerous barbs that are not seen on the surface until we delve deeper into them. I have had much experience with both extremes in the past year.

Today, my office mate of 9 1/2 years is spending her last day here. She is a fine person who has been given a great chance to move across the country. I am sorry that she is leaving, but I know that this is the perfect chance to set herself free and reinvent herself anew. I am reliving the ups and downs of our time together, like potluck roommates in college. You never know what you are going to get. You might not always get along or enjoy each others' taste in music or their personal habits. But you come to rely on that person always being there for you, sharing laughter and tears together. She has done so much for this small office that I work in. It seems like an insurmountable challenge to live up to her standards. My room will be lonely without her.

Yet another part of me is feeling very selfish.

Back in November I elected to cut back one day a week at this job and a corresponding pay cut. I did this with the understanding that I would eventually have the chance to cut back more days until I was truly part time here and full-time doing what I know I am meant to do. My greatest goal has been to have daylight hours to create and work on my own business growth. So I set it up to have two half days a week as a trial. I have come to realize that this isn't working. Instead of getting 4 hours each 1/2 day to work on my business, I really only get 2 1/2. I have to pick up the kids after school and get them where they needed to go. Two and a half hours is not much time to start a new project or get much of anything done. But still, it is something. And so I challenged myself to really have a FOCUS (my word of the year) each week. And that is working. Sort of.

When this news of her departure was released, I felt immediately elated for her, and deflated for me. I want to be so happy for her, but I find myself fighting back tears as I write this because it is bringing out a selfishness that I hate giving into. I predicted that her leaving would not usher in a new colleague to share my space, but restructure everything so that the essential duties would be re-distributed and absorbed, mostly by me. So that means that while I will still be working this one less day a week, I will be taking on the majority of duties for a very essential member of our small staff. And while I know that there is a chain of back-ups for me, I don't feel very confident that this will be effective at all.

Unfortunately, I predicted correctly.

And I am understandably overwhelmed at this moment.

I alternate between the confidence I can do this (because I have to), and the crippling depression that I can't do this (because I just don't want to). I struggle with the knowledge that the more duties I have means the more I have to be here, which in turn translates into the less of a chance there is for me to leave and do what I am called to do. This struggle to keep it all locked inside and show a brave front is making me sick on the inside, and quite grouchy on the outside. I am starting to feel that I will never be able to leave this place. Well, at least not gracefully.

And to complicate matters, my parents are part of the ownership of the company I work for. But they are in a warm, sunny retirement sort of place, they don't read my blog (or even know what a blog is), and while they support me and think I make pretty things, they are essentially clueless as to what is really important to me or even believe that I can do what I want to do and make a life at it.

I feel stuck.

My life is framed by the choices that I have made
...the choice to stay in this job for 15 years which is about 12 years too long because I am loyal to a fault;
...the choice of taking two half days because I thought it would be the least disruptive for the rest of my colleagues, but turns out to be the least productive for me;
...the choice to open an Etsy site, but then dwindling chances to populate it and promote it so that it can be all that it can be and just flounders around at the whims of the ocean that is Etsy;
and defined by the chances that I take
...the chance I created to offer a semi-custom order to a large dance studio to expose my name and designs to 300 potential buyers;
...the chance to offer a bit of my soul in components that I hope to release to Etsy in February;
...the chance to mount a solo exhibit at the Gallery Q last summer that was one of their most successful yet and sparked a spin-off exhibit this spring;
...the chance to be juried into a popular local art show, and even if I don't get selected, I will have a better understanding of the process and a new booth design to build on;
...the chance to hop on an airplane and fly to an art retreat to recharge my creative soul and make new friends (I am really hoping that I can make this happen! But again, I don't know if I will be allowed the time away).

I suppose that this might be a choice or chance sort of moment for me. We all have them. We are faced with a situations and decisions that can take us down a path that we didn't expect to be on, sort of like those Choose Your Own Adventure books that were so popular in the 80s, where you read the story and then are faced with a dilemma. What will you choose? And each choice leads to another. (I admit that cheated. I always kept one hand in the page before and read ahead to see where each choice would lead me before committing to the consequence of my choice. And it always ended too soon on a note that I was dissatisfied with.) I suppose that is human nature with choices... you want the benefit of hindsight and the ability to change your mind if it doesn't quite work out.

{Charming mixed media art print by my new favorite ArtByErinLeigh on Etsy}
So it sucks for me this moment I find myself mired in. But I am sure that I am not the only one who faces choice and chance each day, and I am not looking for pity or pump-ups or even understanding. It is my crossroads to navigate. That chance where I got one toe out the door may be fading, or perhaps this turn of events will make me work harder at making sure that the whole foot and then the rest of me follows. Either way I know that if there is a way out of this deep hole, I am the only one who can find it. If it is not up and out, then perhaps I will have to dig an escape tunnel. And start living and truly believing that motto at the top of my page.

Your turn...
Does that quote resonate with you?
What choices are holding you down?
What chances are setting you free?
When you are faced with good fortune for someone, does it ever sting you just a little?
How are you daring to disturb the Universe today?
Do tell!

P.S. Thank you to all my dear and lovely and varied followers for all the love that you have shown me. It means the world to me that you come and take the time to not only read through my oh-so-rambling posts, but that you take the time to leave such insightful comments. It seems that my format is something that you would like to see continue, with the quotes and the questions framing the meat of each post, as well as the sprinklings of personal glimpses and creative projects that I am working on with things like the Random Acts of Wisdom, Lyrics to Love and 30 Words. It is so gratifying to know that what I have to say has sparked so many thoughtful and delightful comments. If I could invite you all to a party, you know I would. It would be one heck of a cocktail hour! So thank you hardly seems like enough...

P.P.S. But a good way to thank you is to give you the chance to win something! The last chance to enter the 501 (and counting!) giveaway is on Monday, January 31st just by leaving a comment on this post (you don't even have to follow me!).


steufel said...

Oh Erin, my heart goes out to you. I can totally relate to the dilemma your are in. i'm longing each the day in the office to rush home and set my creative mind and soul free knowing that at the end of the day I'll always return to my daytime job just out of oure reason. I hope you will find the strength to follow your path and do would you are supposed to do - create all those beautiful things you are so kind to share with all of us here!

Brandi Hussey said...

Friend, I know you didn't ask for a pump-up, but I'm going to give you one anyway.

You are beautiful and talented and loyal and so incredibly sweet. I want to see not just a toe out the door, but your foot kicking the door down. I know you've got it in you.

This is less about leaving a job or letting go of a dream, and more about grabbing hold of the dream even tighter. It's about fighting for your piece of you, no matter where you are or what path you're on. If you need to stay, then stay. But don't let go of too much, either!

I'm here if you need a sounding board.

Alice said...

I know exactly what you are going through. I've been through it, through the agonizing decisions, sleepless nights, frustrating days, wanting not to make people angry for something they might feel is a selfish move, but at the same time wanting so badly to be free to do the things I loved. There comes a time when you JUST KNOW you need to make a change if you want to grow. The hardest part is just doing it.

In my case, I told them the truth, that I wanted to grow my business. They needed my help, and eventhough I had already given my resignation, they offered a compromise for me to work one day a week and fill in for the other two when they were ill or on vacation.

I hope you follow your heart. It's not always easy in the beginning, but you will thank yourself later.

My Life Under the Bus said...

This really stikes a chord with me- we are all going throught much the same thing in one way or another. I remember before zI had children I took a job that was very specialize and was paying to train me "until I found something else"...I ended up there for 8 years and hated everyday. The money was good and the benefits were incredible - it was as boring as spit. Then i got pregnant with my first and realized there was no way I could leave him with anyone - not even for a minute. I took a job at night for less pay and less everything but I was so happy to leave the first job I didn't even care!!! Now I sit at the other end of the tunnel all the kids in school and I would like my dream to finally come true and some days it is almost impossible to create - I am running around like a monkey! I teeter between going out and attempting to get a "real" job after being home 12 yrs or wasting time and money to create my own - cause somedays that's what it feels like. XOXO nothing worth having is ever easy!

Cynthia said...

Erin, I think it's ok to feel a little unhappy about your office mate's departure. It's not jealousy, it's going to mean extra work (& extra hours) for you. Are you feeling taken for granted - that you'll just do her work (or be able to do it) on top of what you're already doing?
Maybe it's time to bite the bullet, and leave. If you feel you've been there too long, you probably have. Maybe your next choice/chance moment is begging (screaming) to be made! (my 2 cents, not that you asked for it)
Be loyal to yourself first! That's not selfish, it's self preservation.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Heavy thoughts for a Friday afternoon! At different times of my life, I have had to put my dreams on a shelf. I spent those "in between times" molding my life to allow me what I have now...the time to spend being creative. However, it does not mean that life doesn't continue invade my space either! All I can do is be the best person I am all the way around.

I hope things work out the way you want them to Erin. Sometimes, they need a little kick!

rosebud101 said...

Erin, it sounds like you are very stressed and in the doldrums of cabin fever right now. Just think about this: The truth will set you free. That is a choice, and it will have consequences. Just think.

SummersStudio said...

I think it is only natural to have multi-faceted feelings in your circumstance. Of, course you feel excitement,support, good will for your colleague. I am a firm believer that you can hold two or more conflicting emotions at one time. Life is not black and white but I think we somehow get trained to think this way. I too would have strong feelings about how this will affect me and my dreams. That doesn't in anyway diminish your good wishes for your colleague. It also doesn't mean you are in the least bit selfish. One of the other things I think women especially are trained to feel is that unless we sacrifice we are not kind and caring. Not true. Easy said I know, believing it much harder. It is a struggle I have with myself in most situations where I have conflicts of emotions. I know this is not your own pity party, but you do have my sympathy. You have a kind heart, Erin. Use it to guide you.

Yes, the saying resonates with me very strongly as we are going through some very tough choices, some that are not of our own making. I am copying it out as a bit of wisdom to think about as we travel our path. Thank you.

Rebecca said...

Oh Erin, my heart goes out to you...sounds like you're being pulled in all directions...it's hard to put yourself first when you're surrounded by people you care about who you want to put first as well...at least that's how I sometimes feel. I hope you can find a way to make you day job/dream job balance more tipped the way you would like it to be. You are very talented and always seem so very motivated to me, I feel confident that you will find your way forward - and remember, we're all here for you as your supporters and sounding boards if you need us along the way. X

Silver Parrot said...

Ah Erin - my dear Delta sister - how very much we have in common on this topic! Feeling trapped - check. Yearning for creative time away from a job that is deadening - double check. I could go on, but you get the point. I trust that your intelligence and your wonderful artistic skills will eventually untangle this knot for you. And until then...you know you can always send me a venting e-mail ;-)

Elysian Studios said...

Hey you! "Enjoy the Day"...find the positive! And you know what the positive is Erin? YOU. The world is hustling/bustling around you right now and your commitments have suddenly outweighed your time. It is very easy to get depressed in that sea of suckiness. But you are the positive thing here. You are an amazingly beautiful soul, with boatloads of talent, and clearly a loyal friend. Just breathe for a minute... you may not be in control right now. It's ok. Now, clearly you just can't lie down and give up. Just evaluate one thing at a time, one day at a time (that starts to build on itself!) Cut the dead weight from your schedule first, then go from there. I'm glad you vented in your blog, and I am going to keep in touch with you! Hugs to you!!

Faye said...


Allow yourself the frustration this turn of events, interfering with your plans, creates.

Part of being aware, creative, 'connected' is the joy it brings (creating, dreaming, intense emotion, dynamic expectation(s). But the other side of being aware/creative is the equally intense range of feelings and reactions when events unfold in a resistive and restrictive way.

If one set of feelings and reactions can be separated from the other it's not a skill I've mastered. To feel, to fly near the sun is sometimes partnered with moments of (emotional) free~fall, frustration and sadness.

Not always - but often - it's a cycle. Hold fast. Be strong. The frustration(s), indeed the sadness and angst themselves can clarify the parameters of your dream. Think of it as being akin to work-hardening metal. Pounding that results in greather strength. Pounding that creates longevity (of the dream). Hammering that ultimately ensures the durability of the dream, the design you want to create for your life, your art.

You will come thru this turn of events, these times of internal turmoil with more than you may think possible right now.

I've been where you are. I'll be there again.
So will you. Life is peculiar in the way it teaches, in the way it unfolds our options for us.

One of the quotes that has ever and always been close to me at such times is this by Frost:

"We dance around in circles and suppose but the truth sits in the middle and knows". (Frost)

Your truth (your dream) remains safe in the middle even tho the dance around it has changed (temporarily). You, your dream, will endure thru this.

Till that time arrives, till the work-hardening-hammer abates, keep dreaming, keep creating your beauty.

(with apology offered for this having evolved into such a long comment)....

EmandaJ said...

Oh, sweet Erin, I know your 'pain'. The crossroads is a difficult place to be when you are a generous, dedicated, loyal. You have to do what is best for your life and happiness. Sometimes, though, it's like God is kicking you in the pants to get going and to follow your dream (or dream job). I hope you find your bliss.


Angel Whisperer said...

not easy to spread the wings in life every time
my life story showed me that there is no way not ! following Your gut feeling or heart
I was working full time almost (90%) as special nurse and had a small firm at the side of it doing more of what i love to help people ....Ayurveda, EFT, tarot healing and art ....and as I did not leave my job to do what i was supposed to I got ill and almost lost the ability to walk...that was from my 3 herniated discs from the hospital work with UCG..So I had some terrible Years before the surgery that put me back on my feet and now I have a pension and can do what I was supposed to but the prize was high as there are so many other things I can not...point is...If money dont stop You...... do what Your heart sings for

You do not have to post this one..it is mostly for just You about life..

Jenners said...

Oh, I feel for you. I know the horror of being a work situation that doesn't feel your soul but feeling like you have to stay there for other reasons. It can be soul-deadening. And then to have to take on MORE work and pressure ... well, that is just awful. I know that Mr. Jenners feels stuck in his job and has the same feelings, but I feel grateful for every day that he does it to keep our little family in a financially solvent condition. Yet, at some point, you wonder if it is really worth it. It is tough one and there are no easy answers. I'm just glad you have something that you ARE passionate about, and one day, I do predict you will be able to make it your full-time job!

Unknown said...

I love the quote!! And I hope you follow your heart!

Cindy said...

Erin, what a fantastic quote - thanks for sharing it. My heart truly goes out to you. I know that feeling of anticipating a friend leaving and being left in the aftermath - especially growing up as a Navy "brat". It is hard to be the one left behind. And in your case, for many additional reasons. I know you have been struggling with this decision for a very long time. I truly feel for you! I think what must compound the issue is that it is a family business. You truly are a loyal daughter. I just wish there was some way that you could finally leave, if this is the right time. I would love for you to be truly happy and not feel so torn every day. Someone commented about how we struggle, find solutions, will go through them again. I agree with that... I just know some days we are up and some days we are down. I hope your up days become more frequent and that you can be set free to finally follow you heart.
Oh, and PLEASE DO come out to that art retreat....will we see you March or September??

sandi m said...

Oh Erin, I feel your pain. Decisions are so hard; what-ifs and f.e.a.r are so hard to overcome.
Choices and chances are very timely words that I've had to ponder this past week. And the choice I may need to make will clearly hinder my creative time.
I've followed you forever and know you've struggled with these issues before. But what is REALLY holding you back? Only you know the answer. Follow your heart and those dreams will come true!

Marsha of Marsha Neal Studio said...

Your heart knows the path. Even if your life may take you in a different direction - sometimes for years - you always know what is in your heart, and you work towards getting onto that path. Little by little you will get there… Set small goals and when you achieve them - celebrate!

Then one day, you will look back at the path you walked and hopefully see that one foot often appeared on that path of your heart. Look at this great group of people that read your blog, are inspired by you and your writings, and consider you a great friend. That in itself is a huge thing to fill your heart - so let it - you deserve it! Keep that tucked in deep!

Balance is SO important in life. And every day, you take what you have - and enjoy the people you have in it, and work a little more towards shaping your life into what you dream of.

It is hard to make a couple hours work for you. But sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet and just do something. Even if it means you leave the area a mess, or projects unfinished until you have a couple more hours. Maybe spend some time organizing in order to be more efficient. I am personally getting my "arts & crap" out of bins & boxes and into portable organizers so I can grab and work.

Keep drawing on post it notes… little skills polished- not focused on the huge masterpieces yet. Eventually the masterpiece will arrive…

I am so curious about your February Etsy shop introduction… Hmmm!?

(Oh, and btw - my website "update" has been in the works for almost 2 years now… not going to give up, just going to update the small immediate things as I can). One day at a time. Thinking and planning it out, and going with the flow of what comes my way…

Love you girl! Hang in there!!!

Michelle said...

I understand your struggle. I know that I've talked about the same struggle that I have. I have no words that can make it better for you, but just know that we all support you during your inner struggle.

I know that you will make it work--whatever your decision may be. My thoughts and my heart are with you.

SueBeads said...

Erin! I'm sorry things are not going well with the office. I stayed at jobs for too long myself and know exactly how you feel! Same with relationships! But this last relationship, the choices I made led to the breakup and this was the best thing that could have happened to me. I am finally after 6 months getting myself back, and that is priceless, no matter what I have gone through/will go through to get there! Chin up!

SallyAnderson said...

Hi Erin -- I have so much empathy for what you're going through. I don't know if this is possible for you but it's what I did in the same hellish position and it helped immensely. Instead of the those 2 half days, could you take 1 whole day. You'll get more done on the job as well as at the jewelry. I literally had to make this choice once many eons ago and it worked out so well I couldn't believe I hadn't done it to begin with.
I hope things work out for you, too. That feeling of being stuck is pretty awful.
My best thoughts are with you!
Sally A


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