Age of Enlightenment

DSC01882Moments of clarity have given way to moments of truth, and it is only fitting that the last quarter of the year should bring it.  Most of the year was spent adjusting to a new job and even the possibility of romance, but the overarching theme really is the spiritual angle, which has more than insinuated itself in my midlife.

I now make decisions based on whether they align with the person I desire to be. It feels like going through the fire, but I guess sometimes the only path forward is through. I’ve become more comfortable with the fact that the only thing I’m certain of is uncertainty. I’ve finally caught up to where I am, which is where I should be.

The Power of Negative Thinking

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive ThinkingI told myself once when I am properly ensconced in the right job that I would take steps to do more of the things I love.  But I realize nothing was really stopping me (with the exception of my finances), and I just needed to be in the right frame of mind.

Journalist Oliver Burkeman brought this front and center in his book “The Antidote:  Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” (excerpts of which could also be found in

It also reminded me of the 1995 movie “French Kiss,” in which Meg Ryan’s character managed to overcome her fear of flying with the help of the incorrigible Kevin Kline, to finally confront her scoundrel fiance (Timothy Hutton) and his hottie on a beach in Cannes:

“Well… Charlie, I’m going through some sort of transitional thing. See, after you called, I decided to get on a plane to Paris and get you back.

But there was no way everything I’d been building toward would be destroyed because some pouty little–this is before I knew you personally–bitch, wanted to steal a husband.

I bought the ticket, got on the plane and somehow made it over the ocean. Then an extraordinary thing happened.

Everything went wrong.

So I was wandering the streets of Paris, penniless, without a hope in the world.  And, let me tell you, you can do a lot of soul-searching in a time like that. I realized that I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to protect myself from exactly this situation.

And you can’t do it. There’s no home safe enough, no relationship secure enough.  You’re setting yourself up for an even bigger fall and having an incredibly boring time in the process.  Sorry, Charlie.”

Check the movie out for yourself: 

Paris in December

Yes, it is sitting on a wooden wine box.

Yes, it is sitting on a wooden wine box.

A year ago it was so difficult to allow myself to find joy around this time of year, but I look around and see it so much more clearly now.  As another song goes, love is all around.

I removed from storage a framed collage of photos of my Paris trip long ago and set it prominently on my shelf as a reminder of happy days–they are here again.  The pop songs never seem to end.

But I suppose what I’m trying to convey, at least to myself, is to keep things simple and light.  I know it’s easier said than done.  But when I push through a hardship, it’s important to focus on what is so good about being alive.

And then an interesting thing happened to me at the end of this year:  I landed a new job.  It was the Christmas gift I was waiting and hoping for.  In another moment of reflection, I remember a friend telling me to be sure I am running toward something as opposed to running away from a situation.  I’m happy to report it is the former.  Right now it does feel like Paris In December.

The Forest from the Trees


Sometimes I am so focused on the minutiae of my life that I don’t see the forest from the trees.  But now I am beginning to see where I had come and where I am going.  Perhaps driving this a-ha moment is a new month whose arrival assuredly signals the ending of another year, or gaining an extra hour in the day gives the impression of having more time.

Whatever the case may be, it has been a long, strange journey at times marked by more sleepless nights that I could remember.  During one of them, I was surfing on the net and came across Conan O’Brien’s commencement speech to Dartmouth University’s class of 2011.  In closing, he said, “Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen.”

I’ve certainly put in lots of effort to return to some kind of equilibrium and distributed enough good will and faith to those I’ve met. I guess the amazing thing is surviving and the relief of getting through situations relatively unscathed.  As I get older, I appreciate these moments so much more–even more than words can say.


Wanderlust Back

Tea and Sympathy:  A stop at Chantal Guillon for macaroons with my foodie younger cousins.

Tea and Sympathy: A stop at Chantal Guillon for macaroons with my foodie younger cousins.

My cousins from Sacramento came to visit recently for a weekend, and while snacking on the most delicate macaroons in Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley, our conversation turned toward our trips abroad and our divergent experiences.  I had a more romantic interpretation of being in Paris than my sister, and my cousin went to Europe with a study-abroad program.  Nonetheless, we agreed we would go again, and my other cousin has become more open to overseas travel.

It’s a test in patience to wait for one part of my life to catch up with another that is already established and for years dying to move forward.  I’ve wondered when I would ever give myself permission to want to travel again, since I still had to consider getting back on my feet work-wise.

Now I feel certain this is the moment to return to my natural inclination to see more of the world.  A job eventually becomes routine, and the past is forgiven.  Other aspects of my life need more attention, especially the things that are most important to me.  While perhaps more progress could still be made, the time for magical thinking and action can now take flight and soar.

Oltrarno square

Memorable Oltrarno square where I bumped into a Florentine Adonis during my last major trip in 2008.

Birthday Hopes and Dreams

After celebrating another birthday in May and experiencing a period of loss and change, I think of Thomas Pastorius, who passed away last year.  Considered the first microbrewer in Pennsylvania, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he also marked the coda of my high school journalism career when I interviewed him for one of my last articles in North Catholic’s Trojan News.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, he would open Penn Brewery at the bottom of Troy Hill Road by the Fall, while I was starting college.

Although my meeting with him was brief, he was a gracious and generous man who fed my fledgling ambition by basically giving me something grown-up to write about.  I am now in rather awe the prescience of standing and speaking with him in the dank and dark interior of the old Eberhardt and Ober brewery below my high school before its grand transformation.

But as life would have it, his dream of an on-site brewery and restaurant proved to be a high-maintenance job.  One’s passion could also produce much anxiety and frustrations–that much I too do understand.  Throughout my career, I’ve gone in and out of the thing I love to do most.

Another birthday does give me pause, and a refocusing of sorts is in order, for starters, infusing more positive energy and a healthier balance during work weeks.  And if I’m lucky, I may even capture a little of the thrill “Mr. Beer” once had of crafting brews–often times the hard but, in his mind, the right way.

Mission Accomplished

I wrapped up August attaining what I had set out to do when I first announced my project, Brassring 2.0, by landing a full-time permanent job.  But my quest probably started the day I was laid off in February 2009.  So I actually banked three years what essentially was working out how I felt and viewed work.

For most people, it’s a no-brainer.  You work to earn a living, and if you’re lucky, you work because you love what you do.  Your job is your calling.  But I suppose I was looking for something deeper or more of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Then I fell ill on my birthday this year, and it was, of all people, Gloria Steinem who put it in perspective for me to the point that I even wrote a required job essay entitled, “How I Reconciled with Gloria Steinem,” which basically expounded on my blog entry.

There is value in work because of the commitment one brings to the task.  When I worked weekends for three straight weeks in August, there was no question how committed I was to every project no matter what it was.  I also brought a sense of leadership to the job and understanding that I have a life outside of work, but for the time that I am there, I would give my time and talents wholeheartedly.  I found out what I was missing was consciously knowing the intangibles of what makes work worthwhile and even pleasurable and that I myself brought my own signature stamp to a job I would eventually claim.