Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The silver lining I never expected

In my last blog post, I talked about the changes in my career and professional direction over the past year. Things have changed in that same time period for my personal life as well, although not quite so quickly and confidently.  Before I could even begin to think about moving forward personally, I had to spend a long time recovering from the mistakes I'd made in choosing to leave Iowa and trusting the seller of this property, not to mention recovering from misplaced trust in a relationship I never should have entered in the first place, especially considering the fact that it was the primary reason for my leaving Iowa and all that I'd built there. We all make mistakes, but I wasn't used to making quite so many serious mistakes with such far-reaching implications in such a short period of time - implications not only for me but also my parents and friends.  I felt like I was dragging everyone down into that dark cave of mine!  It took me a long time to begin to believe in myself again and trust my ability to make good decisions, not to mention trusting anyone else.  I gave up even considering relationships - I was in no condition to share time with anyone, and I had no desire to do so.  I just wanted to be left alone and I knew I needed time to think about my priorities and needs.

When spring rolled around and my work life was improving, I thought maybe it was time for me to consider some investigation of my "social life" options, but I had a fairly laissez-faire attitude about it.  I didn't really expect to find anyone suitable, especially given my rather remote location and my somewhat atypical lifestyle and unusual personality quirks.  I signed up for a free online personals service without much conviction, but I wrote a lengthy profile that was essentially intended to put off all but the most stalwart of contenders, because the majority of people wouldn't even bother to read the whole thing before moving on.  Aside from deleting the initial flurry of offers from entirely dreadful (and some rude!) candidates who no doubt target all new users, it was something I mostly ignored and didn't put much effort into pursuing.  I scanned profiles from time to time, and received some messages expressing interest, but found myself having to send polite but firm responses to those whose own profiles made them sound either scary, boring, barely coherent, or otherwise unappealing.  A few messages I responded to, but quickly determined there was nothing worth further exploration.  I maintained my "This is definitely not going to work" attitude. Above all, I didn't actually initiate any contact with any profiles I read because (a) there weren't any that interested me sufficiently and (b) I'm not actually that brave.  I spent time thinking about what I was looking for and essentially concluded that it was far too unlikely to exist, especially not around here, and that even if I saw an interesting profile, I'd be too inhibited to respond.  Good thing I had goats and sheep to keep me company, not to mention Jet!

So it was, that I was all the more surprised one evening when I found a profile that (a) interested me significantly and (b) challenged my aforementioned lack of bravery.  After considerable thought, a couple of glasses of wine, some more considerable thought, and the writing, editing and re-writing of about 2 lines of text about 10 times...I did actually attain the stage of sufficient bravery to press the "send" button on my 2 lines of entirely bland text.   I determined that the worst possible thing that could happen would be that he would respond in the same "Thanks but no thanks" kind of response I'd sent in the past.  Slightly less worse, he might just ignore me.  Having pressed send and determined this "worst case scenario," I then pretty much forgot about it. That's just the way I roll - because sending 2 lines of non-committal text that essentially said "you have an interesting profile" was unlikely to generate anything in return!

Imagine my shock when I received a response!  I stopped myself from going into total panic mode (which would mean I couldn't possibly respond back), and I did manage to write back, somewhat shakily.  And so it went, back and forth for a while.  And then one evening, quite unexpectedly, it went back and forth, and forth and back, and back and forth some more, and suddenly, 9 pm had turned into 4:30 am, and we were still "talking." Furthermore, I wasn't all that tired - and I usually turn into a pumpkin if I haven't gone to sleep by midnight!  Some long-forgotten and neglected neurons, deep in my brain, began stretching themselves and shaking off the cobwebs that had accumulated during their long dormancy, not quite remembering how they were supposed to operate.

Then I realized with alarm...I might actually have to meet him someday!  Gulp.  I had really lost a great deal of self confidence in the previous couple of years, and the thought of meeting someone new suddenly seemed too much to contemplate, but I told myself (strictly and with conviction that I didn't really feel), "Claire, you can't keep on being a bump on a log forever."  There are some good things about being single, and some people prefer to stay that way, but I'm just not one of them.  Nobody was going to show up on my doorstep though - I had to put in some effort.  I had to push myself to make that effort because I really didn't feel all that positive about my chances for success.  So that's how I ended up having dinner in Amherst with Marc, and walking around town afterwards, talking about all sorts of things, and eventually sitting in the gazebo in the park downtown, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and not really noticing the growing number of bites!

When we finally met in person, suddenly, that imaginary person that I'd always wanted to find but never really believed existed was sitting right in front of me.  From that very first date, it was kind of a magical experience. Despite a fairly long history of long-term relationships in my past, I don't think I have ever connected with someone so quickly and deeply as I have with Marc.  We really "get" each other, and that is so very rare for's been a great many years since I have had a partner who understands me so well, right from the beginning.  Please forgive the clichés, because I really do mean it when I say that he makes my heart sing, my soul dance, and my imagination soar, not to mention the fact that he makes me laugh, and isn't that the best medicine?  He did what nobody else could do - he made me believe in dreams again.

Now I know that despite the trials and tribulations I've faced as a result of my decision to move back to Nova Scotia, and all the heartache that went along with that, there was a reason for it - something far more valuable than I could have guessed or imagined a year or two ago.  It feels like winning the lottery, without having bought a ticket - I never would have guessed that I would find such a wealth of love and joy.

On one of our early dates, we watched the movie: HappyThankYouMorePlease.  (yes, the title really is supposed to run together like that).  It wasn't a huge success with the critics, but it did well at the Sundance Film Festival.  I really enjoyed it, and its primary message about gratitude, happiness, and acceptance was particularly well timed for me.  As one of the characters explains early in the film, we need to remember to reflect gratitude to the Universe.  As such, when we are happy, we should say so, and reflect our gratitude back to the Universe for whatever has come our way.  There are a lot of great scenes, but the one that really struck a chord with me (and which Marc even predicted would have an impact), is this one:

And that's what it's like, every day, with Marc.  He asks me to accept being adored, even though it's difficult for me.  Effortlessly, I adore him in return.  I'm so very happy!  Thank you!  More please!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reflecting on a year of change and transition

It has now been just over a year since I started my own business.  I have been reflecting upon that recently, and thinking about how much has changed since that time.  I remember the five months before I started the business, I was working at a frozen blueberry factory in the microbiology testing laboratory.  Although I was glad to have found a job at the outset, since I was living in the middle of nowhere and very worried about even finding any sort of job, it was undoubtedly the most boring and thankless job I've ever had, and I hadn't been paid so little since the early 1990s, which was simply soul destroying for me.  I spent my days in mindless drudgery, wondering how on earth I could get myself out of the mess in which I'd found myself. Those were dark days indeed, and I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning to face another day.

When I was offered the opportunity to work on a major writing project, with a payoff that would last me for several months of bills, at a rate that more than tripled the factory pay, I made that decision - it was time to make that leap.  As my father said, it was a "bold decision" at the time, but it was necessary.  It was not only a financial improvement, but it was necessary for my mental health.  I was drowning in a pit of self-pity and anxiety, made worse by a dead-end job and badly damaged self-confidence.

I thought when I started out the business that I'd find work that was pertinent to my former life as a patent agent - assuming that I would fit in somehow as an intellectual property writer and researcher, doing work for small companies or Pro Se inventors.  I also thought that most of the work I'd end up with would be related to agriculture or at least the biological sciences, since that was also my strongest area of experience and knowledge.  I was wrong about both those things!  It has turned out that my writing skills have led me into new areas that I didn't really expect to work in, supplemented by other skill sets that I acquired along the way in my career.  Now, much of the work I do is based on helping small companies achieve ISO 9001 status, meaning that they follow a set of quality guidelines established by the International Standards Organization.  I also have done work for the offshore industry in oil and gas, primarily pertaining to health, safety and the environment.  I've edited a self-help book, done some grant proposal work, and am also doing some risk assessment work as a subcontractor.  I even have a website that you can visit if you wish - just click my logo below!

In the year's time since I started, I have developed a regular client list, and in the past 8 months, I have surpassed the "small supplier status" here in Canada, which means that I need to charge sales tax to my clients now.  For a one-person small business, that's not too bad for the first year.  I've learned a lot about running my own business and the up-and-down nature of freelance work. I haven't been able to do as much with repairing the house as I'd like to have done, but progress has been made.  Most importantly, I'm a happier and healthier person with a far better outlook on the future.  I never thought I'd run my own business in the past - it just wasn't something I'd considered.  Now, I have a lot more freedom and a lot more power to make my own decisions, which has been very beneficial in helping me heal the wounds of the past.

In fact, by the spring of this year, I was able to begin to re-examine my personal life, which has taken me on another significant journey, but that's a story for the next blog post, so you'll just have to stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

And finally, she is Manuka

Sometimes, I am scared to give names to my animals.  It seems that sometimes, when I give names, they are suddenly taken from me.  This is how it was with Manuka.  I felt that she was always at risk.  Sadly, her dear little silkie friend was taken from her, by the fox, and it hurt.  I felt like I'd failed them both.  It took me a long time to get over that loss.  But now, my sweet hen deserves a name.  Here she is, off to the right amongst the flock at feeding time.  The only hen with honey-coloured feathers.

For a while, she was very tightly bonded to me.  She greeted me in the mornings.  She flew up to the window ledge to accept feed from my hand.  She followed me around the chicken yard like a puppy.  She sat on my lap.  She took all the love that I could give.

It couldn't stay that way.  When she flew up to the window ledge, Jet was there, ready to take her for his next meal.  She didn't interact with the flock in a normal way.  She wasn't learning the ways to stay keep herself out of harm's way.  She didn't understand that danger lurked in the sky, on the ground, all around her.

So, I let her go.  I let her become part of the flock.  I stopped giving her morning cuddles and encouraging her to eat from my hand.  She integrated.  She became part of the flock that she was meant to run with.  She learned to be cautious and wary.  Now, she does not approach me.  She stays back, with the others...watching...waiting.  She likes to spend time with Foxmorton, the larger rooster.  He seems to have an affection for her as well.

I ache a little, in my heart, to know that she no longer trusts me.  But she is better off that way. She was nearly passed over.  I never intended to buy a production hen chick.  I only got her as a companion to the silkie chicks I bought.  The sweet silkie chicks that I lost, one at a time.  She is the only one who remains. An "ordinary" brown egg layer production hen.  To me, she is Manuka, a gorgeous girl with honey coloured feathers who stole my heart and shares the chicken yard with my motley flock.  Here she is eating an apple that has fallen from the tree.

In case you don't know, Manuka honey is a special honey from New Zealand that has potential antibacterial qualities.  I like to use it in my oatmeal.

In any case, sweet Manuka is a lovely hen, and  I am so glad she is part of my flock.