Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What is Your Definition of Beauty?

Initially published as Beauty Defined in The Daily Journal (for the Magical Mysteries Collection), later published by the now defunct Yahoo Contributor Network, July 31, 2008, republished and then removed from Persona Paper.

How many times have you been awed by a spectacular sunset, or felt invigorated by crimson, russet, and amber autumn foliage? We love beautiful things. Our eyes widen and tend to linger on objects we find beautiful. We feel pleasure just looking at them.

For children beauty is different than it is for adults. A child may tell her parents about a beautiful friend she wants to invite to her birthday party, but after meeting the friend, mom bellows, "You think that chubby dumpy little girl is beautiful?"

The little girl begins the process of questioning her own perceptions. Is her overweight elderly aunt as beautiful as the little girl thought she was or is Auntie now the frumpy-looking hag others envision?

How unfortunate that, as we grow older, we incorporate society's vision of beauty into our own. Our aunt isn't skinny or young, so society must be right. Our idea of beauty changes over time.

The branch of philosophy that deals with our perceptions of beauty is Aesthetics. It deals specifically with our judgment of art and nature. And our judgments are made through a process of beliefs we create for ourselves through a system of acceptance and denial. We distort our own perceptions in favor of society's perceptions to "fit in" with society.

But what makes something beautiful and how do we define beauty?

We first sense beauty with our eyes and delight in our appreciation of it. Beyond outward appearances, however, at least in terms of human beings, we should probably consider another intangible component that plays an important role in how we view beauty: presence. Some indefinable and unexplainable "something" causes us to find a person attractive. Children have an innate ability to perceive an inner glow that shines through the surface, a glow that adults, blinded by what society deems acceptable, no longer see or choose to ignore.

Another intangible aspect of beauty is the emotion we attach to it. A child might find beauty in an old tattered recliner if she felt loved when she was being cuddled in daddy's chair. A father might find a ceramic bowl created by his child to be one of his most treasured and beautiful belongings.

Beauty, though, does not exist without something to compare itself. In a forest of green, splashes of color attract our attention. When, during the fall season, the magnificent evergreen stands next to the multi-colored maple, do we notice the evergreen or does it become the backdrop for the more colorful maples?

Does your elderly curly gray-haired wrinkly aunt get even a second glance when standing next to a willowy young blonde woman? Beauty should be grateful for plain, because if not for the plain or the ugly, nobody would recognize beauty.

Aesthetically, beauty is marked with symmetry, balance, texture, and color. But if you look for that inner glow, you can find beauty everywhere you look. And you can begin by looking into your mirror.

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." (John Lubbock)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Does ANYTHING I Do Matter?

My whole life has been a struggle of some kind or another. Even though intellectually I have always known that everyone else struggles, too, I wondered why some people got occasional breaks from their struggles while I spent every waking hour praying for miracles. Maybe those people found a better paying job, or they came into money, or circumstances changed for the better in some way for them. For me, though, my life has been one endless stream of strife – financial, physical, and emotional. Learning how to survive has been one long relentless challenge that I’m still learning to overcome.

While I think I’ve been handling my physical maladies fairly well, I have to admit that I have failed to conquer the emotional and financial state in which I find myself drowning. But I’ve come to some conclusions about life in general and, after living for over 5 decades, I’d like to share my philosophy with you.

Because I believe that we are all spiritual beings inhabiting bodies for a short time, and because I believe that spirit is energy and energy lives forever, I know that the human life span – the time we spend on Earth – is, in the scheme of things, very short. As our spirits progress toward understanding our purpose for being here, I’ve come to believe that perhaps we summon ourselves before we are born to experience challenges we need to overcome and life lessons we need to learn in order to become One with God. 

As I examine my current life, I have to ask if I was perhaps, in a previous life, a let-them-eat-cake kind of person. Might living my current life in poverty and near poverty teach me lessons I otherwise might never have learned about survival? Maybe I needed to learn empathy by actually experiencing life with very little material possessions, or maybe I didn’t want to be encumbered with a lot of stuff. The burden of knowing that nobody is willing to pay you the salary you need to raise your children is overwhelming. Whatever the reason, though, I’ve decided that I’m now comfortable with what I have. I don’t need a new car or my own home.  

Maybe I was in perfect health in my past life, and, because I was fortunate physically, I criticized others for things about which I had no knowledge and over which they had no control. I remember a woman who appeared once on Oprah (I think), who criticized people for not walking straighter. As I watched her, I thought of people who, for one reason or another, couldn’t walk straight, and I realized how ignorant all of us can be from time to time about problems others experience. She felt the problem with people was that they just didn’t try. “Let them eat cake, let them stand up straighter, let them raise their four children on minimum wage, let them live in tents.”

From asthma, allergies, and arthritis to a bad back to cancer to migraines to a persistently swollen right foot to bad eyesight, I’ve experienced a wide range of physical limitations. From being molested and raped to being robbed, from losing jobs because perverted bosses wanted more from me than I was willing to give them, from feeling abandoned by people when I needed them most, I’ve experienced a wide range of emotional issues. And from never making enough money to raise my children or even to take care of myself, I’ve experienced what it feels like to live below the poverty level.

But like most other people, I survived. Like most people who go through challenges, I’m still here. And I wonder – what if we choose – before we are born (when we are still in spirit form) – to learn certain life lessons in order to advance our souls? What if we are the ones who control our destinies? But because we don’t want our former lives to influence decisions we make in this life and we don’t want memories of our past lives to overshadow the work we have to do in this life, we decide to become oblivious to choices we made before we were born.

If I killed someone in a previous life, for instance, and I was aware in this lifetime that I killed someone, I would probably become so focused on that horrific crime, I’d be more inclined to find the family I wronged and make up for my behavior than to focus on advancing my soul. If I believed in reincarnation and past lives, I’d probably want to learn my previous name and research my old self. I’d place too much time on my past and not enough time on my present. Instead of advancing my soul, I’d be stuck in the past.

Maybe, prior to the lives we live today, we create our own punishments for past crimes. I like to think that all of us, in our souls, live to a certain code of conduct and that all of our souls together – past, present, and future – connect to that one source of love that goes by many names, God. I’d like to think that at the end of our lives, when we view the way we treated people, we can ask for another chance, and God grants us that opportunity. Maybe our suffering has nothing to do with what God does to us and more to do with what we do to ourselves to heal our souls as we return to God. And maybe loved ones work together to help each other heal our souls. 

So in answer to the question I proposed in my title, yes, everything I do matters. Every choice I make comes with a consequence or a reward, and though I may be unaware of the impact I have on the people around me or have any idea when those consequences or rewards will surface, I have to believe that for all of us, what we give out does come back to us and what we reap we do sew. God connects with us through our soul, lives in our heart, and guides us through our conscience. Just because we can’t see results today doesn’t mean they aren’t occurring. Karma may be waiting for us the next time around.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Most Outrageous Bosses I've Met

During our working years, we spend most of our days working and learning how to deal with people who share our workspace. Our experiences can be fun and invigorating or they can suck the souls from our spirits and cause immense pain. If you have ever had to deal with outrageous bosses, you'll empathize! 

Originally posted as Most Outrageous People I’ve Met in the Workplace on Yahoo Contributor Network, January 20, 2010, when I was battling breast cancer.

What follows are four true stories about people I've had to call "boss" since I was a teenager. These four people win the prize as the worst of the worst employers. I invite you to share your worst of the worst in the comments area below.

Most Outrageous Employer #1
Toupee Man was my first boss. He was the owner of a gift shop that housed expensive items and greeting cards. My job was to dust the shelves and to retrieve items from the storage room.
In those days women wore skirts, short skirts, and this dirty old man, instead of climbing the ladder himself, would tell me it was my job to climb the ladder while he stood at the bottom, holding it.
The day I realized that I needed to leave was the day he asked me if my parents knew that he stood outside my bedroom window watching me get dressed. I was 16. He was probably in his 50s or 60s.
Most Outrageous Employer #2
Stereotypical Lawyer munched on a cigar and leaned against his white caddy when he wasn't in the office. After my first four months with him, I was told that it was my duty to climb under his desk every morning and perform a particular act, something his former secretary had done every day.
I thought he was joking until his partner told me he wasn't. This happened in the days when women consistently dealt with sexual harassment. I never would have thought to report him. Instead, I asked for my check early that week and never went back.
The following spring, when I hadn't received my tax information from him, I called his office. His former secretary picked up the phone. What a surprise.
She was expecting my call and told me that the only way I could get my tax forms was to come in to get them.
I reported him to the IRS. When my tax forms came in, he altered my social security number. I reported him again.
I was 19 when I worked for him. Several years later, when I'd found my voice, I went looking for him. Fortunately for him, I never found him. (Update, years after I originally wrote this article, I found him online – in an obituary – he died 3 months before I wrote this article.)

Related Reading: When a Pervert Dies
Most Outrageous Employer #3
Evil Harry wasn't my actual boss. His wife was. But he ended up coming to work for her, because he thought he could help by training me to become an accountant (I was hired to be her assistant for a local cable television program).
Harry's "help" came in the form of incessant badgering, condescending comments, and constant belittling - all reserved for me.
Every morning, when he finally made an appearance, he stank so badly of alcohol, I couldn't stand being in the same room with him. But I put up with him, because I liked his wife and I was hoping this whole accountant phase would pass.
We were shooting a film during that time and he asked me to order a bench that we needed for a scene. I asked, "From where?" He looked at me with a sneer that showed such disgust, I couldn't imagine any human being looking at another with such seething hatred.
"Just find one!"
"What kind of bench?" I asked. At that point, in front of everybody in the room, he went into a tirade telling me that I should KNOW what kind of bench they needed. He then screamed, "FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF AND STOP BOTHERING ME!"
Later it turned out that he had assumed I had read that part of the script that described the bench (nobody had shared it with me), and rather than apologize to me, he ignored me.
So I went up to him in front of everybody and demanded that he treat me with the same respect he used to treat everybody else. I was fired the following week by his wife, who was so obviously racked with guilt, she had a very hard time telling me.
Most Outrageous Employer #4
The year was 2007. At a time when jobs were hard to come by, I was lucky to have found a job I knew I would enjoy. I was to be the "idea person" for a local radio station. However, just before I started, the station manager who hired me was fired and replaced with another one. They also hired a new promotions director.
Raunchy Roma was a former stand up comedienne who somehow started working at the radio station the same day I started. For reasons that will never make sense to me, she became one of my new bosses.
All three of us started on the same day and my job changed from "idea person" to sales rep. I immediately started looking elsewhere for a different job.
In the meantime I had to put up with Raunchy Roma (30 something), the promotions director. She thrived on making everybody uncomfortable with what she thought were comedic comments. It gave her great joy to see the young 23-year-old man cringe every time she opened her mouth. And she found great pleasure in watching the women gape in astonishment at her unprofessional remarks.
In our first sales meeting she announced to the 23-year-old, to me, and to two other women, one of whom was in her 30s, the other in her 40s, that she was "effing" bleeding out of her "effing" vagina like an "effing" pig. And she didn't say "effing".
She managed to say the raunchiest, vilest things in our sales meetings - so completely unprofessional that all of us were looking elsewhere for jobs. A month later we heard the same "effing" comment. She swore us to secrecy and told us we weren't allowed to tell anybody in the office what went on behind closed doors.
Not everything she did or said was kept inside, however, because on one sales trip, she mooned the 23-year-old on a busy highway in the middle of the afternoon with me in the back seat behind her. The guy was in the car next to us.
Fortunately the entire staff was let go and I thankfully lost that job.
Today, I write from the comfort of my bed (not that I'm lazy - I'm just battling cancer). And today, I would speak out for others who were putting up with people like those mentioned above. I'm glad I spoke up for myself with Evil Harry. I would have loved to have been given that same opportunity with Toupee Man and Stereotypical Lawyer, but I never got the chance.

As far as Raunchy Roma is concerned - I hope she found an audience for herself. I personally don't find that kind of humor amusing, and I definitely do NOT want to see it in the workplace, but I'm sure some people enjoy that kind of humor and really, because she had two small children, I wish her the best.