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January 9, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Connecting The Dots

Since I was in my very early twenties, New Year’s Eve has decidedly been my least favourite celebration of the year.

Over the years the reasons for my dislike of the whole thing have grown, and at this point I would simply say that New Years Eve like so much in life is for couples and families. I have neither a partner nor children and I long ago grew tired of pretending that I don’t care that there is no one to kiss as the New Year roles in. Staying home alone and trying to ignore the whole thing usually comes with a bought of overwhelming loneliness and sometimes despair.

As 2009 approached, newly single and finally back in my own apartment, I came up with what I thought was a wonderful life-long solution to the whole problem.

I invented a new tradition, My Spiritual Spa.

It goes like this.

I clean and organize my home so that it is comfortable, relaxing and cozy, the way I love it the most, but can’t always maintain.

Then, after a delicious dinner, I settle into meditation, prayers of gratitude and long hours journaling with beautiful music in the background, surrounded by scented candles, dressed in my coziest clothes.

I take time to reflect on the past year’s accomplished goals, lessons learned, gratitude, and anything else that I can think of. Then, I guide my pen to my dreams and plans for the New Year.

I fill myself with hope and faith that there are wonderful things in store for me. Always, I am growing, and moving forward and this is the night for believing that even if past dreams have fallen flat, there is always hope for the future.

As midnight approaches I head outside to the middle of the frozen river, where I stand bathed in moonlight that shines both down and up as it reflects off the snow that surrounds me. I don’t think I could imagine a better way to ring in a New Year.

This year however, I found myself falling into a state of dark dread of the fast approaching holiday. This year, I hated the New Year the way some hate Christmas.

I hated it because I had lost hope. My faith had taken a vacation to someplace warm and I was certain that I couldn’t possibly face the task of writing about dreams when I seem to have lost the ability to dream at all.

So far this winter, instead of long walks along the frozen river I have been contemplating, watching and observing the dark place that I find myself. Instead of trying to fix it, I decided to just be with my dark mood with the goal of discovering what it had to teach me.

The lesson was that my life is not working and no matter how much I focus on the positive, the gifts and the gratitude for what I have, things need to change.

I am, to put it simply, burnt out.

I am burnt out of both my career and my life. I am simply exhausted from struggling alone, and working to convince myself that things will be alright when they are so clearly, not alright.

I can no longer survive on my diminishing income. Living as frugally as I do, not owning a car, never going on vacation, 3 haircuts a year and bare minimum expenses leave nothing to give up. I simply need a new career.

Simple, but not so simple as I have been job hunting for two years.

Even if I didn’t care what I do for a living, wages are too low (as in not even slightly above the poverty line that I already live under) for a single person to support herself. Most of the jobs available to me on paper are dead-end, with no benefits, pension, or chance to grow… and no one will hire me anyway as it is obvious to anyone who reads my resume that I’m not likely to commit to such a position after running a department for nearly 11 years.

Sadly, there seems to be an overwhelming and misguided notion that the skills I have worked all of my life to acquire and grow have no use outside of the arts and the format of a resume is apparently too lacking to prove otherwise, even when created by a professional career counsellor.

Facing 2011 with gut-wrenching fear that the end of this theatre season might find me losing my apartment was unbearable. I’ve spent my entire adult life believing that things will work out without ever knowing that I have some sort of security and while they often did when I was younger, they often don’t now. This wasn’t what I set out for in life and I felt myself running out of the strength I need to endure with no creative ideas for a solution. It seemed as though every well that I have had run dry.

I have a few times in my life had the experience that when everything seems hopeless, something completely unexpected, out of the blue comes along and shakes things up, changing everything for the better, but it is a hard thing to count on when you’re feeling desperate.

This fall, I decided to focus on writing because I felt that that is where my heart was leading me and since logic and reason didn’t seem to solve this issue I went with it. Unfortunately, work, life and my own descent into melancholy slowed this blog, but I know that I can always start again. I’m back now.

Following my heart seems to have been the right answer.

A Christmas party that I hadn’t wanted to attend suddenly and magically turned into a new career. One with a future that I can get excited about.

In March after building the last two shows of my life in theatre , instead of facing another long lay-off I will be moving on to a very different place.

I will be doing Social Network Marketing and Customer Service for a heating and cooling company.

This is full time all-year round 40 hours per week work that is both interesting and a brand new creative challenge. The opportunities to grow to a place where I can be comfortable and secure for the first time in my life will depend entirely on me and what I put into my new position…As always, I will give my best and I know that in this I will succeed. My year spent hanging around the web has turned into the opportunity that I have been praying for.

What’s more, I am staying true to myself working to sell essential products designed to save energy, and maintaining my commitment to the environment.

So New Year’s Eve went ahead as planned, only better.

Peace, and optimism were once again mine and though I opted to stay in my fuzzy warm robe and skip the frozen river, I re-discovered my spiritual practice and my faith.

I am sadly still feeling lower than usual, but I know that as always I will get through to the other side a wiser and stronger me, prepared to embrace a new and much more promising future. Already I am finding it easier to believe again that I will have good things in my life. The chance to work towards other dreams and maybe someone to share all of it with.

I was recently watching Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Address on Ted.com.

He spoke about how he left college because it wasn’t serving him and how he created his success by following his heart. Even when he didn’t know where he was headed, each decision he made along the way lead directly to his amazing success with Apple, Next and Pixar.

…you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.

And that will make all the difference.”

So, my only resolution for 2011 is to follow my heart and trust. It seems to be what all of the cool kids are doing these days anyway.

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45 Comments

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  1. Kathy Loh / Jan 9 2011 11:19 pm

    My heart is heavy and joyous at one and the same time. Mostly, I want to say congratulations. I’m celebrating the gift the universe has brought to you and the tenacity of your courageous heart. Blessings dear one!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 6:37 am

      Thank you Kathy!
      I know now that no matter what I will be alright. I have what I most needed and will be safe and secure. The rest will figure itself out.
      Wishing you all the best as well!

  2. nrhatch / Jan 9 2011 11:25 pm

    Beautiful post, Jenny.

    Welcome back!

    You might enjoy this post about penning a letter to yourself from the future:
    http://agrigirl.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/invent-a-new-year/

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 6:38 am

      Thanks NR.
      I can’t wait to check it out.

    • nrhatch / Jan 10 2011 7:37 am

      And congrats on the new job/career!

      BTW, one quick fix needed in 2nd paragraph: “bought of overwhelming loneliness” -> “bout of”

  3. Bryan Thompson / Jan 9 2011 11:29 pm

    Jenny Ann,

    I am glad you are getting connected in a new career (especially one you hadn’t thought of prior to your Christmas party). I am so sorry you have had such a rough go of it. One thing I think you do really well is to become creative with the hand you are dealt (making a new New Year tradition instead of following everyone else’s). I think you’re on the road to doing that in your life’s new chapters.

    I love how transparent you are. You are a human being and human beings weren’t meant to hide our emotions.

    I believe this will be a turnaround year for you. I pray you will find your depression evaporate and you will find so much to love about this year.

    (Side note: What is a career field (in addition to social marketing) are you interested in? I used to be an HR consultant and would be happy to design you a resume that I think will get noticed. If you’re interested, email me at thompsonland@gmail.com.)

    Thoughts and prayers for you in 2011. There are endless possibilities, Jenna.

    • Bryan Thompson / Jan 9 2011 11:29 pm

      “Jenn-Y” Sorry, I spelled Jenna before. 😦

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 6:47 am

      Hello Bryan!
      Thank you for stopping by, and thanks so much for your generous offer!
      I am pretty secure where I am headed now and plan to stay for some time, but I will not forget your kindness.
      I have known for some time that self-employment is the direction that I eventually want to head in, and I think that this job is exactly the stepping stone that I need to finally move forward.
      Thank you also for your support, I was just wondering if posting this was the right idea and there is you comment! You are right. Human beings are not meant to hide their emotions!
      Have a wonderful day!

      • Bryan / Jan 10 2011 8:56 am

        Jenny, no problem at all. I’m excited for you! (And a newly converted blog follower.) If I can ever help, just let me know!

  4. Rebecca / Jan 9 2011 11:49 pm

    I would just like to say to you that was extremely touching and congratulations on the new job. It is extremely difficult for people to simply sit with a dark mood as we as normal human beings believe that we have to “fix it”.
    Like you over the last year I have found myself in such limbo after loosing my job after dealing with depression. Shame that I decided to fix me after breaking “my balls” for the school for 10 years. But I am now following my heart and heading in a direction which I always dreamt I would.

    Well done and I love your writting so keep blogging.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 12:35 pm

      Thank you so much Rebecca! Your words inspire me too!
      I’m so sorry to hear that you too are struggling. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story however I think the bright side is that more and more people seem to be moving in the direction of their own hearts and that I believe will only make the world a better place. Bless you for taking this journey and not giving in to despair!

  5. Viv / Jan 10 2011 8:28 am

    Congratulations!!!
    I had a hideous new year, in hospital. No kisses either!
    I am trying very hard to find me a new job this year too.
    May we both have a great new year.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 11:52 am

      Oh Viv! I’m so sorry to hear that you are still not well.
      I think that the Universe will gift both of us!
      Wishing you all the blessings that the world has to offer!
      Jenny

  6. Pearl Brock / Jan 10 2011 8:43 am

    Wonderful writing.
    I was directed to your page by a friends twitter.
    And it was just what I needed to read at just the right time. Congratulations on your new found career and thankyou for encouraging me in things that desperately needed encouragement.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 11:54 am

      Thank you Pearl!
      I can’t tell you how great it makes me feel to know that I can contribute to someone else even when things are not the best. You have put a great smile on my face! I suspect it may last all day.

  7. DM / Jan 10 2011 4:56 pm

    good stuff! I’d been missing your blog posts, I had a hunch you were going through a valley….not trite platitudes from little old me.:-) Glad you’re having some new doors open…yea…!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 10:49 pm

      Hello Douglas!
      It is so good to be back. It turns out that writing was part of what was missing in my life…next time I’ll know. 😛
      As for the going through the valley “platitude” I think that is a perfect description. Going through, life might be all about phases of valley’s, hills and flatlands. Being a prairie girl I vote for more of the flat.
      It’s great to be back!

  8. Fjola / Jan 10 2011 5:01 pm

    Beautiful post Jenny. I hope you continue to attract these amazing new things into your life. Remember that the universe will provide whatever you think most about – focus on the possibilities and positive outcomes as opposed to any “lack of” and things will manifest faster.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts, you write so eloquently! Much peace and prosperity to you this year!

    xoxo
    Fibi

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 10:52 pm

      Hi Fibi!
      Thank you so much for your gracious compliments. I am in a new place now that is full of potential and I will work to focus on that potential, though it is always easy to get trapped in the past. I truly appreciate the reminder!

  9. Ollin / Jan 10 2011 6:16 pm

    Wow, that was not where I though this post was headed. HOW WONDERFUL! Congratulations Jenny! I am so proud of you and happy for you. You are certainly a girl that deserves this new opportunity.

    You are a hero for us single and childless people.

    Personally I’m at the same place you were {at least right before you got the job offer}. I’m starting to feel exactly how you feel. Usually things work out, but financially they just haven’t been. I’ve managed to get by, but I feel like something needs to change, drastically.

    Either it’s my views on money, or something else I don’t know what. But I feel desperate and exhausted, just like you were. I feel stuck and I can’t go forward.

    It’s funny, but everything else is going really well. My blog is going well and so is my book, and Im exercising more, but it seems like financially I just can’t connect the dots as you say.

    I know it’s not about finding a job. I can do that. It’s about finding a career and about earning a comfortable living, because you know I deserve it! Right? I should be able to have good health insurance and money for a vacation. Grrh.

    Thanks for your honesty, as you see, you are not the only one who struggles {struggled} with this. Artists have such a hard time adjusting to the way the world works. It’s so boxed in, and we are so free formed so it just doesn’t fit.

    I’m tired of trying to force myself into the mold, and I can honestly say I don’t know what to do next. I’m at a loss. There I said it. Mr. Motivation is kinda frazzled, and I no longer care he knows it.

    ANYWAYS. Woah, the point was to say CONGRATULATIONS and we are glad to have you back. Sorry if I got a little negative there. 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 11:01 pm

      Hello Ollin,
      I am sorry to hear that you are in that same place I have been for so long. Feeling stuck is the most exhausting thing ever.
      We all deserve security in a rewarding career. There is no question mark. It is truly sad that those who create do not have the respect required to be paid fairly and recognized for our contributions. The world needs original thought and creation more than anything right now. Maybe it always has. We would never move forward without new ideas.
      I was (as I often am) hesitant about writing this post as I am not sure anyone wants to read about my problems, even with solutions attatched, but as Bryan said, we’re not supposed to hide our emotions. Maybe we’d all be a lot happier if we were more honest?
      A while back I told a friend that after trying to find a new path for so long, I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t find my way through convention, (traditional job searching) or thinking. (You have to be careful who you say those types of things to.) but boy was I right.
      You, of all people are so on track with your dreams. Keep following your heart and know that I (only one of many) hold great thoughts for you and your destiny.

      • Ollin / Jan 11 2011 2:15 pm

        I know what you mean, I feel the same way. Traditional job searching won’t work. The traditional solutions won’t work. Well they haven’t worked. So I know that the only thing I can do is trust my gut that says: “Just keep writing you book. Keep writing you blog, and you’ll see.”

        But it’s scary to make that leap of faith. So much of the future is unknown.

        The hardest thing I am finding, is trusting ourselves more than anyone else, right? How do we trust ourselves, when everyone else would think we are crazy if we did what our heart says we should do.

        And yet every successful person you hear will tell you that the way to success for them was following their heart.

        How courageous they must have been.

        Thank you for your warm and comforting words.

        • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 11 2011 3:40 pm

          Hello Ollin,
          Traditional solutions really don’t seem to work, but I’m guessing that it would be because our souls might die if we tried to fit ourselves into that box. I am certain that it is not what the Universe intended for us. We have gifts to contribute, it makes no sense to stifle them even if we live in a world that would have us do exactly that. (sigh) I so often feel that I’m swimming against the current with no rest.
          To be honest, this job I am about to embark on is very traditional in many ways and that will be a huge challenge for me. However, it will demand creativity and will provide me with a real opportunity to grow and develop new skills.
          You’re right, it is so scary. I’ve been writing for some time now without a goal. I have no idea where this is leading, but I’m assuming that I’ll find out as I go along. Right?
          When we consider that nothing worthwhile can ever be accomplished without risk, we have to decide if we can accept risk, or accomplish nothing. For some of us the latter will never be an option so we don’t really have a choice.
          Write on, and thank YOU!

          • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 11 2011 3:43 pm

            I just hopped over to Twitter and Wayne Dyer just sent out this quote.
            “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. “- Mark Twain
            That’s a good thing to remember.

          • Kathy Loh / Jan 11 2011 3:55 pm

            I am seeing it already – the blog and the book – all about the return. How it appears to be a return to the box and what it evolves into. …debunking myths and assumptions around various notions like work, commitment, passion, submission, surrender, failure and success etc etc…The interesting twists and turns life takes to bring us to the place we want to be and how it doesn’t look like it at first. You get the picture.

          • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 11 2011 7:44 pm

            Kathy, that is so brilliant and true.
            I think this is why I have been failing at setting goals and functioning with only short-term plans. The Universe is unfolding itself, the path is not always my choice, but I am being lead to a destiny. I always have been. The best things in my life, (and there are always good things in my life even when I don’t see them) always seem to have happened without my manipulation. They often were not what I thought I wanted which makes me think that wanting is probably not the best way to go through life.
            I guess it really is about learning to listen to the heart and not the pull of a conditioned mind…

  10. nrhatch / Jan 10 2011 8:55 pm

    Reading through Ollin’s comments (and your post), reminded me that artists often live in communes with other artists ~ pooling resources and talents.

    Maybe we need to form more artists co-ops and support groups?

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 10 2011 11:04 pm

      That’s a fabulous idea!
      I am incredibly lucky to be part of a rather huge artistic community. One that I know I will remain a part of even though I’m moving on.
      I have often thought that what we do need is seniors homes for those in the arts as most of us would not be able to afford long term care if we need it. Then we could live our last years among like-minded and forget to create together. 🙂

  11. Mommylebron / Jan 11 2011 8:37 am

    I am so excited for you! And I’m happy to see you back, I’ve missed you!

  12. lisa@notesfromafrica / Jan 11 2011 9:03 pm

    I have missed your writing, but know from own experience how difficult it is to keep posting when you’re depressed.

    Best wishes for 2011 and for the new career!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 11 2011 9:45 pm

      Thank you so much Lisa!
      I have to say that I hadn’t realized that writing was part of what was missing. I’m seeing that light at the end of the tunnel now. I’m hoping that I can get back to reading soon, but I’m incredibly busy with work and training for the new job. Spring however will bring more spare time as the new job won’t be nearly as demanding on my time.
      Thanks again for your warm wishes. And all the best to you this New Year!

  13. lisa@notesfromafrica / Jan 11 2011 10:21 pm

    I forgot to say: I find the TED talks so inspirational. When you listen to them you immediately understand why the speaker has done great things in their lives. Missed the Steve Jobs one, so thanks for the link.

  14. Patricia / Jan 12 2011 12:01 am

    This was a lovely piece of writing and I wish you well on connecting the dots in your new real time. You seem to be making sweet enough lemonade here 🙂

    I understand burn out – physical burn out too…

    I just finished my book group discussion and came out to lots of snow and had to drive about 35 minutes home into more snow….I found it scary and wishing someone would rescue me and knowing that the folks at book group did not understand my life or why I was not “rolling in dough”

    as a matter of fact they did not want to even hear about it and set up parameters to the discussion which meant I could have just left right after dinner and would not have been missed.

    No one can live your life and most don’t want to hear about the sorrows of it…but it certainly makes it hard for me to gear up, flaunt the resume and get back into the swing and funds.

    I did send my oldest to a Thanksgiving party she was too tired to attend, because I said there are some fairly exciting women attending this singles event – maybe your next boss….

    Must have been about your Christmas party!

    Good wishes and times ahead to you – I too clean for my New Year’s Ritual and usually put myself to bed very early for extra refreshing sleep!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 12 2011 9:35 am

      Hello Patricia!
      Thank you so much for your kind words.
      It is too bad that others don’t understand that the path is not always clear and easy for any of us. I hope some day that we all learn to offer more compassion to each other when we struggle.
      I did learn quite a lesson through this experience, and that is that it is really important to connect with others when we have the chance. Even when we don’t feel like it. That said, I stayed at home this weekend in my cozy robe instead of going to an excellent event that I now regret missing… next time! 😛
      I do hope that your work and financial situation improve soon. Transition is so very difficult, it is even more difficult when it takes a long time.
      I’ll be holding good thoughts for you!

  15. Emily Jane / Jan 12 2011 8:10 am

    Beautiful writing, as always, and please let me say the BIGGEST of congratulations to you on your new job. It’s always interesting to go back and connect the dots and see how everything made sense, yet so hard to remember in the present moment while we’re waiting for the next dot to be uncovered that with a little patience, everything will work out in its right time. I love your New Year’s Eve tradition, as well. ” I know that I can always start again. I’m back now.” This really made me smile. We can always start again whenever we choose 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 12 2011 9:37 am

      Thank you Emily!
      It is soooo good to be back. The difference in my outlook since I posted this is hard to miss! Obviously, writing needs to be a part of my life no matter what. Somehow it feels like coming home.
      So, here’s to starting over!

  16. learncreatedo / Jan 12 2011 5:49 pm

    I love your post and I’m so glad your back. After all, it was your “letter to your 16 year old self” that got me started in blogging. Blogging has helped me with my depression (and is cheaper than therapy!). It has also aided me to get back to doing the creative things I love. Thank you!

    Your NYE ritual sounds like the perfect way to prepare for a fresh start. Congratulations of your new job and I wish you all the best for 2011. Sam (Sippies71)

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jan 12 2011 5:54 pm

      Wow! What a beautiful compliment! You have put a huge smile on my face!
      I’m sorry that I don’t get around to more blogs. I find it so difficult to keep up and I know that I’m missing a lot.
      You’re right. Blogging is like therapy. I’ve found that discovering this outlet has made a huge difference in my life. Writing helps me to think more clearly, but it also turned out to be the ultimate platform to speak and be heard!
      I’m so glad you stopped by, and I promise I will be sure to visit soon.
      Jenny

  17. Frosty / Mar 2 2011 6:12 pm

    What a beautiful piece, gives me inspiration and maybe I know what my next blog will be about. I’m glad I found you.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Mar 3 2011 8:55 am

      Thank you for that! It inspires me to know that I can inspire others.
      Please drop by again soon, as I will be back to serious blogging starting next week. I’ll look forward to reading your blog.

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