Mixing it up: Full Moon – Time in the Womb – Giving Thanks

November 23 brings another full moon and with it comes impulsiveness and anger. Not a good mix.

Solution: Be mindful and compassionate.

Well, that was an easy moon to explain so I’ll move right on to the good stuff.

Here we are at the beginning of a new year so it’s time to set intentions for what we want the coming year to bring.

“New year?” you say.

That was part of what I didn’t cover in my Samhain post so I’ll cast a little light now.

In many ancient beliefs the new year begins not at spring but just before the dark of winter.

That may seem strange to many of us. We often view the little death of winter as an end times. But the old view is more alike to a time in the womb. The darkness before the light.

In that view it is a time not just to survive and hold out until “life” returns, but a time to prepare for the life we already have. The life we will be born into come spring. A time to gather what we need to face that birth. To nourish so we can flourish.

So winter is here and while the work I am doing for a living tends to evaporate for a time, and in that way winter appears to reflect the more modern thinking of winter as and end, I have learned to be grateful for this short hibernation.

It is, for me, a time to replenish my physical needs, to further my spiritual needs, and to explore and redefine my intentions. A time for me to catch up with all the inner work I am forced to put off the rest of the year and to focus on my goals.

Yes, my financial state becomes… uneasy, this time of year, but this winter is providing some unusual opportunities that I am deeply grateful for.

My employer has set me up in a park model trailer that is quite comfortable and he is not charging me rent.

I have the opportunity to return to Mobile before Christmas and to help some very good friends I have come to think of as family with some remodeling in exchange for room and board and a little pocket cash.

While I haven’t made a ton of money up here because of the weather I have made enough to make some headway with my plans for the website and will have covered almost all of the expenses before heading south for a month or so.

I will be in Mobile, Alabama during the coldest part of the year up here and have a boss that will cover my expenses to return, and if next year is anything like this year turned out to be I can expect to make enough in one last season to focus the next twelve on writing.

I have replaced my unreliable Rodeo with a low mileage minivan with enough room to return north with everything I left behind that will make a good trade for something larger next summer. So when I leave here next fall everything comes with. No more leaving my life spread across two thousand miles.

Long story short; I have a lot to be grateful for and this short rest before the long haul is just what I need.

Personal Update – November 8, 2018

Surrender isn’t the same as giving up but it sure can feel like it.

The insurance adjusting never paid off. Thousands of dollars, 6 licenses, 32 certifications, over 600 hours of training, and I never worked a single job. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

I’ll take what I learned there and try to apply it somewhere else but in order for me to do it right and to continue pursuing my goals to turn to writing full time I need to be able to support myself and can’t do that alone on the substandard wages I made in Mobile.

So I came back North to finish out the season hoping I could make enough before freeze to at least pay off the debt I created trying to change careers and bank some to see me through winter, but it’s not happening. Freeze came early. The season is pretty much over.

Unless something unexpected happens I have no choice but to commit to driving truck for the full season next year. The man I am working for in Montana is providing a comfortable trailer rent-free as part of my pay so saving money will be easier.

I’ll head back to Mobile for a few months when I know for sure the work season is over and return in the spring.

I was optimistic and hopeful when I moved to Mobile last year and while I’m not giving up on my goals I can’t help feeling like I failed even if it is just a temporary setback.

But that’s just a feeling and I am neither defined nor controlled by it.

I will make the best of what I am given and keep moving forward no matter what.

This is the oilfield

8F5BD1D7-DF0C-4F18-A9FA-8DA3ED555184

It took everything I had to get to Fairview, Montana, 1,900 miles from home, and once I arrived it was not as promised. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

The contracts needing fulfilling have not started. I was told they were not going start until the 8th, a full week later than I was told before coming up here. Two days later I’m told that they were pushed back to the 15th and when I spoke with the brokers myself on Monday I discovered they would not start until the 21st.

In the meantime my prospective employer does me a “favor” by lining up work with his relatives hauling beets for $18 an hour. I talk to one of them who says he’ll “keep it off the books.” That he and his three brothers would each cut me checks to keep the payments under $600, the legal limit for a 1099, and if I needed gas or tires or whatever I could charge it to his account downtown.

This may sound like a fair deal but it is outlaw trucking and it is one of the worst possible positions a legitimate driver can find themselves in. It is a trap. Money is often withheld on promise of payment. Gas and meals are charged back to your account at double the rate. There is no legal recourse in these situations because you are invisible and they most often end with the driver walking away.

It is modern slavery and it is more common than you’d think.

I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with bait and switch and outlaw trucking and because of that I’m careful and always ready to bail within minutes because it can be dangerous. It is always stressful and rarely profitable.

Monday I talked with my employer. I was polite but firm and persuasive. I made it 100% clear that I would not be driving outlaw for his cousin or anyone else. I let him know I had already made some calls to the broker in charge of the contract he is on and was given the dates and rates. Then I told him I would continue to make calls to people and companies I know here to line up real work for his truck and suggested some sources for him to call as well.

An hour later he calls back with a fresh contract from one of my sources, a company that I’ve worked with before that knows and respects me. The contract pays $110 an hour. I’ll get 25% of that. Not the best money but not bad given the circumstances.

More than that it’s a good contract that will probably last until just before Christmas with people I trust. People that will see to it that I get paid.

Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the rules. And I make a horrible victim.

This is not unusual. It’s business as usual and I’m used to it, as much as a person can get used to things like this.

It’s the world I am working so hard to leave behind. I think you can begin to see why.

Here’s the good parts:

Most importantly, I’ll leave here debt free and with enough banked to upgrade the Caravan and buy some time to focus on writing.

I have a home to return to. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that.

The camper I paid $560 dollars for is now in livable condition. It’s not complete yet but the majority of the work is done. Windows have been taped and sealed with plastic and boarded where needed. It’s air tight. Roof is sealed. Cushions are replaced. Wood oiled. New carpet. It’s small but solid and actually quite comfortable and easy to heat and I will make a decent profit from the sale when I’m done with it.

The truck I’ll be driving for work is in good condition and the trailer is excellent quality.

The new boss owns an RV Park outside of Fairview where I am parked for free. I won’t be signing any rental agreement. There is a very nice community building on site with laundry, showers, big screen, and more all in new condition.

The new boss is not a bad man. He does not have bad intentions. Its just the way things are done out here. There are too few of us who refuse those ways and that’s why they persist.

He drives the school bus for his young children. Is involved in the community. He spent the extra money to make a comfortable place for his employees to live. That’s a rare thing.

He was afraid of losing a driver because of the delays and thought he could help his relatives by putting me in a bind while he waited for his contracts to begin. I am certain his relatives can use the help but I’m a hard man to bind up.

There is no way he could know I am as resourceful and determined as I am until he did what he did and no way for me to know this would happen without coming here. It’s always a bit of a gamble because I can’t always fix a bad situation. I’m grateful that I did this time.

No, he is not a bad man.

This is the oilfield.

A note about my recent posts

I know the reason most of you follow my posts here is because I unfailingly find good in even the most dire situations and that some of my more recent posts have been less than positive. This is done with intention.

I don’t talk as often about the difficulty and pain that comes before reaching those positive conclusions and in doing so I may be misleading or least sugar coating the pain that leads to those ends  but I don’t want to give others the impression that living a life of faith and hope, love and gratitude, is some sort of magic pill that makes everything easy.

There is no magic pill. No amount of meditation or breathwork or metta or exercise or healthy eating or yoga can change that. Life holds suffering for everyone. That is an inescapable fact. Nor would I want to escape it. There is a lot to be learned from suffering.

This is not to say that I actively pursue it. Just that I refuse to allow it to make decisions for me.

Having a positive outlook, living in faith, finding gratitude in even the most unbearable situations, are things that are cultured and nurtured. It isn’t natural instinct for any of us.

So here I am, in dire straights, and rather than share only the positive thoughts that are always there, even in the worst times, I have decided to take the opportunity in what I knew would be an extremely difficult and stressful situation and share those other things we all have in common and maybe in doing so I will be able to convey the methods I use to reach those positive ends.

I do feel pain. Fear. Anger. Self doubt. I am no different than you.

So stick it out with me on this journey. Stay tuned, as they say, and let’s find out together where this chapter leads. I have no doubt it will be someplace better!

Be well and know that you are loved.

James

Journal Entry: Thursday, October 4, 2018

 

When I left Alabama I was smiling because I felt like I have a home to go back to and I like that feeling.

When I got to North Dakota it was snowing. The work I will be doing in Montana is at the mercy of the weather. An early winter means less work. The smile began to fade.

When I was forced to settle for a less than optimal camper to be “base camp” while I’m working because the camper I’d lined up was sold to someone who offered more money in cash the smile faded more. That happens. I don’t blame them for getting as much as they could but it left me without options. The only other camp trailer I could find in my price range (read: cheap) was half the size (a mere 12 feet long), missing windows from hail damage long enough that there was mold and mildew and some of the wood was getting soft, it had neither cushions nor mattress nor bathroom nor propane tanks (not that they’d be of any use since neither the fridge nor the heater worked anyway), and no title. Yep, less than, and it cost more than the complete trailer I had lined up.

When I got to Montana, where I’ll be working, it snowed some more and I was told to expect at least one rain day. It is day two up here and I just got off the phone with my new employer. We are in for an early freeze. All work is canceled until or unless the weather breaks but the forecast for the next week is heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

The smile is gone.

I took a gamble and lost. I should never gamble. Being homeless in Austin, TX is one thing. Being homeless in Fairview, MT is something else entirely so I can’t let that happen. I pretty much depleted my funds getting here. All my cards were maxed months ago, that’s one of the reasons I decided to take the risk, I need to catch up.

The man I’m supposed to be working for feels horrible about it and is making some calls to see if he can line me up with some work. There are plenty of panicked farmers around here working around the clock to get their sugar beet harvest in and he knows many of them. There’s a good chance I can get on with one of them and earn enough to either get me by until the weather breaks, at which point the rock haulers will be in a panic to fulfill their contracts and be working around the clock too, or move to Williston or Watford City and pick up a water or oil hauling job. Not even the worst weather stops production.

If faith was food I’d be fat but I’ll need more than faith to pull this off. A little good luck would go a long way right now.

Victories

victory.png

 

I’m feeling a little defeated right now. I’m bruised and bloody. But I’m not beaten.

I had a three day pity party with all the usual guests; disappointment, failure, rage, grief, depression. We all commiserated and growled and grumbled and shed tears in our rum and then I sent them packing. Each with a hug and a “Thank you for coming.”

Now it’s time for a victory.

That starts with me.

First, a long walking meditation to silence the remnants of that black balloon affair where I logged their complaints and handled them lovingly.

They are not me, just my thoughts, and they deserve my attention and compassion, but not my life.

Then I sent out feelers to a few companies up north. Yes, back in the oilfield. It’s not where I want to be but it’s the one place I know, without a doubt, that I can get a job pretty much on demand with pay that is considerably more than I can make here. Maybe I mentioned this before, Mobile has some of the lowest driver rates in the nation. Barely enough to live on. Not nearly enough to pursue my goals. Right now I’m looking for companies that just need someone to finish up the season because I don’t want to make a commitment and I really don’t want to starve through another season of frozen roads, frozen trucks, frozen flesh.

Get in. Get out. Get back to what I’m trying to accomplish.

I am working on two backups:

The first, converting all my adjuster training to work with FEMA, will take more time than I have right now but it’s a viable option down the road. I have started taking the training they provide but to get myself on top of the list of potential hires I want to have a long list of their certifications under my belt. So, for now, it’s something that I will take my time with.

The second is a lead I received less than an hour ago. A company that is looking for adjusters to work from home and pays extremely well.

This second option is a strong contender to replace driving, and I’ll talk with them before making the decision, but heading north for a couple months has a distinct benefit: I still have things in storage in ND that I can simply bring with when I return to Mobile.

Yes, I plan on coming back to Mobile. Fate brought me here for a reason and though I really don’t know what that reason is I have no intention of working against such a powerful force. So I’ve made arrangements to leave most of what I brought with me in storage while I’m gone.

I’ll know more within a couple days.

Here’s the thing:

Shit happens and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it but I am not defined by those things, I am defined by how I respond to them.

Yes, it sucks that I spent a year of my life working intensely to create change only to have it all implode but it’s only a failure if I allow it to be, and it’s not an end, it’s a beginning.

In a way, it’s a gift. I am being forced to start again.

I’ll get it right soon enough.

 


Image by Richard Felix on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waving the White Flag

white-flag

 

Well, I’m back. Though I’m not sure what that means.

First, let me say that I am extremely relieved and thankful that hurricane Florence did not land as the expected Cat 4 even though it means I have no work because I would not wish that sort of devastation on anyone.

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to write about surrender many times now. It is a subject I have a difficult time with because as strong as my faith is and accepting as I can be I still have a hard time separating “surrender” from “giving up”

I don’t want to give up but I do need to surrender.

I have done my best in this last year to change my life and while I have been undeniably successful in many ways I feel I have utterly failed in others. I knew that changing my life would not be easy, but I did believe it was possible.

Now I’m not so sure.

I made just enough money in the week I was deployed to either hold on for another month or to move on. Moving on, in this case, actually means moving backwards, which is something else I have a difficult time with.

At this moment I am seriously considering taking the little money I made and heading back to the oilfield. Trucking has always been a sure bet for me. I can literally go anywhere and find a job driving. The problem is that I honestly despise that life.

My other option is to stay put, dig in, use what I earned to get me to the next storm. The problem is that there may not be a next storm and when the money is gone I will be left without an option. It will be too late in the year to expect to find work in ND and I won’t have the finances to make the move anyway. I will be left finding a driving job in Mobile, AL, home of the lowest driver rates in the nation. Barely above minimum wage.

So I have a choice between a known that I have been trying to escape for most of my adult life, a known that will pay the bills but likely make me want to withdraw again. Maybe for the last time. Or I can choose the unknown. Continue to place my faith in a desire for something better. Accept the possibility of it all falling apart at the last minute and leaving me without any options at all.

For now, in this moment, the best I can do is wave the white flag, retreat from the battle, accept that there are things beyond my control and maybe tomorrow I will begin to make new plans.

But I will not give up.

 

Stormbound

deployed

As most of you know, I have spent the last year of my life focusing on my training as an insurance adjuster in order to secure a position doing field claims as a way to escape truck driving and buy me the time I need to focus on my goals.

I am a writer. It’s where I belong.

Tonight I received a deployment confirmation and need to be in Atlanta on Friday morning for staging. I’m not sure how I’ll make that happen yet but I know I will.

If all goes as expected I will be able to begin focusing on my writing 100% within the next 8 months.

First comes phase two of the plan: Work my ass off to generate at least a years income on my first deployment.

If I can do that then I will spend the next year improving my writing skills and recreating the Caravan. I’ve already put parts of that plan in motion. I’ve began designing mini-courses, built a community site that I can integrate here, and that operates quite well as a mobile app, I established an email server using my domain and started the process of creating member only content (not as a paid subscription and not spam:), and more. A lot more. Some of it technical. All of it designed with a simple theme in mind: Sharing.

I want to build a community of people that support and encourage each other. A place where we can share our journeys, our stories, our talents, gifts, abilities, our hopes, and our fears.

Life is a journey best shared.

Change is often slow and always requires faith and effort. I have to admit that while my faith was challenged some over the last 12 months I never stopped believing and I never gave up. I’m glad I didn’t.

I won’t now even though I know the task I’ve set for myself is, well, it’s grasping. Far reaching.

I am not afraid to reach or to push myself to attain something, better.

For the next several months my posts may become even more infrequent or erratic, or I may find myself needing the outlet as a way to disconnect from the work I will be doing, helping people rebuild their lives after serious losses.

So I want to thank you, all of you, for sticking it out with me over this last year and I hope that you will continue to share in my journey over the next.

Be well!

Life

Almost a year ago I chose to move to Mobile to pursue the possibility of a committed relationship.

I learned quite a bit about love from that relationship and from the bond that remains.

Almost three months ago I made a decision to stay in Mobile to accelerate my training as an independent insurance adjuster instead of heading back North to earn enough money to carry me through until I get deployed.

In those three months I have learned ten times as much as I’ve learned in the last year and I have gained numerous certifications, but I have not worked a single day.

As I write this I lay alone in bed in the rooms I pay for through barter. I don’t know when, or even if, I will get deployed. I don’t know if my car, which I repaired with tape and a prayer after it started on fire due to faulty wiring, will last another month, or a week, or even through tomorrow. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep gas in it. I don’t know if I will ever reach my next goal of turning of writing full time.

While these things and more can and certainly do cause me some stress they do not represent my future nor do they rule how I feel today.

Those decisions I made, to move here and to stay, were based on hope and faith and love and a strong desire and the will to create positive change in my life and because of this they were the right choices regardless of how they turn out.

So all those things I don’t know are really no different than not knowing if I will get struck by a meteor tomorrow, and I don’t see any reason to worry about it.

If I could share just one thing I’ve learned in life it would be this:

I am not defined by the things that happen to me but by how I respond to them.

Am I stressed? Yes.

Will I get through this? Absolutely.

Is this my life? Well, yes. It is.

Am I grateful? Always.

 

 

sb-donate-button

Atlantis

The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle my life looks like most of the time are falling gently, and hurriedly, into place.

My trip North was cancelled at the last minute when the Universe stepped in and loudly said “NO!” in the form or local opportunities I could not pass on and while this caused (and still is causing) some financial strain it was the right thing to do.

At this moment I am boiling in my air conditioner free farm truck at a blazing 60 miles per hour with two of four windows open on my way to Atlanta. I’d open all four but two of them don’t respond to my wishes. I may have a talk with them later.

I will be attending a State Farm certification class and taking the exam on Friday. This alone was worth staying for but when I get back I have a day off before going to a FEMA flood certification class. With these two major certifications along with the score of other training, certifications, and licenses I have picked up over the last several months, I place myself a head above the very large crowd of people vying for positions as claims adjusters.

Maybe I haven’t mentioned my plan 🙂

I am done driving truck. Period. My goal is to turn to writing full time but trucking ties up too much of my time. So will adjusting when I’m in the field. But I’m only going to do catastroph work. Helping people rebuild their homes and their lives doesn’t disagree with me at all and the pay is good enough that I won’t need to work all year. The rest of the time I will devote to furthering my writing with the end goal of this stage as becoming a full time writer.

This stage. I don’t know what comes after this but I’m looking forward to finding out.

So here’s me, boiling in my car with 2/60 AC (2 windows down/60mph) and staticky music playing through ancient speakers and instead of wondering if my car will actually make the trip or if I’ll have money to cover rent or food or being worried that none of this will pay off or about the loose ends and things I have in storage in North Dakota, I am grateful simply for the opportunity and the fact that the Divine speaks so clearly to me and has never once let me down or led me astray.

The rest is just life.

——————

Note: Please don’t be James, don’t blog and drive.