Coping Mechanisms

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Forgive me, dear reader, I know my columns have been sporadic this year. Life has been throwing a lot at me! It’s hard not to get discouraged sometimes when dealing with the everyday ins and outs of life, and I’ve been doing my best to juggle everything.

Though I hope you’re not in the same boat, I can’t help but suspect that from time to time you may be. We are all humans after all, and though at times we feel superhuman, there is a large part of us that feels overwhelmed sometimes. Though I’m certainly not an expert at responding to life challenges, there are a few things that I like to remember and that help me quite a bit.

Don’t let the actions of other people affect your mood. I have a very empathetic nature, and as such I tend to suck up other people’s emotions and troubles like a sponge. This includes emotions that other people toss out in an effort to get rid of them. Oftentimes, people I know will be fine a short time later, while I am still holding their toxic feelings with me. Though it’s nearly impossible to keep the actions and attitudes of others from affecting you at all (even the Dalai Lama and the founder of Kundalini Yoga admit to having trouble sometimes), it isn’t about you.

I read a great analogy in an article once, offered by a cab driver who had been cut off in traffic and berated by the other driver. He said that some people are like garbage trucks; they hold all of this garbage inside of them and are looking for a place to dump it. If they didn’t take it out on you, they would most certainly take it out on someone else. That is their own issue. Don’t let it become yours, too!

Find something you love (that’s not work). Because I love my job, I used to think that that was all I needed to be fulfilled in my life. I would work long hours and weekends in the interest of making a difference and doing something that I really liked. Gradually, because I did it well and our organization grew, my job got bigger. And I worked more. And longer hours. And suddenly I needed an outlet. Finding something that you love that is different from your everyday can make a huge difference.

I began horseback riding, something that I had loved when I was young but had gotten away from in college and as a young professional. Now it is the highlight of my week; I ride more often and volunteer at horse shows. It’s a great feeling to learn and grow in a totally different direction. You may choose something from your past that you had stopped doing, or you may choose something new that you have just seen and want to know more about. Either way, it definitely will make a difference.

Feel free to say no. I recently made the decision to step down from an activity that I enjoyed because my schedule had grown too packed. My enjoyment for the activity had been replaced by the feeling that civic engagement was a chore, something that I had to do because, well, who else was there to do it? The answer is, lots of people. I know so many people who volunteer with the argument that no one else is there to do it.

In many cases, it’s true; some of the most effective initiatives and social movements exist because a few committed people put in the time to bring it to fruition. On the flip side, however, reaching the level of burnout can sour you not only for a single activity, but for many other activities, especially if you are someone who volunteers in many places. Do yourself a favor. As soon as you think you might be burning out, step back. You can always return later if you want to.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. Take care of yourself.

Out-of-Town Cheerleaders

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As I write this post, the Capitol is in the midst of its production run of Spamalot, and I can hear the Canalfest fireworks in the distance. The big weekend for Honor America Days has just passed, the Yoga Life Festival will be this weekend in Stittville, Wednesday’s Farmers Market was lovely as ever, and so many great things are happening around town and around the region.  Anyone who says there is nothing to do in the Mohawk Valley must be living underground (though who knows, maybe there are things going on there, too!).

The second weekend in August is always one of my favorites. I am very fortunate to have a job that brings people joy and excitement, and this weekend we will be hosting joyous, excited people from all over the country. Where many people have thankless jobs, I would say I have one of the most thankful jobs that there is.

Capitolfest started as an idea by film festival goers who were seeking to improve on the typical film festival experience. For those of you who aren’t film festival attendees, I would liken film festivals to endurance races: You almost have to train for the long hours sitting on uncomfortable chairs in the dark, watching films that often vary in entertainment value, with short breaks and shorter options for sustenance. Dedicated festivalphiles aim for their personal best each festival, seeing just how many films they can watch in uncomfortable conference center seating before their eyes glaze over and their internal battery dies. One barely has time to socialize with the friends that they have somehow made over the course of several festivals, and they often have to choose between seeing a coveted movie and grabbing a short bite with someone they see once a year. At that, you can’t even guarantee that you’ll be back in time for your favorites; between overwhelmed restaurants and off-schedule sessions, festival time seems like a strange, film-laden rabbit hole.

Our festival founders thought, why not make it pleasant? Guaranteed quality movies, longer breaks, time to socialize, keeping on schedule while seated on comfortable chairs in a real historic movie theatre come together for a wonderful summer treat. Capitolfest has certainly grown from that concept to become a much-loved mecca for early film fans and casual moviegoers alike. Hard-core film fans bring indulgent but interested spouses, long-time film fan parents bring their neophyte children, locals meet up with friends that they’ve made from around the country at Capitolfests past, and everyone has a great time. Nearly 100% of people on our surveys say they will be returning; those who don’t are merely unsure of scheduling conflicts.

As Romans, we’re blessed to be part of a community that our patrons love coming to. Exclamations of the friendliness of Romans, the wealth of history, and the beauty of the landscape and surrounding areas, are all regular occurrences at Capitolfest. On the flip side, our local businesses benefit, as many of our patrons are choosing to spend three days (and often more) exploring everything Rome has to offer. If you see a Capitolfest badge floating around town this weekend, be sure to give the wearer a warm welcome. Judging from the word of mouth recommendations that we are always hearing about when people register, I reckon that these folks are some of our best out-of-town ambassadors for the Positively Rome spirit.

Trainspotting

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I’m writing this column just past Amsterdam, enjoying a cloudy day on a southbound train. I’m on my way to the annual League of Historic American Theatres conference.

Maybe it’s the idea that I’m attending my favorite conference of the year, traveling on my favorite mode of transportation, or maybe it’s the idea that for the first time in several years I don’t have the added stress of being a presenter at the conference, but I feel absolutely content. This year’s conference is in New York City, and while I’m there I get to meet with donors and colleagues of the Capitol, which is always fun and worthwhile. I’m also taking in some exhibits and riding horseback through Central Park before I come home. It’s going to be a great trip.

There are faces to New York that can only be seen by train. Oftentimes the tracks are so near a river that it can be surmised that more animals than humans have ventured onto the space between. There are old factory buildings, built during a time when function and beauty could happily coexist, and these sturdy buildings still stand, sometimes empty, sometimes repurposed by those who couldn’t stand to see them laid to waste. I always sit on the river side when I can, and the view is always different, while staying comfortably the same. I listen to music and solve logic puzzles (my very favorite kind since I discovered them as a child). I like to go early, as the towns are waking up, and watch them come to life as the train goes along.

I people watch and sometimes I work, but it always feels very relaxed on the Empire Service, a train that is rarely overcrowded as it comes through Rome and a line (like many that Amtrak offers) who staff are refreshingly friendly. Though I am more apt to keep to myself than chat, when I do choose to socialize, train people are my favorite. They are folks who made a conscious choice not to take the fastest route, nor the cheapest, but the most pleasant! And they often have a personality to match. It starts at the Rome station, chatting with familiar faces and neighbors I’ve just met, and extends to complete strangers riding the rails from around the country.

I certainly hope that the rail improvements that Amtrak is rooting for come through. I can think of few better investments than rail service, and
I hope it’s popularity will only increase as time goes on.

Out of Service

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I’ve been going going going the past few months. I am a hereditary workaholic, so it isn’t anything to write home about. But the idea that I wanted to stop working myself so hard was rather novel. I voluntarily decided to take two of my vacation days right before the 4th of July, partly to relax, and partly to get ready for an upcoming conference trip without having to scramble at the last minute.

As I clocked out on the eve of my vacation, I felt pretty good. I had put together a list of the things that needed to be done, had made a few social appointments (it was vacation, after all) and set out to have a leisurely several days.

With a broad expanse of days off ahead of me, I figured I could take it easy at the outset. I did some things, but I frittered a lot—read books, took naps, lounged about in general. I invited my mother over for a leisurely cookout on the 4th.

But the morning of the 4th, I woke up with a pretty sore throat. Art had one too, so I didn’t think much of it. It seemed like a good day to have bad allergies, so I just went with it. By that evening it hadn’t gone away. The next day it was worse. Just when I should have been ramping up my efforts to get things situated and completed, my constitution was backfiring on me. As I needed to be more productive, my body wanted to sleep constantly, ached all over and was over-sensitive to pain. My head was splitting, a cough had joined the sore throat, and I was officially “Out of Service.”

Had I been wrong to deliver cough drops to my sick sister and her husband a few days before? Should I have been more careful around my sick coworkers? Should I have taken better care of myself in general, eating more healthy foods and drinking lots of water? Probably. Almost certainly. But hindsight is 20-20, and I would rather do something nice for someone else than choose not to because they might be contagious.f

The moral(s) of this story? Maybe something about best laid plans, being more organized in the first place so that I could delegate, yada yada yada. But I think the biggest takeaway is this: Don’t worry about it. Life happens, and the world isn’t going to end because everything isn’t crossed off your to-do list as you would have it be. Things have a way of sorting themselves out, and paring themselves down to the essence of what is really important. And in coming to realize that, I have probably accomplished more than I set out to do.

Lost Cat, Found Friend

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I’m sure you know that Art and I love our cats. They pop up from time to time in these columns, and we wouldn’t trade them for anything. They are part of our family, and certainly take up a lot of real estate in our affections.

Our indoor cats like to indulge in an activity we like to call “Cat TV.” They sit on the windowsill or lie on the cat tree, gazing out the window until they see another cat, then they go a little nuts. Though our house is surrounded by myriad wild animals every day, seeing another cat is a special occasion, and is treated as such. They follow the cat around the house on its strolls, going from window to window to watch the next episode. Eventually the show ends and they return to their regularly scheduled programming (usually sleeping).

Some of the cats, by virtue of belonging to the neighbors on our street, are familiar to us, but recently a small long-haired black cat started showing up. At first we thought it was just a cameo; there are many felines that have walk-on parts and go their merry ways. This cat, however, had a recurring role, and was almost becoming a regular.

He was a very handsome cat; all black with a lovely long shiny coat, we thought that he may be a new arrival at a home in our neighborhood. I wasn’t so sure, though, when I saw the lost cat poster. “Still Lost,” it said. “Reward, No Questions Asked.”

Lost pet signs always get to me. With so many animals ending up at our local shelters, it’s bittersweet to see someone care enough to search for ones that they had lost, perhaps knowing that they may not be found. I mentioned to Art that I wanted to call. He, ever the pragmatist, and knowing my temperament, asked me what I would do if a new family had taken him in, and fallen in love with him, maybe a few month since he was first lost? It was a bit of a hard decision–I pictured small children sleeping with their new family member, a lonely person who had found a furry friend. I knew the role that cats had had in my life, and it was easy for me to imagine that they would have the same effect on others. But Marble’s owner cared deeply–deeply enough to post a first round of posters, then subsequent rounds later on, and I knew it was the right thing to do. It took a few more days for Maybe Marble to show his face again, and I called using the number I had added into my phone in preparation for his next visit.

When I called, the woman on the other end of the line came right over. While we were trying to track down Marble (Maybe), we chatted about our cats. She has three others cats back home, and Marble was the glue that made them all get along. He was her happy boy, always gregarious and sweet. We chatted about her house, one of my favorites in the neighborhood, and with the warmth of a fellow cat owner she invited me over whenever I saw her out in her garden. I said I would. Eventually, she did find the cat that I had seen, and chatted with him, but found, sadly, that he was not her Marble. It saddened me that we had not found him, but I immediately liked her and knew she was a kindred spirit.

It’s always worth it to do the right thing. If you happen to see a large long-haired black cat who answers to Marble in the vicinity of Doxtator Street, please give my new friend a call at (315) 336-5848. I hope one of these days the cat that you find will be her missing loved one.

The Big One

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Spring hot isn’t at all like summer hot. Summer hot is sticky and damp, humid yet dusty and full of allergens. One goes from a hot, humid house to a hot, humid car (at least we do; our car AC gasps out about 3 minutes of cold air per trip before giving up). Spring hot is lovely, sunny, deceptively intense (as evidenced by my initially undetected sunburn from working at Jervis Recycling Day), and bright. The nights are generally cooler, giving one a respite from the potentially stifling temperatures, and the bugs–until recently–aren’t out in full force. We’ve cooked out more than we’ve cooked in since Mother’s Day, and it all feels pretty leisurely.

Well, until the past few weeks. Between helping my mother move out of her house (check) and getting ready for the City Wide Garage Sale (not quite check), most of my non-work free time has been filled with another worky activity: decluttering and hoeing out our garage. Though I do much of this throughout the year, nothing motivates like a deadline, and everything that I decluttered from the house but was too lazy to lug off the property ended up in the garage. Said garage is now full of items that should be on their way to new homes.

As I’ve reached the sunset of helping my mother declutter in preparation for her move, the shoe is now on the other foot. With her around to assume my role of helping make the difficult decisions, I find I am much more able to toss things that are legitimately valueless. (I highly recommend having a buddy for decluttering. But make sure you get along through thick and thin; you don’t want to come to blows over whether or not that dusty Furby you found in the attic is worth keeping!) The good stuff that I no longer use goes to the Big One: Rome’s City Wide Garage Sale.

For those of you who have never attended Rome Main Streets Alliance’s City Wide Garage Sale at Ft. Stanwix parking garage, you are definitely missing out. To date there are over 130 vendors signed up, and more are bound to trickle in as people around the city realize they really have far more to offload than they had anticipated. The event is certainly not your average garage sale. People come from all over the region to take advantage of the great deals, rain or shine. And there are lots of them–both people and deals!

The Big One (as I like to call it) takes place from 9am-4pm on Saturday, June 7th, and the activity is constant throughout the day. Anyone with something to sell (excepting firearms) is eligible for a booth. There is food and drink available to replenish your energy mid-sale, and the vendors cover all three levels. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it. Come visit me in booth 105!

 

Readers are a girl’s best friend

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I have to tell you, I just love you, dear reader. I just love hearing from you when I’m out and about, running errands or at the Capitol. You make my day every time.

This past weekend afforded me the perfect opportunity to meet a whole bunch of you. I always forget that my photo is in the paper with my column (or that anyone could recognize me from a 1″x1″ image, for that matter), and it never ceases to amaze me when someone that I don’t get to see everyday calls me by name. It’s a real treat.

At the Rome Home Show, I had the fun job of working at admissions (the proceeds from the show went to support new programs at the Capitol), and I had the best time. One gentleman told me that I looked taller in the newspaper, which made me laugh quite a bit. Several ladies asked me if I was the one who wrote the stories for the paper, and I had to confess that I was. I loved hearing from all of you; it made my day.

When I got to take my shift back at the Capitol’s vendor table, I got to meet even more readers. I think my close visual proximity and association with the Capitol encouraged several of you to inquire about the articles, and I was happy to chat with all of you. One lovely woman who was there with her girls told me that my column from a few weeks ago was the impetus for her attending the show. I couldn’t have been more delighted. On my way out at the end of the show, I met a man with two lovely and friendly dogs. As we exchanged the pleasantries of animal lovers, I learned that he, too, was a reader.

I don’t write this to toot my own horn. I am, by nature, a shy and introverted person who, through my work and this column, has come out of her shell. I write this to let you all know how much it means to me to hear that you read these little musings of mine. After my column about the things I love about Rome, I was able to interact with several of you via email, and I even got the chance to visit Vince, a reader who, at 96 years young, sat down with some of us from the Capitol and shared his memories of Rome’s movie houses through the years. It was a delightful visit, and warmed my heart.

Every time I talk with you, dear reader, I feel I’ve made a new friend. You know so much about me and my life through these columns. I feel safe sharing my ups and downs with you, in the paradoxical intimacy of this public medium. I hope you all continue to read, and to reach out to me. Your stories and sentiments are honestly why I’ve kept writing. Let’s catch up again soon.