New Career Options

In light of my recent loss of a job in retail, I’ve been looking more carefully into new and perhaps more rewarding career options. It will take time to develop these options, so I may end up working another part-time retail job if I can find one in the depressed Southern Illinois economy. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of the possibilities with you and see what you think.

First of all, there’s my writing. So far, I’ve published one work of full-length non-fiction, two books of poetry, and several poems and articles in various local and non-local publications. I also have two or three unfinished novels, two unpublished short stories, several unpublished poems, and plenty of ideas and leads for future work.

As an independent author without an agent or a publishing contract, I’m responsible for doing all of my own publicity and self-promotion in order to make these and any future works known to the general public. It’s up to me to contact book stores, magazines, web sites, news outlets, and so on to get these works distributed and announced/promoted in as many places as possible.

However, as mentioned earlier, I’ve been suffering from the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the past several years. The symptoms are improving, especially now that I’m no longer doing any manual labor, and I hope for a full recovery from any such symptoms sometime this summer. But before my recent resurgence in health, I was barely able to work my retail job, much less do any professional writing, much less promote my own writing. So, for the past couple of years, my writing career has languished.

I’m hoping to use my recent change in employment status as an opportunity to remedy this situation.

As I make the decision to spend time on my writing, I can already hear some of the nay-sayers saying their nays. Writing is a difficult business to break into, and even some of the famous authors I look up to have spent long periods of their life in relative poverty or stuck in some other dead-end job to support their true career.

I get this. Believe me, I get this. But there’s precious little else available in Southern Illinois anyway, so why not give it a try? Given the low cost of living here, I can get by on a lot less than someone living in New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles who is submitting stories and articles and poems to the same magazines and publishers as I am.

If I can just get a few short stories published, and publish one or two new books with similar or greater sales to Revolution of One, then that will be enough to get my foot in the door, make a name for myself beyond Southern Illinois, and get enough seed money to move on to bigger and better things.

In the meantime, I’m going to be searching for part-time employment to supplement this income. If possible, though, I want this to be related to my chosen line of work and areas of interest.

For example, I will probably be teaching one or more classes at the Country Goddess bookstore here in Carbondale. They’re holding a series of classes this spring in their newly remodeled storefront, and it’s been a while since I taught a class or workshop, so I’d like to get back into the action.

I will also be looking into teaching a class or two at John A. Logan College this summer or fall. My Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy probably isn’t enough to become an established teacher there just yet. But I’ve known two or three people who have done Continuing Education courses at Logan and I find the idea appealing. This is something I’ve been considering for almost a year now, but I wanted to be sure that I would have the time and energy to give to my students before jumping into teaching at the community college level.

I’ve got the time and energy now, eh?

In the long-term, I’ve long wanted to pursue the idea of traveling throughout the Midwest and beyond to give talks and lead workshops on the ecological, social, and spiritual issues of our time. I organized several such events here in Carbondale a few years ago and gave book talks for Revolution of One at a bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana and at the nearby Lothlorien Nature Sanctuary. So, this is something I definitely have experience in and could expand on in the future.

Finally, as some of you know, I’m involved in a project to start a Pagan Monastery here in Southern Illinois. I’ve been meeting with a few people to talk about the details of this community project for the past several weeks, and it’s look promising for the fairly near future. In the short term, the projects we undertake as a community will probably be small and simple enough that they won’t have an immediate impact on my economic life. But in the long-term, we would ideally offer ecological and spiritual workshops, grow ecological and permacultural foods, create a green community center and living spaces, etc. And depending on how exactly we go about all of that, it might change my entire life.

That is, in fact, part of the idea.

So, I have a lot of prospects on the horizon. Unfortunately, most of those are unlikely to help me in the short term. Therefore, the search for stopgap measures and part-time income continues.

In the meantime, feel free to consider this your golden opportunity to read my published works if you haven’t done so already. 🙂

Here in Southern Illinois, Revolution of One is still available for sale at the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery and will soon be available at the Country Goddess. These are both good locally-owned businesses, and I encourage you to support them if you live here in the region. If you don’t see it on the shelf at either place, ask them when they expect it to be back in so that they will know that people are interested in it.

If you’re an Amazon junkie, you can find Revolution of One quite easily by searching for my name or the title. To save you the trouble, though, here’s the direct link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1411614054/

Amazon takes out a bigger chunk of the proceeds than the local businesses do. But if you live outside of Southern Illinois, prefer Amazon, want to add a review, don’t have an independent bookstore in your community, etc., then Amazon is still a good option.

You can also find this and several of my other published works at my online storefront:

http://lulu.com/treesong

Being an independent author has its down sides, but one of the up sides is that most of the net profit from my work (after printing and shipping costs) goes directly to me. When my royalties from online and out-of-town book sales cross a certain threshhold, I get a check in the mail. And when you support local businesses by buying one of my books, I get cash or check directly from the business in question.

Either way, your purchase will support me in my current and future work to raise awareness about — and call for action on — the ecological, social, and spiritual issues of our time. And with any luck, reading Revolution of One will help you to find your own ways to do the same!

Thank you to everyone who has expressed concern, support, encouragement, and love over the course of the past week. Once I have any news on the income and career front, I’ll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, I’m in good spirits, I’m grateful for what I have, and I’m looking forward to embarking on a new adventure!

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Will Battle Evil For Food

Will Battle Evil For Food: This is a comic that I found at a co-worker's desk at the Co-op. At this point, I'd almost consider it an autobiography... :) For the past four and a half years, I’ve been working at the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery. Now, this chapter of my life is over. When I went in to work today, one of my managers informed me that they’re letting me go.

I suppose most people would be angry, bitter, depressed, or similarly upset in my situation. And to be sure, the news was a shock to me, and I’m still upset about it in my own way. But it wasn’t a surprise per se, and so far I’m feeling much better about it than I would have imagined.

I have a few ideas about where to go from here. But first, here’s some of the back story.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog and elsewhere, I’ve been struggling with symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for several years now. I didn’t have access to medical care for long enough to get an official diagnosis for this, especially since CFS has only become widely recognized and understood in the past several years. But my doctor did give me some supplements to help improve my energy levels and the health of my adrenal glands. She also gave me some advice on how to improve my symptoms and correct some of my resulting mineral imbalances such as low sodium levels. [It’s not every day that your doctor advises you to eat eggs and salt, eh?]

It’s hard to be entirely sure when this started. From adolescence until about my mid-twenties, I suffered from prolonged bouts of anxiety and depression. These are sometimes associated with CFS, but it’s hard to tell which came first. In my mid-twenties, I started becoming a happier and more well-adjusted person, and my energy levels started to pick up too. But then I must have pushed myself too hard too quickly, or come across some other stumbling block, because my physical energy levels took a sharp dive a few years ago.

I don’t like to complain. Really, I would rather just push along stubbornly with whatever task I’m doing and ignore any pain or discomfort along the way. But I found myself experiencing a profound exhaustion that’s hard to even describe. Resting all day and sleeping eight hours each night did little if anything to alleviate this. No matter how I tried to rest or recuperate, I felt very low energy and felt the sorts of aches and pains in my body that most people only feel when they have the flu or when they’ve been working ten or twelve hours of hard manual labor. When I wasn’t doing anything, it wasn’t that bad — but when I tried to work, it was like every one hour of labor cost me two or three hours worth of energy, and I just couldn’t catch back up.

For a while there, it was a struggle even to work a twenty-hour work week. Over time, I’ve gradually improved to the point where I can pull off a thirty-hour work week. But apparently, I wasn’t quite pulling off thirty hours worth of work, because I received complaints about my performance.

The only thing I find frustrating about the timing of this firing is that I really feel like I was starting to make some headway. I feel like my productivity was on the upswing, and I believe that I had worked my way back up to the point of mediocre performance.

But sometimes mediocre isn’t good enough, especially after a prolonged period of poor performance. If other people are giving the job 110%, and I’m getting paid more money to get less done than they are, it becomes a fairness issue. I can see why they would find that frustrating, especially if they didn’t know about my condition.

Really, what it comes down to is that the Co-op is there to serve the customers and owners, and to operate as a viable business. I wasn’t meeting their needs in terms of performance — and as much as they might strive to be at times, they are not a charity or a social services organization. So, they let me go.

I don’t know if the troubled economy, or any other internal or external factor, played a role in the decision. If so, they didn’t mention it. Either way, even though I wish on some level that they’d chosen differently, I can understand where they’re coming from, and have no hard feelings about it. And they don’t seem to either.

So… what next?

Really, that’s a good question. The Southern Illinois economy is even less favorable than the national economy, and opportunities outside of retail work are few and far between. In the short term, I’m going to look into unemployment, food stamps, etc., while I figure out where to go from here. In the long term, though, I still don’t know. It did just happen a few hours ago, after all.

So far, I’m mentally sorting my ideas into two categories. The first category is Full Time Jobs — employment opportunities that have the potential to pay all of my living expenses through a single source of income. The second category is Part Time Jobs, which includes both “regular” jobs and forms of self-employment such as selling books/articles, teaching classes, and so on. With two or three such options, I could patch together the equivalent of a full time income.

This time in my life is likely to be full of challenges. It will probably take me time to find one or more new sources of income. In the meantime, I’ll have to rely on some combination of social services and the kindness of friends and loved ones just to meet my basic living expenses.

But really, I have high hopes for the future. I’m intelligent, creative, passionate, knowledgeable and skilled in my chosen areas of expertise, feeling an upswing in my energy levels, and surrounded by many wonderful friends and loved ones who will help me find a way. If all goes well, in the long run I’ll end up better off than I was before losing my job. And in the meantime, even with the scramble to search to employment, I’ll probably get more rest physically over the next few weeks than I’ve had in a very long time.

So, it’s with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation that I step into a world beyond retail work. The stakes are high, and even with my meager expenses, I’ll have to act quickly in order to avoid a rapid downward spiral into debt and worse. But with every crisis comes an opportunity — and today, I have the opportunity to search for new ways of supporting myself which are more in line with what I’d like to be doing to survive and thrive in this world.

Any thoughts, suggestions, and support you may have for me in this time of transition is greatly appreciated. In the meantime, know that I am doing well, and that I am surrounded by loving friends for whose support I am eternally grateful.

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Pagan Monastery

For several years now, I’ve been talking with people in Southern Illinois and beyond about starting an intentional community. This discussion has taken many twists and turns, and the nature of the community in question has undergone several evolutions. Now, I’m pleased to announce that I will be working with other like-minded individuals to create a Pagan monastery here in Southern Illinois.

So, what is a Pagan monastery? Truth be told, that still remains to be seen. So far, I’ve come across few if any intentional communities that self-identify as both monastic and Pagan. This leaves us with little basis for direct comparison. There are, however, other Pagan communities that we can turn to for inspiration and advice in the process of creating a Pagan monastery.

In order to clarify what I have in mind, I’ve created an updated and expanded version of the vision statement that I passed around about a year ago. This new draft, along with a few other related documents, will serve as the organizing documents of this monastery while we work on building a membership base and finalizing documents through group process.

The vision statement portions of this rough draft are available online at:

http://freesoilcommunity.org

So, why a Pagan monastery? During my earliest discussions with other potential members, I wavered back and forth between a secular community and a spiritual community. Initially, I was leaning towards a secular community, simply because it would then be open to people of many spiritual paths and faith traditions. In the end, though, after many discussions and much soul-searching, it became clear that I was looking for a Pagan community.

Paganism has become the greatest defining force in my life, more so than any other influence. When I look out into the world, and look into my heart, I see a place where great magic is afoot. The miraculous dance of life swirls all around me, a dizzying mix of joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, growth and decay, birth and death and rebirth. The seasons change, and the pace of the dance slows or quickens to match the tempo set by the whirling and tilting of the Earth in her dance around the Sun. Sometimes, it seems joyous and brilliant beyond bearing, and other times, it seems cold and cruel beyond all comprehension. But in each moment, I can find the presence of the Divine somewhere, and the presence of the Lord and Lady in every turn of the Wheel of the Year.

This appreciation of the simultaneous immanence and transcendence of the Divine is a central part of my life. As much as I may admire and appreciate a more secular form of humanism embraced by my agnostic and atheist friends, I’ve decided long ago that I am thoroughly Pagan, and that my Paganism defines who I am and what I seek in life.

Therefore, it’s only natural that I would long to live in a thoroughly Pagan community. In addition to that, I feel that community life is most easily and durably held together by a shared sense of being a part of something larger than oneself. For those who seek a secular community, the same effect can be accomplished through shared philosophies and a shared struggle toward a common goal. But for me, and for many Pagans, the archetypes, narratives, and rituals of a spiritual practice grant a deeper sense of meaning and bring people together in ways which are otherwise impossible.

So, I’ve decided that a Pagan community is the way to go. There are many forms that such a community could take, though. Why am I calling this a monastic community?

To me, and to some of the others I’ve talked to about the topic, monasticism involves taking a step back from society at large in order to create a community that embodies values and practices not present or emphasized in our society. If we formed a group of Pagans who happened to live together, have weekly dinners, etc., that would be a small step in that direction. But in the end, we would still essentially be the same as the rest of society.

I’ve met many Pagans who adopt the attitude that they are exactly the same as people of any other religion or faith. The only difference is that they celebrate different holidays and have different rituals to mark life passages such as birth, marriage, death, etc. That seems to work well for them, and it does grant Paganism a measure of acceptance in society.

But for me, as well as for the mystics in just about any religious tradition, my faith is more than something I celebrate on the weekends, or on the eight high holidays of the year. It’s an initiatory path — a life-altering experience that has introduced me to new ways of thinking and feeling and living which are at times wholly alien to the path laid out for us in mainstream society.

My path is a profoundly ecstatic spiritual path, seeking to experience the Divine by embracing my passions and following the true Will of my heart and soul wherever it may take me. But our society has little room for people who want to run wild through fields and forest singing and dancing with the gods, or to lose themselves on the dance floor for hours at a time communing with the music and the movements of the masses, or to meet in the moonlight to praise the gods and ask for their aid in bringing us the joy and the sorrow we need to become who we truly are.

These things are precious to me, and I can pursue them as much as I like in the privacy of my solitary practice. But at a certain point, I would love to share these things with those around me, and to live in a community where these experiences are the norm rather than the exception.

So, how does all of this sound? If it sounds odd, or silly, or simply not your cup of tea, then feel free to leave me alone to run off into the wild and become the mad monk of Southern Illinois. But if any of this makes sense to you, and you like any part of the vision statement I’ve shared, then join me in this new adventure. Together, we will build a community unlike any other.

I’ve laid out the first rough sketch based on the ideas we’ve discussed over the years. So far, I’m the first and only one to commit myself fully to the project. But there are many others who are potentially interested, and anyone who gets involved now will have the opportunity to make it their own just as I have.

If you’re interested in becoming an active member, or just keeping informed about our community events and such, let me know. Or, if you’re not interested but have feedback anyway, let me know that too. I’ll be talking to people soon to organize the first potluck and/or meeting to talk about this Pagan monastery. In the meantime, I am eager to hear your responses, and I wish you the best in your life path.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Now that my health and energy levels are starting to improve in a fairly steady and consistent manner, I’ll have more news soon about what I plan to do in the community with this newfound energy, and what I encourage others to join me in accomplishing. In the meantime, I want to share some information and reflections about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

For several years now, I’ve been suffering through various degrees of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). When I last had access to a doctor, she didn’t use that exact term, but she did use related terms such as “adrenal exhaustion” and “adrenal fatigue” to describe my condition, and she did exclude other possibilities through blood tests and examinations. Therefore, both my personal research and my doctor’s diagnosis lead me to believe that CFS is the most accurate description of my condition.

The name of this condition can be deceiving. To some people, it sounds like someone with CFS is just a little bit tired. We all experience fatigue, right? What’s so different about CFS?

CFS is characterized by an unexplained, persistent fatigue that’s not due to ongoing exertion, isn’t substantially relieved by rest, is of new onset (not lifelong) and results in a significant reduction in previous levels of activity. Symptoms vary a bit, but my symptoms have been fairly typical:

  • Impaired memory or concentration (usually during/after exertion)
  • Post-exertional malaise (extreme, prolonged exhaustion and sickness following physical or mental activity)
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches

For me, this has been accompanied by chronic weight loss, which is somewhat less common but also a recognized symptom of CFS.

Basically, I felt completely exhausted, even when I hadn’t been doing much of anything. I would almost always wake up with pain and stiffness throughout neck, back, shoulders, chest, and hips, no matter how much I had rested or slept. Strenuous activity quickly made me feel sick: a progression from muscle pain and weakness to migraines and nausea which forced me to lay down. Any significant overexertion and/or loss of sleep left me in a malaise which took days to recover from. And I never fully recovered because I didn’t have enough time to rest, and rest didn’t seem to help anyway.

For some people with CFS, these symptoms result in a complete inability to function normally — to go to work, to spend time with friends, to do much of anything other than try in vain to rest. For me, this resulted in a reduction of my work capacity to about 20 or 30 hours per week as opposed to the almost 40 hours I had worked previously. And even with a diminished workload, I found it very difficult to keep up with daily chores, or to do any socializing other than sit-down activities such as watching TV/movies, eating/drinking with friends, or playing role-playing games.

CFS is often difficult to treat, and up until a few months ago, I wasn’t having much luck with it. There were several times when I went into a downward spiral, and my “recovery” from these times only brought me back to the same low level of activity and health.

Recently, though, I’ve finally been seeing my first signs of lasting improvement. I credit this improvement to a combination of yoga, prayer, and persistent self-care.

Resting for a day or a even a week never seemed to help, but reducing activity levels and increasing rest and sleep for months at a time eventually seemed to have a cumulative effect. Yoga has improved my blood flow, lymphatic health, breathing, and other aspects of my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Prayer and other spiritual practices helped me to stay focused and positive at a time when I had no physical or emotional strength left in me.

Together, all of these efforts combined have brought a significant reduction in my symptoms. Not many people with CFS can achieve such an improvement, so I’m very grateful that I’m making progress. Really, I have high hopes that I will be a rare example of a full recovery, and will soon thereafter become a better-than-average example of health and fitness.

In the meantime, however, I would say that I’m only halfway out of the woods. I can’t work more than 30 hours a week without feeling a rapid return of my previous symptoms. My body weight is still as low as ever, and I still find myself unable to do much of anything other than work and take care of basic chores and errands.

The good news, though, is that as long as I stick to this limited routine and keep up with my yoga and spirituality, I usually feel quite good, whereas in the past, even my diminished activity levels left me feeling like someone had beaten me up with a baseball bat. Since I feel good now, I’ve been testing my boundaries and discovering that my overall stamina really has improved.

Now, the key to continued recovery is discipline and diligence. I need to stick with what’s working: yoga, extra rest, relaxation, improved diet, and overall self-care. I’ve gotten to the point now where these practices no longer place serious limits on my finances or social life, leading to the start of a slow but steady upward spiral of health and happiness. I feel tempted to immediately expend my newfound energy on a dozen new projects, but I know that it will be better spent by resting for a few more months and building my core strength.

I do believe that I’ll recover fully from this — and once I do, then I can jump headlong into more of the things I’d like to be doing. In the meantime, I’m just happy to be feeling good and have something vaguely resembling a social life again.

I know that I’m a fairly public figure here in Carbondale, and I’ve heard from time to time that people are concerned about my health and well-being. As always, your thoughts and support are greatly appreciated. However, I’m a strong person, and my condition seems to be improving, so I hope that no one will be too worried about how I’m doing.

The best thing you can do for me right now is to support me in my belief that I will make a full recovery. And the best way that you can do that is by continuing to invite me out to community events, social gatherings, parties, etc., even though I may not always be able to make it. As some of you know, I can be the life of a party on a good day, so it’ll be well worth your while to ask me to come out and play.

Hopefully this entry will help people to understand what I’ve been going through and where I’m at today. I also hope that by talking about this, I will encourage other people who have symptoms of CFS to talk to their doctors, their complimentary/natural health practitioners, and their loved ones about what they’re experiencing.

There are other conditions that can cause prolonged exhaustion, so instead of trying to figure it out on your own and bear the burden alone, be sure to find out what exactly you’re facing so that you’ll know how to respond. If you do have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, know that you’re not alone, and know that with proper treatment and self-care, you may be able to live a healthier and happier life.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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