Archive for September, 2011

The Dating Puddle

Where should I begin? I do not care to sound pathetic or negative, but my situation is far from ordinary… or is it? Living on an island can present a myriad of circumstances that few “non-islanders” can relate to, the least of which being the dating scene. Perhaps a bit more background would be appropriate?

So, the island of Martha’s Vineyard has the enviable reputation as the summer playground of and for the rich and famous, but what of the “common-folk”? Well, after living here for nearly a decade, I can say that the off-season resembles Main Street, USA the morning after a First Night Celebration: Rather empty, not very glamorous, and slightly jaded. Not that would be a bad thing, save the fact that the social scene is rather bleak. Not a dating pool, but more of a puddle.

Besides the fact that a “day-trip” off-island requires more than a little planning if you care to actually venture beyond Wood’s Hole or Falmouth, it can seem tedious just to drive to one town to another on-island. Not to mention the fact that few social establishments are open in the dead of winter and this island can be less than inviting for the single adult. Being the third wheel at dinner parties can only be tolerable for so long. Don’t even mention going to the movies alone, and “movie buddies” are not dates.

The simple fact that the single population is limited in the off-season leads to a very common, island-specific practice: partner recycling. Now, I submit this for your consideration. Take a limited pool of individuals in an isolated geographic region and limit the number of social opportunities due to weather, finances, or preferences. When presented with the options, the “newly single” inevitably partner up with another “newly single”. Often, the new couples have traded partners, literally. Maybe not simultaneously, but often eventually and this occurrence can be termed a type of “island-shuffle”. Not a fan of such practices, I have isolated myself from the local flavor, for better or worse.

To complicate matters, most of the new people I meet are clients. Being a therapist, dating a client would present a whole new set of moral, if not ethical issues and another article, if not several. Even if a prospective partner where a relation of a client, it would just be awkward seeing the client in a more intimate social setting.

Where does that leave me? Surfing the internet options? If you are thinking Match.com, craigslist, or the like, been there, tried that. I have established strong community ties, built a practice and own a home here, which really limits the incentive to leave it all in order to simply search for a potential partner. On the flipside, starting a relationship with someone living elsewhere, with the intention of having a long term relationship, presents the inevitable choice of who will be the one to make the move.

Again, I don’t wish to sound pathetic or negative, but I’m feeling a bit like I should just accept this solitary lifestyle. Maybe I am making too much out of my situation? Perhaps I am simply not a social creature? One thing I do know, I was never much into puddle jumping as a child and this adult version promises to do more than just splash around a bit of water.

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The Post-Season

My yard is an un-kept mess of overgrown weeds and vegetation. My desk at home has bills, mail, and paperwork from the past four months piled high. My cupboard is nearly bare, only a few canned goods and rice constitute the majority of the stock. My car needs numerous maintenance and repair jobs from summer driving before inspection. It must be the end of the summer season. Welcome to the post-season.

As a business owner onMartha’s Vineyard, I must remain focused and make my business the priority each day of the summer season, however long it may last or linger. The consequence of remaining so focused on my business is that most every other aspect of my life is put on the back burner until I can safely say that the season has actually ended. There is no exact date, no expiration when the calls will stop or the clients will no longer wander in. I might try to plan the events for any given day, but if there is business to be done, I must heed the call.

September is a transition time for many year round residents ofMartha’s Vineyard. For me, I begin working with the Cross Country Team at the high school while trying to maintain a viable practice at my business. It has proven to be a manageable feat, but trying, to say the least. Between the physical demands of training on my own as well as with the team and the time issues scheduling clients around meets and practices, it gets quite stressful. Each serves as a piece in my life that I find integral to remain part of the island community, so I continue the balancing act year after year.

As the days grow shorter and the calls in the office less frequent, I begin to chip away at all of the tasks that have been neglected during the hectic summer season; the bills and papers on my desk will slowly be filed, the yard will eventually be manicured in time for the fall, trips off island will re-stock the cupboard with Trader Joe’s goodies, and my car will finally pass inspection for another year.

When the last of the seasonal stores close onMain Street, the last of the leaves fall from the trees, and the ferry schedule shows only Vineyard Haven as being open, I can finally consider the season to have been declared “over” for this calendar year. Many stores will close not only for the season, but the space will become available for the next starry-eyed dreamer to open the store they always dreamed of. Then they too can join the ranks of business owners that spend endless days trying to keep not only their professional dreams alive, but also their threads of sanity intact until the end of the season. Only then will they be able to take a deep breath and determine if it is all worth they effort.

In my many years of owning and operating a business, it has only been the last two or three seasons that have really given me reason to pause and consider what else I could possibly do on this island to be able to afford living here. I see all of the unemployed residents “toughing it out” during the off season and think to myself, “I really am quite fortunate to be financially successful at what I do.” After all of the griping, complaining, and general frustration caused by the chaos during the season, it is only in the post season that I remember that I do it all for the reward of being able to live here year round, as a part of this community, on this little island of Martha’s Vineyard.

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Beyond Within (via Dabodog’s Blog)

Heading into a time of the year when I become a recluse, I find comfort in my seclusion. It is a choice I have made. Respect my choice.

My first memories are of being alone; not left alone, not hiding alone, just being alone. Mostly early mornings, spent time watching things happen, playing with toys and forming thoughts in my head. I learned to do things myself; solve problems, go places and do what I needed to get done. There was no neglect by parents or family, I just always cherished my freedom and my ability to accomplish tasks on my own. I cannot recall ever getting help wi … Read More

via Dabodog's Blog

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August and Everything After

Life is about transition; new job, new love, new place to live, new season. As August wanes, most people onMartha’s Vineyardanticipate getting a bit of their sanity back, slowing down after a chaotic summer season. So many people living year-round on the island have more than one job, but they usually change with the seasons. They transition jobs when their housing changes. Often, this is also the time of year when people find their ‘partners’ for the winter. After all, it can be a long, cold winter on the island.

The transition that happens during the end of summer and the beginning of fall has so many facets on this island; weather, traffic, housing, businesses, schedules. Personally, I try to recover from a hectic summer in the office while coaching kids at the high school. That pile of paper on my desk usually does not get touched until October. People I know move back into the homes they rented out for the summer season, look for jobs to replace their summer money-makers, and seek companions other than their summer romances.

As the leaves begin to turn, the island population settles into their patterns that they will try to make last through the off-season, for better or worse. Some will find that their choices were made a bit hastily; the apartment is cold and drafty, the boyfriend is a slob, their job is tedious and unfulfilling. Others will decide that their decision to stay was altogether wrong and they will abruptly leaveMartha’s Vineyard, never to return. (At least not during the non-summer months, the offender explains.) Then there are those individuals that simply find themselves at peace with their situation and flourish.

Over the many years since I decided to call this island my home, I am never surprised to hear about a new twist on any of the aforementioned circumstances when it comes to our little island community. I have usually been the observer in these little fiascos, or hearing about it second hand, long after the fact. Once or twice I have been a small part of the story, or at least rumored to have been a part of the story. Seldom does one get removed by one or two degrees of separation on this island and off-season gossip.

What I mean to say is that most days onMartha’s Vineyardduring the off-season are slow news days. Town meetings tend to be boring, unless beer and wine prohibition is at issue or a rogue rooster is keeping people from their winter slumber. So it goes that the island becomes a hot-bed for innuendo, gossip, and rumors gone unchecked, even promoted, in the long winter darkness. An off island trip with a friend becomes a tryst when they miss the last boat back. A few dollars short in the register becomes outright embezzlement. Okay, I might be exaggerating, but you get the idea.

If you are new to the idea of residing onMartha’s Vineyardduring the off season, keep an open mind and a tight lip. You just might make it through until the warmer days of next summer… with a few weeks vacationing somewhere tropical in January and/or February.

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Week of Reflection

This next week there will most likely be a number of religious services, ceremonies, vigils, etc. These organized events will be well attended by many people; some that may have lost loved ones, others that feel remorse, a few that will go just because they feel the need to show respect. Yes, this week will mark the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks by religious extremists that vowed to destroy or change our way of life. I will not be attending any of these events. Instead I will use this week for personal reflection.

Depending how well you know me, you will either know how I feel about religion or you will not. Basically, I study the Tao Te Ching. It is not a religion. It is a philosophy. The Tao is a collection of principles that apply to nature and the way things work in nature. To judge me based on the fact that I might defy your religion would be to admit your own ignorance to accept the beliefs of another, which is what brought the September 11th attacks to us in the first place; think about that.

So, this week I will disconnect. I will not be on twitter. I will not post on facebook. I will not be texting, sending instant messages or email. Instead, I will use all of that time that I would spend on that digital media reflecting on things; past, present and future. I will consider people that I have lost to violence, illness, and time. I will take hold of the memories of I have of those people and not forget what they brought to my life; the good, the bad, the thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes we live life at such a speed that we forget to live in the moment. Every now and again we lose sight of the fact that just because we have all of these digital forms of communication, we are not really in touch. Take some time this week to get in touch; with those that matter to you, those you have lost touch with, and especially yourself. There is no person more important in your life than you. Reflect upon that.

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Labor Day

I always look for the irony in holidays. Labor Day is an easy one. Growing up in a blue collar family, holidays were just days to do work that you otherwise too busy to do. Working and living onMartha’s Vineyardis even more taxing than other seasonal resort areas, as we are isolated geographically and to say that our home is a vacation destination is doubly true. Notice I have ‘working’ before ‘living’; at this point in the season living is just a by-product of working.

I always remember having some sort of job since the age of nine. Sure, there were chores around the house that kids do, but I started with a newspaper delivery route. I would get up before four in the morning and do a route of sixty or so customers, seven days a week. That was only until summer came around, when I would find day work doing whatever. Turning sixteen did not mean getting a driver’s license to go to the beach or parties; it meant that I was now able to get a job beyond where my bike could take me.

Going to college for my first degree was more a vacation than any other time in life. Not that I partied, I spent my time studying or in the gym. My ‘job’ was to get good grades and maintain my academic scholarship; I graduated cum laude. After college, I started working insane hours, all the time, paying down debt; like all college graduates do; first as a private investigator, then casino surveillance, then more college course work and traveling with sports teams until I earned another degree in sports medicine. All of those jobs had odd hours that could easily accumulate past sixty hours each week if you let them.

So now I have been a business owner for nearly a decade. I started on the high end of income and the economy has turned to show me the low end. To say that because I make less money because there is less business would not be true. The subcontractors are doing less work per diem, but I am still keeping the same hectic pace as ever. As Labor Day approaches each year, I am fatigued both mentally and physically. I usually do not get a day off between May and October. Clients expect me to be at their beck and call, even if they have not seen me in several years. I often wonder if it is all worth the effort.

The professions we choose to make our own often determine the hours we keep. Owning a business will make the hours and responsibilities undetermined and too numerous in many cases. I started in this profession fourteen years ago and have had success through hard work, due diligence, and honing my skills to the point where clients seek out my services, referred by others practioners in my profession.

Yet seldom a week will go by that I am discriminated against by clients based solely on my gender. Yes, I can say that I completely understand how women in the workforce feel when this happens to them. I struggled to establish myself for weeks my first season onMartha’s Vineyard. Clients would rather go without than work with a male therapist. At this point in my career, I don’t even make the effort to draw those clients in. I would rather hang up on them than to deal with their ignorance.

That might be my first clue that I should make a change in my business model. I have often flirted with changing to a “closed practice”, where I only work with either known clients or those sent by referral. This Labor Day I will need to think long and hard about where my business will be next season. Until then, I will just do the work I have and be thankful that I am still paying the bills.

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