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At some point I want proof that things are changing within me and not just my advancing skills of identifying what I did wrong and why. That time has arrived.

Our 15-year old Corgi was at my feet gasping for air. Me, who in 1993, was in the World Trade Center South Tower the first time they tried to bring it down. Me, who ran down the stairwell and did an OJ Simpson jump over a guy pulling a slow-moving freight cart, leaving tracks across his back in my panic to flee. Me, still embarrassed by this reaction to what I thought was simply a blown generator, still doubting my ability to be of any help in a crisis. Thus the basis of my strong reaction to the film GRAVITY. Dr. Ryan Stone’s focus and determination to not flip out and willingness to keep her wits in the middle of such an ordeal made my hands sweat. I sat in my theater seat and knew for a fact I could never do what she did, never dig deep enough to find that calm center within needed to survive.

I want my dog to survive. There is no one else at home. No one to take over and fix it. I grab my old dog struggling to breath and run to the neighbor’s home. By now he’s unconscious and his tongue grey. He’s so limp I could have wrapped him around my neck. I bang on the front door thinking she is never home, never in the front of the house, never hears me knocking because the doorbell is broken. She answers. Help me, my dog is dying.

I kneel in the snow, secure his mouth closed with my fingers and begin breathing fresh oxygen into his lungs through his nose. That’s right. Mouth to mouth resuscitation on my dog. I recall seeing a smiling young couple holding hands as they pass by on the sidewalk not 15 feet away and thinking how happy they seem, how different their reality than mine in that moment.

On the way to the animal emergency clinic I am calm and focused on my little man, breathing for him. Talking to him. Encouraging him to come back to me. We’ll eat little oatmeal balls to chase away the fear during thunder storms. I’ll tickle so deep inside his ears, we’ll both be surprised. And please, please wait until your human papa gets home. We are almost there and this time as I blow oxygen into his lungs it’s not okay. I liken it to an alcoholic who wakes up from a blackout and finds himself sitting in an AA meeting. Wait, what? What’s going on here and why is my nose in your mouth? He’s back. I swear the next thing he did was lick my nose. I’m not saying I now wear a bracelet from the film GRAVITY with the letters WWRD (What Would Ryan Do). I am saying my reactions are changing and this bust through your blocks process is working in ways I never imagined.

JPH note: Yes! My point exactly. Cindy was moved to save her dog’s life and give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In that moment everything changed and lessons came through. Nothing in the past mattered – only the present. And, her movie role model, Gravity’s, Dr. Ryan Stone, had to let go of everything she’d been holding onto in life. She had to spin out in order to find the focus and determination to survive and thrive.

They both had to push out depression, anxiety and fear in order to do what they had to do in the present.

A hero’s moment comes in many shapes and sizes, but they all share one thing: To do what they must do, they all must find their own truth and strength at the deepest center of themselves.

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This is Part 13 of a continuing series by Cindy Baker Gilbert

What’s wrong with me? Months and months of job postings stream into my email inbox, resumes down dark rabbit holes, not living in Los Angeles and trying to get a job in Los Angeles – what am I, a hamster on a wheel? I’m still here plugging away at my temporary job that in four months will hold third place in the longest job I’ve ever held category. My best thinking finally tells me I could step up my article submissions to Judith’s e-zine. Why wait for a new monthly? I could write about the villain surrounding Obamacare. Wait, I don’t understand Obamacare. Or, I could write about our political parties because there is a “for sure” villain jamming up those works. No, that might alienate readers. Maybe write about the villain that holds back the country from consensus on the murder of JFK. But these issues feel too big. Can’t I start with a simple double murder or murder-suicide? I want to think big, write big and be big. And right away it feels like too much trouble and I don’t know enough about any of it and who cares what I think anyway? There, I said it. That’s the block. It keeps me from admitting I’m a writer. It keeps me following job posts and situations I think I need but don’t want. It tells me I’ll never make a living being a writer so I’d better continue with Plan B which we all know turns out to actually be the plan.

It’s easy to see the villains in other people, places and things, but to recognize and name it myself? My ego glasses have slipped off the bridge of my nose before, but this time they are stuck to my face and won’t budge. I want to do what matters to me, not make sure “the boss” has what he needs when he needs it. Are you there, Judith? Help!

Cindy, Coach Judith is here. OK, the villain you are plagued by (get ready to cringe) is the pirate/Bandit — the I’m not good enough villain. Everybody else has more, is more, does more is more worthy. You give your power to others, but feel like it has been stolen from you. You are not rich enough, talented enough, pretty enough, tall enough, bright enough — everybody else is MORE than you… everyone else has more than you — more money, more time, more talent, more fun, more…

To decide to be a write, without a boss to invest your power in, is to decide you are enough. You’ve got the talent. You are worth being a writer. You’ve got things to say.

However, you are robbed blind by thoughts like these:
I could write, but…(excuse goes here).
“These issues feel too big.”
“It feels like too much trouble.”
“I don’t know enough.”
“Who cares what I think anyway.”

Well, in the process of your rant, Cindy, you wrote a funny article.

That’s what I advise for all of you stuck in the excuse-ridden doldrums. Have a rant. Get out all the excuses. Stop letting the pirate villain rob you of your own talent and self-worth.

Decide what you want to do and spend at least 30-minutes every day going after it.

Take back your life and start acting like who you want to be. Pretty soon it won’t be an act, it will be your life.

Pirates be gone!

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This is Part 12 of a continuing series by Cindy Baker Gilbert

It was pointed out I am too old to be daddy’s little girl. Also, daddy was crazy which is a problem and explains why I worked for so many crazy daddies throughout the years. Some so genius that to effectively work for them meant to stay out of their way and quietly get the job done. Shut up and show up was fine since free rides home in the very G4 I booked for business trips was part of the deal and birthdays meant Gucci bags from one of the wives.

But to set out on my own, to bring to fruition all my dreams of writing and art without a crazy daddy in the picture to suck up all my energy and time is a freeing yet daunting task. If I’m not waiting for direction or even a job from a crazy daddy (bye bye Sorceress villain), then why do I have so many doubts and not doubts of which I am aware exactly? More a nagging voice that says what’s the use, who wants to read this, I can’t be the first person to think of this. That stuff. With the Sorceress villain disappearing and me knowing it’s up to me, who pops up next but the Killer Villain causing me to doubt my ideas and dreams and trapping me in my past cut off from my own heart power and belief in myself.

But to conquer a villain is to push past my comfort zone which I have done. And no, my grand idea from last month did not pan out, but I am not deterred. Instead, I expanded on that idea to include all equine facilities in Sothern California and not just the one in Malibu. (Take that Killer Villain. Cindy’s not giving up.)

I queried ten horse ranches and told them of my administrative and managerial experience at the multi-million dollar equine facility that is now up for sale and inquired if there was a position open at their facility.

I also let them know my BFA in dramatic writing from NYU and my MFA in screenwriting from UCLA meant I knew how to tell a story and certainly their establishment had its own unique story, a story that told on their website would be a great way to market their services.

That’s what I did today. Tomorrow I will come up with another idea. And another and another because I am determined to figure out and eliminate all that has held me back and kept me under a rock so that my light can’t shine.

JPH Comment: Watch out Killer Villain, Cindy got her groove (spirit) back. She’s escaped the past and what didn’t work out to focus on the present – determined to find the idea that will work!

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A new year calls for new ways of getting what I want. My “do whatever it takes” job here in the warehouse world of north Texas is not why I went to grad school, but the idea of interviewing for a job in Los Angeles while still in Texas doesn’t reconcile logistically. With hundreds of applicants for every job post on the internet, I’ve decided to propose a job to someone who doesn’t yet know they need me.

Here’s what I mean. Take a conference retreat center in the Malibu hills where I personally know the woman in charge of the horses at the center. She conducts her own horseback riding business as well as provides riding opportunities to the groups attending events at the venue. I proposed that I live in one of the small houses on the property in exchange for marketing the center’s services, increasing her horseback riding business, and help her prepare the horses for the kids’ summer camps. With my BFA and MFA in writing, I would host workshops and extended classes for the adults and for the kids. That sounds like a lot for one tiny place to live. I explained this abundance of services in no way negates my value nor my abilities. I simply want to be back in Los Angeles.

We could set a specific move-in and move-out date, based upon a pre-set criteria for evaluating my success in all areas. If I do as great a job as I know I will, they can offer an employment contract. If they are not pleased with the results, I have taken my off-hours to set up my new life.

My friend said she would present this to the Center, but it was not up to her. She said she would do what she could and would love to have me up there with her. Two weeks have gone by. I’ll give them another two weeks to figure out what an amazing opportunity this is. Fingers crossed.

JPH Note: Now that’s what I’m talking about. Cindy has taken her focus off despair, off the past and off of a fantasy future. She’s focused on creating a job that matches her skills while simultaneously fulfilling more than one of her goals. Step by step, should the job be hers, Cindy will prove herself essential to her next employer.

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This is Part 10 of a continuing series by Cindy Baker Gilbert

Connecting the dots of my previous accomplishments limits my job opportunities to a handful of high net-worth individuals with office building investments to lease, equine ranches to run, business offices to manage, marketing materials to be designed and produced, social events to be hosted and international travel itineraries to be booked. If they need professional notes on their screenplays or a review of their warehouse shipping department, these also come under my sphere of experience.

But, if I connect the skill set dots, I open myself to a world of possibilities. The secret to connecting these dots, meant to lead to my new and heretofore unimagined job, hinge on the successful assessment of my skill set. I may have missed a few of the obvious, but here’s my first go at it: good social interaction at all levels, diplomatic, hard-working and tenacious, thrives in an exciting environment, extremely confidential, good communicator and facilitator, excellent writing skills, collaborative team player, and self-motivated. Add to that my interest in screenwriting, film and reality TV.

No longer am I limited by a particular field of endeavor. My strong set of business and interpersonal abilities translate into many environments. This puts the value back on me and not on specific things I have done in the past. My future employer will pay for my time, my creative mind and my set of skills.

No wonder the previous interviews failed spectacularly. When I sell myself short, I diminish my worth in the eyes of others. I must first believe in me.

It’s a slightly different way of looking at the situation. Sometimes all it takes is a small adjustment in one’s thinking to notice a new path, or get excited about a new idea. Let’s see where focusing on my accumulation of skills and interests takes me.

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This Stuff Works!

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This is Part 8 of a continuing series by Cindy Baker Gilbert

If you followed me during this time of upheaval and unemployment, perhaps you identify with the Sorceress, Bandit and Killer villains that held me captive under their anvil thumb. My early attempts back into the job market to my current job as a warehouse selector for a grocery distribution center pointed out just what had been holding me back. Working through these villains produced clarity which led to change and change has come.

Armed with these new understandings, my next interview at a university was completely different. I was engaged and engaging, none of my appendages were tapping or flapping, I shook hands with the entire committee, handed out my resume for ease of reference and smiled when saying thank you for seeing me. I demonstrated a calm and competent attitude and gave the the director of the division a good idea to help facilitate her faculty meetings. I was offered the job.

There were several things about this position which did not ring true for my immediate needs nor future goals. What surprised me most was my reluctance to turn it down. What held me back was a sense of guilt folded in a blanket of people-pleasing. Why is it I don’t want to disappoint people by taking a stand for what is best for me? Back to Judith’s villains, curious to see which one was responsible, because this one is big.

JPH Note: Ah Cindy, you are so close! The operative words are “position which did not ring true for my immediate needs nor future goals.” You are conquering the LOST LOVE villain. You had accumulated just enough love for yourself to realize when something was not good for you. However, you haven’t quite let go of all the old “Lost Love” behavior – people-pleasing, guilt, fear of disappointing others. So, you felt the nagging call of old behavior, yet you did not listen. You paid attention instead to a new-found love of your own needs and you did it! That deserves a giant “Atta-girl!” You won the Lost Love Tug-of-war.

If you want to finish clearing this villain, write that list of things you no longer love in your life, things like people-pleasing, guilt, lack of self-recognition and self-respect, disappointing relationships, out-dated dreams, false hopes…Make sure the list is complete and then destroy it. Finally, on a beautiful, new sheet of paper, write about all the things you love about yourself, your life, and the activities and people in it. You are on a different track now and success is visible just around the corner.

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There is no more graphic example of sending cries for help than the tragedy of Michael Jackson’s death. Is not listening a crime? Is not doing what Michael needed most a crime? Should the tour have been cancelled? Should Michael’s health needs have come first? Should someone have done what Michael couldn’t do – stop the flow of drugs – stop the show?

How many signs did Michael Jackson need to send in order to be heard?

  • I’m anxious.
  • I need to sleep.
  • I’m in pain.
  • I need love. I need understanding.
  • I never had a childhood. I hurt so much.
  • Please, please, just help me sleep.
  • Give me more drugs. Give me peace from my stress.

Was it the tour? Did he think he couldn’t handle it?

Was it the financial pressure to succeed or bust?

Was it the huge number of people counting on him?

Was it that every body had so much to gain from Michael that they ignored every cry for help he shouted out?

There are many people other than Conrad Murray responsible for Michael Jackson’s death. Everyone who was within hearing distance of Michael’s cries for help holds a tiny bit of blame. Unfortunately, no one held on to Michael.

The lesson from this sad story is to listen to our loved ones – not just to their words. Listen to their actions, what they’re not doing or saying, but what they are acting out. Between the lines of pretend, try to find the truth. It could save a life.

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This is Part 3 of an on-going series courtesy of Writer/Producer Cindy Baker Gilbert who struggles to find employment while keeping her career intentions alive.

When is it a block and when is it just survival? I may be busting through blocks, but I still need to eat and pay bills. No one has responded to my resume which is why I am here to take the lift test – the one remaining hurdle prior to being hired to pack pallets at this grocery distribution warehouse. It’s my turn, and I grab two layers of twelve cans each, smash them against my chest and lower down to the second pallet, bending my legs and not my back. Up and down. again and again. I make comments like, “This feels like I am a participant on Survivor” and “It’s like trying to figure out a Rubic’s Cube.” After 10 minutes the supervisor says, “Well, that’s it. That’s the job.” I act like this is the most fun I have ever had and reiterate, much like I did in the office the previous day, that I want this job.

If I don’t hear anything by Tuesday, they have passed. Tuesday comes and goes. How did I not get chosen for this warehouse job? I call my temp agency who finally tells me yes they passed. ”There’s been a huge mistake,” I tell her. ”Call them back and tell them they made a mistake. ” I know this is my job. I don’t know what went wrong.

They tell my rep, ”We were just reconsidering her,” they say. ”We think we should have put her through.” My rep persists, “What made you pass on her the first time?” The surprising answer, ”Her personality. She had too much. Sometimes that can be annoying in a warehouse environment.”

They can’t penalize me for having a good personality. My rep said, “I told them you were just excited about the job, that you were not that way all the time.”

Once hired I find out I’ve been assigned to the freezer section. Let me clarify. I wear insulated overalls, sweatshirt, jacket, wool socks, insulated boots, ear muffs and several gloves, because it’s minus 18 degrees. Heavy boxes of frozen food have my fingertips numb with cold, my nose hair is frozen and my eyes are glazed over with icy tears. It’s like working for an outdoor moving company at the North Pole. A couple hours in there and I’m happy to go to Produce where it is a balmy 54 degrees and a box of lettuce weighs more than my dog. I call Judith. “What villain is this?” and she assures me it’s simply called survival. Because I am still sending out resumes, I am following up on leads, I am working for a better tomorrow.

The up shot of this job is I don’t have to pay to work out at a gym, this company pays me to work out. And it comes at a price. My knuckles and elbows are stiff and swollen. I am exhausted, in bed by 8 PM and have no trouble sleeping. Meanwhile, I get up at 5 am, feed the dog, make coffee for my husband and I, stretch, meditate and write through my blocks before showing up for work at 7:25 am. Ready to pack those pallets. I’ve even come up with a couple “save the world” ideas. Now I’m reeling myself in and just looking for a way to be of service and have fun doing it.

JUDITH’S NOTE: Now, that’s what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of truth to clichés like, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Sure, there are some questions left for Cindy to explore: What is frozen in her life? What needs to be lifted from her in order for her to move forward? What does this heaviness and struggle represent?

But there is also SURVIVAL, and Cindy demonstrates a spirit that will not break but will break through – blocks and all! She does what she has to do while she keeps pushing forward to her calling. She doesn’t give up. She recognizes and hangs on to her core values and talent. She keeps her intention burning bright and she moves toward it – sometimes inches at a time, but she keeps moving, and she keeps who she is alive.

Cindy is a talented artist in so many ways. And, she’s a gifted writer who is making a living with what’s available while she finds her voice and hones her craft.

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The longer I am unemployed the better bad money sounds. This curious statement has started me wondering. When I turned down that $10 an hour, 6 days a week job on the ranch I never dreamed I would entertain working in a flour and corn mill for $9 an hour, 5 days a week. This was not some boring desk job but a fast-paced assembly line packaging gig where I wear steel toed boots, khaki pants and a company shirt with a hair net and goggles.

“Why are you so eager to go in this direction,” my husband demands. “Get excited about the big paying jobs and go find those.” Okay, let me run right out and do that. I have waded through the spam jobs online, hit up my friends, called previous employers, cold called companies and signed up with the agencies they use after submitting myself to their battery of tests, Microsoft Word and Excel being the gate-keepers for all positions whether they are needed or not.

My husband could not believe I even attempted to take those tests. “You are technically challenged and got lucky when you found work at an internet company who had gurus fixing IT problems all day. Okay, maybe I should remove Word, Excel and Quickbooks from my resume. “Who told you to put those on?” he asks continuing with, “You are a very good facilitator, a great communicator and have very nice social skills. But you will never, ever be expert at computers and software.”

It seems my version of who and what I am is not the same as how my husband sees me, or any where near close to reality for that matter.

Maybe that’s why it’s not working. Apparently the jobs I‘m not getting are not only the jobs I don’t really want, but also the ones that I can’t really do. Yes, that used to be me with the mad office skills, but not so much any more. Who is this person holding on yet dying to let go of the old skills and ways?

I point my finger at the BANDIT VILLAIN, the voice in my head that tells me to embellish every skill and every job experience, because otherwise someone else will be more qualified, look better, have all the luck and get that job. My fear of “not being enough” keeps me trapped in the same old story, thus setting myself up for the same old results. So, it’s not that I seek out these low paying jobs, it’s that they represent a totally new direction. Maybe not the ultimate path but a new one and that gets me excited.

Editor’s note: Besides the Pirate/Bandit Villain nagging at Cindy with his “You’re not enough” refrain, she is also being hounded by the Killer Villain who keeps you stuck in the past, thereby rendering you ineffective in the present. You can’t move forward when you’re stuck on an old version of yourself. When the Killer is your villain look at what needs to die in your life: Say good-bye to dead end jobs, lost loves, inherited prejudices, false lessons, dreams you replaced long ago and allow yourself a Life Attitude Makeover. New answers and opportunities will follow.

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At this point I am interviewing for positions for which I am not completely qualified. We do that, right? Get scared there is nothing out there or what is out there will show up too late. So I’ve ignored the database management requirement as I sit across the desk from a woman in the fashion industry. “But I can learn anything!” I demand. My enthusiasm effects her like I’m tossing popcorn at a battle ship. I even wore my best designer suit since this was in the fashion world only to discover the “dress” of this small office is very casual and there would be no interaction with designers. Lesson learned: Do more homework. Show up looking like you belong. I push onward. “What exactly would I be doing?” She points to the five stacks of papers on her desk, each a different category. “All this,” she said with a wave of her calm, majestic hand attended by a concise, verbal summary of each stack. Like she was the queen of her castle and all was well in the land of Nod. “People rely on us for information,” she added. “A certain degree of gravitas is required. We not only have to be right but instill our clients with confidence in what we offer.” I left the interview reaffirming my desire for this position. I knew standing at the downtown bus stop that the job was not mine.

I went home and looked up gravitas: seriousness, solemnity or importance. This woman really thought a lot of herself and her services. I felt it and was drawn to her. My over-reaching personality, that I think charming, served me well in previous situations, including when I was five and vying for my parents’ attentions, but it is far from gravitas. How is it that I’m drawn to traits in another that I don’t have? Maybe the people-pleasing me yearns to grow up and hold my own. Maybe what I need is a complete personality change. Or maybe I just need to address the Killer Villain, again. My free-spirited, light-hearted attitude apparently no longer serves me. Because really, is there anything more scary than a middle-aged woman who still needs to grow up? This Killer Villain is trying to take me down and I will not let it. But how to kill the Killer?

Judith Parker Harris COMMENT:

How do you kill the killer?

Grow up. Leave the old negative lessons, habits and routines behind.

When being interviewed, use the 4-step, magic communication technique that will draw people to you: 1) Open up, 2) Listen, 3) Keep your defenses down, 4) Think about your strategy and how you can be part of the solution for the interviewer.

Do you have to grow up?

Answer: Depends on the job, but definitely keep it open as an option.

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