8/25/12

Phoenix Rising


Of all the mythological creatures out there the unicorn was always my favorite as a child. I'm sure it had a lot to do with Lisa Frank's colorful stickers--an obsession of mine back when I was 10.


As I've gotten older myths and legends have taken a backseat to the realities of being an adult. If I had to choose a mythical creature to call my own today, one that reflects all that I've learned with the coming of age and maturity, I would choose the Phoenix.



The origins of the Phoenix date back to the Egyptians, where its association with the rising sun god Ra is identified as a sacred symbol in the Book of Dead. Based on drawings and legends that span across many cultural mythologies, the Phoenix is recognized by its colorful plumage and would most likely be an ancestral relative to the modern day peacock. Legend records the Phoenix living to be as old as 500 to 1000 years, but it is its death ritual that most people are familiar. Contrary to JK Rowling's depiction in the Harry Potter series, the Phoenix does not burst into flames until it is near death at which time it builds its own funeral pyre of twigs, laced with frankincense. This death scene is believed to harness magical powers, as a new Phoenix is regenerated from the ashes.

Regeneration, renewal, rebirth. I love the idea of having an opportunity to reinvent myself and find ways to open doors that may otherwise appear hidden, closed. It's the path to those doors that is sometimes a bit tricky. Sometimes the road is filled with rough patches and roadblocks you might not foresee, and are challenged with overcoming. I've found that those paths hold the most truths about ourselves, and are the underlying reason why we are on this journey.



In the early days of the millennium's dotcom bubble, I took a job as an assistant at a fashion magazine.   The position, though way below my previous role in both pay and responsibilities, literally fell into my lap. I had been unemployed for a while, occasionally picking up freelance assignments and working as a temp. I'd been without benefits far longer than I wished and with no other immediate opportunity on the horizon, I didn't have much choice but to say yes. 

The women I worked for were tough, cutthroat sales executives, strategically hustling to book thousands of dollars worth of advertising into the pages of our glossy magazine. The parent company is one of the most prestigious in the publishing world, and though the day-to-day was exciting--great people (for the most part), fun perks ($1 beauty sales, gym membership stipends, a Michelin-rated commissary)--senior management often overlooked the less than fair treatment of its junior employees in favor of the amount of revenue the offenders brought in. 

My tour of duty, where some days were more combative than others, lasted four years. And if it weren't for the support of my Dad, and a few close friends, one of whom threatened to surface contacts in the Mafia to take out my boss, I think I would have had a nervous breakdown.  Years later when The Devil Wears Prada was released in theaters I found myself hyperventilating during some of the scenes as they were so similar to my own experience. 

Madame X would reveal a genteel persona on occasion; these episodes usually coincided with the cleaning out of her office 'wardrobe' (code for the gifts and near to cost-free purchases from the luxe brands she called on).  For a fashionista this would be nirvana but I've never been starry-eyed by brand names so I accepted the seconds (Jimmy Choo stilettos, a Gucci wallet, D&G sunglasses) without much fanfare. I think the lack of expected ass-kissing may have been a source of contention but oh well.  

One such cleansing resulted in my inheriting a Waterford glass sculpture. The sculpture wrapped in a polishing bag, with a wood pedestal was nestled in a felt-lined leather box. Beautifully detailed, the piece had gorgeous lines and curves. It was a crazy thing, this Phoenix sculpted in glass, each feather clearly discernible from the other. It was so ostentatious and cumbersome, and yet I couldn't imagine anyone else taking it. Something about its fluidity touched my soul. 

A few years back I was in the midst of a spring clean of my own and in my swirl decided to auction the Phoenix on eBay. I sent it to a consignment vendor and they found it's sell ability nil and void, and so the Phoenix returned to me. I guess you could say that over the years the Phoenix and I have developed a kinship, for even when I don't think I need it for inspiration, there it is.   It has served a great many purposes in my life, including impromptu conversation starter, at will weapon and muse.  

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