Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday thoughts....

I'm not able to get to this space as much as I used to be - but it's never far from my mind.  I have so many concepts I want to explore and things I want to share.  Right now, I don't have the bandwidth I need to fully dive in, but I'm still here in both body and spirit and will just do the best I can, when I can.

As you've probably gathered about me, I'm a seeker.  I constantly am looking for ways to improve - improve my skillsets, my happiness, my relationships, etc.  That seeking has served me at times, and I'm grateful for my inner drive for improvement and has also frustrated me as I often have a hard time being fully present and still - not anticipating the next possible obstacle or area in need of improvement.

Perhaps that's why this post from Elizabeth Gilbert rang so true.   I will leave you all with it as we wrap up to enjoy the long weekend.   Enjoy!

"Richard knew that I had a lot of trouble processing failure — my own failures, other people's failures, the failure of life to turn out sometimes the way you want it to. He always tried to work with me on that issue. Richard knew why failure was so hard for me, too — it's because I'm a ceaseless striver. It's because I have unreasonable expectations for myself, for others, and for life itself. It's because I think life is some kind of code that we should be able to crack — and I mistakenly believe that if I do crack the code of life, then there will be no more suffering or confusion or strife (for me, or for anyone around me). It's because I'm somebody who STILL labors under the delusion that there is always a right way to do things, and that I should always be able find that right way to do things...and also: I should always be able fix everything and control the outcome of everything — if only I work a little harder, and learn from my mistakes, and try a little more!
It's madness. But God knows, I try.
But controlling the outcome of everything is impossible. It's just as impossible as fixing everything...which is just as impossible as always being able to handle your own weirdness...which is just as impossible as always knowing how to cope with the holy sacred madness of other people...which is just as crazy as the idea that there is one right way to do things — or that we are MEANT to know how to do everything right, or that the word "right" even means anything...which is just as crazy as thinking that you were ever appointed manager of the whole freaking carnivals in the first place.
But I still try. I never fail to try to never fail.
So when I do fail — or perceive that I have failed — it cuts me deeply.
RIchard used to say that I walked through life with a giant letter "F'" stitched to my chest, in memory of all my failures. He called it my "Red Badge of Shame". He used to say that, unless I learned how to stop carrying that shame-badge around everywhere, I would make myself sick, and I would ruin the beautiful gift of my life...and wouldn't that be a pity and a waste?
He used to tell me all the time: "Let it go."
Now, there are some people who say, "Hey, just let it go!" and you want to slap them, because they say it so lightly. They say "Let it go" as if this act is simple — perhaps even fun. But whenever Richard said to me, "Let it go, Groceries," I only ever wanted to weep in beautiful surrender.
Because this was a man who really understood what "Let it go" means.
This was a man who'd had to learn how to "let go" of decades of the mistakes and disasters that come from having been a drug addict and alcoholic. This was a man who had to let bankruptcies go. This was a man who'd had to let his history of arrests go. This was a man who had to let go of all the times he'd betrayed people, or lied to them in order to feed his addictions. This was a man who had to let go a long string of wrecked relationships. This was a man who had to let go of the sad fact that he hadn't been a responsible father to his boys when they were young — and that, no matter how close they all were now, he could never get those lost years back.
This was a man who'd failed so big-time that after a while there was no place left to put all his failures, nowhere to hide from them, no possible way to fix them, no vessel big enough to contain them...and finally he had no recourse left but to hand it all over to God. As he explained to me, "It was either that, or die of shame."
And when Richard finally did let it all go — whoosh! — the universe indeed came rushing in, and yes, filled him with more love and light than he could contain. Luckily, some of that extra love and light spilled out onto me. Which made him one of the most life-changing and holy people I've ever met.
Richard understood that the only place you can safely release an infinite amount of sorrow and shame is out into the infinite source of creation itself. Only the infinite can absorb the infinite, after all."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Words : Perfection

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”  - Brene Brown

"The key to balance is being unafraid of the fall.  Falling (in yoga or life) is simply learning without attachment to perfection." - Kathryn Budig


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Article Club - May

Tonight we'll be discussing David Brook's Moral Bucket List. A great read if you have not already come across it.

My takeaways: "Character is built on a confrontation with your own weaknesses." 
In one of my very favorite yoga classes,  the teacher asked us to say thank you to our flaws - thank you my sadness, thank you my anger, thank you my hiding, thank you my secrets.... By doing this, by acknowledging, not repelling, our weakness - we can hold it and release it. How many times do we see a person overcompensate... they hide their lack of true confidence by boasting. They wish away their anger with passive aggressive criticism. Never really accepting and owning their weakness and therefore never learning the real tools to manage it.

"Their lives often follow a pattern of defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding — by keeping a journal or making art. As Paul Tillich put it, suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person you thought you were.   .....The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be"

 I stopped subscribing to the "how to be happy" club a few years ago. I've learned that happiness is fleeting. That's not to say I don't experience moments of true happiness. Times when my body feels light and my thoughts are free of worry and angst. But those moments are temporary. As are the moments of sadness, frustration, doubt. It's all temporary - they come and they go as the wind, a wave, a season. It's all passing; constant fluidity. Instead of the fruitless search for "happiness" - I search for ways to balance my sad days and revel in my good ones. Year after year, I try to be more calm than I was, approach difficult situations with more maturity, embrace good moments with presence. I don't always succeed but I am proud that my trajectory seems to be toward improvement.

We'll have pizza and wine, too.  And the night will hopefully be another success.  A moment of connection, shared wisdom and joy. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I sit here, coffee in hand, from my sunny suburban town.  I dropped J off at school - Note: for a boy who cried on his first days in January he now RUNS up the stairs, says hi to his friends and digs right into whatever activity is going on.  I love dropping him off and chatting with the teacher - but also love that there is no separation anxiety whatsoever and that baby boy is happy as a clam to be solo for a few hours.

After that, I was able to do a few errands and pop myself into the library for some focused work hours.  Perhaps it doesn't sound like much to many, but to me - this is it!  I have longed for this day for so long --- To do good high-level work, but have flexibility and independence so that I can balance it with the rest of my life.   Sitting in dreadful rush hour traffic for 15 - 20 hours a week (!) was maddeningly inefficient and was slowly sucking the life out of me.

The insistence to continually improve, grow, adapt, change is pivotal to a life well lived.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Undermining yourself with words....

This is such an important read (via GOOP)

Q: What are the holes that you see women falling into most frequently when they speak?

A: I love talking about this topic because it brings about so many “aha!” moments when I speak to women: So many have no idea they do all sorts of self-sabotaging things in speech and writing.
It’s pretty amazing to suddenly see your unconscious habits and then be able to let go of them.
Here are some of the “little things” women do in speech and writing that aren’t really “little.” In fact, they have a huge impact in causing us to come across as less competent and confident:
  1. Inserting just: “I just want to check in and see…” “I just think…” Just tends to make us sound a little apologetic and defensive about what we’re saying. Think about the difference between the sound of “I just want to check in and see…” and “I want to check in and see…” or the difference between “I just think” and “I think…”
  2. Inserting actually: “I actually disagree…” “I actually have a question.” It actually makes us sound surprised that we disagree or have a question—not good!
  3. Using qualifiers: “I’m no expert in this, but…” or “I know you all have been researching this for a long time, but…” undermines your position before you’ve even stated your opinion.
  4. Asking, “Does that make sense?” or “Am I making sense?”: I used to do this all the time. We do it with good intentions: We want to check in with the other people in the conversation and make sure we’ve been clear. The problem is, “does that make sense” comes across either as condescending (like your audience can’t understand) or it implies you feel you’ve been incoherent.
    A better way to close is something like “I look forward to hearing your thoughts.” You can leave it up to the other party to let you know if they are confused about something, rather than implying that you “didn’t make sense.”
I get so many emails from women who are excited to share with me how people responded to them differently once they 1) stopped using the undermining phrases in their speech and writing and 2) communicated warmth in a more positive way (a friendly greeting and closing, for example).
Many women—especially more junior women—share that when they took all the qualifiers out of their emails, they started getting much quicker and more substantive responses to their requests.

Q: In Playing Big, you also write about apologizing for things when there’s no need to apologize—can you elaborate?

A: It’s an unconscious habit many women have: To apologize before asking a question, to apologize because they are standing at the milk and sugar station at the café while someone else is waiting for their turn, to apologize in all kinds of situations where an apology is not warranted! We apologize simply for taking up space.
This was humorously and very vividly parodied in the Pantene “Not Sorry” commercial last year, and clearly a lot of women recognized themselves in it, and the video went viral.
A couple friends of mine who lived together in graduate school each noticed how much the other one apologized when there was no good reason to—and it started to drive them crazy! They set up a jar in the house—they each committed to put in a dollar whenever they unnecessarily said sorry—and they held each other to it. They had fun with it and they stopped the habit.

Q: Don’t men use these speech habits, too?

A: They do, but the research on this topic has found that lower-status groups in any culture use these kinds of speech habits more than high status groups, and that women use them more than men.
Second, and most importantly, the research shows that when men use these speech habits, it does not impact how authoritatively they come across. For women, these habits do have a negative consequence in terms of how we’re perceived.

“It’s an unconscious habit many women have: To apologize before asking a question, to apologize because they are standing at the milk and sugar station at the café while someone else is waiting for their turn, to apologize in all kinds of situations where an apology is not warranted! We apologize simply for taking up space.”

When women use these speech patterns, it evokes some negative stereotype images of women (that we don’t know what we are talking about, that we aren’t confident, that we are ditzy, etc.) but when men use the same speech patterns, there’s no negative stereotype evoked. The same language is “read” differently by the audience—whether that audience is male or female.

Q: Why do we use these speech habits?

A: That’s a great question. Some of it is simply habit. We hear other girls talking like this in our lives, and we absorb countless hours of women and girls talking like this in films and TV, and so we start doing the same.
There’s a deeper reason, too. Most women are unconsciously using these speech habits to soften our communications, to try to ensure we don’t get labeled—as women so often do—as bitchy, aggressive, or abrasive. We worry other people will perceive us that way, or we’ve got that internal monitor voice inside saying, “Don’t come across as bitchy!” We put in the actuallys, the justs, the “I’m not an expert but…” to make sure we seem humble, nice, likable, which interferes as we try to get our ideas across.
I also believe that it’s because for centuries, women did not have the political and human rights to protect our safety if we spoke up and threatened or angered those around us. Of course we learned to soften our communication! But now, we don’t need to keep all those old patterns with us.

Q: So how do we communicate powerfully but not come across as “bitchy?”
A: Honestly, I would first ask women to consider, am I okay with sometimes being considered bitchy by some people? Being seen that way doesn’t mean you are that way. In our culture, an outspoken, confident woman is probably not going to be liked by everyone all the time.

“Most women are unconsciously using these speech habits to soften our communications, to try to ensure we don’t get labeled—as women so often do—as bitchy, aggressive, or abrasive.”

And at the same time, of course, we need to be mindful of how we are coming across to those we want to influence, reach, and work with. The key big idea is this: Instead of using the self-diminishing qualifiers (just, actually, sorry but, I’m not sure but, etc.) so that you seem “nice,” communicate both your warmth and competence in a proactive, positive way. That’s very different than trading off how competently you come across, in order to be seen as more likable.

Q: Can you give us some examples?
A: First, notice what the culture is like in your company or industry. I used to have an assistant on my team who worked half-time for me and half-time for someone in tech. We often laughed about how different her writing voice was in each half of her job—the way of communicating warmth in the tech world was far more succinct and less effusive than it was in my world—personal growth and coaching. You want to find a style that’s authentic to you, while also being conscious of the industry or organizational culture you are operating within.

“In our culture, an outspoken, confident woman is probably not going to be liked by everyone all the time.”

Then, open and close with something warm and friendly, using that to bookend your communication and make sure your intended tone comes through. In the heart of the communication, focus on the substance of what you have to say.
Positive ways to communicate warmth include:
  • Warm greetings in your communications.
  • Simple positive statements that warm up the tone of communications like, “So looking forward to meeting with you next week and hearing your feedback.”
  • Light use of humor.
  • A bit of non-work conversation at opening or closing of work communications.

Q: How should we start communicating more powerfully?
A: Don’t try to change all your undermining speech habits all at once! Pick one (Just? Actually? Does that make sense?”) and focus on it for the week. The goal is not to completely eliminate the word or phrase—that would be unrealistic. Instead, aim to notice when you hear yourself using it, and to course correct in the moment. Slow down and skim your emails before you send, notice where the undermining qualifier shows up, and edit it out! Practice, and you’ll slowly change the habit. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Not that Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham

Just finished the audio version of this one.  I really enjoyed it!   True, it would not be everyone's cup of tea.  And I also couldn't deny anyone's criticism that she comes off as a hypochondriac, priveldged kid BUT I think that was just her attempt at honest.  She wasn't trying to portray herself as a girl without flaws or appease the masses with unoffensive, straight-lined writing.  That said, I did find her stories relatable, hysterical, and smart.   I laughed out loud through most of the book and appreciated that she didn't try to tie it all together into a neat package of triumph at the end.  It felt honest and worth my time.

“I have been envious of male characteristics, if not the men themselves. I'm jealous of the ease with which they seem to inhabit their professional pursuits: the lack of apologizing, of bending over backward to make sure the people around them are comfortable with what they're trying to do. The fact that they are so often free of the people-pleasing instincts I have considered to be a curse of my female existence.”  

“It made me feel silenced, lonely, and far away from myself, a feeling that I believe, next to extreme nausea sans vomiting, is the depth of human misery.” 

“When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said to you gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple. But I tried so hard to make it complicated.” 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday Words

"Ask yourself what is really important and then have the wisdom and courage to build your life around your answer."