The whole “New Year! New You!” vibe that happens every January never fails to bum me out. 

I consider myself to be a work in progress along the lines of the Sagrada Familia,  so I rarely feel the need to re-think, re-set, or re-configure, I just need to keep on keeping on

I saw another list-serve email and in my in box calling itself a “Monday Motivator” and my reaction was “Argh! I have enough things to suck at this week!”

Now granted this reaction is a slice out of my “never good enough/perfectionism/imposter syndrome”, but it made me think about how often I make myself feel bad about not achieving. Or completing. Or exceeding. 

Sound familiar?

A technique I share with some of my over-achieving, productivity-driven, super responsible clients is something I call choosing the win. (Autocorrect just made that “choosing the wine” but that’s not what this particular chat is about.)

Choosing the win is taking a goal or task you want/need/must! accomplish and breaking it down to the first, 100% achievable step. And then successfully completing that step. (Fireworks! Balloons! Open the champagne!)

I use this method to manage my own nonsense which is why I feel like I can recommend it to my clients with a clear conscience. 

Recently I have been making myself feel sh***y about not exercising. 

Yes, I know how important exercise is for both physical and mental health, but running my own business makes me feel like I need to work 12-hour days to stay on top of everything so I sit down first thing to start writing, or answering email, and suddenly that 45-minute yoga video feels like a huge indulgence. 

So, the win I chose on my imperfect path to getting back to working out every day (HUGE goal!), was putting on exercise clothes. 

That’s it. 

Getting out of bed and into yoga pants instead of the shower.

I’m still reading my newspapers, checking news websites, looking at social media and working on half a dozen “to-do” items simultaneously, but I was doing it in yoga pants.

The next step was putting a yoga mat and weights (3-lb itty bitty weights), in the hall outside my office. 

It took about 5 days of wearing yoga pants before I actually did a 10-minute stretching video. Yay me!!!

And I have now completed the first 20-minutes of the 45-minute yoga video (a 30-day challenge) three times. And that’s a win.

Part of the reason I am calling this the Monday De-Motivator is that my theme for 2021 is “The Year of Being Less Shitty to Myself”. 

So, don’t expect this newsletter every Monday because I’m not sure thats acaheivable. Think of it as a treat that pops into your email. And if you need a quick win that day, you can say ‘I will do one thing today that I will absolutely accomplish’, and then you read the email, and that’s a win. 

Yay you!!!

I hope you will join me as I take my tiny steps on the Path to Imperfection this year. I promise to trip all the landmines so you don’t have to. 

This week’s inspirational anthem (and I use the word week loosely) is from the late, great Curtis Mayfield. Staring the day with music is always a win. 

person hanging on clothesline with message hang in there

The longest night and the shortest day.

For many years now our little family has marked this day on the calendar with an open house party full of friends, family, food, music and cheer.

It has morphed over the years as our lives shifted from lots of little kids running around, to our daughters teen friends mostly hanging in the attic, to very adult cocktails and chat.

We started this celebration as a way to make something special for our daughter as we navigated holidays tied to religions that neither my husband nor I practiced.

He was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic, so we have small Christmas tree and we light the menorah, but the Solstice party (with latkes and Christmas cookies) was what we cooked up as our tradition.

I always like throwing parties.

Planning a menu, stocking the bar, decorating the house, and playing hostess to myriad friends, acquaintances and colleagues makes me happy.

I enjoy laying out a buffet of chafing dishes filled with latkes, arancini, and spinach dip followed by the totally fun moment of lighting the canned heat.

Plotting out the perfect cheese board and artfully arranging crudités, spiced nuts, olives and crackers is a delight. Arranging tiers of Christmas cookies, chocolates and torrone (which only I eat), makes me merry.

For me, it’s deeply satisfying to share love and friendship through food, wine and conversation.

And of course any excuse to wear a cocktail dress and red lipstick is always welcome.

This year, because of the pandemic, we won’t host our Solstice Party but our little family will raise a glass to toast the longest night and know that we are moving again toward the sun.

Wishing you joy in what ever holiday(s) you celebrate in the winter season, and hope for a sunny tomorrow.

sun on water

 

 

This morning while I was getting dressed this morning my husband said “TGIF!” and I said, “Really? You’re sure it’s Friday?”

His professional life still has standing meetings that keep him aware of the calendar in a way I that I clearly lack.

Holidays are also sneaking up on me at this point.

Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and it always reminds me of my husbands grandfather, Norman. I only knew him for a brief 6 years before he died, but I loved him and miss him still.

Norman was a story teller with a forceful personality. He was equally kind and caustic, friendly and demanding, and because I was new to the family, I could enjoy his flaws and find his quirks charming.

My husband and I went to dinner with Norman at least once a month back then, and then more frequently after his wife Frim passed away. Eventually I started cooking meals for him at his house and this always included sweets.

A favorite of his was the Crowned Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah. It looked dramatic and was dense with apples and honey. It made for a sweet New Year and a happy memory. 

Rosh Hashanah always feels like the start of the “baking season” filled with birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, and ending with my daughter’s birthday in January. 

Now, in the time of Covid, when caring for ourselves and others means NOT gathering, it’s hard to mark the holidays and rituals. Milestones like graduations, weddings, and births come and go with muted celebration and little fanfare.

And while I regret the lack of celebrations, I am most distressed by our inability to mourn in person.

It is almost impossible to lessen someones grief. All we can do is show up, pay respects, and mourn with our people during the most brutal of milestones. Bear witness and bring food.

And now we can’t.

I know we will get through this pandemic and it will be a marker in our history and memories – a before and after time. And hopefully it will forever help us remember what is truly important in our lives.

For me, as I am sure it is for most folks, most important are those I hold dear. The family and friends that I long to hug, and celebrate with, and comfort through all the milestones and all the rituals.

I look forward to the day we can be together.

Until then, to my family and friends, and to all those who celebrate across the world, L’shanah tovah.

I wish everyone health, happiness, and a sweet New Year.

 

It’s been 159 days since my family started quarantine.

The litany of events we have experienced in that short amount of time, both domestic and world-wide, resembles a ludicrously bad disaster movie plot.

A late-nite, after the bars have closed, watch it in the dark while eating cold cereal out of the box kind of movie. That you have a hard time remember all the plot points the next day because – was I drunk?!?

Was there really a firenado *and* an in-land hurricane? Thousands and thousands of people marching in the streets during a pandemic? Paramilitary guys with American flags stapled to sticks that they then used as weapons against counter-protesters?

Hang on, did they also close post offices and take away mail boxes to keep people from voting? That can’t be a thing. Can it?

And empty store shelves, the hoarding of toilet paper, pandemic-deniers refusing to mask, and businesses closing and the economy collapsing … totally unrealistic.

Who green-lighted this mess?  Wait, it was that Snakes on a Plane guy wasn’t it?

Coping with stress (#CovidCoping) has become a sub-genre of advertising, marketing, blogging and every other medium. There are whole categories of hashtags devoted to #CovidBaking, #CovidCrafting, #CovidPuzzles, coloring, yoga, cooking, work from home (which is now WFH), and managing children.

And of course wine, wine, and more craft cocktails/fancy beer than is probably healthy.

We are not big TV watching people over here at Bougie Central (didnt even own a TV for 20 years or so), but movies are a bit of an obsession. More so now during quarantine.

In between the expected foreign movies and obscure B&W content on the Criterion Channel, lives a movie genre that truly sustains me, rejuvenates me and gives me hope.

The dance movie.

The Washington Post had an article about dance movies with an apologetic title of “Best Bad Dance Movies”. No such thing in my book.

I will watch any and all dance movies from old classics like White Christmas and  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the “Honey” series (4 total) and the Step up franchise (6 movies!)

Watching dance movies is all about pleasure. No guilt. No apologies.

I know I am forever “that white girl” as much as want to be a Fly Girl, and I don’t care. I’m a lousy dancer and a lousy singer and it doesn’t interfere with my fun one bit.

“Dance like no ones looking” implies there is something to be ashamed of. Nope.

Dance because you can.

Dance because everyday above ground is a good day.

Or at least watch a dance movie.

*******

PS:  I have been neglecting writing for pleasure, this blog & my ever-under-construction book, even before coronavirus in some misguided attempt to “focus seriously on work”. The reality is all the ways we express ourselves contribute to “our work”.

So.

I am going to dance more, sing more, and write more. No guilt.

female hip hop dancer in front of speakers

Long ago I decided to openly share my political leanings on my blog and business website.

Mainly because folks who disagree with the work I do are going to assume I’m a bleeding heart liberal  (do people still say that?), or an “elitist”, or a Commie, or a Socialist, or whatever pejorative is au Courant. It’s simpler to be clear.

If you’ve worked with me as a coach, or participated in one of my workshops, you’ve heard some version of my core beliefs:

  • We are all good people doing the best we can – and we can do better.
  • Assume ignorance before malice.
  • To know the good is to do the good.
  • The common good is worth individual commitment.

These are beliefs that inform my thinking and my actions. The language may change depending on the audience, but the guiding principle is static.

Maybe its 6 weeks of isolation, or maybe its my over-dosing on the news, but I am struggling damn hard today to live my values.

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified behaviors that once upon a time in our society would have been unthinkable. The one that’s getting to me today is the appropriation of the language of civil rights struggles to promote a fringe, anti-quarantine agenda.

It is twisted and cruel.

Some may call it framing or spin, but I fully believe “words create worlds” to paraphrase David Cooperider.  So calling “Stay-at-home rules” a “Lockdown Order” makes space for all kinds of outrage and false equivalence.

Citizens unhappy about actions meant to protect the majority – to which they belong – are posturing as if their civil rights are being trampled. I want to know:

  • Who is marginalized?
  • Who is disenfranchised?
  • Who is being sacrificed because “we” are more important than “them”?

There’s a big difference between believing you are marginalized or disenfranchised, and demonstrated evidence that you, in fact, historically and currently, have fewer rights and less power.

Anti-quarantine rallies have appropriated phrases like “My body, my choice” to support not wearing a mask. The same “choice” that they would withhold for a women’s personal reproduction decisions.

When I say “My body, my choice” I mean I will fight for everyone’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and I won’t interfere with your choice.  Appropriated that phrase means “My choice will be your choice too.”

Anti-quarantine folks equate their “struggle against injustice” and loss of their liberty to shop, dine out, and watch sports, to Rosa Parks’ fight for integration and civil rights after slavery and Jim Crow.

Even though public safety is a common good, not evidence of oppression, anti-quarantine folks are falsely equating pandemic safety measures to actual genocide – to Hitler putting “Jews on trains”.

I support Free Speech because I value my rights enough to fight for your right to express your views even when I find them morally reprehensible. Like the statement about Hitler.

Today I can feel myself struggling to find my balance and grace in the face of the appropriated language and the many inflammatory, falsely equivalent headlines.

So I am reminding myself right now, out loud and in front of you,  “I am a good person doing the best I can, and I know I can do better.”

I know we can all do better.

FDR Memorial, Washington DC

I remember the first time I felt like I was rich.

Standing in the check out line at the grocery store I realized I hadn’t mentally added everything up to make sure I stayed on budget, I just put what I wanted in the cart willy-nilly.

And I was shopping at Heinen’s, a “more expensive” Cleveland grocery that met a lot of our vegetarian needs cheaper than Whole Foods.

Heinen’s was the store my husband grew up with but I struggled with shopping there because they have a policy that you leave your cart in the store, take a number, and then drive up and they put your groceries in the car for you.

I’m sure this keeps the carts in good shape, helps the parking lot be less insane, and makes the elderly, infirm, pregnant and exhausted feel grateful, but I was none of those things.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around it and so I would carry all the bags to my car in one awkward, often painful trip to avoid making the workers wait on me.  

I carried my own bags for years from some misguided idea about solidarity mixed with guilt over being able to afford shop there in the first place. 

Over time I came to notice and understand my visceral reactions that make me feel “rich” or “poor”.

Wealth is relative and external comparisons are imprecise at best. I’ve written before about how comparisons are usually rigged to make us feel either inferior or superior, but feeling rich is different somehow.  

I am still frugal in a lot of ways and can pinch a penny until it pinches back, but buying whatever food I want still feels indulgent. It’s not like I’m buying caviar, truffles and $50 bottles of wine, rather it is the sensation of being able to choose food without restraint.

I feel rich, and privileged and happy walking through a farmers market knowing I can buy things because they are beautiful.

I fall in love with peppers and leeks and fresh dug carrots. I can spend an excessive amount of time choosing from 7 kinds of lettuces and heirloom tomatoes. I want the eggs from the organic, patchouli-smelling hippy that puts out pictures of his happy chickens, and olives from the man who spends 6 months of each year in Greece on his family farm. I want to sample and buy the expensive cheeses from the tiny boutique creamery run by two sisters.

Unfortunately my bougie love of shopping for food that inspires me has been completely wiped out during the COVID-19 safety measures. And thats more than ok, its outstanding. I would eat only frozen vegetables 😦 for the rest of my life if it meant no one else died from the virus. 

And I know how rich I am because I can stay home.

Now, as we continue to struggle with adapting to a reality shaped by SARS-CoV-2 (it’s real name by the way), I see more and more people expressing gratitude for health care workers and deep appreciation for the wage workers who keep the groceries running and deliver the take-out. 

It makes me hopeful that we will soon have open discussions about the historic and current systems that perpetuate marginalization, oppression and gross inequity in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. 

And I continue to wrestle with the ways that I want to communicate about these tough topics when folks are under profound levels of stress. Maybe that makes it an even better time?

Meanwhile, I stay home and walk around my neighborhood – masked and very distant! – taking pictures of whatever is in bloom to share with friends on Instagram, and remind myself there are many ways to feel rich.

 

I just got back from a week long excursion to catch up on my Continuing Education Units (CEU) for my Coaching practice.

A lot of professions require Continuing Ed so you stay current with ethics and techniques, and often its viewed as a hassle so people wait to the very last minute. I had an attorney friend who every year crammed all her credits into day long online classes in December to make the deadline.

I could do my CEU’s online but it had been several years since I had an opportunity to get back to my Gestalt roots so I signed up for two different sessions. Because my little sister lives 10 minutes down the road from the institute this plan had the added bonus of hanging out with family in the evenings.

Those five days I spent immersed in Gestalt process really felt luxurious like a reward or treat.

Don’t get me wrong our highly skilled instructors pushed and pulled and modeled and it was completely exhausting.

But I had a chance to observe other coaches and facilitators and appreciate methods and  possibilities that wouldn’t have occurred to me. I had space and time to practice techniques that I’m good at, and re-learn those skills that have gotten a bit rusty.

I know CEU’s are in service to the client and regulating the profession, but this was more like I had checked into a Spa where all I had to think about was myself. Turning my phone off for 4 hours at a time, trying to capture insights in my journal, reevaluating what I thought I knew about myself as a coach and facilitator.

When I was describing my enjoyment to a colleague as a treat that I gave myself, it reminded me of a meme my daughter shared.

I hope all your CEU’s for the coming year are Spa CEU’s.

Amanda can have a treat

Back when I was an actor and director I had a policy of not reading reviews while the show was running. Everyone else read them so I had some idea if they were good or bad, and the general blame & praise placement. I really tried to avoid them because I knew that those outside opinions would color my thinking and maybe sow doubt.

Most theatre critics are skilled at offering criticism and analysis that helps folks decide if they want to spend their entertainment dollars on a particular play. Which can really go a long way to help playwrights, actors and directors get their name out and build a reputation.

Sometimes the critic is inexperienced or kind or simply disinterested in theatre because they are really the food or music critic. Occasionally a critic is in love with their own writing and their clever turn of phrase. Hence the avoidance.

There was one time when I read a review that I believed 100%.

It was an awful review and the critic hated everything from the acting to the set and lighting design. I had several pointed mentions that gave me great satisfaction because everything they criticized was exactly what the director requested. I remember thinking “Success!”

For better or worse I still think in terms of reviews when it comes to my workshops and training evaluations

I don’t read the evals right away and when I do, the first thing I look for is evidence that what I delivered matched what was requested. So folks who don’t like the content or scold me that “referring to myself as a white woman highlights difference when we are all the same”, all that is just fine.

And even the folks who just don’t like my style or delivery, thats ok too. I personally don’t like Joaquin Phoenix’s acting, but the Academy disagrees apparently.

What is harder to take is the folks who attack my credentials, the research I reference or the need for the kind of work that I do. Sometimes they include words like “identity politics” and “snowflake” and “trigger.” Occasionally thoughts like “we are all human beings”, and “everyone should just be kind” get tossed in.

The most scathing reviews/evals always seem to be from the disgruntled. Evaluations can also be used to highlight what went well as a foundation for more positive work, but again, maybe thats just me.

I recently reviewed a batch of my workshop evaluations and found one golden thread amongst some severe and harsh paragraphs of dissatisfaction.

My critic said that my calling participants Sir and Ma’am was “disrespectful and clueless” given that I had introduced my self as a Cis-gender woman using she/her pronouns. They went on to share a whole lot more about my lack of everything from brains to training to a legitimate right to speak about diversity but thats not important.

What’s important is that they were right. After 2 years of living in Alabama I had exponentially increased the possibility of misgendering someone because I’d conformed to the Sir/Ma’am norm.

From now on I’ll try to refer to participants by something visible like “the person in the yellow shirt”, or “I think the person with the pink go-cup was next”. That may not work in room of participants all wearing white coats or uniforms, but I can figure that out when it happens.

So thank you Squeaky Wheel for giving me some feedback that was necessary, helpful and 100% true. I humbly apologize for making you uncomfortable and I will do better next time.

PS – Always fill out your evaluation surveys! Use that 5 point scale! Everyone needs feedback! 

Almost daily I tell folks in my workshops and discussions that it’s okay to make mistakes.

When we talk about topics like race, gender, sexuality and other social categories, it’s common for people to hesitate to say something because it might come out wrong or open them up to an attack.

We are all afraid of appearing ignorant and ill intentioned, not to mention being considered racist, sexist or homophobic.

So I encourage embracing mistakes. And I ask folks to let me know – in real time or privately after the fact – if I say something that doesn’t land right with them. If I can’t stand to feel the sting of being wrong then how can I ask anyone else to?

And it does sting, make no mistake. I suffer from the same desire to be perfect at all times the same way many of you do. (Imposter syndrome has to wait for another post or I’m going to get off topic.)

I genuinely appreciate the feedback I get because I have come to see it as an act of trust. You have to trust in my open-hearted listening in order to risk telling me that something I said or did came off as wrong or bigoted in some way. You have to trust my reaction will not be to attack or deny your experience.

I believe if you are “someone who gets it” you have to be willing to take it when you don’t. Apologize, learn, do better.

Because I have been practicing this in the DEI arena for a long time the sting is familiar and I can cope.

However, when I make a mistake in another arena, feelings of disaster & panic compete with my instinct to hide and obfuscate. Run! Hide! Deny! Fix it!!!!

But eventually I can get back to the place where I can own the mistake, apologize, learn and move on. And be reminded once again I’m not perfect (ack!!), and that’s ok. Ish.

Having patience and acceptance with the foibles, flaws and “areas for growth” with my clients has become second nature.

Patience and acceptance for myself and my errors and flaws is, as they say, a work in progress.

So I messed something up. The reasons matter less than what I do about it now.

Deep breathe, suck it up, apologize and hope for grace from those I hurt or offend.


On another note:

I started to name this post “My Bad”, a phrase I have been using for 30 years since I picked it up from high school friends. But the other day, during a discussion about white privilege, a woman said she gets cautious around white people who use phrases like “my bad” and “girlfriend” when they talk to black people.

Ouch. Another lesson learned.

And just so you know, Mea Culpa auto corrects to the very fitting “New Culpable”.

woman_oh_no

Way back in 1992 it was considered deviant to have a tattoo.

People with tattoos fell into categories like punk, artist, biker and the formerly incarcerated. This meant that I wore a watch over my wrist tattoo until roughly 2015 when it had became de rigueur for women to celebrate their 50th birthday by getting a lower back tattoo.

In a world filled with sleeve tattoos my tiny wrist bracelet doesn’t even register.

With our current 24/7 social media access it now seems nearly impossible for anyone to separate the “personal” from the “professional”, let alone hide a tattoo that probably hits Insta while its still raw.

We caution students from the moment they own a phone that everything online is permanent. So savvy students and adults alike learn to block photo tags, or try to scrub all evidence of red solo cups, vape pens or too much skin from their various accounts. But as we see in the news every day a screen shot by a friend (or enemy), a comment on a post, a snarky retweet – nothing ever gets completely deleted.

This is one reason I’ve never made any attempt to hide my blog. My rants and ramblings range wide and far: from my work with clients, to my family relationships, to politics, my childhood and all sorts of general frustrations & irritations.

Folks don’t need to dig too deep to find out about me. I want them to know up front the kind of person I am. The flaws I have (that I’m currently aware of), and the feelings that I am not interested in hiding. That way everyone knows what to expect when they hire me – enthusiasm, strong opinions, living out loud and living in color.

Those folks out there who engage in doxxing can unveil and excerpt and drive all kinds of outrage both online and in real life. I’m not sure what the desired outcome really is for the doxxers when they “out” someone, I just know when I see one of these incidents play out it always seems like a perfect opportunity for conversation.

But conversation often becomes irrelevant in the face of the outrage machine where everything is right or wrong, you’re either with us or against us. Nuance has become elitist, changing your mind is selling out and every hill is the hill to die on.

This is another of those rambly posts that may or may not enhance my reputation, but writing serves its purpose as I mull over whistle blowers and folks being asked to resign over a tweet, and those who humbly apologize when their “blackface photo” is revealed, and those retreat into their white fragility.

Way back in 1992 – the same year I got that tattoo & wore my hair in braids for a while – I used this song as an anthem to open (and close) a show I directed. The question “What’s Going On?” is just as relevant today even if the fashion now look quaint.

amanda with braids 1992
dressed to MC a Battle of the Bands

I don’t know about you but I seem to have an almost magical ability to catalog every moment in my life where I fell short.

All those times I was “too much” –  too loud, too enthusiastic, too big, too flashy, too standoffish, too serious, too jokey.

And of course all the times I was “not enough” – not smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough or thin enough. Or plain old just “not good enough”, what ever the hell that means.

I consider this Too Much/NotEnough habit a special subset of the occassional 3 am litany of every wrong I have ever done to another person starting from grade 2 through yesterday.

That’s a different blog post.

The Too Much/NotEnough habit snaps to the front of my mind whenever I accidentally grab the wrong mental yardstick. I have several I reach for out of habit.

The first one was a gift from my mother – “Some people don’t have any legs”. Designed to remind her children that someone else always has it worse, this phrase was deployed to silence complaints big and small, from a skinned knee to a lost job. No whining, suck it up.

I agree that remembering that others have it worse is a valuable exercise to remind us to be grateful for what we have. Sometimes. But not all the time.

Comparison done right can remind you of what’s important. It can refocus gratitude and build resilience. It can even motivate us in a healthy way to get back up, try harder, or emulate those we admire.

But the wrong yard stick leads to dissatisfaction at best, and misery at worst.

My second yard stick is of the “Someone announced a new job/ promotion on Linked-In” variety. My dad always had those “gimme” yard sticks with hardware store names on them, so I picture this one with FOMO written in big red block letters.

That “too much/not enough” refrain starts playing to the tune of “should”, as in ‘I should be at that point in my career!’, ‘I should have that title by now!’, and ‘I should work harder!’ This particular measure highlights what’s missing like the tick marks on the door jamb that showing you are always shorter than your older sister.

The last stick in my mental tool box is the (unreali) stick. Not sure that worked but anyway…

This is where I compare myself to someone famous like like Brené Brown and discover …

“I am a FAILURE!!! We are the same age! Look at all she has accomplished! The books she has written! The people she helps! How brave she is! I never even got the PhD! Why would anyone want to work with me when they can just go hire Cook-Ross or Brené Brown? I should just quit!”

Once I peel that cudgel out of my hand and take a breath, I remember that comparison can also be a “Carrot” as in…

“Wow. Brené Brown’s success proves folks are willing to engage in change and transformation on a personal, vulnerable level. That is so cool. That means I can do DEI workshops and coaching from that same personal, vulnerable place.”

Now before anyone takes offense, know that I do not think I have Brené Brown’s chops, I am not a professor or an LISW, nor do I do the kind of leadership training she does. This isn’t really about Brené, although I do think she’s amazing.

What this is all about is the frequency with which I forget that we can choose how we measure ourselves.

Nobody makes me compare myself to Brené Brown, or a successful colleague, or a person struggling to make ends meet. That’s all straight from my tricky little mind.

Most days, when I beat back the “shoulds” and “too much/not enough” monsters, I work on replacing the carrot & stick with a clear picture of my personal best. Where I am today, how I got here and where I want to go.

So if I compare me today to with me five years ago, I can really appreciate what I’ve learned and how much my skills have improved. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished and still focus on where I want to go next.

As I expand my consulting and coaching I am keeping this idea of personal best front and center because I want to work with folks interested in meaningful, sustainable change, achieved through self-knowledge and vulnerability.

I know where I want to go,  how I want to get there, and how I will measure success.

And I’m sure hoping you want to come along.

Onward and upward!

I’m updating my website with the help of a super talented, visually oriented friend.

An unexpected response to the necessary questions like “who is your audience?”, and “what do you want people to feel when they visit your website?”, is my deep and sincere sense of panic at answering them.

Do I tell the truth? Or do I stick with my default of describing my work with simple, practical language in as spare a way as possible. The goal is to convey a professional persona that makes people think “reliable”, “serious”, “focused”, “knowledgeable”… “Let’s hire her!” and so forth.

Along the way I completely stripped out that I am any fun or even have a personality.

I could justify this mode of communication because of the need to be professional, and blah, and blah and blah. Truthfully, it was a fear based choice.

I was afraid that if the messy bits of who I am get out again they would undermine the image I should portray to the world. Yeah I said “should.”

The reality is that its a lot of work to live up to “shoulds”: to monitor and suppress parts of yourself that you or society deem “unacceptable.” My little problem stems from years of being told that my personality was “too much”, “too big”, and “intimidating”.  That I needed to “tone it down”.

I believed the criticism and developed a serious style as a form of self-preservation and as a way to fit in where I was told I didn’t.

The serious style stuck because there is a risk to being complex and nuanced in a sound-bite world. A world where we can know and share everything instantly and no communication is immune to a well-timed screen shot.

As I am now writing descriptions to represent how and what I do when I coach & facilitate, I’m looking for ways to create a more authentic picture of myself that includes the flash and flamboyance, the irreverence and humor, that I (mostly) keep wrapped up and out of site.

The reason for the change is at this point in my career I prefer to work with people who know and accept who I am as a whole person, rather than continue to squeeze myself into a non-threatening, low-risk, “toned down” black suited shape.

Nearly everything I do when coaching and facilitating starts in a place of discomfort for participants. Its a risk to engage in personal development, or talk about race/gender/LGBTQ bias, equity and inclusion, and discomfort accompanies progress.

So with less attention on the risk of my being “too much”, I’ll work with my friend to see if we can get my website to authentically reflect who I am, how I work and what to expect when you hire me as your coach or facilitator.

With or without the black suit and serious expression.

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There are some milestones in life where there is an expectation that we engage in a little self-reflection. Big moments like the birth of a child, or the death of a parent, and small moments that mark the passing of time like school graduations, the new year and birthdays.

Time spent reflecting is never wasted in my book. Usually when I reflect, I write.  I write for my clients, for the “book-in-progress” that remains in-progress, and for this blog.

Since June 2017, for a variety of reasons, I have become increasing reluctant to push the publish button on my blog.

In honor of my birthday today I am giving myself permission to publicly reflect on my last trip (or two) around the sun.

13 Things I’ve Done (most with Mr. Man by my side):

  1. Sold a house
  2. Moved three times – in two years – to two different cities
  3. Downsized three times (So! Much! Stuff!)
  4. Sent a daughter off to college
  5. Changed jobs twice
  6. Lived apart from Mr. Man for extended stretches of time
  7. Put down one of our cats
  8. Gave away almost all of my house plants
  9. Buried my childhood friend
  10. Reconnected with some friends from the past
  11. Welcomed a new cat to our family
  12. Made some new pals
  13. Met a whole lot of people from other parts of the US

6 Things Learned while Reflecting on 13 Things I’ve Done:

  1. Needing people doesn’t make me needy, it makes me human. Wanting connection and community isn’t a flaw, or evidence of weakness, it’s part of who I am as an extrovert. Being upfront about asking for help & friendship falls into that “big learning” category, but without friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers I’m not sure I could have managed all the transitions.  So an extra thanks to all the folks who loved, helped and/or put up with me over the last few years.
  2. I discovered I have a unique set of skills that makes me good at what I do. I’ve always downplayed any “uniqueness” because I thought – wrongly it turns out – that a) if I could do it anyone can, and b) people doing my kind of work are a dime a dozen so nothing makes me particularly special. Let’s file that under “wrong-headed things I believed for the last 10 years” and leave it at that.
  3. Humidity makes me crabby. I think I knew this in theory but living in a sub-tropical climate really brought it home.
  4. I get depressed if I have to work in an office without a window. This is now officially a deal breaker for any future work offer. After 7 months of 8 – 10 hour days with no window, part of that during the short winter months,  I was flabbergasted at how quickly my mood improved with daily sunlight. Never again.
  5. While I still love phone calls, letters and cards, I discovered you can actually maintain long-distance friendships through text, messenger and SnapChat and still feel connected when you see each other in person.
  6. I can endure a lot of change and discomfort but it takes strenuous attention and determination to learn from it. A friend shared a meme recently that said “I just want some experiences that don’t make me stronger!” Yeah, I can get behind that.

So from a distance, looking back at my trips around the sun, I wouldn’t actually change much about the past two years because they got me here.

And I like here.

Here has my favorite things because when you winnow and winnow and downsize and donate you end up with just your favorite things.

Here has Mr. Man and being in the same city and time zone as your partner is a big perk.

Here has a great deal of potential for me to do even more of the work that I love and that is double plus good.

And finally, here is the place where I will commit to writing and sharing my thoughts during this next trip around the sun because I remembered that it helps me think and it makes me happy.

Many happy returns of the day to me!

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A friend I met when I was 12 is now in critical condition in the ICU.

A friendship that started in middle school covers a lot of history. Successes and set-backs, bad boyfriends and good husbands, the exciting and the mundane. And all the messy, contradictory and unimportant bits in between that aren’t milestones or “life events.”

She is an attorney with a mind for details and a memory like a steel trap. I’m more of a sieve. I know this fact about myself  so if something feels important I always write it down so I don’t forget. Everything else I can ask her.

A question like “What was the name of the club where we saw …?” will get me the club, the date we were there, who opened and who we were with. It’s a great skill and probably made me more lazy about remembering the details over the years.

I stand by her bed in the ICU and talk to her about this and that because the nurses say she hears even when she doesn’t respond. I monologue about getting my daughter ready to leave for college, what I’m working on, how the garden is doing this year, and running into a mutual acquaintance at a coffee shop.

I tell her if her nurse that day is attractive (most have been male), how the parking is free when you are visiting the ICU, and how she is a VIP with 24 hour service like a fine hotel.

What I don’t tell her is how important she is to me. I don’t tell her how devastating her illness actually is or how ridiculously slim her chance for recovery.  I don’t say I love you. That would surely signal to her that the end is near and it’s not my job to do that.

When she passes, whenever that may be, I will no longer have that one friend “who knew me when.” No one else will ever again so precisely understand the ways in which who and what we both are now is grounded in what we were then.

The past shapes the present but what we decide to focus on in our memories is a choice. It’s hard for most folks to focus on the good memories because we’re  wired to learn from mistakes in order to survive. So we easily dredge up the slight, the hurtful comment, the embarrassment, or the questionable choice.

So while I ruminate on the choices and chance that got us to this place today, I am also remembering the raucous, reckless fun and the countless ways we supported each other through the years.

It strikes me that how we remember is part of what’s driving the turmoil around Charlottesville and the removal of confederate monuments across the country. A line from George Orwell’s 1984 keeps running through my head  – “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls that past.”

Of course I have a lot to say on that topic. But not now.

Now is for remembering how lucky I am to still have my childhood friend.

It seems like every day now we see another example of people protesting and shutting down speakers when they don’t agree with their message. On campuses and other public venues, and now the controversy at the City Club.

Free speech, in my humble opinion, is the foundation of our civil liberties and its protection takes constant vigilance and tremendous fortitude. I write about it frequently. There is nothing anyone can say that will shake my conviction on that point. When we attempt to prohibit or block public hate speech we are throwing oil on a slippery slope to restricted civil liberties.

However. Private institutions like the City Club (and citizens) can choose who they *invite* to speak.

I would stand next to someone like Corey Lewandowski to protect his right to express his opinions in public – none of which I agreee with – but I would never invite him into my house. I disagree with the decision of the City Club to invite Lewandowski to speak because they are not required to provide a forum for his speech. The controversy itself only serves to amplify and legitmitize his message.

The problem I see is that conservative groups don’t seem to have the same desire to be exposed to contrary opinions. There are no headlines about liberals invited to conservative campuses or events to stimulate conversation only to be shut down by protests.

And that’s the real shame.

To be crystal clear so that my opinion is not misconstrued. I do not condone hate speech I support protecting free speech.

It’s complicated.

It’s messy.

And it’s American.