Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called “bossy”. Or “intimidating”.

Or how about “too” anything as in “too loud”, “too angry”, “too pushy” and, my favorite, the generic insult “too much.”

What these adjectives have in common, other than the fact that they’ve all been applied to me, is that they’re often used to remind (or force) women to remember accepted gender roles/norms. Being “too much”, bossy, or aggressive deviates from social expectations of the “nice” behavior that keeps folks comfortable.

I could get lost right here in a rant about the hegemonic, heteropatriarchy reinforcing the status quo, but I have a different point to make today.

My point is that when I coach women clients, or speak with women at workshops, invariably some version of the bossy accusation comes up. The women know these phrases are used as an attempt to diminish and silence them. It’s not a mystery. But it still stings.

The only thing that comes up more often is time management, followed by self-care as a close third. Because if you had better time management skills you would have some time for self-care right?!?

I know folks are working to shift the narrative on cultural norms and we’re all supposed to aspire to being a “Bad B**ch” or a #Bossbabe, but to me that feels like reinventions of the Enjoli woman with better memes.

Real women navigating insults and slights have to decide how to own the words and then strategize about when to ignore, when to reframe, or when to modify their behavior and language to make others comfortable.

Most simply aspire to being accepted, advancing, and achieving without censure or backlash for being insufficiently nice, agreeable or modest.

In the meantime, while we wait and work for the slow, societal shift away from sexism I propose the following solution.

A dance club.

Specifically a “Bossy Women’s Dance Club”. We would only admit women who have been consistently accused of being Bossy, Pushy, Intimidating, or Angry for a minimum of 27 years. Unfortunately, this means some members of the club will be in their early 30’s.

Feminist men of all ages are welcome if a member vouches for their feminism. Men will however pay an additional entrance fee equal to the percentage of the gender pay gap represented by their race.

A dance club would promote self-care with a triple whammy of “me time” in a nurturing, space with like minded folks, fun music to dance to (exercise!) and well made cocktails.

So as I wait for my angel investor to make the Club dream a reality, I make do with … Jazzercise.

I’ve attended Jazzercise in different spots since the late 80’s when leg warmers were all but required. I currently drive 30 minutes – each way – 3 days a week in DC traffic to get to a really great studio in Arlington run by a powerhouse of positive energy named Renee.

Jazzercise lets me sweat in a room without mirrors and pretend I’m still someone who could get into a club. It lets me worship at the altar of Mr. Worldwide with zero side eye & no discussion about the inherent cognitive dissonance necessary for my enjoyment of his beats.

Jazzercise is the perfect “self-care” for my bossy, middle-aged self because there’s no such thing as “too much” on the dance floor.

If you see me at Jazzercise I hope you’ll be pushy and introduce yourself.

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 took a 30 minute walk outside today.

A lunch time walk may not sound like big deal but I have an unhealthy habit of forgetting to get up from my desk for 5 hours at a time. I always have the best of intentions to take a break and walk outside in the middle of the day. And I have never done it until today.

Self-care, those intentional choices we make to nurture our bodies, minds and spirit, are the first items on the chopping block when time gets tight and the to-do list gets long. For me the first thing to go is “taking a break”, followed by writing, “seeing friends”, eating “healthy food”, and ultimately exercise. This past year I didn’t even plant any annuals because I knew I would have to water them. It was a bleak garden year.

Many days I am hanging on to my exercise class by my fingernails. I work out distracted and unfocused, with headaches and colds, coming in late and leaving early to accommodate clients, trying to fit in at least two classes a week.

But that’s not really self-care. That’s just enough fuel to keep going.

Last year my coaching business nearly doubled, I tried unsuccessfully to bring on associates, and was forced to both raise my rates and turn down clients to make it all work. Sounds like a success and feels like a disaster.  And almost all self-care disappeared.

I decided this morning that I would put a walk on my calendar every day and set an alarm just like a meeting. I don’t miss meetings and I have a Pavlovian relationship with my iPhone calendar alarms, so I booked five walks. I still have too much work, and am finishing (or starting) things right up against the deadline, but truly another 30 minutes is not going to make that big of a difference.

I am also planning to scheduled one writing hour per week.

This is the simple technique I start my clients on when they are overwhelmed and need to make change: Make it small. Make it concrete on your calendar. Make it repetitive.

But I forget to take my own medicine sometimes.

I used to be dismissive of the concept of self-care when I was younger because it sounded so basic – eat decent food, sleep, see friends & family, get some exercise. Either I didn’t understand the concept of overwork at the time, or I maybe I bounced back quicker, whatever the case I am currently quite respectful of the concept and need for self-care.

Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I plan to spend more time being intentional in scheduling my breaks, my visits with friends, and my “purpose & joy” to quote a wise friend.

Snowdrops I discovered on my walk today.

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Snowdrops, February 1, 2016

 

When our daughter was younger she was really into The Bearenstain Bears books and cartoons. The books, if you have managed to avoid all 300 of them, dealt with single issues that were resolved generally through good ole-fashioned common sense, kindness and humor. Very formulaic and still much beloved by children.

They had a habit of hokey titles even with modern story lines “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much .. Birthday… Homework… TV. “Too Much Pressure” is my personal favorite. Mama cries in a helpless heap when she gets a flat tire and can’t get Brother to Karate and Sister to Soccer at the same time. Personally I think its good for kids to see “wise, strong mama” break down and cry once in a while.

As I try to finalize a workshop I am leading soon, I find that I am once again “Amanda Bear with Too Much Content.” There is so much potential in the conversations that unfold around the professional development work that I do that I start to think every concept is essential, every slide potentially life altering. And that’s just silly.

I learned long ago to “be present” while presenting so the conversation is the driver and not the agenda. Of course some content is vital to the learning, but the discovery in the room prompted by the content is the goal, not finishing the deck with five minutes to spare at the end of the session.

But.

Until I’m in the room with the glow of 3,000 lumens, and the hum of the projector fan, I will suffer the agony of culling, curating and perfecting my content. The only Mama Bear that can save me from “Too Much Content” is time. It will run out and what I have will be more than fine and still too much.

I don’t think PowerPoint workshop presentations are a good topic for a Berenstain Bears book but there may be one lurking out there for all I know. You can watch the Too Much Pressure cartoon version by clicking here.

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I have a terrible weakness for good news. Other peoples success, accomplishments, and surprises are an instant empathy shot of endorphins and I’m genuinely happy and excited for them.

Unfortunately this doesn’t extend to my own surprises. I’m especially bad at surprises. I have a 7-second delay (like for profanity at the Oscars) that it takes for my brain communicate surprise = “good” so I can react properly.

This means I will never be a Woo Girl.

I’ve had friends over the years who were Woo girls. Woo girls are always fun, guys buy them drinks, and hang around them on the dance floor.

It’s rare that I’ve personally been moved to spontaneously “Woo” in public. I can distinctly remember the following: once at a Stones concert, my friend’s kids graduation from a stuffy private school that frowned on verbal displays, and the last Michael Franti concert I attended. There may have been others.

My lovely, super-upbeat Jazzercise instructor uses “Woos” as an energy feed back loop while she’s teaching and always says “Can I get a Woo?!”  I would love to help her out but I think I would need a six hour dance marathon with alcohol and no choreography before I could oblige.

A few weeks ago, I think my husband was hoping for “Woo” when he sprung on me a very lovely and incredibly thoughtful, romantic surprise. Instead of shrieks, screams, or woos, he got the 7-second delay Poker Face. Notice I didn’t say “Bitch Face” (see Bias, Gender.)

But, after twenty-two years together, he knows my reactions and didn’t seem fazed. He knowingly married this Poker Face.

So after the fact this is my version of a public Woo to my thoughtful, handsome, wicked smart husband who continues to surprise me with the depth of his love for me and our daughter.

Hey Mr. Man, my inner Woo Girl has her hands in the air.

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My sister and niece were over the house to celebrate my daughters 16th birthday yesterday and, as usual, a bizarre bit of our childhood folklore floated to the surface of the conversation.

My daughter loves these glimpses into our past. Of course it never seems odd when you are living it, but it sure can sound that way thirty years later.

My sister and I were talking about my Dad’s various hobbies and I mentioned the Gee Haw Whammy Diddle.

Yes its an actual thing. A small propeller nailed to a stick with some notches cut into it. A second stick for making the propeller go right (Gee) and left (Haw). And there you have yourself one country boy, homemade toy.

It’s not like we were so poor we played with rocks and sticks, it’s just that my dad liked to make stuff. And he liked colonial era, boy scout, do-it-yourself from raw materials (possibly with the help of an expensive lathe) kind of projects most especially.

For a good stretch of my childhood he dabbled in leather goods (he had an account at the Tandy Leather Factory), and then he made candy dispensers out of mason jars (I still have one), and for a while he enjoyed working on wood-turning projects which meant everyone received wooden vases as gifts.

My all time favorite project of his was empty tuna cans with both lids cut off, spray painted gold and soldered together into a Christmas tree shape. He then attached a gold Christmas ornament inside each tuna can. That creation decorated the front door each Christmas for a couple of years and clanked impressively each time the door was opened.

Hard to beat the Gee Haw Whammy Diddle for sheer fun though. The name never fails to get a laugh followed by a  “Wait. What?”

Here is a link to the plans for how you too can make your very own Whammy Diddle. Impress your friends.

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As I get ever closer to my 50th birthday its seems every where I look there is a list of something I should be paying attention to like “15 Things You Should Do Before You’re 50”, or “The 9 Things Our 40’s Taught Us”, “5 Important Medical Tests for Women Over 50”.

The worst for me are the “bucket lists” that supposedly help you organize your experiences or strive to live your best life: “10 Places to Visit Before You Die”, “Inspiration to Feel Fully Alive”, or “Once in a Lifetime Meals”.

The idea of creating any kind of bucket list fills me with a panicky anxiety. I have enough tasks to take care of without a “Life” To-Do list.

So instead I decided to create a list of “Things That I Do Even Though I Fail To Get Any Better at Doing Them”. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Dance. Love to dance, poor sense of rhythm, almost total inability to follow choreography. Don’t care.

2) Shoot pool. Never have improved beyond the highly advanced stage of no longer knocking the cue ball on the floor when I attempt to break. Any shots I make are random accidents. I celebrate this.

3) Tell jokes. Again the timing thing. One liners and witty repartee are more my speed but I tell jokes that I think are funny even if no one else thinks they are when I get done with them. Unfortunately, I think I have passed this trait on to my daughter.

4) Sing. I love to sing. It makes me happy. I sing loudly. I sing off key. I don’t think ability should dictate who is allowed to sing. So there.

5) Play backgammon. Don’t know why I never have figured out the strategy for this game, but it’s still fun.

6) Take pictures. I can’t seem remember to think about composition, contrast or perspective when I take a picture. I just go all “Ohh, pretty!” Click, click, click. I wish I knew what I was doing, but that doesn’t stop me from happily snapping away at trees and clouds and my kid.

I know as soon as I hit publish I’ll probably think of half a dozen more things to add to the list, but that’s the nature of list making. I plan to do a series of lists commemorating my now five decades of winning, losing, learning, failing and all the crisp, crunchy bits scraped from the sides that make everything so flavorful.

I can start with “3 Things I’ll Never Do Again Under Any Circumstances”, and “7 People I Regret Spending So Much Time with in My 20’s”. So much potential.

Would love to know whats on your list.

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I was at a concert last night where the opening act was just dreadful. The young woman, on stage by herself with an electric guitar, was so nervous that it was hard to figure out how she got the gig.

She kept turning her head away from the mic so her very softly sung lyrics would go missing. Singing her own original songs she still hit dozens of wrong notes on her guitar. She forgot lyrics and lost her place and had a nervous laugh every time something went wrong. It was a mess.

The audience – while they did not boo her – did start checking their phones & heading to the bathroom half way through the first song. I heard one woman say to her husband “she wouldn’t last one minute on the Apollo stage.” I think 30 seconds would be generous.

When she started to tank I automatically tensed up and concentrated on her as if the sheer force of my attention would somehow reduce her humiliation. I know I don’t have magic powers but bad performances and other tense situations sometimes trigger this reflex.

In my previous career, when there was more art than money, I often drove on fumes while concentrating very, very hard so as to will my car home or to the gas station. I’m sure it was luck or a vaguely inaccurate gas gauge, but it always seemed to work.

I doubt my rapt attention and tense muscles last night had any effect on the nervous, under prepared singer but it gave me something to do other than be mortified on her behalf. I only went on stage unprepared once. That was all it took.

That was a hard lesson she learned last night and I sympathize.

I’m sure we can all dredge up a moment or two of deep humiliation at our performance, on stage, at work, in our personal lives. Those times when you know you have massively fucked up and you are the only one to blame. Its an awful experience but with hindsight its possible to see what was learned, what was gained from owning it and making amends.

My hope for that singer is that she adds that lesson to her song book and finds a way to get better at what she does. There is much to be gained from making mistakes, but very little from making the same mistake twice.

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This weekend I had to tell my husband that I don’t like James Brown. We decided to go to a movie the other night and he proposed the bio-pic “Get On Up” and I said something along the lines of “You can go to that one by yourself!”

It’s not like I was hiding the fact that I didn’t like James Brown, the topic just hadn’t come up in the 20 years we’ve been together. He was shocked.

Funk is one constant in the fluid musical landscape of my life. A thread that connects everyone from Sly to P-Funk, to Gap Band to Cameo and Prince. But the Godfather of Soul never did it for me.

Usually my husband and I share many of the same eclectic musical tastes diverging around the likes of Kraftwerk (him) and The Roaches (me). And up to the James Brown reveal we only had one other serious musical bone of contention – I can’t stand to listen to Bob Dylan.

I love Bob Dylan songs as long as someone else is singing them, I just can’t listen to Dylan sing more than three songs in a row. After the third song his signature sing-song whine sounds absurd and I start to laugh.

My family very kindly listens to Dylan albums when I am out of the house, for which I am grateful. I don’t want to ruin their enjoyment just because I can’t appreciate the vocal stylings of “the poet laureate of rock and roll.”

After “Get On Up” was proposed the other night I countered with “The Hundred Foot Journey.” This got me a counter offer of “X-Men” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  All three of us want to see “Boyhood”, but since the kid had other plans we opted for the popcorn movie.

I’m usually a big fan of sci-fi, action hero, gratuitous, stylized violence in the name of conquering evil but this story was unnecessarily complex as well as trite and unbelievable even in the world of sci-fi fantasy, so it was a dud. My husband tolerates some sci-fi for me but isn’t a big fan, so by the end of the movie he was both bored and irritated.

I used the opportunity to equated his complaints about futuristic, gobbledygook (Nebula, tool of the evil Kree Ronan!) with my lack of appreciation for Dylan. It’s just a matter of taste.

Here’s a song (and a Band) we both agree on musically. And a great movie too.

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While this title might suggest a lengthy post about the evils of drinking well liquor, it is instead an acknowledgment how easily riffs on the venerable Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators amuse me. It’s a weakness I know.

MBTI Types in a horror movie:
ISTJ: The one in denial that there’s actually a killer
ISFJ: The one who calls out “Who’s there?” as if the killer will answer
ESTJ: The one who tries to tell everyone else what to do
ESFJ: The one who screams at everything
ISTP: The one who finds a really good hiding place
ISFP: The one who dies first
ESTP: The one wondering around without a flashlight
ESFP: The one who tries to hook up with the killer
INFJ: The one who knows what’s going on but no one will listen to them
ENFJ: The one who says “It’ll be ok” even though they don’t believe it
INFP: The one who sacrifices themselves
ENFP: The one who figures out who the killer is a little too late
INTJ: The one who everyone thinks is the killer
ENTJ: The one who tries to fight back but ends up dead
INTP: The one who created the monster
ENTP: The one who makes it until the end

For what its worth I’ve been typed as ENTJ  or INTJ depending on the day. The chart below is also an amusing filter for viewing the evolution of Disney brand female empowerment (not feminism.)

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The street where I grew up boasted a soft serve ice cream stand on the corner called Gigi’s.

At Gigi’s you could get vanilla, chocolate or, my favorite, a twist cone (why choose when you can have both?) with dip coating, which was extra and a rare splurge.

I never really liked the glassy hard coating that made eating your ice cream difficult and drippy, but I always wanted it. It seemed so fancy to have something “extra” on your cone. You could also get your ice cream rolled in chopped peanuts but that seemed like something invented by adults just to ruin a good time.

My mom didn’t eat ice cream from Gigi’s because she said it was “dirty” and she thought they had cockroaches. I don’t know why she thought that or if she had proof, but begging for money to get a cone always included her unsolicited opinion that “That place is dirty”.

Maybe it was, but what did we care.

The guy who owned it, and named it after his daughter who preened about the fact, converted his garage into a tiny stand with one window and a ledge to lean on while you waited to be served.

The most satisfying way to enjoy a cone from Gigi’s was on the way home from the public pool, exhausted from sun and chlorine and six straight hours of “horse-play” and diving for pennies. Countless summer days my mother sent us to the pool when it opened at noon and we stayed until they kicked all the kids out at 6pm.

Gigi’s was between the pool and home which meant the cone that was sure to ruin your dinner had to be eaten sitting on the downed telephone pole in the empty lot just off the corner. The house next to the lot had bushes so no one (my mom and her neighbor cronies specifically) could see you sitting on the telephone pole eating a pre-dinner ice cream.

I stopped going to Gigi’s as I got older after a few creepy encounters with the men outside Danny’s beverage. You had to pass through the beverage store parking lot on the corner to get to Gigi’s. It was a low-tech drive up place where young guys sitting on beer crates would hop up and bring your order to you while you waited in the car.

The guys on crates, and the old men in lawn chairs who ran the place, sat out front smoking all day. Once I hit puberty they started to make cracks about my body and all the ice cream in the world wouldn’t persuade me to cross that lot anymore.

Now, at least once a year, I take my daughter to get a soft serve ice cream. The stand I found is on the way home from the beach, is not at all “dirty”, and is run by teenagers just like a good ice cream stand should be.

The selections are many.

No longer is there just chocolate, butterscotch and cherry dip coating, (god bless you Red Dye #40) but now you can also have strawberry, blue raspberry and peanut butter. It’s still extra. And I still get it even though I don’t really like it.

Its tradition.

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I am being forced to write this blog post by a friend who has suffered through an 8 week series of self-help workshops with me. I hope she is grateful.

We have endured seven weeks of trying to be a good sports. Seven weeks of googling every time the instructor said “in this study I read”, “according to a prominent thought leader”, and other things without concrete references, to see what Wikipedia page it was from.

There is still one more week.

The seventh workshop focused on gratitude. Five minutes in we were so far into Oprah territory with blessings and positive energy that I was expecting someone to run out with free copies of The Secret for the audience. Overall an odd experience for the middle of the work day, made tolerable by attending with a friend.

Said friend and I spend half the time texting snarky observations to each other on our iPads. The other half of the time is spent dissecting the “partner sharing exercises” we are supposed to be doing. Between the two of us (she has a psych PhD) we have been there and done that with the content they are presenting, which is, based on the nature of the series, simplistic.

They are very big on small wins. Formerly known as low hanging fruit (you can explore other business speak at a favorite website). So we are encouraged/assigned tasks which will help incorporate the “learnings” into our week and beyond. These are called “minis”.

I have to say I agree with the value of the stress management they are preaching and have used versions of these self-awareness techniques myself with clients. In private.

However. I fail to see the value of a) sharing feelings and personal stories in this casual way at work, b) why it always has to be packaged in nature based spirituality, and c) why they are promising that this simplistic stuff will make someone feel less stressed.

What if it doesn’t? What if people at work have no idea about the horrific crap going in your life that WILL NOT BE FIXED by platitudes? Does that make you a loser? I saw a woman cry after one of these exercises. There is something that feels vaguely like quasi-group therapy in these sessions that pings my professional ethics.

So week seven, a different kind of mini. We are told that practicing gratitude for ten minutes a week — why not 14 minutes so you can do 2 minutes a day? 10 divided by 7 is just irritating. Anyway, that 10 minutes of gratitude a week supposedly creates “micro, micro dopamine flow”. To which I said (in text) “bite my ass”.

A crude, yet simple reaction caused by the second micro in that sentence. If only she had stopped at one. Being grateful probably does activate your reward system. Maybe you can even create that feedback loop by faking it as we were encouraged to do. Maybe we really are stressed because we choose to be stressed. Maybe we are missing our bodhisattva moment by being closed minded.

I’ll give it a try.

I am grateful that there is only one more workshop in this series.

Damn. I do feel better!

The New York Times Social Q’s column sometime in the last couple of months included the line – and I paraphrase – “every time we fail to acknowledge someone we know, civilization crumbles a little bit”. I couldn’t agree more.

I am generally a friendly person. I make eye contact, smile and say hello as I walk through my neighborhood. I chat with receptionists, cashiers and random folks on line at the grocery. But those rules don’t always apply in the neighborhood around where I work.

Walking to meetings its possible to pass a dozen people who know you by name, another dozen who know you by face, and not get a glimmer of a smile, let alone a greeting. Few people make eye contact except African-American folks who, regardless of status, invariably return my smile or nod.

I could understand the lack of interaction (maybe) if we lived in a city where every third person is potentially crazy town banana pants, but this here is a little bitty town so that excuse doesn’t really fly. Most of the time when someone passes without acknowledging me I make up stories –

  • ‘They must be really busy concentrating on their Very Important Thoughts…’
  • “Oh they don’t have their glasses on so they must not have recognized me…’
  • ‘They’re in a hurry (or late for a meeting) and didn’t see me…’ (I do this one so I know its legit).

But some days its hard to ignore the social snub and I think –  ‘They just pretended to not see me because … what? They don’t like me? They can’t remember my name? They’re an asshat?’

Either way every time it happens a bit of Turkish Delight chips off the edge of the world and nothing was done to stop it.

These social snubs happened often enough that I expect to be ignored (especially by people of a higher status), so I don’t initiate any contact and sometimes pre-emptively ignore people who’ve snubbed me in the past. I didn’t realize my part in this weird social norm until I participated in a diversity exercise last week where we looked at our partner and told them what we saw.

I’m trained to facilitate these kind of exercises and have done a lot of this work before, but it’s always worth doing even if just as a refresher. In this exercise your partner described what they saw when they looked at you, and then you told them what you wished people saw when they looked at you. Its meant to demonstrate the layers of self that are not evident in our skin, our gender, or even how we dress.

Like the fact that your class, religion, background and lived experience are not necessarily visible on the surface. What struck me, other than the fact that I was partnered with the most closeted man I have encountered in years, was that I had accepted the idea that people didn’t have to see me if they didn’t want to.

I was complicit in the snubbing because I accepted it as a social norm.

I decided later, as I fiddled around with my thoughts for this post, that I will no longer play this game. Like saying please and thank you for service, making eye contact and greeting folks you know is acknowledging their humanity.

I’ve relied on my personal translation of Namaste – “I see the human in you” – to pull back from vilifying people when I find them too hard to handle. So far I’ve only applied it to non-political, in-person interactions so don’t bother calling me out on past rants about the Koch brothers or other GOP mishegas.

Now I’m thinking I need to expand my translation to “I see the human in you even if you choose to not see me.” A little clumsy for a T-shirt or bumper sticker but it will help shore up my little piece of civilization.

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I am very bad at relaxing.

That sentence is a good indicator of my poor showing at R&R. I always assume there must be some way to excel at activities and I have yet to acquire the skills around relaxing. Apparently I am a small doses person. A little work, a little rest, a little more work. A little more work…

Sometimes I indulge in a lazy day at home (no matter what my husband says) and just lay around for hours reading on the couch. It’s still a lazy day in my mind if I get up occasionally to throw in some laundry or straighten the linen closet.

I have long dreamed of having a sabbatical from work. Six months off where I might fuss around the house and get all those little jobs done that nudge the back of my mind when I want to  relax. The photo albums that need finishing and the basement that needs cleaning, the caulking, patching and painting that seems to lurk in every room in the house.

Maybe I have an eyesight problem – I always see what needs doing rather than what’s done.

For now I am practicing relaxing.  I am viewing it as a form of personal maintenance like working out and haircuts. And if it’s a “practice” I don’t have to be good at it do I?

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I have many fond childhood memories of Wallace Lake.

 

 

It happened again yesterday.

An acquaintance introduced me to her other friend, and when we got through names, titles and work places, I remarked that we did similar kinds of work. The mutual acquaintance immediately said “No. She has a PhD. She’s Dr. So-and-So.” As if this changed the fact that we had the same titles and did the same job.

I deal with this all the time in academia. A subtle or not so subtle belief that everything tastes better with a PhD.

I respect the work it takes for someone to get a PhD. I know it means they automatically have higher status than I do. I know it means that they know more than I do about any and every subject. I also know I will never have a PhD.

Once upon a time I thought I would get a PhD and teach, write and go to meetings for a living. And then life happened. I went in a different direction. I am not ashamed of my education or lack of a doctorate. Here I am and no regrets. And I still get to go to meetings for a living.

When all is said and done, some days it’s still hard to take the conscious/unconscious slights that come my way just because I don’t have a terminal degree. If I didn’t have a solid word-of-mouth reputation in my work it would be a sad state of affairs indeed. The higher ed system is a terminal case and the only cure for me is exit.

There are a lot of smart, dedicated people out there. So in this season of graduations I applaud the accomplishments of everyone getting a degree.  I am sure I missed a few:

  • general equivalency degree
  • high school diploma
  • associate of arts
  • associate of science
  • associate of applied science
  • associate of occupational studies
  • bachelor of arts
  • bachelor of science
  • master of arts
  • master of science
  • master of business administration
  • doctor of philosophy
  • juris doctor
  • doctor of medicine
  • doctor of dental surgery
  • O.W.L.S
  • N.E.W.T.s

Worthy accomplishments all.

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