Archives for Shannon Cutts


How to Tell Excitement and Terror Apart

I'm not sure how it slipped my notice for this long that one of my favorite movies, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, had a sequel.

But suffice it to say that, the moment I learned this news, I promptly went out to rent The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Did I find it to be as entertaining as its predecessor (which I happen to own)? Not really.

Was I glad I watched it anyway? You bet. Not only am I a huge Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Richard Gere and Bill Nighy fan, but there is something about watching folks older than me still wrestling with questions I also have that I find oddly reassuring.

For instance, take this quote (spoken by Evelyn, played by Dench):

I don't know whether I'm excited or terrified. Sometimes it seems to me that the difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash.

I don't know about you, but I can TOTALLY relate. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Camera-Crazy Mentoring Monk

I can't remember the very first time I saw a monk, but I also can't remember any time I've seen one that hasn't given me a lot to think about.

I mean, that takes courage - to walk about in mainstream society garbed in bright yards of fabric and ropes of brown beads.

Somehow, no matter how colorfully diverse humanity gets, that particular form of diversity always grabs my attention.

Something in me whispers, "What if.....?" and thinks of the many months I spent living in an ashram in India.

So of course I couldn't resist watching "Monk with a Camera." But what really makes Nicholas Vreeland stand out is his inability to put. the. camera. down.

Monks are supposed to renounce, well, least from what I've heard. But this particular monk fell in love with photography at age 13, far earlier than he fell in love with the internal life of a renunciant.

The documentary describes how Vreeland has struggled with his passion for well as his passion for women (Buddhist monks, like Catholic priests, take a vow of celibacy).

Interestingly, in the latter he has triumphed. But in the former, not so much. 
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Good News

How I Discovered the Truth About Receiving and Giving

When I first became sick with an eating disorder, I didn't really know what was happening to me.

But I knew it didn't feel good.

And I knew I didn't feel good - about my disease, or about me.

So when I first starting trying to recover, I accepted others' help only because I had exhausted all other options.

I didn't feel worthy of their time. I didn't think I deserved the gifts of their compassion and mentoring guidance.

Yet, it still felt very good to receive what they had to offer.

As I received more and more and began to really fill up on love and grace and self-worth for the first time ever, something amazing occurred.

I began to long to give to others. 
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Finding My Line in the Sand

Last week I had a very enlightening experience.

The short story is that I was offered a writing job that I turned down.

The long story is that what the company was asking me to do didn't jive well with what I call my "internal moral code."

Basically, it all started when I saw a job posting for a freelance writer who specializes in academic papers.

While I do not specialize in this type of writing, I felt like all the "A's" I still remember receiving for high school and college essay assignments indicated I might still have the chops to pull it off.

Plus the pay was pretty good.

So I applied for it and got the job.

After I got the job, I started the training process and quickly began to question what I was really doing.

After taking a closer look at the company's website (something I absolutely admit I should have done before applying!), I realized my job was basically to write academic papers for high school, college and graduate students - including med school students - to use in their academic studies.

Ooooooo. Or, I should say, ewwwwwwww.

So I talked to my dad about it. I described the job and watched his expression change. His expression mirrored the changes going on in my stomach as I processed the idea of helping students cheat their way through their classes.

Then I did some research online to see how companies like this one (and there are many around the world, I discovered) can legally do what they are doing.

Their defense is a good one - they say they are just providing the papers to help the students (who are ordering and paying for them) generate creative ideas and do some advance research.

But the extensive testimonials from student-customers crowing over the A's these papers have earned them beg to differ.

At last I realized that, however legal (or not) the service may be, it simply didn't sit right with me. It just didn't. I wiggled and squirmed and squished myself up in all manner of ways, and I still couldn't see myself writing one. single. paper. for this company.


At that point I extricated myself as politely and expeditiously as I could.

But this whole experience has led me to question how our individual and respective "lines in the sand" get drawn.

What if, for example, I had been raised in a culture that actually embraces "getting away with something" or skirting "the system?"

What if my folks had valued the grey areas of life above the white (good) and black (bad) and encouraged me to dive into the grey and go exploring?

What if my mentors had actively modeled methods for doing the least work possible and getting the most results? 
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Animal Mentors

Of Dogs and Prisoners

I have always had a phobia about being locked up.

No matter how alluring the crime or how rich the prize, even the vaguest thought of being sent to prison afterwards would be sufficient motivation to keep me honest.

Not to mention that orange is definitely NOT the new black in my personal color palette, and I really like my personal space (a whole house full of it when I can get it).

Plus, prison seems to make already grumpy people even grumpier, and since you become like the folks you spend the most time with, that is a whole lot of grumpy I'd like to avoid.

But when I saw a documentary called "Dogs on the Inside" on Netflix, I just had to check it out. Reason being, I had the thought that if they are now allowing prisoners to bring their pets with them, I might be able to at least downgrade it to my "minor fears" list.

Turns out that isn't precisely what "Dogs on the Inside" refers to.

But it is still really, really cool. 
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Why I’m Not So Sure I Want to Look “Ageless”

I'm turning 45 this year.

That means I have been on this planet for 45 years (or almost 46 if you count the initial 9 months).


I will be honest - I don't feel 45.

I don't feel any age, really. If I had to pick an age, I would say it would be one that is much younger than the one I actually am, although I'm not exactly sure which age that would be.

I just feel like, with every year that goes by, more and more layers of "applied persona" - various masks and camo outfits and disguises I felt the need to adopt during different earlier stages of my life - peel back to reveal the essence of who I really am.

Like emerging from a particularly transformative shower, turning 45 feels like a reward for all the intense time and scrubbing it took to get me this clean.

So imagine my reaction to a recent short post by Susanna Schrobsdorff (editor of Real Simple and 51 year-old mom to two) where she shared:

I've already seen "Sexy at 70" headlines. Will everyone be expected to go to their graves looking hot?

Oh goodness. I certainly hope not!

I was actually quite looking forward to the days when, like my 70-ish parents, I could pause with genuine shock after reading an editorial and say, "Women are getting what done to which part of their anatomy? But WHY?!"

Why, indeed.

Why would women (and increasing numbers of men) go into debt to get various portions of their physical being frozen, snipped, clipped, trimmed, suctioned away or otherwise re-routed...especially when, as Schrobsdorff states:

It's all so exhausting. 
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Singletasking: the Antidote to Multitasking


This delightful word recently crossed my path courtesy of a short magazine article (the only kind I usually manage to both begin and finish these days).

Perhaps my inability to commit to longer magazine articles is because I am too busy multitasking.

According to singletasking guru Devora Zack, this is a common problem. She says the problem arises because our brains are not wired for multitasking.

And when she says "not wired" she means it literally. 
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Animal Mentors

Optimist Versus Realist Versus Pessimist

As I've gotten older, I've increasingly realized the lines separating behavior that is "optimistic," "realistic" and "pessimistic" are blurrier than I thought.

So rather than getting all tangled up in the various permutations of each, I try to keep it simple and choose my "optimist mentors" wisely.

Let's take my baby tortoise, Malti, as an example.

She loves to go outside and play. In particular, she enjoys a game I call "Malti tries to sneak in the forbidden gate....again."

The game is played like so: I let Malti down in the yard, and she takes off. She makes a beeline parallel to the fence all the way to the gate that closes off my neighbor's yard (which is full of cats, dogs, chickens, a huge koi pond and large water turtles).

Her goal? To get to the gate and under the wrought iron spikes.

My goal? To catch her before she achieves her goal.

Here I've learned that baby tortoises can suddenly get a lot faster when you take your eye off them for a few seconds.

I've also learned that Malti can play this game all day long (and I do mean ALL day long).

She never ever ever gets tired of trying to get inside the forbidden gate.  
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When Your Day Has Made Other Plans

Often I like to start my day by lying in bed (for as long as possible) planning out my day.

I'll think about what I will do first, next, and after that. I'll think about what the pets need and what I need to do for work and then I'll make a resolution to achieve each of those priorities.

Then I get up.

It is usually around this time when I learn, once again, that my day has already made other plans without me.

Every so often, things will go the way I have decided they should go, with the hours following along dutifully behind me like a particularly well-trained puppy.

But mostly I have found that attempting to enforce "my way" is about as futile as trying to convince my waffle-loving parrot, Pearl, that he doesn't really want a waffle after all.

Pearl always wants a waffle. Always.

When I struggle against how a day is unfolding, I usually arrive at its end battered and bruised on the inside. 
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How Trauma Has Mentored Me

Out of all the experiences I have had in my 44+ years to date, "trauma" is not one of my favorites.

For example, I did not enjoy the two decades I spent trying to heal from an eating disorder.

I didn't like my subsequent lengthy battle with anxiety and then depression.

I didn't enjoy losing my friend David, both of my best friend's parents, my first cockatiel, Jacob, and our family's dachshund, JP Morgan.

I also didn't enjoy my tumor...
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