Archives for Relationships


When Change Changes You

Suddenly it seems like everywhere I go online I'm reading about an app called Slack.

Apparently it is like Twitter + Facebook for office types.

Slack's goal - according to its CEO at least - is to eliminate email.

But his underlying goal is to get back to his family and his herd of alpacas (small furry camels, basically) by eliminating work...or at least some of it.

Stewart Butterfield, Slack's CEO, did exactly that after selling his first creation, Flickr, to Yahoo for an alleged $25 million.

But then he quickly came back...with Slack.

In a recent interview, Butterfield had this to share about why he feels it is important to reduce the time we spend working:

I think that we're as a species not quite equipped to deal with the power of this stuff just in the same way we weren't quite equipped to deal with infinite free calories. This is how people end up with diabetes...we will now have the cognitive emotional diabetes of over interacting with people who aren't physically present.

Butterfield thinks Slack can help with the tendency we seem to have to overwork ourselves, or (in some cases, most notably Japan's Karoshi) literally work ourselves to death.

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How I Found Happiness

I used to chase happiness like a fiend.

I would run after different experiences - goals, achievements - quite sure that once I caught up to them, happiness would at last be at my beck and call.

This is when I learned happiness is a very fast runner.

So then I would try to sneak up on, "if I don't care to little or too much but just enough" won't see me coming and I can catch it.

Turns out happiness is related to owls - they both have 360 degree vision and exceptionally keen hearing.

Finally I decided to sit still, very quietly, until happiness forgot I was there, let down its guard, and crept close.

This, surprisingly, worked better than either of the other two strategies.

After reading a short post in Time magazine's Wellness section, I think I know why.

Apparently, for Americans, the pursuit of happiness is inexorably linked to achieving individual goals.

This is a very big contrast to how other cultures (happier cultures!) view happiness - as a social phenomenon that happens most readily when it is shared.

But our individualistic society puts the sole responsibility for catching and restraining happiness squarely on each of our respective shoulders - a heavy burden indeed.

Brett Ford, the author of the study Time references in their post, says that for this very reason, what we Americans tend to end up with instead of happiness is a life full of neutrality.

We're not really sad....not really happy....just kind of in between, existing.

Personally, in a world fueled by Facebook posts full of ridiculously happy people doing amazing happiness-producing things, I find it reassuring to know that behind the scenes, no one is really that happy all the time. 


I also like what Ford tells Time reporter Mandy Oaklander:

A happy life doesn't consist of happy moments every moment of the day.

Double whew.

So back to why I now understand why letting happiness come to me works better than chasing it down or pouncing on it. 
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I Love My Body…Except When I Don’t

Recently I was chatting with a recovery friend about body acceptance.

All of a sudden it hit me.

Body acceptance is one thing.

Body love - body enjoyment - well, this is quite another.

For example, most days these days I am filled to the brim with body acceptance.

I also feel reliable amounts of body gratitude and appreciation (especially after my 2011 surgery, when I experienced just how much I rely on my healthy body to do just about everything).

But body love - well, this is still a work-in-progress.

I suppose I could even say that my relationship with my body is still evolving. We've gotten to the mutual respect thing - but the raw throw-the-doors-wide-open "I love you with my whole heart and nothing less!" stage is yet ahead.

Of course, I'm not complaining....precisely.

After spending nearly three decades immersed in all things body hate, body revulsion, body disownment, finally experiencing body acceptance is pretty great.

But still, I aspire to more. Much more. 
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Mentoring Book Reviews

Living Life in Three Acts

Recently I began reading Brene Brown's new book, Rising Strong.

I haven't gotten very far, though.

This is because it only took a few pages before I realized (yet again) how much she knows that I do not.

For instance, did you know there are three acts in every story?

This includes Hollywood movies, literary classics, our daily life and all the rest.

Here is a basic summary of each act:

Act 1 - The main character of the story is offered a chance to go on an adventure, solve a problem, learn a lesson, et al. They waffle for a bit, then accept.
Act 2 - The main character looks for all the easy ways to get from A to Z, discovers none of those ways are available and hits rock bottom.
Act 3 - The main character finally tackles the hard way and (depending on the plot line) succeeds or doesn't.

So here is the thing.

I've always been aware of Act 1 - new beginnings and all that.

And Act 3 is hard to miss, seeing as how it is often full of fanfare and finality.

But Act 2....honestly, I guess I've always just categorized it as the "sh** happens" phase. 
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Where Adult Friendships Go to Die

This has been a year of transitions. Or changes. Or losses.

Or simply choices, depending on how you look at it.

Several years ago, I had a really big "aha moment." It wasn't the kind I really wanted but I definitely needed it.

This aha moment happened when I read a quote about how I would become most like the people I kept closest to me. So then I couldn't resist taking a look at my close circle.

To my horror, I discovered I did not want to become like some of these folks. And every time from then on I grew more and more aware of our dissonance whenever we would hang out together.

This was a hard period for me. But it wasn't as hard as what came next.

In the past two years, I took hold of the "friendship reins" in my own life for the first time ever. This was significant for a couple of reasons:

In the past, I pretty much just was friends with anyone who seemed to want to be friends with me.
This was because I thought I wasn't very good "friends material" and I always thought I was lucky anyone wanted to be my friend.

By taking charge of my friendship life, I became more discerning and deliberate about qualities I looked for in a potential friend.

I actually made a list of desirable qualities - these same qualities being the ones I hoped to develop in myself.

Positive and optimistic.
Smart and witty.
Engaged in their own life and the world.
Open-minded and accepting ("live and let live").
A good conversationalist and also a good listener.
Curious and fun-loving.
Compassionate and caring.
Respectful with good "social radar."
Able to open up and share without getting stuck in a rut of constant complaining (this is a big one for me!) or allowing me to do the same (which speaks to having a basically positive and optimistic nature underneath life's hard moments).
Supportive and loving and willing to be supported and loved.

There were more qualities on the list too, but these were the big ones.

I also expanded my concept of who qualified as a "friend."

For instance - I included my parents. My mom and dad are two of my best friends in the world today. I also decided pets qualified - my parrot, Pearl, and my tortoise, Malti, are my daily life sidekicks and I can't imagine life without them.

But some of my friendships hit the skids around this same time because they didn't fit most or any of the criteria on my list.

Some of my longest-running friendships felt the impact most deeply, while some of my newer friendships experienced cardiac arrest in fits and spurts as I woke up to behaviors and experiences that just didn't feel like anything I wanted to be a part of going forward.

This hurt. A lot. It still hurts.

This week I discovered a lovely little blog named Peaceful Dumpling.

A few of the posts focused specifically on what the poster called "adult friendships" - making them, ending them and all that can transpire in between. One particular post, titled "On Breaking Up With Friends," caught my attention.

In this post, the blogger talks about how jarring it can be to realize the old cliche, "boyfriends come and go, but friends are forever," may not hold water in every case.

(Interestingly, today my boyfriend is one of my best friends, although he didn't used to be - we've had some rough years together (and not together).)

But not all of my friendships have weathered the journey from "then" to "now" so well as ours has.

The blogger also talks about navigating "end of friendship" challenges, such as when only one friend wants to "break up" and the other wants the friendship to continue. 
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Animal Mentors

Unexplained Powers of Our Pets

I really like to read books about animals, and especially about pets.

Frequently, one book leads to another and then another.

Recently, this led me to Rupert Sheldrake, PhD's book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home (and other unexplained powers of animals).

If you, like me, have ever wondered if your pet (dog, cat, parrot, tortoise, ferret, et al) is holding out on you, this is the book you need to read.

Obviously, Dr. Sheldrake wouldn't have written 300+ pages on the topic if there weren't something to write about.

But what he writes about - Oh. my. goodness. 
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Animal Mentors

If People Were Parrots (a Meditation)

Yesterday wasn't such an awesome day in my world.

When less-awesome days happen to me, I often try to cheer myself up by making lists of the things that annoy me most.

Usually "bugs" are at the top of my list. Often "forms" (such as the kind you have to fill out for the IRS) are right up there with the insects.

But yesterday, the number one slot was occupied by "people."

In other words, I had just had it.

Even biting red ants and buzzing mosquitos ranked higher than my own species.

And then, as I attempted to relax into sleep last night, all of a sudden a question popped into my mind.

What if I woke up tomorrow and all people were suddenly turned into parrots? 
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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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