Three Words

A couple of years ago, I spotted a sign in the trash. It was the same day I was thinking of making New Year’s resolutions. Maybe some wise people and shepherds see signs in the sky. I see them in the trash.

My sign read, “Become Your Dream.” And I have done this – by pursuing teaching, coaching, and writing work.

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I also have looked for and found signs on social media.

I love social media – I love the short expressive forms of WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook. Status updates guide and inspire me.

In 2012, social media marketing guru Chris Brogan chose three guiding words: Temple, Untangle, Practice.

He meant:

  1. Treat your body like a temple.
  2. Untangle yourself from distractions.
  3. Practice mindfulness.

I want to do those three things too.

And for this pre-Christian season I want these three words: Simplify, Joy, Kindness.

I want to:

  1. Simplify my holiday by focusing on the things and experiences I love, like light, music, creativity, and time with family. And jettison clutter and consumerism.
  2. Give and receive light and joy to and from everyone I meet. And let go of judging.
  3. Practice kindness. Know that the Christmas season is stressful and so I vow to perform daily acts of kindness.

Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord will give you a sign.” Look for your sign. Look for your three words. They may be in the trash, the sky, or on Twitter. Let three simple words guide you through the holiday season and then through the New Year.

What are your three words?

I wrote this today for an upcoming Advent Devotional for the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church. 

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Saying No to a Culture of Criticism

“There are too many noises in the apartment. The dryer buzzer just buzzed. It’s supposed to buzz three times. It only buzzed once,” Coco woke me from a deep sleep to tell me this. I walked her back to her room, laying beside her in her twin bed.

I thought about my last couple of days.

I was so proud to have gotten published in Salon and so unprepared for the barrage of criticism. My mind drifted to my workplace book club where my women colleagues had so many negative things to say about the Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom. I thought the book was awesome. I loved how Bloom attacks tabloids and reality shows. And, of course, those conflicts are manufactured for our entertainment.

In my lunch time book club, all these brilliant coworkers trashed Bloom because she was writing about the failings of mainstream media while she was a part of media herself.

At Salon.com all these people criticized me for my story when I never asked what they thought (but I guess Salon asked by opening the comments to a free-for-all.) I wrote more about this on my writing blog yesterday. http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/

Last night, comforting my daughter, holding her hand as she drifted back to sleep, I thought, we live in a society of criticism. We constantly criticize one another. I’m not sure if it’s the vitriol of reality shows, politics or our own insecurity over jobs, relationships, parenting, whatever.

Trash talking bonds people together. “Look, isn’t Bloom an idiot!” “Yes, I agree.” But the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Not a sweet one.

An article popped up on my Twitter feed this morning — about happiness helping productivity (Do Happier People Work Harder? by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer)  http://ow.ly/6kXqQ

Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier.

Yes! True for me. When I delight in criticism of other people I internalize it, get in a habit of criticism and then criticize myself and hold back on my creativity and kindness — as if we should be stingy with our happiness. As if joy in life, in our accomplishments were a weakness not a strength.

I struggle every single freakin’ day to be happy.

While I’m criticizing our culture for being so critical, I’m also happy there are writers like Bloom, Amabile, Kramer, and even me. Who ask, What do we need if not more criticism? The Times article says we need to “support workers’ everyday progress.” Simply pay attention to one another’s well being and stop the barrage of negativity. Simplistic? Maybe.

I go back to my rules, especially my rule learned from improv. Say yes! Happiness is harder but encouragement is essential. I like to take the difficult path.

Coco was fast asleep in her twin bed by now. The dryer had stopped tumbling. I was falling asleep myself. I unwound from her blankets. As I pulled my hand away, she squeezed it. Thanks!

Only Connect

Last night I saw The Social Network on DVD (Thanks, SAG!). It totally captured the irony of this connected life. The movie also questions the primacy of male nerd culture, the difficulty in small business start ups, and the ownership of creative ideas.

In a closing scene Zuckerberg is left alone in a corporate office right after a potential friend declines his dinner invitation. He opens his computer to Facebook befriend her online. It is lonely, true. Yet, the scene reminds me that when the real world stings of rejection, having an onscreen persona can ameliorate the sting.

There is a place for online meet ups. For example, today I’m hoping to meet some of my fellow NaNoWriMo writers whom I’ve only received emails from during national novel writing month. Having companions while being a lonely writer has led me to greater compassion for other writers. I am grateful for my writing compatriots’ inspiration and productivity prompts. I’m grateful for real life workmates too. I’m always IM’ing my work buddy for motivation on being more productivity (Thanks, Beth!).

Word!

The president reminds the nation to connect in his awesome inspiring address this week:

“Use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

I have written before about being wired to care and seeing my own need for compassion as a weakness and not a strength, especially on the job (which, I know, is ironic, given that I work at a Christian agency.)

http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/wired-to-care/

I think my desire to connect and be compassionate and have compassion is okay. It is bound up with my innate and human drive to be part of a community.

I have no idea why I receive weekly emails from Rector Bill Tully of St. Bart’s Church, but I’m glad that I do. http://www.stbarts.org/bill-tullys-blog/ (I should visit this church for my church a day (week) blog https://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/ )

Tully is one of those brilliant church people who is addressing and writing about the need for connection and community.

This week he says, “…America is a hothouse of communities. In towns, cities, neighborhoods, congregations, clubs, schools, service projects, even in offices and places of work, we have a chance to practice the known virtues of love.”

Tully quotes our President too, who said:

“I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

What he said.