Shame Can Lead to Peace

A while back, when I had a story published in Salon.com, I felt ashamed. I’d been working hard to get published in a big venue, and then I was. I felt embarrassed, exposed, judged. Of course, the one who judged me most harshly was myself – I had internalized voices from my childhood or extended family members: ‘Don’t get too big for your britches.’ ‘You’re not that important.’ ‘Your house is still messy.’

Addressing our reasons for feeling shame can lead to a quiet (or quieter) soul. I have been talking about this with a friend who wanted to know how my feelings around shame impact my parenting. I don’t know. I try to celebrate my own successes, shortcomings, humanity. I try to model feeling okay about my body (although, yes, I would love to lose a few pounds.) I am enthusiastic about my life — friends, family, work, play — despite very real shortcomings and disappointments.

Walking home from my awesome job today, the sun was shining and it was such a nice warm Autumn day, I said to myself, “God, I’m happy to be alive. How lucky I am. One more day on the face of this earth. This is amazing.” I went to Trader Joe’s and there was no line! I was in heaven. I bought dinner, came home and napped (because a part of me still feels run down.)

I had some one-on-one time with my girls.

I tried to show one of the girls today the Brené Brown Ted Talk about shame, shared by Kelli King-Jackson, that inspired my thinking. But my daughter did not have the time — there’s homework, extracurriculars, plans for the few days ahead

So I share it with you.

And remind you, “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
― Brené Brown

Purposeful Living

As a life coach and co-leader in the online course, Write the Love Letter to your Teenage Daughter, I was sharing my values. I really want to pass on resilience, creativity, and kindness to my children.

Yesterday, I mentioned to CoCo, “See how lonely it is when one of you kids is gone?” (Her twin sister Cate is kayakying in Alaska.)

CoCo agreed.

“You kids are my purpose,” I said.

“How can kids be your purpose? What about people who don’t have kids? They have purpose too.”

“Right. Each person has her own purpose. And purpose — not things or achievements — provides meaning and joy.” I said. “But every one of us has to find her own journey and purpose.”

Am I too obsessed with my own kids? Am I a helicopter parent? It’s no secret I swamp my media channels with pictures of my kids. (And they are not always too happy about it.) I facebrag. I post their pics on Twitter and Instagram.

I can’t help it. I love them. My husband is challenging; my children are challenging — but they give back. Maybe this crazy family is the reason for all of my struggles.

But as my chicks fly the nest — in the coming months, the girls head off to nearly two months of summer camp and my son to college — What is my purpose then?

After my three kids, my purpose has always been my work. I have always been a writer and now am pursuing teaching. Have been having so much fun and meaning teaching at prep schools. I love the kids and the teachers.

Am also loving this recent editing work — connecting with writers, implementing a social justice vision for response magazine.

My main thing is — as my purpose and my focus may shift — I choose to remain intellectually curious, to be kind, to love without condition, and to come at life with a slant of creativity. (Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. – Love Emily Dickinson)

To persist. To pursue.

I guess all of this is why I chose the title, To Pursue Happiness for this blog. It is in the pursuit and not the attainment that we find our purpose. We find our way. (For more on why we choose our titles – check out All about me.)

BTW, happy Father’s Day, to all the dads and men who have mentored, loved, and parented. My husband is an amazing father — full of love.

And for you fathers, I bring you flowers from the Lyndhurst rose garden in Tarrytown, New York. For more flowers, visit my Pinterest Flower Board.

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Konmari Adventures

“My criterion for deciding to keep an item is that we should feel a thrill of joy when we touch it.” – Marie Kondo The life-changing magic of tidying up.

To be honest, only one or two items of my clothing sent a shiver of joy up my spine. Most of them sparked a memory, a regret, a story. (Poor Barbara had to to me listen to me travel down memory lane when she came over to help me declutter on Friday afternoon. Thanks, BW!) I like my stuff. I just don’t love it.

So the process is this: hold an item of clothing in your hands, ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” Yes? keep it. No? toss it.

So I gave or threw away about five or six garbage bags full of clothes. I have about one-quarter of the clothes I started with. image

This is before.

And this is after

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It took me two afternoons. I have several empty drawers now. (I have two dressers and I think I am going to get rid of one of them.) I am trying to love what I have.

This is such an awesome concept — Keep what you love. I love these housekeeping movements. I was a big fan of Flylady. Because of her, I keep my sink clean and shiny (her first rule).

I do believe our culture is too materialistic. We have too much. And we think accumulating more will solve our problems. But our stuff needs tending. We have stuff and we have to think about it. Our stuff swamps us — does not free us.

I learned about Marie Kondo’s book and movement from a NYTimes article and from a friend in a writing group. Konmarie-ing is becoming national obsession. So is minimalism. I wish I were a minimalist. I have noticed when traveling — like when we were in California at Christmas-time — the less I have, the less I worry about. And the more time I have to read a book, walk in the park or ride my bike. It is, after all, experiences that delight us, not things.

Less stuff means less housekeeping and more time for Facebook. There is a popular Konmarie FB page – and a Flylady friend and I started a Declutter FB group to post our goals.

Incidentally, my blogging has been sporadic in 2015. I have felt ambivalent about writing without pay, getting too personal, and besides, I have had so much work — teaching, editing, writing. But this summer, I am aiming to post every Sunday morning. I am rebooting my business and my home life. I am trying to keep what I love and discard the rest. I love blogging. It sparks joy.

Twenty-five Seven – Getting Published

 

my kids sleeping. when they were little.
my kids sleeping. when they were little.
  • Sleep in
  • Flip through a magazine
  • Lay by a body of water
  • Write more
  • Chat on the phone

This reminds me, I wrote an essay — a  tribute to sloth in an overachieving culture wherein I advise you to:

  • do less
  • stay off the grid
  • aim low

This appeared in this weekend’s Times Union commentary section. Proud.

Maybe if I had a second extra hour, I’d spend that time querying other magazines and newspapers with my funny, short essays.

I sent that essay to the newspaper as part of my challenge to query 7 places in 7 days. I may challenge myself with that again. But maybe in November, because in October my challenge is to post every single day. And besides that, I’m a little lazy.

Need. more. coffee.

This post is in response to the Daily Post:

Good news — another hour has just been added to every 24-hour day (don’t ask us how. We have powers). How do you use those extra sixty minutes?

Body Pride

I have been tall and slim.

I have been dumpy and short. (The first stages of a twin pregnancy is not known for its svelte-ness. But something wonderful was cooking in me and that made me gorgeous.)

Recently a friend of mine visited the Fashion Boudoir Project in Seattle – a few sexy pics appeared on her Facebook stream. I wondered if I could do it – bare all or some?

Mom and I once went to a topless beach in Hawaii once. No biggie. (I did feel free.)

On Beauty

The most beautiful women I know have some beautiful physical unique style – my Great Aunt Marie had a big nose – my friend DeB is completely bald. It’s what’s cooking inside — intelligence, humor, kindness, creativity — that make us beautiful.

In the car, the other day my friend said, “The positive thing about Kim Kardashian is that she brings body pride to women with large booties.” (I did not know this.)

And I recently saw this way-cool Tweet from Lorde — she posted a pic of herself without the photoshop. Yup, still beautiful. (Amazing young woman!)

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(Lorde from her Twitter feed)

I stared a Pinterest board – “I Look Forward to Getting Old.” These women (and a few men) are uniquely beautiful.

One of my darlings saw my Pinterest pins and asked, “This is where you celebrate aging?”

Yup, that too!

Alone this Summer

At the beach association #huntington #longisla...
I went away to Southampton this weekend with a girlfriend and the weekend before I was in Huntington with my book club. How lucky am i?

I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks. And I’ve put Facebook on the back burner.

I’ve been rethinking my confessional writing.  It’s a relief and a release to write honestly about my life – writing helps me with my struggles and shows me that I’ve got resilience. Besides, as I’ve said, the more honest I get, the more readers I get.

But I do wonder if I have gotten what I needed from blogging and personal essay writing. And what is that? Money? Attention?

I have written about:

  • my struggles with marriage to a chronically ill spouse;
  • my desire to not spoil my kids in an age of helicopter parents;
  • my business lift-off and sometimes my business failures;
  • my beautiful New York City places;
  • my advice for writers, bloggers, creatives.

But life’s gotten busy.

For this one week, I’m deliciously alone.

My family’s been blown to the winds. My son is in Botswana. My daughters are at camp in Vermont. My husband and his brother, who also has Parkinson’s (my husband diagnosed 12 years ago and his brother a couple years before that, I believe) are traveling together — on a fishing trip to Canada.

As for work, I’ve had a wonderful client for whom I’m cranking out the work — blogging for them and totally pleased to put in a bit more time now and then.

I’ve had a crazy art handling job. This job would make an excellent sitcom – the curator and fellow art handlers are so funny and fun. Art handling means that I’m the grunt who puts up and takes down art for two art galleries — the treasure room and the lobby of my former office building. So, ya, pretty much lately, the people I used to sit in conference rooms with are the ones who occasionally walk past me as I’m working with the maintenance staff. Of course many stop and chat. And then I’ll feel guilty for not doing the art handling, and instead, schmoozing on the job. (Well what job does not benefit from schmoozing?)

I’ve also really been trying to put in an hour and a half a day (or three pomodoros (25 minute work blocks)) on a sexy, short novel. More about this at a later date. And for this stick-to-it-iveness on the languishing novel, I thank my coworking chum, Patty Golsteijn, over at Minimal Switch

In any case, for this one week, my immediate family is unreachable. And I’ve toyed with the idea of giving up my smart phone entirely. (Or maybe just checking in on it a little bit.)

In July:

  • I want to embrace my solitude;
  • Become more spiritual;
  • Work out;
  • Finish my novel;
  • Ride my bike;
  • Reassess my social media habit.

I want my social media to work for me. And I’m not sure how to recofigure my writing for the web, my websites.

In the meantime, let’s face it, I also just want to have fun. (Thanks, Cyndi Lauper!)

Presentation Skills

One of my recent ad hoc jobs has been assisting in the Columbia University graduate business school, coaching on presentation skills and strategic messaging.

I don’t want to give away all of my tips and tricks. But here’s some of what I’ve learned and taught.

  1. Plant your feet to make a point
  2. Make eye contact
  3. Breathe
  4. Be prepared, but not memorized
  5. Put it in a story form
  6. Show the benefits to your listener
  7. Use emotion

Let me explain what I mean by all of these. I’ll use myself as an example.

  1. Plant your feet and make your point. Don’t wander around. Don’t fidget with a pen either. I need to remember this. I’m a passionate person, and so I like to really emote! That’s fine (see #7). Sure, move out from behind the podium, but move on the pause, and stop when you speak. Plant your feet. You can move as you think. But stop when you talk.
  1. Look ’em in the eyes for several sentences. Six (?) years ago, when Hilary Clinton was
    Barack Obama
    Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

    debating Barack Obama, I noticed Hil scanned the crowd as she talked. Her eyes hopped from person to person. Not Barack. No, he spoke several sentences to one person, then moved his gaze to another person. Like #1, don’t wander – not even with your eyes. Fix your gaze on one person. Make sure they get your point and then focus on another person’s eyes.

I sometimes look up when I’m thinking. I do that on the pause. Then, I have to remember to look down and make eye contact when I talk.

  1. Breathe. A breath brings inspiration. Take time to think things through. I tend to talk fast. And so I get breathy and soft-spoken. When I take time to breathe, I’ve got fuller authority. I’m more centered. When you’re making a presentation, take time to inhale. Then, speak on the exhale.

4. Know your stuff. When I’m watching Shark Tank, I can tell that people who have memorized their whole pitch. If they lose their place, they’re lost. They only really need to know the salient points – their numbers, their benefit to the user, their unique factors. They don’t need the verbatim script, they need to speak just the basics.

5. Make a story. Everyone loves a beginning, middle, and end. Put your presentation in a story form — perhaps, a context of overcoming great odds. Or making the story about a heroic journey. You were lost and now you’re found. These story types are so primal and so inspiring. Everyone loves a narrative arc.

6. Show the benefit. I realized people were a bit self involved the first time I had skin cancer. I blogged about it. In conversations, people would ask me, “Does this mole look like yours looked?” People weren’t asking, “How are you feeling? What’s the latest?” No, they were telling me how they were feeling. All people are basically self-interested.

If your presentation is relevant to people, they will be interested. If you can help people learn about themselves or help them make money, then they’ll be into your presentation. I love inspiring people to learn about themselves. It’s why I love coaching writing.

7. Emote. Don’t be afraid to laugh, cry, admit that you don’t know something in your presentation. It’s all part of the human experience. People will remember what you say when you are passionate, but they may not remember your dry facts and figures.

Give yourself away. Go deep and don’t be afraid to be human. Get real.

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