“Just the way you are” by Billy Joel, which includes the line above, is one of my all-time favorite songs.
It came out around the time I took a class trip to New Orleans. You can tell this was a 70s class trip because we all crammed in a teacher’s car (it was a small group). These days, we would have had to sign five forms in triplicate, rent a bus and hire a driver to avoid liability.
Whatever the case, this song seemed to come on 20 times during the trip (I am sure this is an exaggeration of my middle-school memory).
I think — I’ve gotten to the point at 52 that I don’t feel *that* compelled to change to please others, but it is a lifelong quest to feel comfortable with ourselves — that we don’t have to change in order to please ourselves.
Wayne and I were talking the other day about the MAMMOTH job ahead of us of decluttering to list the house, and I said “despite how it looks (I am a terrible housekeeper and let clutter pile up), I hate clutter.” He said, “I just gave up at some point because I got tired of the dirty looks.”
Now, not to break down the Kiger marriage in five minutes, but we have each over 25 years done plenty of things worth getting a dirty look from the other.
Yet it still grieves me that in his head, the state of our house was driven primarily about my stubbornness and unwillingness/inability to change.
I am the kind of person who wants to know the “because” behind the things I do.
It’s not that I want to be in charge of everything; it’s more that understanding the context of my tasks helps me feel part of a bigger mission and see why/where my contribution fits in.
My hunger for the “because” part of life is not always a good fit for freelance world. Either by virtue of being separated physically from my bosses/coworkers, or because of being a dotted line on the org chart, more often than not, the “because” is somewhat inaccessible.
(Don’t get me wrong — that’s a blessing too. There’s lots of minutiae about the work world that you get to escape as a remote freelancer too.)
I think that’s why at least part of my career has involved career counseling. Asking people why they do what they do, helping other people find their own “why.”
I think that search for a “why” is never-ending.
And I am glad (mostly) the various twists and turns of my life have given me different angles on how best to fulfill my purpose.
Because having a purpose, after all, helps make the act of going to work matter.
I would like to revise the outcome of a decision I made about a Facebook friendship (the picture above is a sunrise I shared with the individual).
Last year, I shared a piece of information with a friend that she needed to know for her health (physical health, mental health). I can count the times I have been the messenger for this type of information on one hand — it was not undertaken lightly.
It was a difficult piece of information for my friend to receive, and it was not taken well. She did not unfriend me, but restricted my ability to see any activity on her Facebook feed.
Then I was offended/hurt (rightly or wrongly). In a pique (not sure if I spelled that right!) of “if you’re not going to share your Facebook life with me in full,” I’m just not going to play that game.
Then *I* unfriended *her*.
Now the situation around which I shared the information has come and gone, but my “unfriending” is (to me) pretty permanent.
I realize, though, that this points up the sheer crazy of our social media world.
What really matters is — and I haven’t seen her since “the conversation” — rather than words/pictures on a screen, could we talk face to face as friends again?
While it does need mechanical work (this north Florida summer without air conditioning has been pretty miserable), what I mean today is that it needs work to not be such a cluttered, trash-can-on-four-wheels mess.
There’s also this weird piece of weather-proofing that won’t stay in place that dangles down by the passenger side window. My daughter looked at it Friday and rolled her eyes (maybe not literally but ….).
This car, despite its mechanical issues and cluttered nature, is the one big thing in my life that is paid for free and clear.
Therefore I gave myself the gift of five extra minutes this morning before writing to work on cleaning out the car. Five minutes is only a dent but it’s a start!
I hesitated. Would my husband hear the garage door opening at o’dark and jump out of bed, wondering what the heck I was up to?
It was also raining, so it was tempting to put it off.
But I squeezed in, avoiding most of the rain, and got to work.
Now I have a passenger seat that has been cleared off of all the receipts and little shreds of paper I wasn’t sure what to do with and a passenger floorboard that no longer has the discarded cell phone portable charger that I threw down there in disgust when it stopped working.
It was a baby step, but as baby steps go, it’s one that made my heart happy, my car a little lighter (see yesterday’s post), and my car a little more bearable. It was work worth doing.
Image courtesy of debspoons at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today’s prompt: Light
As we sat with our realtor yesterday laying the groundwork to list our house, I was fighting to see the joy and relief and lightness of spirit (and wallet) when we sell our house.
Mainly, the logistics of wading through all of this stuff, these material items that are weighing us down, made the task seem almost impossible, even if the end result is a favorable one.
We talked about letting go of “things,” and I thought how just hours earlier Wayne and I had been cleaning out the room Dad occupied for the last three years, that had been my son’s room before that, and how I stopped him from sending my son’s Build-A-Bear, which is a dog actually whose name I don’t even remember, to a thrift shop. I had so many memories of him choosing it, of ALL the expensive little bear/dog-sized clothes we bought it. (Actually I think his name is Siren — recalling the fire engine obsession of his childhood!).
So many second thoughts (unproductive ones, of course) were running through my head — why did we THINK in 2005 we could afford this house AND do the things to it that would make it the showcase it can be?
On the other hand, things do happen for a reason (sorry to throw in a cliché) but … I love this neighborhood. It was the house we needed to take care of his Dad, for my children to grow up in. There’s a reason it is part of our memory mosaic.
And the many, many — countless mornings greeting the sunrise as I ran its perfect running loop will be imprinted on my brain and heart forever.
What is the price of lightening things up so we can breathe again financially?
Right now it’s a pretty heavy one, no matter the rewards.
I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)
Today’s prompt: Give
This exchange was extremely typical while Dad lived with us:
Him: Will you get me a [insert name of item, let’s say coffee]?
Me: Give me just a minute.
Him: Oh forget it then.
You would think over three years i would have anticipated how these conversations would go and either a) adjusted my approach or b) learned to modulate my frustration about them.
I’m not beating myself up about this (much) but hoping (I suppose) that if you’re in this position with an elder (or anyone with a brain impairment) in your life, you figure it out sooner than I did.
The irony was never lost on me that a man who seemingly had ALL the time in the world (from the perspective of his daily schedule — he almost always had literally nothing on his agenda for the day except for watching more tennis) …….. didn’t have the cognitive ability to wait for even the briefest period of time.
And then there was me in contrast: always trying to fit in one more moment of work (I work from home) or one of the kazillion things I am always doing because I either have to or want to.
The other irony? On a bigger perspective, he didn’t have all the time in the world. He was 85 when he came to our home (already suffering from the short-term memory issues due to mini-strokes (and I always say — there’s nothing very “mini” about any stroke)) at 85 and had two bouts of cancer while he was here, one of them ultimately ending his life.
We often demand to be given time — we demand that of ourselves, of God, of others.
Maybe the biggest gift we can give ourselves is a different perspective about it all.
We have lost the willingness to discover people’s nuances.
Obviously it’s an enormous overgeneralization to say that, and I do know many people who take the time and effort to see nuance, to listen endlessly, to respect, encourage and keep seeking.
I got on this train of thought because “discover” led me to think of the recent day in October on which Columbus Day had been traditionally celebrated.
There was widespread acknowledgement that the lands Columbus “discovered” were someone else’s lands first.
One discussion I heard was of a possible removal of a Columbus statue (and history aside I am not sure I can envision a NYC without a Columbus Circle but that’s a post for a different day!). Then the Italian-Americans (some Italian-Americans at least) were upset that removing it would offend their heritage.
I am not sure how the Columbus issues are going to resolve but I was happy to see indigenous people recognized.
In the meantime, I wonder what each of us (me included) is doing to discover something in our communities or our world that we may be misunderstanding or minimizing.
Although the title made it clear that there had been some type of shift in her life, this is what came to mind upon seeing her name:
gave a TED talk (the 2nd most watched one ever)
NY Times best seller
has it all together/has achieved things I want to do
Apparently, things have changed over the past year or two for Amy Cuddy.
In short, the research that brought her so much notoriety, in essence research that says “if you physically manifest power (as in doing a power pose in the wings before giving a speech), it will lend you confidence and help you perform better,” was intensely questioned by her peers in a very public way.
When I was searching for this article last night, my email brought up David Burkus’ email series from a year or two ago. Amy Cuddy had written the “New Year’s message.” It was full of what we can do, positivity and optimism.
I had to look up her Twitter handle to help publicize the Burkus series in my freelance capacity at the time. I put her on a pedestal (for all the bulleted reasons above).
That was then.
Now she is writing a book called, “Bullies, Bystanders, and Bravehearts.” I am reminded that bravery exists most when we are standing in the wings of our own life, away from the lit stage, looking at ourselves in the mirror and finding the strength to be our best selves.
I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I can’t resist spell-checking!)
Today’s prompt: Share
There is someone I have shared time with that I owe a letter to, and I’m fixing that today (raw materials all laid out in the pic above).
I met Susan, who is an inmate at a local women’s prison, during one of my visits there with Gulf Winds Track Club as a volunteer with their running group. Over the years (five-ish), we have exchanged letters.
I have fallen way behind on my letter-writing, even though I think about her so often.
I checked the Department of Corrections database (that’s a thing) to see if she is still at that institution (people get moved for various reasons, or released in general) and saw that she is scheduled to be released December 1.
And I remember thinking back when we first started talking, about how extremely far off the release date seemed. And now here it is (almost).
I thought “is it necessary to send a letter when she’ll be getting out so soon?” and then immediately thought “the time must slow to a true crawl when you are THAT. CLOSE. to being done, to seeing your children outside of a constrained visiting room again, to waking up when you want, eating what you want, enjoying the taste of freedom.”
That is why a letter is being written today.
I actually owe quite a few letters and there are some I don’t exactly owe but feel compelled to write.
Laura Petrolino (here she is on Twitter) and I have been friends online for five years but never actually spoke face to face (via video conference) until when we were putting together this post!
It’s a miracle we were able to coordinate a time, given our mutual inability to tell what day it is. Case in point from a 2016 Facebook message exchange:
How Does Our Experience of the World Compare?
As communications professionals, Laura and I are both interested in user-generated content (UGC) — messages and images created by consumers rather than brands — that help tell a brand’s story. In fact, Laura wrote a post, The Magic of User-Generated Content, for Spin Sucks on the topic back in 2014.
For the #BridgingTheGap Campaign, in which 100 Millennial and 100 Midlife Influencers are coming together to blur boundaries, we each decided to share examples of favorite pieces of UGC, and let you see how the perspectives of millennials and fifty-somethings compare.
We needed some kind of structure, so I chose to use the four categories described in this analysis by Kantar Added Value: discovery, fun, status and wellbeing.
Meet my canine friend, Rocky. Rocky has quite an active life on Instagram, and watching him since he was a tiny puppy has been a discovery adventure. What matters for an image like this as UGC is that it clearly shows the brand of bed he is using, but it doesn’t scream “YOU SHOULD BUY THIS PET BED.” It’s more of the kind of thing that would be in the back of my mind if I were in the market for a pet product.
And because I know Rocky, I feel a connection. It’s not the brand saying “you need a Snoozzy bed because your dog will like it.” It’s Rocky’s family saying “here’s a day in Rocky’s life and he’s on Snoozzy because he clearly deserves the best.”
What would you wear to spend a day at the park with your toddler (or, given my generation, perhaps your grandchild)? You would want to be comfortable, prepared for changes in temperature, and look decent enough that it wouldn’t be embarrassing to run into a friend.
Here’s why this works as UGC for me. The main thing I am drawn to is the relationship between the mom and the toddler, and the beautiful setting. When I scroll through the hashtags, I can see that she’s wearing prAna and can choose to pursue it.
Is there anything more affirming that the start of a new married life? Although my niece Olivia had a fantastic photographer at her wedding, this shot is one I grabbed with my iPhone from my perfectly positioned seat as her sisters toasted her and her new groom.
Why is this effective UGC for Hayley Paige? It showcases a bridal gown and two bridesmaids’ gowns in a genuine moment, not an artificial pose. It could appeal to a potential bride OR a mother-of-the bride, all depending on the consumer’s perspective.
This is just a simple selfie (and it sort of bleeds over into the bonus category I’ll be adding…) but it’s so much more as UGC goes. The Charity Miles app is used by runners, walkers and cyclists to generate donations to favorite charities.
The app is designed so that the user can add a picture of himself or herself that can then be shared on social media.
Like I said, this isn’t just any wellbeing selfie, it’s Charity Miles founder Gene Gurkoff and running legend Bart Yasso.
From a UGC standpoint, it makes me say, “gosh, if Bart Yasso is staying healthy and helping a great cause at he same time, maybe I can too.”
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add a “causes” category. I adore advocating on behalf of causes, and hopefully my UGC shows it.
Team RWB is one of my favorite causes. It’s an organization that supports veterans in various ways.
This image of a Team RWB supporter doing the Old Glory Relay evokes the sense of the journey, the walker’s purpose, and the unifying point of the organization.
It works for me as UGC because it makes me say, “hey! I could do this and help veterans like this guy,” rather than “you should care about this and sign up now.” It’s a subtle but powerful difference.
Bridging the Gap
Are Laura and I totally different from each other when it comes to how we view UGC?
There are clear differences in how millennials and baby boomers consume and trust branded content. Millennials enjoy images of real people using a product, whereas baby boomers care more about the quality of the product or service. Boomers also enjoy written and video content just as much as images.
Judging by the images I chose, maybe the difference isn’t actually that big after all.