Category Archives: personal

Her name is Esmerelda…

She sits rather alone and neglected in the corner of the room. It is a place of honor, but the look of her sitting there sedately gives me a pang of guilt. There she is, untouched and lonely… patiently waiting. She has a warmth in her appearance. Golden, like aged honey. Her curves are broad and rounded. Her neck stretches from her body, wider than most. Her voice has gone silent, but when she sang, her tone was soft and mellow, matching her appearance…

Esmerelda is a guitar. She’s a very special guitar. She belonged to my father, a Christmas present almost 50 years ago. At the time she was purchased at the post exchange, she might have cost $15, but even that required my mother to save for months out of household expenses to obtain her. At that time, she was nameless. Her body and strings were new, her personality was yet to be formed, and her name was awaiting a girl to hear it and know it was meant for her…

Over the years, Esmerelda was forgotten in a storage closet as work and family presented demands on time that never allowed my dad to really give attention to her. The Spanish classical, dreadnought body was too large for my small stature back then (I could barely hold her and reach the strings properly), but I always tried and begged to hold her. Once we moved overseas, she was put into long term storage where she remained until my parents retired back to the United States. The intervening years and situations faded her memory, and she was gone. When storage containers were opened, Esmerelda was but one of the myriad of items and memories that emerged. She had suffered from the long years of neglect. Her bridge had disconnected. Strings were hanging loose. The veneer of her fret board appeared loose in places, and the statement was made, “It probably isn’t worth putting in the money to repair it…” but the sight of her had reminded me, and I persisted. I took her gently and begged to be able to nurse her back to health. Perhaps it was then that she whispered to me her name.

One of the local music shops surprised me by being delighted to work with her and get her back in shape. (Turns out it was a good deal less to repair than to try to replace her with a comparable contemporary model, “They do not make them like this anymore…”). Returned to me with new bridge and strings, I set myself the task of trying to recall fingering and strumming and learning to make her sing again… Her voice sounded smoothly through the house, balm to emotions, though fingers were blistered and peeling, not used to the abuse.

Regularly, we would give her opportunity to shine alone or with mandolin and banjo. My father would sit and listen, eyes closed and foot tapping to Salty Dog or Black Velvet Band…

Many hands have held Esmerelda, but since the death of my father, I’ve found it difficult to apply my hands to the strings. I miss her voice… as I miss my dad’s. Much as my father before, I find myself struggling as work and time have been useful excuses to avoid facing Esmerelda’s recrimination for leaving her alone… even in her place of honor. Perhaps… it is her voice whispering to me… “Please come to me. Let me sing again…” Or perhaps it is my dad reminding me today not to miss opportunities merely due to convenient excuses…

May the 4th be with you… Happy Birthday Dad. I miss you.

Time – an ever changing… constant?

With the notable exception of theoretical physics experts and those who have been experimenting with quantum entanglements and the study of anomalous events in the universe, such as black holes, most people believe that time is a constant. It is a fixed measurement that progresses as predictable rate and to which we must all heed and adhere.

The perception of time is a completely different matter. Despite the very impersonal sense of time as a variable, we think of it differently than perhaps mass or volume. We talk about time like a living, breathing thing that can ravage or crawl. It can change course and speed. Perhaps it is due to this almost sentient and entity-like aspect, time becomes more malleable and something of science fiction. Because with human perception you add the of the human experience with hopes, expectations, and apprehensions, time can speed or slow sometimes even within the span of one day. Most of us can remember adults and elders in our youth talking about how time seems to fly by while we weary travelers as children had to clock the seconds and hours slowly awaiting holiday, recess, or any other anxiously awaited event. It is that variability and fluidity that might even lead one to suspect that time might be manipulated.

Even as adults, most of us still experience that lack of consistency when the clock seems to race out of control when a project deadline approaches or might slow to a crawl when we’re stuck in a meeting. For each of us who have scheduled time off or vacation, we’ve felt how the hours might drag until that 5 o’clock whistle after a very long and exhausting week, but the hours of the weekend or planned time away race by, and we find ourselves all too quickly back at the beginning of that first day of the work week with a long stretch of days and hours before us. For parents, you have probably experienced both the over zealous passage of time when you blink and the children you love appear before you as adults, but perhaps you also remember when you wondered if the time would ever come that you weren’t cleaning up apocalyptic messes and strange scientific experiments found under beds or were able to downsize to a shoulder bag that wasn’t roughly the equivalent of a suitcase because it was impossible to go out unprepared for every eventuality of parenting woe.

One of the most difficult time anomalies is grief. For those who have suffered loss, the time seems to stand still. It can feel as if the world stopped turning just for you and will never regain a normal rate, but the passage of time for everyone else continued a pace without notice. However, you find eventually that years have passed. You wonder how you missed the time going by and moving forward. You ask, how did that happen? Or can it really have been a decade? And, yet, sometimes the grief stabs with surprising intensity at unexpected moments, still fresh and clear and painful, almost as if no time has passed at all. While time does pass, and the pain eventually dulls, it can sometimes bridge the gaps to present images and emotions as clear as the day they originally formed with no fading. That is, again, the difference between the constant and the human perception. We call it memory, and even when painful, it can often be precious.

One of my favorite depictions of that strange difference between the constant of time and the human perception was penned by Shakespeare. And so… I will let the Bard take the stage to describe:

ROSALIND:  By no means, sir. Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons. I’ll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

ORLANDO:  I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

ROSALIND:  Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized. If the interim be but a se’nnight, time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.

ORLANDO:  Who ambles time withal?

ROSALIND:  With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain—the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These time ambles withal.

ORLANDO:  Who doth he gallop withal?

ROSALIND:  With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

ORLANDO:  Who stays it still withal?

ROSALIND:  For lawyers on vacation, because they sleep their holidays away, with no sense of how time moves.

Thus, until the next… may time treat you well.

Boundaries… I haz them

…as should we all. Boundaries are healthy. Boundaries keep us balanced. Boundaries let us be individuals. I’m not sure when it actually happened. It seems that little by little as time has passed, people have given up their privacy in the name of freedom… and waltzed way past boundaries in the name of false entitlement… ok, maybe a little license there, but this is a bit of a rant.

I’m not knocking freedom or liberation. I firmly believe in the right of free speech and thought. However, privacy and boundaries are something that has become more and more fluid with the popularity of social media and the revelations about technology and the ability of agencies and individuals to not only observe the intimate details of life but possibly even steal a few of them. Even in the midst of outcries for breaches of privacy and accusations of even the government overstepping some boundaries of what they should and should not have access to for private citizens, people still willingly share private information via social media with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, followers… the world (for those who like to go public on their profiles). Boundaries between what is personal or private versus what is suitable for others to know and consume have blurred to the point of near invisibility for some. I do not necessarily say it is a bad thing to be open and trusting, but I personally have reservations with airing all the aspects of ones life with the public at large. I also believe that while you are free to express yourself, you are also free to experience consequences that accompany that expression, positive or negative. Just keep that bit in mind.

In truth, people do not need (and should not have) access to your intimate life constantly. Everyone should have some sort of sanctum sanctorum, fortress of solitude… batcave? Ok, so overly dramatic, but still there should be some place, even non-physical to which an individual can retreat and be private. Even family and partners need some way to have their own space, sometimes if it is merely in the privacy of their own thoughts. It is exhausting and can be somewhat unhealthy to be constantly exposed, even if to a limited audience. What has become disturbing about the open-book philosophy and current trends of oversharing is that certain entities gain a false sense of entitlement to lives that are not their own. What do I mean by that? Well, it has become almost common place for friends, family, employers, coworkers, and employees to feel they are entitled to know the details of the lives of anyone and everyone no matter their relationship to the individual in question. They want to know about your interests, your family, your stresses, your struggles, and of course your failures. They want all the minute, intimate details, and those who choose not to display personal items or pictures of loved ones or don’t feel as free sharing private scenarios or feelings are sometimes perceived and labeled as negative, stand-offish, cold, angry, or not participating in the culture of the group. In the workplace, individuals who keep to themselves and choose not to share details of their time away from the office or office hours engender suspicion and occasionally criticism.

In the non-work relationships, the phenomenon can be observed in slightly different ways. Terms like “vague-booking” have arisen to describe social media posts that are cryptic, dramatic, and lack the excessive detail to explain the personal matters that have become expected. Friends and family sometimes become offended or feel injured if they find that events have transpired without their knowledge. Nothing, it seems, is sacred.

But some things should be. Boundaries are good. They need not be seen as divisive, because separations of individuality can be a remarkably positive thing. It prevents emmeshment. Division does not have to mean antagonism. Difference doesn’t necessarily presuppose disagreement. I read recently that empathic people (no, I do not mean Counselor Troy from STNG) have a difficult time with boundaries. They feel what other people feel, and they have an uncanny ability to draw complete strangers into telling their life stories. It is a gift, but it can also be amazingly taxing emotionally and psychologically. It can also be invasive, intrusive, and unpleasant for others who may not feel comfortable with that level of interaction. Yet another reason boundaries can be a very good thing. Just because you can pick up on the emotional tenor of others doesn’t mean they want you to share it or even ask them about it.

So, sometimes the message to the world at large needs to be, “No, you do not get to rent space in my head.” The space and time of my life to which you have access is of my choosing. None of us need permission to step away and recover. We have a right to be able to do just that. Additionally, the details of your private life and mine (and they harm none) are the property of no one else.

I can set my boundaries. It may have taken me an undisclosed number of years to learn the trick of it, and I’m still working on my skills in this area. We all need to realize that we don’t have to give anyone or everyone access to our inner most thoughts and feelings, and it should always be our choice. Choose your boundaries and set them knowingly, recognize those of others, and perhaps we can all be a bit healthier in our interpersonal interactions.

Physical Fit: Of inertia, momentum, set backs, and comebacks?

Break it down for me…

Warning: This post gets serious. Just letting you know. It isn’t my usual level of humor or even snark. I am letting you know up front, but I’m keeping it real with you all and hopefully it will help someone.

I file this post under the physical fit I pitched a while back, but to be completely honest, it actually applies to everything I do. I have described myself on occasion as the all-time-champion-queen-of-the-list-makers. This pertains primarily to my habit of breaking down my days, weeks, tasks, and projects into lists of smaller pieces that I quite literally cross out or check off as I go. Why? Well, for one, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be (it happens to most of us eventually). While I can remember in the most minute detail conversations and embarrassments and general unpleasant occurrences from days gone by, if I don’t write it down, I will sometimes forgets pants… ok, slight exaggeration, but I do find that writing things down keeps me from forgetting various important tasks that I need to get done. Secondly, sometimes the impact of the things we face each day can be so overwhelming, it just seems easier to turn away and give up. If that overwhelming mountain is broken up into steps… well, more on that later.

So, why under physical fit again? Well, because a very recent conversation with a person very dear to me made me remember that we all need to feel a sense of accomplishment, and sometimes those accomplishments can be relatively modest. Additionally, we all need support, and it helps to know we aren’t alone.

Last month I hit a wall. It was a big one. Construction on said wall started early in 2017 and continued throughout the year in fits and starts. A series of unfortunate events comprised of personal injuries, financial traumas, betrayals by family and friends, injustices, general cruelty and meanness by various in society, and grief seemed to participate in a competition for what could leave the biggest dent. Mostly we just keep rolling with punches and remember that there are so many people in the world fighting bigger battles and facing worse hardships. But starting in about August the construction plan on that wall of mine must have gone into overdrive. In a horrific cascade, I found myself facing the loss of seven close friends or relatives from August through the end of the year. Some were after long struggles with illness, but others were completely unexpected and devastating in their impact.

Around about mid-December, I gave up. Seriously, that is about the only way I can describe it. I woke up and just didn’t have it in me to try any more. I picked up the bloody white towel (totally metaphorical) and hurled it into the center of the ring. I was done. I didn’t care about progress or gains or losses or getting better or worse or living or dying anymore. I quit working out. I quit minding my diet (not just the caloric intake but actual allergens… more on that later). I just couldn’t see the point.

Just to be clear, if I had not had patients, clients, etc. to see, I would not have left my house and probably would not have bathed or changed clothing… Sound familiar? If you or anyone you know has depression, it should. In speaking with the person I mentioned earlier in this post (and I hope he’s ok with me sharing even if I don’t include his name), I found just as I had heard from patients and colleagues and other friends around that same time that so many of us were hit particularly hard in 2017 and particularly in the latter half of the of the year (and continued during the first of 2018). He mentioned suicidal thoughts at certain points and feeling so low that death seemed a better option. Several other people have shared the same… including me. What we were all experiencing was pain, individualized and excruciating. Depression can be debilitating, and it can be worsened by seasonal impact of light (or lack thereof). The stigma attached often prevents those suffering from trying to get help or even support.

For the most part, all of those who shared with me their dark times and dark thoughts have made it through to this point. While not all are out of the woods, they are still fighting back, and now knowing they aren’t necessarily alone.

I still didn’t get to that physical fit part, did I? So, one of the things that exacerbated my own plummet into the pit was that I gave up one of the things that actually helped… my workouts and exercise in general. Not to mention, those allergens… told you I would come back to it. In that headlong rush into self-destruction I ate all the things. Mostly all the things that my body has already indicated it doesn’t really get along with so much. I ended up with a mouth full of sores and blisters and… you all don’t want to know the rest. So, on top of the existential pain, I had the rather debilitating physical pain that at one point did not allow me to consume much more than water. Some choices carry their own punishments, and my body decidedly wanted me to remember why I don’t eat all the things.

After a month away, I dragged myself back to the gym. It wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t pleasant, and I definitely had to make myself step through the door. It was almost like starting over that very first day I had the fit. It felt as if I had lost every inch of ground I had covered in that time. I felt like a failure… and I nearly ran back to my car and retreated back to my dark pit.

But I didn’t. It was embarrassing to have to start over, but I recognized that I probably needed to take it slow. So, I did. I broke it into pieces. It wasn’t about an hour or even 40 minutes. I broke it down to quite literally 5 minute increments. I can put up with anything for 5 minutes, right? And that is how I got through it. That is how I got through that first day back at the gym, and the second. We can all face the difficult for 5 minutes, can’t we? For any insurmountable, horrible obstacle that life throws… break it down. And talk to someone. Reach out to the people around you. They may be struggling, too. We can get through this, even if it is a piece at a time.

The time change brought all the boys to my yard…

And the girls… and maybe not so much my yard. Rather more like MY GYM. A week or two ago, I walked into my local repository of all things fitness, and I honestly thought I had hit a strange time vortex that transported me straight into gym-tending season. Arriving at my usual uncaffeinated and pre-dawn hour, I saw… people. Lots of them. Normally, I go to the gym at this particularly uncivil time of day not only to just have a chance of shoehorning a workout into my schedule, but also because it is the least populated time for the gym… or possibly the least populated hour during which I am vaguely conscious.

But yes… all the people were there. Not only were they there, they were milling about and generally congregating in ways that made me quite uncomfortable. Normally in the wee hours of a weekday, I’ve got the place practically to myself with perhaps one or two other regulars. We all go about our programmed routines studiously avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. On the rare occasions that we accidently make eye contact or reach for the same dumb bell, there is a curt bro-nod and polite shift while we accommodate the other and move on. Instead of my usual tribe, I beheld a gaggle of strangers. They were impeding routes and interrupting sets and sitting on the benches… Yes, sitting.

Every Smith machine and bench press was occupied by tank top clad, confused-looking individuals who were… not actually moving barbell or dumb bell… no. They were staring at their phones. The four or possibly five of us that normally wander freely among the free weights stood in paralyzed perplexity as we tried to squeeze our way into at least completing our training without unintentionally touching the crowding masses around us.

Had I gotten lost? Had I lost time… like months of it? What happened to my normally zen-like peaceful place of fitness?

Oh wait… then it dawned on me. The anachronistic practice of altering time-keeping pieces to somehow fool people into thinking that the days aren’t getting shorter had occurred. Yes, my friends, Daylight Savings, or rather the return to Standard Time, had struck again.

The practice of this clockwork tango was originally proposed back in the late 1800’s and first implemented (believe it or not) in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary back around the first World War. The United States followed along not long after, and the whole time marching on… and back… and on again has been confusing us ever since. Some countries don’t even do the whole springing forward and falling back routine anymore. Thank goodness for that little mnemonic, am I right?

Anyhow, aside from totally messing with the circadian rhythm of the demonic feline who lives with me, the putting forward or back of the clock numbers doesn’t really impact my life all that much (unless I forget to do it). However, this year it did have the added “entertainment” value of increased population at the gym that I finally realized was very likely due to a few people perhaps forgetting to set their clocks back. Well… good for them. I hope they enjoyed their day of being ahead of the game at least for that one time. Now that we’ve eased back into that Standard time… I have my bench press to myself again. Thank goodness!

And now You’re back…

Well… I’m back. Not so much from outer space, but more like from a chasm of complete disarray that has held me prisoner for most of this year. While I think a good many of us started out 2017 with some trepidation, I actually felt on pretty good footing in a personal sense. I saw some light in the financial tunnel that did not appear to be an oncoming train for once. My professional life was doing not badly. I had physical fitness and health well in hand… and… I should have known better.

Along about mid-year, the universe decided to test the aggregate limits of my mental fortitude by throwing every aspect of my life into a wood chipper. I can’t decide if it was strength test or more of an agility thing as I kept bobbing and weaving to dodge those “slings and arrows” that I’ve talked about before (my apologies to the Bard).

Every time I thought that I could quit paddling so hard and relax for a minute, something else would hit and off we’d go spinning towards the rocks. Grief is a helluva thing, y’all. So, I paddled faster and harder just to keep myself and those I love above water as best I could.

The upshot? Well, every time I thought I was inspired to come back to my faithful and loyal audience, all I could think is “What a load of depressing crap this is…?” and I didn’t feel like putting that off on any of you. But now that the year is starting to spin down, I’ve seen several of my friends and colleagues participating in NaNoWriMo. No, I’m not going to be enthralling any of you with fictional prose, because the truth is that I have no gift for that. There are way too many others of my acquaintance who are better suited. So, I will let them entertain all of us with their offerings… they are quite good, I’m telling you.

I will celebrate the month by trying to open up a bit more to you, my few readers. See if I can dust the rust off and come up with something that doesn’t read like a typed version of Droopy Dog or Eeyore on a Quaalude. Who knows? This might be just the treatment the doctor (and by doctor, I do mean me. Ha!) ordered. I didn’t lay down and die (no matter how much I might have felt like it at times). So… for now, I will survive.

 

Rant: “Don’t tell me I’m pretty…” Huh?!?

And just like that, a multitude of responses just popped into the mind of anyone reading that simple statement.

She’s fishing for compliments.

That’s some really low self-esteem.

You are beautiful. Everyone has beauty inside them.

Why should you wish to conform to the unrealistic expectations of society…?

Why not smart or strong…?

I’m probably going to get my feminist card revoked and someone will kick me out of the club, but I have a serious beef with some of the prevailing attitudes of media, bloggers, and spewers of what I might call the social-justice-warrior-theme.

Recently, I read an article that said (and I paraphrase) even the positive messages given to women are actually negative. This incredibly oxymoronic (with emphasis on the moron) and confusing diatribe proclaimed that our new body positive mantras proclaimed far and wide were detrimental to women because while appearing to be empowering statements are undermined by subtle phrasing that “privileges male pleasure above all else.” What?!? So… no matter what you say to compliment, empower, or just give someone a compliment (well, a female someone, that is) is merely supporting the patriarchal overlords and stamping upon the spirits of the sisters… oh, my stars, really?!? While I’m thinking about it, just because you want to be perceived as attractive, why assume that it is the opposite gender that someone is trying to impress. Does a preference for same gender somehow make one immune to the desire to be attractive to them? I don’t think so. But I digress. Most of us enjoy hearing “You look awesome” or “That is especially ravishing” or even “Dang, you look hot!” We like it. We get a little zing in our swing. And apparently… that’s not ok?

From this particular perspective comes the inability to appreciate appreciation… Yes, I said that. I’ve never quite understood why some people bristle when given compliments (or having doors held or chairs for that matter). I mean, I completely understand how it might get a little tiring and frustrating to never be appreciated for your intellect or talent as a female (which begs the question, do men get tired of being praised for the masculine non-physical traits instead of physical attributes?). However, just because someone tells you that you look amazing in your outfit doesn’t mean they think your appearance is all you have to offer. Well… I mean, some people are just objectifying jerks, but they are likely to treat everyone that way. They very likely see everyone on the planet as objects with which they interact. It’s called narcissism. That doesn’t mean that all compliments from all people are bad, demeaning, or undermining the empowerment of your individuality and self-confidence.

And what, pray tell, is so wrong with wanting to be found attractive?!? The overall tone of the piece I read (mentioned above) was that somehow, in some way, I was flawed for wanting to be perceived as attractive or sexy. Um… hate to tell the author, but this is one of those evolutionary drives that is programmed into our DNA. Being desirable from the perspective of Og and Uma (those two get a ton of mileage in my blogs these days) meant that they had resources… they possibly got to replicate their genetics via procreation. Og didn’t get bent and say to Uma “but you don’t appreciate the way I knap the flint…” and Uma didn’t get upset because Og wasn’t appreciative of her ability to count the days in a moon cycle. So, we evolved to get the warm fuzzies and tinglies when someone thinks we are pretty or sexy. That is part of our genetic make up. It’s ok, really it is. It is nice to be told that someone finds us attractive. Or at least I thought it was until the media and various opinionated social bloggers and whoever else told me that it wasn’t ok for me to like that.

I think I get where they are coming from, and I believe it has good intentions. The desire to feel attractive is very different from the overwhelming pressure to adhere to a particular image. Being objectified by appearance rather than appreciated as an individual; that, my friends can get super unhealthy… But boy howdy does the message miss the mark somewhere. Where did it go so very wrong? I dislike these hopped up pseudo-psychologists who think it is somehow very wrong to like being perceived as pretty, sexy, or attractive.

So, where was it supposed to go? I’m just guessing, but I believe that the idea is that we can be self-empowering and feel good without any external judgment. That’s pretty awesome. What isn’t so awesome is that people got the idea that in order to have this internal sense of positive well-being we can’t appreciate the appreciation of others. And that just sucks and is a horrible way to live in a social interactive environment. If you are trapped in isolation having no other humans with which to interact, groovy. Telling yourself that you are good enough and smart enough is what you need, but there is still the “gosh darn it people like me” part that speaks to a social component. As humans we are programmed to get good vibes from being liked and appreciated by others.

Now, the pervading and sometimes overwhelming sense that I get from media and various and very vocal groups is that women are more susceptible than men to this whole objectification and self-image issues. That… is a crock. I have many male friends who are as much or much more body conscious than I am. The idea that societal expectations of physical beauty are only a detriment to those of us with lady parts is a fallacy.

My friend to whom I vented a large blast of frustration and ire on this topic this morning took it to an equality place. He remarked that many of the “third wave” feminists label compliments as objectifying in attempt achieving equality by oppressing the oppressors… or something along those lines. In other words, at some point, being equal was not so much about actual equality but in being superior. And that brings up another problem I have. I am not equal. Chances are, I never will be equal… to anyone. I am unique. I do not have the same talents or abilities of my friends. I lack the knowledge and experience of my elders. It has nothing to do with my gender but my self. I am different but no less valuable, and that is awesome. I am neither superior or inferior due to my genetics and biology. I strive every day to be the best I can for myself and for those I love.

So, does that mean that I’m undermining myself because part of my desire to accomplish is for others? If I buy into the claptrap of the article that set me off on this rant, the answer would be “yes.” By their standard, I should only work towards betterment for myself and my own satisfaction. Maybe that is true, but in doing for those I love, I am also serving myself. So, because I feel good about making people I care about feel good, does that make it bad? Ok… off on the spiral I go, bringing up the concept of altruism and the selfish gene theory and all that jazz. Trust me, we don’t have time for that here.

Back to the original issue. I’m tired of people telling me and everyone else that wanting to feel attractive or working towards a goal to please someone else is wrong and unhealthy. It’s not. It’s natural. Being owned or dominated by the perception of others is a different matter. We should all be free to be who we are and feel good about those things that make us feel confident, healthy… and yes, sexy. So, if someone tells you that you look good… it’s actually pretty awesome to say “Thanks” and believe it.

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

But words will never hurt me…

What a load of utter crap! Honestly, this is possibly the biggest lie that children are taught as rhyming wisdom to carry with them through their life.

Most of us learned this in early primary or elementary school (depending upon your location). I get it. I truly do understand what the familiar, childish mantra is supposed to teach and convey. It is meant to remind us that who we are is what counts, that what people say about us doesn’t matter. It is supposed to remind the fragile egos within those developing young psyches that someone saying horrible things about you doesn’t make them true and cannot truly harm the person you are.

However, it is now in an era of horrible bullying and freedom of expression where people seem to have forgotten what it is to be kind or to even be polite that we realize that the words can do as much or more lasting damage than those imaginary sticks and stones ever could. In truth, physical injuries (except for those so traumatic that they permanently maim or remove body parts) heal. Even when there are the physical reminders of scars or the twinge when it rains that recalls the old wounds, it doesn’t generally plague the individual in the same way that psychological and emotional damage does. Physical injuries also seem to carry with them at least the garnered sympathy of others. Psychological and emotional wounds are invisible injuries and scars that even when known by others are often viewed as a personal weakness instead of the respect given to those who bear up under a physical ailment.

Why is it that we hold onto the negative so strongly? Why is it that our past mistakes, hurts, and humiliations haunt us? Is it that we are all psychological masochists reveling in self-torture (often in the wee, dark hours of the night or early morning)?

I have a couple of personal theories on this. First, I believe that it is an evolutionary feature of humanity to more easily recall negative events, stimuli, and experiences than their more positive counterparts. Oh my lord, why? Why would this be a strength design? Well, I’ll tell you. Most of our collective ancestors survived long enough to reproduce through avoiding death or impotence-causing injury. They managed to do so through learning that what hurts or makes for the unpleasant experiences generally didn’t bode well for continued health and well-being. How we’ve lost this avoidance-survival instinct is anyone’s guess, but that is meat for another discussion.

So, caveman Og finds an interesting creature and pokes it with a stick. Creature objects and shares with Og the error of his ways in the form of a nasty, and very painful bite. Og says, “Hmmmm, Og not poke at this type of creature again. That caused the ouch.” Creature lives. Og learns not to annoy things that cause potentially nasty infectious wounds. Uva, watching from the sidelines also learns this from the loud bellowing and evident discomfort she observes in Og, and thus, the learning. Same might be said for the pretty red berries that cause the nasty stomach pains and rather disgusting gastrointestinal responses… or from an observer if they realize that eating pretty berries resulted in death and death like symptoms. The point being that avoidance and remembering the unpleasant meant that Og and Uva’s children, grandchildren, and descendants lasted and reproduced far longer than the unfortunate others who saw the same snake again and forgot that poking it caused the painful response or eating the pretty berries meant that you breathe no more.

Ok… and because I write these posts in between life and other things that occur when we aren’t looking, I have to admit that I had an alternate theory that totally escaped out the window while I was watching the shiny squirrels raving away in my office. 

So, alternate and #2 theory not available at the moment. So, I’ll just say that from an evolutionary and learning perspective, we hold onto the negative because that is how we managed to survive. However, the upshot is that physical injury… by sticks, stones, and more damaging options… can still result in recovery and healing, and sympathy. People can see those things, and they see why we hurt.

But those words… Yeah, those words stick. Whether we want them to or not, we keep them. We record them, and we reflect on them years later. I can still recall words and names called on playgrounds decades ago. They plague us when we attempt new experiences, or merely try a new approach. We replay the harshest criticisms and every ugly jeer exclaimed. Sadly, the closer our relationship to the person who said the words, the longer they will remain in our memories; the deeper the scars. (Yes, scars are not merely a physical phenomenon.) Even so, a close personal relationship isn’t necessary. The random critical comment from a stranger can embed itself for years, cropping up at inopportune times to ignite insecurity and doubt.

Because we have an even broader arena these days with social media, I find that words have even more power than in days gone by. The pen might be mightier than a sword, but the keyboard and mobile app can go nuclear. Many have said that younger generations are fragile or lack strength of character to stand against the “just words” their elders faced bravely and without any perceived injury, but under a barrage of negative, hurtful words, any of us might falter. People underestimate the power of words, even in the light of what can be accomplished with just a mere 140 characters at a time.

And with that…

Words have power. We need to remember that and use them wisely. We need to remember that what we say (or type) can be put down for posterity… and not just because the internet remembers all. The human mind keeps a record. How do you wish to be remembered? Words can harm… or they can build. They can help and they can hurt. Words an inflict injury and malicious intent; but the words we share have the potential to also impart knowledge or wisdom or joy or mirth. Choose your words.

And with that said:

Sticks and stones can break my bones; but words can mark forever…

Use your words. Use them wisely. They may be more powerful that you know.

The New Cheese: Hip Lingo

I’ve come to a very difficult conclusion in my life… I’m old.

At least, that is the best and most feasible explanation for what I might term as an involuntary revulsion and full body shudder when watching current events, attending meetings, listening to conference calls, or reading emails and allegedly professional publications. I’ve seriously tried to find any other explanation than my downward slide into the deterioration of advanced years, but I was finally forced to face my fears and dreads. I’m old. I’ve reached that stage of maturity that twitches at the extreme levels of informality and familiarity that speaks only given names and coins terminology that Webster never intended. I’m not the cool, hip career woman I wanted to be…

Did I really want to be? And… that is a topic for a whole other post. My point here is a peeve of mine (pet? not really): The overuse of “hip” jargon, slang, and familiarity in allegedly professional contexts. Honestly, I do understand the desire to appeal to the young and innovative generations, but seriously? Do we have to give over all dignity? And to be frank, what does some of that crap mean?!?

Just for example, let me run through some of the more glaring vocabulary issues.

Side hustle. This is also known to most people as a second job. Yeah, so apparently that doesn’t sound nearly cool enough. Therefore making it sound like something you could possibly be arrested for on the street corner while catching a communicable disease sounds oh so much better.

Buy-in. This one isn’t nearly so twitch-inducing to me, but it is possibly due to over-saturation levels of hearing it when I worked briefly in the advertising segment of a business publication (yes, that happened… I don’t like to talk about it). Anyhow, the problem is minor, but here it is. This terminology is fine if you are talking about investing… or possibly poker. However, it has come to be used in business situations as accepting an idea. It has the power of making someone who doesn’t actually go along with the proposal feel that they are missing out on a deal, right? “ACT NOW… While supplies last…WE HAVE OPERATORS STANDING BY…

Move the needle. Unless you are a seismic event, or possibly a lie detector? What people generally mean by this is to point out that a change will or won’t actually have a measurable effect. See what I did there? I used actual vocabulary that explains that any change of process should be impactful. It should have a measurable outcome. In other words, we don’t just do something to say “look what we are doing.” It should have a result. That said, this little phrase probably sounded truly profound… the first time. After saying it for every bloody process change, it rather loses that shiny new profundity. When it is applied to process changes that have no appreciable effect? It loses all meaning.

Corporate values. Only one thing to say about this one. Corporations don’t have values. People have values. Corporations have policies. Boil it down, people. The leadership of a company values certain human characteristics and believes that those characteristics will support the identified mission of the company? Awesome. Then, say that.

Take the temperature. Because someone might have a fever or be incubating a virus? Because you want to see what to wear today? What the actual…? Apparently, this little phrase has taken the place of hoary ol’ chestnuts like “testing the water.” I suppose it is meant to say that you are evaluating whether someone is amenable to an idea? Like, “I think they are warming up to me,” or perhaps, “She seems quite cool in her demeanor.” However, it seems just a little invasive, to be honest. I always seem to picture a rectal thermometer… ok, so no one else does that? My bad…

Game-changer. This one makes my list because, honestly, overuse. Everything is a “game-changer” it seems. Truth be told, the results never quite answer to the hype there. Additionally… it’s not all a game. If everything seems like a game to you, might I interest you in an MMPI for psychopathy?

Empower. Great word. Improperly used most of the time. I believe entirely in empowering people. That is to say that I think individuals should be given the tools and knowledge to advocate for themselves. I think they should be given opportunity to grow. However, I see this used more often by managers, directors, and various forms of business leadership as a way to spin their disengagement from advocating for their own employees. Instead of abandoning them to sink or swim, “I’m empowering them to act on their own behalf.” Um… really? I don’t think that is what that is supposed to mean.

Open the kimono. So, I’ll just disclose here that I’ve never truly heard this one used myself, but I read it in an article and snarfled my coffee. There are so many things wrong with this phrase, I do not have sufficient time or space to innumerate. It is meant to be a clever euphemism for “reveal the information.” The levels of cultural and gender insult… well, let me just say that I hope that I never actually encounter this phrase in real life. Lewd. Inappropriate. Slightly perverted.

Think outside the box. Again, overuse, and if we truly examine the number of years that everyone has been encouraged to think outside of this imaginary box, it begs the question: Is anyone thinking inside it anymore? Does the box even exist? Maybe the new innovative thinker thinks inside the box.

Drill down/Deep dive. I put these phrases together because they generally mean the same thing. It is someone’s attempt to illustrate getting into the most minute of details regarding a project or report. Often the reason for this is a negative outcome or errors. It is technically not that offensive, but it is unnecessarily “cool” terminology. It makes it sound like an adventure instead of what it truly is: A lot of time examining huge amounts of information looking for what amounts to a specific needle in a pile of other remarkably similar needles.

And now to the section that I like to call “grammatically challenged” or “what part of speech are you?”

Solutioning. This is not a word. Most spellcheckers will actually scream at you for even trying to type it. So, stop it! Solution is a noun. It is NOT a verb of transitive, action, or passive form. You cannot add -ed or -ing to it. The word you are looking for is solve. When we are trying to make the meaning of this word an action, we say SOLVE! or solving or solves or solved. We can resolve. However solution is the result of solving… unless we are talking about chemistry and that is the combination of two or more elements… or is that a compound. Anyhow, the moral of the story… stop trying to solution things.

Leverage (as a verb). Again, see above. A lot of folks like to use this to mean influence or put on pressure to change a situation or opinion in their own favor. This would be applying leverage.

Ask (as a noun). I’m not precisely sure where this came from originally. A friend actually told me that this is a prison culture form of speaking. In that context, “the ask” is a favor for which the person doing the asking is promising a future claim to the person granting the request. Oh, and yes, that is actually the correct form: The request. Ask is a verb.

Synergize/Synergistic. Blame Stephen Covey for this language/grammar mutilation. When he wrote about those 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it was mind-blowing, ground-breaking, and a few other hyperbolic terms to describe common sense concepts collected and marketed in palatable form. He made the noun synergy into a verb to imply cooperation of two or more individuals with unique talents for the purpose of unified positive outcome. It’s been nearly 30 years now, it’s totally ok to use proper words again to describe collaboration.

Learning, or learnings (as a noun). This is another of those things that people say, going for clever… and missing. We do not get “learnings” from educational seminars or training programs. We can learn new facts and ideas. We can develop new skills. When I read or hear people talking about their “learnings,” I generally think they skipped class.

Socialize it. Apparently this is the new way we disseminate information. We no longer announce or provide. I blame social media for this one. Since Twitter and Facebook have a broader outreach capacity than your general office memo, the concept of broadcasting information that needs to reach masses of individuals can no longer be merely “told” or “shared.” I suppose socializing also makes it sound more fun. I suppose I can also blame certain psychological concepts. We talk about socializing children to help them learn to interact with others. However, might I call your attention to the fact that information shared doesn’t interact and doesn’t need to learn not to bite the other children in daycare.

Actionable. If you are not an attorney discussing legal aspects of a contract or case, please do not use this. Just no. Thank you.

Hack. “What’s wrong with hack?” I hear you say. We can hack through underbrush and hack fallen trees to create combustible fuel for warmth. The term has been adopted now by the computer age to mean taking apart code and sneaking through security. Sadly, now, it is now used as a noun… and verb… applied to life? I really do not need to hack up my life. It is quite unnecessary to damage it further. To call something a “life hack” sounds catchy and modern, clever… slightly illegal… and ridiculous. They aren’t hacks. Hack is a verb. It is a strategy or an idea or a helpful piece of advice that might make something challenging more reasonable or simple. That’s not hacking. That’s helping.

There are others. Of course, there are; like everyone calling each other by first names and acting like everyone is old college chums in every board meeting. Overly familiar behavior, lack of formality, and general misuse of language. Every day someone, somewhere misuses a word that becomes popular slang because of the situation or the popularity of said person. Seemingly without end, I continue to hear these newly coined terms and assassinated parts of speech thrown about like rice at a wedding. Oh, wait, we don’t throw rice at weddings anymore. There’s that age thing again. It would just be nice to say what we mean without trying so hard to sound hip or cool. It’s become rather passé, which is the opposite of hip and cool, right? What I think, personally, would be fabulous would be for professional people in professional situations to actually conduct themselves and sound like they have intelligence and a sense of decorum and respect for their colleagues. That, in my so humble opinion, would be the hippest. And then again… maybe I’m just old.

 

Happy St. Hangover’s Day…

In the post-shenanigans, early morning light, I made my way to the gym. It was slightly less populated, a concession I assume to the late night revelry of all those who like to pretend to their Irish-ness for one day of the year in America. There were, however, considerably more people than I truly expected. Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental or pessimistic about these things. I honestly expected the gym to be a veritable ghost town with only the staff for company, but there were sufficient numbers to make finding a parking spot a bit of a challenge… but now that I think about this, the cars in the parking lot might have been vehicles abandoned by their owners in lieu of a safer Uber or Lyft option to risking jail or death on binge-drinking extravaganza day.

I am half ashamed to admit that my own celebratory activities were quite tame in comparison to years gone by… it is perhaps my own concession (to age and responsibility). Though I did have the good fortune (granted by the fae and leprechaun greeting me at the door to the establishment chosen) to spend time with friends, family, and many faces from the past, I gave up my attempts to be cool, festive, or lively before ever the dusk had given way to the dark. I made it home still quite in possession of my senses (and sobriety) and made my normal bedtime ritual. My younger self would have shaken a mournful head (to be quickly followed with aspirin for the pain that action would likely have caused). Yet, I do not feel so disappointed. I was able to have a good time without the overindulgence and bad choices that would have resulted in feeling like poo this morning or potentially even less pleasant outcomes.

And so… I went to the gym and will now head off to work (yes, I’m working on a Saturday). Instead of tired, achy, and vaguely nauseous, I feel relieved and rather proud that I managed to have a good time spending time with the people I love without abusing my body (or liver) to the point of extended recovery necessity. We live. We learn… well, at least until the next time that temptation presents me with potential bad choices from which to learn more lessons. I hope that everyone recovers well today. Remember to stay hydrated, and that time and rest are really the only true cures for a hangover… and for those of you who indulged in copious amounts of green beverages, remember not to scream too loudly in the restroom (the tiles reverberate and your head will hurt worse). Cheers dears!