I had a hot-mess-mom moment this morning. Well, that's the whole year, but stay with me...
I was deep into writing a new book, I'm about 30 pages (60 paperback sized pages) in and it's wonderful. Fah-Low has returned. I have thanked the gods profusely. I think it's Mark Twain who used to say that he wrote every day but Sunday... he just didn't want to "lose that thread." It could be someone else and I don't have the exact reference, but I get the concept.
That thread, that invisible, magical tether to the creative realm, from which story flows, incessantly, like an IV drip... if you're lucky. And I am, for the moment.
So, there I was... mid-scene, and the battery was low on the ol' Macbook. I couldn't find the charger cable. Anywhere. Upstairs, downstairs. High, low, it was gone. I began to panic... then, I noticed the little plug-in rapid charger for my Canon Sureshot, with the battery inside, is also not where I left it. More panic.
I prayed to Mimi, my departed maternal Italian grandmother to go get St. Anthony for me, because that's what you do when things are missing and you grew up with old Italian ladies who thought chanting with necklaces could help you locate valuable items.
It might've worked though... because... I surrendered to my frenzy. I pushed everything off my plate. S l o w e d down. Made the bed (found the charger.) Tidied up the table and the room. (Found the camera battery.)
Thanks Mimi and St. Anthony.
And I was so delighted and laughing at myself... and saw the lesson in it. And I wanted to talk about it, so this just in... I am recording a new bunch of episodes for The Jelly, my podcast. I see the metrics, I appreciate you listening (still!) and I have more for you. Soon.
I forgot how much I like to hear myself talk. Made up with my SnoBall.
Those of you who’ve followed me for a good while know that I write through my life. If I find myself in an emotional mess, in a state of confusion, if I find myself wondering about the nature of things, if I feel lost... I craft a question and dive in. I write through it and heal. I write my way out.
I haven’t written for a while, because I’m in such a lovely, yet challenging, state of just being. Self-care. Focus. Staying grounded and doing good work. Setting boundaries and knowing priorities.
And I love that. The right project will find me when it needs to and I’ll be ready for it. Truth be told, my goals and dreams are changing, the more I simplify toward what I really want from life.
And in retrospect, it’s been fascinating, the “archaeology of me.” ... all through my worries and oddness post-pregnancy, I wondered why I was so anxious. Like, beyond normal. No one understood. No one could see into my head.
I had to piece it all together in my own - it wasn’t PPD, it wasn’t baby blues. The doctors said I was fine, just antsy, and it would go away. Or I could take a drug. I was just unsteady and irrationally afraid. All the time. I wanted to get to the root of it. I wanted to face it and understand it, even if no one else could.
I could. It was my life, after all.
On the other side of Wild Horses and Mistakes, I realized that my anxiety condition from my youth and teen years came back but with a new vengeance. And a bit of paranoia. A new social media addiction wasn’t helping things... anyone who’s watched The Social Dilemma will understand why.
So... a little therapy here, a little yoga there. Lots of meditation. A focus on the right foods. Better sleep habits. Exercise. Choosing joy. The right mentors to follow. The right friendships for where I was at. And learning to trust my gut and intuition, as I wrangled through fears.
It’s been a 5 year journey so far, and I feel so much more like me these days that it’s just about awe-inspiring. I’m grateful - for the tools and the work on ME that I got to do.
Only this year, way on the other side, can I point a solid finger toward what I was experiencing.
On Postpartum Anxiety:
Moms... if this sounds like you, reach out. You don’t have to live life that way. There are tools. Groups. Strategies. Methods. Coaches. Spiritual practices. Books. Podcasts. PPA is real but it doesn’t have to wreck your life. And many doctors (I found) won’t even bring it up or talk about it. But it’s real and you can heal.
You can learn to get grounded, steady, healthy, and trust yourself again. Though waves will still come, you’ll be able to handle them. You’ll be more resilient. Stronger. Patient. Empathetic. You can learn all of the tools that YOU need to wrangle your life and keep showing up, feeling good and steady. Promise. And your little one(s) will benefit most of all.
Just commit to yourself and you’ll get there. My life is simple by design. I choose a peaceful life, with moments of bliss and adventure here and there. Peace of mind can’t be bought. But it can be chosen and cultivated and crafted, over time.
...and it’s always somewhere in the middle of things.
“Know thyself.” - Socrates
7 min read
9/11: Looking Back and Moving Forward - 9/11/2016
Today is one of those days that I do not anticipate very well. It's a day that, ever since the attacks, has been marked with such a kaleidoscope of emotions. Pain, fear, terror, confusion, loss, anxiety, heartbreak...anger. So much anger.
But on the other side of that, in the quiet moments, in-between, we found... strength. Resilience. Coming together, comfort of strangers, we bonded...in our sadness. We found peace and connection with each other, strangers on the street, in the peak of terror and tragedy.
And isn't this what it's about? Isn't this what we're promoting, building, trying to create? Harmony, oneness, kindness. We have it, friends. It's there, it's within us, always. We are a people capable of great Love, compassion, and altruism. But we only let it out, we only see it in others...when we are faced with great odds, turmoil, pain, and tragedy. Why reach out, why offer kindness and comfort...for "no reason?" Why extend ourselves, why become vulnerable...if there is not trouble? Why let that out, if it's "not needed." Perhaps, this is how we've gotten to this place. And perhaps, that's okay. Maybe...how we do it is OK. Maybe we find our greatest, most compassionate selves in our most difficult hours. I don't have the answers. Today, I'm just feeling...out loud.
I tried to stay off social media today, in order to not let it all in. I went to the water, I sat, I reflected, I remembered. I drank an iced latte. I watched the ferry load up and disembark. I wandered through an adorable crystal/metaphysical shop that smelled of intoxicating incense, and it was lovely. But I knew what I was doing. Ducking. Hiding from the Mack-truck of emotion that this day represents for me. I didn't want to feel it, so I built up a fortress of invisible middle fingers, extended all around me, in a protective circle. Not today! I won't feel it!
(Psst...this doesn't work.)
September 11 is one of those things that hits NYers especially, but many others, very hard. We all know or know of a volunteer or a worker who perished that day. Or at least, had a close call. Or still suffers with COPD from the inhalation of toxic smoke. It was here. At home. It was the first time that my generation witnessed anything like this. Our parents would go on and on about where they were when Kennedy was shot. Our grandparents told us all about Pearl Harbor. But that was all far away, distant, in a story. Intangible...not real. But this...my skin still crawls and puckers when I remember. Because it was...real. Too real.
What came back, as I sat by the water:
I was at SUNY Old Westbury. I remember being amazed at myself, that after all those years, after academic probation, after barely graduating high school...being a "lost in my head" n'er do well... I was doing it. And I was proud. At 26 years old, I was back in school, and I was doing it. The future seemed bright and sparkly and the world was my oyster. I was smiling on the inside...I believed in myself for the first time in a very long time.
The first class was wrapping up. Professor came back in. Her face sunken and pale.
"One of the twin towers was hit with a plane or something...I don't know, there's something going on." She seemed nervous. Class one ended. In the break between my first and second class...I sat in the car and turned on the radio. I heard it all, in live-time: radio tower hit, no big deal. No...wait. OH SHIT, A PLANE HIT THE TOWER, ITSELF! Smoke, sirens, confusion, yelling, panic...from the DJs, on the radio. ON Z-100! I was nervous, to say the least...what did this mean? How does a plane hit the tower, isn't it a no-fly zone? That means...it was...intentional? No... I went into my second class...had the same professor.
"The second tower has been hit," she said later. "I don't know what's happening...we could be going to war...I just don't know, I don't know." She was unglued, in a panic, and sent us home. "Find your loved ones..."
I drove home in silence. Shoulders in my ears. My heart racing, my palms sweaty. I was having my first-ever anxiety attack, although I didn't know it at the time. I needed to know what was happening. I would pass other drivers, stop at red lights: vacant stares, intense foreheads. They were listening. Waiting. Just like me. We were all scared, all of us. In a daze. I got home and looked for someone, anyone. Family. Dad was on the golf course. Brother was...I still don't remember. Working? At the firehouse? I know that I was alone, so I started calling people. Finally, my father got home and we watched the news. We watched it all unfold. Again and again...the same footage, again and again.
I found my old journal, from that day. I had a list of "buzz-words." Things that repeated over and over, that were etched into my memory, permanently.
The terror is still palpable, after all this time. "Will all the buildings fall?" "Will they attack us, here?" "Is this what it's like...on the other side of the world? All the time?" My heart broke over and over and over that day.
But as the days went on, as I returned to school...we had vigils. We prayed together. I witnessed first-hand, what concentrated energy and focused good intention, could do...to heal. I was forever moved by it. I encountered an older Black woman, on the way to an assembly, she was wandering around, seeming so lost. I could see it, in her face: scared. I reached out to her, "let's go in together." I merely offered my arm, as I would to my own grandmother, were she still alive. This older woman just pulled me into her and hugged me, hard. Like she's been searching for it for days, hours, sleepless nights. We talked and comforted each other.
Even years later, reuniting with people I hadn't seen in a long time...it was the first thing mentioned: "how did your family come through 9/11" It was hardwired into us. We are not invincible; we are vulnerable. But...we are resilient, we are compassionate, and we come together to aid each other like nothing you've ever seen.
We rise. Always, we rise.
Human beings are by nature... altruistic, loving, compassionate creatures. It is who we are, by design. Hate - is taught. Fear - is learned. Racism, bigotry, and cruelty, are taught. How about that? We teach it to our young, to perpetuate a cycle. Generation after generation. When is enough enough? When do we change what we bring forward? What generation, says...this far, and no farther? Or are we doomed to constantly repeat and repeat, without altering the course. Is it just a record, a flat circle, around and around? Revisiting, without changing? Shall we throw up our hands and just get drunk?
Fuck that. Kick the machine! Skip the record, disrupt the cycle! Dare to impart kindness and benevolence in your actions, to lead by example. Show compassion when it's easy to hate. Forgive when it's easier to hold a grudge. Live in love and kindness, engage in empathy, until it becomes a new habit. We can change our behavior, collectively. We can, one person at a time. This...is what we are doing. This...is our evolution.
Breaking the shackles of rigid belief and limiting, narrow ideologies. Embracing wholeness, oneness, unity, compassion, integrity, Love. [Perhaps we ought to] step into a time, live in a new world, that favors *humanity* and moral, ethical behavior.
We must lead with our minds, with our hearts, with our souls. Intelligent solutions, felt with compassion, with good intentions, for a greater good. It starts inside. With us. <3
<3 Dedicated to all the rescue workers and office workers who lost their lives, nineteen years ago. You are NOT forgotten. <3
I changed a few words that sounded bitter. But every bit of this still rings true for me.
Lead with Love. <3
4 min read
Repost from earlier blog, 2018.
Crisis. Chaos. Urgency. Demands. Anxiety and fear. Social change.
There's been so much, lately... and while I unapologetically let myself wander into flow-zones and creative bliss and write into inspired mindscapes, I work - daily - in public service. My career has been in the study, tending, and serving of humanity since I was young.
And the two greatest gifts that working in service of others can give - are perspective and empathy.
And I love what it does for my writing, I love the deeper dive it gives me, into humanity. I love the widening lens I have on myself, on my relationships, my life, as I learn more about human behavior. But I've also become better and more adept at crisis management, in times of trouble - and more precisely, communication during crisis.
Energy can rage high during times of crisis, and we've been hit with crisis after crisis, lately. The fear, pain, grief, and tension all come to a head over wrongdoing, inequality, unfairness, crime, acts of hate, personal loss, environmental devastation, petty disagreements, perceived hurt, lasting uncertainty, you name it.
It's so easy to get swept up in the fear - and it can distort the way that we communicate, even when our intentions are good and just. It's easy to react with anger. It's harder to respond with compassion. It's a practice, and a worthy one. Anyone that works in service - at any level - ought to be practiced in responding with awareness, compassion, and a calm-assertive mindset.
Confronting someone from a place of grounded awareness is often uncomfortable. It's tempting to shout and rage and blame, though it comes with regret and a handful of misjudgments and mistakes and even unintended harm, sometimes.
We've all been there, in our personal and working lives - there comes a time when we all must speak up.
Personal situations put us in the center of confrontation so often in our lives: it comes up when we have to share sad news, like an unexpected health crisis or the loss of a loved one. It comes up when there is a betrayal of confidence, or a wicked misunderstanding. It comes up when we grow and want more for ourselves - and we need to voice it. It comes up when we have to speak out against something immoral that we witness.
As we journey through life, opportunities to practice confrontation pop up constantly. The minor ones come and go, easily:
But it's the big ones that shake us and make us uneasy - it's the ones we don't like to think about. The confrontations that may cause change.
In the workplace, it comes up in the form of professional disagreements. When a supervisor must correct staff, or enforce a rule or regulation. When staff must speak up to a supervisor. When changes sweep through an organization, and staff must be re-educated. These are simple bubbles of change that rise up, anywhere.
And these dynamics occur in all sorts of relationships. In romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, and larger scale relationships, as well. Government officials and the citizens who elect them. Between country leaders and other country leaders. Race, gender, ideology, religion, anything that denotes a kind of belief about oneself, their community, and the greater world engenders an idea of relationship. We are constantly in relationship - with ourselves and with others. We fight often, within ourselves, until we seek peace and find a resolution, and continue on down our path - and so it is outside of us, as well.
Any conversation that might result in an unpleasant emotional state, for one or both parties, can be unsettling. It's just the way of things and feeling nervous before a confrontation is normal. Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings is a normal, healthy reflex. It doesn't make us weak. But the truth must always come out if we want to ensure healthy relationships, on all levels. We must always say what needs to be said - sincerity is paramount, overall. When we swallow it down and over-accomodate others, we internalize and stifle ourselves, which is never healthy in the long run. And when truth must be spoken, those emotional soft spots should be respected, but not allowed to run the conversation.
"Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes..." Maggie Kuhn
When the moment comes to deliver the news or ask the question or raise the issue, a series of things can happen:
But stay with it. Speak the truth, deliver the goods, even if you tremble or turn red. Your body will have a reaction the first time you do it, as the rush of energy pours out, it won't feel good. You might sweat or cry afterward or feel anger or want to withdraw for a while. Sharing truth is vulnerable. But know that truth - most times - is always better on the outside, and that the waves of emotion that rush in for both parties, should subside quickly. Nerves will settle. The anxious feeling doesn't stay long and the liberation of not holding it in anymore will leave room for something new - for some growth, for some forward momentum, for some new inspiration in the relationship.
It's been a long quarantine, here in New York.
100+ days locked down, at home, virtual everything: schooling, working, coping, getting sick and thankfully healing fast. And back to work, in levels and layers, bit by bit. A little here, a little there, and then full-time and being in the center of the community, again.
No summer camp, and switching and maneuvering and juggling and accommodating, accommodating, accommodating. Big themes... flexibility, humility, creativity, gratitude.
There's a steady travel ban on, and if I, say... go see my Mama in Georgia for a week, that means about a month of vacation time. If you're a 9-5 er like me, that's definitely not doable. So you busy yourself, you connect in other ways, you check in. You keep breathing, though you miss people - FAMILY - terribly. You say a prayer of gratitude if they're all okay (they are.)
And then, maybe you get asked to house/dog sit, somewhere close. A different place, up and off the island. Still New York, still "safe." Family. And you breathe... because the chance to spread your wings - just a little - feels like magic.
But traveling with kids during COVID comes with some prep-work:
1. Pack sanitizer for the road, especially those unexpected rest-stop visits. I pack wipes for bathrooms - for germs and in case there's no paper in there. Be smart. Think ahead.
2. Charge up an iPad or something, if you're a single parent. Something to watch, listen to, being in the car for hours can get boring for littles. Boredom can lead to seat-kicking, yelling, and those big, awful, woe-is-me-I'm-bored tears. Bring things. Don't like gadgets? Mad Libs still work. Or picture books, if they're really little. But bring stuff. (Always keep a big Lego stash in your purse or man-bag.) Like any other road trip, basically.
3. Pack extra face masks. Don't leave the house with JUST THE ONE ON HIS/HER FACE. Kids are slippery, they drop things.
4. Load Mommy's playlist. Lay down the law: the driver picks the music. Kiddo can bring headphones and The Wiggles greatest hits, or watch Trolls 2 on the iPad. It's okay. Mommy (or Daddy) needs to focus on the road, and that focus needs the right music or audiobook or podcast, or whatever. Period. DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH THEM. THEY ARE CRAFTY. OWN THE SPEAKERS UP FRONT. You can do this. Stay strong. Be the pack leader. Like Cesar says.
5. Snacks. You don't know what you'll find at rest-stops. Pack road snacks. Cut grapes, carrot sticks, berries, pretzels, fruit gummies. Most healthy, some fun treats. I usually hit a place for coffee and breakfast on the road, first. We'll have a few goodies if that stuff runs out.
6. Sunscreen. No-brainer, but sometimes we're so overwhelmed with masks and germs that we forget about the basics. The Sun still burns. Pack the SPF. It's summer.
7. Keep your cool. While on the road, you may encounter the... UNMASKED. Some folks, for whatever reason, will not show the courtesy. If you pass them, understand that they have their reasons. A summer road trip with your kids isn't the time to educate them or spew statistics. Just keep your distance and walk on, I think. Our kids learn from us - don't pick unnecessary fights. Or if you are of the UNMASKED persuasion, I'm sure you have your reasons (though I don't understand them), but keep your distance from those who do practice these safety measures. It's common courtesy. Be cool.
8. Don't be on your phone that much. If you're getting away for a quick long weekend, don't spend that precious time scrolling. Enjoy the new digs, the fresh air, family, the nice slow pace. Share pics, post updates, and put it down. Cherish the time away. Unwind. Connect.
9. Plan activities and food choices. It's nice to have a few structured things planned for the weekend. A local farmstead to hit. Open restaurants. A local ice cream shop. Hiking around a nearby lake. Kayaking, maybe. State Parks usually have some wonderful recreational things to offer for families. You just don't know what'll be open and closed these days. Check it out ahead of time.
10. Grownup activities. Kids will go to bed and you'll have some time at night. Bring stuff just for you: a good book, some journals, your current project, a yoga DVD. Bath bombs. Something just for you. Make that time, even while you're away. You'll thank yourself later. There's no feeling quite like needing a vacation after your vacation. We've all been there. So don't overbook yourself, work in rest-time. Keep it simple. Make it sweet.
I'll see you next week! xoxo
4 min read
A young man came into the library today. He was looking for some books to read over the summer.
"What grade level?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm done, I graduated," he replied.
"Oh, so you were in the parade through town, celebrating..."
"Yep. Sure was..."
"OK, so let me see what I can pull up, here..." I looked up the reading lists for the school and found some AP suggestions. "Are you going to college, are you gonna work, do you have plans, yet?"
"Oh, I'm going to college, for sure. I'm not sure of my major..."
We chatted a bit more. Then he took Dubliners, by James Joyce, thanked me, and left. Great kid, polite, kind, curious. I'm excited for him. Glistening with potential.
After he left, I began to think about these graduates and the world that they are walking into, right now. As freshmen.
To the College-Bound Graduates:
I wish I knew what to tell you about all of this. About the state of the world, of the pandemic, and politics, and climate, and social injustices, and the economy. I wish I knew what to tell you to major in so that you'd soar, in these shifting times. I wish I had a clue... I don't.
And see, that's the thing. Even us, as adults, aren't sure of things day to day. We do our best. We just show up, stay kind, work hard, take care of ourselves, and do our best.
But I would tell you to try things. If you don't know what to major in, then don't. Take an assortment of classes, they're all for credit. You can major in Liberal Arts for two years and then decide. You can switch over. You can always take a class or two later to make up some credits, to round out a major. Don't feel that you have to know it all up front and then go in. Many students don't. It's okay not to know.
Some students know early on what they want to pursue. Medicine. Law. Biochemistry. Nursing. Psychiatry. Veterinarian. Political Science. Teaching. And many, many students don't have a clue, and they see college as a necessary step in their lives, that they want to take, but aren't exactly sure what courses to take. And perhaps, for them, it's the experience itself that grants them what they need...
The exchange of ideas with your peers, in a new and expanded setting. Healthy debate. New perspectives. New worlds of inspiration and reading and research. New friendships and clubs to join. Many students have the soul of an artist or philosopher and just need to try a lot of disciplines out, before they choose. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Try things.
This...is life. Not knowing, and having the mindset to just... start... despite not knowing, is what great success stories are made of. Diving in without a map shows a bit of adventure and curiosity and ambition, a desire to learn by doing, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It's a perspective that you can take further in to life, not just with school. This is the creative mindset and it's incredibly valuable, especially in the world that you'll be joining. Flexibility, creativity, adaptability will all be essential mindsets to hold onto.
Trust that you'll find your way and things will speak to you and teach you, as you go. You may figure it all out in college, and you may not. It's just a step, but walk ahead with enthusiasm. We are learning are whole lives through, and college is a wonderful stop along that road.
We're all fools on the road of life. Some of us didn't go to college. Some of us went out after high school and plunged into the world of business and never looked back. Some went head-first into their artistic dreams, and never looked back. It can be nice to have a passion, to know exactly what you want to do with your life. But it can also be a lifelong adventure to not know... to show up and continue to learn and grow and explore. And many of us who live in this way, become teachers, in one way or another. Life teachers. Way-showers. Leaders. Trust your choices as they come up and keep checking with yourself. And remember that you're living a story and don't get too mired down by one moment, because moments come and go that challenge us to the core.
Remember when those moments come - doubt, fear, paralysis, pain, loss, heartache, confusion - that they are temporary, and that you can get up and dust your pants off and keep going forward. And figure things out.
I know that you'll make the world a better place, in your own way. Take your time and explore yourself and how you feel about things. About life. And how you'd want to improve it or document it or enhance it or entertain it. And just start. Read voraciously. Educate yourself about what fuels your passions. Try things, over and over again. Just try things. Live your youth.
And we can't wait to hear what you have to say.
2 min read
Reflecting... from this morning's meditation:
"Walk with me
Beneath the Green
I'll show you a story
you've never seen
You will believe in
I wrote this quote back in 2015. The end - and the beginning. And I’ve come across a stack of old notes and declarations... and I’ll say that it’s probably time for some new ones. The green checkmark indicates that this goal was accomplished.
- I will quit smoking ✅
- I will understand this anxiety ✅
- I will learn to manage a new routine ✅
- I will write a novel ✅
- I will travel and see my country ✅
- I will sing some of my own songs in front of others ✅
- I will meet more and more new and inspiring people ✅
Ongoing effort...never done, but I've made progress:
- I will grow tougher and smarter
- I will learn to love and value myself as much as, if not more, than I do others
- I will trust in my own magic
- I will learn and grow and transform my mindset without spending a dime
- I will not take myself so seriously
- I will love my life, where it is now, where it’s been, and where it may be going
Do you believe in magic?
It’s often messy and we make mistakes and are misunderstood and we often get what we need over what we want - because we learn to create for everyone’s benefit and not just our own.
Write it down
And here I am again. At the top of the circle.
And I think that at some point, life becomes more about how many times you’ve been around the circle, and how you’ve grown through it all. What you’ve learned. Who you've met along the way. What they’ve learned. How you’ve evolved and what you need to learn next time. And it's less and less about the things and more about the people.
Learning to embrace the long-game is life changing.
A quick review...
4 min read
I was in a mood this morning. I did record a video about it for you, while I was walking, but the gods of sound weren't having it. The mic cut out, constantly. I should get a new phone, the XR has never worked right. C'est la vie. Moving on.
So, here's what happened:
I signed up to become a seller of a bath and body brand that I love. It's an MLM thing, I know you know. "Why not," I figured. I LOVE the stuff.
I read up, and all I had to do was click this and send that and I'd be good.
However, they tried something new. Relentless phone calls all week. I had to verify my identity if I wanted to proceed. I finally got around to checking my messages and they had deactivated my account.
Their customer service team would be offline the day that I wanted to correspond via email.... this was strange and unprofessional. I looked into my service rep and there was a filtered photo of a child with bear ears talking to me with typos.
Assuming I was punk'd or that this was some sort of spam racket, I bowed out. Strangest customer service experience I'd ever had.
"You have to talk with us on our terms or not at all..."
Usually, since I've been alive, service was always about the customer or client. So, as someone who's worked in the field since I was a teenager... I was disenchanted.
Also, of note, I had just received a congratulatory email for being a valued member of the team!
At this point, I am confused. This is the epitome of mixed messaging, if this were me and a fella, I'd lose his number by now. But this is a business.
Here are the things I'm thinking about:
I found the whole thing odd. I thought it was a joke, because where I come from and how I work that's not how it's done. Kindness makes sense. I'd always wanted to make everyone feel at home, like they belong, and that they should always, always come back - if they wanted to.
And today's customer service - and not in all cases, but many - falls so short. There's an air of entitlement. I'll get to it when I see fit. I'll respond when I choose to. You're just a number to hit on my form. I'm not working that hard, today. This is just a job.
And I wonder if these companies know about the level of service and how much better it could be. And I wonder if these younger generations are being trained in the ways of "the customer is always right," and "service with a smile," and "my job is to make your experience great." How as customer service workers, they are the front door, the foyer, the welcoming center for all guests and clients. They represent an entire firm, company, business, or brand.
Playing hard to get with a client is just bad business, it seems. Granted, I've been in the nonprofit sector for a long, long time now, and it's different in many ways. But at the core, it's the same. Service, in all forms, is about people. Sales is about people.
I feel like I've just left the Twilight Zone. And I'm not put-out or distressed about it, but questions come up, as they do... like how are we training these people? Your brand, your name, your reputation and success are really only as good as your customer care workers. And if they don't care about their customers, they don't really care about your business, either. Fun fact.
Consumers will build generational brand loyalty with a line of cars... if they receive great customer service with just one first purchase. Buying a car is a big deal, and if they feel safe, heard, respected, they'll come back. Their kids will often be back, too.
Kindness is not just about being nice, although it should just be inherent in people... but it's also about strategy. It just makes sense to build relationships with people that you want to come back.
Happy people stick around. Just as happy and well-trained workers...stick around and work harder for you.
Is this a generational thing? Or...did I wake up in the wrong universe again?
Going to my garden, now... xoxo
4 min read
by Stacie Hammond
A Modern Day Parable about the Magic of Communication and Relationship
"It's all happening!" She said, excitedly.
There was a woman, who - through some circumstance or other, came to live most of her days alone, on an island, in the Great Blue Sea. Sending out desperate messages in bottles about the state of the world as she imagined it - big issues, small issues, and everything in-between - in the wee small hours of the night, at the height of delirium and impending chaos and really having nowhere to be but at home. Under the moonlight, with a deafening silence and yet a heavy, forlorn, and chattering mind - a mind that wouldn't quit, devouring books, inventing and seeing potential futures and dreaming dreams that wouldn't stop - incessantly they streamed through her minds' eye... And she had only the glow of an iPhone in her hands as a true confidante - a portal - into other worlds.
Right there, at her fingertips - was the world. Anyone and anywhere and everywhere, at once - with a few words and few taps and bit of moxie and ton of faith, she sent her dreams and wishes and fears out into the void... and let go of it all...
A bit like a droid that could carry a message out into the unknown... hoping that it would reach a mentor, an aid, a teacher, a friend. Someone to take her seriously, someone to listen, someone, somewhere...
"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope..." Star Wars: A New Hope
And then, some day, years later, she feels rested. She's well, now. At ease, with far fewer worries in her pockets. And far less chatter in her mind. Refocused. And she feels so much more like a person and so much less like a seamless and shimmering orb stuck inconveniently inside a slowly healing and quite dense body on an island in the middle of the sea.
And she finds herself having moved on - onto other simpler and far more prosaic things. Grounded things. Simple joys. Flowers. Gardens. Clouds and the shapes that they resemble. Horses and treetops in the wind. Safe harbors at twilight. Yoga poses and fresh fruit and drums and dancing. Oh, dancing. She'd forgotten about dancing and music and how it rooted her in. She wished there were someone to keep rhythm on the drum, while she danced, for she found that she could not do both at the same time. And what was dancing without music? Still, she danced to the music, within.
No longer privy to the wars and worries of her imagination, she lived her days in relative ease and simple gratefulness for what was already in front of her nose: a beautiful beach, songbirds, tropical fruit, waves and moonlight and sunshine and trees to climb. And a funny sort of creature that looked a bit like a giant gerbil, that she'd named Stanley. Stanley kept his distance, but was a good listener.
It was enough. And joy could be simple.
Until she looked up, one day, to see that long-lost and forgotten bottle of dreams and fears float back in with the waves. And she saw that the messages had been read - a bit dog-eared in the corners, at the parts that were re-read more than once. There were some notes in the margins. She wasn't entirely sure who'd read them, how could she be, but there were subtle fingerprints and whispers of scent and place and time that helped her to guess where the bottle had been in those years. And how strange for it to resurface...here and now. She'd let it all go, so long ago, in a great and grand surrender to the life that she'd been living. She'd found peace, already, she thought.
And then all in a moment, holding the small bottle in her hands, somehow, in a breath - she believed in everything again. And everything meant more than it ever had, and felt more powerful than it ever had, because now, she knew... that life could be a beautiful and wild adventure and that people really cared and that hope really did matter. And she knew that all those old and lingering fears, deep down in her subconscious, now - were being healed. And she wasn't alone anymore.
And it was a joy just to be alive in a world where people listen and respond and pay attention.
And she slept that night, in a hand-strung hammock, under a sea of stars. She slept very, very well.
And when she woke, she returned to the shore, again. And in the quiet, there, in the stillness of the easy tide - she saw more bottles. There were dozens, at least. She brought them in and stored them, all in a row, on the rocky sand - far enough from shore not to be washed out, again. And one by one, as the days went on, she began to read them. And to re-read the parts that she loved. And to leave her notes in the margins. And when she was ready, she'd throw them all back out to sea...and hope for an answer.
6 min read
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Charles Dickens' opening line in A Tale of Two Cities.
And isn't it just?
When I am able to pull myself away from the onslaught of rhetoric and political opinion and social justice warrioring and media-blitz campaigning.... and immerse into natural spaces and connect more deeply, within... I find my creative center. And it's wonderful and has become essential to my well-being.
But some days it's hard. With the world whirring around us, in such extremes, it can be hard to find a still space in the center to create. But that's exactly where the stillness is... in the eye of this storm.
The Left - while I love the more conscious conversations - is way too far left for my liking, and its statue-toppling and art censoring is starting to stink of Maoist China. :shivers: No thanks.
The Right - while I love our local police, and believe in empowering the individual and I do love tradition and nostalgia - is way too far right, and is starting to feel like a Military State run by an Administration that doesn't care about our well-being or choices, overall. Yes, this is a real virus. Yes, climate crisis is real. Please wear a mask. Please stop destroying natural spaces. And wash your hands.
We seem to be stuck in the middle, running all the way to edge to get information - here - and then having to run all the way back to the opposite edge, to absorb information - there. Constantly running across the proverbial spinning disc, hoping we don't just bottom out and collapse altogether wondering what the hell happened to us.
We seem to be collectively in Joseph Campbell's abyss. The dark tunnel. Awaiting our rise, after the fall. A rebirth, a renaissance, a reimagining into how we'll be here...after all of this.
I remember reading Travels with Charley, by Steinbeck, and noting his discontent with the politics in his day. A nation so fractured and divided... that the tension could be felt in living rooms across the country. Friends clashing, neighbors arguing, dinner table fights, political campaigns getting uglier and uglier. A nation torn apart by polar opposites and extreme ideologies - lacking a healthy and grounded middle.
We try people in the press, rather than in courts, it seems. We're confused about schooling and disease and human rights and social change vs. malicious destruction and distrust in the media, and on and on. Confusion abounds. And it's okay not to know where you stand, from day to day.
I used to proudly call myself a Democrat and now I'm not so sure. There's plenty to disagree with, lately.
I tiptoed into the land of the Conservative for a good few months, seeing the value in tradition and home and empowering individualism and so on. But there's plenty to disagree with, in our current Administration. And I can only breathe - and try to wrangle my thoughts - in the middle.
And I crave true leadership in that place. From that place. Right down the middle, a marriage of both sides. Yes, rebuild our country, our infrastructure hurts, small businesses need help, we need responsible border control but not kids in cages... but also, a woman has a right to choose and environmental protections are essential and intelligent and foreign policy and diplomacy matter. A lot. It's both, and our politicians only pander to one set of extremes, it seems.
Where has the middle gone? The media presents us with two extremes, and neither bring comfort, and so we get frustrated and go back to watching happy clips of cats and puppies kissing babies. We can't figure out how to vote here in the US, many of us, in a world that we can no longer relate to. Baby Boomers don't want change. Gen Z wants to torch the White House. And Gen X, in the middle, well - we're the Reagan-Bush kids. We're a bit precious.
And what do we all do about all of this, really? All at once? It's like someone shook the snow-globe and we're all just showing up, trying to be nice and do the right thing, and have no idea where our country is headed which is disconcerting.
And that sort of tension can paralyze creativity.
But, yet, somewhere, in the middle of the wreckage of human emotion and uprising and frustration and defensiveness and fear and chaos and grief and loss ... is a catalyst. A glowing spark, down at the bottom of this proverbial abyss.
Still shimmering. Waiting. For Next.
It's here...in the deep dark of the unknown, that we can craft anew. Make. Create. Build. From this primordial mess that we find ourselves in. Expression is key, and conversation essential, and there are many things happening:
- in education
- in social justice
- in climate protections
- in wellness spheres
- in mental health
- in technology and engineering
- in business
- in parenting
- in medicine
- in food policy
- in legislation
It's a hot mess. But most messes find a way forward...after the fires settle down. And we seek organization, and some new meaning, from the rubble.
A way forward after our trials - like:
"Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons..." and how she emerged unscathed from the temple fire...
...though she went a bit mad in the end, there, this was still a thrilling scene. And who doesn't want pet dragons to fly them around and do their bidding?
But, moving on - in all relationships, from micro to macro, after voicing and raging, comes a calm conversation and consideration. Reform and renewal. Cooperation and intention. Compromise...
This is what's missing from the conversation. It seems to be either all this way, or all that. A healthy body politic finds a middle, a compromise, a fulfilling of some, but maybe not all. Progress here, but not over there, not yet. A step forward here, but let's keep this in tact. For now. And so on. Anything worthwhile is a slow and steady unfolding. Not an overnight revolution and suppression of culture, even if well-intentioned. Life always seeks truth and homeostasis, it's true.
Balance. Compromise brings balance. A lil Column A, a lil Column B. You're just not going to be eating everything from one column. I'm sorry. You're not getting 14 chicken dishes and you're not getting all egg rolls and rice. Balance it out.
And youthful world-rockers, I get what your classes taught you, and even the books that you may have read that lit a fire within you - in all their glorious ideals and utopias and visions, but in reality, on the ground, there are real people - here - now, with real investments and lives and families and responsibilities. Utopias inspire us and can lead along a path toward a grander vision, but cannot be forced upon a society unready for it (this would defeat the whole point of being a free and inspired people.)
Change doesn't happen overnight. Lasting social change unfolds and evolves, generation by generation, over time. It's important to see how far we've come. And still work toward what we wish to see.
It's both, always.
But flying high above, in blissful quietude, in communion with Nature, in harmony, plunging into silence - there is perspective. Of all of this. And in that perspective, in that wrangling of raw emotion into channels of meaning - comes art. Chaos can be rich and fertile soil for new ideas, stories, inventions, music, healing, and more.
Get your hands in there:
1. Identify the conflict, within.
2. Visualize a solution to the conflict, a resolution.
3. Use the emotions around the conflict, channel them into a vision.
4. Create an idea or story or image of some aspect of that vision.
5. Trust your art to convey its message through this mess.
For more on alchemizing raw emotion and paradox into art, check out:
Memorial Day Paradox: Creativity and the War Machine.