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eat first, then reply

A work friend IM’d me with a question.

Frantically at work on something else, I asked that she please email me such questions in the future.

The moment I sent the message, I saw some of my many errors. First and foremost, the fact I felt like she was entering my cube and hollering at me for an immediate answer said more about my current state than hers.

This triggered some reflection: Why had I taken an IM as if it were a physical assault? Wait, come to think of it, when was the last time I ate? 

I immediately got up and ate lunch, a couple of hours late. Calm returned within moments.

My takeaway from this is: Next time I get the feeling ALL THE THINGS are wrong because someone sent me a question (how dare they?), I should check my hangry levels before replying. 

Better to eat first, then reply, than vice versa.

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Categories: Communication, Work Tags: , ,

soul-level sighs of satisfaction

Yesterday mid-morning, my three-year-old son and I went to meet up with some friends at a family event in Newport Beach. Littler J, who usually naps in the early afternoon, was so beat that he ended up falling asleep ten minutes into our drive.

By the time he’d finished napping, our friends were on their way home. The event was nevertheless a joy. It was full of small, sweet moments, individual and collective.

Individually, I especially enjoyed watching Littler eat his pizza. First, he strips off the cheese. After he’s eaten all the cheese, he plants his face directly in the center of the triangle and begins gnawing down. As if watching him savor a piece of pizza in this way weren’t adorable enough, this inefficiency leaves him with a greasy orange beard that makes me giggle. Read more…

full and messy life

This morning, I’m thinking about a recent conversation with a friend.

In our current world, where companies and governments alike designate “citizens”  mere “consumers,” meaningfully different only in what and how they consume, people are told they are “brands” and to behave in ways that build their brands.

What kind of life is that?

I don’t want to be perfect. I refuse to limit my life to pursuit of brand-building, instead of being fully immersed in something raw, real, messy, and wonder-full. Life.

Why? The way I see it, trying to live someone else’s (whose?!) idea of a perfect, perfectly branded life is a recipe for late-life sorrow at halfway connections with people, little life-changing learning from important mistakes, countless adventures missed.

While I’d usually rather leave aphorisms than take them, I’d boil this pursuit of a full and messy life down thusly:

If you’re always careful,
you’re barely living.

Nine Octobers

Nine years ago in September, I told the guy I was dating that I wanted to break it off. He wasn’t serious enough.

Nine years ago in October, I told that same guy that being unserious with him was better than being serious without him. We got together to watch Quarantine, and resumed our occasional dating.

F201310_WedRob_130our years ago in October, I married that guy. He walked side by side with our little boy that day; I carried our second little boy inside me.

Four days ago, this October, I took a day off work to watch a horror movie with that guy. My husband. My Anthony.

We watched It. Both of us yelped at least twice. It reminded me of that day nine years ago, getting back together-ish with him over Quarantine.

October with Anthony, man.

I wouldn’t miss it.

Anthony hasn’t worked steadily in his chosen profession for a couple years. To him, on some level, this means he hasn’t really worked. Read more…

danger

The first book to change my life was safety expert Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. As I’ve written here several times before, it may well have saved a sister’s life.

For all I love de Becker, I ignored everything his books have taught me this morning … and I did so at my own peril.

I just called the credit union I visited this morning. I told the rep that I’d encountered someone suspicious at the ATM this morning. I wanted to alert them in case he’d installed a PIN skimmer.

She asked me to explain what made me suspicious. I described the encounter, and only realized after I’d hung up the phone that he might not have been interested in skimming PINs at all.

My blood ran cold.

The man at the ATM had a hoodie wrapped so tightly around his face that no features were visible. He turned away and stepped toward his car. Funnily, he didn’t seem to have taken anything from the ATM.

I stepped up to the ATM and began my transaction, assuming he’d gotten into the car. Waiting for my receipt. I heard a shuffling behind me. I turned to look, and the man was behind me. He quickly turned away and scrambled into his car.

He sat there in his car, face to the steering wheel, features hidden.

I climbed into my car. I drove it to a spot where I could see and write down his license plate number.

He didn’t have a license plate. 

Oh, well, I thought. I’d tried.

I reminded myself to change my PIN and call the bank during business hours.

One of the key lessons de Becker teaches is that fear–which is completely distinct from anxiety–is a gift. When we feel genuine fear, it’s because we’re picking up subtle cues that something is unsafe. Our logical minds try to swat these thoughts away: “Don’t be ridiculous! Come on, you’ve done this hundreds of times before!”

In these cases, our logical minds endanger us.

This morning, before I even stopped the car, I looked toward the man at the ATM and thought, “I shouldn’t get out of the car.” But, dammit, I wanted to deposit that check, and I got out of the car to do just that.

I’ve read too damn much de Becker to do such a thing, and yet … I did. I didn’t even remember the thought until about five hours later.

That thought was my protector, and I discarded it.

The point is not to be anxious about everything all the time. It is to notice that one time out of hundreds that you do feel fear, and to treat that fear as the gift it is. To protect yourself.

If you want to know more about why you should listen to that voice, please read The Gift of Fear.

Whether or not you read the book, please listen to and act on that protective voice of fear if you hear it. To read de Becker is to understand that this often makes the difference between life and death.

Please protect yourself.

Please.

becoming ours

Before I was a parent, my apartment was filled with plants. After I became a parent, remembering to water them fell further and further down my to-do list. Eventually, I had no more plants left to water. I stored their pots behind my rental house and thought I might fill them someday. Maybe.

Today, my older son (Li’l D) and I each picked up a plant at our favorite botanic garden. D was so disappointed there weren’t more full-shade plants there that I offered to take him to a nursery.

He was overjoyed to see all the plants at the nursery. Unfortunately, his little brother being undernapped, we had to make our trip a quick one.

Each of us picked out one plant. After buying them, we loaded them in our car and headed home. Read more…

little boys laughing

I awaken at 3:30 each weekday morning, do an hour of work, and then spend one rushed hour getting ready with my kids. I’m then in traffic for an hour or so before beginning my full workday.

Yesterday, I had an early doctor appointment. Instead of rushing out the door, I spent two and a half hours hanging out with my kids. I helped my older son, Li’l D, scramble an egg before snuggling with him on the couch and reading Charlotte’s Web aloud. I walked him through homework corrections and then, after my three-year-old (Littler J) was really awake, laughed at the sounds of my little boys racing through the house while hollering their mirth.

I grinned the whole way to the doctor’s office. It was just such a perfect morning!

After my appointment, I called my husband to tell him how it’d gone. It turned out he was at the grocery store on the same block as the doctor’s office, so I met him in the store. I savored the weight of Littler’s hand in mine as my husband pushed the shopping cart. Littler made an adventure of even a shopping trip, so that I beamed the whole way through the trip. 

As we parted ways in the parking lot, I told my husband that the morning had been absolutely perfect. I said I’d have to make a point to do this more often on the weekday. Once a month, maybe?!

I grinned as I began my late drive to the office.

Nine years ago, before I had an inkling I was on the verge of parenthood, my perfect morning involved a couple of hours of World of Warcraft and then a six- or seven-shot latte en route to work. On the very best mornings, I’d spend a little time staring at the ceiling and daydreaming about the weekend, too. 

My perfect morning is so much different now than it was then. It’s busier and louder by far now, but, oh! It is ever so much more full of love, and–best of all–little boys’ peals of laughter.

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