Hands (and the world) are Amazing

the world is amazing
My son often looks at his hands. When he’s staring at them, nothing else matters. His world is captivating, new, interesting, exciting. He has the biggest smile on his face.

Whenever I feel bored or worry that I’m nothing special, I look down at my hands and try to remember what it was like to see them for the first time… the dozens of places they bend… the countless shapes they make… the actions they can perform… the wrinkles on the skin.

Then I wonder how I ever felt bored living in such a magical world. Everything around you is amazing from hands to electricity to carpet to music — you just have to be willing to appreciate it.

Why I gave up magazines

i gave up magazines
I gave up reading magazines a year ago. I always had a love-hate relationship with them… I would binge on them from the corner store and then wonder whatever possessed me to get them. I knew the pictures were photoshopped, the models were anorexic and that I would never look like either — but that didn’t make me give up the magazines. It just made me read them differently (with more curiosity and less jealousy).

I never liked the amount of advertising. Pages and pages of commercials — even before the table of contents. Pages and pages of products between the stories. However, I have a degree in marketing so it was interesting to see what techniques (mainly sex) they were using to sell products.

What ultimately made me give up magazines was the advertising in the articles. A friend’s company got in a big magazine not because they were the best at what they do, but because their public relations people struck a deal to do a story. The stories were a ruse! The best places to travel were paid advertisements. The top tips were propaganda from the highest bidder. Everything in the magazine was fake. I was paying money to read advertisements.

So I gave them up… and now spend more quality time with my son!

I did nothing and everything

sea toy
I normally write for an hour before bed. It’s not my most productive time of day, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m just happy to have a consistent time for books each day.

But last night my son wasn’t interested in sleeping. He thought bedtime was a fabulous opportunity to jump, finish up a few rounds of peek-a-boo and play with toy fish. You know what? He was right. Some things are more important than sleep or writing.

Why your profession shouldn’t matter

be nice to cashiers
Why is your profession always the first thing people want to know about you?
Is it an easy conversation starter? Is it more interesting than the weather? Is work so universal that it’s the only way to bond with strangers?

Regardless of the reason, I think there is a more nefarious side about sharing your profession: make make assumptions about who you are and what you’re capable of.

My experiment with professions
When I lived abroad in New Zealand, I had a blank slate because literally nobody in the country knew who I was. That was extremely terrifying, but fabulous for experimenting with my idea of self and who I wanted to be. I have had a variety of careers in my past, so when I introduced myself to new people, I selectively mentioned a previous profession.

Technical work was fabulous for finding a place to live. I sounded responsible and respectful — but most people weren’t interested in talking further about what I did.

However, it was hard to make friends in the hostel talking about keyboards and mice so I introduced myself as a writer to them. I think people assume good story-tellers make for interesting friends.

My Professional Surprise
The biggest surprise actually came from working a retail job in New Zealand after just quitting a technical one in America. As a computer technician, I had Harvard PhDs asking me for advice because they trusted my opinion and saw me as their equal — even though I didn’t have a big-name degree. As a cashier everyone assumed I was a dumb slacker whose job would hopefully be replaced by a vending machine. I had personally made the line long to spite them and had stolen all the $5 bills so they had to get five ones instead.

What did I learn from all of this?
The first lesson I learned is that we are all people — regardless of our profession. As Simon mentioned earlier this week in my wife’s post about labeling people, we should see people as “a fellow human who happens to do a job” rather than a stereotypical, inhumane role. I don’t understand why we put so much emphasis on what we’re trained to do… it’s just training.

The second lesson I learned is to be nice to all people (even cashiers!) because they’re people. Their job is just where they’re working, not who they are. If you start talking to cashiers, you’ll realize they have hopes, dreams and aspirations… just like you…

Fiery Redhead: Why I don’t label people

labeling people

What labels do you have?

When I was younger I was called a fiery red hair — implying that I had a temper. The more I heard that, the more I played into that persona. As I have gotten to know myself better, I realized I’m not at all fiery. I’m actually a passive, calm person.

My sister was called a “dumb blond” because of her hair color. As an adult, she told me that she felt stupid her whole life — even though she has a university degree and is even smarter than me.

How do we get those labels?
Obviously friends and family have a big influence over your labels, but don’t underestimate the power of media. On television, women loose all their postpartum in a few weeks — it’s really easy to call myself fat because I still have mine a few months after birth. But frankly my weight seems more natural than liposuction, personal trainers and anorexic diets to shed the pounds.

How do we combat labels?
The biggest way to combat labels is self-esteem. As I became more comfortable with myself, I realized I didn’t want to be the fiery redhead. I also didn’t need to be the stick-thin mother 3 weeks after birth. I want to be me, not who others tell me I should be.

Don’t compare yourself. Every person is different and that’s a great thing! No two lives are exactly the same. We are all peppered with different experiences… so why do you think you can compare yourself to others without taking the other person’s entire history from birth into account?

Don’t label others. If you don’t like getting labels, don’t give them to others — or be very careful to only use positive labels. When I heard people calling my younger brother a lazy teenager, I asked them to stop because I didn’t want him to call himself lazy.

Thanks for reading this blog you caring, thoughtful, successful, beautiful, smart reader!

The Art of Taking a Break

Natural break

This weekend I was exhausted. I wanted to write, but I had no energy. I felt bad giving myself some time off to sit and watch movies, but I did it anyway. I knew I would get sick if I didn’t listen to my body.

While resting, I spent a lot of time thinking breaks and I don’t know why breaks get a bad rep! We’re told we need to study more, try harder, work later and be more successful — but I disagree. Most people need more rest.

Nature is built in cycles. Trees grow in summer and rest in the winter. The moon shines brightly before waning and then going black. Animals forage all day and then sleep all night (or vice-versa!) So why are Americans always go-go-go? What happened to the break?

Winter is the season to take stock of your harvest and plan your next garden. If you are constantly planting — even when the conditions aren’t right — eventually your garden and energy levels will collapse. The cycles of life demands breaks. So this weekend I am proud to announce that I did nothing. I watched movies that inspire me. I napped every time my son napped… and I feel so much better for it. Breaks are a beautiful part of life.

What do you actually get from worrying?

worrying
Last week I was worried. I stayed up late fretting. My mind went over and over each little detail hoping it could find one positive outcome.

As I drove to work the next morning, I wondered What did I actually get from worrying? I got:

  1. Less sleep than I wanted
  2. A crappy evening that I could have spent reading or relaxing
  3. No practical resolution
  4. Lots of stress pumping through my body.

So I decided not to worry any more. (Easier said than done, I know). But next time I want to worry, I think I’ll try turning to a good book or movie instead.

Smile like a Baby

smile like a baby

Evidently kids smile 400 times a day and adults only 20 — something along those lines isn’t hard to believe.

My baby recently learned how to smile and that’s all he wants to do.  It’s so strange to have someone stare happily at you for ages and want nothing in return but a smile back.  I feel like I’m the sun in his sky and wonder what I have done to deserve such special treatment.

But when I think about my husband and I, we never smile that frequently and we’re both very happy people.  It seems natural and I think it could be helpful to smile more.  It can help attract the perfect mate, move up the ladder at work or make a new friend.  Plus, it’s so simple to do:  just take  the corners of your mouth and move them up.  Then repeat. :)