Tuesday Letters – July 24, 2012

Dear wonderful blog that I read, for inspiring me to take a trip to Ethiopia with Food for the Hungry, to start learning about a world bigger than myself.  To Indy, for reminding me that I must find anyway possible to get a dog in my life.  Dear Ernest Hemingway, for writing: “The sweeter a lie sounds, the meaner it really is.” Too true. Dear The Pad, for providing sweaty solace every Sunday night –  and for the new friends and brews that comes right after. Dear Rescue Me, I eagerly await my screening of Season 2 – Denis Leary forever! Dear SF Marathon, I’m sad I’ll miss out on you this weekend (damn shoulder!), but cheers to all those running! Onto the next one, I suppose.  Dear Russian River Valley, you were definitely awe to the some this weekend. Dear Penn State, I don’t know what to say. Let’s believe that Coach O’Brien is the man ready for the task ahead.  X’s and O’s to the community and the victims. Lots of ’em.

Sunday letters

Dear Penn State, I guarantee that I was the only one at work streaming the Joe Paterno memorial live on my computer on Thursday.  While everyone else was buzzing about the Oscar nominees, the new shade of Sephora gloss, and the Christopher Kane line at JBrand, I was trying not to weep audibly as each man, young and old, got up to express how his life had been drastically altered by the influence of this “molder of men.” And I’m not even an alumni, but I get it. Go figure.

Dear Katya, thank you for spending the weekend with me.  Your impatience with my 90 second makeup application and constant following from room to room (yes, my new apartment has rooms!) encouraged (bullied?) me to leave my abode and be outside for the last 36 hours, to soak up the 65 degree California sun and all that it has to offer the soul.

Dear Katya’s owners, Daniel and Anna, thank you for loaning me a gal who lifts my spirits and doesn’t take my crap.  And a huge congratulations – I hope that one day I will receive a ring given with such sincere love and devotion as you two experience.

Dear Ashley, for introducing me to some of the coolest folks I’ve ever met.  Macy’s, for delivery men who encourage me to start a support group for displaced Manhattanites simply because they deliver beds in SF to 18 people from NYC a week.  A week!  “What is going on over there?”  “I don’t know, Alfredo, I just don’t know.”  To California, for simultaneously providing a gorgeous day, on which I planned a trip to Napa, while simultaneously bought a ticket for a ski trip, all occurring within the next few weeks.  I now can deal with winter. Dear Iphone, thank you for embracing Instagram.  Droid, get your shite together, man, it’s embarrassing.  Zipcar, you allow me freedom, dependability, security, warmth, and pleasure – all the things I’m actually looking for in a man, and for a mere $50 a day!   I will see your blue arse on Saturday for the next adventure.

California girl.

So here I am – three weeks into unemployment, three thousand miles away from my previous life.   Beaches have been sat upon, pages of novels devoured, wine sniffed and swirled, hikes explored, dogs walked and stroked, avocados sliced….and I have spent more time than I’d like to admit on this little Mac here trying to find work.   While I’d love to look back on this time and say that I was footloose and fancy-free, I always knew I was too Type-A for that.  Life is not on hold just because everything else seems to be.   But this is the closest to ‘on hold’ as I’ll ever be.  And it’s pretty fantastic.

I have to say…..I’m loving it out here.  I love getting up in the morning, seeing the fog burned off by the pending sun.  Visiting the grocery store and seeing aisles of locally grown wine.  Driving ten minutes and hearing the waves roar.  Having Katya run in circles from excitement because she knows she’s going for a car ride.  Making conversation with every passerby.  Parallel parking the shite out of that space.  Watching Monday Night Football at 5pm and seeing the whole game.  Waking up to a dog that is as uncertain about what the day holds as I am,  but knows there are bellyrubs in it for her.  Having time to read all the articles that I once tried to make time for (ask me anything about the Tea Party.  Anything).  Yes, there have been times when I’ve had a little too much time on my hands that left me to ponder why we keep giving the Kardashians new shows,  why David Hasselhoff  was ever a judge on America’s Got Talent when the man is inept,  and why Will Smith’s kids just simply won’t go away.  But it’s all good.  If I could do this sublet for longer,  I would be eternally grateful.  It has been one of the most important gifts I’ve given myself.  Plus, it’s pretty amazing that a girl who worked in film and television for the last decade has no cable.  While I will give a shout-out to Hulu, I do have to say that the silence is breathtaking and hugely important to me.  Right now, I would be watching Jon Stewart, and while I love the little guy, the fact that I’m listening to a dog’s breathing and my own tapping keys is much more significant than another well-earned snark to Bachmann, that I will instead read about tomorrow.

The Integrity of #9

Football is in the air.  Weekends are spent watching back to back games, indulging in afternoon Bloody Marys, and screaming for a favorite quarterback as the countdown to the Superbowl commences.  Like millions of sports enthusiasts, I poured over Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” article, naming Drew Brees the most influential, resolute, steadfast, and honest gentleman in sports today.

Most of his renown is due to his leadership in bringing a Lombardi trophy to a stricken city.  Much of it is for his charities that raise millions of dollars a year, the schools that he visits, the children and adults he influences.  Despite his successes, his role as a father and husband is of what he is most proud. In his memoir, he wrote,  “… when I put the ring on Brittany’s finger, I said, ‘For better or for worse, till death do us part.’ Period. No matter how bad it could possibly get, I am committed. It’s not about happiness. It’s not about a feeling. I committed myself to her for the rest of my life, and I promise never to walk away.”

Reading about that kind of trust and devotion made me realize how rare it is. Why is that?  To find a person who keeps his word and believes that trust and faith are the foundations of a shared life. Someone who doesn’t just say it, but means it.  Someone who leads life with integrity and truth.  I want to live in a world where a person like this is the norm and not a celebrated exception.

Drew’s teammate, Jon Stinchcomb said, “If a father gives his kid a number 9 Saints jersey, he’s probably never going to have to do any explaining about the guy who wears that jersey.” He is steadfast and strong, and no one need question his certainty or integrity.  “What” and “if” are not in his vocabulary. For these are two words that separately can neither offend nor hold one back from living life… but put them together and they hold the power to haunt.  Together, they breed remorse and flatten courage. They cause a desire to change others, without regard for how it may change the rest of who they are.  In their adjacency, they open a door to regret and loss.  If I could make a wish, it would be to keep those two words as far away from each other as humanly possible. “What if” should have no place in our lives, and I can only hope I keep them out of mine.  Because he can, Brees is unstoppable.

It goes without saying that before you demand better of others, you should demand better of yourself.  Every thought, every word, every action, every truth and every lie….whether they serve you or not, changes everything.  Each of us is on our own path and we all learn at different times and for different reasons.  We all make choices that show our integrity, or lack thereof.  I suppose the whole point is to wake up with the sun and make the most honorable, truthful ones…day in and day out, for as long as we’re allowed.

Thirty days hath September

I’ve always loved September.  As a kid, it meant the start of school, yes, but also a promised end of the heat, a new year, freshly pressed uniforms, and brand new Buster Browns.

In high school it meant choosing your crush for the upcoming year, deciding what new outfit you were wearing on the first day, and organizing your Trapper Keeper.  But, come to think of it, that last Type-A excitement might have been mine alone.

In college, it was back to the ‘suite’ life – watching the new fall television pilots, crawling to football games, laughing for about 16 hours a day, and keeping your door open, encouraging all visitors to distract you from Milton.

But every year, no matter your age, the blank notebooks and new clothes meant a fresh start, a slate unblemished by any poor grades, worries, fights with friends, forgotten homework… any bad decisions.  We were all white as snow.  We hadn’t screwed up yet.

In a matter of days, the “yellow limousines” as my mother calls them, will be seen up and down our streets, touting kids of all ages.  Right now, college freshman are decorating their dorm rooms, sizing up their roommates, and saying their goodbyes.

There isn’t a person I know who doesn’t love fall – the crispness, the foliage, the U.S. Open, the football (I mean, is Hardknocks not one of the best shows on tv?)…but I think, even though we are not in school, the idea of renewal resonates with all of us.  It’s the close of one door and the opening of another.

Today, I met with my professor of my last semester’s favorite class Me, Inc, an extremely respected life and career coach / consultant at some major Fortune 500 companies.  A few weeks ago, after I mailed him my last MBA paper ever, he asked if I was interested in discussing it with him.  Grades had been tallied, so my immediate reaction was to think that maybe the forty page monologue about my recent bruises and scrapes, changed plans and distant hopes was a bit more than he bargained for – and he was plain old worried about me.  He probably wanted to check my wrists for wear and tear and ensure that I wasn’t inhaling Prozac like Pez.  I was a charity case…pro bono work, one that needed his services to get me on the straight and narrow and right quick.

As you can see, my first reaction is to always throw myself under the bus.  But thankfully, my second reaction was to acknowledge what a gift this was, to have this distinguished professional take time out of his schedule to counsel me about my life and career goals and direction.  So today, over burgers, we went through my paper.  He said that once every few years, one paper resonates with him, and mine was it (this is me, lifting up the wheels of the bus that I threw my body under).

I have many more of his highlighted notes to read through, but I walked away newly inspired to follow my path… and realize my value to this world and the people I know (and hopefully the people I don’t as well).  His goal, now that my written assignment was over, was for me to understand what I had written…that they were never just words on a page, but my heart and soul in Microsoft Word…to now take it to the action stage and turn my strengths into my passion.  He had such positivity and certainty that I was going to not only turn out just fine, but be WAY more than fine…it made me start to think so, too.

I know I have many people in my life who believe in me. But sometimes it takes your words to be literally highlighted by another to make you realize that what you have to say is important..valid…true….

To me, today absolutely felt like the first of September.  A sense of change in the air, a clean slate, and the promise of a new beginning.

Things I Know For Sure – Part 4

1 –  Our lives should have multiple chapters, just like a book that tells its story from a different place, a different voice, a different time.  Sometimes you want to fastforward until the plot gets good again, but it’s the in-between pages that build up the characters.

2 –  The whole talking to myself thing has begun officially.  I’m quite a good conversationalist.  I even surprise myself with punchlines.

3 – You can either choose to let whatever it is destroy you, or you can use it.  I have decided to put its power into my work instead – throwing myself into finding a good job that pays me what I’m worth, possibly trying out a new city, following my passions, and taking care of myself.  And most of all, remembering my value.

4 – I was told  the other day that I had a Mary Tyler Moore thing going on – I don’t know whether that means I have a bad haircut, or that people laugh at my expense.

5 – I finally get it.  Finally.  People don’t escape from other people, from relationships, from their lives.  It’s about finding some time to escape the pain of being them.

6 – At a Time Warner Women’s Network Conference, I learned from female CEOs that all the power meetings take place in the ladies’ room, that men are a lot of work, you can disagree without being disagreeable, you must convince people that you can bust through walls, and that  it is a lie that “nice girls don’t get the corner office.”

7 – Today at work I wore a plaid shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and had my hair loose and tousled.  In short, I looked exactly like Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights.

8 – When you put someone on a pedestal, the only place they have to look is down.

9 – It takes me  thirty minutes to shower, apply makeup, blowdry my hair and become the person people expect me to be by 9am.  By the time I revolve through that door at work, I have practiced how I am to behave and begin playing the part, coffee in hand.  I’m exhausted by noon.

10 – “To love is not to look at one another, but to look together in the same direction.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince, 1943.  if I were to get a tattoo, that’s what it would say.

The Best Damn Homework Ever

“The most exhausting thing we can be is inauthentic.”  – Anne Lindbergh

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my final assignment ever in my MBA program is for Me, Inc, and encompasses my vision for myself, my Platinum Standard, the guidelines for my life, and the plan to make it all happen.  It’s proven to be the most important assignment I’ve been handed and one that could not come at a better time: when I’m planning on uprooting my career, possibly my life, and starting fresh.

We were asked questions that automatically lead to deeper self-discovery, like: How do you define yourself, What are your top five values that touch every aspect of your life, What excites / angers you most in the world…  It also asks us, if DVR’s were not invented, what show we would race home to and why?  …Friday Night Lights (family and football, that’s why)….

The whole purpose is to ask these questions and dissect what it is that makes you tick.  We have to know who we are if we want to become something more, and we have to know where we’ve been in order to get to where we’re going.

One of the questions asked is how others define us.  So today I put friends and work acquaintances to the test, asked them to be as honest as I would be with them, and tell me how they perceive me.  It’s an exercise in determining the impressions we give off to people, and may not even realize it.  Really, I was looking for the negative, because as I wrote to them, “we all know how cool I am.  No need to state the obvious.”   I wanted the nitty-gritty.  The most common answers reflected that I was open, honest, sarcastic, direct, and hilarious (those are my blog readers).  The ones that made me step back were “I would want you on my team,” “a contrarian when necessary,” “sometimes too quiet,” too often “thinking about when the day is going to end and WTF am I doing here,” quick to laugh,” “takes no prisoners,” “hard on yourself,” and my favorite, “I imagine that you are not a good companion when stuck in a traffic jam.”

Then I remembered last year when I was signed up for a public speaking seminar through work.  Moderated by a life coach, our small group was asked to reveal much about ourselves, and boy, did we.  Amidst the open discussion, we picked one word that we wished people would use to describe us.  Mine was Charisma. The life coach immediately warned me that charisma happened too few and far between, and that it was an impossible endeavor, unless I was Bill Clinton.  When it was all done, she was to come up with one word that described each of us.  Her word for me was Poise.  I saved the email she wrote to me later: “Get yourself through school and then settle into your strengths and watch heads turn…you are moving toward charisma – so as you settle, move into your warmth. It is there just under the surface waiting to be released and shared with others.”

I haven’t read that since March 2009, and it hit a chord today, as all of these perceptions of me came in.  Warmth.  I am a firm believer in Jung’s idea of projection, and the idea that when we see a negative trait in others, it is a mirror-image of our own negative trait. I recently described someone I love as cold…and here I am being told to move into my own warmth.  I was seen as poised, direct, passionate, charming, relentless, and a force to be reckoned with – but not too many “kinds” and no “warms.”  I’m grateful for all the stellar things people said, but perhaps the whole purpose of this assignment is to notice the ones they didn’t.  That’s what makes it the best homework I’ve ever been asked to complete.