Monthly Archives: December 2014

Filling The Void

filling voidI was talking with my dad about Candid Uprising, telling him about our mission and purpose and encouraging him to read. While I knew he’d be proud to hear that I’m exploring a passion project, I was also concerned about how he might react to some of the opinions we’ve put forth. While he is socially liberal, and overall of a progressive mindset, he was raised in the Midwest in the 1950s and has some closely held traditional values. My dad is a rather reserved, reticent person, but he came alive when I told him I had written and published a couple of posts on not wanting children. “Right”, he said animatedly, “people have kids to fill the void. Things get stale. People’s lives plateau and they tell themselves, now it’s time.” He continued to expound upon the subject as I frantically scribbled notes. “Kids fill up the room”, he continued, “they take all your extra time, all your extra money, all your extra love and affection. Kids are all consuming. Being a parent is a bitch, and the most responsible thing you’ll ever do. You fuck up someone elses life, and it’s terrifying”, he finished. “Dad”, I exclaimed, “then why in the world do people do it?”

“It’s biology, for god’s sake”, he cried. Continue reading

It’s Not A War, It’s Inclusion

inclusionThe concept that there’s a war on Christmas frustrates me. The indignant assertions abound: that it’s ok to say Merry Christmas to all people, and that the December holiday season needs to be branded as the Christmas season, and public and government property should rightly be festooned with Christmas trees and creches. It seems the justifications are that the U.S. is a Christian nation, that Christmas is the foremost December holiday, that Christian tradition takes the mantle over public life. Personally, I can’t understand the celebration of one religious group’s holiday requiring the exclusion of all other traditions. For what purpose? My perspective of what I’m going to call the holiday season (a period that ranges from the third week in November through January 1st) is that it’s a time we challenge ourselves to open our hearts, to reach out, be inclusive, give generously and think of those less fortunate. Goodwill towards all, don’t be a dick, treat others with beautiful kindness. And of course, mindless consumerism. In fact, my almost physical inability to say Merry Christmas has its roots in my many years working retail during the holidays. Continue reading

Haters Are A Sign You’re Succeeding: We’re Published!

Haters_Logo_BlurWe’ve reached an exciting milestone this week, online publication by Skirt Collective, a site that “aims to be the modern woman’s compass”. Head over there and check out a post I planned to publish for you in January, “Haters Are a Sign You’re Succeeding“.  Here’s a taste: “…and from that day forward, I saw my haters in a new light – as an important energy source. It was amazing the time and energy they were willing to spend having strong feelings and opinions about me and my choices. They were living proof that I was seen, and they would provide the fuel to push me forward, toward excellence.”

Thank you to our early adopters for your dedicated readership!

Yeah, I’ve Got a Problem With Authority, So?

authorityI can scarcely remember a time in my life when I wasn’t involved in challenging the authority figures in my life one way or another. My mom likes to tell a story from when I was very young, probably about two or three, when I wouldn’t stop walking directly in front of her, causing her to stumble and trip. We were walking in the fields behind our house in pastoral Middlebury, Vermont, down to a small pond. Though I can’t remember, I’m sure I was getting under her feet with the express purpose of tripping her, likely with a literal display of toppling authority in mind. She relates that she became so frustrated after telling me multiple times to stop that she pushed me down into the soft tall grass. Apparently I got up and we finished our walk without incident. Being underfoot as a toddler was the first of many, many confrontations with authority figures I’ve had over the course of my life. The lesson has never been learned, which leads me to believe I will always be looking for a weakness in my superiors to exploit. Sigh. Continue reading

Sexy Negative

sexyI coined this term a couple of years ago to describe the allure of engaging in pessimistic, cynical conversations with others, the shared sense of fatalism the glue holding the group together. At times I’ve personally found certain groups or individuals’ toxicity so attractive I’ve stuck fast to it. And for what purpose? A lesson from middle school is that talking shit about other people is one of the quickest, easiest ways to bond. One reason why is fear holds the group together–no one wants to leave, for fear their reputation and personality be dissected to bits and found lacking. As long as you’re there, they aren’t talking about you. If you’re on the outside, you can be sure they are. So you draw closer, and get sucked in. Sexy negative is like tar pits. Once you step in, it takes massive effort to get out. Sometimes you have to change your whole scene to escape. I made a New Year’s resolution in 2013 that I wasn’t going to be involved in sexy negativity anymore, because my personality and environment had become intensely toxic, a vibe I was perpetuating, my life sinking lower and lower into the depths. But at the beginning, approaching everything from a pessimistic angle, assuming the worst, and veiling every word and intention in a thick layer of sarcasm made me feel like I belonged; sexy negative. Continue reading

Two-Faced, Demystified

two-facedDealing with two-faced people, or those with passive-aggressive personalities can be the bane of a workplace, family or social circle existence. You know who I’m talking about–the person who you know for a fact says rude things about you behind your back, but when you ask them directly about it they widen their eyes and play innocent. If you pride yourself on being direct and open, two-faced folks will repel, disgust and ultimately amuse you. For the sensitive, thoughtful types, they create a special kind of mental hell. My advice, don’t get involved. Or keep interactions as limited as possible. Interpersonal relationships are a game to the two-faced person, and the less you engage, the better.

A friend was lamenting the other day about how hard it is to catch duplicitous people in the act, to have that a ha! moment where their words and actions come full circle to bite them in the ass (not to be confused with the Oprah ah ha! moment, which is something else entirely), with you in the front row watching. What my friend wanted was for people to be honest about their motivations, so everyone knows where they stand and can cooperate from there.

Not possible with the two-faced contingent. Disingenuous behavior is rooted in a deep, profound insecurity. It serves to make the person unknowable to others, thereby obscuring the true self-image of loathing, doubt and intense vulnerability. The sense of self is either non-existent or so fragile, it could shatter from the smallest exposure. Hence the need to “throw shade”, to play people against each other, say one thing and do another. The purpose is to confuse and entrap others to create a diversion, so the real issues can’t be seen. Don’t try to disentangle the lies or make sense of any of it. Just know that someone with a black hole where their personality should be is trying desperately to survive. Sad, isn’t it?

At a previous job, a supervisor used to congratulate me on the fine work I was doing, and tell me what a bright future lay ahead. She would jokingly congratulate herself for spotting and hiring great talent. Then I’d hear reluctant feedback from another supervisor about how I was being perceived as arrogant, entitled, not a team player and reckless. Putting two-and-two together, I knew these were not the words of the speaker, but the commentary of my constant congratulator. I began to sense she was playing me, because she would often come to me to breathily complain about certain colleagues, using the same words. Her game was to be seen as the supportive, mentoring boss while her brittle ego required her to tear down anyone she saw as a threat. Pathetic.

Duplicity serves to exert control over those who come into contact, in order to manipulate and serve its own ends. For the two-faced person it’s often to cover a hole so deep and dark inside, that its exposure would cause a total collapse. Healthy, well-adjusted people don’t do it. At best, disingenuity is irritating to be around, knowing someone is talking shit about the person they’ll be palling around with later. At worst, it’s a terrible, infectious disease that destroys whole micro-cultures (see: the office gossip).

To keep sane, limit your involvement to the extent possible. Just smile and nod, feigning interest and understanding. Do not spend one second attempting to make sense of the behaviors, or piece together the lies. Practice pity. The two-faced person before you is in terrible pain. Imagine the stark loneliness of being entirely unknowable, the terrible exhaustion of always having to run a step ahead of the deceit, the tax taken by extreme concentration to keep the fragments pieced together. Trust me, your single-faced quality of life is infinitely higher.

 

There’s Hope For The Older Generation Yet

older genAt the Thanksgiving table there were eleven people crammed into a space for eight. The conversation was spirited, opinionated and loud. At the head of the table sat Bobby, an elderly man in poor health, a walker at his side. Often his voice could be heard above the din, and I caught words like “Israel”, “Washington” and “Muslims”. Rolling my eyes to myself, I dismissed him as another conservative, closed-minded old man, good for not much more than espousing his bigoted beliefs. Without hearing his words in context of any sort, not even a complete sentence, I took this leap, assuming the worst about him. Because, you know, the Greatest Generation, while I respect them tremendously for what they lived through as young people (the Depression, WWII, the Korean War) and how they made do in a way my generation will never understand, they display a complete lack of perspective. They don’t contribute anything worthwhile. Yep, I’m the open-minded one. Continue reading

Seven Year Itch

sevenI follow Uberfacts on Twitter.

If you don’t follow Uberfacts, you are missing out on dazzling gems such as

252 million tons of pepperoni are eaten each year.

Shakespeare invented the name Jessica.

Approximately 49 moons could fit inside of earth.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s first onscreen kiss was with a man.

Then one day, sometime in the last year or so, Uberfacts told me that

The average friendship lasts 5-7 years.

My initial reaction was, ‘why, how sad. Friendships should last a lot longer than that.’

Then I took stock and thought about all of the friendships that I have which are more than seven years old. I had a few ground rules.

First, no family. I know people who say they are best friends with their mom. I knew a set of triplets back in high school who were ‘sisters by chance, best friends by choice.’

That all deserves a post of its own.

Second rule, no significant others. I don’t do ‘married my best friend.’ When I see that on Facebook or a wedding announcement or in an obituary, I simply don’t understand. That’s my personal view. You do you.

Third rule, what does ‘average’ mean? (Stats nerds are laughing) Ordinary? Normal? Unremarkable? Plain? Homely? Since words are tools and need to be used properly and precisely to have much meaning, I decided that ‘average’ doesn’t mean boring, run of the mill, hum drum friendships. Tonight I decided that ‘average’ simply refers to the length of time for the kinds of friendships that would really hurt you to lose. The people that you would actually notice if they disappeared from your life.

It’s about quantity, not quality.

The fourth rule: what is ‘friendship?’ Well, the relationships that would really hurt you to lose.

It’s about quality, not quantity.

And the fifth rule of Fight Club is…

I see some categories as gray areas that may or may not count. Coworkers, for example. Say you go to the same job every day for ten years. Let’s say a number of your coworkers last as long as you. All of you go to the same job every single workday for a decade. Now imagine that you actually like these people. Are they your friends?

I suppose it depends on how much work you put into cultivating and maintaining a ‘friendship.’

Well, we go out for happy hour… every payday Thursday.

We play basketball together on Wednesday nights… when we aren’t all too busy.

Our kids go to the same school… but don’t really like each other.

Maybe those are the kinds of people you consider friends. No problem, it’s your call. I hadn’t really put much thought into it until I moved away from a community where I spent 7 ½ years. That was pretty eye-opening. The structure of the workplace provides an easy medium for developing potential friendships. Because it is all based entirely on that singularly-defined context, however, it can be grossly misleading.

No matter how much work and effort you put in, there’s always a chance that you blink and realize it was all an illusion. A flimsy house of cards.

Sure, it can be like that with any relationship. But remember that when you are making friends with coworkers, you risk having a friendship built on a foundation of nothing more than the shared requirement that you all punch in at the same place every day.

I’m certainly not belittling work friendships. They make going to work bearable, even enjoyable. And if you see some people outside of the work place and you enjoy their company, life just feels that much better. I love working with people that I can hang out with socially.

But that’s not the point of my exercise. I’m looking at friendships that can and do exist outside of the job. Those that, when the time comes to sever the work bond and leave a job behind, survive and thrive. I have very few.

What about classmates?

We’ve been best friends since first grade.

The four of us walked together at graduation and are still best buds ten years later.

My sorority sisters and I were all in each others weddings.

My dad was Army so we moved a lot. From age 8 to 15 I lived in four different states plus Germany. I did fourth grade in two different countries, seventh grade in two different states, and I had the pleasure of being a freshman at one high school and then a sophomore at a different high school that was 10th through 12th grades.

I was basically a freshman twice.

On top of that there were a million other kids just like me. All of us military kids were in the same boat. Every week someone you knew was moving away and you would never hear from them again. And it’s not like these kids were moving down the street, or across town.

Hey Bobby, let’s go to that German bakery off base after school next week! Sorry, can’t, I’m moving to Louisiana tomorrow.

Mom, can Jeremy spend the night this weekend? Sorry, Honey. He’s busy helping his family get ready to move to Japan.

Hi Joe, welcome to the school! Do you want to join the baseball team in the spring? Sorry, we’re only stationed here for four months.

And this was the dark ages: no internet. Email didn’t become mainstream until I started college. And forget phone calls. Cell phones were the size of cinder blocks and were restricted to movies like Wall Street. And long-distance charges? I can’t even imagine what it would cost to make a phone call from Germany to Pennsylvania in 1989. Probably five hundred dollars. You could always write a letter, I guess. And I did, once or twice. But two ten-year olds are going to have neither the focus nor the life experience to sustain any meaningful written correspondence.

Some of the communities where I lived had a pretty sizable civilian population, so it was always really weird to me when a kid was born in the same city where I would later meet them in middle school. I couldn’t imagine living in the same place, with the same people around me, for my whole life. I needed constant change.

Needless to say, I have zero friends from elementary school. Zero from middle school. I can count on two hands those from high school and college.

The one caveat that serves as the white elephant is the stack of Facebook friends that I have collected over the last decade or so, many of whom I knew from one of my earlier educational experiences. I like those folks, and do consider them friends to the degree that I may wish them happy birthday or like their cat videos. But almost all of them were long forgotten until we discovered social media and started stalking one another.

Don’t misunderstand. I had good, comfortable numbers of friends at all levels of school. It’s just that none of them lasted. My peripatetic childhood was at least partly responsible, my natural instinct being to churn and burn through similarly nomadic friends at a fairly rapid pace.

Plus I can be pretty hard to be around at times.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Uberfacts tells me that the average friendship lasts for 5-7 years. I can see that.

I just recently reached that mark with a bunch of people who I find are no longer in my life.

I’m well beyond 7 years with a handful of very special people.

I’m very early in the timeline with a number of other people whose company I particularly enjoy and I hope to continue to call my friends for many more years.

And there are plenty more that I know who are right in that 5-7 year critical time period. For all of those people, let’s enjoy each other’s company as much and for as long as we can.

Because the clock’s ticking.

Guest post by RMK, attorney for a paycheck, not a living.

Us vs. Them, Over & Over Again

us v themDivisive conflicts in the workplace, where intergenerational politics are involved seem to capture my notice more frequently of late. Especially those in which I’ve been involved. The represented generations have different ways of dealing with the perceived contrasts between groups, with a fixation on who’s right and who’s entitled, which informs responses, management style, hiring and firing decisions. It’s especially apparent between the Baby Boomers and the Millenials, and it’s both fascinating and frustrating to participate in and watch. Continue reading