Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Our part in creating sustainability

I hate planned obsolescence.

I hate cheap shit.

I hate the “everything disposable” mindset.

I hate WalMart and the Dollar Store.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to pay tons of money for everything, necessarily, but we need to find a way back to well-made things that can be kept for a long time, repaired, upgraded, etc.

It’s better to pay more for a thing up front that you can keep for a long time than to pay half as much that you’re going to need four of in the same time frame.

(And in the case of handheld technology, it’s neither cheap nor long-lasting.)

In order to do this, we need to

1- Buy less stuff. Especially with average incomes as they are and cost of living expenses continuously on the rise, buying higher-quality but more expensive stuff isn’t going to work at the same volume.

2- Be OK with stuff not being the newest. This example pops into mind. When I was a kid, we had an Atari. It was awesome. And then Nintendo came out, and we wanted one of those. We didn’t get one, because we already had a gaming system. So sometimes friends came over and we played Atari, and sometimes we went to their house and played Nintendo.

3- Share. People seem to do this more out of economic necessity, but there are lots of things that we don’t all need to own our own. We bought a giant umbrella thinger when The Kid was doing track last year. A friend’s daughter was doing swim over the summer. Instead of buying an umbrella, they borrowed ours. It worked perfectly. Unless we needed it at the same time, there’s no reason for us both to own one. Less money outgoing. Less storage space. Less trash later. True for many occasional-use things.

Can we stop going to the Dollar Store and buying lots of junk because we can and it’s cheap? Can we stop buying clothes that we’ll only wear for one season? (Kids excepted, because they grow…)

It’s a big shift. But it will help us mentally (less stuff = less stress about stuff—spoken from a place of privilege), it will help us economically, it will help us environmentally. It will help built community (for sharing, and for playing each other’s games). And maybe it’ll bring work back here from overseas.

You in?

Posted in audience participation, connections, differences, hope, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Workplace wellness

Today’s post is full of broad sweeping statements. Of course they are not true for every individual in every category. But I’m not going to make a disclaimer in every paragraph because it’s unwieldy to read.

Many companies are introducing (or have already introduced) wellness incentive plans regarding various biomarkers of their employees (with questionable legality).

But stress is seemingly worse for your health than any of the markers they’re measuring.

How many employers are actively seeking to reduce their employees’ stress levels?

None? Benefit of the doubt and say a few?

This embodies so many facets of America.

1. We’re unhealthy. We eat badly; we move insufficiently; we’re overweight and underslept; we lack meaningful community; we view vulnerability—necessary for connection—as a weakness; we prioritize work over play, over rest, over family; in addition to all of the -isms that culturally define us.

2. We don’t believe in health care as a right. Which, on a tangent, is mostly sick care. (For more details on that, see point #1.) Only people who work the right jobs for the right people for the right number of hours get to have health insurance. And even then, many of those people still have to pay for it. Sometimes a lot. And pay even more for their families to be covered. Which doesn’t even cover all of what’s potentially needed.

3. Companies are not interested in their people. They are interested in money. So they do whatever they can to siphon more money to the top people. (Because, despite current mindset, companies are not actually in themselves people. They’re just run by people. So we could more accurately say that the people at the top of companies are disinterested in everyone else in the company, so long as they continue to live large.)

Whether that’s hiring fewer salaried employees and expecting them to work more (sometimes way more) than 40 hours per week, or hiring more hourly employees part time so they don’t have to pay for benefits, or paying as little as possible, or countless other possibilities, the money needs to pour up.

It’s a giant mindset problem. A cultural problem. A mental health problem. A shaming problem. A physical health problem. An economic problem.

I don’t know how to fix it.

But I do know that I can contact people in charge of stuff (whether it’s government officials or company leaders), and I can vote. (Are you registered? If not, open another browser window and go do it now! People taking it all for themselves depend on your apathy to maintain or advance their position.)

And I can do my best to be the change I want to see, live my life out loud, and hope others join me. (And they do. They always do.)

Be the change. Be self-aware, even (especially) when it sucks. Be open. Be vulnerable. But be fierce.

(Except on the days that you just need to lay on the couch. Then just lay.)

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, thoughtfulness

Remembrance photography

I was invited to consider volunteering to do remembrance photography.

(Invited as part of a photography group. Not personally invited.)

I clicked through to see if it was what I thought it was.

It was.

Volunteer photographers do photo sessions with parents and their deceased infants. The example photos shown were very much like typical infant shoots — cute poses, big bows on girls’ heads, close ups of holding hands, etc.

I don’t think I could do that.

I take pictures of a lot of things, but I don’t think I could arrange a dead baby in a cute pose for a photo.

I don’t think I could keep myself together working with parents whose hearts are shattered into a million pieces.

I am barely holding it together just writing about it.

Maybe, by the time I’m a skilled enough photographer to consider that sort of assignment, I’ll have whatever internal stuff it takes to be able to handle the emotional side.

Until then, hats off to you, people who do that work.

Posted in connections, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

Apologies

Apologies.

We tend not to be good at them.

We tend to force children to mutter them insincerely.

We get in the habit of muttering them insincerely, if we mutter them at all.

The first place I heard an excellent, clear explanation of what an apology should be was in Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon. (To be clear: I wasn’t there; I saw it online.) It was given and recorded in 2008 and the linked video has almost 20 million views. But the one I saw was a reprise on Oprah. It’s much shorter; you can watch it here. (It has a lot of good stuff in it.)

He says (starting at 7:40 in the shorter clip) that a proper apology has three parts:

  1. I’m sorry.
  2. It was my fault.
  3. How do I make it right?

A long time later, I heard an episode of Radiolab that was all about apologies. Legal, religious, secular. The history of apologies. It was fascinating and infuriating and frustrating and well worth the hour. (There’s about 5 minutes of business at the front end that might not interest you.)

But what prompted me to put this out to you today was this article from the Harvard Business Review that a friend texted to me the other day.

Like Pausch’s lecture, it includes three components of a good apology. The three pieces are a little bit different:

  1. Admit you were wrong and you’re sorry.
  2. Show them you understand the effect it had on them. (This would be amazing as a receiver.)
  3. Tell them what you’re going to do differently in the future so it doesn’t happen again.

But what really made this article impactful was the story it told prior to getting into the general “this is how you do it” part. (As per yesterday, it’s always the story we connect with…)

In the end, with mediation, someone at work apologized to someone else at work for being a jerk, and the man being apologized to broke down and cried. Because he had never been apologized to. For anything.

Part of me finds this hard to believe, but much of me sees life as it is, sees people as they are, sees my own experience, and believes that this is true.

So … own your shit. (This seems to be less and less lately.) Acknowledge it to the appropriate person or people. See what you can do to fix it, whether in the present or in the future. Make the world better by making your connections better.

Posted in connections, differences, mental health, mindset, socializing, storytelling, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Statistics vs. actual people

Individual stories are where real emotional power lies.

I mean, that 3,000 people were killed is quite something.

That millions were killed in WWII is staggering.

They’re numbers. They’re big numbers. They’re easy to wield, hard to comprehend.

“A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”

Stories? Those are where power lies. Not because it’s not sad to lose thousands of people at once, but because stories are where we connect.

That’s why there are transcriptions of last phone messages from 18 years ago.

That’s why a group (or more than one, possibly) is putting together the story of each individual person we lost in the terrorist attacks in 2001.

That’s why Anne Frank’s diary is so compelling.

That’s why we don’t interview people who are Other.

When we hear someone’s story and are open to it, we connect with our shared humanity. There are parts of their story that could be our story. It touches us. (Sometimes a story touches us despite our best efforts to stay closed. Those are the best.)

So … listen to people. Especially people who are different than you. Listen to their story. Connect with them. Share your humanity.