Posted in cancer, connections, differences, ebb & flow, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

Talking to people going through hard things

A friend’s father-in-law is in his final hours. I would not text her right now to complain about … anything.

Thinking about that led me to realize that perhaps people get situations confused. Or just aren’t able to find out what direction to go in other difficult situations.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was inpatient at the hospital, had a seemingly endless string of tests and procedures, one of which landed me in ICU overnight, and was somewhat overwhelmed. But within two weeks, I was home.

Despite being home, cancer treatment often lasts a long time. I was admitted to the hospital in mid-May and finished treatments in mid-January. I’ve known too many people who tally up years of treatment.

Once the initial storm settled, socializing was really important, because I couldn’t do most of the other things I was accustomed to doing.

A relative had gotten a flat tire, and started a conversation with, “Well, I know this is nothing compared to what you’re going through, but …”

And no, it’s not, but in real life, that doesn’t matter. I mean, I wouldn’t complain about what my spouse made for dinner last night to someone who was food insecure, but the people in my social circle are, for the most part, all secure in food, housing, and other basic needs. (Except healthcare. Welcome to America.)

OK, I got off on a tangent there, but what I’m saying is—the majority of my people share similar annoyances, with the occasional life-shaking event.

Is the life-shaking event finite? A death, the onset of serious illness or injury, loss of a job, for example?

If yes, they’re not in a good place for you to bug them with minutiae. (“I was just diagnosed with cancer.” “OMG really? Can you believe I got a flat on my way to work today?”) Choose another friend for that.

If their life-shaking event is chronic (whether permanent or temporary) and the initial blow has passed, then you need to know, in response to a story about the flat you got on the way to work, would they say:

Must be nice to be able to go to work/have a car to get a flat/etc.

or

Oh man! That sucks! Why did it take AAA so long to get there?

And base your decision on that.

If you don’t know, ask.

“Hey, I know you’re going through xyz shitty thing right now, and I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk about that, if you were looking for conversation just to be kind of light, or if you were looking for just normal conversation.”

Or something like that.

Then people who really need you just to be there and hang out have you there and hanging out (um, maybe not literally), and people who really don’t want to hear about your shit won’t be offended by your insensitivity.

Posted in know better do better, mindset, parenting, socializing, vulnerability

Singing out loud

A few years ago, I was driving, The Kid accompanying in the back seat. The weather was nice, the windows were down, and he was singing.

It didn’t matter that the windows were down. It didn’t matter we were stopped at a light and the people next to us could hear him. He was just singing.

I admired him for that and decided that I would try to not care, either.

Because really … who cares what some random stranger(s) in the car(s) next to you thinks?

(The answer is, apparently, most of us.)

Sometimes I can turn it off—the caring what people think—sometimes I can’t.

Because it doesn’t matter what they think. Whether they like my music, like my singing, like my voice. I’m not singing to please an audience when I’m driving—I’m singing because I love to sing and it makes me happy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday party, and the playlist was 80s music. I knew almost all of the songs and could sing at least the chorus if not the whole song.

And so I did.

Not if I was talking to someone, of course—that’s rude—but waiting for my turn in a dice game? Waiting for a slice of cake? Helping clean up? Why not?

And you know what? It felt pretty good just to sing along and not care. Sometimes people joined me, sometimes not.

Another piece of that? Whenever I’m out and about and see a person who is happy singing or dancing and not caring that people can see or hear them, it makes me happy, too.

Spread joy.

Good music on in the grocery store? I’m singing. (Doesn’t happen that often, but more than never, now that I’m more often the target demographic.)

Do it! What do you have to lose?

Posted in mindset, vulnerability

Overcoming fear

Have you seen Alex Honnold’s TED Talk?

Alex was the protagonist in Free Solo, a movie about one of his climbing pursuits. He’s famous for free soloing, as the movie title says, which is rock climbing without gear.

Normally in rock climbing, one wears a harness that is tied into a rope that is secured to something else, so if the climber falls, there’s a way to catch them.

In free soloing, there’s no rope or harness.

(In bouldering there is also no rope or harness, but boulderers don’t climb very high, relatively. A fall is going to cause some solid damage but unlikely to be lethal.)

So anyway.

Alex climbs hundreds or thousands of feet up walls without a rope. Mistakes are lethal. Unless there’s a ledge, there’s no rest.

(Not my jam.)

But the interview was interesting because he talked about fear.

There have been many things that I’ve been afraid to do in my life. I’m getting better at pushing through that, because most of the fear is unfounded.

Climbing a 3,000-foot rock face without a rope? That fear is not unfounded.

His solution?

Prepare.

Prepare until it’s part of you.

(Obviously only applies to that which can be prepared for.)

“Doubt is the precursor to fear.”

Have no doubt; you’ll have no fear.

Good advice.

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 ebb & flow, education, follow-up, mental health, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

Follow up to ‘Take what you need’

(If you missed the original post/project details, you can find it here.)

Kids have been off and on with the sticky notes. I have needed to replenish them a time or two, but most seem to have chosen a couple, stuck them in their music binder, and not messed with them again.

Earlier this week, one of my classes was playing a (very short, very repetitive) song from memory during the school assembly. The lead photo was taken in the hallway on the way to the cafeteria.

I’m considering putting something like this up at home.