Pair of Quotes

Even our worst enemies don’t talk about us the way we talk to ourselves.

-Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Despite its bad reputation, gossip plays an important social role by reinforcing community values: it makes people feel closer to each other, it unifies people who play by the rules, it helps people get a sense of the values of their community, and it exposes the misbehavior of those who cheat on their spouses, don’t return phone calls, or take credit for other’s work.

-Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

In my memory, these were conflicting quotes, that the first denied we are ever the topic of others’ conversations. But, it only says that what people say about us isn’t as bad as we think it is. That is, people are still talking about you.

My experience confirms that people are talking. I’ve been privy to and (regretfully) a participant in enough gossipy conversations to know that, yes, people will talk about your rude, confusing or frustrating behavior.

Early on in my working life (I was probably about 19 years old), I realized that complaining about co-workers to other co-workers was more draining than encouraging. So, I tried to make it a point not to engage in these discussions. Emphasis on “try”, because I’m a human. Gossip is delicious. I’ve been frustrated with co-workers and tried to make sense of what was happening by talking about it.

In general, though, I remind myself that everyone is human. A person might be stressed by something that isn’t visible. I encourage positive reinforcement—when a co-worker does something outstanding to help me, I try to praise them in a way that their manager will notice (great for performance review time). I try to not participate in those juicy conversations. And, I do my best and try to be kind to others even when I really don’t feel like it. My purpose is to be kind, but also so that I can keep my time as the topic of gossip to a minimum. I have no delusions that my name has come up. That blunders I’ve made, my annoying quirks and professional weaknesses have all been discussed. Maybe some eyes have rolled at the mention of my name. But, I don’t worry too much about it (except that I’m writing about it here—ha!), because we’ll all have our turn. So, when the topic comes up, why don’t we extend grace, human understanding, compassion?

3 Piles of Clothes: The Organization of My Closet

My closet can be broken down into three categories. Three metaphorical piles. Maaaaaybe literal piles. I won’t show you the inside of my closet.

The first pile is clothes I can wear now. At my current weight and shape. Which, is about 15 pounds over what I’d like to be and what I would consider to be sustainable. This is where I was at when I got pregnant with my first kid.

The second pile is sequestered into a large plastic multi-gallon tub. It holds clothes I could wear at the minus 15 pounds. A high, yet still single-digit size. Fitted shirts. The ones that come in towards the waist and then flair out slightly because, hello, hips. They don’t fit anymore because “love handles” have made themselves comfortable atop my hips.

The third pile is trophy clothes. When I first started jogging, I unexpectedly lost about 20 pounds. (I didn’t know that I had that much to lose, but I did.) These are clothes in the smallest sizes I’ve ever fit into in my entire adult life. I wore them for a blink of the eye before my body plateaued and I gained back 10 pounds. Because, I started jogging for the challenge of it, not to lose weight. My eating habits remained the same, which included homebaked cookies, brownies and other treats at both lunch and dinner. Plus, the occasional late morning and afternoon snacking on chocolate candies: Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Mini Cadbury Eggs (Easter candies are my weakness).

I refuse to spend much money on clothes that will fall into the first pile. This size, this shape is simply a rest stop. It’s not my final destination, so why spend good money on clothes that in my dreams will only be worn for one more month? Two more months? Six months? Six years? I don’t know. I don’t want to be this size. I don’t like being this size. I wish that my robust second pile of clothes fit, because I like those clothes better. I like the styles and colors better.

I’m willing to spend money on clothes for the second pile—when I finally get back to fitting into these garments. Because, I like that size. I like the version of me that has the time to exercise—to exert myself enough 3-4 times a week to melt off those lunch cookies. I like the version of me who has the time to plan out lunches and dinners. This version isn’t starved. This version is satiated, yet isn’t seeing the scale creep up, pants aren’t getting tighter in the calves and thighs and waist.

I’ve come to accept that the third pile, the collection of trophy clothes will probably never be expanded. That’s okay. That size was a weird blip in my personal history. Maybe a mistake. I was never supposed to be there. My body was so shocked and outraged with my new jogging habits that it threw itself into survival mode. But, when it figured out that it was going to be okay, that it could indeed overcome the running and put back on some of the weight, it did. They’re ribbons and medals proudly displaying that I did it. I’ve been there. I don’t need to go back, because I have my souvenir.

So, I dress in limbo. In clothes I don’t like because I’m not willing to spend money on them. And, it doesn’t really cost that much to look decent. To look kempt. Like you put some thought into your appearance.

Because I never meant to lose weight in the first place, I don’t know how to lose it again. I tell myself over and over again that I don’t want to focus on a number or fitting back into glory outfits. I tell myself over and over again that it’s about going back to exercising 3-4 times a week. That’s my goal. I want to pound pavement. And sweat. And hike snowy trails. But, my day-to-day is different. I have difficulty justifying the time. It’s hard to be motivated to jog instead of just walking. So, I exercise in limbo. In years-old workout pants and shirts with elastane that is being tested by the extra volume and redefined shape.

They say to talk to yourself as if you were your own friend. You’d never be as harsh to a friend as you are to yourself. If I was my friend, I’d say: First, you’re not doing that bad. You’ve had a lot of changes in the last few years. Do what you can. Walking is better than nothing. Cut yourself some slack.

Seen & Noted: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States Course

In September of 2003, I was enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States course at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. On September 10th, I wrote in my “Seen and Noted” notebook:

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus is like the advertisement for the U.S.

A line uttered by the professor. I probably took note because by that time, I was interested in advertising.

Here’s the poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus-
It does advertise. In a good way. It expressions compassion, empathy and hope. But it’s not an ad. It’s a poem. Art. But, isn’t a given that art is more persuasive than any form of advertising?

Farewell, 2016!

Hi folks!

It’s that time of year: the end! Things have been quiet. I’ve been reading, celebrating the holidays and generally making lists of things I need to do around my house, but not actually doing them–yet.

I know that this year has “taken” a lot of celebrities, but I’m not a pop culture wizard, so I’ll leave those eulogies to the experts. Ditto the big political events.

I will talk about what happened to me this year. I was laid off! I took the generous severance and cocooned. I decided it was time to try freelance writing (I’ve been working as a copywriter for 8 years). I’m still learning the ropes and figuring things out, but part of me wonders if working for yourself will always feel like that. Maybe it should–if you’re not learning, you’re not keeping up and staying relevant?

While it’s always jarring to walk into work like any other day and be sat down a couple of hours before lunch and told that it’s coming to an end, I took advantage of the situation. I did my research. I looked at the whole spectrum of possibilities. I reflected on what I want to do and like to do. I talked with my husband. I considered my family. I reached out to people in the industry and asked for their advice. About four months in, I know I made the right decision and I’m excited to tackle 2017 with my new employment!

No year-end blog post would be complete with a rundown of the most popular posts, right? Well, I have two stand-out posts. The first was my Fashion Confessional. It got a lot of hits because I posted the link to Facebook, which I don’t normally do. But, it still got more hits than other posts I promoted in the same way. When I wrote it, I figured it was pretty trite. I mean, who isn’t talking about body image on the internet? But then, this piece was pretty much written while I was actually going through my closet. I brought a pad of Post-It notes and a pencil into the closet with me and wrote notes as I tried on clothes that no longer fit. Maybe it’s my most honest post–one that captures my true voice.

Next and finally, is a post I wrote in 2011: Catalogs Doing It Right. This post gets a lot of hits via Google searches. Don’t ask me what people are looking for. Are there people trying to figure out the mail-order business? Or aspiring copywriters who want to write for catalogs? (Just in case someone is looking at this, I am a copywriter who would love to write for a catalog!) This post wasn’t as off the cuff as “Fashion Confessional”, but it’s about something that very, very much interests me. I still love catalogs. It’s like daydream-shopping. Instead of quick-clicking, comparing, trying to find the best deal of online shopping, catalog shopping is slow motion. But, you get to flip through those pages as many times as you want, looking at dreamy backdrops, putting yourself into the clothes and imagining what life would be like if you took a super-fun trip to the mountains. Or how that skirt will highlight your perfectly toned calves…just as soon as you perfectly tone them.

I’m excited for 2017. Maybe next week I’ll write about some of the things I hope to get into in the new year. For now, enjoy the slowness of the end of the year!

Grandstanding

On December 30, 2014, I was accused of “grandstanding.” Merriam-Webster defines this as “to behave or speak in a way that is intended to impress people and to get public approval.” This wasn’t the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of this type of accusation. Although, it was the first time this particular word has been used. I’m okay with it. Consider me guilty as charged!