Cutting Out The Fat

One of the healthiest things I have done this year is to eliminate a very toxic person from my life. It took me over ten years to realize that this person was never a true friend, and that I was always regarded as “just Stacey”, not as an important or special person. I foolishly kept making generous gestures, including buying this person a new phone when the old one became nonfunctional, even though I struggled to pay for that replacement phone and felt the financial impact of my own generosity. I went so far as to stock special supplements, foods and beverages, which I never personally consumed, in my home to accommodate this person’s visits, even visiting stores I would not normally frequent in order to purchase these special items. In short, I was too nice to a person who never deserved any of it. I have saved money since I cut this person off. I don’t miss being drained financially, emotionally, mentally, even physically. This person NEVER cared about me, and has never wanted to help me with something as simple as taking out the trash while I was preparing food. If I asked for such a favor, this person would say, “You’re just gonna have to wait”, and would take his time reading his book or watching TV before he would begrudgingly get up and toss the garbage.

Copyright: bsd555

I was never good enough in this person’s eyes, and was always being told that if I did things his way, then my life would be so much better. One example was when he stated that a mini fridge I had in a corner of my dining room was not positioned optimally, and that I should pivot it 90 degrees. We bickered about it for several minutes, then I acquiesced. Upon attempting to pivot the fridge, we discovered why I had positioned the fridge the way I had done when I moved in. Basically, the way that I had arranged the fridge was the ONLY way I could plug it into the wall without using an extension cord. So we pivoted the fridge back to its original spot, yet this person never admitted that his insistence on moving the fridge might have been unnecessary. I received unsolicited advice on my finances, how I stored my pantry items, how my home gym was set up, etc. When I say that this person would constantly tell me how to do things, I am definitely not exaggerating. I was ALWAYS in his shadow, even when I knew that his suggestions were no better than the manner in which I did things. It was exasperating and frustrating to deal with this constant criticism.

You might be asking how I could have let someone take advantage of me like this for so many years, and the only thing I can say is that I somehow believed that this person was a good friend. Something clicked in my brain when he decided to wash his car in front of my garage, using water I pay for, and using car wash accessories I also paid for, without asking me if he could do so. I had to study for my family practice board recertification exam, so I told him I needed a couple of weeks to really hunker down and study. I took the exam, then he rudely ignored me for several more weeks (we would often hang out on a weekly basis), triggering an epiphany in me. Only then was I able to stand tall and speak my mind, then sever ties.

When You Just Don’t Like Him

Copyright: estradaanton

Have you ever met someone who seemed to have all the qualities you were looking for in a partner, then after getting to know each other, you kept getting reminders of how much you didn’t like the person? There are two men who come to mind, one whom I dated in 2019 (I’ll call him Sam), and one whom I met during the pandemic (let’s call him Rick). The fact that they were both intelligent and educated actually threw a major wrench in things, because I relish a good intellectual conversation, and didn’t realize that both men simply HAD to be right during any dispute, no matter what. The fact that I had political views which differed from both guys fueled quite a bit of animosity, which strengthened my conviction to avoid any chatter which veered in a political direction.

Things progressed very rapidly with Sam, and by the fourth date, he started referring to me as his girlfriend. Before I knew what was happening, he began to plan out every single weekend for us without consulting with me beforehand. He went so far as to tell me that I would be required to join him and his mother’s family for Thanksgiving, which I completely rejected. It was all too much, too fast, and my independent nature rebelled against Sam’s need to control every part of the relationship. He was also arrogant, had a tendency to insult others whom he deemed less intelligent than him, had the clammiest hands I have ever felt, and was clumsy and terrible in bed (sorry guys, but that matters). I finally ended our relationship after three months via a very heated phone call in which he kept insisting that he had plans for us, and that I was “disobeying” him by breaking up with him. That should tell you something about the hell I went through.

Rick was very different from Sam in a number of respects. First of all, Rick was into fitness and weightlifting, he was very easy on the eyes, and had a more laid back attitude. I soon realized that Rick’s laid back attitude was partially due to a general lack of interest he had in me, which meant that he just wouldn’t make an effort to see me. We’d make plans, and he would conveniently “forget”, stating that he didn’t think we had “PLANS plans”. Rick had even pulled this stunt on Valentine’s Day, when we made plans to get together, only to have him back out with that same lame excuse. The only time we had Zoom calls was when I would suggest that we schedule one, and we didn’t even go out in public until late July of this year. I bet if I hadn’t complained that we had only seen each other in person 6 times over the span of 8 months, and that we would meet either at his home or mine, we would have never gone anywhere. I enjoyed going to a restaurant so much that I suggested that we go out for sushi a month later, and stated that it would be my treat. I figured that at least I would be able to enjoy the sushi meal as well. It didn’t surprise me that Rick didn’t flake this time, and made sure to honor plans for the sushi dinner I had offered to finance. Only moments after I paid the bill, which was over $200, Rick actually complained that he preferred the plain sushi selections over the more exotic ones, so I decided right then and there that I would never take him for sushi again.

Rick had a tendency to dole out unsolicited medical advice numerous times when I mentioned maladies such as neck pain or a rash. Who on earth would have the nerve to deliver medical advice to a board certified physician? Rick would, and it infuriated me every single time. Another very rude habit he had was that he ALWAYS had his phone by his side, and would often look at it, even while I was talking to him. We also argued about politics, cars, and spending habits, and as I realized how little common sense this guy had, my attraction to him flickered out like a snuffed out candle.

One of these days, it would be nice to meet someone who isn’t contentious, arrogant, flaky, or controlling.

Establishing New Boundaries With People

source: 123rf.com
Image ID : 79920748
Copyright : Andriy Popov

 

I was compelled to re-post this article, with a new title, because it always seems to have relevance.  Lately, I have noticed that I have been spreading myself thin more than ever before, agreeing to donate my time and resources to people and projects I don’t necessarily feel are worthy of my attention.  Though I have a very generous nature, I also become extremely annoyed when I notice that someone is taking advantage of my kindness and assuming that I will always open my door and my heart.

There have been a couple of situations I have allowed to get out of hand recently, in which I have sacrificed time which I need to devote to paid endeavors and life balance.  It’s always difficult to pull back the reins and say no to good friends, but I have become increasingly resentful after finding myself rushing to get my chores done in time to donate my time on a regular basis.

This new determination to say NO when I have a plate which is overflowing is still something I struggle with, but enough is enough. Whether it is a brand requesting that I create a post for pennies, a friend asking me to provide personal training right smack dab in the middle of the day several days a week for free, people contacting me for curbside consults which they don’t want to pay for, or a supposed friend nickeling and diming me about my charges for medical treatments, I’m not nearly as amenable to doling out the favors as I used to be.  I am mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially drained from saying yes altogether too often.

So do you find yourself agreeing to do something when you are either completely unmotivated to do it, or are so over-burdened by other responsibilities that you know you are taking on an impossible schedule? Maybe you’re known as the “nicest person” who always manages to make time for everybody no matter what. And maybe you don’t want people to think otherwise about you, despite the fact that your energy and your patience are worn thin by people who always seem to drain the very lifeblood from you, and expect you to do everything for them at the drop of a hat.

Have you ever considered using the word NO once in a while? By setting limits and boundaries, you will keep energy vampires at bay, and you give yourself a chance to balance out your life so that you don’t burn yourself out. I am sure that the people who have taken your availability for granted will be stunned when you respond to a request with NO, but they’ll get used to it. Whenever I gather the courage to refuse a request, a feeling of complete relief washes over me, especially if I feel like I am drowning in the wide expanse of my to-do list.

When you refuse a request, task, or invitation, you finally allow yourself to take a break. As long as you aren’t shirking responsibilities, you absolutely should feel like you deserve to clear the space around you, especially if you are in dire need of recharging your own batteries. There’s something I say to patients quite frequently, and that is, remember to put the oxygen mask over your OWN face. If you don’t nurture yourself, you won’t perform as well in all the roles you play in your life, whether it’s employee, boss, parent, spouse, etc.

It’s completely acceptable to draw the line in the sand, and to establish boundaries which preserve your sense of self and which keep your life, and your spirit, balanced and happy. If you are having difficulty asserting yourself and getting to the power of NO, then try this: whenever someone asks you for a favor or invites you somewhere, just say that you need to think about it or check your schedule, which is not a lie, and that you will let that person know soon. That gives you a window of time to evaluate the situation, and to determine if you have the time or the resources to accommodate the invitation or request.

Another important consideration is whether you have the inclination to take part in the task or event. Be honest with yourself! I see too many people agree to do things they don’t want to do, then they are steeped in misery. This doesn’t give you permission to be difficult, selfish, or uncooperative, but it certainly gives you some breathing room. If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it!

Remember that you will be better equipped to serve others if you take care of yourself first.

Scent Beauty Has Incredible Fragrances!

 

I’ve been working with Scent Beauty as one of their brand ambassadors for several months now, and I absolutely love the fragrances they sell.  So far, I have seven scents from their line:

  • Intention, Transcend, and Balance from the Phluid Project
  • Rise and Shine, I Am Bright, and So Serene from Scent Organix
  • Cher – Fragrance Foundation’s 2020 Awards Winner

Here are links to the fragrances I just mentioned:

https://scentbeauty.com/collections/house-brands

https://scentbeauty.com/products/cher-eau-de-couture

 

So you may be asking, do I actually use any of these fragrances?  The answer is a resounding YES.

Intention by The Phluid Project

 

Intention from the Phluid Project is the perfect blend of spicy, floral and sweet, with the following scent profile:

SCENT PROFILE
Pink Pepper, Rosebud

TOP

Cherry, Saffron

HEART

Tonka Bean, Cedarwood
BASE
Intention has only a hint of sweetness which comes from the cherry, but is well balanced with the other tones.  I love this fragrance and wear it often.
—-
I also love the dual phase feature of all three fragrances in the Phluid Collection.  They are just gorgeous!  All you do when you need to use a Phluid Collection fragrance is to shake the bottle to mix the phases, then spray onto your skin!

Transcend by The Phluid Project

Then there’s Transcend, which is mildly reminiscent of Prada Candy, but is a much softer expression, a tropical beach with hints of fruit and sea salt and sultry warm notes like vanilla.  It is my current favorite!
SCENT PROFILE
Dragonfruit, Pineapple Leaf

TOP

Tiare Flower, Sea Salt

HEART

Palo Santo, Vanilla Orchid

BASE


Balance by The Phluid Project

In stark contrast, Balance is a very clean, crisp fragrance, and one which to me is a men’s fragrance, despite Scent Beauty’s claim that all of its scents are unisex. Here are the notes:
SCENT PROFILE
Cardamom, Iced Grapefruit
TOP
Black Tea, Clary Sage

HEART

Vetiver, Atlas Cedar

BASE


Rise and Shine by Scent Organix

Rise and Shine from Scent Organix is a beautiful, light, clean fragrance which just makes me happy when I smell it. Here is the scent profile for Rise and Shine:

SCENT PROFILE
Tangerine, Lemon Spritz

TOP

Hibiscus

HEART

Peach Blossoms, Orange Zest

BASE


I Am Bright by Scent Organix

I Am Bright from Scent Organix, while also light and fresh, has more of that tropical citrus vibe.  This is more fruit-forward than Rise and Shine, but not in an overt fashion.  I love it as well!

SCENT PROFILE
Juicy Pineapple, Salted Coconut

TOP

Tiare Flower

HEART

Orange Flower, Lemon

BASE


So Serene by Scent Organix

Then there is So Serene, which I love to wear when I go into the office.  It is very subtle, and no note overpowers any other.  It imparts a relaxing vibe which keeps me at an even keel.
SCENT PROFILE
Mandarin, Violet Leaves

TOP

Wild Freesia

HEART

Green Tea, Lime

BASE


Cher Eau De Couture_Icon

The last scent I have in my Scent Beauty collection is Cher Eau de Couture, which is a very intense, smoky, deep and complex fragrance.  It’s as commanding as Cher is!  It just declares itself, as a sultry, clove-dominant scent. I do love it, but I don’t think I would ever dare wear it during the day.  This is something I can imagine someone of either gender wearing on a steamy date night!
SCENT PROFILE
Bergamot, Clove, Neroli

TOP

Jasmine, Rose, Orange Flower

HEART

Vetiver, Sandalwood, Vanilla Orchid

BASE

 

To order any of these amazing fragrances, please use the following link so that Scent Beauty knows that I referred you:

 

Why Some People Ghost

Source: 123rf.com
Image ID : 52651500
Copyright : Nebojsa Markovic

 

Has someone ever just completely disappeared from your life, without any explanation?  It is an incredibly confounding experience, and has occurred more than once for me.  What blows my mind is that older adults, people in their forties and fifties, have exhibited this bizarre and rude behavior in recent years, so the phenomenon of “ghosting” cannot be pegged as a young person’s habit.

I honestly think that when a person ghosts anyone for reasons such as, they’re not feeling the same way about the other person (usually a dating scenario), or they have become bored with someone, the act of ghosting is truly a sign of immaturity and lack of emotional availability, which means that the ghostee is actually lucky to be cut loose.  However, when someone completely disappears without an explanation, whether it’s a dating situation, a more serious relationship, or a friendship, the person being ghosted often grapples with extreme mental anguish because there is no closure.

Even if the explanation for the person’s ghosting on another might be painful to hear, I bet most individuals would prefer to hear that explanation instead of scratching their heads in bewilderment, thinking, what in the world HAPPENED? I completely understand that feelings can change, but I also was raised to believe that you should offer a reason why you no longer wish to talk to or associate with someone.  If you don’t respond to texts, etc., and the ghostee can clearly see that you are doing fine, you are basically indicating to that person that they aren’t even worthy of any bit of respect. And while there are situations in which the ghostee might have done something egregiously wrong, in most situations, the person doing the ghosting is merely fickle, disrespectful, and narcissistic.  That’s been my observation in every situation in which I have been ghosted.

What are your thoughts on being ghosted?  If you have ghosted someone in the past, why did you choose to ghost someone instead of providing a reason why you wanted to discontinue communication?

 

 

 

My Junior High School Reunion

Campbell Hall Junior High Class of 1979 –
event held November 16, 2019

 

Back in May of 2019, I reconnected with a classmate from junior high school.  The two of us have bumped into each other a number of times over the decades, so our catch-up talk last May wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been, but then my classmate mentioned the fact that he had recently seen two of our classmates for the first time since our eighth grade graduation in 1979.  This prompted a lively discussion about the fact that it had been 40 years since our junior high graduation, and progressed into toying with the idea of putting together a junior high school reunion.

I know some of you who are reading this are wondering why we were so fixated on the idea of a junior high reunion as opposed to a high school reunion, so I will give you some background on the school we attended.

I went to a school (Campbell Hall in Studio City, CA) which used to force the boys to find other schools to attend after 8th grade, creating an all-girls’ scholastic environment for those who chose to remain in the school for high school. Though I hadn’t given it any thought back then, separating the boys from the girls after junior high was pretty pivotal, given the fact that we were in that awkward pre-teen/early teen phase, not wholly sure of ourselves, and about to embark on that coming of age period which always hits a teenager like a ton of bricks.

The ladies have a good laugh!

 

After discussing the idea of a junior high school reunion further, my classmate and I decided to go for it and organize a reunion for the class.  This entailed me spending six weeks digging for 69 of the 72 classmates (minus my classmate Josh, another classmate who had passed away, and me), a task which became rather engrossing.  I was successful in finding 56 of the 69 people, and put feelers out to see who might be interested in attending such an event.

Once I contacted former classmates, it was time to plan the event.  We ended up having a wonderful 40 year junior high school reunion in November of last year, with 19 classmates attending.  In fact, it was such an enjoyable event that I hosted another, smaller event in December.

The feedback from the events was remarkable, uplifting, and gratifying.  Here are some of the messages I received from former classmates after the events.

 

I didn’t want the morning to get too far away without jotting down the quickest note to make sure before the feeling faded into getting on the 405 and going to the office on a busy Sunday, that I am grateful beyond what I am able to write (I am not good with words – 54 and still struggling not to write like a teenager) and that for an unanticipated couple of hours last night I was pulled back into a space that I had forgotten. I spoke with people I didn’t know, had forgotten or had faded to such a space as to almost never existed, but there you all were and I was happy – so happy – to be in that encouraging, fun and open space and listen and share so much – with other people that I had realized over the weeks of thinking about this, that also wanted to be there – and that was a good thought: others were like me and wanted to participate. I completely regret having felt the pressure to leave 1979 and return to 2019 and a silly job that I enjoy today (I just can’t pull off those late nights anymore and function in the office), but not as much as I did this funny sweet dream I had last night with everyone and that I could not have seen without both of you finding the inspiration and making it happen.

I want to stumble for more words and I wish I could hold this feeling of happiness and some melancholy also (often why I never try to indulge my sentimental side) – that let me revisit this sweet memory of being a 12-14 year old.

Just a million thank yous for capturing some lighting in a bottle for me – my heart is grateful.   – Steve Plutte

 

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to reconnect and catch up. I am still smiling as I think about the wonderful evening you put together. From the buttons 🙂 to hearing about what everyone has been up to, you truly provided an amazing experience not to mention a platform for us to continue the connections.

While I am trying to keep this short, I can’t end this note without sharing that my friends/family here at home have told me ENOUGH quit talking about what an impressive and fun group of people your classmates are!  – Heidi Smith 

 

I am so thankful to every single person who attended the reunion events, who believed in Josh’s and my vision of bringing everyone together after being apart for a staggering 40 years, reconnecting, and sharing some very special memories.

A Great TED Talk On Clutter

“Clutter is postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill

I absolutely love this brilliant quote by Barbara Hemphill which Kerry Thomas mentions in this TED Talk video, because it is completely true. No matter what type of clutter plagues you, it may be impeding you in a profound way from living a free and peaceful life.

I hate physical clutter and fight it all the time by conducting purges throughout the year. But physical clutter is only one type of clutter, and Ms. Thomas breaks down the different types into the following:

Physical
Mental
Emotional
Digital
Spiritual

Although I feel that I have a good handle on physical clutter in my environment, the other categories are more challenging. I control digital clutter by going through my email inboxes on a daily basis, consolidating images and deleting old text messages on my phone. I also think I have a decent handle on spiritual clutter because I meditate daily, take meditation and yoga courses, and also practice breathwork. I try to forgive those who upset me, and I also make sure to avoid toxic people.

The areas where I get hung up (and I suspect many others do) is with mental and emotional clutter. Ms. Thomas states that mental clutter consists of fears one might have, and it also could stem from the judgmental words of others, while emotional clutter consists of negative thoughts and behaviors. The thing is, I have fears which keep my mind racing, and I also fall into the trap of negative thinking from time to time, especially when I am in the middle of a crisis. So by no means am I completely free of clutter. However, I constantly strive to clear up anything which is depressing me or slowing me down.

It’s incredibly liberating to get rid of items which are damaged, unused, or worn, and it’s also wonderful to let go of all the mental blockades to happiness and freedom. One thing I always try to remind myself is that worrying about things will never bring about a solution. The only thing worry ends up doing is eroding one’s demeanor and sparking anxiety.

I suggest that you think about the different areas in which clutter might be adversely affecting your life, and adopt behaviors which counteract such clutter.

LAZY: A MANIFESTO – By Tim Kreider

EVERYONE should read this article, written by Tim Kreider. It’s a true eye-opener.

http://www.staystrongsc.com/blog/2017/1/8/lazy-a-manifesto

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy Busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

This frantic, self-congratulatory busyness is a distinctly upscale affliction. Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the ICU, taking care of their senescent parents, or holding down three minimum-wage jobs they have to commute to by bus who need to tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tiredExhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s most often said by people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’re “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they are addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with their friends the way 4.0 students make sure to sign up for some extracurricular activities because they look good on college applications. I recently wrote a friend asking if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. My question had not a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation: This was the invitation. I was hereby asking him to do something with me. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he as shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

I recently learned a neologism that, like political correctnessman cave, and content-provider, I instantly recognized as heralding an ugly new turn in the culture: planshopping. That is, deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are, and then picking the one that’s most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it — in other words, treating people like menu options or products in a catalog.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half hour with enrichment classes, tutorials, and extracurricular activities. At the end of the day they come home as tired as grownups, which seems not just sad but hateful. I was a member of the latchkey generation, and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from scouring The World Book Encyclopedia to making animated movies to convening with friends in the woods in order to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which afforded me knowledge, skills, and insights that remain valuable to this day.

The busyness is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. I recently Skyped with a friend who had been driven out of New York City by the rents and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the South of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a circle of friends there who all go out to the cafe or watch TV together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone is too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious, and sad — turned out to be a reformative effect of her environment, of the crushing atmospheric pressure of ambition and competitiveness. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school; it’s something we collectively force one another to do. It may not be a problem that’s soluble through any social reform or self-help regimen; maybe it’s just how things are. Zoologist Konrade Lorenz calls “the rushed existence into which industrialized, commercialized man has precipitated himself” and all its attendant afflictions — ulcers, hypertension, neuroses, etc. — an “inexpedient development,” or evolutionary maladaptation, brought on by our ferocious intraspecies competition. He likens us to birds whose alluringly long plumage has rendered them flightless, easy prey.

I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter. I once dated a woman that interned at a magazine where she wan’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’etre had been obviated when Menu buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. Based on the volume of my email correspondence and the amount of Internet ephemera I am forwarded on a daily basis, I suspect that most people with office jobs are doing as little as I am. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor or a worm in a Tyrollean hat in a Richard Scarry book I’m not convinced it’s necessary. Yes, I know we’re all very busy, but what, exactly, is getting done? Are all those people running late for meetings and yelling on their cell phones stopping the spread of malaria or developing feasible alternatives to fossil fuels or making anything beautiful?

The busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. All this noise and rush and stress seem contrived to drown out or over up some fear at the center of our lives. I know that after I’ve spent a whole day working for running errands or answering emails or watching movies, keeping my brain busy and distracted, as soon as I lie down to sleep all the niggling quotidian worries and Big Picture questions I’ve successfully kept at bay come crowding into my brain like monsters swarming out of the closet the instant you turn off the nightlight. When you ty to meditate, your brain suddenly comes up with a list of a thousand urgent items you should be obsessing about rather than simply sit still. One of my correspondents suggests that what we’re all so afraid of is being left alone with ourselves.

I’ll say it: I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel like 4 or 5 hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and see friends, read or watch a movie in the evening. The very best days of my life are given over to uninterrupted debauchery, but these are, alas, undependable and increasingly difficult to arrange. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, “What time?”

But just recently, I insidiously started, because of professional obligation to become busy. For the first time in my life I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint: It makes you feel important, sough-after, and put-upon. It’s also an unassailable excuse for declining boring invitations, shirking unwelcome projects, and avoiding human interaction. Except that I hated actually being busy. Every morning my inbox was full of emails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I had to solve. It got more and more intolerable, until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check email I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stinkbugs, and the stars. I read a lot. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what that might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again. I know not everyone has an isolated cabin to flee to. But not having cable or the Internet turns out to be cheaper than having them. And nature is still technically free, even if human beings have tried to make access to it expensive. Time and quiet should not be luxury items. 

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice: It is an indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often the essence of what we do,” writes Thomas Pynchon in his essay on Sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll and Hyde, the benzine ring: history is full of stories of inspiration that came in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbrickers, and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions, and masterpieces than the hardworking.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was in fact Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write Childhood’s End and think up communications satellites. Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income form work, giving each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage, and 8-hour workdays. I know how heretical it sound in America, but there’s really no reason we shouldn’t regard drudgery as an evil to rid the world of if possible, like polio. It was the Puritans who perverted work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment. Now that the old taskmaster is out of office, maybe we could all take a long smoke break.

I suppose the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved like me. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My own life has admittedly been absurdly cushy. But my privileged position outside the hive may have given me a unique perspective on it. It’s like being the designated driver at a bar: When you’re not drinking, ou can see drunkenness more clearly than those actually experiencing it. Unfortunately the only advice I have to offer the Busy is as unwelcome as the advice you’d give to the Drunk. I’m not suggesting everyone quit their jobs — just maybe take the rest of the day off. Go play some see-ball. Fuck in the middle of the afternoon. Take your daughter to a matinee. My role in life is to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once to make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play.

Even though my own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder, write more, and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more round of Delanceys with Nick, another long late-night talk with Lauren, one last hard laugh with Harold. Life is too short to be busy.

Stealing Someone’s Thunder

44118396_s

Image ID : 44118396 Copyright : bowie15 123rf.com

 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone which almost feels more like a competition than an equal interchange?  Perhaps you’re excited about starting a new yoga class and you mention it to someone, only to have that person redirect the conversation by talking about her own experiences with yoga, to the point where you have been completely edged out of any chance to speak.

It turns out that many of us engage in what’s been termed by Charles Derber as conversational narcissism (check out his book, The Pursuit of Attention which is available on Amazon).  What’s the difference between a normal conversation and one in which you have been railroaded by a conversational narcissist?

Here are two examples, one from a normal exchange, and one from an experience with a conversational narcissist:

NORMAL CONVERSATION:

Sally:  I just got an offer to travel to Spain and I am so excited!
Chip: That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to go there.  We have ancestors out there.  What part of Spain are you visiting?
Sally: Barcelona.
Chip: That’s amazing.  Hopefully you’ll have some time to explore.

 

CONVERSATION WITH A CONVERSATIONAL NARCISSIST:

Sally: I just got an offer to travel to Spain and I am so excited!
Chip: Cool.  I have ancestors out there.   In fact, there’s a town named after us.
Sally: Wow, that’s neat.
Chip: Yeah it is.  I really need to visit there.  My cousin says she can hook us up with the best accommodations out there.
Sally: Wow, awesome.  So do you know any good places to visit out there?
Chip: Well, when I go there, I expect the red carpet to be rolled out, you know what I mean?  We deserve that, you know?

In the second example, Chip took over the conversation, diverting the attention to himself.  He even ignored Sally’s question about whether he knew of any good places to visit in Spain.  In an instant, the conversation became all about Chip, and not Sally.

It is common for conversational narcissists to rather quickly jump in with their own personal stories rather than allow the other person to finish a thought.  The person’s story or complaint becomes swallowed up by the conversational narcissist’s story, which is the new focus of the conversation.  It’s also not unusual for a certain amount of bragging, boasting or name-dropping to occur with someone who has developed a strong tendency towards conversational narcissism.  Often, the conversational narcissist isn’t even aware that he has taken complete control over the dialog.

In this distracted age of social media and those irresistible handheld computers we call our phones, it seems that the art of conversation is deteriorating.   We’ve become impatient, entitled, and egocentric.  And many of us now exhibit behaviors which define conversational narcissism.  The art of truly listening needs to be relearned.

 

 

Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”

Copyright : adamgregor

I absolutely love this article by Celeste Headlee, which is why I am posting this again on my blogsite.

If you’ve ever just wanted to vent about something in your life that was aggravating you, only to be told by someone, “Oh yes, I know EXACTLY how you feel!”, then endure their recollection of an incident which they believe mimicked yours? Basically, such a reaction flips the focus of the conversation to the other person and diminishes the significance of your experience.

Undoubtedly some of you do this, and you feel that you are being empathetic or helpful, when in reality you are forcing people to listen to your story, while you drown out what they have to say. It can often appear as if you are one-upping the other person with your woeful experiences, even though you honestly believe that you are helping.

Here’s the original article, copied and pasted here for you to read. You can also visit the link directly at:
Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”

Why we should all stop saying “I know exactly how you feel”
Sep 21, 2017 / Celeste Headlee

You don’t. And you’re also steering the focus away from someone who probably just wants to be heard. Here’s how to be a more considerate conversation partner, says radio host and writer Celeste Headlee.

A good friend of mine lost her dad some years back. I found her sitting alone outside our workplace, just staring at the horizon. She was absolutely distraught, and I didn’t know what to say to her. It’s so easy to say the wrong thing to someone who is grieving and vulnerable.

So I started talking about how I grew up without a father. I told her my dad had drowned in a submarine when I was only nine months old and I’d always mourned his loss, even though I’d never known him. I wanted her to realize that she wasn’t alone, that I’d been through something similar and I could understand how she felt.

But after I related this story, my friend snapped, “Okay, Celeste, you win. You never had a dad and I at least got to spend 30 years with mine. You had it worse. I guess I shouldn’t be so upset that my dad just died.”

I was stunned and mortified. “No, no, no,” I said, “that’s not what I’m saying at all. I just meant I know how you feel.”

And she answered, “No, Celeste, you don’t. You have no idea how I feel.”

Often subtle and unconscious, conversational narcissism is the desire to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself.

She walked away and I stood there feeling like a jerk. I had wanted to comfort her and, instead, I’d made her feel worse. When she began to share her raw emotions, I felt uncomfortable so I defaulted to a subject with which I was comfortable: myself. She wanted to talk about her father, to tell me about the kind of man he was. She wanted to share her cherished memories. Instead, I asked her to listen to my story.

From that day forward, I started to notice how often I responded to stories of loss and struggle with stories of my own experiences. My son would tell me about clashing with a kid in Boy Scouts, and I would talk about a girl I fell out with in college. When a coworker got laid off, I told her about how much I struggled to find a job after I had been laid off years earlier. But when I began to pay more attention, I realized the effect of sharing my experiences was never as I intended. What all of these people needed was for me to hear them and acknowledge what they were going through. Instead, I forced them to listen to me.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency as “conversational narcissism.” Often subtle and unconscious, it’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. Derber writes that it “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America.”

He describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment.

Example number 1:

The shift response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Me, too. I’m totally overwhelmed.

The support response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Why? What do you have to get done?

Example number 2:

The shift response
Karen: I need new shoes.
Mark: Me, too. These things are falling apart.

The support response
Karen: I need new shoes.
Mark: Oh yeah? What kind are you thinking about?

Shift responses are a hallmark of conversational narcissism — they help you turn the focus constantly back to yourself. But a support response encourages the other person to continue their story. It lets them know you’re listening and interested in hearing more.

We can craftily disguise our attempts to shift focus — we might start a sentence with a supportive remark and then follow up with a comment about ourselves.

The game of catch is often used as a metaphor for conversation. In an actual game of catch, you’re forced to take turns. But in conversation, we often find ways to resist giving someone else a turn. Sometimes, we use passive means to subtly grab control of the exchange.

This tug-of-war over attention is not always easy to track. We can very craftily disguise our attempts to shift focus. We might start a sentence with a supportive comment, and then follow up with a comment about ourselves. For instance, if a friend tells us they just got a promotion, we might respond by saying, “That’s great! Congratulations. I’m going to ask my boss for a promotion, too. I hope I get it.”

Such a response could be fine, as long as we allow the focus to shift back to the other person again. However, the healthy balance is lost when we repeatedly shine the attention back on ourselves.

While reciprocity is an important part of any meaningful conversation, the truth is shifting the attention to our own experiences is completely natural. Modern humans are hardwired to talk about themselves more than any other topic. One study found that “most social conversation time is devoted to statements about the speaker’s own emotional experiences and/or relationships, or those of third parties not present.”

The insula, an area of the brain deep inside the cerebral cortex, takes in the information that people tell us and then tries to find a relevant experience in our memory banks that can give context to the information. It’s mostly helpful: the brain is trying to make sense of what we hear and see. Subconsciously, we find similar experiences and add them to what’s happening at the moment, and then the whole package of information is sent to the limbic regions, the part of the brain just below the cerebrum. That’s where some trouble can arise — instead of helping us better understand someone else’s experience, our own experiences can distort our perceptions of what the other person is saying or experiencing.

The more comfortable you are, the more difficult it is to empathize with the suffering of another.

A study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences suggests that our egos distort our perception of our empathy. When participants watched a video of maggots in a group setting, they could understand that other people might be repulsed by it. But if one person was shown pictures of puppies while the others were shown the maggot video, the puppy viewer generally underestimated the rest of the group’s negative reaction to the maggots.

Study author Dr. Tania Singer observed, “The participants who were feeling good themselves assessed their partners’ negative experiences as less severe than they actually were. In contrast, those who had just had an unpleasant experience assessed their partners’ good experience less positively.” In other words, we tend to use our own feelings to determine how others feel.

Here’s how that translates to your daily conversations: Let’s say you and a friend are both laid off at the same time by the same company. In that case, using your feelings as a measure of your friend’s feelings may be fairly accurate because you’re experiencing the same event. But what if you’re having a great day and you meet a friend who was just laid off? Without knowing it, you might judge how your friend is feeling against your good mood. She’ll say, “This is awful. I’m so worried that I feel sick to my stomach.” You’d respond, “Don’t worry, you’ll be okay. I was laid off six years ago and everything turned out fine.” The more comfortable you are, the more difficult it is to empathize with the suffering of another.

It took me years to realize I was much better at the game of catch than I was at its conversational equivalent. Now I try to be more aware of my instinct to share stories and talk about myself. I try to ask questions that encourage the other person to continue. I’ve also made a conscious effort to listen more and talk less.

Recently, I had a long conversation with a friend who was going through a divorce. We spent almost 40 minutes on the phone, and I barely said a word. At the end of our call, she said, “Thank you for your advice. You’ve really helped me work some things out.”

The truth is, I hadn’t offered any advice. Most of what I said was a version of “That sounds tough. I’m sorry this is happening to you.” She didn’t need advice or stories from me. She just needed to be heard.

Excerpted from the new book We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. © 2017 Celeste Headlee.