View from the Shoe

#gratitude

They say the secret to having it all – is knowing you already do. But it’s the knowing that often escapes us. Thanksgiving is a pretty good time to put on our grateful glasses and think about what being thankful actually means.

There are things it’s easy to be thankful for, like Amazon, your dishwasher and okay, your cellphone. (Pajamajeans come to mind, too, but that’s just me. Hey, don’t laugh until you’ve tried them.) Seriously, there’s a boatload of deeper, richer things that over my heart like grandkids’ tight hugs, seeing my adult kidlets happy, laughs shared with friends, even the odd parade of wildlife through my back yard.

They say that even when you have 99 problems, you probably still have 99,000 blessings. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the shuffle of just the daily detritus. But even if we’re having a bad day (week or year) we can always be thankful for the troubles we DON’T have. The stuff of gratitude can be pretty great, but when life is really hard or really hurts, gratitude seems like a foreign word. We’ve all been there, too.

I’m thankful for my struggles for without them I wouldn’t have found my strengths.

Over the years my Thanksgivings have changed. I no longer make the turkey; I bring the sides. My table no longer hosts a Thanksgiving throng; I head to my kids’ homes. Not to worry. I have dibs on
Christmas and Easter and, to be honest, I much prefer tagliatelle to turkey anyway. Still, Thanksgiving is that time honored holiday when gratitude is the main course; that is if we do Turkey Day right. Continue reading “#gratitude”

View from the Shoe

You’re An Open Book

So, what’s your story? Huh? Come on, everyone has one; the trick is knowing the naked, authentically real story, not the sanitized one we’ve been telling ourselves for years. Your one true story is the one that started at birth, and weaves all our experiences, the happy, the pain, the mistakes and the hurt together in book only we can write. Some chapters are positive, sparkling even, and some are hurtful, mysterious, lonely or disappointing. Personal narratives alone, however, don’t always tell the whole story. The outline of your story, the way it weaves experience together with emotion, that’s what helps shape the narrative.

“Tell your story. That’s the secret of immortality. The one true way to live forever.” Brad Meltzer

Here’s the thing – everyone has a story.  Yours, though, is the only one you have control over.  You can picture yourself through those cool gels cameramen slap on their lenses to fuzz out all the imperfections. But, hello, we can see right through that and you can, too. Write your truth.

Stories can be runaway trains or, depending how we spin them, old pals who we know aren’t a good influence but they just feel so comfortable in the retelling. These insidious inner spirits are more than happy to reinforce every negative story we tell ourselves. They whisper that we are not worth much, that we made too many mistakes, that we shouldn’t expect too much because they’re down with that. Yet, there’s a small voice that we don’t always hear. This is the one who tells us truth, unvarnished but not unsympathetic, not unkind and not hopeful. These are the dudes who call BS when you’re in that ‘it’s all my fault’, ‘I don’t deserve any better’ and ‘it’s too late to change the story’ mood.

“We’re wired for story. We feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories. It’s in our biology.” Brene Brown

Your story is a work in progress. As long as we are breathing we can still revise the content. We can try to do more good, give back, be open to change. Maybe you are a unicorn with a pristine, tale of pure blockbuster perfection. If so, blessings! But knowing that life can easily turn an uneventful upside down in a nanosecond, be ready to write your story with a different pen, a revised outlook.

If you were putting pen to paper today (or keyboard to computer), what would the plot be? Would your tale tell soothing things to your inner child or does it only tell that kid off? Even if you view your life story as a chronic clean-up on aisle 6, your story is still chock full of everything life is about. From intrigue, love, humor, and mistakes, even serious ones, to success, growth and yes, trauma and tragedy. If we lived it, we own it and we need to learn from it, all of it. We can’t revise the already lived narrative but we can shape the final chapters. Continue reading “You’re An Open Book”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Red is Not My Color

Jazzy red cloak. Wacky white bonnet.  The perfect outfit for women in jeopardy. As political climate heats up, The Handmaids Tale is becoming a little too close for comfort. Thought Margaret Atwood’s book was dystopian fiction, real life is often much, much stranger. Inspired by the sociopolitical issues of the early ‘80’s, I’m sure Atwood never imagined it could become a playbook for current events. But for years, politically and religiously radical movements have been brewing a perfect storm.

The surreal fiction of The Handmaids Tale depicted women in reproductive slavery. They were forced to bear the children of the elite, where their scarlet cloaks and crisp bonnets underlined their subservience. Most of the unlucky women had become infertile due to environmental toxins (yikes) except for a few like the iconic protagonist, Offred.

Atwood wrote that “the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, would need only a period of social chaos to reassert itself”. Chilling? Well, put on a sweater because politics has woven its way to the bedroom. Once again, legislating womens’ rights has become more than rhetoric and waving a righteous flag. It’s gotten teeth and bitten into state rulings, deciding by male jury what is best for womens’ bodies.

Newsflash. Getting pregnant is generally not a solo activity. Even if you hail from Gilead, it still takes two. Perhaps men need to be reminded, before they rule on what a woman can do with her own body, how procreation works in the first place. Unfortunately, like in Gilead, women are considered responsible for whatever happens to them and men are free – to judge.

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance; you have to work at it.”  The Handmaid’s Tale Continue reading “Red is Not My Color”

Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Bring It.

Kindness costs nothing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.

 

What seems like a very long time ago, I walked into a boutique advertising agency and asked if they were hiring.  There was no job opening.  So, they made one up and that tiny ad shop became home – for the next 11 years.

I learned more there than I could have ever imagined when I stuck my head in the door that first day.  Having left big NY agencies, the partners brought their own blend of remarkable savvy. But it was the kindness they brought that shone just as much. Yes, the creativity that bubbled over in those small rooms made believers out of some very big clients. But, beneath clever taglines and spot-on campaigns, was a culture of taking great care, not only of the client but of each person who helped bring those campaigns to life.

What we see depends on what we look for. John Lubbock

Long before inside-joke agency pictures became Facebook postings, we had our own odd assortment of the sweet and strange. There was the authentic Wurlitzer jukebox near the reception desk, and an ironic Garfield fish tank nestled alongside shelves of creative awards. To mark a milestone agency anniversary, we hopped into a limo to celebrate, but, true to form, dinner was hardly the expected.  Unless a famed NYC drag show qualifies.

In a world where you can be anything — be kind.

Then one day, the bird left the nest – with a little help. A nester by nature, I can’t say layoffs could ever be my ticket to ride. Branching out into the unknown and trying new things is hardly new but it’s seldom an easy fit. Even when serial jobs are the norm these days, lift-off is still more difficult when it’s a surprise walk off a cliff.  Still, at one time or another, almost everyone has been dropped on their head in that proverbial lake and been forced to sink or swim.

Mostly, we swim. Continue reading “Bring It.”

Politics and other awkward stuff

UnGREATful History 2.0

Before you yearn for ‘Great Again’ — take off the rose-colored glasses.

History is a funny thing. Depending on the glasses it’s viewed with, the past is either cringe worthy or really, well, great. In truth, it’s a combo platter of both to the max. No matter how we’d like to retouch it, history is life, with all its scrapes and bruises. The words ‘great again’ in relation to the good ol’ USA are meant to call back a time when we were mythically perfect. But then, who believes in fairytales?

In advertising, I knew snappy taglines when I saw them but ‘great again’ hearkens back to a country across the pond when the words “Machen Deutschland wieder groß” were a rallying cry. We all know how well that turned out.

When, in our history was America ‘great’ enough, perfect enough for an encore? If a handy time machine could transport us to the past, where exactly would we land? What era would our GPS point to as great enough to repeat? Should we go back to when we elbowed out the first inhabitants, elbowing Native Americans out of the way for us bad white selves? Was it when we bought, sold, traded slaves to build a spanking new country where WE could be free while enslaving others? How about those scary days of our childhood during the Cold War when we scurried beneath our desks with arms over our heads? (like that would have helped) Oh, and who can forget the good ol’ days when brown skinned peoples drank only from ‘colored’ drinking fountains, gays stayed tucked in the closet and women remained silent and in the kitchen.

So when was that glorious golden age of ‘great’? When were we all, regardless of color, culture, religion or gender, peaceful, successful and happy? Can’t remember? Neither can I. Even so, in a country of more than 318 million people of every diversity, we don’t always stick the landing. I’m old enough to have lived through several wars, from Vietnam and the Gulf War to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Having been born with white skin that burns easily I never experienced Jim Crow laws that brutalized a whole portion of our fellow Americans. I was never sent to the back of the bus, or denied use of the same restrooms as my neighbors. As a woman of the 60’s, I was lucky enough not to have lived in a time when I couldn’t vote because of my ‘weaker’ sex. I was a young mom by the time Roe vs Wade signaled the end of back-alley abortions and same sex relations were taken off the list of criminal offenses. Our land of opportunity didn’t always gift those opportunities to everyone. For many — it still doesn’t.

But to all those who wax euphoric over the ‘great’ ol’ times, I get it. It can be really scary to lose your place, especially when you’ve always been assured of one, right? Women, people of color or LGBT people can’t identify, never had a golden ticket to economic and political power as destiny. When you have, it can really suck to realize you might now have to share your place in line. You might even feel like — well, everyone else. Imagine that. Continue reading “UnGREATful History 2.0”

Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Another birthday? Game on.

woman-with-happy-birthday-glasses-blowing-out-candles-on-a-birthday-picture-id1165027849

I’m not old. Ha! But, if a woman’s best years are between 39 and 40, I’m way past my expiration date. On the other hand, as Marianne Williamson said, “You might be depressed you’re no longer young. Be ecstatic you’re no longer clueless.” So there’s that.

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.”  Charles Schulz

Life seems to go by at warp speed, doesn’t it? Maybe not when we were 5 but now, when we’ve definitely crossed the Rubicon, some days life seems to zip by faster than the speed of light. Mine was pretty much a chick flick; equal parts thriller, romantic comedy, and tearjerker. In fact, probably a lot like yours, give or take some weirdo special effects. Whether or not I love everything that flashes across the big screen in my head, it all happened. Both cringe-worthy or fantastic, the movie reel was my life and, hey, if nothing else, it was entertaining!

Some day, we will all die, Snoopy,”said Charlie Brown.
Snoopy answered,“True. But on all the other days, we will not.”

Our desperation to hang onto the gold ring of youth says a lot about our inability to own up to mortality, wrinkles and the changing face in the mirror. In our grief over the inevitable transformation of our once dewy youth, we kinda miss the point. Owning our age, and all the stuff that comes with it, allows us to pass the torch to our kids, to younger colleagues with well-earned wisdom. It enables us to work on stuff we didn’t have time for in the child-rearing years, in the striving to break the glass ceiling or just to break even. If we want a new outlook on the birthday thing, we need a new narrative.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?Satchel Paige

Who’s that kid in the mirror? Where is the girl we saw yesterday? Okay, yesterday was at least 15 years ago but hey, we weren’t prepared for the aged-out version of Dorian Gray. Still, there’s no magic youth wand to bring back our younger selves. Remember the last time you were in CVS, thinking you looked pretty damn good, and the guy who, once upon a time would have done a double take, only has eyes for the deodorant in his hand? Yea, that felt good. Still, even the best cosmetic miracle can uncover the beauty within; the beauty that only living, sacrificing, and learning brings. Continue reading “Another birthday? Game on.”

View from the Shoe

Running from the Reaper

“We all gotta die sometime” Falsettos

Well, that’s a cheery thought. It might sound rudely uncomfortable, but mortality gets pretty real as we cross middle age. Somewhere along our birthday lines, we begin looking behind us and see the years are gaining. We look at the whole mortality thing as being on the clock, with a need to accomplish as much as we can before we punch out. If you want to carve another Trevi Fountain or invent the newest techno thingie, you better get started.

“Life asked Death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’ Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am the painful truth.'”  Author unknown

America doesn’t handle death well. Sure, we visit graves, offer condolences and spend obscene amounts on funerals but death itself? Not so much. The word itself is a conversation non-starter, yet death is as real as birth, marriage, and life itself. Who really wants to open Pandora’s box? Who wants to get down and dirty about death, terminal illness or loss of someone you love? Yet, we can actually worry ourselves – to death over it. Constant anxiety and fear around death can itself be an inexorable jumpstart toward what we dread most.

Death. The word is anything but MEH. In fact, it’s pretty damn personal. A pub in Ireland decided to make that ‘taboo’ word a conversation starter.  While it may not exactly be ‘Cheers’, Death Cafe in Dublin is a place where no one gets drunk and everyone talks — about death. The conversations are pretty sobering but oddly they aren’t Noir either. Young and old, women and men, all get real about addressing the Grim Reaper, with the help of a cuppa, a pint and even some laughs.

Death is not the opposite of life but part of it. Haruki Murakami

When we think of our own demise, our questions are all pretty much the same. Will our kids and grandchildren be happy? Will our spouses be okay after we pass? Will I be remembered? No matter our thoughts, one thing is clear. Life is a one-way highway. There’s no reverse, no do-overs. That’s part of the the contract we made when we burst, screaming our lungs out, into this world. Unlike Benjamin Button, we don’t live backwards and no amount of anti-aging products or exercise will change that. We are just not designed to be immortal.

I’ve always been afraid of the unknown, and what’s bigger and more unknown than death? Besides, I love being in this world. In fact, I have no plans to leave – at least for awhile. But, as another birthday approaches, it’s clear there’s more road behind than in front. As we age, mortality becomes a verb. Still, I can’t picture my little world without me in it even as I know well, from losing people close to me, that the world does indeed continue to spin without us.

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Dylan Thomas

My experience with death has run the gamut from my way-too-young-to-die 19 year old brother to my 94 year old father — with my younger-than-I-am-now husband in between. Still, I have no freakin’ answers about the grim reaper’s motives or how to prepare for his arrival. In fact, I wonder if fear of that arrival gives death even more power?

There’s also the little matter of control. I’ve never been drunk in my life. No, I’m not a weirdo or a paragon of virtue, just a neurotic control freak. Funny then, how the sudden losses and sharp detours in my life really made control a laughable idea. Still, humans are programmed to want control. Why else would we strive to be healthy, sleep 8 hours, and drive carefully? Ultimately, however, death just thumbs its nose and does its thing.

I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens. Woody Allen

It’s a given that none of us are getting out of this life alive. Duh. We each have an invisible expiration date stamped on our behinds when we are implanted in the womb. Luckily, that date is a mystery even in terminal illness. And seriously, would we really want to know if we could?

In the end (no pun intended) one thing is clear. Mortality gets closer every day. We get stiffer,  forget more and remember less. We live longer today but not always better. We touch up graying hair, Botox till we don’t recognize ourselves yet we can’t escape the inevitable. On the other hand, if we acknowledge the elephant in the room, days seem more important the less there are of them. Our priorities shift and we have more time to look at the world around us and at those we love. We express our hearts more honestly and openly. Life becomes simpler, more generous and thoughtful and if we’re lucky, we become more adaptable and content with our changed lives.

No matter how we look at it, no matter how long it takes — winter is coming.

Are you living your best life — NOW?