Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is E-Mail Evil?

My heart feels so heavy tonight.  I think that I'm a product of a bygone era.   While I am a huge user of social media, I have tried very hard to use it for useful purposes or for just plain fun.  I have not always been successful, but I have tried.  I do not post anything related to my job or any issues that I may be having with friends or family.

Then there is e-mail.  E-mail can be our best friend or our biggest enemy.  It makes our lives infinitely more productive because it allows us to reach as many people as we need to about a whole list of topics all in one fell swoop.  However .......

Unless your name is Ann Landers, Abigail Van Buren or Mother Teresa, you may occasionally word something poorly.  Or hastily. Without adequate thought, or adequate care and consideration. Imagine that this happens when you are addressing a whole boatload of people.    How many of us have had an occasion to admit that "perhaps I could have worded that differently..."  It does not take a super special idiot or evil person to word something poorly in an e-mail with a large distribution list.

And then there are the e-mails that never should have been sent in the first place.   It would seem that the art of calling someone on the phone is lost on the majority of the population.  You know, the thing is .....  most of us have a cell phone.  And in case you haven't noticed, lots of people screen their calls on their cell phones.   So, if you're really THAT nervous about calling someone about something, chances are pretty good that you'll be able to leave a message - preferably a coherent, thought-out message - which will give the recipient the chance to think about the topic before he or she returns the call.

If I thought anyone would take me seriously for a second on this topic, I would propose the following "Rules of Mass E-Mail Etiquette in the 21st Century":

(1) Topics that have the potential to be controversial or sensitive should not, repeat NOT, be discussed in e-mails.  Please discuss these in a group meeting, I beg of you.  For the love of God.

(2) If you are beginning your message with "I have left John Doe off this distribution list because ....", or " Please do not repeat this to Jane Smith, because .....",  you should probably rethink the purpose of the e-mail.  See #1, above.

(3) Don't write the next epic novel.  I've been guilty of this too many times myself.  Nobody wants or has time to read it.   Try to pare it down or turn it into bullet points.   Save the prose for your blog, or,,,, go ahead and really write the next epic novel.

(4) If you really need something urgently, don't send an e-mail and sit stewing while the minutes tick away without a response.  People are not glued to their e-mail.  Pick up the phone and call - see paragraph 4 above.

(5) On the flip side - if you are a group that relies on e-mail a lot, set some rules for responding to e-mails in a reasonably timely manner.

Since nobody will take these rules with anything but a grain of salt, I think we have two choices to ensure that e-mails do not bring down civilization as we know it:

(A) Use simple sentence structure and words containing no more than two syllables.   Bullet points whenever possible.  This leaves the least room for misinterpretation.  If the e-mail can't be composed in this manner, then it probably should not be composed at all.

(B) If you receive an e-mail that does not meet the criteria as described in (A), read it at least three times.  Then read it out loud.  If you find it offensive, DO NOT REPLY.    Give yourself 2 hours and read it again out loud.   If it still feels offensive to you, DO NOT REPLY.  This means do not reply, do not reply to some,  do not reply to all.  DO NOT REPLY.  Call the sender on the phone or meet the sender for coffee.   For the love of God, engage in real communication.  It will feel awkward at first, because you are so out of practice, but never fear.... it's like riding a bike!

Our grandparents are rolling over in their graves.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Is This What Crazy Feels Like?

So much is written about the mental health crisis in our country these days.  Everyone who commits a violent crime is someone who has mental issues, and then the second guessing starts.  Family and friends of the perp make statements about the person being "not right" or "showing signs of having problems" and people think that if only these people would have said or done something...

The thing is, when do people recognize their own issues?   How does a person know when they've crossed the line from stressed out or disturbed to psychosis?  Or maybe this is how people go nuts and shoot people up.  Probably they started out perfectly normal.  Maybe things started happening in their environment that stressed them out.  A lot.  And maybe they were predisposed to psychosis and didn't even realize it.  So, something is going on all the time that is stressing them out, and sooner or later the symptoms start.  Erratic behavior.  Altered perceptions of reality.   Emotional instability.  And then, one day - wham!  The person just goes off the deep end.  And nobody saw it coming because it just crept up on everyone - including the crazy person.

So, the question is this:  when things start happening to cause someone to believe that he or she is "losing it", what comes next?   People often say  "I'M LOSING IT" when they are confronted with a difficult or confusing situation.  But when is it really time to say "enough"?   How does someone recognize that she is on the edge of sanity?   Is it when your memory of events becomes a tangle of confusion in your head, or is it when you remember something with absolute clarity only to find out that you are not remembering correctly at all?   Or maybe it's when that crystal clear memory is surrounded on either side by tangles of confusion.

The biggest question of all:   Is sanity or the lack thereof proven by the questions being asked?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A New Twist on an Old Prayer

I am on the Board of Directors of the chorus for which I also sing.  While I feel that I still have many quality singing years ahead of me, I can't help but feel that my best years as a member of this Board are behind me.  My passion for it is gone, and it makes me sad, because we have great things planned for the next two seasons.  But, I am committed to these two seasons because I do believe in the ability of our Chorus to achieve great things and I still want to be a part of making that happen.  I want to believe that there is someone ready to replace me who will have the same level of commitment and passion that I brought to the table over the past 12 years.   The trouble is that there are members of this Board, new and returning, who seem to have personal agendas.  I wonder what would happen if these people were left to their own devices on this Board?  Would their agendas ultimately benefit this Chorus?  Am I so arrogant that I believe that my way (our way) is the only way or the ultimate way?  My gut is telling me that people who are self-serving will not ever  serve in the best interests of the Chorus.   My gut is telling me that when the "up and coming" people disrespect experienced veterans (as they have already done), that these people will always put their own needs ahead of the 100 or so people who elected them.   But ......  my gut has been wrong.  Frequently.   And I know that I will be stepping down in two years, and when I do, I have to find a way to accept my successor.

We are all meeting for our first Board meeting of the season tomorrow.   There have been major issues already - before we've even had a chance to meet.  I suppose it's preferable to have your opponent fire a warning shot instead of just ambushing you.  Except that these people are NOT supposed to be our opponents.   My plan for meeting prep?  Well, I thought about the Serenity Prayer this morning.  I don't see any way that I will be able to remain serene during this meeting.  Instead, I think I'll concentrate on remaining wise.

God, grant me the wisdom to enter into this encounter with an open mind.
Help me to know when to speak and when to keep my big mouth shut.
Grant me the discipline to allow all of my experiences - both good and bad -  with these people to color my actions.  
God, help me to use my intuition to be able to support my allies without being overtly partisan.
Give me the strength to take the high road and be the bigger person when necessary.
Above all, help me to remember why I am doing this, why I agreed to do this 12 years ago, and who I am really working for.    


Friday, July 18, 2014

An Energy Zapper and Albatross

Earlier this week, I sat in my doctor's office and attempted to explain my fatigue to the PA.

"I sleep soundly all night, but within 3 hours of rising, I feel like going back to bed"
"My extremities feel like cement."
"No, I do not have: chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness or swelling."
"Yes, I am in perimenopause, and it sucks.  I'm closing in on one year of this hormone hell and have learned to just expect the unexpected and to roll with the punches."

What I didn't tell her was that I am in fear of dozing off while driving and will blast the radio and roll the window down on the Thruway in an attempt not to do so.

"Am I depressed?   No."   I don't think so.... or ....... hold on, not so fast ........

I am not depressed about my family.  I was a few months ago, but I have been able to accept the realities of my situation.  While I think I have an uphill battle ahead, I am confident that I have to ability to create a new, different kind of connection with them.  Also, my daughter has been home now for almost 2 months, and I feel good about my ability to let her fly off to start her new life at the end of the upcoming school year.  I'm about 85% there...

I am not depressed about my job.  There are some new and interesting challenges presenting themselves to me that I am rather enjoying.

What does that leave?  So, over the years, I've listened to other people complain about being on the Board of Directors of this or that and how miserable and thankless of an experience it was.  I considered myself lucky that I didn't truly feel that way in my heart of hearts because I was serving a group that I loved, that we were performers, and I love to perform.

Well .......   musicians have massive egos, many are self-serving and like to whine, and of course, we are all HUMAN, but up until a couple of years ago, our Board was able to overcome this petty stuff because at the end of the day, we were united with a common goal.  This does not seem to be the case any more, and it is getting worse with each passing season, as Board members step down and new members are elected.

How illustrious are we this season that we've managed to have a blowout meltdown before we've even held one meeting.    It feels like a new low, and considering that I 've been at this since 2003, that's saying a lot.   I am just 110% tired of egos and drama getting in the way of productivity.  I'm already tired of new Board members who sit in judgement and think that they have all of the answers.   I'm tired of the lame duck President who drags his feet on almost everything, but when he does decide to act on something, he does it carelessly and independent of anyone else.   I'm tired of having to bend over backwards to accommodate the ego and insecurity of the Music Director who is so busy trying to involve herself in everyone else's responsibilities that she can't find time to fulfill her own.  I'm tired of trying to be understanding of her problems while receiving no such understanding in return.  Ever.  I'm tired of the Board member who verbally abuses us and never gets called on her behavior.  I'm tired of knee-jerk decisions that come back to bite us.  I'm tired of the general membership that wants everything "just so" ...... as long as someone else does all of the work.   The work.  The work causes a huge gray cloud to descend on my brain.  And my work on this Board has suffered.  I know that I myself am far from perfect.

The prevailing theme is that I'm tired.  Period.   And unless my thyroid or vitamin levels come back and point to something else, I have to conclude that I've now identified the issue.   Feeling physically ill 24-48 hours before a meeting is not normal or healthy.   Feeling my BP shoot up when e-mails from certain people hit my inbox is not normal or healthy.   Being constantly at odds with someone over something is not healthy (the issue and the person shifts, but the scenario is ALWAYS the same).  Being surrounded by judgmental people who attribute ill intentions to others' every move is not healthy.  All of this takes its toll after months of it turn into years with no end in sight.  The clincher is that I feel totally trapped.   I am not a quitter, and there are those individuals involved in this group that I will never, ever quit on.  So, here I sit.

This doctor's appointment was a total downer.  I now weigh more than I ever have in my life, and I simply do not have the energy to do anything about it.   And I'm not sure I can do anything about it, even if I want to.   I am now predicting that this season's Board will not survive intact through May 31, 2015.  The only question in my mind is -who will quit and when and why?  It won't be me, although if my physical condition gets much worse, I might no longer be in control of my mind and - subsequently - my actions.

God, help me to get through this to the other side so that I can begin the next phase of my life.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 2 - Love Myself Unconditionally

“I love myself unconditionally.”

Only on Day 2 and I am confronted with an almost impossible task.  How do I go about loving myself unconditionally when I don't even know if I'm capable of loving myself conditionally?

Stereotypically, I look back on my childhood and point out that my parents were not big on the whole "love" concept.   After they had both passed, my brother asked me one day "Did Dad ever tell you he loved you?"  I thought for a moment and replied "No, and neither did Mom".   There you have it, and we both have bent over backwards to not be that way with our own children.   Who or what did I love as a child?  I'm pretty sure I loved my parents, my brother, and -of course - my dog.   I guess I knew in some vague fashion that they all loved me.  It just was never expressed to me in any real way, and so I was never any good at expressing it myself.  No role models.   For most of my adult life, I have been atrocious at expressing real affection.   I told my parents, in their dying days, that I loved them.  I've told my husband and daughter that I loved them.   I finally said it to my brother and my niece last year.  Rarely have I said it to anyone else, but it's safe to say that when I do say it,  I really mean it.

So now I'm supposed to love myself unconditionally.   Well..... this is how I'm supposed to get there... here goes:

Self-hating thoughts:

 - I hate my body type and the fact that even when I weighed 110 pounds, I had no neck.
 - I hate that I can't express myself verbally as well as I can with the written word.
 - I hate that when I do express myself verbally, the words almost always come out overly harsh, sometimes dictatorial, occasionally even insensitive.

What is the reason or reasons for these thoughts:
 - I was chubby as a child.  My father called me fat.   Kids at school called me fat.  Even after I lost weight in Junior High and entered High School at 5'3" and 110 pounds, I was "Fat Chris".  When I looked in the mirror, I saw a fat person.  Luckily, I also loved food.  Anorexia was never an option.  I always had a flabby jawline, and I just always hated it.
- I don't know the reason why I can't verbalize my feelings.  All I can think of was that my self esteem or lack thereof just would not permit me to speak words that precisely mirrored my thoughts.

How do I change these feelings:
 - I'm not sure I can change both simultaneously.   It seems as though I would be better at verbalization if I were to feel better about my physical self.   Or vice versa?  My gut is telling me that I need to have physical self-assurance before I can attain verbal "prowess".   Maybe I need to work on one and just let the other one come along for the ride.  

Tonight I am going to take a lovely shower and indulge in a self-applied facial.  I have this exfoliation stuff that is a bit lengthy but really makes my skin feel good.  One of the recommendations is that I give myself a "self hug".   That's a tough one.  I tried.  I really did.  Part of self-acceptance is accepting that I'm not quite ready to give myself a self hug.  All in good time.

Check out the Day 2 affirmation at:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day #1 My past does not define my future

“Today is a brand new day. My past does not define me. My future is mine to create.”

I am feeling good so far.  Given my recent reflections on family issues and weight issues, this is the perfect way for me to start this challenge.

I have made some potentially fatal mistakes in my relationships with my family, and for quite a while I've felt like I am reaping the results.  I must now tell myself that I cannot go back in time and erase what has been done.  The lesson in all of this is that there are rarely ever the opportunities for do-overs in relationships.  I can only go forward and try to work with what I still have and build.  And yes, I am once again thankful for Facebook.  Without it, this goal would be a lot more difficult to reach.

Ever since I graduated from college and plunked myself behind a desk in an office, my weight has been an issue.  This equates to 28 years of ups, downs, fitness highs and lows, and closet upon closet of clothing ranging in sizes from 6 to 16+.  Enough.  The future is mine to shape.  I know what I have to do.   Carbohydrates are my enemy.   My daughter, the culinary and nutrition expert, tells me that whole grains are an essential part of my diet and should not be ignored.  Yet, even when I eat whole grain bread and pasta and quinoa and spelt, I have the tendency to overeat.  I am going forward knowing that it is not realistic to completely eliminate grains and glutens, but I absolutely will not eat them at each meal.  My lunch today is a Trader Joe's Korean frozen entree with beef, rice and vegetables.  For a dessert/snack I have fresh fruit.  Almonds are at the ready in my desk.

I can't give up coffee.  I see it in my future, long-term, always.  Likewise chocolate - dark and sparingly.   This is my future, so far.   One day at a time...

Oops - almost forgot - here is the link to this 15 day affirmation challenge:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weddings, Funerals, July 4th and My Best Foot Forward

My July 4th celebration this year was like Mary Poppins - practically perfect in every way.  The only thing wrong with it was that it had to end.  Too soon.  Family gatherings that are this fun can be bittersweet when they are few and far between.

My husband says that I'm a chronic whiner.  He then adds the caveat that "it's ok" because my hometown breeds them, and for the most part, it's out of my control.    He's right.  Instead of dwelling on the inevitable months and years that will pass before such a celebration as this happens again, I need to instead smile at the memories.   Sometimes, it's easier said than done ..

Once upon a time, we all lived in the western half of New York State.   My generation stayed here and raised our kids here.  My brother married into an extremely likeable family.   Everything was an excuse for a party.  In addition to the usual holidays, there were Super Bowl parties, birthdays and huge family vacations in places like the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach and the Adirondacks.  There was never any question that we all wanted to share significant events together.  For  a few summers, my sister-in-law's parents rented a cottage at Crystal Beach, and we would all pile over the border and enjoy the beach and company.  On one such adventure, the one and only toilet backed up.  It was a Sunday in Canada.   Faced with the prospect of hours without this vital piece of modern plumbing, we could have gone home but instead we chose to make multiple trips to Tim Hortons where I felt obligated to buy something every time I used their restrooms.   I ended up feeling like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  At the time, I'm sure we all felt that our "styles were cramped" considerably, but right now I'd love to go back in time and re-live that weekend.

Two things happened that signaled the end of this era - the aging of my parents' generation, and the migration of my brother's kids to North Carolina.    Gradually, the "events" became fewer and farther between.  When my brother's oldest grandchild was diagnosed with kidney disease, he began spending more and more time in North Carolina.  Conversely, they rarely ventured north.  Everything that we had taken for granted became an occasional luxury to be savored and cherished.  Late last year, we lost my brother's grandson - my great-nephew.    It was a pain that was so sharp, so big... yes, that's what it was - BIG PAIN.  Big, all-consuming, heart-squeezing pain.   After his funeral, we all sat around bemoaning the fact that we had gone our separate ways.    We talked about the week-long family vacations of the old days and how we should revive that tradition at least once.   In the middle of the sorrow shone a glimmer of hope that something good might come from this.

We had determined that there was one or two weeks in August this year that would work for just about everyone, and vacation houses in Myrtle Beach were usually reasonable in August.   For whatever reason, it never came to be.    I had saved most of my precious and few vacation days, but it seemed that the enthusiasm of the moment back in December had faded.   None of the movers and shakers who had planned these vacations in the past wanted to "make it happen".   So, July 4th it would be.   No more than that.  Six hours.    The reality is that I could have fashioned myself into a new mover and shaker.   I didn't.  Truth be told,  I feared rejection, and perhaps my fear was justified.  If my brother had wanted it to happen, it would have happened - with or without me.  He is that kind of larger than life person.   The larger than life kind of person that I could never be.

So.... I am back to the fact that I'm a whiner.    Sitting here feeling sorry for myself.   Tomorrow I begin the affirmation challenge and the clean eating challenge.    My belief is that they will go hand in hand in overhauling my mental and physical condition.   And then I need to figure out how to stop dwelling on the past and, instead, looking forward to the rest of my life.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 7th

So.... why is the date of July 7th significant?

Well ....... maybe it won't end up being significant at all, or maybe.... just maybe...... it will be the start of something big for me.

I was walking back from lunch yesterday with two ladies that I work with.  Suddenly, one of them announced to us that starting next Monday, she was going to get her shit together and start packing a lunch. Because she was tired of eating grease and crap.   Uh..... yeah!!!   Since I have been feeling especially shitty myself these days, I immediately jumped on board with this plan.   The three of us will pack a lunch and eat our packed lunches together......

.... I've been down this road before.  It never becomes permanent.  I need to make it permanent.  So, as the little voice in my head tells me "yeah, yeah, yeah.... this plan will last about a week....."  I am reviewing my daily Feedspot e-mail, and I see a blog entitled "15 day Affirmation Challenge".  I like affirmations, but I've never really known how to actually put them to use.  I read one, think "wow, that's so true" or "yeah, man, that's a good one" ......  and that's about all.  This challenge claims to provide a daily affirmation and a way to actually use it.   Now they've got my attention.

Suppose I start modifying my eating habits and I sign up for this affirmation challenge at the same time?   Am I on to something here?  The worst that can happen is that it doesn't work and I continue my gorging, and maybe you'll turn on The Biggest Loser and see my face staring back.   The best is that something finally clicks in my brain that I am worthy of better - of looking and feeling better, sleeping better, etc.,...

It was suggested that bloggers blog about this 15-day challenge.  I will do that.   Anyone interested in checking out this 15 day challenge, which begins next Monday, can do so at: 

This should be good, one way or another .....