Month: November 2016

Be An Idea

I’ve spent a few weeks downsizing my life to great effect. In early October, I was laid off a stressful media job at a company that was going downhill fast. While the sudden drop in income sucked, I had savings (and I qualified for unemployment), so it was fine. I’d been working so many hours towards the end trying in vain to plug a growing revenue hole that was a result of my boss’ bad decisions that I was burned out and ready for a break, anyway.

In other words, the universe was just rebalancing everything back to equilibrium. I was working too much at a job I no longer enjoyed, and poof!The job went away and I was instantly happier.

The whole experience has taught me that we are what we live. If you’re a miserable, stressed-out workaholic, you’ll become misery. (Not just miserable — -misery, itself.)On the other hand, if you’re relaxed and focused, you’ll become dignity. (Not just dignified, but dignity, itself).

I’ve been watching a lot of French movies lately. I minored in French in college, too. The French are really good at metaphors. They are what they live. Joie de vivre, and all that.

There’s a great shortage of dignity in American society these days. We all work too many hours. We are all worried about money thanks to our complete lack of socialist infrastructure. We’re hypercompetitive out of necessity. And we barely take vacations. In that regard, we’re all only one leg up from total slavery. Slaves to paychecks, slaves to work, slaves to keeping up with the Jones, slaves to artificial self-images. We all really need to get a life.

I’ve had two months of down time to keep on rebalancing things in my typical unbalanced American life before I head back to work in two weeks. (Just landed a great new job at a better company for higher pay — -yay!). Here are some tips on how to strike a better life balance that I’ve thankfully had some time to put into practice of late:

1. Sleep.

The American corporate world seems to have something against sleep. Between all the long hours and stress-induced anxiety and insomnia, it’s no wonder the TV airwaves are littered with ads for prescription sleep medications. Corporate America profits from our lack of sleep in multiple ways (drugs, overworking employees on low salaries, even escapist activities like action movies and gambling make companies money). But it’s not sustainable. If you don’t sleep, at some point you will burn out and either a) collapse from exhaustion or b) suffer a nervous breakdown. Neither outcome is conducive for productivity.

Instead, sleep eight hours a night, every night. You’ll find that you get more done because the quality of your work will improve. Ditto for your home life. It’s not about quantity, folks. And when you sleep well and often, you tend to have cool dreams, which is another sign of good mental and physical health. Sleep is just a damn good idea.

2. Exercise.

I’m a total gym rat and have been for years. It’s one of the reasons why I look younger than my actual age and have also developed a reputation for high productivity. As with sleep, you can’t function well over the long term without adequate exercise. Our bodies evolved over thousands of years to move constantly. Sitting on your ass at a desk all day without moving around vigorously a LOT will create all sorts of physical and mental health problems. Not only will you look and feel better, you’ll get more done in less time, because exercise not only improves physical stamina, it also improves mental focus. (And there’s quite a bit of science out there which indicates that exercise can also combat depression and anxiety better than many drugs do). People who are physically fit also often get better jobs and earn more money — -because they look, feel, and work better than those who don’t exercise. In that way, exercise is a way to make a good idea pay off in real currency.

3. Turn off social media.

Deleting my Facebook account was the best idea I’ve had in a long time. I’d been an admitted slave to the platform for over seven years, but it had really started to cause me severe emotional harm during the 2016 election. There’s even some evidence that fake news promoted on the site to generate ad revenue and the ever-elusive News Feed algorithm directly contributed to the 2016 presidential election outcome. While I was pretty good about keeping my privacy settings tight and policing behavior on my own page to root out bad behavior, by the end I was dealing with outright verbal abuse and threats from people on a near-daily basis. (You can only block so many people before social media becomes pointless.) Even without the abuse, social media is addictive by nature, because it’s designed to keep you on the site as long as possible, because that’s simply what advertisers want. I took a trial break away from the platform for about two months, and discovered after an initial painful withdrawal period that I didn’t miss it at all.

Without Facebook constantly sucking away my free time (along with my soul), I’ve discovered new levels of creativity and focus. I’ve been able to get a lot of work done on my house while also revisiting some creative writing projects I’d long left dormant. It’s amazing how much time and energy (even money!) you’ll discover that you already have when Facebook isn’t stealing it from you. Plus, social media makes you dumb. Be smart and turn it off.

4. Get a hobby. (Or four).

Look, work isn’t everything. When you die, you aren’t going to tell your loved ones (or your hospice nurse) that you really wish that you’d worked more. No, you’re going to regret not taking that dream vacation, not reading all of Marcel Proust, not learning a second or third language, not learning to ballroom dance. Take some of the time you freed up by not working overtime and not wasting your life on Facebook by getting some hobbies. (And no, social media is not a hobby. Neither is going to the gym or working out at home with videos/books/whatever, which should be a minimum requirement for existence along with food, bathing, and sleep). Hobbies are add-ons that are still essential because they keep your brain healthy, keep you emotionally balanced, and generally make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. (Which, in the long run, makes you more marketable to employers, but I digress). I have several hobbies that I float between, but lately I’ve mostly been concentrating on French cinema, reading historical fiction, and tap dancing. (Yep. Tap dancing. I highly recommend it. I even got a French tap-dancing instructional video out of the library and practiced with it. True story). I also like to paint. (Pictures, not walls). All of these things help me deal with all the emotional and physical crud that inevitably comes from being a working mom in a busy, stressful city. And gives me joie de vivre, too.

5. Meditate.

This is the most important thing to do by far. I practice Zen meditation a minimum of ten minutes every day. Sometimes I try to do an hour or more a day. Plus I try to do everything (and I do mean everything) mindfully — -whether it’s eating, walking, cleaning, or doing laundry. It’s a big reason I have been able to weather plenty of storms in my personal and professional lives without much disruption or upheaval since I took up the practice years ago. (Anybody who works in media, like I do, has to live with high levels of stress and uncertainty, for one thing). Meditation doesn’t just bring inner peace (though that’s a huge benefit). Meditation actually makes you smarter.Plus, being Zen is pretty hip these days. Meditate a few hours a week (or even just a few minutes a week), and you’ll be a lot more fun for others to be around. People will start asking you for advice and wondering where you get all your clarity and insight. It will pay off in spades. (And happiness).

This year, I made a New Year’s resolution to be an idea. The idea that I became isn’t just one idea, but many. But the general idea is wellness, and for that I am proud.


Find Me on Medium, Facebook Is Dead

I deleted my Facebook account today. That platform is officially The New Myspace. (In other words, dying a slow-yet-rapidly-accelerating death). Fake news and toxic 2016 election bubbles killed it.

Meanwhile, I’m radically restructuring my social media strategy. I’ll mostly be posting on Medium and Twitter from now on. This blog will not be updated very often (not that it is now!). I’ll periodically port my Medium posts over here manually, but if you want to know what’s really going on with me, again, visit me on Medium or Twitter. (And even those places will not give my die-hard Facebook followers the daily dose of ME that they’d grown accustomed to over the past seven years or so.)

I think social media is dying across the board. We can thank President-Elect (barf!) Trump for that, as his ginormous, orange, wart-encrusted ego and erratic behavior are only magnified on Twitter, which is horrifying on its surface—-and yet, forces all of us to see just how destructive social media is to individual participants, and corrosive to society as a whole. 2016 will go down as the year where we realized that we are not 124-character tweets or the sum of our biased Facebook feeds. We are not binary machines who simply do as Big Brother commands. No, we are human beings— deep, complex, flawed organic lifeforms who are trying to survive (albeit not very well) on a dying planet.

I want to spend less time on social media and more time thinking about complex problems. When I want to write about how to solve these complex problems (or even just identifying exactly what these problems are) I want to do it on a platform that allows for actual thinking. Facebook doesn’t lend itself well to that — -especially these days, when you have thousands of navel-gazing, embittered adolescents who are still unable to process 2016 election shock and grief and the reasons the whole disaster occurred like rational adults following you on your Facebook feed. Indeed, it is for that reason that so many bubble-dwelling liberals never even saw 2016’s election outcome coming in the first place. (Hint: I did. I predicted that this shit would go down almost a year ago, but got laughed at and/or insulted for saying so.)

Twitter isn’t much better than Facebook (just look at Trump’s Twitter feed if you need convincing), but it at least limits your use of characters to a level so low it’s hard to do or say something too society-destroying. (Unless you’re Trump, of course.). Plus, it’s a lot harder for users to harass or stalk other users on Twitter than it is on Facebook. I switched over to it a while ago and find it less stressful than Facebook got towards the end.

I’m moving over to Slow Thinking and Slow Writing from now on. I plan to become Less Accessible, and More Mysterious. I plan to spend more time on things that are actually productive, both for myself/my family, and society as a whole. You may call me a Luddite, but I’m going all 1925 on you, complete with pen and paper and shortwave radio. (Or at the very least, I’ll go all 1999 on you. I’ll keep the computer and Internet, and just lose the social media part.) I did more writing and thinking back in 1999. Life was slower, and simpler, and less stressful, and I made more pretty, shiny, creative things. I want to do that again, only twenty-first-century style.

In short, I want to be a maker. Of words, and thoughts, and evidence, all carefully crafted and sifted through. You can’t do that on a Facebook thread or a disappearing Snapchat. But you can do it in a notebook, or a publishing platform that mimics a book, complete with an editorial veil that’s a lot harder to pierce through with nastiness and superficiality.

Hence, Medium. That’s all for here and now. See you on the flip side.


Why I Voted for Jill Stein

I voted for Jill Stein. I voted for her because she basically took over Bernie’s platform and even added a few more liberal/progressive planks to it that I loved. I live in a deep-blue state (IL) that Hillary carried easily, so my vote did not act as a “spoiler” in the election. I knew way back in June when the DNC pushed Bernie out that the Dems were going to lose this election (and this was even before the all the Wikileaks/DNC leaks and FBI crap came out), so I was free to vote my conscience.  I’ve had six months to process my grief at what I knew would be an inevitable Dem loss without Bernie on the ticket, so unlike most of the rest of the country that is still in shock and denial, I could think rationally.

I’m a lifelong progressive Democrat and found the Clintonites’ method of campaigning — -which included threats, profanity, and blackmail against anyone who dared question them in any way (see “Hillbots”) — -to be one of the contributing factors to HRC’s loss. You don’t get people to vote for you by having your supporters threaten anyone who dares question your policies or character with harm or hurl profane epithets at them. That’s the worst possible way to garner support, and that kind of negativity just made HRC’s likability problem even worse.

HRC did not lose this election because of third-party votes. Her margin of electoral loss was enormous. She lost because she was a bad candidate, bar none. The people who voted for Trump were never going to vote for her to begin with, and she lost a lot of Obama-supporting independents to Trump for reasons ranging from NAFTA to economics to bullying. And the DNC’s corrupt behavior during the nominating process turned off the liberal base and led many of them to just stay home.

The reactions of Clintonites screaming, yelling, crying, or blaming third-party voters or FBI director James Comey for Hillary Clinton’s loss instead of the candidate herself is puerile, juvenile, and disappointing. The more of this tantrum-throwing goes on, the worse the problem will become, and less time will be spent actually fixing the overall problem that directly led to this disaster — — DNC corruption, pay-to-play politics, biased media, and the marginalization of the progressive left by the Clintonites despite our broad support with the electorate. We have an opportunity to rebuild things from the ground up now, and that’s a net positive in this sea of destructive hubris and negativity.