Of all the questions I'm asked about the 50-for-50 Project, the one that comes up most frequently is definitely "Why the hair?"

Sometimes it comes up in the context of context—i.e., What the hell does shaving your head have to do with raising money for WriteGirl?—which I can understand. More on that in a bit, although since we've officially begun bean-spilling time, I may as well confess that the desire to shave (or at least, the desire to see what the hell was under all that hair) pre-dated the desire to do anything remotely selfless by a good eight years. I mean, what woman hasn't sweated through a grow-out summer or written that check for single-process color AGAIN or, hey, seen another bald chick and wondered to herself what it would be like?

But far more frequently, Why the hair? might be loosely translated as What are you, crazy? So few choose baldness (and let's face it, even the "bald by choice" crowd is more accurately described as "balder by choice") that opting out of hair is seen as extreme. Why would you do voluntarily what sick people are dragged into kicking and screaming? (And I'm speaking of our friends in chemo, not casting aspersions on military recruits, religious orders, or even right-wing extremists. Although, well, you know.)

* * * * *

The party line for "Why the hair?" vis-à-vis a fundraiser for Girl Empowerment came from my friend Daniel Will-Harris, another writer/performer/marketing hybrid-freak like me. Figures, right?

I was still casting about for a way to quickly sum up a logical "why" when I threw out the problem to him in an email exchange we had way back in mid-July, just two weeks shy of Launch Day. What he wrote back was so logical, so obvious, that if I'd had time to do it between the eleventy-seven constant items on my to-do list, I'd have kicked myself.

Because it's about what's inside a girl's head, not what's outside.

Duh. I mean, DUH.

Delighted, I tucked away this nugget in my filthy miner's pockets to satisfy curiosity in the metaphorical saloons of tomorrow, and did not think much more about the email—except, of course, to credit Daniel whenever I used the line, because I'm not an ass—until I pulled it up to check the date on it for this piece. And as I scanned it for the money phrase, I finally saw an equally important line below it:

How many men can you recognize just by their haircuts?

Sure there are thejoke haircuts. And, ironically, the very serious "Kojak."But really, how many?

Whereas I'll bet that with absolutely no help from Google Image Search, you could come up with five or ten examples of women identifiable by haircut on the spot. Hell, I think Jennifer Aniston and Madonna might be responsible for five or ten iconic styles between them. Every day on Pinterest, I find yet another worshipful gallery of wish-list hair styled created by yet another woman. And so we're clear on this, I'm not immune.

The more you think about it, the worse it gets: How many hours do we spend on our hair? And how many dollars? Even worse, how much emotion do we have tied up in it? How often do we judge—ourselves, our friends, complete strangers—on something as evanescent and arbitrary as hair? This person is [old/hip/stylish/frumpy]. To be [pitied/admired/envied].

Just how attached are we to our hair? Or, by extension (you'll pardon the pun), to any of our other external markers?

Like most things I write on my blog, when I say "we," I'm most definitely saying "me." When she did my chart, my first-shrink-slash-astrologer warned me that with Venus in Leo, my obsession with my hair wasn't going to end anytime soon. "You'll always need to be happy with your hair," she said.

Which is why I thought of her when I woke up last Wednesday morning and really looked at myself in the mirror for the first time. Could I be happy with my hair, I wondered, if my hair was no-hair?

Because unless I had completely lost my head along with the stuff on top of it, I was actually digging my no-hair, and was thinking of not-keeping it.

* * * * *

Trust me when I say that I have thought through the angles on this baby. I know that my no-hair could easily become as much of a "thing" as my hair ever was, if not more. Already, it's my new toy: I have endless fun in the store, trying on this or that, seeing what works with the not-hair.1 While I have no hair, I have no less vanity. Indeed, I may have more: I actually like how I look! And I am not at all embarrassed that I like it!

So (a), it's clear that I have not exactly evolved to a higher plane and, (b) it's bizarre as hell, but there it is. Me, bald equals me, pretty. Go figger.

But it's not all vanity. I've jokingly referred to the effect the shave has had on me as a "reverse Samson", and I wasn't kidding—I feel almost shockingly more powerful than I did pre-shave. Part of all this feeling good is doubtless a residual effect of accomplishment: raising more than $50,000 is a not-insubstantial achievement, and overcoming my fear of doing something I considered impossible is arguably a bigger one. (It's the lesson I hope anyone looking through all this for one will find, anyway.)

The thing is, I am not sure what the thing is just yet. There's so much to unpack about this experience that it could take me some time. More time than nature allows: hair grows fast. In a week, I've already gone from razor-smooth to sandpaper to velcro to enjoyable fuzz. Seriously—I'd be the hit of the rave these days, if they still had raves, and if I could be talked into going to one. My friend The Other Colleen, who was also bald for a time, warns me of weeks to come that will be filled with people wanting to rub my head like it was a Buddha belly or an especially soft cat.

For now, then—until I can figure this out, and until I can get some mileage from my surprisingly feminine new wardrobe—I'm sticking with not-hair. And when I find I have some answers, or perhaps that I've become a wee bit overly attached to turning heads (albeit for reasons of freakiness), or I'm through The Change, or I'm assured that it will grow in the luxurious shade of silver I'm longing for, then I'll probably grow it out again.

Maybe. Possibly.

Unless, of course, I don't.

xxx c

Photo by the amazing Josh Ross. Full gallery of his "photobooth" shots of the head-shaving is here. There's also a terrific series of "event" photos by the equally amazing Barry Schwartz. 

1Slim, clingy, simple, and dark, for starters; "patterned," "structured," and "outré," my former go-to looks, now make me look like a tiny lesbian court jester. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Why you're all invited to my birthday party

13 year olds are so not old Since reaching my majority, birthdays have been fraught for me.

It's not so much because I've feared the rolling-over of the odometer to this or that number, but because I don't know what to do with birthdays. And something tells me they need to be noted somehow, if only to maintain a loose grip on time.1

Now it's easy enough to default to a special dinner out, or to coerce some friends into sponsoring one in. Even a big trip isn't hard to wrangle, especially for the "zero" years. For my 36th, a rather theatrical friend even treated me to a novel celebration that included a one-on-one sharing of journal-style entries on my life, with a ritualistic ingestion of wine-soaked strawberries to punctuate each year.2

For my 43rd birthday, though, I finally took a real risk and threw myself a real party. I'd hosted one for my 38th, but it was strictly a small-potatoes, have-a-few-friends-up-to-the-new-pad sort of deal, the sort of affair where if only you, your boyfriend, and a few losers with nothing else to do of a Saturday night turn up, you can totally play it off as intentional.

This time, I went way out, for me, for then, on a limb. I approached some friends who owned a restaurant about taking it over for the night. I wore contacts and makeup and a, for me, even still, cute outfit. I bought a basket of disposable cameras3 for group documentation. Most critically, I invited my friends, all my friends, from all my various interests, rather than just the jocks or the burnouts or the West Siders or the East Siders or the nerds or the theater nerds or the other theater nerds. (I jest, but only slightly, the narcissism of minor differences is never so pronounced as it is when you get groups of performers together.) I invited guys I'd dated whom I was now friends with. In fact, I think the only people I didn't invite were two guys who'd dumped me, and I still invited our mutual friends.

There were reasons for this rather dramatic change of affairs, this freaky, new-found bravery.

You see, in 2001, just two days before my last Big Round Number Birthday, the world blew up.4 A year later, on my 41st birthday, I was hospitalized with my Crohn's onset: I got a colonoscopy and the nurses got my cake. Not exactly sweet times at the disco. (Although that bloody epiphany is still my all-time greatest birthday gift to date.) And the following year, I spent my birthday in Florida watching my 70-year-old father dying. Neither of which things, for the record, is any fun. At all.

Which is why, in 2003, 50 or so of my closest friends who'd never laid eyes on each other before found ourselves at an Argentinean restaurant in a Hollywood strip mall, eating SCD-legal food and drinking SCD-legal adult beverages at my "Breaking the Birthday Hex" party.

I was never so nervous before, never so happy during, never so gratified after any birthday thing I'd done, ever.

Not because my friends finally met in a gigantic DIY celebration of kumbaya spirit: after some perfunctory politenesses, people pretty much drifted off to whatever groups they self-selected for and I pretty much bounced from table to table for the balance of the evening. I was happy during and gratified after because I was nervous before, because in throwing this particular party in this particular way, I did something I was afraid of. It was absolutely the scariest and most wonderful gift I'd ever given myself.

From my perspective eight years further down the road, the Breaking the Birthday Hex celebration marked a huge step forward for me when it came to owning my life and integrating it into my life's work. My bloody epiphany may have woken me up and the autobiographical play (with music!) that I'd co-written, produced and performed earlier that year certainly gave me a huge surge of confidence, but this was mine, all mine. It was a decision I made, not one that was thrust upon me, and it was my name alone on the marquee. Friends contributed, of course, there would have been no party were it not for my restaurant-owning friends. But it would have been Colleen's Dud Party, not Colleen's Restaurant-Owning Friends' Débâcle, had things gone south.

I came out of that birthday feeling more like myself than I had since I was 10, and stronger than I had, ever. I think it's no coincidence that less than a month later, I took my first of what has turned out to be many solo road trips, or that less than two months later, I launched communicatrix-dot-com. I'd finally started to live out loud.

But never REALLY loud. Since Breaking the Birthday Hex, I've plugged away at things assiduously, but quietly, as quietly as one can plug, anyway, when one's plugging-away takes place principally via the internet. I have put my time and energies into building a body of work, this blog, then this newsletter, this column, this speaking (so called)-career.

Along the way, I've met a lot of people. A lot of very different people. Yes, we're all special snowflakes, but like snowflakes, we cluster. You will not find much overlap between the attendees at a typical Toastmasters meeting (if there's even one of those) and the people whose work populated the leaderboard of Dean Allen's late, lamented Favrd. Nor will you find many, if any, of either of those two clusters hanging out at a Biznik meetup or talking shop on kernspiracy or hanging out on the actor boards. If there even still are actor boards in 2011.

For my birthday this year, I need everyone at the same metaphorical table, or at least in the same metaphorical Argentinean restaurant. I am as nervous about doing that as I am that my Big Scary Birthday thing will be a whopping and highly public flop. Which you'll understand when you see what it is, next Monday. You'll either be all "Wow! That is big and scary and I'M IN!" or you won't. And if you're not, make no mistake: it will flop. Highly and publicly.

Make no mistake: I want to succeed. Both because it will be awesome for a whole lot of people if I can pull this off and because I am one of the most competitive motherfuckers on the planet.

But even if it flops, I will have tried. No one will die. (Well, not because of this, anyway.) It's almost guaranteed that a handful of people, young girls, whom I might argue are some of the most important people, period, will be better off. All of these are good things. Especially the part about people not dying. Almost always good when that doesn't happen.

So hold a good thought for me. Really, less a thought for me in particular than for anyone out there beholding the Scary while doing it anyway. I don't care who it is or how easy it looks from the outside, IT AIN'T. Even if you're looking up. Maybe especially then. The landmarks become familiar as you circle the mountain upward but the air gets thinner and the path, narrower. That can be hard on older bones.

Did I mention I'm turning 50?

xxx c

1This goes double for someone living as I do: childless, in endlessly sunny Southern California. With neither height notches on the doorframe nor seasons to mark it, one runs the risk of discovering that time is not, in fact, infinite juuuust as it's about to run out. I've witnessed a few of those deathbed wakeup calls, brother, and they ain't pretty.

2It was not at all unpleasant; it was also not at all something I'd even think about trying past age 35. And even then, make sure you have cab fare home.

3Kids, ask your grandparents.

4By sheer chance, I'd had to reschedule my 40th birthday to take place a month earlier: a madcap, Manhattan weekend with my then-boyfriend and my dad. It was a lovely trip and celebration. For obvious reasons, the actual day was rather grim.

The danger of 10% evil

tiny metal gargoyle figurine Many years ago, I was in the world's worst acting class.

Its badness was made possible by its goodness. Much like a relationship where you're slowly gaslighted into madness until a gigantic Acme mallet (or Joseph Cotten) shows up to snap you out of it, about 90% of what went down was fine, excellent, even.

Which is precisely why the remaining 10% was so dangerous: plenty of inert matter to make the poison go down smoothly.

* * * * *

Do you think about money often? I think about it quite a bit, just before I shove the thoughts from my head in a holy panic.

My lifelong attitude toward money mimics my childhood attitude toward adulthood: Lots of power; too much scary. RUN! The thing is, of course, you really can't avoid either. Or at some point, you just realize that avoiding them is more exhausting than giving in. And when you do finally settle into one or the other (or both) a bit, when you start handling your money with respect or learning to delay gratification in favor of prudence and responsibility, you see that it's not really dollars or years that you're scared of; they're just dollars and years.

You're scared of that part of you that you think is incompetent. Or vain. Or maybe flat-out evil, you devil, you.

You're scared that the small, not-so-good part of you will override the big, pretty-okay part of you and ruin everything. That you will be left alone, reviled and ridiculed for the incompetent/vain/flat-out-evil devil you are. That you will die.

It doesn't matter that it won't, you won't, and you probably won't for a long, long time. That 10% of you puts on a really convincing show.

* * * * *

One thing I learned in that horrible-wonderful acting class was that a well-drawn character wants something more than anything else, and over the course of a well-played scene, will use every trick in her personal playbook to get it. (We call the wants "intentions" and the tricks used to get it "tactics." Now you can impress your actor friends with your inside knowledge.)

Here's the conundrum, the strongest want is nothing without an equally strong obstacle in the way of that want: Al Pacino thwarting Robert DeNiro in Heat; the survivors racing against the water in The Poseidon Adventure; Ray Milland battling himself in The Lost Weekend. It can exist without or within, but if you take away the immovable object, the unstoppable force whizzes frictionless through nothingness, fizzling out somewhere far, far past our interest in watching it. The tension between the two is what fuels the creativity of the characters and heightens the suspense.

More tension, better show.

No tension, no show.

* * * * *

I'm working on a huge (HUGE) project for my upcoming birthday this September. It's the kind of project that could be astonishing and life-changing and crazy, crazy fun if it comes together, not just for me, but potentially for a lot of other people, you included. And if it falls apart, of course, it is one of those things that will make me, and only me, look stupid. The flavor of fail I am more afraid of than anything.

Here's the hilarious (and predictable) part: as the deadline for each part of the project has approached, I've balked. You're coming off of a five-month Crohn's flare. You need to focus on your business. You'll have to call in every favor you have and rack up debt in the favor bank, to boot. The scale is ridiculous. The time frame is insane. You're insane, even if you pull it off, there's no assurance it will make any kind of difference.

All of these things are true. Mean to say, but no less true for it.

But what is also true is that so far, all the drama has come from me, myself and I playing out a three-person scene; the universe has been an extraordinarily compliant scene partner.

So it's 90% good that I'm 10% evil. Otherwise this sucker might never get liftoff.

* * * * *

I don't know how you discern between regular shadow and the toxic kind in the moment. These sorts of calculations almost always benefit from some time and/or distance. Seth wrote an excellent book about knowing when to stop (and when to plow through) that I should probably re-read. Byron Katie came up with those four questions that do a pretty good job of rooting out untruths.

If you put a gun to my head, I'd say the danger of 10% evil crosses over from frisson to "Warning, Will Robinson!" when you feel yourself starting to disappear. The point of danger, this kind of danger, is to make you stronger. There were people in that horrible acting class who were well served by it. I was one of them for a while, and then I wasn't, and then I left.

But I don't think you should wish away evil any more than you should wish away time. Instead, wish for the alertness to stay on your toes. Wish for help from the muse finding creative ways to slay your dragons. Wish for courage. Wish for vision.

Then get that show on the road.

xxx c

Image by downhilldom1984 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: All the things I wear because the ugly is too awful to bear

nearly-naked protester atop statue at G20 summit Toronto 2010 I wrapped myself in layers to keep out the wind and the rain and the cold-hearted, to protect my delicate belly fur from brushing up against stinging bitches, to fend off hailstorms out of nowhere and guard against shark attacks, sermons, rabies, catcalls, and random acts of insomnia.

I outfoxed the bad and the maybe-bad and the looks-bad-from-here and the ba-a-ad bad bad I heard about from a guy who knows a guy, with my elaborately constructed fortress of guile, goose-down, faux fur, Real Housewives, rants, mantras, uplifting quotes, strategically-placed sarcasms, and a cotton-rayon shell with a touch of Spandex for movement.

Unfortunately it got hot in there and not a little smelly.

Which is how on one of your more tempting summer days I found myself unzipping a jacket just for a moment.

And after the toxic cloud of sour grief and withered possibilies and tears and rage and confusion was finally carried off by a kindly breeze I think I heard a bird. Or maybe it was the ocean. Or maybe it was a poem, finally whispering softly enough so I could hear her, "Off...take it all off."

That was weeks ago, or maybe months, or was it yesterday?

No matter. I am down to the last fourteen layers now, and peeling fast. Two sweaters forward, one t-shirt back.

With any luck, I will die completely naked.

xxx c

Image by Jason Hargrove via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Why I never pass up an opportunity to quote Beverly Sills

upward shot of someone climbing steep rock face

A good friend of mine recently decided to quit smoking.

She'd quit before, which obviously means that the quitting didn't quite "take." So this time, she decided to quit differently.

First, she's investing money in the deal. For them amongst us what is on the cheap side, money can be a powerful motivator. As my friend said, "I'll be damned if I'll spend this much and not quit."

Second, she's spending it on hypnotherapy. I quit the cheap way, but I'd raved to her about my experience with using hypnotherapy to get back on the diet for my Crohn's last fall: one session, one recording that I listened to for about two weeks, and done. I still look at potatoes or rice or a McDonald's drive-thru sign with longing, but the impetus to go for it is gone. It was a singular and fascinating experience which I've not shut up about since.

* * *

Hypnotherapy done right is part of a larger self-excavation process: getting at the "why" sandwiched between the smart, true part of you that doesn't want to smoke or eat or do crack and the part of you that has, until now, reached for a cigarette or french fry or crack pipe regardless. My friend's "why" is her business, but anyone old enough to want to read this blog has more than a passing familiarity with the many, many shapes and sizes a "why" can take. "Less-than" Why. "Angry" Why. "Social Anxiety" Why. "Why, Oh" Why, a.k.a. "Woe Is Me" Why.

If any of these look like variants on "Fear" Why, it's because they are, of course, every last damned one of them. My god, what won't fear stop us from doing? Or keep us doing, depending on whether the action is salubrious or not. Based on my own experience in talk therapy and reading eighty bajillion self-help books, it's pretty clear that fear is the biggest "why" there is. Fear lies underneath feeling less-than, underneath social anxiety and anger and woe. If there's one thing I'd like to impart about fear, it's that if you scratch pretty much any kind of yuck, you'll find fear under there somewhere.1

My friend knows from fear. She's lived long enough to experience several expedient fear delivery systems, plus she's done time on the couch. She gets it. But when you start looking at your fear through the finely-ground lens of doing one monumental thing, when you slow down and take the long way home, you learn a few things you didn't know. The depth of your fear, for starters, and a peek under the tent at a few other ways fear might be stopping you that you didn't even realize. It's fascinating stuff, this just paying attention. And an excellent value proposition, so much more bang for your buck.

Even if it is painful and dull and embarrassing. Which, if you're spending a significant amount of time and money, there's a very good chance it will be.

* * *

There is a very strict order of steps involved in quitting smoking this particular way. There's no jumping ahead, no skipping steps. Instead, there is an intake date, an agreed-upon quit date (or "start of your smoke-free life" date for you optimists) and a whole lot of exercises between. A lot of looking, a lot of thinking, a lot of noticing. My friend said she was ready to quit a week early. Her hypnotherapist said sorry, but she was not.

* * *

Which brings me around to the title of this here piece. My favorite quote and main mantra for the past four or so years, well, other than THAT one, has been this one:

There are no short cuts to any place worth going.

It is attributed to the American opera singer Beverly Sills, and if the "opera singer" part of that last phrase wasn't enough, read a bit of her history and you'll know that the lady knew whereof she spoke. Whether the ass-end of your proposed journey is being healthier, happier, wealthier or wiser, there's no getting there faster. 10,000 hours. Rinse/repeat. Park your ass under the Bodhi tree, bub, and make sure you do plenty of wandering first.

If it feels a little grim, I assure you that it is far less so than the mood I'm usually in when I conjure up this line. Remember: practice is painful. Change is excruciating. Feeling stupid feels awful. (To me. Although if they didn't to you, you'd probably have clicked away long ago to see what was happening on Facebook.) Sure, I could find a happy-happy saying full of cheer and sunshine and optimism. But you know what using it under those circumstances would entail?

Skipping steps.

On the other hand, when you resign yourself to this way of thinking, or rather, when you surrender to it, the way women of grace do with time and gravity, you bring yourself back to plumb pretty quickly. Of course I feel this way, you realize. That is what feeling is! The depictions of change we see in movies and books blip over a lot of this stuff, or make it look sort of sexy-frustrating, with lavishly-produced montages or deftly-condensed metaphors which are, wait for it, boring and time-consuming to produce, at least for long stretches. As I said in last month's newsletter2, when you see something good, you're not seeing the mountain of shit someone shoveled to uncover it.

* * *

My friend Brooks3, who calls himself a clutter-buster, uses the simplest process possible to help his clients to let go of things that may once have served them well but now are serving only as impediments. He has them hold up one item at a time and asks the same question of each one: "Do you need to keep this, or can we let this go?"

This is how you went from being a person who'd never experienced smoking to one who could not imagine life without cigarettes. This is how you get from "good" to "bad" and back again. (And for the record, "back again" isn't necessarily better, but done thoughtfully, it's far richer.)

Look, I am doing this. Why am I doing this?

Can I let this go?


1With "and EVERYONE is scared about something, even people you'd never dream of." For more cogent and inspirational stuff around this, read Krishnamurti and my friend Ishita's monthly magazine.

2It's not up on the archives page yet, but if you subscribe, the nice Emma robot will automatically send you a copy.

3Brooks has a really good post up today on how he clutter-busts over the phone.

Image by mariachily via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Life in the silo

drawing of commuter with earphones ignoring panhandler

I believe in the essential goodness of people.

I may forget it here and there, when I'm pressed for time, or not well-rested/-fed/-clothed, or when some deep, emotional trigger gets pulled. But usually, and fairly quickly, I recognize these lapses as such. They're my (temporary) deviations from an essentially optimistic, basically loving worldview, brought on by my own forgetfulness in administering self-care.

What reels me back in varies, but the underlying, foundational bit of knowledge I'm operating from goes something like this:

I do not change the world I live in by reacting to it like a jackass, except for the worst.

This is not a bad thing to keep in mind all the time (along with useful stuff like "breathe!" and "stop!" and "when's the last time you ate, anyway?"), but it's a really, really good thing for me to remember when something awful happens. It is quick and easy to reach for anger, for outrage, for righteous indignation. There they are, all handy and stuff, just like the drive-thru window of your favorite fast-food place. And hey, everyone else is at the fast-food place, right? Damn right! That's why this #$@(!) line is so long! *HONK!* *HO-O-O-O-ONK!*

At a little gathering this weekend, someone reminded me of a great assessment device for making sound decisions: what would your future self want?

Will your future self be happy that you shaved a half-hour off of your afternoon by picking up Extra-Value Meal #9? Or would your future self prefer to continue fitting comfortably in her pants, remaining ambulatory and independent into her dotage, continuing to poop from her factory-installed organs?*

The nice thing about this kind of projection is that it is easily (okay, SIMPLY) reframed to encompass more and more compassion and awareness as I get better at it. Does my future self want to wade through a world thigh-deep in single-use plastic? Or, how might my future self feel explaining to her theoretical nieces and nephews as we all munch dejectedly on our Soylent Green that yeah, we could sure use some of those resources my cohort and I burned through, but man, were those burgers fast-'n'-tasty! And, as you see, so on.

I am not always the best at considering Future Colleen. Far from it. One thing that really seems to help is keeping myself a wee bit uncomfortable. Not in a martyr-ish way, necessarily, although putting a cap on the thermostat, or asking whether you really need this or that important doodad, doesn't hurt. (More on that, and 2011's theme of Conscious Stewardship, to come.)

No, I'm talking about the discomfort involved in stepping out of the silo and bumping up against my fellow man. I dread the thought of socializing. Amazingly, more and more the actual experience usually varies from "pretty good" to "awesome," but even if it's objectively a low-grade Torquemada-fest of enervation or bombastery, if I can muster the right mindset, it's usually enlightening and it's always strengthening.

There are degrees of this, then, too, bumping up against lots and lots of my fellow men, in small groups and the occasional noisy crowd. Meeting them on their home turf. Acting as leader, or hostess. Things that are terrifying, at first, but that one gets better at. No, really. I'm not just a reasonably assimilated introvert; I'm so acclimated now that more often than not, I pass for extravert.

Achieving even this level of comfort took years of assiduous plugging away: Nerdmasters; networking practice, under the kind and patient tutelage of another reformed introvert; hurling myself again and again into scary, unfamiliar circumstances. In other words, not easy, not overnight. But oh, so well worth it.

I know how annoying it is hearing people parrot platitudes like "Be the change!", especially on Twitter or Facebook. Knee-jerk anything is suspect, save perhaps the impulse to throw oneself under a future bus to save one's theoretical niece or nephew. But at almost-50, and having foregone a great deal of potential income in favor of exploring more existential concerns, I think I've earned the tiniest right to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this lack of tolerance thing is kinda-sorta becoming a problem. And that perhaps, just perhaps, we might do well to bring a bit of awareness to it. That's all. I don't have a handy app or pledge page for this; just raising a thought. Maybe we could start small (it's usually best, in my old-lady opinion) by listening more. Literally.

There are all kinds of ways to start. Anything, I think, can be a start, provided you're bringing a loving intention to it.

Me, I'm going to go out and meet up with some people this week. Some old friends, some new ones. Maybe even some weird ones. (It's L.A., so definitely some weird ones.)

Because I have a silo, but I live in a world. Your world, my world, our world...


*On the other hand, if you're opting for the Filet-o'-Fish rather than ripping someone's head off and crapping down their neck, your future self thanks you, as does mine. It also gently and lovingly suggests you bring some attention to this "solution," and start exploring alternatives.

UPDATE [1/10]: A lucid, thoughtful, somewhat charged (he's blunt, folks!) piece by Jon Armstrong on the genesis and implications of the Giffords shooting; his wife Heather Armstrong also has a short but very touching post on what I think is one excellent way to move forward.

UPDATE [1/11]: Another excellent piece by Penelope Trunk on the role mental illness played both in the shooting and the tragic story of Bill Zeller. Link to Zeller's lengthy, sad and well-written suicide note via the previous link, or this MetaFilter post, or directly on this Gizmodo post and Zeller's site (as of this writing, anyway). My favorite takeaway from this horrible series of events came from a comment on the MetaFilter post:

The best I can do with something like this is to remember to always be nicer, because you truly never know what someone may be dealing with inside.

If I could make just that change, I think I could call this a live well-lived.

UPDATE [1/12]: Via Jeffrey Zeldman on Twitter, a very sharp op-ed in the NY Times on the role fear plays in all of this, and a reiteration that this is not a left/right issue, but an issue of thoughtful engagement vs. fear-mongering, isolationism and other insalubrious human tendencies.

Image by sillygwailio via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Brief update from the front lines of change

tag cloud for communicatrix blog

Rather than write about change, which, apparently, is what I write about most of the time here, when I'm not plugging myself shamelessly (see above), I'm trying to actually change. You know, for a change. Haha.

It is HARD. And by "hard," I mean that song I wrote does not come within five-landing-strips-of-a-gigantic-barn close to describing the level of difficulty. As my teacher and many other teachers before me have said wisely and well, however much you dislike the things that are keeping you from going where you say you'd like to, they are the things that have kept you alive, and they are not going down without a fight. Plus they have much, much bigger muscles and much greater familiarity with the dank, dark alleyways of your soul than these fresh little hopes.

Nevertheless, I am making what looks like some small progress in this one small (but terrifying!) area of change. I will reserve my observations for some time in the future, when I'm further on the other side of this bastard, both because I need to conserve my energy right now and because I am in the thick of it, which doesn't give one much of a useful perspective when it comes to analysis. I will, however, float out a few scattered observations in the hope that they may help you or someone you love flail less during the grappling period.

Things that help when you're in the throes of change:

  1. Unbroken blocks of time, scheduled in the calendar. They can be small, but they should be there. Whatever the thing you're working on changing requires your undivided attention, because if you let up for a minute, those gremlins sneak in and take the wheel.
  2. Insane amounts of sleep. As much as you can grab. Gremlin-fighting is exhausting. Water is probably helpful, too. I should probably be drinking a lot more water.
  3. Something relatively non-hazardous that lets you unplug. I sat in an Epsom-salt bath for two hours last night. I haven't done this since I was recovering from my Crohn's onset.
  4. Knowing you can cancel extracurricular plans. You do not have to cancel, but reminding yourself you can cancel may be enough. I think this is something about feeling like you are The Boss of You.
  5. 50/10 hours. That is, 50 minutes of whatever is hard, followed by 10 minutes of something that is easy. It can be easy and pleasant, or easy and boring, or even easy and yucky. But 50 of hard to 10 of easy has helped.
  6. Writing things down. By this I mean both keeping a list of your intentions AND using something to slough off the crazy scribblings the gremlins get busy producing. Morning pages are excellent, but really, any timed blathering on a page will do.
  7. Letting the rest of it temporarily go to hell in a handbasket. The gremlins, they're DYING for you to feel like you have to keep the house clean and keep up with your exercise regimen and and and. Of course, if your change-thing is staying tidy or starting to exercise, adjust to fit. What I'm saying is that perfectionism is a gremlin's best friend.
  8. Calendaring in a light at the end of the tunnel. I have a break scheduled for later this week. During that time, I will not even think about change. It is a change from change. Not that I will use the time to go back to my bad habit, I'm removing myself from the environment, to ensure no backsliding. But it will be a truce. The gremlins and I will be on holiday, having a picnic.

It's interesting, looking at these, because I note that many of them are things my friend Brooks recommends for people who are doing a clutter bust: concentrate on one thing at a time, give yourself plenty of rest, drink lots of water. And it makes sense, because changing a really big, or really small, but entrenched, habit is like letting go of an especially charged piece of clutter: something you've had around for a long time, that you have a lot invested in, but that is no longer serving.

This is already longer than I'd intended. So much so that a part of me thought perhaps I should scrap it or even just file it away and write something much shorter. I was close, until I heard what sounded suspiciously like a chorus of gremlins rubbing their tiny hands together with glee.

I will write a shorter post another day, when I have time. Right now, it's time to change...


Poetry Thursday: Game on

The first change is
up to you.

The rest
come rushing
up to you,
one after another,
greedy, greedy bastards
ready ready ready
for the light
you have let in
through that small, small
crack in the door.

The news is
that changing one thing
changes everything.

Whether that bit
of news is
or bad
depends on how
your arms
and your brain
and your heart
really are.


Chasing vs. going after

kids chasing a soccer ball

I didn't submit a talk show idea to Oprah. (You can thank me in the comments.)

I didn't submit a panel idea to South by Southwest. I didn't submit myself as a speaker for the international women's conference a friend urged me to.

I haven't entered a contest or sweepstakes in I-don't-know-how long, haven't asked to be included in a gathering I knew would be fun but that I hadn't been invited to, and the last guy I liked who asked for my number had to pry it out of me.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point over the last year or so I went from being someone who chased after things to someone who went after her own thing. And yes, there is a difference.

Take Yaddo, for example. It's an artists' community in New York State that houses writers and poets and, well, artists in retreat, providing them with a beautiful, distraction-free setting in which to focus on a piece of work. One applies, and one is either accepted or not. I have decided to apply, because I really, really like the idea of me in a beautiful, distraction-free setting, finishing one of the three books I started writing this year1. Or take Jennifer, although you can't, because her delightful husband already has her, heart and soul, who introduced me to the idea of Yaddo, and that it was a perfectly reasonable thing for me to apply to. (She wrote most of her book in residence there.) I met Jennifer because I wrote a review of her excellent memoir, and got to know her because, after a bit of correspondence, I asked if she might want to start up a little writers' group here in L.A., and she said "Yes."

See, it's not like I don't go after things. I'm going after Yaddo; I went after Jennifer (in, you know, the friendliest and most well-meaning of ways). And if Yaddo turns me down, I may go after a slot again, later on, if I really want it. What I'm realizing is that in the past, there were too many times when I chased stuff because I thought that catching it would get me something or somewhere. That it would mean I had made it, maybe, where "it" is the cool kids' club or a USDA-prime stamp on my ass or some other shortcut to the other side of some mythical, self-imagined velvet rope.

Much like Gertrude Stein's genius summing-up of the perils of grabbing at the evanescent, however, on the few occasions when I managed to chase down my trophy and nab it, I came up empty. The thing I had desired wasn't there, and the desire I had going in just vanished without a trace.

If pressed to define the difference I see between chasing a thing and going after a thing, I'd say this: a chase ends up being about the chase, and less about the fox at the end of it; going after something is putting one foot in front of the other and moving towards what you want. Deliberately, thoughtfully making choices, and perhaps delaying gratification elsewhere, so that you can get to the Next Right Place you need to be. Although I guess you could just as easily go after a refrigerator or a dream house or even a fox, if you had decided that what you really wanted was a teeny, tiny stole. But you would want that refrigerator or that house or that tiny stole because you really wanted it, you'd really thought it through, and figured out how it would make your life that much better, and it was worth losing that much life to go after it, and not just because you wanted to fill an empty place in your soul with a high-end icebox or rub your neighbor's nose in your teeny, tiny fox stole.

Is submitting a talk show idea to Oprah always chasing? No. Absolutely not. I'm sure there were lots of people who were motivated as much by the idea of making a submission video as they were winning the golden ticket. When I entered a similar kind of contest a few years back, a huge part of the "why" for me was that I came up with an idea for a video I thought would be hilarious and great fun to assemble, not because I particularly lusted after the idea of being chosen from on high (no pun intended) by the great gods of the cut-rate airline to travel in their metal tubes and document what I found along the way. I mean, it would have been fine, but the winning, I was ambivalent about; the making of the video I had to go after.

But I spent a lot of years as an actor, watching a lot of actors chase after stuff that wasn't there. As I said in a recent interview, you need to be about the acting, and the day-to-day work of being about the acting; if you're going after gold statuettes and the love of a million random strangers in the dark, you're going to come up with nothing even if you get your wish.

So yes, chasing vs. going after is a little like the old destination vs. journey standoff. And it's also about living for other people vs. living for yourself, living the life you really, truly want, every possible minute that you can. It's probably also a bit about all that good sovereignty stuff that Hiro Boga talks about.

The easiest way for me to think about it, though, is wanting what you want enough to do something about it, but really wanting what you want.

As the song says, more I cannot wish you...


1Yes, three. And you heard it here third, I already let the cat out of the bag with Havi's Kitchen Table people and Pace & Kyeli's World-Changing Writing Workshop. There will be more on these three massive mothers as I move forward, including how you can participate in one of them, but in the meantime, if you want to get on a notification list, sign up here, and leave a note in the comments field to that effect.

Image by jot.punkt via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Bad habits live in the dark, Part 2

kid hiding behind a ginormous door in a museum

A follow-up post stimulated by a comment on last week's, Bad habits live in the dark.

This is a week of observing.

By which I mean this week, I am turning my attention to what is going on in a given moment, any moment, but particularly (when I can slow myself down enough to catch them) ones where I feel out of the ordinary.

This round of consciousness-raising started with a (gentle) exhortation from Hiro, as part of her wonderful (because of who she is), maddening (because of where I'm at) class on curing Internet Hangover. During our first session, this past Wednesday, we were given some tools for handling some of the intense demands this always-on, always-open portal of energy can make on the unprepared soul.

Even more importantly (to me, anyway), we were instructed to pay attention as we wandered hither and yon to how we were feeling and where we were feeling it. Did a certain site make us feel anxious? Angry? Sad? Excited? Where was the anxiety located: chest? Head? Stomach? Loins?1 In other words, most of what we're doing at these beginning stages is learning to shine some light on what's happening so we can see it.

Part of what's maddening about this for speed addicts like me is having to slow down to do all this. There's a "Yes, yes, I know" aspect to all of this change business. I know I'm spending too much time in email and on Facebook and trolling my Google Reader for new items. I know I need to get off the Internet and get on with my work. I know I'm stuck. NOW, PLEASE TO BE GIVING ME THE ANSWER PLEASE.

The thing is, there's knowing and there's knowing.

The first knowing is head knowing; people who are good parsers are really good at head knowing. We are also sometimes a bit, shall we say, divorced from the feeling part of knowing, at least, from the feeling that triggers the impulse to reach for more of our soma of choice. Whatever reptilian part of us that is screaming for the safety of more "news," more wine, more candy, more sex, more Battlestar Galactica does that through the vaguest and most inarticulate of asks: "MORE. WANT. NOW." Slowing down to feel the tender hurt and pain is the last thing that lizard is interested in.

When I first started acting, really acting, not the fun but not particularly real horsing around I did in sketch comedy up until then, I cried for two years. A slight exaggeration, but only just very. The Method class I took was an excruciating daily exfoliation of my soul. Hell, it was soul-rolfing. Not what I would characterize as fun or even, most of the time, non-awful. But the results, when one of us was willing to do it, were extraordinary. You would watch in amazement as some perfectly good simulacrum of experience metamorphosed into a holy, super-real transport to another world, via Chekhov and skill, yes, but mainly via the fearlessness of one or two brave souls willing to let go.

In the same way, when I had my breakthroughs in therapy and my hospital bed epiphany, there was a monumental falling-away.2 But if I look at them carefully, each was preceded by an excruciating pain point, or, more precisely, a series of them, where I really and truly stared at what was blank in the face. The breakthroughs were awesome, and by that, I mean wonderful, magic and transporting. The moments of examination before? Uh, not so much.

Part of the reason they were so horrible is because of so much ignoring along the way. I was very Scarlett O'Hara about most of my minor annoyances, there was always a day when I would deal with them, but it was always another one. In the meantime, on the shelf or out the window or just brushed away like a pesky mosquito they go. When I look back at myself way back when, or last month, or yesterday, most of the time, I wasn't even conscious of the brushing-away. It becomes reflexive; you don't even have to think about it.

And here we are, back at it, not thinking. Or if thinking, only doing it in that super-spiffy, hyper-efficient, Type-A way: "Oh, yeah, that; it's probably bad. Let's get to that sometime, hey?"

In the comments of the first part of this post, The GirlPie brings up the notion of becoming a good liar. She talks about it in the context of integrity, saying that having a Specter of Wayne would do her no good because she has gotten so proficient at bypassing the truth. I do not know The GirlPie well, but I know her enough to suspect that she has integrity to spare, and that she's equally blessed in the proficiency department. For whatever reasons, a Jewish-Catholic, I'm doubly burdened by guilt, I am a terrible out-loud liar, so that route to bypassing integrity is generally unavailable to me. I am, however, wildly skilled at lying to myself, or rather, at speeding past the truth, ergo I totally get where The GirlPie is coming from.

So here is what I have to say about accountability and integrity and using these magnificent beasts to wrangle the less magnificent (but no less mighty) ones to the ground: sloooooow down. For now, don't even go there, just notice.

Note the feeling you're having, as soon as you can catch it, because that's all you can do, as you eat candy bar #1 or #5 or #25. Just note, at first. Note. Observe, like a scientist. Scientists don't judge, in the lab, anyway; they just note. If you are up for it, maybe write it down privately. Do this as often as you need to until you get bored with it. You will, eventually. Bored or disgusted, and then intrigued. What if I try this next? you might ask at this point. You might. Maybe. And then, when you do, you can find the Specter of Wayne that works for you. Might be a shrink. Might be the courageous decision to speak honestly to the shrink you already have. Might be a 12-step meeting.

For me, for now, The Specter of Wayne works. But let us be clear on this: it works in exactly two areas I've spent enough time looking at and noting and getting bored and disgusted with, and no more.3 There are other areas I have not yet begun to note. Or to become disgusted with. Or hit bottom with, or whatever your notion of "Enough!" is.

My other habits, in their time. Your habits, in yours.

Sharing what we can about grappling with them, or supporting each other in the pursuit of excellence?

That, all the time...


1And before you make any assumptions about Hiro's fan base being into the pr0n sitez, know that feelings can manifest themselves in craaazy areas. It's a chakra thing, apparently, and those lower chakras are all about basic survival needs, safety included.

2And the one in the hospital? Let's just say if I could bottle that shit, the world would be a very different place.

3You'll note (haha) that I've discussed the SCD illegals cheat that Wayne is helping me with but not the other. That's because it's private. I may or may not ever discuss it here. Doesn't matter. I discuss here what I've got enough distance from to talk about in a way that might be useful to someone besides myself, and what does not affect my privacy or the privacy of others. You don't have to be public about everything. You don't have to be public about much of anything, when you get right down to it.

Image by emilio labrador via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

What's under all that crap?

someone hiding under the covers

I'm curious: now that you're four months or so into the process of slowing down and doing less , washing the metaphorical dishes in your psychic kitchen sink, if you will, and clearing off the piles of metaphorical papers on your psychic desk top, if you will , what are you uncovering?

, Dan Owen, in the comments to post on Monday, April 12

I have been thinking about Dan Owen's question in the comments of Monday's post since shortly after he wrote it, and finding answers, or ideas serving as leads to them, everywhere I turn, ever since.

Okay, to be completely honest, I've been thinking about these things on and off for much, much longer, but in my usual perverse way, having someone else pose the question spurs me on to actually structuring my thoughts and putting them down in some kind of semi-orderly fashion.

So, with all of this excavation, this decluttering, this clearing away of physical crap and mental distractions like, oh, the pursuit of livelihood, what am I finding underneath? Thus far, the answers seem to be "the usual" and "more layers", which is to say, "the usual."

The usual, Part 1: Fear, love and the tender heart that threads them together

Here's a good-times truism, and I'm only being half-facetious: when one finds oneself getting angry, outraged, incensed, self-righteous, smug, or any other feeling that is not either fear or love, there's probably fear rooted just underneath.

To make things even more delightful, unless the fear is of being eaten by a bear or some other immediate threat to survival, it's probably attached to some need for love. When I act like a jackass, deliberately withholding love, even though (or worse, because) I know someone wants it, it's about fear.

And "love" doesn't always present in the moment as a grace-taxing apology for a major transgression or showing up at a friend's house at 6am with your truck to move their piano cross-town; it can be as simple, and excruciatingly difficult, as an acknowledgment of success. The Chief Atheist (rightly) used to accuse me of throwing compliments around like manhole covers, and he was right: in my world, achievement was a zero-sum game; ergo your success diminished mine; ergo to me, offering praise felt like cutting off a non-returnable piece of my arm and handing it over knowing that if you did anything with it at all, you'd glance at it ever so briefly before tossing it mindlessly over your shoulder for rats to gnaw on. Or something like that. It took years of working with my first-shrink-slash-astrologer to even make a dent in my fucked-up scarcity mindset, and realistically, it's something I'll likely struggle with for years to come.

However. My hating it doesn't make it go away any faster. To the contrary, my hating it makes it even less likely that I'll be able to overcome it and move into the happy space where my friend Bonnie truly does reside1, a place where "Any time I see someone succeed I am happy, for it affirms my belief that I live in a world where success is possible." Nobody gets to the happy place by blowing past the bullshit that stands in-between; the only way to it is through it, and brother, there are days when in-between might as well be a three-mile, naked wade through a razor-lined vat of gelatinous battery acid.

Most days, though, the walk is uneventful, the pain points are easily overlooked and the scrutiny easily avoided. This is where you actually can score big payback if you, I believe the expression is "double-down" on the observations.

The usual, Part 2: How many layers of protective coating can one person have, anyway?

Why am I craving this second cup of coffee? Am I really wanting more caffeine in deliciously bitter delivery form, or do I want a do-over on my first cup, a reboot of the day?

Now I want a cookie. Or do I? Am I hungry for this taste, this size, this shape, this texture, this many calories of energy? Or am I hungry for some not-doing? For, specifically, some not-doing of this? Or maybe for a reminder that yes, I can treat myself and treat myself well. (These are SCD-legal cookies; it's a whole other discussion when the thing I want is an "illegal".)

How is it I've found myself back on the Twitter home page/in the Facebook stream/checking email again? Again? Again? What am I looking for? What am I avoiding? Where do these two things overlap?

Of course, sometimes checking email is just checking email and a cookie is just a delicious treat. The trick, and yeah, the pain, is in the awareness. It was not The Goody-Good Times staring down my Best Year Yet failures from 2009 and realizing that they were almost identical to my failures from 2008; of all the things I hate (and because I lack the enlightenment to view them with dispassionate interest and/or compassion, I hate many), I probably hate wasted potential the most. Drives me batty.

On the other hand, there they are. Clues! Instructions, even! On what to do next, or at least, what you might want to take a look at.

So for me, Dan Owen (and anyone else who's interested), under that addiction to coffee, to the Internet, to Comfort TV, to certain controlled substances, is fear: of what happens when, if, when I finally do write a book and it's my turn to be judged by everyone and (probably) found wanting. Of giving my best and my all to what it is I have said I want for so long now and not having it work out, whatever that means. Of money turning me into a lonely  ogress, as I have seen it do to so many of my loved ones before me. Of not being enough, definitely. Of not being loveable, most likely.

In other words, same-old same-old.

But each time around the mountain I have a slightly different view of it, and feeling towards it. In my oh-so-slowly-dawning awareness, I feel the beginning of what might be the promise of eventual compassion and detachment, not bullshit, human, take-my-ball-and-go-home detachment, but a release of attachment to outcome and with it, the potential of opening my heart to love on a more steady basis. Or, um, on a basis. Yeah, that.

It is crap. But come on, it's pretty hilarious crap, isn't it?


1I swear, it took me years to believe it, but it is true. Which is not to say Bonnie doesn't have her own issues; she'd be the first person to admit that she does. But man, are they not this, and boy, while I wouldn't trade, I really, really hope to experience this state of being some day before I die.

Image by xJasonRogersx via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Do wrenching things actually get easier?

an empty stage with lights on

An old analog relationship washed up on my digital shores a few weeks back in the form of an old college professor reconnecting via email.

We'd exchanged letters just once, shortly after I made an abrupt decision to leave upstate New York earlier than I'd planned and strike out for New York and whatever came next. My own memory of that time is hazy, it was, after all, over 25 years ago, but if you'd asked me how things were in that space between leaving one place (college, or at least, the town that it was based in) and finding another (my first job-job, and hence, to me, my next potential identity), I would have summarized it as "Hot. Dull? Mostly hot." (It was, after all, New York City in summer, and the boroughs, and a tumble-down, non-air-conditioned portion of one, at that.)

What a shock, then, to read this letter from my former self, this barely-22-year-old girl who had so much and so little going on at the same time. How had I forgotten how lonely I was, and how scared? And over what? Not having a job for a whole three weeks? Some mishegoss with Citibank? Having to tough it out in a sublet with a friend's sister that had been pre-arranged before my friend, Dave, drove me from my door in Ithaca to my (temporary) door in Park Slope?

I was scared, though; it's all there in the letter, between the bravado, heavily shaded in purple. I was, and am, scared to leave one place for another, one perceived harbor for another, with all that scary water in between. I was scared of not succeeding and even more so of "succeeding", there's a hilarious line in there about my fear of "the pursuit of money becom(ing) the be-all, end-all of my existence." As if. (Or even better, "You wish." I'm just grateful that my smarter, capitalist friend, Vic, explained the Magic of Compound Interest while I was still young enough to benefit somewhat.)

Mostly, though, it was clear that what I was scared of was not fulfilling my potential. I was scared that my writing would deteriorate, or deteriorate further, a re-read of old college essays (yes, I keep them) had proven that my discipline and clarity of thought were already on the decline. Who knows if it that was true? I leave it to my biographers to sort out.

What is clear, clearer now than ever, is that The Resistor, that rat bastard, that cocksucking-boulder-heaver who didn't have the goddamn courtesy to make himself known until a few years ago, has been shadowing me my entire life, and it's unlikely he'll decide to knock off anytime soon. With such an investment? Pfft. Fugeddaboutit. He knows from compound interest, too.

So I will write, I will doubt what I write, and I will continue to write anyway.

I will wish for the next scary thing to appear, and it will, and I will put it in my calendar, prepare as best I can, and show up on the date I'm supposed to with my teeth brushed, my nametag on and my hand outstretched.

I cannot begin to guess what forms change will take, only that it will likely be, as I explained to young Mr. Guillebeau down in Austin, more than I'd bargained for. You prepare by accepting it may be difficult, and you will likely make mistakes, and you will likely learn from them if you survive. (Which, in many cases, is also likely.)

In the meantime, shore up your resources. Preparing for me has been a long, slow, as in "20+ years' worth of slow", process of reading, studying, stretching, discarding. I hadn't realized how big a role the discarding was playing until I stopped: regular upkeep is as much about learning to let go of what no longer serves as it is seeking out what will.

For some, old papers don't make the cut. They're not illuminating beyond the realization of how in the dark we once were; they're artifacts that can be released. (For more on helpful processes of discernment where artifacts are concerned, visit my friend and clutter-busting mentor, Brooks Palmer.)

For me, for now, there are still answers in those papers. Being able to visit my long-ago brain helps me to gain perspective on the journey to date, which provides some direction on the journey ongoing.

As does The Resistor. Because whenever he shows up, I know I'm headed in the right direction...


Image by Max Wolfe via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Finding your circle of awesome (a lesson from SXSW)

Weird, one-off disclaimer: Apologies if this gets nerdier in places than our regular program. I'm still processing the events and information of the past week, and via sleep-deprived filters. Which means that given my own standards, I probably should wait to post about it here, but given my iffy memory, I thought it best to strike while things were still relatively vivid in my mind.

Rumor has it that last year, attendance at SXSWi, that's the Interactive (or "nerd") portion of the Austin-based South by Southwest festival, increased by 40%.

And that this year, it increased by 40% again, making it bigger than either the Film or Music portions of SXSW, both of which have been around far longer.

Even if the numbers aren't quite as staggering, it hardly matters: the reality was more so. On this, my fourth trip to SXSWi in five years (I skipped what would have been Year #2), there were more people here/there/everywhere than even last year, which was crazy-packed. And I'm not even talking about parties, which, save one quickly-corrected exception, I've learned to avoid altogether in favor of the mix of planned meetups and small, impromptu gatherings of friends (usually with a ratio of one old friend to two new, to keep expanding The Circle of Awesome).

At (impromptu) drinks on Sunday night1, a couple of old-timers were telling tales of South-bys past, specifically, of the first particular South-by they passed in the hallways, rather than the sessions.2

It's no news that some of the best stuff that goes down at any conference is of the decidedly unofficial variety; that's the whole reason behind BarCamp and its fancier forebear, Foo Camp. But hearing it confirmed by two now-established pillars of the design community made me wonder why other longtime members of Camp We Were Here First are so angry about the growth of the conference in recent years. Didn't they first find each other in the sessions of the conference in the halls, and move it to the halls themselves? And weren't we all here now, together: a bunch of old- and medium-timers, who met the same, weird way, through a crazy-quilt of Internet sites, social media hubs and real-life hallways, fueled by a mix of intention and openness?

Why the fuck is everyone so goddamn angry?

Of course, it's not everyone; it's not even all the oldsters. It may be just a vocal minority who's ticked off, amplified by the echo chamber of the social web. It may even be me drawn to some icky-but-human, lowest-common-denominator gossip. I get dark when I get tired.

But I'd have to have been far denser than I am not to detect the noticeably rising tide of hatred toward newcomers, who were being labeled either clueless tech n00bs or opportunist douchebags (or both), but were definitely charged with interfering with the "real" reason for the conference.

Okay. So what is the real reason for a conference? Education for all? High-level exchanges with peers? As someone wisely suggested3 on a recent post lamenting the dumbing-down and up-sizing of SXSWi, if you want to make it more about the focused exchange of knowledge and less about lazy, liteâ„¢ and/or dig-me sessions (not to mention booth babes, sponsored parties and other corporo-effluvia) move that shit to Rochester, NY in the middle of winter: you can enjoy all the high-level conversation you want, unmolested.

I had a rather different experience with content at SXSW 2010: I attended more panels this year than I had in the previous two put together, including one excellent core conversation on interviewing best practices. And in case it's not obvious from the context I've tried to establish here (hey, I'm fuzzy!), there would have been no conversation on interviewing best practices had SXSW not grown in size to include the bloggers, podcasters, videobloggers, and yes, mainstream journalists who are now drawn to South-by.

(And speaking of mainstream journalism, thank God-or-whom/whatever that the tent is big enough now to include them. I, for one, would like to see journalism survive into the next century, and that's not going to happen unless people on the other side of the tech divide, the "right" side, the one that's been coming to South-by since the beginning, the NEW side, extends a hand and helps them over.)

I get that change is hard. I get that everyone's default reaction to it, mine included, tends to be fear (sometimes expressed as anger or sorrow). But everything was new sometime, just as everyone knew nothing and no one at one point. Are you still only friends with the people you knew when you were seven? Do you still watch only The Brady Bunch and/or Matlock? If so, please, please work on expanding your own Circle of Awesome, wherever you choose to start your search. Even if you start with Netflix.

My own Circle of Awesome has grown to include all kinds of people: the ones who have been there a long time and the ones who showed up for the first time this year; the freaks and the other freaks who are scared of those freaks and the freaks who don't even realize they're freaks. People who eat meat and people who won't even eat their vegetables cooked. People whose eye for design dazzles mine and people whose use modal windows makes my heart sieze up.

It's less a circle than it is a busy, constantly growing series of circles that overlaps like a Venn diagram with a z-axis. Yours might look different. Yours must look different. You might have to look harder to find Your People in some places than others. You might decide that some places are best avoided altogether (especially when you're running low on tolerance and/or capacity).

Does this take time and energy to manage? You betcha. Do my worlds sometimes collide in a way that is nervous-making and even uncomfortable? Uh, yes. Yes, they do.

But I've been surprised and delighted at how my life grows richer the more I expand my definitions of what works for me to include the generically excellent, love, tolerance, humor, playfulness, and leave behind the old cues I used to rely on: what "looks" right, what sounds familiar, etc. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to find the good in everyone, much less that I'll bring us all together in one room to sing "Kumbaya," but that probably has more to do with me and my insecurities than them not being able to find their own areas of overlap.

It is a process of looking for the positive rather than the negative, and of moving, not stopping.

Except to rest, of course. Which is a process I will be heavily involved with over the next 48 hours...


1Okay, technically Monday morning. What? It's South-by, Jake...

2That's a term old-timers use, by the way, "South-by." So now you can pretend to be an old-timer. Until they change the secret handshake again.

3Alas, I cannot find it now, but I'm fairly sure it's embedded in the lively comments section of this post by long-timer Jolie O'Dell. I'll add here that if I'd been groped in public (or private, without my permission), it would have colored my perceptions, too. I have a healthy fear of crowds that stems from a Who-concert-like experience with a line for the city bus during my high school years that has me steer clear of any situation where crowds are likely to gather.

Terrifying yourself on a regular basis (a lesson from SXSW)

the author in the green room at sxsw

Each of the four years I've been coming to SXSW, I've learned a little something different.

The first time, it was about the value of coming to a conference, period. The next time, about learning to take the time I needed, regardless of the enticing hoopla happening around me (and also about not skipping a year, if you can avoid it). Last year, my Stuart Smalley year, apparently, it was about being myself, no matter how uncool I suspected that was (something that an intervening year has only confirmed).

This year, it was about terrifying myself. Not pushing my boundaries, not stretching just to or slightly beyond the limits of my comfort zone, but hurtling myself in harm's way and seeing what happens next. Specifically, pushing my way onto the most terrifying panel I could imagine: a two-minute, on-the-spot presentation improvised to 10 slides I had never seen before in my life and which had been prepared with the intent of maximizing audience laughter and enjoyment, not of making my job easier. A tradition sometimes known as "PowerPointâ„¢ Karaoke," and which a friend here dubbed "business improv." (Which sounds like the world's most horrible anything, but hey, I'm biased.)

Anyway. It was the opposite of rolling off a log (which I gather is easy, if not exactly fun), yet I managed to enjoy it. Especially the part when it was over. Okay, I exaggerate, as is my wont and prerogative. But really, now that I have made a fool of myself in front of 600 people, I can move on to  bigger and scarier challenges: making a fool of myself in front of 1,200 people! Or on national television!

Terrifying yourself is like building up muscle, as it has been told to me that muscles are built: you push things hard enough so that you are uncomfortable and the muscle tears a little; scar tissue builds up; the muscle gets bigger; you get stronger! Lather, rinse, repeat. (The act of terrifying yourself, of course, not that last action you used to do it.)

Also, if at all possible, I suggest the diving-in-straightaway-and-getting-it-over-with timing strategy. Gretchen Rubin (who ripped it up on the book stage) and I were both congratulating ourselves on having our respective moments of terror over with on Friday, so we were left free to enjoy the rest of our SXSW weekends.

Oh, and speaking of rest, one final note: there must be blissful (if brief) periods of rest in between the daredevil acts of muscle-building. Rest that includes things like hanging out with friends, taking in other people's feats of derring-do, and permission to write short blog posts.

See? You really can learn something at SXSW...


Photo ©2010 Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr.

Skipping, shipping and opening up

tabby cat snoozing

I had big plans for this weekend, mostly because I had even bigger plans for this week: Taxes! South by Southwest! My first experience performing (hopefully) at The Moth!

I was cat-sitting for L.A. Jan while she went off for a restorative weekend in the Desert, so I figured I'd get plenty done. I had nothing scheduled except an afternoon date with my sister. I'd be far from the distractions of home, so I'd be far more able to apply nose to grindstone and work work work. Get all those posts written and scheduled for my away time. Get my newsletter ready to go. Get my Moth piece written and rehearsed, my Porchlight piece started, maybe next month's Networker column written.

Oh, and because there's a washer and dryer on the premises, I didn't even have to skip Laundry Day.

By Friday evening at 6, I was wiped out. I had half-heartedly wrassled with Jan's wifi settings and when that failed, booted up her peecee laptop and half-started three blog posts. Nothing. So I did the unthinkable: I shut down the computer, threw in a load of whites, watched cable TV for two hours, and went to bed early.

I woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to have at it, only I didn't. I did my Nei Kung and my reading. I picked up some coffee and some flowers at TJ's. I did another couple of loads of laundry (I know, you'd think I had small children or something) and returned a few Very Important Emails. No writing. Nothing. The well was still dry. So I climbed in my car and drove to my neighborhood to do a few errands: check the mail, pick up a framed piece at the store, use up a Groupon that was set to expire.

My sister wasn't in much of a conquer-the-world mood, either, rain and Oscar traffic will do that to a gal. So we bailed and continued on our respective putter-y weekend ways. I went home for a bit, thinking now that maybe the familiar setting would jumpstart things. I know, I know. But it seemed reasonable enough in the moment. Instead, I tidied up a bit, closed a few more email loops, and headed out to pick up some comforting old-school "Chinese" takeout1 for the evening. Which I spooned into myself between watching Chinatown and programming Jan's virgin remote. One hot bath (with graphic novel!) and some Saturday Night Fever later, and I called it a night. Or a weekend, for all practical purposes.

I had two interesting conversations about the weekend once I got back home. One was with L.A. Jan, who had a similarly fraught experience on her relaxing spa getaway, a generous birthday gift from a friend. She was shocked to find out how painful it was to get a massage, how out of touch with her body, not to mention relaxing, she'd gotten. It was a wakeup call, she said; that was the true gift (because hey, it's hard to look at having horrific bodily reactions plus pain as a gift without some serious reframing.)

The other was with my new friend, Dave Seah, with whom I'm conducting the Google Wave with Daveâ„¢ experiment. He had an away weekend, too; he also was rather dreading being away from work for so long. But his weekend turned out to be delightfully restorative, filled with lively and engaging activities, illuminating conversations with friends, good food and plenty of chill time. His tone in the Wave was more alert and excited, more clear and focused, yet also stripped of any of the despair and/or mania that sometimes possesses us when we're wailing over what we shall do, o, what shall we do? For the first time he seemed to be approaching shipping (in the Seth Godin sense of the word, from Linchpin) from a truly relaxed and realistic perspective: keep it simple, address the fears one by one, do it anyway. Not easy, maybe, but simple and direct, which is a start.

I have "shipping" plans for actual product this year, at least two books, plus a few other possible ideas. But I have also started "shipping" on my talking goals, and here's how: by saying "yes."

Yes, I'll read a story at your event (even though no, I don't have anything written for it yet.) And thanks, Brenda.

Yes, I'll read one at yours, too, even if it means I need to sit down and come up with an idea and an outline by the end of the day. Twice. (And thanks, Bill and Josh.)

Yes, I'll stand up in front of a group of people at SXSW and do Death by PowerPoint Karaoke (aka "Battledecks"), even though I have no idea what I'm doing nor any way to prepare for it, either one of which thoughts is terrifying on its own but together, are positively stultifying. (And thanks, Mike.)

There will never be a right time to stop. There will never be a right time to go. There's no rule book, here, or if there is, I haven't seen nor heard of it. The only rules are these: terrify yourself only as much as you have to, comfort yourself only as much as you need to. Or, as Dave said at the very beginning of what turned into the Wave experiment, "Do not hurry; do not wait."

I must give myself rest, enough to gain the energy to move forward. I must push myself forward, not give into the idea that I need endless rest.

Open and close. Rest and work. Yin and yang. The Chinese, as my white, working-class-Mass.-born instructor likes to say (only with less swearing) had this shit all figured out centuries ago.

Also? Stay on top of your laundry. Just sayin'...


Image by Daveybot via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

1By the way, is it just Mister, or do all cats go berserk for hot-and-sour soup?)

Diving headlong into dread

dog jumping into kiddie pool

Now that it's safely behind me, I can confess that I was not looking forward to my trip to Washington, D.C., last week.

I made my plans a few months ago, when I was still excited about the prospect of working at speaking, working at consulting, working at this thing I've been working at for the past couple of years, helping people wrap their heads around social media, for want of a better descriptor. I jumped at any chance to speak, and even more quickly if the trip included travel. And to D.C.? A place I hadn't seen since my eighth grade class trip...from Chicago...on a bus?

Yes, I would very much like to do this job.

Only there were some problems. I was aware of them from the get-go, just like I'm aware of all kinds of other warning signs I choose to fuzz out or otherwise overlook: the diminishing sense of return I got from consulting; the dimming enthusiasm I felt for various self-promotional endeavors; the increasing intake of alcohol on school nights.

Worse, there were the spikes of enthusiasm for things which pointed in the opposite direction, like increasingly non-marketing-oriented blog posts and newsletters. Or the odd, one-off personal-coach-y coaching session I was talked into (and secretly loved, and told no one about). Or my bright and shining moment of pure truth and beauty on the stage of the Bagdad in Portland. talking about poop and love.

So week after week, I found myself not re-working the presentation, but working some damned fine excuses. Exhaustion was a good one, as was my being ridiculously overcommitted, as was every procrastinator's favorite trump card, the holiday season. And then finally, in the new year, which I'd cleared out in anticipation of needing to close some loops, my personal life went into a tailspin and, well, you gotta deal with that.

I boarded that excellent airliner to D.C. with no small amount of dread, sweating out that first half-day in town. And then I made a decision: I might go down, but I'd give it my all before I did. Because if nothing else, there were people who had stuck their necks out to bring me in for this talk, even though it wasn't strictly inside my proven area of expertise. I went to bed Wednesday night thinking, "You will come up with the framework that ties this together, and you will tie it together the best that you can."

An interesting thing happens to me when I really and truly give myself over to an idea: it starts taking shape. To be fair, I'd had the talk in the back of my head for weeks; I knew where things didn't line up. And I'd had a couple of in-depth conversations with the organizers, so I knew what kind of help the attendees were going to be there looking for. Still, I went to bed with nothing and woke up, at 2am, with an idea. And because I had no pen and paper by the bed, I made myself feel my way to my friend Jared's office where my laptop lay sleeping, pulled up a text file and spewed out everything that had bubbled up. And then all day Thursday and most of the day Friday and very early in the morning Saturday, I did not sightsee or lounge about or cocktail it up with my peeps: I worked.

And lo, it worked. Ten or 12 or 15 hours of me and PowerPoint, me and Photoshop, me and Firefox later, it came together and helped connect the dots for people the way I'd hoped it would (and, from the sound of it, the way the organizers had, which was only slightly less important to me).

I learned a great deal this past week about work: both how I like to handle it and how I end up handling it when I don't handle it as I'd like. I'm both thrilled that I'm at a place where I know my stuff well enough to pull things together swiftly, and aggravated at my entrenched habits of procrastination. It's something I really want to look at this coming year (starting tomorrow! on Groundhog Day!).

I also learned that sometimes, as I did when I signed on to help Cliff Atkinson with the first L.A. Presentation Camp, sometimes you have to let that crazy, impulsive side of you jump out and say "YES!" even when the prudent side of you might not. That is stretching of the good type: you, taking what you do to the next level. After which you're free to enjoy the clean air and fine views on this new plateau, or take your snapshot for posterity and head back down the hill (or to another hill entirely).

The world will never want for cocksucking boulders to push or motherfucking hills to push them up. That is what the world is made of: cocksucking boulders and motherfucking hills.

May you put your shoulder to the right ones this year; may you enjoy the view at the top, and everything in between...


Image by hotfield via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Linchpin: An interview with Seth Godin on fear, change and the importance of making art everywhere

author/marketer seth godin speaking

That Seth Godin has a new book coming out is generally a cause for celebration. Seth has a knack for teasing out one big, necessary idea and illuminating it in a way that makes it seem obvious, post-reveal, without ever coming across as obnoxious. That, my friends, is a gift.

So, too, is the way he chooses to share his gifts with the world. Seth regularly throws his weight behind people and ideas worthy of support, and has a special fondness for the Acumen Fund, an innovative, can-do nonprofit with a similarly iconoclastic chief executive, Jacqueline Novogratz. Moreover, he combines his various loves and interests in innovative ways, modeling the very behavior he describes so well in his books about marketing: for his latest book, Linchpin, he offered 3,000 early review copies to his readers willing to donate a minimum of $30 to the Acumen Fund; so eager/loyal are his readers, he hit his mark just 48 hours in, raising over $100K for Acumen.

In a further example of walking the walk, Seth reached out to a group of his regular devotees (or, in my case, an irregular one) to assist with promotion: would we read even earlier, advance portions of his book, and interview him about the material on our blogs, and post them all on one day in a big, glorious, central round-up of semi-anarchic, semi-choreographed promotion?

Uh, yeah. Yeah, we would do that.

So here is my interview with Seth on the themes of his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? The interview questions are based on the advance pages I read; I've since read the entire book, and could have a whole other interview based on the chapters about Resistance and "There Is No Map." Who knows? Maybe I will!

But don't wait: buy your copy now. Like The Dip and Tribes before it, Linchpin is one of those "must-reads" that, thankfully, doesn't read like one.



Colleen Wainwright: It seems like a central theme of your book is that we've fallen asleep: as creative beings, as free thinkers, as true individuals. Do you have any practical tips on waking the hell up? Or accurately gauging whether or not you're asleep?

Seth Godin: We haven't fallen asleep, we've been put to sleep. Actively brainwashed and hypnotized by industrialists in search of compliant factory workers and eager consumers. Of course, our genes were complicit, but please don't blame yourself.

And we're all asleep. Some are more awake than others (Spike Lee or Shepard Fairey or the guys who started the Four Seasons). Still, we stick with the status quo way more than there is any reason to. We do this because the system has persuaded us it's the only way.

As you guessed, the theme of my book is not to tell people what to do, but to identify the hypnosis and give us words and concepts we can use to wake each other up. Either that or we can keep shopping at the mall, driving an SUV and figuring out how to pay for our McMansion while we stress out doing by-the-book work at our by-the-book company that's getting its ass kicked by some startup with no overhead.

You say flat-out that one doesn't have to quit one's job to start effecting meaningful change. My own experience with trying to do that, back in advertising, was akin to banging my head against the proverbial wall. Does it only work for certain industries? For people higher up on the organizational food chain? Isn't there a point where we have to say, "Nope, not gonna happen here," cut our losses, and move on?

I think there may very well be times you need to quit, but most people never even get close to that. Most people say "my boss won't let me" and give up because they've bought into two myths: the first is that (as we saw above) the safe thing to do is play it safe, and the second is that your boss is crazy enough to take responsibility for your art. Why would she? You can't go to her and say, "I feel like doing something remarkable, if it doesn't work, will you take the blame?" Not the way it works. It turns out that if you start smallish and do remarkable stuff every day... make connections, be human, do the work, focus on things that matter, go the extra mile... then every day you'll get more chances to make things change.

Sure, it's possible that your boss will fire you. But if she does, is that the place you wanted to be anyway? Fired for delighting a customer? Fired for making a difference?

Odds are, not only won't you get fired, you'll get asked to let others in on your secret.

I love the concept of "emotional labor": that it's both mission-critical and wildly difficult. Also--and possibly even more significant--is that emotional labor is the Rodney Dangerfield of efforts, rarely garnering respect. How do we change that? Or does everyone signing onto the program have to get down with being the nutty Van Gogh of their endeavor or organization, only (if ever) appreciated after the fact?

There's not nuttiness on the table here. I'm proposing that you embrace the fact that the only thing you get paid for (unless you're a brilliant programmer, chemist or race car driver) is doing emotional labor. Bringing guts and ideas and love to work when you and others don't feel like it. That's your job. And the people who do that the best keep getting rewarded for it. Dishwashers don't get to whine about their chapped fingers, and white collar workers like us shouldn't whine about how hard it is to be generous and creative and flexible.

Speaking of "emotional labor," your statement that "Work is nothing but a platform for art and the emotional labor that goes with it" may be my favorite phrase you've ever coined (and you've coined a lot of good ones). It's basically saying that *anyone* can create art with what they do, right? But is that true? Can you be a corporate cog--a very small piece of the machinery, with a very unsexy job--and make art? What does that look like?

If you work for a company that truly prizes cog-hood... say you're an insurance actuary, or someone assembling pacemakers... I'd argue you should get out, now. Why? Because every day you spend there is a day where you give up value and a bit of your life. On the other hand, at just about every other job there's a chance to lead and make change and connect and create tiny breakthroughs. Which lead to more than tiny ones. I know people at giant famous companies that get to do this all day, every day. How'd they get that job? Because they started, and they continued and they pushed until it was their written role.

So, for example,

  • Laurie Coots at Chiat Day spends most of her time causing trouble, disruptions and the creation of opportunity.
  • When Robyn Waters was at Target, her job was to transform the organization from a K-Mart wannabe to Wal-mart challenger by bringing style and art and color to the inventory and mindset of the company.
  • Donna Sturgess gets to do similar work at GlaxoSmithKline. She finds high bars and encourages people across the organization to jump over them. She makes art and change for a living.
  • And at Starbucks, Aimee Johnson runs the group that developed both the high-end coffee maker they acquired and the new line of Via coffee.

I've met similar people at banks (!) and even General Electric.

Okay. Let's talk about fear, one of my least favorite (and most consuming) topics. If lizard brain, the thing that makes us react in the scared, small, self-preserving way, that just wants "to eat and be safe", is the source of resistance, it's pretty important to resist succumbing to it. How does one do that? It's not like you can sit down and have a heart-to-heart.

My other goal here is to scare you to your toes. To scare you NOT of standing out, but to scare you about fitting in. To scare you about your diminished role if you refuse to do emotional labor. To create a new fear, a fear that's greater than the fear of being your artistic genius self. Boo.

Giving, "free" and the honored Native American tradition of potlatch are all good, but where does it stop? We may no longer equate dying with the most toys as winning, but a gal's gotta make a living...right?

The more you give away, the more you get. This is actually a secret plan to have what you want and need and hope for, because the market (bosses, hiring companies, the market) love free stuff, and they'll stand in line for more... they'll bid for more... they'll pay for more... if you're the one who can deliver it. Be generous, make art, make connections, do work that matters and you don't have to worry about making a living. The secret of potlatch was that the big chief could give away EVERYTHING and he'd be even richer the next week.

Image by jurvetson via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

Poetry Thursday: On 48 years, three Cokes and six hours of sleep (A poem in two parts)

I. (The part not for the faint of heart.)

I dreamed of demons
in the night

Not the green, horned kind
but the ones that plague me
while I walk, awake,
and still asleep.

Old, dead relatives
gathering in a too-costly
too-dark hotel,
all surfaces lined with plush fabrics
to dampen the sounds
that happened within.

One grandmother
sat resolute in her room
refusing to move,
no matter what

while the other
crawled the carpeted floors
on hands and knees,
searching for something
she had lost
while she wasn't paying attention.

My mother
scavenged free fruit
from the complimentary tray
in my well-appointed room,
because she was starving
in her poorish, noisy one.

(They're always that way
near the elevators,
even in the good places.)

And my father
paid for it all
but was not there
at all.

Finally, as my sister watched
from the velvet banquette
in the mirrored nook
of my sumptuous room,

I squeezed a hidden zit,
a "sneaker" zit,
tucked in at the top
of the nasolabial fold,
releasing a stream of pus
and blood
and hardened oils
so profound
it exceeded my capacity for disgust,
invoking only wonder
at my body's capacity
to harbor the unnecessary
so excessively.

it was magnificent,
although my sister
could have been a little faster
with the Kleenex
if you ask me.

II. (The part that is nicer.)

There are angels around you
that float in and amongst the demons
and are there, at your side,
for the asking.

Would you like to know
the secret code
that calls them to you?

Me, too.

So far,
it seems to sound
very much like walking up to a demon
and saying, "Hello, there,
my name is Colleen,
and I think it is time
we finally met."


Image by scragz via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.