Listen up

listening JRT


I need to work on my listening skills.  It takes intention and practice.  I come from a family of interrupters, so I don’t even know when I’m doing it.  We know how to communicate with each other and it works for us, but other people who are from families who don’t communicate like this find it rude, I’ve found.**

My sister and I, for example, know that when we have a conversation, we’re both usually so excited about being together and the topic and agreeing and sharing, etc, that we will interrupt each other constantly.  And it’s ok.  And also, we’re free to ask each other to repeat something because we totally weren’t listening.  Like blatantly, mind-elsewhere-didn’t-comprehend-a-word-you-said.  (Also common between us:  “Did you tell me _______, or did I dream it?”)

I’m reminded of my lack of mastery in this area when I’m talking to someone who intensely listens with constant eye contact and undivided attention.  Recently, my boss was doing something and I started to tell her about serious news that was happening in my personal life that day.  This extremely busy administrative officer whose mind is going a hundred miles an hour on a million different things, stopped what she was doing (writing) and looked at me to show that what I was saying was important to her.  Mad skillz.  It meant something to me that should would take a moment.  And I’ve seen her act that way with other people.

It may be useful to note that different people have different ways of concentrating and contemplating.  Just because someone is looking at something else doesn’t always mean they’re not listening; however, it doesn’t send a good message to the speaker.  It’s more polite, thoughtful and meaningful to pay obvious attention.

So, memo to myself – SHOW the person that I care and am really giving my full attention by serious eye contact and by not interrupting (too often!), and if possible, stopping whatever else I’m doing.  Unless I’m driving.  If I stop that, I’ll be sure to pull over and park first.

In the meantime, while I’m still working on this, know that I do care about what you’re saying.  Actually, what you’re saying could be super boring and hardly worth noting, but if it’s important to you, I will care because it matters to you.

**My grandmother does get credit for trying to straighten us out by saying “DON’T INTERRUPT ME, DAMMIT”, in her Boston accent.  Somehow the lesson didn’t take, but it’s never too late to work on it and make improvements.

~~”I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything.  So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  – Larry King


It’s not me, it’s you

I’ve found it’s better not to blame other people for things.  Either straight up IT’S TOTALLY HIS/HER FAULT, or the more subtle, quieter ways of transferring blame.

I’ve also tried to take blame when it wasn’t my fault, and I don’t recommend that, either.  I figured I could handle the repercussions better than the other person.  A friend advised that I never do that again, especially in the workplace.  I didn’t lie about it, but probably implied that whatever it was had been on me.  Grown people need to accept responsibility for their own situations, but sometimes it’s hard not to try to protect them, especially when it’s your nature to do so.

I wasn’t always that way, though.  I’m not sure exactly when I realized blaming others was a crummy thing to do, but in about third or fourth grade, I was apparently a blamer.  I was sitting next to a boy in class and bothering him on purpose….throwing bits of paper or tapping him or whatever, and he lashed out.  Of course I was doing this quietly and his outburst brought the teacher over.  And I was all


And he got in serious trouble*.  And I let it happen.  Horrible.

In the decades since,  I’ve come to realize that whatever the consequences, I cannot in good conscience blame someone else, especially if I had anything to do with the incident.  I haven’t even forgiven 9-year-old me for throwing my buddy under the bus, so I’m not going to add more shameful memories to the catalog.

This is infinitely harder when in a disagreement with a significant other.  I am still trying not to use the response of “oh yeah?  well, YOU ___________________”.  This happens naturally and is very hard to stop.  It doesn’t even seem like blame to me at the time, but more of a tool to win an argument in the heat of battle.  Still, it’s pretty weak and immature and no doubt unfair.

Nothing happened recently to bring this to mind – I just was reading something or reminiscing about my stint as a Terrible Child (this was the era before Irritable Teenager).  I also keep a list of topics that make life better for me, and this was one of the bullet points.

So, Nathan Saul, wherever you are, please accept my heartfelt apologies and I’ll totally stay inside for recess and write lines.

*This was the ’80’s, so it may have even been physical punishment.

“What can everyone do?  Praise and blame. This is human virtue, this is human madness.”   ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Take the Long Way Home

I am so, so guilty of being in a hurry and not observing things around me. Velociraptors could be giving chase next to my car on the way home from work and I wouldn’t notice. I get lost in thought and lost in financial woes or daydreams or making a mental list of all the people I’ve known in my life named Charles or no telling what. It takes conscious effort oftentimes to enjoy the moment. I hear that meditation is good for this, but I haven’t made that a habit, obviously. I intend to give it a try and then forget before I get started.

I rarely have an afternoon with no purpose assigned to it, but a couple of weekends ago, my Friend that is a Boy and I decided on the spur of the moment to visit a nearby small town that I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. (Not much has changed, which was nice.) This aimless wander was a rarity, and to add to the spontaneity, I took a road on the way back home that I had never known about. I didn’t use any map site or app, but just took it for fun. I knew the general direction I was going and anticipated where it would end up.

This turned out to be very relaxing and we saw some nice scenery. The road came out where I expected, but it took at least twice as long as the highway would have. This was so simple and you may be thinking who cares, but it made a lasting impression. It was good for the mind, the eyes, the nerves, and for building confidence in knowing you can find your way. Having a Smartphone in case you were wrong about that last bit doesn’t hurt.

Something I heard or read years ago that has stuck in my mind is that one should take a different route to or from work on occasion to help keep your mind fresh. The different path is good for creativity and mental clarity and actual physical brain health. Plus, you might come across a new friend like I did that day. I may go back to visit him sometime.

Gimme those ears.

Faux pas, anyone?

Back on track with another aspect of living a charmed life…….let’s talk about one form of grace.

How do you handle an embarrassing situation? 

I vote for trying not to dig yourself deeper into the trouble you’ve accidentally found yourself in.  An apology may be in order, so start with one of those.  Try to keep calm and think clearly and use as few words as possible going forward so as not to make things worse.  Make an attempt to smooth things over simply and honestly instead of bursting into tears and running out of the room, never to be seen again, which is what you would LOVE to do.  [If someone else has created the awkwardness in your presence, you may or may not want to help them out – it’s not your problem, but if something helpful comes to mind and they’re struggling, you might offer up something to lighten the mood.  This does not mean you can make the offender look bad instead.]

I was thinking this morning about a situation I found myself in several years ago.  I was at an event where 10-20 people had gathered to listen to a speaker.  There were refreshments either before or after, and I was attempting to be friendly and make small talk with a young lady serving herself ahead of me.  (Small talk, ugh.  But it must be done.)  I had noticed she had a limp, and I asked her if she had hurt her foot recently.  She politely informed me that she had a prosthesis.

facepalm statue

I somehow did not disintegrate into a pile of dirt like I felt I might and wished I would, and instead said something like “oh, I’m sorry; wow, you’re doing great, then”.  I may or may not have asked what happened to her foot to cause her to need a prosthesis – I probably did, but I honestly don’t remember.  You have to have a sense of the person and how they might feel about a continued conversation about it.  If they have been offended and spoke to you in a curt or accusatory tone, don’t keep asking questions or making comments and trying to converse about it to make up for your embarrassment.  But if, like this young lady, they are carrying the cross they’ve been given to bear with dignity and balance, they may be willing to discuss their unique situation.  No doubt I was not the first person in her life to refer to her slight limp.  Another person in her position could have been sick and tired of explaining for the umpteenth time to yet another idiot that she didn’t have a flesh and bone foot and whydon’tyoumindyourownbusiness.  I’m happy to say she seemed on good terms with it, did not act sorry for herself in any way, and did not shred me verbally for bringing it up, which allowed me to struggle less to keep my cool and my own dignity.

Hey, wait!  So the grace can go both ways.  If you are the potentially offended party, try not to overreact and make the speaker feel worse than they already probably do.  Remember that at some point, you’re going to be the one winning the Bonehead Award.  Give them the benefit of the doubt, be confident that it’s not what they were going for, and let’s all live happily ever after.


~Every moment is a fresh beginning.  -T.S. Eliot


Like a baby’s…..

Thanks to genetics, I don’t look my age, and for that I am grateful.  Of course, the years are bound to start to show through eventually, and I believe that time has arrived.  I’m trying to enter into it gracefully.  I now work at a college, and being called “ma’am” by all the students is not helping with what I hoped would be a gradual ease into reality.  Apparently it’s more obvious than I like to think.  I believe my immaturity is due in part to my youthful appearance, and now I’m like, supposed to be mature and responsible and knowledgeable and stuff, dude.  Meh.

If you look in my bathroom cabinets, you would think I’m a Kardashian or someone with a similar attention to appearance.  That could not be less true.  I’m more apt to wipe my face off with a makeup remover towelette and brush my teeth with no toothpaste before I go to bed than to have any kind of evening beauty routine.  However, on the few nights a week (ok, sometimes two) that I do properly wash my face, I have been applying this afterward and I think it’s making a difference.  I perused the shelves at the drugstore and saw all the $25+ products that contain retinol and I thought “why not go right to the source”.  It is recommended that you add a moisturizer after the retinol dries because it can dry your skin.  But you were probably already moisturizing, like a responsible adult would.  I imagine if I actually used it daily, the results would be even better.  I had a passing thought that this pure retinol without all the extra ingredients might eat my skin off, but I have had no negative reactions.

skin melt

If I try the other 987 concoctions that are on and around my vanity and any of them are effective, I’ll be sure and share that information.  It’s recommendations like these in other peoples’ posts that rid me of my money and clutter up my house.  Must try all the things!!  But seriously, I wouldn’t bother mentioning it if I wasn’t impressed by it.

Live long and prosper.

A Likable Goofball

Well, this is good news.  For those of you who don’t feel like reading the article, the Harvard Business Review presents the idea that coworkers/employees can be chosen for likability over competence.  I don’t know how competent I am, but I can be likable, and now I know that counts for something!

My goal is to be likable AND competent – that’s a winning combination that isn’t touched on here.  It’s presenting the either/or scenario.  Maybe the key is for the Competents to be less bossy or arrogant or angry or whatever negative trait they present.  Or for the goobers like myself to be a tad more serious and focused and slide the competency level up a bit.  My personal issue is short attention span and many interests.  I am curious about so many things and there’s only so much time to peek into all of them.  I know about a lot of different things but am an expert at none.

Of course, this new revelation should not be misunderstood – of course not all competent people are difficult to work with or unliked or any such thing.  I just thought it was interesting that there’s a place in the dynamic for all of us.  🙂





I looked up synonyms for willpower, and one was grit.  Most definitions of grit pertain to sand, small particles, impurities in water, etc.  But hidden in the middle was “firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck”.  I have that sometimes, but not in specific areas.

I would like to have more focus, which is a topic for another post (or several).  Right now, I’m talking about a semi-related concern of willpower.  I had biometric screening done this morning, which consisted of taking my vitals, measuring my waist, and drawing a vial of blood.  I haven’t even gotten the results yet, and it has gotten my attention.  The measuring of the place where abs are supposed to be – THAT is what’s bothering me.  My BMI indicates that I’m about a millimeter away from overweight.  I was a skinny kid, and way-too-thin young adult.  My mom laughingly said “wait until you’re 25”, and I coasted through 25 wearing a size 5 and then hit about 28-29.  Baby bump.  Without the baby.  And it’s just gotten consistently bigger since then.  Actually, I’ve been the same weight for a few years, so I appreciate it not going too much farther lately.  My metabolism has slowed, I’ve become less active, I take medication that may contribute to wait gain.  I’ve basically gotten older and it shows.


Anyway.  I looked up articles on willpower.  This is one.  It suggests some interesting tips that I will try, but I’m not going into it with a lot of confidence.  My sister and I were talking last weekend about how if someone asks us if we’re up for a challenge, we’re quick to respond with “Nope, sure not.”  I don’t know about her reasonings, but I like to kind of go with the flow and be comfortable.  Dieting is neither of those.  It’s being the person who has to negotiate restaurants or dishes.  Saying no to a lot of things.  Counting calories and ounces of food (I don’t even know how to do that).  Possibly being HUNGRY, which is one of my least favorite sensations.  I know eating protein and fiber and all the good things keeps you full(er).  But I had a lettuce wrap sandwich for lunch and I have to tell you, I’m pretty darn hungry right now, a few hours later.

To me, losing weight involves the following:  shopping for healthy food, cooking at home quite a bit, reading labels, counting calories, knowing about good/bad fats, portion control, regular exercise, knowing the best exercise routines for your goal…….the list goes on.  Meanwhile, I’m working all day, volunteering, visiting with friends and family, and feeling guilty about leaving my dogs home alone for yet another thing (going to the gym).  Guess which one gets pushed to the back burner (hint: going to the gym).

I’m not obsessed about my figure.  I know there’s benefit to being happy in the body you’re in and not worrying about it.  I’m otherwise pretty healthy.  I just have this extra weight around my midsection, which is bad for the heart, and would feel more confident without it, but also know myself and know that trying to lose weight by being strict is maybe/probably not going to work for me.

Bottom line:  I have very little willpower.  Regarding diet, exercise, cutting back on sugar, making my bed every morning, saving instead of spending……there’s a pretty hefty list of things I don’t make myself do.  And I don’t know where it [willpower] comes from.  It was nice to see in the article referenced above that it can be practiced and built up.  Maybe I can go from zero to some if I give it a try.  And some is better than none, right?  🙂