Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nice Guys vs. Weak Guys

He calls you when he says he will. He listens when you need to talk. He comes with you to meet your parents. He goes out with you and your friends. He's nice to you, even when you don't deserve it. He's one of them, one of the nice guys, and that scares you.
You always imagined yourself with a macho man. A tough guy who would hold you tight in one arm while fighting off the world with the other. He wouldn't take any shit from you or any one. We all fantasize about this strong burly man, but at the end of the day who really wants to spend their life with someone who thinks with his fists rather than his heart?
Many of us have a problem; we equate kindness with weakness, but we're wrong to do so. In my experience nice guys are actually the strongest ones out there. They are the ones who have the strength of their convictions, the ones who know which battles are worth fighting, and which ones aren't. We grow up believing that men who don't consistently stand up for themselves are weak, but it's just not true. A man who has a few deep seated convictions and will do anything to defend and uphold them is much stronger than a man who sees any confrontation as a good excuse for a fight. The fighter isn't really defending you, he's just showing off some muscle. Like a big dog with a loud bark the show has no value.
Your nice guy doesn't like to ruffle feathers. He'd rather back down in the face of a confrontation, using kindness and jokes to diffuse the situation. You think that shows a lack of backbone, but think about it, is he really accomplishing less than the toughie? And when things don't go his way, is he going to pout and stew all night, or is he going to get over it and find a different way to deal with the situation? Right, he'll get over it, and most of the time the solution will be just as good. Have you ever seen a nice guy get really mad about something? People stop and listen, if it's worthwhile enough for him to get worked up about, it's probably time to pay attention. Nice guys aren't full of hot air, nor are they deflated balloons, they just know to save their energy for times when it's really needed.
Not leaving a wake of pissed off customer service people behind you is just one benefit of dating, or even marrying, a nice guy. Nice guys know how to treat a girl well. They know when to shut up and hold you while you cry. They know when you want to just cuddle. And they have no problem just relaxing and being with you without having to be all macho about it.
Help me spread the word; not only are nice guys not weak guys, but they are the greatest catch of all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plan to conquer!

How many times have you started the day overwhelmed and stressed even before you roll out of bed? Too many things to do, not enough time. Sometimes it's not the sheer number of things that are paralyzing, sometimes it's just one monster task that is pinning your tush in the bed. I've been there too, and to make things worse I'm the queen of procrastination.
I get to work, check my email, check a few blogs, chat with a coworker or two, get some water, open the mail, check another blog or three, and eventually turn my attention to my to-do list. Sadly most of the time that's when I realize that I didn't make a list before leaving the night before and all of my positive resolve flies out the window. On days that an unpleasant task is staring me down not having a to-do list can easily paralyze me for a few more hours.
The sad thing about my terrible work habits is that making a plan would save me hours of anxiety. If I leave work without having made a dent in the monster I end up agonizing about it all night and by the next morning my monster has grown, making it even more impossible to conquer.
I once learned the Weight Watchers motto "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." It's true for weight loss, and it's true for everything else in life. No problem or situation can't be broken down into small portions, and once the portions are bite size, there's no situation that can't be handled head on. A big project at work, a hard piece of music, a huge party to plan, even dinner or an evening routine, all of it seems more manageable if you consider it piece by piece instead of as a whole.
So go out there and beat all of those monsters into submission, start with a plan and plan to succeed!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The working mom's dilemma

Another "borrowed" question from Maya's Mom...

I am so worried!! Okay a lot worried!! I have two interviews for jobs tomorrow and Tuesday! I know that I will get either job...I just am not sure I want to work so many hours and be away from my son for so long and not spend the quality time I need to with him!! I have been soo lucky thus far for being home with Samuel for so long...almost 8 months. The thing is, is that I have to get a job!! We have to make ends meet...I just don't want to be away from my son and I am going to have to!!!
Make me feel better about this...

I struggled with this back when C was an infant. Somewhere around week 8 of my 14 week maternity leave I became convinced that I simply couldn't go back to work. She was my sweet precious infant. I couldn't fathom letting her out of my sight, let alone trusting someone else to watch her all day long. Sometime around then my husband dragged me to San Francisco for the afternoon to see Les Miserables. I had a conniption at the thought of leaving C with her grandparents for a whole 5 hours. And then, ahem, I had a blast and I discovered I was fine leaving her with someone else. (I know, I'm a horrible mom.) But I still felt horrible about sending her to daycare which left me to figure out where the problem really resided.
I chatted for hours with a coworker friend. I told her about all of my hang-ups, all of my worries, and all of my anxieties. She listened patiently to my ramblings. I'll admit she was working with the ulterior motive of making sure I came back to work, but she still managed to be supportive while not letting me talk myself into quitting my job and staying home full time. At the end of our chat, as she opened her car door she turned to me and said "You're her mother, she'll always love you best."
I knew right then that she'd put her finger on my problem. For 14 weeks I was C's world. M went back to work after two weeks and then it was just the two of us. We struggled with breastfeeding, we found a rhythm that worked for us, and we got to know each other in a way that I never thought possible. But all of a sudden I was supposed to get dressed up and drop her off at a stranger's home every day! My friend was right, I was pretty sure that my 3 month old wasn't going to love me best any more, in fact I was pretty worried she'd forget all about me.
I won't lie to you, it was rough at first. I was fine while I was at work, but when I'd pick her up my heart would break. She'd smile at me, clearly happy to see me, and I'd hear about everything I'd missed during the day. She rolled over for the first time that first week at daycare and I almost cried when they told me. But after those first bumps in our road I realized that we were OK. C thrived and she didn't forget me. Instead the time we spent apart made our time together more special.
I found myself focusing more when we were together, concentrating harder on her and less on everything else going on around us. The bottles I fed her were more special, the cuddles we shared more meaningful, and her giggles became priceless. My mood would rise the instant I pulled into the driveway at daycare and keep rising as I walked into the main room. Each and every time her face lit up when she saw me I was reminded that she still loved me and that everything was fine. Because our time together was so limited I made sure that I didn't waste a precious minute. In the end I think I spent more quality time with her after she started daycare than when we were home together all day.
C is now two and I'm thrilled about the choice we made. I fully believe that it was the right thing for our family. She's gotten more than I ever hoped out of daycare, and I've been able to work and find a balance that works for me. I was lucky enough to be able to negotiate with my employers for a schedule that worked for us. For months I worked from home on Mondays and took C in with me on Fridays. When she got to be too active I completely stopped working on Mondays and sent her to daycare Tuesdays to Fridays. That's still our schedule today.
My situation worked for us, I'm not saying it would for you. However I wanted to show you that you can, and you will , find a solution that works for you. Stay true to yourself and don't ignore what you are feeling. Don't think of this as the be all, end all way things have to be, give yourself a time line. If you go to your interviews thinking that you'll try it for a month and then re-evaluate to see how you are all doing, it will be much easier to handle than if you think of this as being the way things will be until your baby goes to Kindergarten. Anyone can handle anything for a month! At the end of that time, take stock, really ask yourself how things are going, then decide if things have to change or if you can go another month. In no time you'll have figured out what works best for you and your family.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


In a meeting at work today we discussed what it takes to really immerse oneself in a moment. What can you do to really experience something so intently that it almost takes on the appearance of a religious moment? (I work with religious types, many of our meetings center on deep philosophical topics. I know, it's weird.)
We've all, at some point or another, had a day, an hour, or even five minutes where everything seemed perfect. Where the harmony of the moment seemed momentous. The stars align, the world stands still and perfection is attained. The fact that it never lasts is part of the magic.
The focus of the meeting changed and then, at long last, ended, but I didn't stop thinking about this elusive perfection that we had discussed. I pondered what it would take to feel that way more often, to reach that state more than once in a blue moon.
In the end I realized that all it would take is a little more surrender and a little less control. When I look back at some of those harmonious moments flickering here and there in my past, their common denominator is not the person I was with or the place I was standing, it's my frame of mind. I've only reached that state of perfection when I've been willing to surrender and let the moment take me where it wants to go.
If we are too often on our guard, too often double checking and second guessing, then we are too busy watching our lives to really be in the moment. It's my biggest flaw. I am so terrified of loosing control, even for a minute, that I never let go. I am always three moves ahead of the game, anticipating every little thing that could happen. Enough! I want to experience more perfect harmonious moments, I want to live my life rather than observe it from a safe distance. It's time to surrender and spend more time in the moment and less in the future.
Who's with me?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No Assumed Expectations! - Husband Question

I'm blatantly stealing a question posed on Maya's Mom today. It was just too good a question to pass up!

Okay, I don't usually ask this kind of question but I need advice to give to my sister. This is for my sister who I love dearly. Well we all know that Mother's Day was Sunday and her and her husbands anniversary was Monday. Her husband did not do anything for her either day. They have five kids and he couldn't do something small to say he appreciates her or anything. They didn't do anything special yesterday. He was gone most of the day... all day and didn't speak to her when he got back. I don't know what to say to her. This isn't the first time this has happened but she's getting tired of it and I have no idea what to say to her. She does as much as she possibly can for her children and him. I just know she deserves better.

My question is what would you do or say if this was your situation?

I think that your sister needs to have a talk with her husband, but she needs to be careful with how she words her comments. If she starts with an accusatory tone and "you" statements her husband is going to shut down and stop listening. Sentences like "You let me down" or "You never do anything to help around the house" or "You left me alone all day on Mother's Day AND our Anniversary" would make anyone feel defensive and stop listening. If she uses "I" statements she'll probably get a better reaction. When you say to someone "I feel hurt when you don't come home on time." it takes the blame off of the other person. It makes it possible for them to hear you without feeling accused. It's hard to feel defensive about how someone is feeling. She could try saying "I felt ignored on Sunday and Monday. I would have appreciated a gesture from you."
The best way to prepare for this conversation is for her to really figure out what she's upset about. Is it that he didn't speak to her or that he was gone all day? Is it because he didn't plan something special? Once she figures out what is really bothering her, then she can discuss it with him. Waiting to figure out what you are really upset about makes it possible to stay cool during the discussion. If you rush in and attack the first issue that seems to be bothering you then you end up arguing about anything and everything. That's how you end up having huge fights about plates left in the sink or the badly parked car.
In the end though, I think their issues may have something to do with assumed expectations. She's hoping he's going to notice she's upset, and in true guy fashion, he hasn't caught on. I'm a big believer in never having any assumed expectations in any relationships. The more you discuss things and tell others what you want from them, the less you stand to be disappointed. It's all in how you word things. What can be condescending can also just be matter of fact and can save everyone a lot of heartache in the long run. Think about how much more your sister would have enjoyed her weekend if she had just told her husband "I'd like to go on a romantic date with you Monday night. I'll get the sitter if you arrange the rest." Most people, not just guys, are more focused on what they need and don't spend too much time worrying about what will make others happy. Most of the time it's easier to just take the guess work out. (And I know that it's not the same as having a husband figure it out on their own, but guys are guys and it's hard to teach old dogs new tricks.) Eventually, if she's consistently clear about her expectations, her husband should start to catch on. One day he may even surprise her on a special day. In the meantime her best bet is to start asking for what she wants.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Second Chance

I truly believe that everyone and every situation deserves a second chance, but it's not always easy to let that happen. If you think hard for a minute I bet that you can come up with at least one person or situation that could have benefited from being revisited; a friendship that you gave up on too quickly, a coworker that you wrote off after just one altercation, a job that you could have scored if you'd tried just a little bit harder to wow the interviewer.
Some days we are just not at our best. In some situations we don't shine, and when we go home we spend days beating ourselves up about what we did, or didn't, do. All of that wasted time could be put to much better use. You can be sure that the other party isn't agonizing over the details like you. And in the end it's much more efficient to pick up the phone or send an email than to torture yourself. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so blunt." "I don't think we started off on the right foot, how about we get some coffee and get better acquainted." "I'm afraid I didn't present myself in the best light. Would you have a moment to chat with me some more?" These are just a few examples. There are many other ways that a slight can be repaired or a bridge can be mended. Very few situations can't be improved if you are willing to swallow your pride and make the first move. It's not easy, but there's no doubt that it's worth the trouble.
So who, or what, in your life deserves a second chance? What are you going to do about it?

This post was inspired by the Sunday Scribblings prompt Second Chance.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The "No Self Disparagement Zone"

The fun here, it never ends! Sometimes there will be answers to questions, and sometimes it'll just be me telling you what I think, just because. Aren't you lucky? When you are all tired of hearing me just talk to myself, please ask me something, I'll be more than happy to help. Really!
In the meantime, onto the topic of the day...
How many of us stand in front of the mirror in the morning and groan? "I hate my hair." "My nose is so big." "Look at that zit!" Any of that sound familiar? You get in the shower and you are already depressed about how you look. By the time you are dressed you feel pretty crummy about yourself and it shows in everything you do throughout the day.
Years ago I met a woman who was handing out doorknob hangers inscribed with the words "No Self Disparagement Zone" in bold red letters. I loved the idea. It was so novel! A room, in the house, where I couldn't say anything bad about myself! Brilliant! I never actually hung the thing on my bathroom door, but every morning I can picture it swinging there, reminding me to be nice to myself.
For a few months it was slow going. I had to stop myself mid-thought, but after a while the nice comments came more easily and I found more and more things I liked about myself. It's done wonders for my self confidence.
Your homework for the weekend is simple. Go out there and like yourself! No, seriously! For every negative thought you have about your body or your appearance I want you to think of three nice things to say to yourself. If you can't think of three separate things, just repeat the same one three times, but make it convincing! I guarantee it'll make you feel better about yourself.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Making yourself heard at work

I announced to the lovely people over at Maya's Mom that I was starting an advice blog and someone imediately responded with a question. It's an auspicious start! Before I answer though, let me reiterate again, I'm no professional, I just see what I see, and say what I think. (And I really feel like a fraud... but the friends and the husband, they keep presuring me to do this...)
Here goes nothing!

"Many times now this has happened with a number of different people at work. I suggest an idea and it is overlooked, not heard, or disregarded. Then a while later someone else says it and everyone says "great idea!" What should I do?"

Clearly your ideas are not the issue. If people like them when someone else brings them up, I have to deduct that the issue has more to do with your delivery than the content.
Is it possible that you have gotten to the point where you expect people to ignore what you say so you are not saying them convincingly enough?
You need to have faith in yourself. Your ideas are good and you need to believe that when you present them. Wait until you have everyone's attention. Make sure everyone is looking at you. Use strong language, no "I think" or "Maybe" statements. If you project doubt people will pounce on it. Your body language is important too; sit up straight, make eye contact, don't speak too fast. The more confidence you exude the more people will pay attention. And if you don't believe a word of it? Fake it. Picture the most self confident person in your office and pretend to be her. The more you pretend to be a self confident, self assured person, the more it will become true.
And if it doesn't work the first few times? If people still ignore you and claim your ideas as their own? Then speak up! Use sarcasm even if it helps "What a great idea, I'm glad I came up with it first!" You'll want to puke the first time you do it, but you have to be the one to defend and stand up for yourself. After a while people will be used to it and start to do the same. If you let people walk all over you, they will. When you respect yourself and your ideas people eventually follow suit.
So stand up for your ideas! Be proud of all you have to give.