Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Hard Parts of Recovery

In my adventures, I’ve learned that recovery is a hard process. No matter how much time I put in at the therapist, no matter how much I don’t want it to, there are moments my PTSD tries its level best to take over my world. Fight as I might, I find that I am suddenly surrounded on all sides by old memories, old smells, old sights and old pain. And man, it gets rough.

Did you know that people with PTSD often become addicts – not for their drug of choice – but because they’re willing to do anything to stop a pain that never seems to end? Whether it’s from being bullied or abused, from being on a battlefield or in a natural disaster, those of us with PTSD are tied inextricably to what happened to us, a nightmarish incident that no amount of planning could ever teach someone to cope.

This morning at 3:30 am, my phone started “blowing up.” I suddenly realized that you never know how many lives you have impacted until some disgruntled, unhappy human being decides to take out the windows of his 32nd floor hotel room and shoot up a concert festival. But there I was in bed, curled up with Teddy, only to wake up and find 19 text messages and an untold number of Facebook messages asking if I was okay. I found myself suddenly flung into a group text with all of my old co-workers, everyone anxiously counting heads to make sure someone they knew wasn’t among the dead or injured.  KP and TJ were worried sick until I spoke to them, as were Ferris, Cade, and Ash, along with so many other childhood friends that popped up on the screen of my smartphone, anxiously waiting for me to respond. By 7 am, I knew sleep was a pointless exercise as my phone kept buzzing, beeping and dinging. To be honest, I have never felt so sad yet so loved in my life.

And then, as what happened at the Harvest Festival started to sink in, I realized that a whole bunch of people had been unceremoniously flung into my wheelhouse and they were going to meet, head-on, the battle I face every day and have fought relentlessly for the majority of my life. Trauma had been thrust upon their souls and I sat sadly wondering what I could do to help them. The last thing I ever want is for someone to face what I have, but I know that it’s inevitable. Life, the equal-opportunity sadist it is, always throws curve balls. This time it has destroyed whole families, leaving the victims to feel powerless, hyper-vigilant, avoidant and scared. If life has taught me anything, is that you have to use everything in your power to help others. If you don’t have money, then blood or sweat will do just as well. From my point of view, the very best thing I can do is share what I have learned on how to deal with mental trauma. Everyone is different. Everyone processes things in different ways, but when it boils down to it, the anxiety and fear that comes with trauma is something that we all share.

The hardest part of recovering from trauma is in learning how to feel safe again. I know that it feels like nowhere is safe, but you have to find a place that you do feel safe and surround yourself with people you trust. Grab your favorite foods and get to a place that you are comfortable, then you can do what you need to in order to make yourself feel better. It’s called self-care and it’s a must.

Then you have to look around and have it sink in that you are definitely NOT alone.  Life, like history, loves nothing more than to repeat itself. Scope and scale may change, but the similarity of traumatic events is what allows us to recognize bad situations and grow throughout our lifetimes. They’re signposts. Red flags. Whatever you’d like to call them, the repetition is always there and that means that there is someone out there that has gone through something similar.

I remember my first really huge breakthrough in dealing with my trauma. It was right after Chester Bennington died. I remember an interview that was aired of him talking about dealing with depression and how he always tried to remember one thing: To get out of the “bad neighborhood” of his own head because of the dark recesses contained within.

 

In all my years of suffering with PTSD, I have learned a unique fact: Trauma tries to be funny. It likes to trap you in a specific moment in time and make you relive it over and over and over again, leaving you stuck in a hamster wheel from hell – trapped in your own head – unable to get off.

When I heard what Chester said, it was like an explosion in my mind. I started piecing my experience with PTSD together:

  • Fact 1: When my illness is at its worse, I feel like I am caught up in a mental maelstrom, fighting with all of my might to break free of it, straining to reach higher ground.
  • Fact 2: The harder I fight, the more powerless I feel and the faster I sink.
  • Fact 3: When I am triggered, the best way to break the trigger is to demand my body to do something outside of my head, some physical thing that forces me to solve a problem in front of me.  A distraction from the storm in my head, as it were.
  • Fact 4: I don’t have time to waste. My day is blown if my PTSD takes over and I can’t control it. What do Arya Stark and Syrio Forel say?

    Not today.

  • Fact 5: Stungthumbz always says:

    What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?

  • Fact 6: I remembered something from Eat. Pray. Love.

  • You have to learn to select your thoughts the same way you select your clothes every day. Now that’s a power you can cultivate. […] If you can’t master your thoughts, you’re in trouble forever.

So with those things in mind, my strategic strength kicked in to high gear. Using the “select your thoughts like you select your clothes every day” mental image, I went to work constructing imaginary drawers in my head to contain all of my memories: good, bad and traumatic. My therapist also contributed to the construction, reminding me that traumatic memories are just simply memories. No matter how painful, your memories aren’t out to purposely hurt you even though it might feel like it.

When a traumatic memory pops up, you’ve got two choices, you can jump into the maelstrom, most likely getting lost in it;  or you can grab it firmly, examine it, try to understand it, then put it back in the drawer it came from then mentally close the drawer, trapping and compartmentalizing it. In essence, I created a unique mental technique for controlling my thoughts, and my illness. When an intrusive memory rears its ugly head now, I think to myself, “What do we say to an intrusive memory? Not today.” I acknowledge that the memory exists, but I don’t spend time thinking about it because I am busy with the present.

And that brings me to the biggest lesson I have learned: stay in the present. Remember what you have right now and be grateful for it. Concentrate on moving forward. You can’t go back, you can’t shove the manure back into the horse. It’s done. Now move forward. Make a difference by not sitting silent. Share your story. Help someone. It doesn’t have to be some grand thing, nor does it need to be material. Sometimes the biggest help you can be is just by listening and just being you. After all, there is only one you and only you have your special gifts that can help heal someone. All you have to do is try. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

Living through a traumatic event is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it happens and there is nothing you can do about it. What is important is that you realize that having a therapist (short or long-term) isn’t something to be ashamed of. Everyone needs someone to talk to. In the case of trauma, a trained professional can help you out in ways you could never imagine. It’s not easy re-training your brain to create new coping skills, but I have found that it is worth all of the pain and hard work. And, if you really want to, you can make it fun. Make do with what you have. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with using a little imagination and a whole lot of determination.

Keep your chin up and remember that you’re not alone. I’m here with you, climbing the mountain, one step at a time.

 

Better Late Than Never

sheri_rednoseday

 

My weeks have begun to get so hectic, writing is a challenge and well, so is making time to support charities that take a stand on behalf of children.

As everyone knows, I am huge on the fight against child neglect. So, better late than never, let’s see if I can get the Gates Foundation to chip in a little more for me and my Therian Avatar’s Red Nose.

And for heaven’s sake: #LearnToPlay.

Wordy…

I got a note the other day from a mysterious man…

Apparently I’m so wordy, Tolstoy wants to be my boyfriend.

Okay, admit it. I made you laugh.

So while I’m waiting for Tolstoy to call me long distance from the grave, I am watching Julie & Julia for the countless time.

It’s the holidays and I am cooking in eight very short hours. I figured the film would help me refocus on the chopping, cutting and general sous-cheffery I will be doing.

It also occurred to me that I am on a new tack in my writing, namely cooking, so I figure I will have my phone next to me to take snappies of all the good things I’ll be making, then pass the recipes on to you. (Just in case something I make appeals to you.)

Anyhow, I think I may ask Santa for a copy of Rosetta Stone in Russian, that way if Tolstoy calls I’ll be ready. Because yeah, I’m wordy.

Black Widow

As we know, I’m quite the sleuth.  We also know that I’m a movie fanatic. Today’s tale originates where those two worlds collide. The first tale I related about research yielded an actual haunted house, this time it takes us to a place that I personally view as even more sinister.

Thanks to digital public records and the Freedom of Information Act, diggers and amateur sleuths like myself can find almost anything. Give me a name, general location and an idea of what to find, and odds are I’ll find more than even I bargained for.  Case in point, if you haven’t sampled my sleuthing skills, try looking back at “What ‘Lives’ In Houses.” The “Houses” piece was a fine piece of digging (if I do say so myself) because it saved a whole lot of money, trouble and unnecessary “nightmares.” (No kidding, right? That piece still gives me chills.)

Before we get into the particulars of this round of sleuthing, I need to put a few qualifiers on what I’m going to be relating. While I was working on my minor at UNLV, I was given the opportunity to learn about something called “Strengths-Based Leadership.” The Strengths-based theory basically says that when you identify a strength you personally possess, if you work on it, you become even better at it by leaps and bounds. When it comes to weaknesses, the same doesn’t apply. A weakness you can practice at, but you’re only going to get marginal results in contrast to working on your strengths. So strengths-based theory says it’s best to hone your strengths and surround yourself with people who have strengths that compliment your own, minimizing weaknesses for all involved.

So, with the strengths-based theory in tow, when I decide to dig into a research topic, I view it as taking my brain to the gym, a workout for my input strength. For those interested, my top five strengths in order are:

  1. Strategic
  2. Ideation
  3. Connectedness
  4. Input
  5. Restorative

 

(All links open in a new tab.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be here after you get done looking at those. If you want to find your own strengths, I suggest the Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, it’s what we used at UNLV.)

Research is one of my passions because I view it as a personal challenge. I challenge myself to find things that no one else would put together; to find some sort of usable insight that I can file away for use later; or to help out on a project a friend might be working on. Mostly it’s the thrill of the hunt, to see what or how much I can find.

Today’s research project started as a lark, just to keep my digging skills sharp. For even more of a challenge, I chose an unorthodox research topic. What I ended up finding was eerily similar to the experience surrounding “What ‘Lives’ In Houses.” The difference is that this subject, that after I dug into it, I wish that I hadn’t because what I found was truly chilling, even more so than the details surrounding that haunted house.

Before I go further into today’s tale, let’s briefly visit a 1987 film starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell, “Black Widow”:

With that film in mind, today’s research project is one where I guess you could say I took on Debra Winger’s role (gratefully without the green windows). As to the topic, my interest was piqued by the story of a woman who seemed to change husbands and names more often than she changed her underwear; in doing so, leaving a wake of destruction the likes of which I have heard stories of, but (thank heavens) never directly encountered.

On initial search, I found that the woman had at least five different aliases. Big deal right? Humdrum stuff, but then I discovered through public records that she has been winding her way through small midwestern towns targeting wealthy men since 1994. Out of the 20 years she has been victimizing men, she has had (count ’em!) FIVE husbands. (As a point of trivia, she’s two away from Liz Taylor’s record of seven.)

Here’s where it gets chilling. On looking at each of her five husbands, I found that just a short time before she married each one, each of the five divorced their existing wives to marry her sometimes a few short weeks to a month or so later. In each case, the public court documents show that she immediately has a baby with each new husband, then proceeds to divorce each one always less than two years later. The court records show that she always wins child support in an amount in excess of more than most folks can afford in a month and that she goes back repeatedly to court every opportunity she can seize to fleece more money from her victim, leaving them with massive debt, in excess of tens of thousands of dollars, forcing three of the five men directly into bankruptcy.

What’s worse is that along with the string of husbands I found, I also discovered that after each husband is discarded, she begins to run into legal and financial trouble with credit card companies, even the IRS. Then, by what seems like magic, her financial woes go away and the cases close at the same time as the arrival of a newly divorced new husband.

She’s up to five victims husbands already. I feel real sorry for number six because they won’t even see her coming.

Well, at least I have to give the woman props, she doesn’t go as far as Theresa Russell’s character in the film by murdering and burying each husband, thank goodness. What really bothers me are the five families she has basically destroyed for the sake of her insecurities and vanity.

I guess she looks at families and husbands the way I look at research, a challenge to keep her skills sharp. Between you and me, I’d rather be a digital sleuth, at least that’s just harmless curiosity that doesn’t hurt a fly.

It chills me to the bone to think that there are women out there who do things like this all the time and get away with it. And just think, I found that information all within a few hours just by searching through public records. What takes it from chilling to sinister is that she seems to precisely orchestrate her exit down to the month and day, carefully executing her plan in order to exact the maximum amount of financial gain and maximum emotional damage, leaving those poor men to pick up her extravagant tab. I’m serious, every two years she goes through another one.

I think this one hits me as even more sinister than the haunted house because of one simple fact: The house is stationary, we know where it is. With the Black Widow I dug up, she could be anywhere, and I think that’s what truly scares the willies out of me the worst.

Where’s a shoe or a huge bottle of bug spray when you need it?

Please, for me, be careful out there. Don’t let someone like that happen to you.

Overcoming Fear.

For the last four years, I’ve been writing about tackling some of the harder moments that life has to offer. Well, today has a bit of a twist: I’m tackling the biggest professional challenge I’ve ever had.

Yup, it’s time for me to put up or shut up because it’s time for me to take the last ten years of personal experience plus two-and-a-half years of full-time research and market analysis and pitch my company’s product for start-up funding.

To view it from my perspective, imagine five foot, six inch me looking up with my jaw gaping open in disbelief as I’m standing at the feet of an extremely large giant that could squash me like a grape without a second of hesitation.

As Bill Cosby once quipped about being in a car accident, “First you say it, then you do it.”

When I found out who I was going to be pitching to, I said it! Several times, as a matter of fact. Then I broke out into a cold sweat thinking to myself, “Oh my holy gods. Okay, they’ve got the wrong girl, this is way too big for me to handle.  Who am I?  I’m nobody!”

And there was my pothole du jour just waiting to be plowed through.

I’m talking about fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. Fear of something larger than yourself. Fear of success.  I know that last one seems odd, but just go with me, I’ll come back to it in a minute.  Along with all that, I’m tackling a healthy dose of self-doubt as well. (I’ve been self-contained and emotionally self-reliant for so long, I am having trouble tackling this one my own because it seems as everyone around me believes in me more than I do!)

However, this brings us to where I am now…absolutely petrified out of my mind. I mean, I’ve taught hundreds of students, I’ve got no problem public speaking, I’m usually really comfortable working a big room…

Here’s the catch…I am the concept designer of the product. Each piece of it was influenced by the people I work with and my uncanny ability to connect dots no one else can see. As is plainly obvious, this moment in my life is highly personal, it’s blood, sweat and tears not only from me, but from a whole lot of folks who are committed to supporting my concept to its’ realization and release to the public.

I know that most of you are curious as to how I got here, and I’d love to tell you what I’ve done and how I’ve basically made people facepalm with one of the biggest ‘duh’ moments some of them have had in a very long while.  But I can’t. Not yet.  If I let the cat out of the bag, the jig is up because someone would steal my concept in a heartbeat, it is that honestly good. To be perfectly frank, I’m shocked as all hell no one thought of it before I did, but you know what?  I’m glad they didn’t. <wink>

The best way I can explain it without giving it away is this:  Remember the movie Singles directed by Cameron Crowe? Well, in the film, the character “Steve” (played by Campbell Scott) works for the City of Seattle, and he’s basically in charge of solving Seattle’s traffic problem. The solution he comes up with is a “Supertrain.” He believes wholeheartedly that if the City of Seattle gave its’ residents great music and great coffee on a train that would ferry commuters into the city, they would “Park and Ride.”  Well, much less to say, when he first pitches the idea to his girlfriend “Linda” (played by Kyra Sedgwick), she hems and haws before telling him, “But I still love my car,” leaving Steve speechless and with no reply because he had a “one track” mind and didn’t come up with a contingency plan.

Later in the film, we watch Steve as he pitches the Mayor of Seattle (played by Tom Skerritt) his idea for the “Supertrain.” What does the mayor say? “People still love their cars.” Yep, you guessed it, after a devastating blow like that (because he didn’t listen to his girlfriend when she gave him the problem to solve and he didn’t tackle it) he quits his job because he basically realizes he’s not up for the task.

When I started with the company I work for, I got handed a similar problem as Steve’s “Supertrain,” and you guessed it, just like Steve, I got caught with my pants down with no contingency. I got saddled with that same kind of “people still love their cars” argument, and it left me sitting alone in my apartment feeling like a true bush-league hitter going up against a major league pitcher that just took my head off with a 105 mile-an-hour fast ball for the fun of it. I got sent back to the dugout, absolutely humiliated, doubting if I would ever be able step up to the plate again, much less knock one out of the park.

I was completely lost. I had the shell of something, but no filler, no direction, no clear goals. I sat on my living room sofa in my apartment with my head in my hands thinking, “Now what am I going to do? How am I going to save this project?”

This all went on directly after the Nissan debacle for the NSAC competition, so I was doubly crushed. I had worked so hard, and for what?  You should have seen the looks on faces when I found stats for the NSAC campaign that no one ever dreamed of finding.  A grown man my age told me that I was “creepy” and that I “freaked him out” by the accuracy of my insight because I could see and connect dots no one else could.  It didn’t help that I predicted the Boy Band reunion tours two whole years before anyone else did. No kidding. Ask any of my NSAC teammates or go back to the posts in May of 2011, sure enough, it’s there.

I learned through those experiences that I’m pretty lucky because I’ve been given a bizarre gift. Ever heard the expression, “Can’t see the forest for the trees” or “Can’t see the trees for the forest?” Well, I don’t know who came up with giving me the strange talents I have, but I can not only see the forest and the trees at the same time, but the log cabin beyond the forest on the other side of the road that has a yellow pick-up truck parked outside with a Chocolate Labrador Retriever running around, along with a fella in a yellow and blue flannel shirt poking his head out of the front door of the house waving “Howdy.”

Now, here we are two years later. Thanks to an obscure quote I found and unique insight that comes from eating, breathing and sleeping the genre, dots that no one else could see suddenly appeared painted in unmistakable, bright, neon paint. I couldn’t help it, an emotionless ‘oh my holy sh*t’ came out of my mouth at the sheer shock of what I had found.   It made not only a light bulb go off over my head but an entire set of stadium lights that illuminated the WHOLE playing field. When I researched my theory, I nearly about passed out, realizing what I had found no one had even thought of yet. I jumped, hollered, and sweet lordy, if someone would have walked into my apartment right then, they would have thought I had lost it for sure.  I didn’t only come up with a contingency for my own “Supertrain” issue, I re-wrote the rule book. The “Supertrain” I was dealing with is now hell and gone, a relic of 2003 as far as I’m concerned.

But here I am, product concept completely redone, research solid and water-tight, audiences defined, needs defined and met on multiple levels, illustrations, infographics, contingencies, everything wrapped up with a beautiful bow…

And now I’m on the actual brink of the big pitch and I caught myself doing something I have a tendency to do far too often: I psyche myself out.

Crying?  Oh yeah.

Nervous? Are you kidding? I could whip up 007’s favorite cocktail just by placing the shaker cup on my outstretched hand.  Thought of another way, a cat in a room full of rocking chairs would look at you while pointing to me saying, “She wins.”

Nauseous? Ya think? I was making sure the trashcan was lined and at the ready.

But then, out of nowhere as I was ready to have a long talk with the Tidy Bowl Man, a tune started playing in my head…

And half of you just went, “Oh hell, Sheri’s gone and lost it now…”

Not really.  Think about it in a Liz Gilbert-esque kind of way, those “endless waves of transformation” that we all dread.

Remember what Doc Kat says:

Change is not only possible, it’s probable.

To which I add:

It’s up to each of us to figure out how to deal with those changes when they happen. How we handle the situation is what defines us to ourselves and everyone around us.

Think about it: Whatever big change or challenge we fear facing literally becomes “the end of the world as we know it” for exactly that reason: we don’t know what’s next.  We fear facing any sort of emotional risk because we don’t know what’s going to happen afterwards! We don’t know how people will react to us, much less have any sort of awareness on how the experience will shape us in the future.

So, as I sat listening to Michael Stipe’s voice in my head singing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” suddenly the line “and I feel fine…” made perfect sense.  I guess I’m a bit slow because after 20 some-odd years, I finally get it. He’s just saying that no matter what, change is going to happen; you just have to find it within yourself to chill out, relax and just go with it because you never know what great things might be waiting for you in the aftermath.

I’ve used the expression “Emotional Base-Jumper” for a couple of years now. I use it to illustrate my readiness to take emotional risk when others chicken out and go running for the hills. So I guess you could say that Michael Stipe and R.E.M. get part of the credit for helping get me over my case of the jitters…

But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about what my ex-husband said when I told him about what I’m about to do at work and how I think of myself as a human albatross: Clumsy and horrifying on take off and landing, but once in the air, a beauty to watch fly.

And while the allegory of the albatross is a fitting one, I think that what is going on is a metamorphosis into a butterfly beyond anything anybody could imagine. I'm pretty sure that the caterpillar is not sure what the hell is going on during the process, so the transformation must be darkest and at its most terrifying just before the universe takes on a whole new meaning. The world looks like it's ending just before the creature finds its wings...
You've always been as "larger-than-life" as I was. You just needed the opportunity to prove it to yourself. I'll always be not only an ally but a fan. Just a text/email/phone call away, I've continued to follow the story, and I can't wait to see the next chapter...

I guess I fear success the most because simply, if all goes well, my world will never be the same again.  Talk about the end of my world as I know it…

A few weeks ago a childhood friend told me a story I had forgotten. My friend found me sitting alone, crying because I had been bullied and torn down again. He looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?” My reply was one that even now at 42, I can not believe that much wisdom could come from a 15-year-old me:

“Not at the moment, but I’m going to be.”

Well, if that little girl can overcome all that she did, I think I can look that giant in the eye and give them the what-for.  Don’t you?

Facing the Dark.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a few free evenings reviewing some of the movies I’ve referenced over the last four years of writing.

One evening, I had a Meryl-fest with It’s Complicated and Julie and Julia.

The next evening was Eat Pray Love.

Then I rounded it all out with My Life In Ruins.

If you haven’t guessed yet, and I guess I did it unconsciously, but through watching all of them, I found that besides all having central characters being women, all of the movies have one outstanding quality in common: hope.

Have you ever noticed that hope is the one thing that dies hardest and last? That no matter how hard life becomes, hope always finds its’ way in to help us in our darkest hours?

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, how we perceive it and if we open our hearts and become aware of it. I’ve found when I get to that point of awareness, hope always seems to be waiting like a friend wearing a warm and patient smile.  It then goes to work, closing doors that need closing in order to open up windows that show me a brand-new view of the world.  Ironically, I always find out later on it was important for me to see that view so I could embrace new ideas coming into my life.

I once wrote about my favorite section of Myst IV: Revelation‘s ending scene, you know,  where Atrus looks at us all and reminds us that endings are just another form of beginning? Well, remembering that, it makes one of  the Myst Universe’s taglines “The ending has not yet been written” even more poignant.

We all have to face the darkness. It can be inside of us just as well as outside of us. We all have to face endings that are filled with rude shocks which often leave us screaming about the scalding hot coffee that has just landed in our laps because of the size of the pothole we just ran through. But whether we like it or not, we can not enjoy the light without knowing how dark things can get.  Inner demons, addictions and a gamut of others, not forgetting just plain old fear. I’ve looked each one in the eye and I can honestly say that the cold, unyielding dark is nowhere I want to spend a lot of time visiting on a regular basis anymore. Believe me, I’ve spent the good majority of my life battling the dark – to the point I could publish a braille map I know it so well.

I’ve come to believe that those dark moments in our lives are scary and hard because it jars us back into reality and forces us to step into the light. They make us rise to the occasion; they inspire us to change the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and know those things must change for us to be happy in our lives.

And that’s where hope just loves to sigh with its’ patient smile and look at us as if to ask, “Hey, what took you so long?”

But that’s the lesson, isn’t it? Hope stands next to us like a trusted friend, always there, vigilantly giving us a much-needed respite from desolation. Even during the darkest of nights, hope is there.  All we have to do is remember to look up and see the stars.

Migration Time!

Time to update everyone on what’s going on:

  • As we all know my world has been in-flux. Okay, since when can anyone take me down for the count? The fighter is back and I’m roaring my fool head off.
  • Next, my blog is moving…yup, just got the domain name… www.eternalsophomore.com is going to go live in about two days, so look for me to be moving everything from here to its’ new home.
  • Speaking of new homes…yes, I’ve got a place to rest my head that is safe and familiar.  For the time being my folks have been nice enough to set me up in my old room.  Hopefully it won’t be a very long stay, but I’m grateful for their hospitality while I’m cleaning myself up and ridding myself of the final remnants of two years spent with a manifestation of my low self-esteem. 
  • Doc Kat once said, “Change is not only possible, it’s probable” and she wasn’t kidding.  In just over three weeks I’ve seen a tremendous positive upswing in my life. I taught myself how to crochet, making myself a gorgeous new scarf.  Also, on Thursday I enjoyed a very impressive performance in a debate.
     
  • The best parts? Doctor visits. First doctor was a therapist at school who is referring me to a trauma specialist and secondly, a MD who has already taken blood and I’m waiting to get my prescription to put me back on my thyroid meds.
My pal Haley will vouch for me when I said, “The first six weeks post-breakup are going to suck, but check with your doctor as results may vary.”
Three weeks and the epic suckfest still hasn’t taken hold…
Hmmm…I wonder why?
But, funds are running horribly low. Gotta find work or start taking orders for scarves.  Holler if you want one!
Okay, gotta go.  Success awaits, the only sucky part of the whole thing is that I’m a year behind because of being derailed.  Oh well.
Oh, final note.  With the new domain, I’ll be hosting EVERYTHING there…my Photoshop tutorials, my shop (coffee mug, scarf or t-shirt anyone??), my portfolio and of course the rantings, ravings and hopefully future cheer-worthy and comedic moments of your favorite eternal wise fool.
See you on the other side of the migration!!!!
Ladies and Gents, it’s time to ROAR!
Sing with me…

42.

You remember this clip from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, right?

The answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.

Well, being that it’s the beginning of my 42nd trip around our star, along with the incredible epiphany I had in the car on the way back from my cancelled Global Leadership class, the clip seemed an appropriate way to start the post.

I’m beginning to think Douglas Adams was right. 42, only a few hours into it, seems to hold a lot of answers already.

You do realize it’s a multiple of seven, right?

Well today, oddly enough, I’m in the exact same spot I was in 14 years ago, exactly to the day.

It’s also the reason why my Spago tradition exists in the first place.

At 28, I discovered my boyfriend at the time making out with another girl on my birthday. Because of the young man I was seeing at the time, I lost my place to live. At that moment, the only place I had to go to collect my thoughts was Spago.  David, the bartender at the time, at hearing my story, poured me a glass of champagne. A few moments later, a Creme Brulee showed up with a sparkler in it.

I’ve celebrated my birthday like that every single year since outside of three years in Montreal and sad to say, this year.

At 42, Ace kicked off my day by yelling at me, then when I finally had reached my zenith for his ignorant, tantrum-throwing demeanor, and after seven months of living together in which I watched some of the most horrifying behavior I have ever witnessed, I gave as good as I got and went toe to toe with him, even when he got into my face in a physically threatening posture. When he finally realized I wasn’t going to back down and acquiesce as usual (which let him get away with his atrocious behavior), he threw me out.

So, I’ve lost my place to live again, which is the second time it has happened due to Ace’s presence in my life.

Remember when I wrote “The Sophomore and the Precipice?” I never knew how accurate my insight was when I wrote “And that’s followed by the sound a death wail from a person that just fell off a cliff and plummeted to their death.”

When I began dating Ace, the cliff I fell off of is accurately pictured as one the size of Yosemite Falls:

I don’t know of a single human being that could survive a fall from that, so I’m very grateful he tossed me out before I landed with a deafening thud. While you may think I’m strange in saying that, consider this: in doing so he did me a favor that his limited, almost non-existent awareness will never be able to comprehend: He gave me my life back. Which in a sick, twisted way is the best gift anyone could ever give me.
In total, looking at the really big picture, the punchline that follows this experience is rather funny if you think about it because Ace trumped his own Ace and inadvertently made my day by ruining it. But, as my friend Tara would remind me…I’ll always be grateful to him; he taught me the virtue of chastity: showing me all of the reasons why we all have to make sure to keep toxic substances out of our bodies. He was a walking example of Marcus Aurelius’ lesson that asks ‘if we abuse ourselves and show ourselves disrespect, how can we demand respect from others?’ He was an actual, physical, tangible, walking example of not only the frailties of humanity but the flaws that are present in each of our psyches, and it taught me tons. Most of all, he taught me how I didn’t want to be. I’m very grateful for it because at least I already know I can spell correctly without the aid of spellchecker or the overwhelming need to throw things.
I promised myself long ago that if I survived my relationship with Ace and his deplorable criminal lifestyle, I was going to become a ‘non-practicing lesbian’. Lord knows, if I date ever again it will be too soon and I’ll need to have my head examined if I do; after my marriage to the ex, then that, that thing, (animal at best) called Ace, it has turned me off of men completely and off the romantic notions of love in general. As far as I’m concerned they are superfluous and not worth my time.  We all know of people who left a ‘social’ life and became huge successes. But just to be generous, I’m going to make sure that I send him a copy of Time Magazine when I make the cover. Consider me a future ‘crazy cat lady’ as I’m not going to be volunteering for the company of men anytime soon, and from my perspective that means I’ll be single for the rest of my life if I can help it.

When I die, in my casket before I’m cremated, I want Teddy tucked under my right arm and have the Myst Reader opened to page 818 in my left hand. If someone will do that for me, I’ll be thrilled because Teddy and I have been together now for 37 years. He’s the only guy I know that I’m willing to spend extended periods of time with as he understands my need for silence. And at least he doesn’t slam doors, throw things, rearrange things incessantly in a vain effort to gain control over a life that he has clearly no control over, not to mention neglect or being unable to complete anything because he incessantly derails himself every time he goes into an estrogen-filled rage because someone could possibly be smarter than he is.

Among the things I’ve accrued while under the influence of Ace is a weighted blanket so I can feel held and a ‘stunt double’ who will fill in without hesitation, just as long as it has fresh batteries. As far as I’m concerned, who needs a man in their lives when there are perfectly acceptable low-drama substitutes?

My birthday may have started horribly and I have no idea where I’ll sleep tomorrow night, but at least I can say with a smile that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It has taught me that while I might not live in a million dollar house, I know I’m worth more than a dime.

Misdirection

If you’re versed in MMO’s you might be familiar with the ‘misdirection’ ability the hunter class has in World of Warcraft. It’s as you would expect, the hunter misdirects any attention drawn to them onto another target. Basically, misdirection is used so the hunter doesn’t get summarily squished by something large and angry that wields a punch similar in force to a Mack truck.

Now if you ask my buddy Chance, who plays his hunter with deft skill and a certain joie de vivre, there is some fun to be had in misdirecting to someone in order to yep, you guessed it, kill them on purpose. Hey, I’m not innocent at all, I’ll admit it. Many a night myself, KP and Chance sat cackling on Ventrillo (our voice-over-IP software) watching Chance misdirect to someone that couldn’t play worth a darn and was hurting our group or who had really made a horse’s behind out of themselves with prideful and malicious bragging. There were many times where I saw the red spiral graphic that signaled a misdirect go off and keying my mic and saying with a mix of shock and dread, “Nooooo, you didn’t,” which would of course be followed by a giggle and a “Me? Nope,” which of course said he did. Sure enough, it didn’t take much time before a bragging mage would be no more than an inkspot and all of us on the other end would be cackling because, come on, we all know someone who we’d love to metaphorically see meet a painful demise with a single hit.
While it’s just good-natured fun with a toon made of pixels in an online world, it’s not much fun in the real world; actually it’s just flat out mean.

What brings this topic up today is a phone conversation I had last night with the most unlikely of individuals…a friend of mine from high school.

Now, for those of you whose jaw just dropped onto the floor, you would be correct with that reaction.  I mean, how many times have I written about how much I disliked high school? How many times have I gone on to the point of nausea about how much I despised the bullies and the malicious hammering I took on a daily basis? Yet, there I was last night for two hours talking to one of the very few individuals who not only befriended me, but protected me ferociously. Of course this comes with the caveat that this person was a senior when I was a freshman, so I only enjoyed a single school year of their very careful protection, after that it became open season on my then-narrow backside and oh boy did I take it coming and going after they left for college – it got ugly fast.

Another point that bears brief reinforcement is that bullies are my hot topic because I suffer from C-PTSD because of malicious attacks by the bullies that seemed to inhabit our school district like some sort of infestation. Hey, it’s not fun remembering clothing textures, colors, smells and all of the other parts of the intrusive memories I try to avoid (which make me break out into cold sweats) when I get triggered with a panic attack when I’m reminded of those very hurtful moments from so long ago.

For those not acquainted with PTSD, C-PTSD or Borderline Personality Disorder, you should really spend some time and look them up. I will be the very first to tell you that living with mental illness caused by the ignorance and maliciousness of others is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, much less anyone I loved. It’s a very painful illness that is a struggle day in and day out.

Now, let’s connect some dots that until this morning had eluded me completely. Remember, with my brain comes the caveat that I don’t have common sense to pee on.  Sad but true. Actually, I’m completely convinced that IQ is inversely proportionate to common sense. Think about some genius level, MENSA-type person you know…how often do they grasp things that are extremely simple?  Not often. I mean, I know some folks that tying a simple shoelace is a complete mystery, yet they can do quantum physics in their heads. Trust me, I don’t have much of a sense of humor because I completely miss simple, little things; so I end up looking at people like they’re half out of their minds when the joke is actually funny – once I sit back and think it through, accounting for the small pieces my brain automatically takes for granted.  Trust me, I’d trade my book smarts for more common sense any day of the week, but alas I’m kind of stuck, so I take it in stride.

As I eluded to, sometimes it takes me a little bit of time to “get” things, so this morning, after my brain had time to process it, there was something about last night’s conversation with my friend from high school that really had me going. I won’t lie, I’m my own harshest critic, so I have never called myself a dummy so many times in my life as I sat berating myself for spending the last 30-someodd years missing something plainly obvious.. Let me take you through it so you understand why I’m so mad at myself – it’s because I could have saved myself YEARS of agony along with having the ability to short-circuit my illness.  But while I can be ticked at the malicious bullies that made me a target, I’m even angrier at myself for not having the common sense to see what was happening until now.

Before I reveal my morning’s epiphany, let’s talk about bullies for a second and their odious Modus Operandi. As we know, bullies have their own issues. Like my C-PTSD and BPD (which is akin to having unhealed third degree burns on my emotional system), bullies have something that could be deemed just as bad as my illnesses that were caused directly by their actions.

What is it that makes a bully an actual bully? Well, usually very often, they come complete with one hell of an inferiority complex caused by being made to feeling powerless in their own world. Think about all of the overbearing, controlling, verbally, physically and mentally abusive parents or authority figures out there. If you want a better picture of the evolution of a bully, let’s take a look at one that is courtesy of Generation X and John Hughes. Take a moment and think of the character Judd Nelson played in The Breakfast Club, a young man named John Bender.  Lucky for us, if you don’t remember, YouTube has a clip of “Life at John Bender’s House”:

Sorry about the language, but just think about what it must have been like for him at home with a father like that. I’m grateful the clip didn’t do the follow-up which showed the physical abuse he withstood and the subsequent anger that resided in that young man from feeling so very powerless and demoralized. So, as our case in point, we see only one small example where a bully could be born and bred in some cases (not all), but we also have to take into account that some young people are just flat out mean.  It is what it is and we can only sit back and speculate, merely guessing at what makes bullies tick, but I’m venturing a solid guess that it is because they are trying their best get the attention off themselves.

Personally, I believe where John Bender is a really great caricature of a rebellious spirit (can you blame him?) caused by a dysfunctional home, I also believe he makes a great jumping off point to talk about bullies and misdirection, which brings me all the way back to the conversation I was having with my friend from high school last night.

Of course if you’ve seen The Breakfast Club you know that each character is a stereotype. While some may resonate with Molly Ringwald’s ‘Princess’, Emilio Estevez’s ‘jock’, Anthony Michael Hall’s ‘nerd’ or Judd Nelson’s ‘rebel’ or ‘bully’, down deep I always found myself very drawn to Ally Sheedy’s ‘basket-case’, ready and willing to sell my soul or do anything that would make me feel like I had some sort of value that garnered acceptance.

By the time high school had ended for me, I had embraced being an outsider. I’m now very grateful I did accept being a part of “the fringe”; I won’t even sugar-coat it, it was a very, very hard existence to live through but it gave me so many more opportunities on the other side because it encouraged me to think differently, proudly becoming a offender of the status quo.

But it was a simple question posed by my pal from high school that set everything in motion that gave me the biggest relief I’ve felt in a very long time. My friend simply asked me to name names of who bullied me. All it took was for me to say a single name before they burst out into laughter. I sat perplexed and asked them what was so funny.  The reply was one that completely took me by surprise:

“Them? Oh my goodness. That’s the pot calling the kettle black if I’ve ever heard it. I could tell you stories about them aplenty. That’s the one person that had no right to say anything for they were just labeling you with what they really were.”

At hearing that, I burst out laughing, but it wasn’t until I had a good night’s sleep and gave it a little bit of thought that suddenly shed so much light on everything that I not only feel better today, but I actually know in my heart that what those bullies did to me was never, EVER about me…it was about THEM, their insecurities and their need to feel like they could exercise some sort of power over someone else, no matter what lengths they had to go to, just so they felt safe.

My pal from high school made me realize that all bullies do (outside of showing that they have less common sense than I do) is misdirect. They take critical eyes off themselves and put them onto their victims because of one reason alone: fear that someone will figure out their glaring faults and turn the harsh spotlight of truth their way.

But, I did give myself a break from berating myself for one simple reason: I realized that in that moment some 30 years ago, I was so busy trying to protect myself, I didn’t have time to scratch my backside, much less figure out that a red spiral graphic had gone off above the bullies’ heads, signaling that they were misdirecting their insecurities at someone they already knew was hurt.  It’s kind of sick, but I’ll give them this, it’s one of nature’s laws that the injured get picked on…

They just never realized I’d turn into a swan with an attitude, who just happens to be toting a 400-pound two-by-four.

Many thanks go out to one of my favorite film aficionados…who was not too much unlike Matthew Broderick…so we always want to…

And of course, the song of the day is one of his favorites…that also happens to be one of mine…

Thanks Bryan Bueller…for the protection and being a pal…you’ve earned a name here, we’re just going to call you Ferris and as you said to me the day I met you so many years ago…

Avoiding the Cliff

Disclaimer: As you remember, I had to be reminded that I’m pretty quick because normally I assume I’m the dumbest person in the room. Yep, I tend to see, analyze and solve problems before most people figure out there actually is a problem to begin with; and as I was being reminded about my swiftness on the mental playing field, I was also told that when I look at people and go, “Well DUH!” it puts them off. 

I have no defense, I don’t mean to make anyone feel dumb, but me going “duh!” is a knee-jerk reaction. (Reminder: I play in the Myst Universe a.k.a. “The World’s Coolest MENSA Convention,” so I really am usually the dumbest person in the room. My 131 isn’t piddle compared with some of those folks.)

Earlier, I opened up one of my regular trade pubs I get via e-mail, a Smartbrief. Most of the time I breeze through them, picking up a useful insight or two along the way.

Today though, I stumbled upon an article entitled “Mobile Mind Shift, Smarter Connectivity Will Change Digital Marketing.”

After reading it, I just facepalmed.

Really? Seriously? They actually posted that article in good conscience? You gotta be kidding me.

So I fired off a tweet with a link to the article.

I couldn’t help it! It’s so no-brainer.
Portability, if you’re not on all four screens, you’re missing opportunities.

Well, just slap me in the mouth and call me “dumbfounded” because that tweet got favorited four times a short 20 minutes later.

Good gods, really? To me, that’s so blatantly obvious it hurts. That me pointing out something so blatantly obvious that every single CMO worth their salt should have KNOWN – and been executing two years ago – gets favorited by not only one, but FOUR people with 11,000+ followers each?

Excuse my vernacular, but you’ve gotta be shitting me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that four people get it, but think for a moment about all those ridiculously high-paid CMO’s who don’t.

I don’t mean to be prideful, but someone that unaware making that much money just makes me cringe. (Yeah, I know…’Welcome to Corporate America’, and people actually wonder why I usually don’t play well with others.)

I don’t know about you, but if I was a CEO that had a CMO that didn’t know two years ago that the cross-platform portability of their messaging was mandatory – for viability and survival of their brand(s) – I would give them a kick to the curb so fast it would make their heads swim.

But let’s go bigger than that: if I was on the Board of Directors of a company who’s CEO didn’t catch that behind-the-curve CMO, both of them would have received the ‘prostitute boot’ and been on the sidewalk in one quick hurry.

I personally think people that far behind the curve or worse – not pushing the edge and able to see this kind of stuff a mile off before anyone else does – proves the point of one of my favorite quotes:

“That’s suit thinking. Something happens to a man when he puts on a necktie.
Cuts off all the oxygen to his brain.”

Thank you Michael J. Fox! Without Alex P. Keaton’s popularity, the world would have never seen John Pankow deliver that fantastic line in 1987’s The Secret of My Succe$s.

I was 15 when that movie came out. Do the math. I heard that line for the first time 26 years ago; and to this day, every single time I see a professional Darwin Award-winning move, I repeat it out loud.

I gotta be crazy, because I should get big money for it, but to save myself (and the four other people that get it) some heartache, I’m going to cut some neckties off and get oxygen flowing back to some brains. It’s also known as handing out some million-dollar insight for free.

#1 – Get with the times.

Look out of your Maybach window. Sorry to say, the world is not all about you and your kid’s private school interview.

See all the people walking into things because they are face-down in their mobile devices? Yeah, them. They are your audience and there are only about a bajillion ways to get to them besides a traditional media buy, a fancy website and a Facebook ad.

If you haven’t noticed, while you’ve been propped up like a prince plugged into your overpriced iWhatever, according to Neilsen, 53% of the mobile market in the U.S. belongs to Android and the Google Play Store is doing a TON of business.

#2 – Facebook is NOT the only answer.

While you’ve been dining on overpriced meals at Le Cirque and being hand-fed grapes by your staff of Yes Men, Facebook’s “Pinky & The Brain” campaign for world domination is not only being laughed at, it’s getting one-upped constantly by a rising sea of new mobile apps like Mobli. These new apps are taking whole chunks of market share because smart consumers (read: first-adopters) are sick and tired of Facebook’s constantly changing, (read: unreliable) terms of service. Can you say “The Instagram Gaffe Effect”?

Get off your overpaid fanny and get down in the dirt with us plebs and find out how we’re communicating.

#3 – Vomit begets vomit.

Yeah, you know I’m right. One whiff of stomach acid and everybody’s stomach is doing the churn while the weak stomached are already head down in the porcelain throne following suit.

Vomiting your message on any type of SocMed (that’s a Sheri-ism for Social Media to you new folks) begets more vomit because the bigger the brand doing it tells the little uneducated ones it’s okay to do so.

Add to your vocabularies (and jobs on your payrolls) “Social Media Specialist.” There are college campuses filled to the brim with young job-seekers who live their lives 24/7 in SocMed far beyond Facebook’s scope or realm of imagination. Trust them. They know more than you do and can rival J. Edgar Hoover on the amount of information they can gather for you. Most importantly though is that they know how to use the media – they understand that any messaging you want spread MUST be done via CONVERSATION – not vomited all over everyone. Why? Because no one wants a reason to be face down in the porcelain throne having a conversation with the Tidy Bowl Man if they can avoid it.

#4 – Make friends with the books of Al Ries.

Lordy, if you’re in my profession and don’t know who he is, quit your job and join the Peace Corps. Seriously. Because if you haven’t caught up on your reading and don’t have in your professional arsenal The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR you are just making life hard on the rest of us.

Whole segments of consumers are not walking, THEY ARE RUNNING away from advertising. They don’t want to hear your 30-second elevator pitch. They aren’t interested in your bait-and-switch style micro-transaction based app. They are interested in honesty and guess what? A good majority of consumers wouldn’t trust advertising if their lives depended on it. The honesty they are looking and desperately longing for is found in the conversations they are having with family and friends. (And the ad-free apps they can download for free.)

#5 – Don’t mess with the ghost of Bill B.

Bill Bernbach said, “The only way from the past into the future is an idea.

He’s also the man who is going to come back from the grave and slap you in the mouth for adding to the clutter; for not learning the art of “it’s not how short you make it, but how you make it short.” Hell, he’d ring my neck for this blog post being so long.

But I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts he’d kick each and every one of our butts for not having the insight to know that SocMed has a million different faces and for not realizing that what we already know is in the past.

Cross-platform connectivity is not based on how many different SocMed platforms you vomit on, it’s carefully choosing which one will work best for you, with you and encourage a message style that happily gives consumers what they want to see…

A world free of advertising that values each individual – acknowledging, accepting and applauding their individuality – on a deep, personal level.  (That means: Hello!  You’ve got to engage!  And it better be more than just more message spew. If you’re not sincere, you’re wasting an opportunity to empower a fresh, spanking-new brand ambassador.)

But that’s okay, not everyone gets that kind of thinking.  You go right ahead though, roll your window back up if you wanna have a not-so-nice visit with the ghost of Bill B.

However if you must persist in following the clutter-spewing herd off the nearest cliff, do me a favor, wear a parachute. I hate the sound of professional death wails.

Don’t be a lemming. Join the Lemming Liberation Front and help me free the world of senseless following…because Lordy, Facebook Home on a Facebook Phone? Really? Do you honestly believe that consumers will not eventually figure out they’ve signed up to be slaves in the world’s largest data mine?

Oh wait, Apple did that already. Yeah, but at least Steve Jobs made iLemmings look cool and wrapped his whole homogeneous iSociety into something resembling Hotel California. Zuck can try to do the same, but Al Ries will only look at him and say:

“That position has already been taken.”

Lemmings follow. Mavericks lead with brilliant ideas. You know which one you are and which one you want to be. What on Earth are you waiting for?

Here endeth the lesson.