Life Lesson #2: How to Avoid Drama

This is the 3rd in the series around the life lessons I've learned since June 2011.  It expanded on the illusion of control and now we come to this: how to avoid drama. People who have a lot of drama in their lives come in two flavors.  Let's start with the most obvious types–the one I know you thought of when you read the title of this post. They're the ones who enticed you in–just as they're wont to do in real life. The Drama Creators.

Their hallmarks include numerous, messy entanglements, excuses and a general lack of concern for your feelings. These Drama Kings and Queens and oh yes–both genders have 'em–will entice you–at first. My experience has shown them to be shockingly charming, drawing you in like a moth to the dangerous light. Aliveness may permeate throughout you in those first few interactions, soon to be replaced with a feeling of confusion, exhaustion and a serious case of emotional whiplash. And there isn't a carton of ice cream or bottle of Tequila big enough to anesthetize it. 

The only thing you can do when you find yourself faced with a Drama Creator is to move away. Exclude. Minimize. It's a hard lesson to learn but one you'd be wise to do the very moment you discover you have a life filled with these kinds of people. Or, even just a few especially if they're a primary relationship like a boss, client, lover, best friend or family member.

The thing is…they're not whole. Not yet. They're so filled with their own internal angst that baby they don't have an ounce of energy left for you. In fact, they're more likely to rob you of your precious energy rather than fill you with more. They're stuck in inner trauma—probably from a bygone era. Unwilling to do the true hard work to heal, they're stuck frozen.

They're not going to change.

Identify. Leave. Exclude. Minimize.

Then there are those who have drama surrounding them. Let's call them the Drama Allowers. This sort of type seems to attract drama without directly (or intentionally) causing it. Except they do have a part in this melodrama. Being passive may not seem as harmful as those who actively create drama but this alas, is untrue.

The rub is that passively allowing others' drama to seep into and pervade your life leaves you spent, unavailable for good to infiltrate and ultimately leaves you feeling disempowered. This in turn leaves you much more susceptible to other Drama Creators, creating a cycle which is a bit like a dangerous undertow that churns you around, scrambles you up and renders you useless. If this is you–stop it. When someone injects a bit of drama in your life pay attention to the big old yellow flashing sign. Slow down, take care to see if this is isolated or the way this person lives their life. If it's the latter–well, do I really need to tell you what to do?  Drama Creators will hijack your life, taking it over with their narcissistic concerns and you farther away from your dreams.

Identify. Leave. Exclude. Minimize.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver

I hope you won't spend one more moment squandering your precious time on creating or allowing drama. It's simply an luxury you can't afford.

I used to be a dyed-in–the-wool Drama Allower, whipped around in a frenzy by Drama Creators until I just got tired of it and let them all go. Bosses, boyfriends, friends–really, anyone with a penchant for the dramatic. These days my business is snap, crackling and popping along with all sorts of goodness. My life is too busy, too precious to waste it on drama so I simply don't allow it in my life. The result in my life has dramatic itself. My productivity and happiness levels shot straight up like one of those hockey stick charts investors are always looking for. If I was investing in myself I'd say it was the best one I could have made.

All this talk about drama has me a bit drained. But if even one of you lets go of being a Drama Creator or Drama Allower it was worth it. And now, I'm off to gain some energy by working on a project that invigorates me: writing my book I've been dreaming of for years.

Postscript: Credit goes to Cheryl Strayed for reminding me of the Mary Oliver quote. It's a good one and should be taped to everyone's refrigerator.

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Lesson #1: The Illusion of Control

The 11 Important Lessons I Learned This Year post was so popular that it spurned a great deal of conversation on Twitter and in real life. So, I thought I'd unpack the lessons a bit more. Since I think in circles, swirls and stars this may not be a completely linear process so we'll start with #1 and see how it goes.

Here we go.

1. The more control you try to assert the less you actually have.

Control is just an illusion. We can have some control over some mutable things. But there are plenty of things that are immutable and some that are purely out of our control. It's true wisdom to learn when you can enforce some measure of control over a part of your life. Pay attention to the part about "your" life. You can't control anyone else. No matter how much you think you might be like a hypnotist who can make anyone do anything you wish. You may get a small measure of control for a bit but it will always be fleeting. The reason? Free will baby.

The other way that people try to exert control is in getting the job done. You seen or done this right? In this case, a person gets so focused on getting. the. job. done. that they all end up trying to control everything–including you. Oh, they would tell you that the job just needs to get done. It seems like in their head it's life or death. They take over your job–and everyone else's. They yell, scream, demean, manipulate and generally engage in all sorts of other unbecoming behavior–all as a means to gain control in order to get the job done. You know what happens when a person is faced with something this acute. Yep. Frantic efforts for some measure of control.  It's also just as useless. Oh, you might get the job done but you'll piss off so many people in the process that you'll lose relationships like water from a leaky bucket.

Control is a tool often employed to make up for insecurity. It's a lack of trust. When we say we don't trust others it's actually more often true that we don't trust ourselves. Or we don't trust that things will turn out exactly as they need to without our intervention. I know it may be hard to hear that your attempts to control are misguided, insecurity-driven and ineffective. I'm open to other reasons people try to control–I just haven't found a legitimate alternative yet.  And I don't want to pretend as if this is a method that will ever give you true happiness, success or peace of mind.

The more you try to control another person or a situation the more it will slip out of your hands like a loose knot that easily unravels with one good pull. Worse? It just makes you feel worse and makes you feel even less secure. And that's not helpful.

True strength comes from trusting yourself. Trusting yourself is actually something you have a measure of control over. That's a really good place to put your efforts to control someone or something.

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Memoirs About Chefs Are Chic

Chef 300x300 Memoirs About Chefs Are ChicLately I've been noticing the rash of writers who become chefs or take up serious cooking and then write a memoir about it. Of course by now you're probably familiar with Julie & Julia, the cooking experiment that became a movie and a worldwide phenomenon. You may or may not know about The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry in which a writer moves to France to become a chef. It's fantastic. Highly recommended. And now comes Apron Anxiety the memoir by Alyssa Shelasky that chronicles this writer's journey to becoming a foodie after dating this well-known reality chef.

Being a writer who is planning to write a book but is currently without a subject I'm starting to wonder if I should take up cooking? And…then I remember that while I adore good food–even consider myself a foodette–since I don't cook–I have no idea what to do with food except to eat it. And I don't enjoy preparing raw ingredients–like at all. The 10 minutes I spend preparing my green smoothie every morning aside–I have no talent at cooking food that people would actually want to eat. Sure, my dog loves everything I cook but then again she's eats anything she finds on the sidewalk so pretty sure she's not a good judge. In fact, it's pretty much a requirement for dating me that you know how to cook well. Or, love of good food and a willingness to eat out every night.  Also, I've lived with many chefs in part to get any of their delicious scraps. Given the evidence, or the lack of evidence of my cooking ability, I'm pretty sure writing a memoir about cooking is definitely not a good idea.

Still, memoirs about adventures in the kitchen are popular these days so perhaps I could whip something up (see what I did there?)  Here are some prospective titles:

Rosé, Prosecco and Tequila, Oh My!

All The Food My Ex-Boyfriend's Have Cooked

All the Ways I Can Make Toast

So…I'm thinking all of these will be voted down.


Back to dreaming up a new subject for my book.

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11 Important Lessons I Learned This Year

June 2011 really sucked. Sorry. I'm doing cold immersion into this blog post just the way it happened to me. Three endings happened in rapid fire within 2 weeks leaving my life unrecognizable. It was a simply awful time in my life. Usually I might try to pass of this kind of life suckiness with a bright "I'm fine!" but there was just no getting around this particular cluster. There were times I wished I could have jumped in a time machine that would take me to one year in the future. But since that technology hasn't been invented yet I lived through it…one day at a time.

As I look back a year later ultimately my life is 10x better because of those endings and the new beginnings I created as a result. There were many insights that came to life. Thought I'd share 'em with you just in case they might be helpful to you one day. Or, this day.

1. The more control you try to assert the less you actually have.

2. Drama is a luxury. One you can't afford. Especially Other People's Drama.

3. Trying to control yourself in a relationship will kill it. Let be what it is.

4. When three separate people urge caution about a person–believe them.

5. You're always worth way more than you think. Ask for more.

6. It always takes much longer than you think. 8 times as long. Factoid from: Deep Survival

7. Self-respect isn't just important. It's the only thing.

8. Conversations that start after 11pm never end well. Don't start 'em.

9. Things just work or they just don't. Forcing something is just sheer folly.

10. Being gifted is a gift. Embrace your natural talents. This is how you'll be successful.

11. Today is the only one you have.


Detropia: Rediscovering My Hometown

It would be disingenuous to say that I've always loved my hometown of Detroit. Growing up in this gritty, manufacturing laden area has produced conflicting feelings for me over the years. Not being a big fan of mass production, unions or sports, this city seemed so foreign to me as I was growing up. For many years I was embarrassed by it wishing I'd grown up in a more sophisticated, worldly city like New York or Paris. Over 16 years ago I moved away from Detroit to live in San Francisco, Chicago and Denver; and frequently travel to many large cities: London, New York, Paris and Madrid among others. Along the way I discovered that I love urban environments. The diversity, the decay, the revival, the creativity…intrigues and delights me.

In discovering new cities I've rediscovered my home city–and myself. Like my former hometown I'm scrappy, upfront, diverse and have survived many challenges . This new found love affair is why I'm backing this project on KickStarter about the decay and revival of this iconic city and my former hometown. I hope you'll join me.


On Self-Respect

"Self respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth." Joan Didion

A while back, I had a conversation with a friend who said she had trouble loving herself just as she is. Well, she liked most of herself but not some parts of it. This makes me so sad. Not loving yourself in the very moment you're standing is just no way to go through life. While you may love everything about yourself except for your thighs that's still a problem. Um, because they're a part of you and you're a whole person. It's not like you can just take them off when you want to right? This is a clear lack of self-respect.

Unfortunately my friend is not alone.  Many people I suspect feel this way. I'll be happy with myself when I'm x lbs. I'll truly accept and love myself when I meet the person of my dreams. I'll be lovable when I have that killer designer wardrobe. I'll feel ready to make a big move when my revenue reaches x. It's so easy to fall prey to the someday illusion.

Admit it. You've done it right? I know I have. The thing is it's just an illusion. Once you get there you'll discover another plateau while staring off at a new mountain to climb.

IMG 1759 300x300 On Self Respect The answer is not waiting until you're perfect to be present to your present, to love yourself, to have happiness. Appreciate this moment exactly as you are and exactly as things are.

Perfection is just a perception problem. That's right I said it. Your perception is off. You're not seeing the world through the right lens. Rather than rose colored lens' you're seeing it through more like a murky shade of brown. Perfection is in the moment, not in some far off artificial landmark you create.

It breaks my heart to hear someone hating on themselves. It breaks your heart when you do it too. Every time you resist this moment of you a little tear develops and weakens you. Please don't break my heart or yours.

If all of this hasn't convinced you yet, consider this:

When your parents had you they didn't think, "This baby kinda sucks but wow he or she will really be great when they're an adult. They'll be perfect when they stop pooping and eating and crying." They thought: Look at this perfect, beautiful creature we just brought into this world. He (or she) is perfect in this moment. All shriveled up, crap all over you, screeching so loud you could break some dogs ears.

Remember that the next time you want to hate on yourself or the current moment. Again, I call on the wise Joan Didion:

"To have the sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent."

Don't wait to respect yourself. Self-respect is the foundation for success and happiness. Do it today. Actually do it right now in this moment. Just appreciate who you are and what you have in the moment you find yourself reading this little ditty.

I'll wait.


Doesn't that feel much better?

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