Self Care (and other friggin platitudes)

Gratitude is an attitude.

Think happy thoughts.

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.

Be healthy and take care of yourself, but be happy with the beautiful things that make you, you.

Happiness is a choice.

Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.

When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.

OMFG Enough Already!

These platitudes make me want to scream. They are not, to me, expressions of resilience and encouragement. Instead, they feel (for me and many others) more like expectations. What happens when we’re not happy? Nobody is happy all the time! For some of us, when we’re not happy that feeling is compounded by feelings of failing at “don’t worry, be happy” and that leads to despair and depression.

Look, in spite of how it might look, I am not actually a curmudgeon.

These “positive thinking” or “positive mental attitude” platitudes just don’t work for everyone. And all the positive mental attitude in the world is not going to work when the working world ignores you, when you get told no dozens or hundreds of time, when you get ghosted time and again, when you can’t even get that first interview.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you lack resilience and it doesn’t mean that you put out less effort than our friends who are all sunshine and unicorns.

Resilience Defined

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back, to recover quickly from adversity. It’s toughness and internal fortitude in the face of disparagement or disappointment. It is every single job-seeker out there.

Resilience doesn’t mean we are happy all the time. Most of the time, frankly, we’re frustrated.

So how do we convince ourselves to stand tall and keep on keeping on when it feels like everything is falling apart? Hooboy, I don’t have the answer for you. I barely have the answer for me.

I know that, for me, I feel better when I’m busy. Yeah, maybe it’s a distraction, but I try to keep it a healthy distraction by doing things that move my life in a forward motion toward better times. I give myself assignments (apply to 3 jobs today, rework my resume, learn a new skill, whatever). I meet new people and I write blog posts like this one.

I try to acknowledge the bad feelings without letting them overtake me. They’re not going to magically disappear so I guess I accept that they’re here and just breathe through them…like getting a tooth filled.

I do find that when I let my brain run amok in the bad feelings, I tend to get panic attacks. In those cases I do the 5-4-3-2-1 “trick”:

  • Name 5 things I see around me
  • Name 4 things I hear around me
  • Name 3 things I smell around me
  • Name 2 things I touch around me
  • Name 1 thing I can taste

This trick works surprisingly well for me. Maybe it can work for you. It doesn’t fix the problem, but it relieves the panic attack. I’ll take whatever bits of relief I can get. I guess that is resilience.

I’ll tell ya, resilience is overrated.

I’m Practical

I guess I’m just a practical person. I like solving problems. I like strategizing and creating plans. Don’t expect me to be sunshine and unicorns when the chips are down, though. Happy is not a goal. Joy is a goal. Accomplishment and satisfaction are goals. Perseverance – a goal.

I can live with all that.

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Laziness, It’s a Feature!

One of the things that used to bug me as an employee was how quickly I would complete my work. Not that anyone else was slow, I just work fast. I’ve always been like this. I finished homework quickly. I finished in-school work quickly. I finished tests quickly. I get to the airport two hours before my flight. I drive too fast. I don’t know how to be fashionably late.

You see, I’m impatient, I’m smart, my brain is always on overdrive, I don’t know how to shut off, and I’m rather – shall we say – competitive. I know, it was hard to tell.

None of that is a problem, of course. Until it is.

This “working quickly” super power worked against me in the beginning of my career life. At my first job I worked as an editor, editing radio advertisement scripts. I would get giant stacks of these ads in the morning and would be done by mid-day. And with nothing on my desk, I looked like I was slacking off. Everyone else was still working on them the next day.

I ended up in the computer room (yes, we had a computer room) to fill the time and, ultimately, ended up managing the system.

Later on I moved into the tech space at a telephony company where I ended up in a support role. I was responsible for a geographic area of customers and had a queue of tickets that were always cleared by mid-day. Sadly, that was not an accomplishment that got rewarded. My manager told me to slow down or find something else to do. So in spite of the fact that my customers loved me and I placed #1 in all of my tech trainings, my boss thought I was lazy because, well, I finished quickly and had nothing to do for a few hours each day. It made for a toxic corporate work experience.

Everything changed for the better when I went into business for myself. Working quickly benefitted my customers and they loved it. When you’re billing for time and competing for business, being able to say “yes, I charge more, but I will be done faster and you won’t have to call me back because I fix it right the first time” was a big boon to business. Also, it was true. I had mastered the knowledge and skills that my customer base needed and wanted.

Then I realized that charging by the hours wasn’t doing the trick for me so I charged for my knowledge instead of for my time.

I wasn’t being lazy. I had mastered the skills that were required of me to efficiently take care of my work and my customers. Thankfully, my customers recognized mastery as mastery. I recognize it too. But I still feel like I’m being lazy if I’m not busy.

I need to remember that mastery is not laziness. Mastery should be rewarded with time to relax.

It should. But, then, this is me and I like being busy. I like the feeling of accomplishment. I like signing off on a project. I like to tick the items off my list. I like to beat my deadline dates (competitive, remember?) – it drives me. I believe in underpromising and overdelivering in all things. It’s no surprise that I feel a strong sense of guilt if I’m not busy. I find it nearly impossible to waste time. I also find it nearly impossible to say in 500 words what should take 10 (term papers were a nightmare for me).

I have to remind myself regularly that just because I finish a task early, it doesn’t mean that I have to fill that freed up time with more work. Mastery is the answer, not more work. I need to internalize that and recognize that downtime is healthy. Time spent not working is something to be treasured and protected. Not working is NOT being lazy.

Downtime is healthy. Downtime is necessary. Downtime gives my brain the rest it needs to shift gears and learn new things. Downtime is good. Maybe if I say it enough I’ll actually believe it. 😊

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Today is a lesson in patience.
The world doesn’t move at my pace.
Practice my breath work while waiting.
My strategy’s nearly in place.

It’s been 3 weeks. No bites. Not even a nibble. Just disappointment and waiting. And then waiting again. Then waiting some more.

I’m not good at waiting, I’ll be honest. Some potential employer is going to read this and promptly scratch my name off their list. But they’ll love reading it and tell me what a great piece this is. Sigh.

I’ve seen a lot of strategies for finding a job. But do I really want to simply “find” a “job” or do I want to do something that is enjoyable, that makes a difference in the world, and that doesn’t make me hate getting up in the morning.

Truth be told, my last gig was like that. Alas…

I want to find a job that doesn’t stress me. And that will take time. I know it. I don’t like it, but I know it. While I have associates who have applied to dozens or even hundreds of jobs, I have applied to 8. I have good reasons for this strategy but at least once a day I find myself thinking “just apply for everything, it’s a numbers game.” No. No no no. Desperation is a terrible place to negotiate from. It means you give up too much.

At some point in my earlier life, I could see applying for 10’s or 100’s of jobs. I would have applied for everything that’s even remotely near my skillset. But now I know better. Would I actually take any of those jobs if they were offered? Likely not. Either the money isn’t there or there is a preponderance of red flags (”must be willing to subordinate oneself to the mission and to work long hours” for example) or pizza as a bonus or the job isn’t remote or whatever other reasons one doesn’t accept a job offer.

Taking a job just to take a job – at least at this stage of my unemployment – seems wrong. Earlier in my life I took whatever I was offered at whatever wage they offered. That was a symptom of my having no real skills to speak of, my low self-esteem, a culture that placed women as receptionists or secretaries, and/or my having been unbelievably naive and sheltered. I was miserable at all of those early jobs. I was WAY smarter than my bosses and they had no interest in helping someone grow their career.

Today I know better. There is no reason that we have to be miserable at work. Seriously. I saw a job posting where the hiring company put their values into their post. I love when people tell you who they are right up front. In it, they said that success comes from grit and resilience. <cough> Wut?

These days, we spend so much of our lives having to be “resilient” and, frankly, I’m tired of it. My friends in the Black community are tired of having to be resilient, my women friends are tired of having to be resilient, my LGBTQ+ friends are tired of having to be resilient. Our patience is wearing thin.

Resiliency doesn’t make you successful. Suffering doesn’t make you successful. Doing the next right thing, treating people well, being a good human – THAT is what makes us successful. My business didn’t grow because I was ruthless and had grit. It’s because I made good decisions (most of the time) that were thoughtful and kind, that treated my customers with respect, and because I had trusted advisors who encouraged me and taught me. And I brought this traits with me when it was time for me to work for someone else.

We should be rewarding trustworthiness, honesty, and ethics so that our co-workers and employees don’t have to feel like they’re always fighting for their share of the pie. People cannot survive being under a Sword of Damocles all the time. Something has to give.

And, so, I have to practice patience until the right job comes along. It will happen. In the meantime, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing.


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What’s Important – Really

I haven’t done any job search tasks for a couple days. I’ve had other things on my mind.

I know, I know…job hunting is a full time job (and more in some cases) and that should be where all my focus is – blahblahblah. But, like with any job, family still comes first. And so it is with my week.

You see, my granddaughter has been in the hospital for 4 days. She’s been pretty sick. It’s treatable and she’ll be home soon. But in the meantime, the range of emotions is incredible and all-consuming.

Disclaimer: I know that the following is painting parenthood with a broad, sweeping brush and that there are certainly parents who don’t experience this, but in my little corner of the world I only speak for me and my experience as a parent.

I have always been sympathetic and, often, empathetic. Being a mom is like an electrical current, a cord, a connection that is so deep that when my child hurts, I hurt. When my grandchild hurts, I hurt double – once for the grandchild and the pile-on hurt for my child. I physically feel it. My heart clenches, my chest constricts, it’s hard to breathe.

This was my day Thursday. As I was on the phone with my son, I felt his pain acutely. And when he spoke of how scary it is, how helpless he felt watching his daughter as she had a seizure, I felt all of what he was describing – helpless listening to his pain and helpless hearing about her difficulty.

Lemme tell you – it sucked. Big time.

But, also, there was good that came out of it. I felt my heart swell that he felt safe enough to let go with me. And that I felt safe enough to let go with him. We offered each other comfort and understanding – connection. We connected in a way we hadn’t in a while.

And I was so very proud of him and impressed that he could be scared and could cry in front of his son…showing the child that parents are human and experience all the human feelings. He and my DIL are such good, solid parents. I am both proud of them and envious of their parenting skills.

It is impossible for me to clearly and fully explain to my kids, the depth of my feelings for them. How their pain is my pain, their joy is my joy. I just want them to have more happiness than sadness, more peace than anxiety, more of all the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. I think it’s that way for all of us – until our kids become parents themselves.

And, so, this week it has been important to put aside my need to find a job in order to be available for my children and grandchildren. Nothing is more important to me.

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My Job Search As An Older Woman & Caregiver

My Fears & Perspective In This New Timeline

I hesitated to put all that in the title because I didn’t want to risk some potential employer doing their internet search on me and finding out my age or my marital status or that I have caregiving restrictions that keep me close to home. But, then I realized that this is the internet and if they really want to know about me, it’s not exactly hard to find out anything they want. The internet is forever, as we know.

I feel like I’ve been out of work for forever. In reality it’s been a week (go read my series on Time: A Social Construct). What a week it’s been. I’ve been very busy – some may say I’ve been avoiding the emotions, I say I’ve been putting them to good use. I’ve cleared out my office. I’ve rearranged furniture. I’ve torn down a book case and fixed some flooring. I reworked my budget, built this website, and have been working on my resume. I finished watching and taking notes on a mental health program I started 6 weeks ago and I’m taking care of the “legal” and “financial” items that need to be looked at by month’s end.

I have set up a spreadsheet to track my job search and I have even applied for one job already (even without a perfect resume) and have made contact on another job (still looking for a contact in that company).

Phew! I have been busy!

Next week I will start the job hunt in earnest. As they say, looking for a job is a job. Which brings me to the topic at hand. I wonder how much my marital status, age, and position in life will impact my hunt.

Being my age is going to be a struggle to overcome. I know this. I have a ton of life and work experience that is hard to put into a resume. As an example, I set up my account at the unemployment job search site. They wanted me to put in the job titles I want to search for. But they don’t have the things I do and have done: content writer, customer success director, community strategist (not the city planner type of community but in the online tech community type of community), manager – professional services implementation, and other assorted titles that are apparently made up according to my state’s job listing site.

I can’t hide my age. No matter what, I can’t pass for 40. Not in person and not in resume.

Add to that the fact that I really need to work remotely so that I can be here when mom’s caregiver is done with her shift. She works 9-5 Monday through Friday. And mom lives with me so I am the defacto caregiver. Just last Friday we had an incident where I had to make decisions and get her to the ER at 4 in the afternoon. If I was working in office, that would have been untenable. Yes, the caregiver could have called the ambulance (and she did), but she’s done at 5 unless we pre-arrange things. It’s my responsibility to meet the ambulance at the hospital. I take my role as POA very seriously.

So let’s look at job requirements (and “culture” statements) and decipher how they’re written. HR departments have strict laws that they have to follow when setting down requirements. They put their preferences into their statements about what kind of “attitude” or “qualities” they see as valuable in order to not violate employment law. I gave a session at PSU MacAdmins on this topic. Putting my potty mouth aside, I speak to this and many other DEI issues. We had a great time talking about a very serious topic.

Once we get past the age problem, then there’s the issue of being a caregiver. This one has me worried a lot, I won’t lie. I have spent the last few years listening to employers talk about how “nobody wants to work” or “people only want to work from home because they’re lazy” when what they mean is “we don’t want to pay people enough to come into the office.” The research shows that workers are absolutely more productive at home than at work. Additionally, they’re happier and have higher job satisfaction than their in-office counterparts. Workers who are happy with their job, are….yep, you guess it….more productive. In fact, they are 33% more productive.

All that said, that I have to worry about balancing taking a job in an office and adequately caring for my mother is wrong. When I look at it from a lifelong perspective, my income suffered in my younger years because I was caring for my children and now because I’m caring for my mother. Hybrid and in-office scenarios penalize women and caregiving adults.

This is a systemic issue and I, for one, would like to see it solved.

Today, August 15, is Moms Equal Pay Day. My gosh. This should NOT be necessary, for cryin’ out loud. Close the gender pay gap. Normalize work from home wherever possible. Hire the best people for the job. Don’t throw away valuable resources based on a couple of wrinkles and hair color.

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My Blog

This here, this is my blog. It’s new. I’ve never done this before. Welcome to 2023, eh? Today has been a crash course in WordPress. And organization of a site. And learning…lots of learning. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Web designers are amazing. This is hard. There are too many decisions to be made – hosting, email addresses, what to publish, what parts of which pages go where, which theme to use (and what is a theme anyhow and why don’t my pages look like the theme pages?), post or page, and so much more. I just wanted a simple place to put my thoughts, my resume, and document my projects. Is that too much to ask?

I lost my job this past Tuesday. Another round of layoffs. I’ve never gone through this before and the last time I was asked to leave a company was sometime in 1982. I’m out of work for the first time since then. That’s a lot of years of daily schedules and attending to others. I’m new to the world of real job hunting. I looked around for a few years before going to JumpCloud, but not with any real effort. And I was recruited into JumpCloud…I didn’t go looking for that job.

It was a great two years. I had a wonderful experience, I learned a lot, I worked with an incredible team, filled with people I truly admire and respect. They are all, to a one, special people to me. I will miss my team deeply. It was a wonderful time. I wish it could have continued.

Now it’s on to the next adventure. I’m filled with fear, nay terror, and a healthy dose of Imposter Syndrome as I worry about all the things that come with being out of work.

This site is not perfect. It will get better over time. Don’t judge me, k? I’m doing the best I can.

In the meantime, take a look at my most recent speaking engagement from PSU MacAdmins 2023. I had a blast.

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