Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s Time to Explain

Warning: There’s some heavy stuff here.

Compared to the number of years I have been alive a very small fraction of my time and effort has been spent on this blog and yet, within this brief sojourn I have come to realize that there are a number of questions surrounding my decision to not only reveal, but to openly celebrate my life as a shallow person. No one has come right out and said so but I can see it on their faces and hear it in their rather polite chortles as I spell out the name of the blog for them. It’s taken some time, five weeks to be exact, but I have finally figured out what’s going on. Being shallow, people think, is a bad thing, somewhat akin to blasphemy. Surely a woman such as myself, with more than one degree from a recognized institution of higher education, should revel in the pretence warranted by this accomplishment alone. Would my time, they suggest, not be better spent in pursuit of more lofty goals, in seeking rather than eschewing the deeper meaning of my existence on this earth? Why do I shun the gifts I have been given?

And herein lies the misconception. Just because I’m shallow doesn’t mean that I’m not thoughtful or a good person. I’ve simply come to the conclusion that life is about being the best you can be in whatever circumstance befalls you. That’s it. What you see is what you get. No hidden meanings or celestial bodies harbouring the inexplicable in my world. There may be a collective consciousness guiding us upward through some kind of hierarchical pyramid towards self actualization, and that’s fine. If there isn’t one, well I’m ok with that too. If, in fact, life has its little mysteries perhaps that’s just what they were meant to be. It is what it is. You are what you are. Nothing more, nothing less.

Does it work for everyone? Certainly not. But here’s the thing. You will find nary a mind altering drug in my medicine cabinet. No sleepless nights in this house. I know what I’ve got and I’m grateful for it. And I know what others don’t have and try to help where I can. Simple. Uncomplicated. And perhaps just a little uncharacteristically preachy.

So to redeem myself, perhaps ever so slightly, I have created a “Top 10” list (in no particular order) of other reasons you might like being shallow. Not trying convert anyone but if I do, great. If not, well I’m ok with that too.

10 good reasons to be shallow:

  1. Being shallow means never having to say you’re sorry…but you can if you want to.
  2. Watching Seinfeld reruns can be considered an educational activity.
  3. You’ll look smashing in a “Shallow and Proud” t-shirt.
  4. Your yoga class gets to be more about finding the outfits than it is about finding yourself.
  5. Almost everything in life can be boiled down to a “Top 10” list.
  6. You can always root for the winning team.
  7. Do I really have to come up with 10 of these?
  8. Watching Friends reruns ’cause you learn a lot from that too.
  9. Trip planning is easy when all you have to do is visit Hyatt.com (for clarification see “I understand”)
  10. You’ll never feel compelled to justify your way of life….Alright, I might have some work to do on this one.
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Life is a Treadmill

Sometimes life drags you down into the basement. Mostly it’s those times when something big takes hold and you find yourself walking or running as fast as you can without really getting anywhere. You take the necessary steps forward but somehow wind up standing in the same place. Each time you think you’ve climbed the last hill you find yourself back at the bottom having to fight your way up again. Your window on the world is fuzzy and perhaps a little distorted. A quiet drone resonates in your head as your thoughts ricochet from one to another never really landing long enough to gain clarity. And just when you think you can’t go on any longer you stop, take a deep breath, and know you can make it if you really try.

Oh Geez! As I reread that first paragraph I’m imagining the puzzled look on your faces as you think “What the heck happened to the shallow blog?”. I know she said writing about being shallow might make her less shallow but we didn’t really think that could happen.” Mea Culpa! I just realized that I should have titled this post “Life on a Treadmill” rather than “Life is a Treadmill” which would have made much more sense and been infinitely less confusing. But since I didn’t and you might be reading too much into this, perhaps seeking some deeper meaning, let me re-explain.

Every night this week I’ve been in the basement on the treadmill trying to shed a little poundage which, through no fault of my own but rather as a result of the extra harsh winters we enjoy here in the north country, I have managed to acquire. I just want to buy myself some summer duds and since I’m not one to embrace change (at least not this kind), I would prefer to buy them in the same size I wore last year. Right now this weight loss thing is playing a significant role in my life so I’m thinking, what better to write about. To pass the time while on the treadmill I watch whatever reality TV show happens to be on the tube (yes, my TV has one) and because it’s an old 27” set, I’m having some trouble getting a clear picture. There are times I wonder if I can keep going but I’m pretty sure that if I can get through Steven Tyler’s unimaginably incomprehensible banter that is supposed to pass as his contribution to the development of the young men and women who have little choice but to pretend they understand what he is saying, I can get through anything.

That’s it! That’s all I was trying to say. Amazing what a difference one tiny little word can make. Have another look, you’ll see what I mean.

Obsessed with the blog

I know I haven’t posted for almost a week, but here’s the thing. My greatest fear has been realized. You will recall in my second post I posited that blogging about being shallow might make me less shallow. I have to be honest, the only reason I got into this blogging thing was because of the enormous potential blogs have to generate wealth. I did my research, I know there are financially successful blogs out there. I mean if “Stuff White People Like” can make money surely a blog about being and becoming shallow can’t be far behind. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a “Shallow and Proud” t-shirt to wear at their next school reunion or better yet, a “Shallow Be My Name” mug to display prominently on their desk at work? But now that seemingly flippant, off-the-cuff question, created for the primary purpose of literary symmetry, has come back to bite me pretty hard. It would appear that this blog has elicited in me a response that most other things in my life have failed to do and I have become obsessed. If I actually believed it could happen I might say I am having an out of body experience.

I first noticed that things might be going sideways when I found myself incessantly hitting the refresh button to see how many hits I had. The robust tracking that WordPress provides is both a blessing and a curse. At about the same time my followers grew to eight, far exceeding my wildest dreams not to mention RC’s predictions which had seemed like a pipedream to me at the time. So what if RC is my brother who writes an awesomely funny blog on another network which I don’t think I can mention here, and I follow him. Who cares that another is a colleague of mine who, at my suggestion, decided that being a follower was easier than typing in the URL. The three followers who work for me really do have a choice, and our HR person may or may not be following for the sole purpose of compiling evidence for my next performance review. And I am sure that other bloggers have even more than two friends committed to following if for no other reason than to show their support. The very fact that there are eight has made me a believer that one day someone I don’t know will become a follower too.

Next I started telling everyone about the blog, sharing the URL at meetings encouraging my faculty colleagues to visit if only because it is “an interesting link with a rather well developed instructional component”, masterfully slipping it into conversations with people I only very occasionally run into at the grocery store (the tomatoes are lovely and on sale and did you know I am writing a blog now?) and even getting friends and family to share it with their friends and family on facebook. Apparently while in some kind of euphoric state resulting from yet another comment made in response to a posting, I even promised to buy my Mother a computer just to increase my readership.

All of this has led me to spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in my favourite chair writing, rewriting, editing, re-editing and generally musing about what to write next. I even pre-write, and for those of you who don’t have the same formal English credentials as I, that’s when you run out of the bathroom, jot down an idea in its most primitive form returning later to flesh it out and give it the attention it deserves. But while I can define this process it still seems odd to me. In university I didn’t even know what a first draft was! I hardly recognize myself anymore. This is not what I do! At least it wasn’t what I did, but now apparently it is. For those who have taken the time not only to read but to comment and engage in the more personal back and forth banter with the author exploiting the interactive nature of what would otherwise be a rather one dimensional medium and for those whose comments are still swirling in their minds not yet ready to be openly expressed, I will continue to write.

Yes I am afraid that writing about being shallow has in fact become an obsession, worse perhaps, a passion, and damn it! it hasn’t made me one red cent yet.

Forgetting…it’s an art

Most people who know me well have come to understand that I have a bad memory. It’s not your run of the mill “oh gosh, where *did* I leave those keys last night?” kind of bad memory. What they know me to have is a bona fide, non-discriminating bad memory. No sense talking about long or short term in my case. I can forget almost everything. All of the time. Which begs the question, if you know you have a problem, why not try to improve? You’re thinking that with just a modicum of effort I could wrestle this to the ground. Surely there are some good “how to improve your memory” books in the library. Or really, is it too much trouble to pick up a bottle of “Remember Fx” on the next visit to Costco? Isn’t there a motivational speaker out there with some “tricks and tips” to deal with this kind of thing? Why don’t you do something about it?

Truth be told, and I am only sharing this with you because you are reading my blog, my memory isn’t really as bad as people think. Don’t get me wrong…I can’t hold a candle to my 96 year old Mother who at the drop of a hat can rattle off every 10 digit phone number she has ever dialed and accurately recall the cost of six steaks in September 1964. But I did live through the ‘60s and sometimes, much to my chagrin, there are parts of it I do still remember. The reality is, early in my career it became quite evident that having a bad memory could work to my advantage and, as a shallow person it was incumbent upon me to exploit whatever advantages I had. Here’s what I’ve found:

  1. When you are upfront about having a bad memory people cut you some slack. “You probably didn’t remember that we set up a meeting yesterday so let’s try again tomorrow”.
  2. Before you know it they will not only excuse you but actually blame themselves for your forgetfulness. “I’m sorry, I should have sent you a reminder about our meeting yesterday”.
  3. Everyone confides in you, confident in your ability to keep their secret. You learn a lot that way.
  4. When the secret gets out, no one will ever suspect it was you who “spilled the beans”. “It couldn’t have been her…she never remembers anything!”.
  5. Your friends feel special when you remember to send them a birthday card, even when it’s belated. “Thank you so much, I can’t believe you remembered me!”

As you read this I’m pretty sure you’re wondering if having a bad memory can work for you too. And I’ve been thinking, why write a blog if I can’t take a risk, which is why I have decided not only to ‘fess up, perhaps more than I had originally intended, but also to share some of the ways I have been able to hone my skills. Forgetting is a bit of an art so don’t be discouraged if things don’t change for you overnight. It’s taken me years to get as good as I am at this so think of these as a place to start.

  1. Be upfront and tell people. “I’ll try my best to be there but I’m afraid I have a really bad memory”. They’ll love how honest you are with them and you’ll start to reap the benefits almost right away. (see #1 above)
  2. Spend a little time at the mirror perfecting a blank stare, and once you have that down add a little shrug of the shoulders for effect.
  3. Make “to do” lists…lots of them. Place them conspicuously on your desk. When someone asks you to do something look them straight in the eye and say “just let me write that down so I don’t forget”.
  4. At least once, preferably in a meeting, deny that you were the originator of a really good idea you’re given credit for. Since everyone else will insist it was your idea there is little downside and it’s an effective way to make people believe.
  5. About once a week walk out of your office with a determined look on your face. Halfway down the hall, in view of as many people as possible, stop suddenly with a quizzical look on your face, shake your head and return sheepishly to your desk.
  6. I know there are more but I’m afraid I can’t remember them right now.

WWAFS

I default to wearing black T-shirts. It’s not like I get up in the morning and say “I think I’ll wear a black T-shirt today”. It’s just that as I stand in my closet trying to decide what to wear I gravitate to them. It’s easy. I mean, what doesn’t go with a black T-shirt? Throw a cardi over it and you’ve got an outfit. And I’m ok with that…at least I was ok with it until one day when I was visiting my Auntie Fannie (have I mentioned she’s 93 years old and lives with my Mother) she looked at me and said “you should wear something more feminine”.

Now I had never really thought about my black t-shirts in this way, nor for that matter my Toms, which I wear primarily for the dual purpose of making me appear to be a good person while still looking cool. But now that my Auntie Fannie mentioned it, I realized that not only was she being honest, she was also being right. And while some people may have been less than pleased with this sudden revelation I knew that at that very moment Auntie Fannie had just made my life infinitely easier. Here’s why.

As a shallow person the decision-making process has never been particularly onerous since I usually just vacillate between “whatever” and “sure”, the latter being infinitely more positive than the former. But where things sometimes fall apart is in the level of confidence I have in my decisions. I am not always confident that I am making the right decision. The problem is that I don’t really have a reliable barometer to measure my decisions against. But at the very moment that my Auntie Fannie called me out on my attire I knew that my days of uncertainty were over. I knew that all I needed to do when making a decision was listen to that little voice in my head that implored me to consider what Auntie Fannie would say (WWAFS). I mean what more can you ask for from any decision than it be honest and right? And since it’s working so well for me I thought it could help you too.

You may have your own “Auntie Fannie” (if so just make the necessary changes to the acronym) but if you don’t you can use mine. Trust me, she’ll never give you a bum steer. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a safe bet, put your money on me wearing a dress next time I go for a visit.

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