Category: life

How To Be Less Judgmental + More Empathetic

Are you trying to be less judgmental? It's so hard! But being judgmental affects our careers, our friendships, and our relationships. Click through for how to how to dial it down
 
A few months ago on a flight to warmer locales, a friend and I spent an hour discussing our greatest personal failings.
Over tiny bags of peanuts and plastic cups of Diet Coke we dissected our most disappointing qualities. Luckily (?) we share the same less-than-pleasant tendencies:
1. a tendency to judge others’ “bad decisions”
2. an equal-if-not-greater tendency to lack empathy for the fallout of “bad decisions”
“I hate this about myself but I can’t stop. And I can’t seem to reason my way out of it. I really, deeply believe that life is about choices and if you make the wrong choices, that’s not my problem,” she said.
“I know. I know! Intellectually, I realize that I’ll never know anyone’s back story or why they made those choices. But in practice I’m just SO SURE I’m right. And I’m not, of course. I’m not any more ‘right’ than anyone else. It’s so gross. Like, I need to read a book about how to be more empathetic,” I mumbled through three bags of peanuts.
Of course, we weren’t talking about things that are beyond anyone’s control – we were busy being judgmental assholes about things like credit card debt and drinking Mountain Dew with every meal and bringing 35 items into the 10-item-only express check out.
We landed, enjoyed our trip, and didn’t mention our shared asshole-ery again but it was a conversation that lodged itself deep in my heart + mind. How could I get past my judgmental habit? How could I have empathy for people who annoyed me, disappointed me, took too long in the express lane?

The answer, for me, lies in this phrase + mind shift:

'I'm willing to see that this person did their best.' Click To Tweet

We all have extenuating circumstances and ‘best’ can vary a lot from person to person and day to day. I’ve had days where my personal best was driving 40 miles an hour along the shoulder of the highway, panicking about that orange engine light.
I’ve had days where my personal best was putting on a video for my students and crying in the bathroom and days where my best was wearing yesterday’s clothes and eating Cheetos for breakfast.
And in those moments and days of weakness and misery, I would have loved if others could see that this mess was my best. If I want that for myself, can’t I extend that grace to other people?
I can’t see into that person’s morning or their week or their life. I don’t know what lead them to that express lane with 35 items, but I can make space to acknowledge that maybe this is what their best looks like today. And I can be thankful that (at least today) my best doesn’t look like crying in the bathroom, eating Cheetos.
Do you struggle with being judgmental? How do you get past it?
Photo by Alex wong on Unsplash

New Thing: Take a pottery class

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try; it’s part of how I live my life on purpose. Some of these new things are exciting, many are terribly mundane.

Guys, this is the post where I shatter our collective dream that throwing pottery is exactly like that scene from Ghost.

Or perhaps more accurately, it’s not like that scene from Ghost if you’re throwing pottery and drinking wine out of paper cups with three of your girlfriends because you got a Groupon.

Prior to this Groupon adventure, I’d never set hands on a potter’s wheel, happy to stick to the roll-and-pinch techniques of third grade art class. Despite my lack of experience, after watching our teacher throw a pot in – no exaggeration – 35 seconds I was fairly convinced that
a. this would be totes easy
b. obviously, I would be a natural at it

Now, if you’ve ever tried to make something on a potter’s wheel you know that it is actually shockingly hard. Like, maybe you shouldn’t try to do it while drinking wine and chatting about Emily’s job and Laura’s classes and Meredith’s next trip. Maybe you should, you know, pay really close attention and concentrate, Sarah.

After many, many false starts, I developed a decent throwing method that paired “Shhhh don’t talk to me I’m doing this!” + staring + stopping as soon as any given pot looked okay-ish/before I could ruin it.

Really, this is a method I imagine I could apply to many, many things in my life.

After we’d all created a few fireable pieces our intrepid leader showed us how to make and attach handles and let us choose a glaze. I chose matte black in an attempt to make my pieces look more ‘Pier 1’ and less ‘Eighth Grade Art Class.’

All in all, it was a really lovely way to spend an afternoon and a great value when you consider you’re getting two hours of fun, four pottery pieces and lots of little paper cups of wine. If you’re in the Twin Cities, check it out!

Have you ever taken a pottery class? How’d it go for you? What advice would you give beginners?

P.S. The time I went to a dog show and the time I took a pole dancing class.

A Nerdy Analogy To Help You Navigate Tough Stuff

difficult times
A few weeks ago, I was pacing the floor/wringing my hands/generally being wound up and annoying in the vicinity of my man-partner.
I nattered on about 2015 and all the big, exciting, really difficult things that are coming my way this year. I talked (at length) about all the articles I was reading and the books I’d ordered so I could research everything in exhausting, minute detail. I discussed the counsel I’d sought in experienced friends and professionals.
I couldn’t shake the belief that no matter what I do, or how I prepare, I’m going to screw it up, ruin my business, and fall into a carb coma so deep I’ll never dig myself out from beneath all those buttered noodles.
After listening to me drone on for hours a few minutes, that calm, kind man said reminded me of a plot point featured in nearly every fantasy/sci-fi/magical book his sons read:
The wizard in the woodsWhen you’re the hero of your own story, you very frequently begin your journey with a cape and a staff and a interaction with a wise, mysterious wizard.

He’ll appear beside a gnarled tree and tell you all about the amazing things that await once you reach your goal. Gold! Self actualization! A castle! Your very own dragon!

But – he cautions you – your journey will be fraught with peril. You’ll meet temptation and distraction. You’ll doubt yourself, your travel companions, you’ll question why you ever started on this stupid adventure anyway.

It will be challenging because that’s the nature of adventure.
This is what happens when you go after what you want.

You’ll be required to show persistence and bravery. Yes, this will be hard, but you knew that. Hell, you expected that.

I immediately felt better. I have a tendency (like many of us) to only do things I’m good at. Apparently I also believe that research and preparation will protect me and if something’s hard, I’m doing it wrong.
But a lot of things in life – big career choices, friendships and relationships, huge athletic goals, moving to a new city – are hard and right. Next time you’re engaged in floor-pacing and hand-wringing, I’d encourage you to remember that wizard in the woods. This is your path and your adventure. You can do this.
Do you have a go-to analogy that helps you navigate hard times? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
P.P.S. No, I’m not pregnant nor am I attempting to become so. 🙂
photo by Ben Clarke // cc

Christmas For Lazy People (Like Me)

Guys, I’m not going to write any gift guides this year or host any giveaways.
I’m not above it (because who doesn’t like free stuff?) but there are about a million other bloggers who do that better than I do, so I’m going to stick to what I do best: trying new things, interviewing people, finding good links, eatin’ cheese.
Of course, I’ve written holiday-centric things in the past. And, lo! Here they are!
 

What Is Your “Church”?

 

“Every time I go there I cry. It’s my church.”

So said my friend Amber as we munched hipster fusion tacos amidst exposed brick and wooden beams in Silverlake.
She was talking about the Griffith Observatory and their Centered On The Universe film.
I was wondering what that even means and picking the chicken out of my $7 taco.For most of my adult life, I’ve given religion and spirituality less thought than I’ve given my bangs.
Or what I’m eating for breakfast. Or how my ass looks in those jeans.
Which is to say – very, very little thought.

When I visit my parents, I’ll occasionally attend the church I grew up in because I want to say hello to all those sweet little old ladies. I went to a Universal Unitarian church once. I love partaking in my guy’s (totally atheist) Jewish holidays.

When people start talking about crystals and chakras and “communing with blahblahblah whatever” I mentally assemble my shopping list and consider my cuticles with undue scrutiny.

But Amber’s comment got me thinking. What does church mean? What would church feel like to me, the most Agnostic and deeply unspiritual of humans?

Coincidentally (or by divine intervention?) just a few days after our conversation, Amber and I attended a workout class with one Mr. Richard Simmons.

We danced. We sang and shouted in unison with people we’d just met, making eye contact and grinning while we high kicked. I moved my body in a way that brought me that down-to-the-bone, childlike joy. I felt connected and happy and part of something bigger that myself – even if that something was just a studio full of happy, sweaty strangers.

As completely ridiculous as it sounds, I finally understood my friend and her version of spirituality by sweating to the oldies.

And little by little, I started taking note of those tiny moments when I would well up with happy tears or chest-swelling connection.  Those moments have become my personal version of church.

For me, church takes place any time
I’m making music with people I love,
I’m alone with the sun and a huge, open sky,
I get completely lost in what I’m doing and I feel connected to the task at hand – dancing, writing, cooking, scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush.

Your church is any space that fills + thrills you. It’s any gathering of people that brings you tangible joy. 

 

Do you subscribe to an organized religion? Do you think of yourself as spiritual? When do you feel most connected? What is your church? 

photo by Robert Couse-Baker // cc

New Thing: See A Movie At ‘The Heights’ (+ voting with your money)

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some are easy, some are suuuuuper hard (at least for me) and some are so, so mundane and easy to complete. You can read about previous adventures here. 

Tell me if you guys know this feeling:
Lean-forward-in-your-seat fascination
I-should-probably-be-embarrassed-I’m-this-excited grinning
A just barely suppressed desire to clap like a toddler

It pains me to admit that riding a Segway gave me this feeling and most recently, I experienced this while watching an elderly gentleman toot away on a restored Wurlitzer as they slowly rose out of a stage in a gorgeous, historic theater in Northeast Minneapolis. As our organist tootled through his repertoire of show tunes (including ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘Give My Regards To Broadway,’ obviously) the lights on the Wurlitzer changed color and I leaned back in my comfy, velvet seat, grinning like an idiot.

Growing up in rural Minnesota, it was a major point of pride that our town of 2,000 had a movie theater. Sure, we only had one stoplight but we had art deco murals, a marquee filled with blinking yellow lights, reasonably priced popcorn, and a screen twice as big as what you’d find in those cineplexes.

So when I heard about The Heights’ live, pre-show Wurlitzer performance and their $8 indie movies I couldn’t wait to hunker down and engage in some good old fashioned nostalgia. It was so wonderful and sweet I promptly signed up for their newsletter and announced to all and sundry that this is where you can expect to find me every Friday night this winter.
Ass in chair, grinning like a dork at a light up organ.

And on a related note, I’d like to pull out a tiny soap box and remind you of something you already know: 
We vote with our dollars.

Each time we spend money at an independently owned business that gives back to the community and pays employees a living wage, we’re voting for the kind of world we want.
When we go to a movie at The Heights rather than Mann Cinema, we’re voting for light up organs, thought-provoking movies, and community engagement. We’re voting against $10 popcorn and movies like this.
Rant finished.
If you’re interested in your own vintage theater experience, there are still tons all over the U.S.: The Riverview (this is in the Twin Cities and I go there all the time! Movies are $3!), The Orpheum Theater in L.A., The Byrd Theater in Richmond, VA, The Senator Theater in Baltimore, MD, The Castro Theater in San Francisco, The Fargo Theater, The Alabama Theater, Screenland Armour in Kansas City, Galaxy Drive-In in Ennis, TXThe Tampa Theater (I saw a movie here in March and it was AMAZING.)Do you have an awesome, historic movie theater near you? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll edit this post to include it!
interior photo by twincities.com