In the Darkness

Every several months I take a social media fast. Not that I think there’s anything inherently wrong with being on Facebook, Twitter and the like, but over time scrolling through the noise becomes deafening. So I stop. I let the urge to click, refresh, scroll down, refresh, express my emotion instantly, scroll, and get lost in the labyrinth of friends’ profiles pass me by, even as my fingers seek the keys instinctively. There are days that in my search bar I start typing “Face….” and stop myself just in time, although often I click enter before I can stop myself and come face to face with the tempting log in screen. It’s a daily battle with myself, which I hope will make me stronger in the long run.
The silence hits. Seconds, minutes, hours open up to a new possibility. Where once my eyes perused a 4-inch screen to discover its every last message, now I begin seeing the little details around me. My mind begins to flirt with thoughts that I’ve shut out for months or ignored vehemently by seeking an alternative train of thought at the touch of a button.
Am I enough? My mind searches desperately for a reason to escape giving an answer. Do I need to forgive? Maybe there are dishes that still need to be washed, laundry that needs to be folded, a room that still needs to be vacuumed. Do they really care? Reading is supposed to be good for you, maybe it’s time to pull an old classic from the bookshelf and lose myself in the prose of an author who actually had it all figured out. Am I where I should be? I bet there are still some unanswered emails in my inbox, and it would be rather rude not to respond to them right away, even though they’re from last week. What do I need to change?
It’s in the silence, deliberating with myself, that I start to hear the squeaks in what I once thought was a well-oiled instrument, accentuating areas that need tending to, especially in the painful-to-reach corners. The unnerving process of confronting each thought head on often gives me a headache. It’s not like I’m going to figure out the answers to all of my questions right now anyway. So why try?

These thoughts lead to somewhere in the darkness. Maybe the darkness is exactly where I need to be from time to time.

Day 13: Office Decorating 101

So today during lunch I ran across an interesting article about 13 Things Your Desk Says About You. While the concept of personal marketing isn’t necessarily new to me, the thought of my desk playing a part of that certainly is. Of course I glanced hesitantly over my workspace realizing how much dust had accumulated in the corners. I’m not necessarily a talented decorator. 


Day 13: For better or worse, the condition of your workspace reflects on you. The article touched on things like “too many post-its,” “too many pictures of your family,” “too many toys” (or not enough toys if you’re a creative type) and “too many pictures of travels.” The main point to me seemed to be balance and mindfulness. Be conscious of what everything you have at your desk represents something about you. I’ll keep my post-its (hey, it’s how I process), but I may be more mindful to throwaway notes I no longer need. I’ll keep up pictures of my husband, because I like him well enough, but I keep those in a corner just for me. I still think it’s very important for mental health to keep happy triggers at work. But yes, everything we have in public gives a clue to who we are, so choose wisely.


I’m sure this lesson extend to many aspects of life. But maybe that’ll be a lesson for another day.

Day 8: Distract yourself

My inspirational outlet at work comes in the form of Banangram tiles. While working, I spend a fair amount of day looking for just the right word to express a given thought accurately. But what I love about these tiles is there is no “best” word (unless you’re playing strategically I guess). I get to sit back and search for a word that doesn’t need to express any particular meaning, but rather just happens to fit the letters I have in front of me. It’s freeing. For me it feels like the difference between baking for fun as opposed to out of hunger. 
Although I will admit, I’m always a little afraid that the words I find reveal something about my subconscious self. There are days when I find several negative words in a row, and I start to worry about my state of mind. But for the most part that theory sounds a bit too much like some sort of Facebook spam, “The first 3 words you find in this crossword reveal what you’re really like!” 
I realized something today on day 8: There is such thing as good distractions. I’ve never really thought of distractions in a positive light, and especially in a setting such as work. I was often called distracting growing up (though I’m sure it had nothing to do with my “look at me, look at me!” requests). By very definition a distraction is something that impedes concentration, and concentration is good, right? Right. But. We may find a few obvious “good distractions” such as distracting someone from physical pain like when getting a shot or keeping them from fixating on something negative. I always enjoyed distracting my nephews from their favorite noisy, obnoxious toy when they were little. But work isn’t necessarily negative, so why would you want to distract yourself from that? I see a lot of value from allowing your brain an opportunity to change gears, especially if you work in a creative field. But at the same time I think it’s important to control your own distraction. If others are always distracting you, you have little control over when you get back to a concentrated state. However if you take 5 minutes away for a specific task (such as Bananagrams), you are in charge of getting yourself back as well. Because distractions will come in one form or another, so why not be the one controlling the narrative?

Day 3: Enjoy!

Welcome to day 3! It’s been a lazy Saturday with relatively little drama. We learned a bit more about the inner workings of generosity this morning at church and celebrated our 11 month anniversary. It may not sound like a long time, but being locked up in a tiny apartment with me for 11 months is probably enough to drive most normal people crazy. I feel like there were a lot of interesting life lessons today, especially from this morning’s sermon. Remember, people aren’t grateful for what they feel entitled to, so live as if everything is a gift. Deep right? Pastor Mike said it much more convincingly.
But I’m going to cheat and use the wise saying from my Yogi Tea for today’s lesson. Day 3: The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment. Ok, so I’m not sure if I agree with this 100%. I think that looking out for others is important, and true love is selfless. And life certainly isn’t a marathon of happiness. We, unfortunately, live in a fallen world and deal with a lot of bad stuff. 
But, I do see a whole lot of value in enjoying every moment, especially with sense of appreciation. Especially the little moments. Enjoy doing the laundry, not because it’s fun (unless it is for you) but because you have clothes, you don’t have to do them by hand (so glad that chapter of my life is over for now). Not that every moment will be fun, but can possibly be enjoyed. Today some of my greatest moments were strange misunderstandings with my husband, which under the wrong attitude (read: if I was feeling moody) could have led to arguments and hurt feelings, but were instead turned into an opportunity to laugh together at ourselves. There’s a big difference in my mind between enjoying the task, and enjoying moments. I may not always love going to work, but I love the little moments of interaction with my coworkers. I certainly don’t enjoy doing the dishes, but seeing the process of something going from used and dirty to clean and orderly is addicting. Cooking isn’t always my thing but put on a little salsa music and it becomes a whole production in my kitchen. 
So tonight, maybe you don’t have anything “enjoyable” planned, but stop a few times and ask yourself “Am I enjoying myself right now?” And if you aren’t (which is very possible) figure out one small thing you could do to fix that. Because a life well lived is a live well enjoyed.

The office is the new classroom

Did you ever read the book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarden? I remember that being such a innovative piece for its time, though I never read it. However the concept was still clear, what are the basic life lessons that can be applied to adult life? It’s a brilliant philosophy but I think that I went a bit too far in my application of it. And yes, that’s probably what I get for not reading the book. I (mistakenly) found myself feeling that, apart from knowledge and such, when it comes to life lessons as they say, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy to live life with your head down. It’s easy to do and frequently it makes life easier as well. But like mom always used to tell me, “easier is not always better.” It may be easier to stay in one’s hometown, but many people find new knowledge and experiences by going away to college or around the world. But don’t be fooled, there is no way to live that guarantees a life without problems. So you may as well choose difficult paths that help mold you into a stronger, smarter and more equipped person.

With all this in mind, I’ve started opening up my eyes a bit more at work. If you’re going to spend 40+- hours in one place every week you may as well spend it in a determined way. I’ve been keeping track recently of the broader life lessons that I’ve learned at my office. Here are just a few, without getting too specific about the circumstances that brought me to these lessons.

  • Staying in the middle of an issue does not always shield you from criticism from either/both extremes.
  • As an “expert” it’s your job to be ready to learn and ready to teach at any given time. Never think you only have to do one or the other.
  • One of the most valuable things to know is what is important to those around you. Understand them, learn what makes them tick. 
  • Plan as you may, there will always be someone around you who forgot to plan at all. While there lack of planning doesn’t have to be your emergency, plan a little bit of flexibility into your time just in case.
  • The best benefit a job can have is someone in your line of sight that understands you. Nothing compares to looking up in a moment of panic or stress to have someone looking back with an understanding or comical look on their face.
  • Some of the most unexpected people can bring the greatest of inspiration. Learn from everyone. You never know what information from another field can be applied to your own. 
  • Make the extra effort to share with others how your field can improve their work life. People will care more about what you do when they see how it impacts them. 

Those are the lessons for a few days at least. What else have you learned about life from work?

    A Cup of Tea

    Here at work, our department is full of tea drinkers. It seems as if the pot is always boiling or at very least, always hot. Our “chocolate drawer” is actually filled with tea bags. July and August were perhaps our highest months of tea consumption, despite the heat. Even our office plants drink (cooled down, left over) tea; they grow like weeds now. In short, we are a tea office.

    I must say there is something so fabulous about a cup of tea. The hot water melts away stress built up slowly throughout the day. The soft flavor awakens sensitivity to the hints of subtle beauty in the world. The warmth of the cup soaks into your hands reigniting the consciousness of the connection between the mind, heart and body. And a conversation on the other side of a hot cup of tea resinates longer in your ears, reaching further into the depths of your soul. Nothing quite compares to the morning’s first cup of tea.

    I once had a grief counselor talk to me about the value of “sitting down to have a cup of tea with your grief.” The basic concept is to become friends with your grief, face it straight on, experience it and understand it instead of avoiding it. Once this daily or weekly meeting is over, stand up and live the rest of your day away from your grief. I can think of no better setting to address such a difficult reality on a regular basis, with a hot cup of tea soothing the one wound which takes the longest to scar.

    I am sure you have heard the theory of people being like tea. It is when we are put in hot water (difficult circumstances) that our true flavor (character) can bloom and be fully appreciated. Or maybe that is not a common thought, and I just created a brilliant new metaphor. Someday I will revisit that thought.

    Excuse me, I have to get back to work; it’s tea time.