Category Archives: stoicism

Thoughts on “Bad Husbands,” Activism and What We Can All Do That Matters

“Motherhood seems to be a no-win battle: however you decide to do (or not do) it, someone’s going to be criticizing you. You went to too great lengths trying to conceive. You didn’t go to great enough lengths. You had the baby too young. You should have kept the baby even though you were young. You shouldn’t have waited so long to try and have a baby. You’re a too involved mother. You’re not involved enough because you let your child play on the playground alone. It never ends.

It strikes me that while all this judgment goes on, the options available to women become fewer and fewer. I’m not even (just) talking about the right to choose—across the U.S., women have less access to birth control, health care, reproductive education, and post-partum support. So we give women less information about their bodies and reproduction, less control over their bodies, and less support during and after pregnancy—and then we criticize them fiercely for whatever they end up doing. This seems not only unfair to me but a recipe for societal disaster.” Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

(Thanks to Loribeth for this quote and an excellent book review)

I’ve made a couple of comments elsewhere centered around one larger issue, but figure at this point I should just write a full-blown blog post.

I’ve had several recent conversations with friends who’ve admitted they’ve fallen into a state of constant MSNBC watching, which in turn makes them feel powerless and worried for the future. I think many of us are worried about the rights of women, which are being eroded at a rapid rate here in the US in individual states. We’re worried about the looming catastrophe of global warming, this existential threat hovering over us all like a huge army of white walkers.

Meanwhile, on social media (and media in general) there is a circus going on distracting valuable allies from these real issues at stake. A new skirmish has ignited a battle over household inequality, and how many chores men do vs. women. Writers with books to sell are offering tales of how their husbands don’t do enough chores, tying these stories to overall research showing men do less than women. Is this research reputable? Probably…but do these hot takes help solve this problem? I’m going to say no.

Why not? Isn’t venting to our friends about how much our husbands/partners suck helpful? Well, it depends. Some interesting research has shown that venting can go in two different ways: co-brooding or co-reflection.

Co-brooding is “…the tendency to talk about problems in a passive way, wishing things had turned out differently and feelings of disappointment and dejection would simply go away…co-brooders also tend to focus on all the potentially bad consequences of a particular problem, often predicting future catastrophe.”

Co-brooding also can lead to depressive symptoms in all parties doing the venting. So, that’s not great.

On the other hand, there could be a right way to vent.

Co-reflection “…involves speculating about specific elements of a problem in order to gain a greater understanding of the situation. Using information gleaned from this process, individuals attempt to either seek a solution or prevent the negative event from occurring in the future. In co-reflection, individuals address their problems with the assumption they can do something about them.”

As a Stoic, I love anything that involves “doing something about it.”

And we can! So think of this post as a co-reflection with you all on how to make societal changes, so we don’t get caught co-brooding while Rome burns.

What can we do?

The best chance to change existing social policy is to help elect the right people–at the local, state and national level. The right people who support closing the wage gap, working mothers, subsidized childcare and reproductive rights. So basically, Democrats mostly. (Do your research.)

So how do we do this, as a tiny peon? Groups like Indivisible and Swing Left can help.

Here’s a few campaigns that I think can be impactful:

This campaign, focused on winning back key legislative chambers in 9 critical states in 2020
Send postcards to votes
Make 5 calls
Check out Grumpy Rumblings

Don’t forget–all the collective activism helped in the mid-terms.

4 Comments

Filed under stoicism

Final 2019 Goal Potpourri

img_5258

I’m finally done mapping out my goals for 2019. Here are the final categories.

Career

I co-own my own business, which I started with a business partner almost two years ago. The biggest advantage of being a business owner is quite a lot is under my control. But obviously there are elements–like the economy for example–that are not.

Because of this, I try to create one career goal that is under my control and one that might be a stretch. One of my goals is revenue related (sort of / not really under my control), and one is a goal that is pretty doable.

I won’t specify my revenue goal here, but for purposes of documentation:

xx Monthly Run Rate by End of 2019

Get one feature story in key trade publication about our business

Hobby

I want to write in this space regularly, and detail more thoughtfully the value of stoicism. This should take two forms: practical tips on managing the day-to-day and more philosophically, what stoic beliefs are particularly uplifting for women. I think many women are turned off by even the word, yet there are all these key concepts that are so useful!

The other portion is perhaps communicating the values of stoicism via an Instagram account. I don’t love IG, and stopped using it a while back. But I do think it might be a good vehicle for this.

Write on site twice a week, figure out Instagram

Politics

I keep up with politics mostly through the New York Times (which I subscribe to), action-oriented sites like Grumpy Rumblings and emails I’ve signed up for. I can’t deal with the 24-hour news cycles. All those THIS JUST IN bulletins make me feel panicky and helpless. I make my calls, send my emails and donate to causes. Last year, I focused my efforts on the Kavanaugh hearing and the mid-term elections.

If I had to name it, the single biggest global issue I care most about is global warming. The messaging around it is so dire, and the impacts threaten us all. This year, I want to focus my political action on making community-wide changes. While we can all recycle and try to use less fossil fuels individually, the truth is we need to enact big changes around the world to make a difference. So I am going to work with climate change organizations.

My focus will be on trash–helping more communities (like my parents community) to get curbside recycling services. 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it was easier, and household bins taken to the curbside weekly is about as easy as it gets.

Help more communities get curbside recycling services

Phew, that’s it! I am curious: do you have your own recycling (and composting) bins provided by your city or community?

More about my 2019 goals:

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Productivity, stoicism

A Stoic’s Take on How to Be Functional in a Chaotic World

IMG_5987.jpg

I started reading seriously about stoicism around 2013, and began applying it to my life. Last year, it really gelled.

Stoicism has made me a much more functional person, able to complete tasks and take pleasure in my day-to-day life. Some people refer to this as “adulting.” I mostly successfully navigate all my different functions: wife, mother, business owner, friend and family member.

Here are the key tenets I use every day, taken from my reading of stoicism, to be as functional as possible:

  • I think about how to be the best me I can be, rather than compare myself to others
  • I control what I can control, and I let the rest go
  •  I think about worst case scenarios–loved ones being gone, losing our home–when the day-to-day seems overwhelming. This helps put into perspective how great my life IS at this particular moment.

Our World is Chaotic and Life Can Be Hard

There are obviously real issues in our time like global warming, student debt and income inequality.  These are complex institutional issues largely out of one individual’s control, that need to change via legislation. We can and should make our voices heard through action–calling our legislators, donating money to campaigns if we can and volunteering. That is the only clear path to real institutional change.

So, yes. These major issues cause stress. But that doesn’t mean burnout or unhappiness are the end result. There are things we can do as individuals to adapt to our environment.

Stoicism was invented by ancient Greek philosophers, who lived during a pretty terrible time. Disease was prevalent and mortality rates weren’t great. Political instability was a given. The only real belief system was a fatalistic religion that consisted of gods and goddesses treating humans like play things.

Stoicism was developed to help people in ancient Greece and later Rome deal with their hectic, chaotic world. Former slave Epictetus famously taught his followers that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

How does this apply today? Well, we can use stoic concepts to help us control what we CAN control, and let go of what we can’t control.

Here are my stoic tips for a functional life:

  • Strive to be your best self. Use goals to keep yourself accountable.
  • Don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control.
  • Work with others to produce action, and try to make needed change.
  •  Don’t compare yourself to others. Not your parents, not your friends and certainly not celebrities.
  • Create good habits to help you be your best self. The best technique I’ve seen is to know your tendency and use it.

What are your tips for being functional? How do you “adult”? 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Productivity, stoicism

The Dangers of “Being Real” — Or Why Authenticity Can Become Toxic

IMG_4070

Lately I have noticed the same topic coming up again and again, everywhere I go.*

Whether offline, online, listening to podcasts, reading a book or watching Netflix, I’ve noticed people praising the virtue of “authenticity.” Core to the value of authenticity seems to be the belief that those who talk about their struggles are more “real.”

An example of this could be people speaking about difficulties within a variety of areas, whether related to their career, housing, or parenting. The rush of approval is what I’m talking about — a slew of “wow, I can relate” and “thanks for being real” sentiments from an audience. The current popularity of social media platforms where people project an edited, ideal version of themselves is often cited in contrast as “inauthentic.” Which isn’t incorrect.

The “I can relate” statements are quite telling. Relatability is a key aspect that determines whether someone is liked by others, and I suspect it’s a quality that is more meaningful if you are a woman. We tend to like people more if we think they are “like us.” Jennifer Garner, a star who is worth millions of dollars, is a great example of someone who puts her relatability front and center. In this picture, she points out she wasn’t invited to something out of reach to most people (New York Fashion Week) while looking quite silly in some colonial costume. For all her self-deprecation, if you look at her IG, it’s clear she’s paid a lot and has insane arms that would be difficult for most women to achieve. She’s a mix of aspirational and relatable, and that makes her very appealing. Read the comments on her photos for the full effect she has on people.

The Failure Formula

So, what is my problem with “being real?”

Let me be clear. There is a time, need and a real place for true and empathetic support. Expressing pain, fear and emotion to a group of supportive, similarly affected people is often healing for those going through cancer, infertility, divorce and other hardships. “Not wanting to feel alone” is a universal human quality, and we know that hearing individual stories can be a key element to changing someone’s mind about a political or social issue.

But, getting validation simply for expressing hardships can be a bad thing. This post sums up an interesting technique the author has noticed certain writers use — it’s called the “failure formula.”

Step 1: Write about a mistake they made

Step 2: Get hundreds of supportive/validating comments (“I definitely needed this today!”)

Step 3: Repeat!

The Dangers of Co-rumination

I, like many women, learned early on within social interactions that if I did one thing, I would often receive solace and understanding. A simplified way to put it is this: if I complained about something to someone else, I could often create a bond.

Relying on this type of bonding is a common trope for female friendships. The idea is women vent to each other over a glass of wine about their boss, husband, the patriarchy, etc. then they will “feel better.” But, this cycle can become destructive, not just to the person who complains, but the one who is listening and empathizing as well. Because a pattern of complaining, then “feeling better” doesn’t cause real change, either personally or on a broader stage.

Turns out there is an actual word for this destructive venting: co-rumination. Rumination is obsessing over a problem and can “make us feel stuck and less inclined to actually do anything constructive about a situation and our associated distress.” Co-rumination is the venting process of that problem to someone else–and it is deceptive. “Talking with a friend, partner, or family member about our problems can feel really good. It can make us feel supported, bring us closer together, and even trick us into believing that we are doing something productive about our situation.

We’re all going to have problems, always. For me, the key is to be around people who don’t just offer support, but push me to solve my problems. I also try to read and listen to content that offers real solutions and inspiring tales of grit, not just sad stories of woe.

Some examples:

  • When I was mad at what was going on politically? I made my calls/emails!
  • If I thought too much about my weight and eating habits? I re-read this and this, then reminded myself to make healthy eating and exercise (the REAL kind, not the Goop kind) my new goal.
  • When I wasn’t getting enough sleep and struggling with some things, a friend told me I needed to make it my number one priority. She was right. Sleep is everything. EVVVEERRRYYTTTHHHIIINNNGGG!!!!

* Turns out, there’s an actual word for this phenomenon and it’s called the Baader Meinhof Syndrome.

That is the end of my soapbox lecture. For anyone (still) reading, how much do you value authenticity? Do you agree too much real-ness is unhealthy?

9 Comments

Filed under stoicism

Goal Setting or Resolutions for 2019?

IMG_6063I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions last December. What I did do in 2018, for the first time ever, was set goals. I set goals in multiple sections of my life–work, parenting, marriage, friendships, hobbies and health.

I made them specific and I wrote them down. I  tacked them onto a bulletin board in my office and literally kept my eye on each one every day. Every morning, I made my to-do list echo my larger goals list.

Did it work? 

Mostly, yes. There is something about staring down a list of goals all the time that makes me more motivated to see them through. And there is some evidence that writing them down makes achieving goals more possible for a majority of people, at least according to this study.

So which goals did I achieve and which ones did I not achieve?

  • I did well with the work goals, even hitting my stretch revenue goal.
  • Friendship and marriage goals were hit, with lots of date nights, couple trips, girls nights and hosted dinners. I also took an awesome trip with my college friends.
  • I did not hit my 4x a week exercise goal. Maybe it was too ambitious? In the first six months of the year I went to Orange Theory twice a week for their HIIT class, which frankly was exhausting but great. Then I got vertigo and was advised to quit any exercise on a treadmill or elliptical. Vertigo is gone, so I should be back working out.
  • I incorporated a couple of bucket list items into my travel goals–we went to Machu Picchu as a couple, and Italy with the kids. We used our Starwood points and rented our house on Airbnb to help pay for everything.
  • My hobbies goal was to write more, and it was kind of a bust. I didn’t blog here much. My writing goal was to add value–write things to make people think and provide useful and hard-won tips for life. I wanted to get across the value of stoicism for modern life, and its value in particular for women. That didn’t really happen.
  • For politics, I gave money, made calls and wrote letters. This made me feel more in control, without spiraling into despair.
  • I didn’t make a budget goal. Did this make me happier? Maybe! We didn’t overextend ourselves, we continued to pay our debt down, but we didn’t save more than our usual 401k, retirement stuff, etc. Normally we have a big savings project each year, but not this year. Food for thought….

Overall, I was really happy in 2018!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2018 was my favorite year ever. Yes, EVER!

Definitely, there was some good luck involved to make it my favorite year. But there were also the usual challenges and stressors. I really think the goals helped me to stay as functional and focused on happiness as possible.

For 2019 I’m going to make goals again, but I am going to try something different.

Some people choose a one word theme, but I am going to choose a mantra. Not an inspirational quote (I hate those), but something that will not only help me stay on track, but also be a better person.

My mantra for 2019 is:

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” (Nelson Mandela supposedly said this, but who knows)

I am susceptible to anxiety and fear can be the emotion that drowns out almost everything else, if I let it. By constantly reminding myself to choose hope over fear, I hope to maybe change my brain passageways. The most basic version of CBT is telling yourself that dysfunctional, fearful thoughts are not the truth. But I like the added benefit of transforming fearful thoughts into something more hopeful.

What about you? Do you make resolutions or goals? Which works best for you? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under stoicism

On Not Trudging Through the Holiday Season

IMG_6578

This December has been absolutely bananas. My tendency–when life is this busy–has been to trudge through everything I need to do, feeling exhausted and martyr-y. This year, I have made a strong and sustained effort to NOT slog my way through ANYthing. This month has definitely tested that effort.

See, it’s one thing to spout off about stoicism when life is going at a normal pace but quite another task altogether to manage a season of intensity using perspective. But I am trying, with varying degrees of success. Here’s what is on my plate:

Work

In a normal month, my growing business takes up large amounts of my time and energy. I love being an entrepreneur, the business partnership is going really well and I am very proud of the work we’ve done. We hit our stretch revenue goal this month, and considering we’ve bootstrapped our company with our own freelancing and taken no outside funding, I am pretty proud about that. There is tremendous control and flexibility that comes with working from home and deciding what projects to take. The downside of being a business owner is that I am pretty much always on, and there are no days off. But I love what I do, so that seems like a good tradeoff.

We had two huge projects that we pushed live in the first week of December. I worked 60 hours that week (which I haven’t done since starting the business). We also have had multiple client events and parties to attend this month. This coincided with…

The Nutcracker

My daughter is performing in a big city Nutcracker ballet production. It’s a whole other level of extracurricular activity. We had to sign entertainment licenses with the state, and arrange for her to be transported back and forth 30 miles for multiple performances at VERY specific times–and you CANNOT be late. She is in a total of 16 performances this month, including matinees and evenings. She’s missing some school, and she’s only ever missed a few days of school in her elementary school life. We’ve had to hire babysitters to help us drive her back and forth because we both work full time. Complicating matters is the fact that we couldn’t find out what performances she would be in until the week before they began. When I saw the list, I literally burst into tears (not my proudest moment) as I could not fathom HOW we could make all that driving happen. My husband created a spreadsheet but there were many moments when we feel like this:

Math lady

My Son’s Karate

My son had a huge belt test, and is now in advanced karate — it’s intense and involves more practice. At least the dojo is close to our house, but between this, school, holiday events and the Nutcracker, it’s A LOT. Speaking of events…

Holiday Fun Stuff

We have almost two dozen events scheduled this month. From company cocktail parties to my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary dinner (which was almost as elaborate as a wedding) to a holiday dinner party we hosted and cooked for last week, every event has been so wonderful. Yet, I’ve had to struggle to get into the spirit sometimes, especially after a long day of work.

Using Mindfulness

What has worked? This month, I’ve been relying on that boring old chestnut–mindfulness. Being in the moment.

Seeing my daughter join world class ballet dancers on stage was a huge life highlight. I always enjoy the parties, once I get there. I savored the success of the projects we launched, rather than just plowing on to the next big thing.

And, for the first time, I have actually contemplated the thought that sometimes, it’s OK to make life complicated. (Gretchen Rubin discussed this in a thought provoking podcast episode.)

It’s a concept I am considering, as I enter the New Year and think about my goals and planning.

What about you? Do you prefer simplicity during busy times? Or is a more complicated schedule the way to go? 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under stoicism

Collection of 8 Good Things

IMG_6115

  • Inspirational quotes aren’t my favorite, and I’m not alone. So I really liked this post, because in addition to pointing out the limits of inspirational phrases, there is some real wisdom in here about the value of frustration. I’ve done so much reading about productivity lately, yet have read little about how sometimes you have to grit your teeth, want to throw things and scream before you can create great work. And it can be difficult to “schedule” the time that it takes to work through that frustration. This need for frustration may be one of my biggest problems with the prevailing theories out there about how to be more productive with your time, like the four hour work week (great in theory!) or even time-tracking which I do find useful. Yet, frustration is so often, as Jess points out, critical to accomplishment.
  • I find her hilarious on The Good Place, but this free-wheeling interview with Jameela Jamil was an eye opener. Turns out she’s a brilliant commentator about the toxicity of Instagram / its insidious effect on the latest beauty standards, “the double agents of the patriarchy,” Me Too/Time’s Up, and much more. She has her own Instagram account called @i_weigh that helps to counter that IG toxicity by picturing real women talking about much more than how much they weigh. Jameela also has a distinctively stoic attitude (the REAL stoicism, not the Cliff Notes version) that comes from early experiences with misfortune. My favorite quote came from her takedown of Hollywood’s role in promoting ridiculous body standards: “They will have to run me out of this business, which I’m sure will happen, but I would rather go down in flames than stick around and be part of this.” She’s hoping for an Amy Poehler-type career for herself, and now I am too.
  • Speaking of Amy Poehler, I wish we saw more of her but I’m making do with ridiculous amounts of reruns of “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix. (I also wish Leslie Knope was the real Indiana governor, especially with midterm elections coming up.) On the latest re-watch, I’ve been noticing how hilarious Rob Lowe was as Chris Traeger. In one episode, after getting dumped by his girlfriend he DJs a community Valentine’s Day dance, playing such bangers as Sigur Ros, Sigur 4 and worst of all, a creepy chanting/screaming number.
    • Chris: “Happy Valentine’s Day Pawnee. For me, it is not happy. But don’t let my sadness diminish your night. (Ominous music plays) Anyway, life is fleeing.”

      Worst Setlist Ever. But I mean, who hasn’t felt this way at least once in their life on Valentine’s Day?

  • Thanks for Maggie and Nicole for answering my question about whether to invest in cyber currency. Their answer, and this link, runs counter to the hype we’re surrounded by here in Silicon Valley.
  • The ultimate Blind Item
  • My brother writes about a cool music project
  • I am enjoying Sharp Objects on HBO. We still have four episodes to go, but holy potatoes. Wind Gap is a uniquely macabre, messed-up town (the anti-Pawnee), and Adora Crellin is the absolute WORST.
  • I would love any podcast recommendations. I’ve recently enjoyed “By the Book,”a hilarious, yet often moving show where two comedians follow a self-help book’s advice and report back, and “What Should I Read Next.” Every episode of WSIRN feels like a therapy session for one reader, and there are lots of solid book recommendations. I also find it compelling to hear which books people love and hate–even if the book they hate is a book I love. Did you know many readers out there hate Charles Dickens?

What do you think about frustration, the possibility of a four hour work week, Chris Traeger, Charles Dickens and Sharp Objects? Also, podcast recommendations welcome. 

7 Comments

Filed under stoicism