On Speaking My Mind – An Important Business and Personal Lesson

I’ve had blog posts scheduled that I’ve ignored. I’ve started blogs and let them fall to the wayside. Let’s be real, my enjoyment in writing this blog has dwindled. It has a lot to do with making time for it. Also, I wonder about my content. Is it even interesting?

My life hasn’t really been what anyone would call exciting these past few years. I’ve had some great experiences and opportunities. I have a dazzling niece who takes up a ton of my love and time. I’ve gotten to know some interesting dogs and reconnected with friends. I’ve even lost some friends. This past week alone, I blocked and removed friends from Facebook; I also removed them from my address books in my email, phone, and paper address book.  (I’m not sharing this for validation or even as a way to celebrate losing friends. Every loss has been painful. No, it’s a way to show that sometimes in order to clear things up and gain clarity, you have to remove it all.)

Four years ago at this time, I had moved in with family to save money and was an intern at Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn. I was eying flights to Japan with a pit stop in Turkey. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was full of doubt and I went with my desire and heart and leapt. 2012 was a year of a lot of heartache, doubt, silence, self, and love.

Four years later, I find myself in a situation almost similar. The only difference is that I don’t have savings to use to travel for an extended period of time. I do have my sense of adventure though. When I say, that 2016 and 2012 are similar, I’m comparing the idea of doubt in my life.

Doubt is a funny little feeling. It can be paralyzing, yet inspiring. Whenever I feel him come along, I try to embrace him and share with him the surprises that are in store. Many times, that doesn’t do much. In fact, he decides that I’m not listening, throws a tantrum and sends me a nice big dose of anxiety. I’d rather deal with doubt without his friend anxiety, but you know, anxiety does make a big fuss.

Last week, I shared a post on Facebook. To many it was harsh and rude and lacking compassion. It garnered a handful of comments that were rude and mean. I get it, what you put out comes back to you. However, it was something that spun completely out of control for no real reason. It was an opinion. A simple opinion and it ended up being an scrape with puss oozing in globs. It required a ton of damage control that I don’t think I provided very well and eventually resulted in me changing the settings so that only I can see the post, blocking several individuals who had left the most offensive comments and then the removal of the person who not only [I felt] overreacted to my post, but brought all of her friends who felt the need to troll my page. I also made all of my accounts private. Which didn’t do much because after blocking one particular troll, I received an email through my stationery website, from that person, that was just as rude as his previous comments on facebook. After writing something quickly in response, I opted to delete my message, thereby not responding and sharing my email address with them. I chose to let it be.

Since that day, I have been relatively quiet. I have chosen to share a small amount of things. I am “liking” more than posting. I’ve stopped almost (a few slip out here and there) all of my political commentary. I did email one person who had left a comment, who is a friend of mine, explaining my post and apologizing to her if I had offended her. She and I had a pretty good exchange that left me feeling better about the situation over all.

Through this all, I have debated with myself about my reasoning. Is it because I was burned? Am I embarrassed? Does this even matter? Why am I doubting myself? My voice? Does this incident require me to dim myself? What am I really trying to prove? How will this effect me down the road? Do I need to change things?

In the end, I’m sure it does not and yet I am doubtful in my voice, thoughts, and whether they should be shared. My thoughts have always been a bit off. They are definitely not in favor of most people’s views and I’ve always been okay with that. But do I really want to be on the receiving end of vitriol because people disagree?

Nothing that I said will matter on the particular issue I wrote about. I felt the way I felt. I shared what I felt. Rude comments did not change that and will not change those feelings. I’m entitled to those feelings. But did I have to share them? Why did I feel so comfortable sharing those feelings in the first place?

We live in a culture now where everyone speaks their mind without much thought. We speak so easily, even if it hurts someone else. We have Presidential candidates who are considered different because they are spewing their thoughts without much mind. We are spreading these feelings and thanks to technology, the ease in which to spread them are vast and quick.

I have for a few weeks been considering giving up my smart phone for a flip phone instead. (2007 is calling me big time!) I’ve seriously considered doing away with credit card payments as a market option – cash only, please! I deleted the facebook app from my phone to avoid spending more time on this tool that is more of a time suck than anything else. I’m also toying with the idea of a complete deactivation from facebook.  In other words, I’ve been seeking ways to get back to my “Walden.”

Maybe that is why my lesson last week was so important. It reminds me glaringly that the way I’ve been using social media, facebook in particular, is not aligned with the life I want to lead. My life is hardly rainbows and pots of gold and to use social media to project that would be unfair and a lie and not aligned with my values, but maybe, just maybe, it is okay to revert?

I base a lot on values. On my values, for sure, and to a degree, on your values. My business and business ideas are based on my values. This will never change. I care about the environment. I care about women right to choose. I care about your freedom and mine. I care about the people of the world, and increasingly on the animals in the natural world. I care about our politics and the future of our political system. I care about it all. And I’m working on it all (some more passionately than others), including myself. I cannot entirely hide and I will need my thick skin as I move forward with a project that will definitely be attacked, but maybe this whole situation was a necessary bruise to get me prepared for things that I need to care more and be more brave about? I’m sure it is, in fact.

I am hardly perfect. I doubt I ever will be. I will always apologize when I’m in the wrong. I will always attempt to listen to you and make better choices and hear your pain and needs and wants. I will also always have my opinions. I may choose to not share them. Maybe you will, too?  Maybe you and I will become comfortable with my silence?




Bah Hambug! What I’ve Learned From Not Being Outwardly Rude

A few weeks ago, I promised to practice not being rude. In fact, I promised not to be rude for the entire holiday season.

What was I thinking?

I find it hard to not be rude in NYC. Incredibly so.

Yes, I’m helpful and I attempt to be as respectful as possible (saying excuse me when I accidentally hit someone, giving my seat to pregnant ladies and the elderly, trying to give people the same amount of space that I’d want, but I will curse someone out if necessary. By necessary I mean when they’ve entered what I consider my zone, or if I find they are being obnoxious to humanity.

You may be thinking, “What does “obnoxious to humanity” mean?” and I’ll tell you…Obnoxious to humanity means to a larger group of people. It could be in  a line at Whole Foods, or everyone at a bus stop (like this morning when a guy cut a line of 15 people to get his ticket). It could be anywhere really. For example, a few days ago as I rode the bus, there was no room, but there was a largish guy taking up a whole lot of space because he had his one leg propped up and he was dancing to the music on his ipod.

Now, I get it, I move along to music on my ipod, too, but I don’t take up twice my size in space on a crowded bus doing so.  Just so you know, I did not say anything to this guy, but that’s because a girl I was standing next two earlier during the ride, decided to swap standing for a seat in the middle of the moving bus and hit me in the eye with her coat. That action received a “seriously?” comment to which she turned to me and looked at me and I said, “Yeah, and?” She then sat down, glared at me and then put her head phones in at a very loud level and started texting. Sigh, people.

Oh, and then the day after, I cursed out a driver. His windows were up so I don’t know that he heard me curse him out as he made it a point to obstruct the walking lane I was walking in (I had the right away) and turn left on a red light, but you know, I finally lost my patience and called him all kinds of bad words out loud. In other words, I was rude. I not only was rude, but I allowed my anger to get the best of me.

See,  I haven’t been allowing myself to outwardly do or say anything. Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot of negative thoughts as people are annoying me. So even though I haven’t called someone a “jerk” to his/her face, I’ve been calling them that in my head all the while smiling outwardly.  I suppose thinking these thoughts  is just as bad as saying them, but I have heard that it is more important how we control our actions than what we necessarily think. Clearly though, I’m not winning any awards on either front.

And so what does this have to do with feeling Bah Hambug?

Well, I’ve been feeling very un-Christmasish. Yep. It’s weird. I normally love the holiday. But I think I had a bad start to the Holiday season – my Thanksgiving was nice, but it didn’t launch me into the level of good cheer that it normally does. For the first time ever, I missed my family. And gasp, it made me long for roots of my own- the ability to throw my own Thanksgiving feast complete with my own family. Yeah, I just went there.  Sara of the, “I may never have kids” Stroman, just went there. It was shocking to me, too! At least when I’m home with my mom and my little brother, my family is there. I find myself relaxing, sort of helping my mom, but mostly bothering my brother.

Additionally, the week leading up to Thanksgiving was a rather sad one for me. I was not very motivated to do anything, including work, and so I spent most of my time knitting, reading, watching tv/movies online.  I can’t really explain all of it because I still don’t know what was bothering me, but I do know that part of it was missing my dad and realizing that he wouldn’t be calling me on my birthday. In past years, I’ve been able to ignore the fact that my dad isn’t around.  This year, I could not, nor did I try. I just let myself be.  Which I think helped in more ways than I thought.

Anyway, what I realized since pledging to not be rude (and having had a few incidents of outspoken rudeness),  is that my reactions to people and my rudeness have a lot to do with where I am emotionally. Surprise, surprise.

If I am feeling angry about something and then someone comes along and hits me in the the eye, I call them a jerk. By not being able to do that, I think it and then become aware. I know that sounds borderline obnoxious and annoying, but it’s true.  I find that being nice requires me to be more aware of others rather than just myself. I suppose that is the real lesson of this quest-feeling more aware of other people rather than just myself.

When I truly delve into what lessons I can get from this project the number one thing that keeps popping up is how to communicate better in life.  

I don’t mean that you or I should take bullshit from anyone. No. What I mean is that we should be intune with ourselves first and foremost, but also be a bit more aware of our surroundings, including the person in front of us, hitting us, pushing us, yelling at us, or for that matter being yelled at.  Or in the words of my fella, “I was taught to treat others how you’d want to be treated.” This was to my comment of, “You are always so polite. Is that normal?” 

I think this is why I love written communication. When I write, I’m more aware. I’m more aware of my feelings and the feelings of the other person. I’m still implicitly honest, but I’m aware. I’m not off-the-cuff responding out of rage or hurt. Of course, I have written emails and letters during those moments, but they rarely get sent. Those letters become the basis of what I actually do finally pen/type.

I suppose what I really mean is that by calling a person “jerk” in my head versus actually verbalizing it, I’ve finally put the method I use when I sit down to write in on-the-spot action. Amazing, really! Or just kind of goes back to what my fella said about treating people the way he wants to be treated.

Good lesson for the holidays! Let’s see if I can keep this up beyond January 1st.

Rude Behavior During Thanksgiving Week

I am rude.

I can be rude.

I have been rude.

I try not to be rude.

Most of the time, I am unapologetic when I am rude.

I greatly dislike when other people are rude.

We’re all rude.

We’re all capable of being rude.

We all have been rude.

When do we stop and consider our rudeness and then reflect? When do we decide to make the effort to not be rude?

This morning, I found myself at Whole Foods just around their opening hoping to avoid the crowds that will later swarm the store as they gather items for their Thanksgiving feasts. Even with an emptier store than normal, I had lots of rude thoughts. It started with the woman who pushed herself past me to the point that she knocked my purse off my shoulder. Than there was the guy who was in such a hurry that they pushed my basket so hard it fell to the ground.  I reminded myself during both occasions to breathe and not snap or respond in a rude manner. Instead at the check out line, I started talking to this awesome woman about her after Thanksgiving duck recipe and as she went to check out we both wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving. Point one in the score for not being rude.

In my mind, the Holiday season is a brief moment of time, six weeks to be exact, where peace and good will should be shared generously and with abundance.  It’s what I learned from Charlie Brown, Catholic Church, and the Grinch. The only thing is that I believe that it should be shared all 52 weeks of the year, but you know, I can’t control other people and their rude behavior; I can only control my own. And as we’ve already discussed, I can, have, and even still, will be rude.

Now I said above that I am unapologetic when I am rude and that’s usually the case. I find that I say thank you and excuse me often enough that when someone does push me past my rude limit, I snap, am rude and then shake pass it. Does that excuse me me or anyone else for being rude? No.  And I can not even begin to make excuses, but what I can begin to do is understand why I was rude. I can also hope that others can begin to think about their own rude behavior.  See, we tend to think that that exchange stays in that moment, but it doesn’t.  In fact, I (and you) have made an impression on someone else and to the many others that may have been around at the time. Even if we never see that person/those people again, we will have made an impression.  When you think about it that way, it’s a bit terrifying and disappointing to remember my past indiscretions

Since yesterday, I’ve made it an effort to say thank you and excuse me even more.  I’ve also made it my goal to not say anything when someone pushes me or knocks my bag off my shoulder. Although, I can not lie, yesterday morning after two people did the same thing on the L train, I turned to both and said, “two words you can use next time, excuse me”. Was that rude? Sure in some way, but I’m not quite sure that it counts as really rude.

To me, really rude is what happened this morning, and something I’ve seen numerous times before, “a mom, or nanny get on the bus with a small child who wants to sit down. Who even says loudly in their 2/3-year-old voice, “I want to sit down” and not one adult gets up. Not a single adult. Instead they sit with their ipods in, or act like they don’t hear the whining child.  Fortunately, today, a guy did get up and offer the seat to the child, but it was only after the bus had been moving for a good five minutes and after he finished playing the game on his iphone.  I stood there stunned at such blatant rude behavior. I also stood there and wondered. Everyone on that bus this morning was going to a job that requires sitting at a computer all day.

So the new question is- When did we become such self-serving, selfish individuals ALL THE TIME? 

Yes, we’re all selfish to some extent, but I don’t mean this kind of selfish, which I would describe as taking time to care for yourself. I mean the other kind of selfish, where you put your needs above and before the needs of others. I try to always protect myself, but I also pay attention to those around me and if someone needs help, I don’t just ignore them.

I’m one of those people who believe positive influence can spread cheer and energy. It can also influence others. It’s not that difficult you know. Or as I like to say, “never doubt your power to help someone.”

And so my pledge this Thanksgiving week and during the remaining weeks of the Holiday season is to be nicer and kinder. I suppose this really started last weekend when I talked to a guy that at first glance appeared homeless on the subway. He had missing teeth, talked titled and not in a straight line. For all I know, he could have been drunk, but he asked how many stops until 2nd Ave and I told him and he started telling me about his daughter and twin grandchildren. When he got off the train, he thanked me for helping him, but I think he was really thanking me for not treating him like he was worthless or different.  So in keeping with that experience and my experiences today, I’m going to try and lead by example in regards of how we should treat each other. This is going to be an extreme exercise in patience, but I always try to do something new and different leading up to my birthday, so I’m excited about this.

Who knows, this could have the same effect as doing an hour long yoga session. We’ll see!

I can’t promise to move mountains, but I can promise to try and make people think differently through my actions and behavior. Again, we’ll see how well it goes and we’ll see how well I do.  On December 1st, my birthday, I’ll write up something about these past nine days. I’ll follow up on January 6th as that’s the week after all the major Holidays end.

If you’d like to take part of the this little pledge, let me know in the comment box. If you don’t want to let me know, that’s fine, too, but I hope you try to lead positively during the next six week.

Lets do this!