Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let It Go

There is a song by Erykah Badu called Bag Lady. For some reason, it popped into my mind this morning. The first line is “Bag Lady, you gon hurt your back/dragging all your bags like that.” She continues with a prediction that , “One day all them bags gone get in your way.” It’s clear by the chorus though that the Bag Lady isn’t some homeless woman but a regular woman carrying a lot of emotional baggage. Finally, she advises the Bag Lady to “pack light.”
What bags are weighing us down? Past failures, rejections, wounded pride, pain inflicted on us by others, we need to find a way to let it go.

Of course that is much easier said than done and anything emotional is often messy and anything but clear-cut. I think we have to start by doing two things: Acknowledging the situation and the feelings that go with it and being willing to change. Neither is easy or fun or clean. Yes, it will be a difficult, painful mess, but you have to go through that to get to the other side where things are better.

Acknowledging your situation isn’t easy for a variety of reasons. The first step is to name it.

“I am angry because __________”
“I am hurting because ____________.”

Acknowledgement puts in plain words what the situation is. The hard part about acknowledgement is that you might also have to acknowledge your role in the situation OR you may have to accept that you played no role in the situation.

About 15 years ago, at the height of my spending addiction, I came home to find the cable and the phone disconnected and a late payment of rent notice tacked to my front door. In the past, I’d blamed everything and everyone for my situation. My mom died. My parents didn’t teach me about money. My grandfather spoiled me. Credit cards targeted me. However, in that moment, I had to acknowledge that none of that baggage made me choose shoes and clothes over rent and bills. I did that.

On the other hand, I had a friend who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted relative. When she confided in a family member no one believed her, so she grew up thinking in some way it was her fault. For her, acknowledgement was seeing through adult eyes what she couldn’t see as a child. Acknowledging what had happened and the domino effect it created and recognizing that she was a child and what happened was in no part her fault. Acknowledgement for her was taking the guilt and blame off of her shoulders and placing it where it truly belonged.

After you acknowledge your situation and pain, you must be open, willing and ready to change. It sounds silly to think that some people wouldn’t want to exchange a painful situation for a better one but often times we do. If you have lived with that pain so long, you know it well. You understand it. You’ve grown comfortable with it. It’s your friend.

When you look ahead at that long, messy, painful road to healing, the instinct might be to hold on even tighter to your baggage. After all, you know it and you don’t know all that lies ahead. A lot of people never move past the fear because of … well, fear. The difference between those who let the baggage go and those that cannot is not the absence of fear. If you chose to put those bags down, you will most definitely feel fear … you have to move forward anyway. You’ve got a lot of bags already, so pick up the fear bag too and move ahead.

Here is the song that inspired this post along with the lyrics.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I’m organized … but you know that. Anyone who’s read this blog also knows I’m the author of Get It Together Girl: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization. A few months ago, while up late watching TV, I saw an ad for a WonderFILE, a foldable portfolio that promised to make sense of my paper mess. It sounded like a good idea.

Now, you may be thinking, what is an author of a book on organization doing with a paper mess? Well, I don’t have much of a mess but on my dining room table was a little wooden ‘catch-all’ bin that was driving me crazy. Magazines went there, so did coupons, take-out menus, stamps and mail, and things I needed to file. It’s the area of my house that I really needed to do something about.

The weekend before last, while at the mall, I took a trip through the As Seen on TV store. For me, this is a true guilty pleasure. I love the knick-knacks and fun stuff that I find there! Lo and behold, they had my WonderFILE and for $14.99 I thought I’d give it a try.

I got it home, brought it into the living room and started organizing. In about 10 minutes, my ‘catch-all’ bin was retired, replaced with a neat, organized file. Finally, there were places for my coupons, bills, items that needed to be filed, stamps and just about everything else I had. It was amazing. It was clean. It was neat. It was quick.

I’ve used it now for over a week. When the mail comes in, the stuff that doesn’t get thrown away actually has a place and I couldn’t be happier.

Well, I could be a little happier, they sell the WonderFILE on Amazon for under $10!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Standing Your Ground

I have a positive world view, as do most of those in my inner circle. I believe that we control our fates and that we as individuals have more power and control over our lives than any other person or entity. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that most people are decent and good and despite personality differences, we have a lot more in common than we have differences. Finally, I believe that how I behave and treat others matters. I believe in doing the right thing and that eventually, doing the right thing will pay off. Even when it doesn’t, I’d rather treat people fairly and behave ethically.

I’m not claiming to be a paragon of virtue or I’m some sort of earth-bound saint (far from it) but that is what I strive to do. HOWEVER, while I believe that most people are good, I don’t believe that all people are good. I don’t believe all people have good intention.

So how do you protect yourself from the self-centered manipulators who see kindness for weakness and look at you as their next mark without being taken advantage of and without letting them make you bitter and hateful?

Stand your ground.
Negative and manipulative people are often bullies. They use yelling, screaming and harsh tones to try to intimidate. They want emotion – crying, cowering, emotional withdrawal. When you respond in that way, they consider it a win. Instead, refuse to play their game by remaining calm and sticking to your guns.
  • ”I understand your point; however … “and then I restate my point or counter their offer with my own. I understand that you need this now; however, I can’t accommodate you at this moment, the best I can do for you is handle this next week.”
  • I also care too much for myself to let someone else disrespect me. If someone launches into a profanity-laced rant or begin to scream at me, I’ll end the discussion. Again, calmly I’ll state, “This isn’t the best time to have this discussion. When you are ready to talk calmly with me, we can try again; but right now, I’m going to end this call (or leave if we are in person).
Gather your facts. If the person you are dealing with is acting unethically, prepare yourself by gathering the information you need. I had a friend who was dealing with an unethical boss who was actively trying to get rid of her. So she kept copies of all relevant emails and forwarded them to her personal account. She also kept a notebook of her encounters with her boss including the dates and times of her conversations. She was prepared to defend herself when the manager reported her to Human Resources.

Seek Allies. It is possible that there are others around you who see what is going on and will side with you. There is power in numbers. When the bully sees that you have support, sometimes they will back off. Your allies will also be there to encourage you and to remind you that there are good people around.

Unfortunately, although it is nice to assume that all people are good people, that isn’t the reality. So when you prepare to deal with those other types, be prepared.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bull or Bear?

Financial analyst and others who follow the stock market are familiar with the bull and the Bear. A Bull market is a good thing, it means that the market is in a prolonged period of growth and things are going well. A Bear market on the other hand, means the market is on prolonged downward trend and things are not good. The recent (or continuing depending on who you ask) recession would be considered a bear market.

A trivia buff, I’m interested in where these particular terms come from. Depending on who you ask, a Bull was chosen for the upswing because when it attacks their horns swing in an upward motion, bears swipe their paws in a downward motion when they attach. Another theory is that bears proceed with caution while bulls boldly charge ahead. (

So my question to you is do you see yourself as a bear or a bull? There is an upside to both ways of thinking.

If you proceed with caution and carefully plot your actions, like our bear, you aren’t the downer that the Stock market image would have you believe. There is nothing wrong with proceeding cautiously unless you are so cautious that you don’t proceed at all or that you are continually missing opportunities. When precaution leads to paralysis, you’re in trouble and you could use a little bit of bull (the last part of that sentence didn’t come out exactly right but you get what I mean).

If you are bullish, you have no problem charging ahead. You take the chances and the risk, often times those risks pay off but there are times when a little bit of forethought could have saved a lot of time and effort. When your head is down and you are about to charge ahead, don’t have your eyes close but truly think about what you are about to do and weigh your options, take a page from the book of the bear.

By nature, I’m a bull, I’m a horns-up, charge a head kind of girl. Yet, I’ve charged ahead enough to know that I have to pay attention to what I’m charging towards. In the past, I’d look at my bearish friends, or even my own bearish thoughts as downers, designed to keep me from charging ahead. Now, I take a moment to honor their input and take a moment to think about their often very valid points.

Over the years, my bearish friends have sought me out for that push that they need to move from precaution to action.

In the stock market, bulls and bears represent the opposite ends of the financial spectrum, they represent two sides of the same coin in real life. Even if you identify with one or the other, we all need some of both for balance and ultimately success.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I'm Not Your Psychic Friend

A while back, if you watched late night TV, you'd see Miss Cleo, the Jamacian psychic who would urge you to call her or one of her Psychic Friends to see what your future held. Now, some believe in psychics and others don’t. However, even the most ardent psychics realize that the average person possesses no such abilities … and yet, many of us seem to think that loving someone or having a longstanding relationship with them affords them the ability to read our minds.

It doesn’t.

Countless times, I have heard my girlfriends lament about what their men should know. I have friends who feel that because we have been friends for so long and can often finish each other’s sentences that I should always know what they are thinking and feeling. Well, I don’t.

Love – be it for a romantic partner, parent, child or friend – is a many splendored thing but one thing love isn’t, is a mind reader. If you want someone to know what you want or what you are thinking, you have to use an old-fashion, non-clairvoyant way of getting your point across. You have to tell them.

That’s right, you have to tell them. Don’t point, gesture, or pantomime. Don’t hint, suggest, cajole, or infer. Open your mouth and tell them what you want or what you are unhappy about or what you need to have your needs met.
You can’t fault anyone for not picking up on your subtle micro-expression or your that weird thing you do with your eyes. No, instead, just speak it … Speak it clearly and plainly.

Here are three suggestions that will help.

  1. Remove the emotion. Don’t wait until you are upset or fed up to talk. If you are upset and fed up, talk to a friend and vent, take a walk, or just wait until a better time. State your case without extra and excessive emotion.
  2. Own it. Don’t start out with the accusatory finger of blame and sentences that start with “You always” or “Why don’t you ever…” Own your words by using ‘I’ statements and avoiding words like always and never because they tend to make a bad situation worse.
  3. Be specific. It’s not ‘I need you to help around the house.” It’s “I need you to take out the garbage once a week and to clean up after yourself when you cook in the kitchen.” Don’t assume that the other person knows what you are talking about … most likely they don’t (at least not to the level that you want them to).

Remember, it doesn't take a Magic 8-Ball, a Ouija board or the right roll of the dice to get your point across. All it takes is a few choice words.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Take Control

Any parent who has ever nagged a child about chores and homework has preached about the power of proactivity. Why can’t kids just do what they are supposed to do without being told! If you ask any manager, they’ll often have the same lament when it comes to their employees. Spouses complain about it too. It seems like a lot of us could learn a lesson in proactivity.

Being proactive means you are positive about taking action. Being proactive is about taking the initiative. In the real world, it involves not just knowing what needs to be done but doing it (without a lot of nagging). It involves looking clearly at your circumstances and deciding to take actions that will benefit you in the long run and thinking of the consequences of your actions or inaction before you act.

Procrastination is the enemy of proactivity. When we know what we need to do, yet put off doing it, we are not performing proactively. Often the difference between a person who attains their goals and one who doesn’t is the ability to push through the procrastination and do the things they don’t want to do but need to do. A dieter proactively passes on the burgers and fries and opts for a healthier choice. A writer pushes through the frustration of writer’s block and starts writing again. Proactivity is about seizing the power of now and doing what needs to be done, despite how they might feel about it.

The procrastinator looks for immediate comfort without much concern for long-term gain. Without considering the consequences, they focus on what feels good now. If now isn’t a good time, they think, then certainly later would be better. Sadly later rarely arrives.

Reactivity is the opposite of proactivity. We wait for something to happen and then we act. In many cases, we wait for something negative to happen and then we act. It takes a poor performance write-up to get the employee to take her work more seriously or the failing grade to propel the student to doing their homework. 

The problem with this approach is that although the work eventually gets done, the worker is starting at a deficit. They’ve handicapped themselves. It will be difficult to get a promotion with that bad write-up in your file. Likewise, an A-average will be dragged down by the poor grades in the past.

The other problem with a reactive response is that it is usually emotion-based. The reactive person is energized by those strong feelings, not realizing that they can cause more harm than good. I once knew a woman who reacted angrily to a work incident. She stewed in her righteous indignation all night and when she came back to work the next day, she let her boss have it! Of course, she’s no longer working there. In the heat of her emotions, she was unable to think clearly about the consequences of her actions. Had she thought about the real possibility of losing her job, she probably would have reacted differently.

Positive change begins with positive action. If you want something different or better for yourself, think about what you can do to proactively change your situation. Once you start to take control, you will be surprised at the results.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Got a Kindle? Well, I’ve Got a Deal for You!

From now through Sunday, I am offering my eBook, Get It Together Girl!: It's about Time - Finding It, Saving It, and Making the Most of It for free!

For two weeks, get a different time saving tip every day. Plus, there are lots of time saving tips as well as phone and web applications that will help you tame the time tiger!

Sorry Nook users. For now, the book is being offered exclusively through Amazon.

Take advantage of this offer because it ends Sunday night at midnight (EST).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hedging Your Bets

I was talking to a friend the other day and the topic of marriage came up. She is pretty anti-marriage. Her logic goes like this: since half of marriages end in divorce why get married? Believe it or not, this is not going to be a treatise in praise of marriage (I’ve been single all my life so what would I know). However, it is simply remarkable to me that it is the possibility of failure that makes up her main argument.

The possibility of failure exists everywhere. So what!

Car accidents occur every day but I don’t see that stopping anyone from driving. People lose their jobs through lay-offs or firings every day but most people still chose to go to work and when they are out of work, they look for work. Some children are born with medical or developmental issues and most families have a history of some sort of disease, does that stop people from having kids? No, of course it doesn’t.

The possibility of failure exists; however, most people do a few things to reduce that possibility.
  1. They realize that they outcome is greater than the risks. The joys of parenthood outweigh the potential risks of developmental or medical issues. The idea of sharing a life with the one you love becomes more important than being single. The ability to make money, gain benefits, and utilize talents makes employment worth the possibility of a lay-off, or worse, a firing.
  2. They take the proper precautions. Drivers get car insurance and wear seat belts. Workers arrive on time and do their jobs correctly. Pregnant women take prenatal vitamins and make regular doctor visits. Those who value marriage invest in pre-marital counseling. People do what they can to lessen the possibility of failure.
  3. They weigh options and make decisions accordingly. This doesn’t mean that people don’t make mistakes but they look at the pros and cons and study the facts prior to making a decision. Most people won’t buy a used car with bad brakes and bald tires unless they plan on changing them immediately. It would be a clearly risky move. A man or woman who enjoys dating might decide that this isn’t the best time to settle down with one person.
  4. They trust themselves, their guts and their instincts. After assessing the risks, taking precautions and weighing options, they step forward with the confidence that they have made the right decision with the facts at hand. When you trust yourself and your ability to make sound decisions, even if you end up making a mistake, you'll probably have the courage to turn your situation around. That courage doesn't exist in those who are guided by a fear of failure.
My point is this: Never let fear of failure or, fear in general, stop you. Do the best you can to mitigate the negatives and then move ahead or move into another direction. If you try and fail, get up and try something else. Regrets don’t come from taking a chance. Regrets come from deciding not to do anything at all.