Pressing Reset

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I love to work. I feel pride when I create an excellent product, or write a smart and convincing paragraph, or (more recently) learn a trick in Excel that allows me to sort efficiently through data to find fact-based answers instead of opinions or conjecture.

I feel most like myself when I’m working well. While I don’t live to work exactly, I do gain a lot of personal fulfillment from my career. When I’m putting in a lot of hours or trudging through a difficult project (like I am now, with a dark and twisty project I am managing that sometimes feels like it is managing me), it is easy for me to flip to the dark side. I can begin to despair: I am terrible and worthless and stupid and eventually they will notice and my career will be over. Which, as a side note, might be because smart girls are socialized to believe they received innate smartness at birth instead of learning that good results are achieved through hard work.

Have you been here too? Have you obsessed over the tiniest details of your workload on a Saturday afternoon while going through the motions of a weekend shopping trip? Do you stare out the window of the car mentally re-hashing a meeting or remembering things you should have or could have done while the other passengers are jamming out to AC/DC? (You do still jam out to AC/DC, right? There really is no better driving music.) Have you spent too many evenings in a row, crashing on the sofa after dinner and binge-watching television that really isn’t that interesting (I’m looking at you, The Killing) so you don’t have to think or talk or decide anything?

When over-focused on work results, I begin to slip out of my personal life. I lose track of time, or forget things I would otherwise always remember. I recognize it quickly, but sometimes it takes me a few weeks to take action. (Once I act, I always feel really stupid for waiting so long.) When the working is too big and the living is too small, what I really need is to create something beautiful.

The underlying problem of it all is that I’ve forgotten to do the things that make me feel alive and proud in my non-work hours. When work demands a lot, it is too easy to give up writing time, blogging time, photography or reading or biking or yoga classes. But I’m learning that it is precisely those things that I often consider selfish or unnecessary extras that keep me alive.  To bake bread, plan a delicious dinner party, browse a used book store or plan a trip or choose a new fall color scheme for this space.

When work gets hard, I must force myself to remember what is so easy to forget: I get to choose what I do, what I value, and where I focus. This week, I choose to live a beautiful life.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 8.23.2014

Five Things New

It’s been a long time, my friends.  I have SO MANY links that I’ve saved to share here, but let’s start with five.  Because that’s the way this works, right?  Right.

  1. Justice for Michael Brown Rests Almost Entirely in the Hands of One Man, by Professor Angela J. Davis for The New Republic.  Also, Greg Howard with America is Not for Black People; Men without a Country: Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, My Father and Me, by Arthur Chu; Austin Channing in Black Bodies White Souls.   (Okay, so clearly we are going to have more than five links.)
  2. How to Be a Good Dinner Guest, at Dinner: A Love Story.
  3. We Need to Talk More about Melinda Gates, at Penelope Trunk Blog.
  4. Carpe the Hell out of your Diem, by Caris Adel.  Also, Nish Wieseth in Thoughts on Depression, Suicide, and Being a Christian.
  5. 45 Ways to Avoid Using the Word “Very”, from Amanda Patterson at Writers Write.

 

 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 8.03.2014

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The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker, by John H. Richardson for Esquire.

Mark Driscoll and Me and Our Desperate Desire to be Okay, by Ben Moberg at Registered Runaway.

Relax, You Have 168 Hours This Week, by Scott Behson for the HBR Blog Network.

The Arranged Marriage that Ended Happily Ever After: How my Parents Fell in Love, Thirty Years Later, by Mira Jacob for Vogue.

No Time to Think, by Kate Murphy for the New York Times.

 

Hope you had a great week!

Long Bridge Walking Path, Arlington

I left work around 6:30 tonight with no plans and no energy and no real desire to do anything.  I ended up getting a burger from Good Stuff and going for a walk.

The calorie math on this arrangement looks something like this:

Good Stuff Eatery Calories:  +5,000,000

Walking 2 Miles Calories:                     -167

Total Calories :                             4,999,833

I wanted to eat on a park bench overlooking the water.  I thought I could walk to the water.  I didn’t want my fries to get too cold but I wanted a good view, so I walked over to the Long Bridge Esplanade Park to grab a bench and eat my dinner overlooking the Potomac.

I’ve actually been wanting to walk until I found the waterfront near my hotel for a while now, but never made it home from work early enough so I could explore in the last few bits of daylight.  I’m much too nervous and responsible to wander around at night in the dark.  I know that so many of you are strong independent women and I am one of those too about most things, but walking too alone at night still gives me the heeby-geebies.  (How do you spell heeby geebies?)

Only two problems with this picnic plan:  First, Long Bridge Park doesn’t overlook the water so much as it overlooks the rail road tracks by the water.  And second, there aren’t any  benches, exactly.  So, I sat on a concrete stub and ate my cheeseburger and a few luke-warm fries while runners jogged past staring hate bullets in my direction.  [Yes I can eat a cheeseburger and still look this good.  No I don't know why you are laughing . . .]  Unbeknownst to me I was chowing down in the middle of a popular Arlington running trail.  Nothing makes a cheeseburger taste flat like the mournful, jealous, slightly-judgy stares of dozens of runners, while running.

But even though I didn’t work out great for the eating part, Long Bridge Park is weirdly beautiful.  As you walk out on the path you think you are walking immediately toward the Washington Monument.  Reagan National Airport is right across the water from the path, so you can sit on the concrete stubs and watch the airplanes take off and land at the airport.  Soccer fields line the grassy areas between Crystal City and the edge of Virginia, and young-ish people were playing ultimate frisbee and running soccer drills and generally having a great time.  You don’t see crystal-clear water and shiny monuments on this side of the Potomac — you see lily pads and marshes and railroad tracks.  I kind of loved it.

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When I’ve been in the City too long, I crave the wilderness.  Tonight I found a tiny piece right in my [hotel's] back yard.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 7.26.2014

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Five articles, blog posts, or links that I thought were interesting over the past week (or two):

 

Leaving Home: Escaping the Stay at Home Daughters Movement, a guest post by Samantha Field

I didn’t know about the Stay at Home Daughters Movement when I went to Union, but I did know about Voddie Baucham.  Like a lot of Union’s evangelical celebrities, I rolled my eyes when he came to speak in Chapel and continued on about my business.  But this past year I saw THIS VIDEO about how Voddie Baucham’s daughter skipped out on a college scholarship to stay home to help Dr. Baucham with his research because that was what God wanted women to do, and I couldn’t believe it.  My college celebrated the leadership of a man who did not think women should GO TO COLLEGE????????  I haven’t been able to think of Union or Voddie Baucham the same since.

 

Can Full-time Bloggers Live Off of Rainbows and Hugs?, by Holly Becker at Decor8.

The real meat of this post is in the conversation in the comments, not really the post itself.  When I think about bloggers who make money, and others who write for compensation, I do not think poorly of them for earning a living but I do sometimes read their opinions skeptically because I question their underlying motivations.  This post and the comments below made me think a bit more carefully about that.

 

A Calling Out: #FaithFeminisms

The entire stream of posts at www.faithfeminisms.com has been catching my eye and holding my attention over the last week.  This first post introducing the blog is where you should start, but do keep reading; there is a lot of good thinking going on there.  I fully expect this site to continue to be awesome and care-filled and thought-provoking.

 

You Don’t Need More Talent or More Time, by Glennon Melton at StoryLine

Glennon Melton from that blog Momastery gives advice to writers:  Stop hiding the bad parts of yourself, stop hating them, and start loving yourself.   “Only the forgiven and loved can help others be forgiven and loved. Only the free can free others. Don’t be talented, be free.”

 

The Trouble with Bright Girls, from Psychology Today

This was an interesting read for me, basically positing that smart female children are told that they are innately smart or gifted, instead of being congratulated or rewarded for the results of their hard work.  While this may not be true across the board, I think it was true for my own perception of myself as a child and young adult.  It wasn’t really until law school that I learned how much I could learn and accomplish with hard work and serious practicing, as opposed to just naturally being however I was.

 

(UPDATE: please forgive the half-post that just went live, the hotel internet is TERRIBLE.)

Half-way Home

I’m half-way through my 60-day detail in DC as of this weekend! There are only four work-weeks left until I’m back at home full time with H and Leo.

These past 30 days have been long and busy, but time is also flying by. Half of 2014 is gone. I’m nearly half-way to age 29 (how can I possibly be so dang old?!). Christmas is less than six weeks months away. In just a few months, it will start getting colder and colder in Chicago, and I’ll have to say goodbye to arms and legs and shoes worth looking forward to wearing.

I’m not ready. There are so many more things I want to do before this year is over. A lot of my internet friends are posting half-year updates, and while I don’t want to go line-by-line through my plan for this year, I do want to say two things.

First, this year I wanted to attack my life instead of letting it pass me by. And for the small things I haven’t. I’m still more likely to watch television than exercise, or to stay home instead of going out, or to blog or tweet instead of making that phone call. (Sorry Mom, it’s just really hard.).

But for the bigger things, I’m really proud of myself. I have been more intentional about saying what I want to do, where I want to go, what I want to eat. I’ve prioritized traveling and seeing friends and doing what I love. And I took a few big risks this year, including that writing boot camp and my writing conference, not to mention saying yes to this job in DC.

Second, I’m starting to feel like my own person (getting older is pretty awesome on that front, huh?) and feel very confident about my skills and abilities. Over the last year I have been so lucky to work with an incredible boss and mentor; his continued support, guidance, and trust have been incredibly affirming for me. I have a newfound comfortableness in my own skin that feels incredible. I’m no longer afraid to let people see how smart I am. (I dream of a world where all women everywhere fearlessly and confidently use their whole selves and full abilities to make our world a better, safer, healthier place.)

That’s where I am right now, and it’s still hard, but I like it. I’m weirdly happy, even though I’m itchy from a crazy rash and tired from constant flights and sick of eating at restaurants and still using my iPhone 4 with weak battery life and low memory. This year is half-way over and things aren’t perfect but I am happy, and that is awesome.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 7.4.2014

Happy Fourth of July, my friends!  Here are some reads for you.  But if you don’t feel like reading something on the internet, you could also check out, like, the Federalist Papers, or the Bill of Rights, or maybe read that book 1776.  Here at the pink-briefcase, we love America.  And we are fishing and barbequing and enjoying time with family in Michigan today.

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Soraya Chemaly for the Huffington Post with 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn.  Full disclosure: I have a big mouth on all work-related things and I’m typically the interrupter.  But I still find this article incredible.

Penelope Trunk with How to Choose Between Two Jobs.  This is not really a how-to post but I just love it.

On Hobby Lobby Boycotts: Megan McArdle with Hobby Lobby Boycotters not Crafty Enough to Win.  (I’m not quite ready to talk about this case yet. But I do still love HL’s half-priced frame sales.)

On The Origins of America: Randy Barnett for the Volokh Conspiracy with The Annotated Declaration of Independence. (Nerd alert.)

On summer clothing: Jenny Trout with I Wore A Bikini and Nothing Happened.

What I DIDN’T Love: June 2014

I’m supposed to write to you about what I was into in June.  It’s on my blogging schedule.  Well, what’s left of it. 

I was talking with a co-worker about admitting responsibility for mistakes.  If I’m even remotely responsible for something, I take the hit.  I fess up and say “this bad thing happened, and that was my fault, and I’m sorry.”  He laughed and said that the thing we were discussing wasn’t at all my fault, and that my quick acceptance of guilt was probably due to my Southern Baptist upbringing.  (We each just found out that the other grew up Southern Baptist yet now attends a more mainline Protestant church.  So now we have this little joke we make. It’s weird how you find random connections with people, isn’t it?  Anyway…)  And so, here’s my confession:  my blogging schedule has turned to complete chaos because living in a hotel alone without my cat or my husband or my closet or my kitchen is kind of rough.

But while I really want to remedy this issue by telling you What I Loved about June, here’s the thing.  Before I can tell you about the good things that happened in June, I have to tell you about the bad things.  Because, just being honest, June was kind of the worst ever.

You already know that I got a cool job offer and that we said yes to it even though it meant that I would be living away from home for 45-60 days this summer.  And I love my job even though it is super frustrating and I love the project I’m leading even though it’s probably more likely that global warming is no big deal and that we’ll have a Middle East peace agreement by Tuesday than that my project will end well.  But, did you know that on my third day there I fell all the way down a flight of stairs, busting up my leg, breaking four fingernails, and bruising the entire right side of my body?  That totally happened. I’m pretty sure the security guards all secretly know me as “that girl from the stairs video.”

Here’s something else you might not know:  I was so stoked to finally get a new phone, that I went all in:  I ordered a fancy new iPhone 5s with a big memory card for photo-taking and better mobile blogging.  It was the first time I’d ever paid for a phone and I was so excited. Two weeks in I dropped it and the screen shattered, so I had to pay to repair it.  Then, the day after I picked it up and purchased a new case to protect it, it was stolen.  Yes, seriously.  And so that’s several hundred dollars down the drain and, also, now I don’t have a phone.  I’ll be re-activating my iPhone 4 so my adorable tweets and life-changing instagram photos will return to your feeds soon but, since I had been hating on that phone for months and basically living for the day I could upgrade, I’m pretty bitter about the whole thing. 

H and I have started saying that this new phone was probably cursed, so it’s good that I’m rid of it.  Unfortunately I don’t believe that for a second.  (Related note:  having no cell phone while you live alone in a hotel away from your husband is not awesome.)

Oh, and on Sunday I went to brunch with two friends to celebrate a very exciting birthday.  And we all ate a delicious meal and then got food poisoning.  That was really cool too.

So June, I will have to check you later. I need a re-do for Father’s Day and my parents’ anniversary, for celebrating my best friend’s big move and for making a cake for Flag Day. (Yes, Flag Day. All patriotic holidays matter).

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 6.29.2014

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Why the VA Couldn’t Keep Up with IT, by Nicole Torres.  There is truth here, I think.

On babies:  Big Data will Know if I’m Pregnant before My Mom Does, by Danielle Vermeer, and Having a Baby will Simplify Your Life, by Lauren Laverne at The Observer.

This obituary/tribute to retired assistant defender Bill Laswell was incredibly inspirational.  What a good life.

Roxana Robinson for the New York Times Opinionator with The Right to Write.

On sex trafficking and what we can do about it:  Jamie the Very Worst Missionary with A Million Ways to Say it Wrong, and Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan with What I Learned about Sex Trafficking from an Evening with Two Prostitutes.

I hope you had a fantastic week!  If you read anything awesome that’s missing here, please link it up below.