I think a lot of what makes work (and school) so hard for many of us, and particularly draining for me as a neurodivergent person, is the idea that we need to “get it right”. We need to already know the right answers, we need to never risk getting corrected by one of our peers.
We’re taught this in school when we’re graded on tests with no opportunity to demonstrate that we’re still learning and getting better. Our ability to get into a good college, or get a good job, is dependent on whether we get good grades. And when we’re neurodivergent, and often miss “obvious” things that all the other kids noticed, we learn, deeply, that we’re often wrong for reasons we can’t anticipate but should have.
But as adults, needing to “get it right” is antithetical to collaboration, and it’s stressful.
When I was a manager, one of my goals was to make team meetings fun. It wasn’t a conscious goal, and I hadn’t watched this talk yet, but if I was going to waste my team’s time for half an hour plus, I wanted them to feel like the time had value. It might be value in the form of team building, growth of skills, or collaboration & brainstorming. But it always started with team building, which we accomplished by having fun together.
Especially once COVID hit, and we were all just little boxes on the screen and couldn’t just run into each other on the way to getting coffee, we would start our meetings with “ice breaker” questions. One question I remember best was to share our favorite children’s books — everyone had their favorites, and we loved hearing about them whether they were familiar or not.
I’m more creative, more energized, and have more capacity when I’m having fun. And I’m smaller, less innovative, and more tired when I’m trying to be perfect.
What do you do to bring play, connection, and flow to your work or personal life?
If you haven’t heard, I left my job at Dropbox at the end of April! In my 7+ years there, I got to work on Dropbox Business, Dropbox Photos, desktop syncing, the mobile app, and so many more things. I was a Quality Engineer and a QA Manager, and I learned so much about risk, leadership, and brutally prioritizing quality efforts. I got to collaborate with more lovely, thoughtful, humble people than I can count. I’m grateful for all I learned, for everyone who mentored me, and for everyone I collaborated with. We did great things together.
I left because of burnout, and I’m focusing on resting and recovering for a while before I start putting energy into what’s next. You won’t be surprised that, in the meantime, I’ve been spending time on a wide variety of things… (because I still have more interests than hours in the day :).
I’m reading a ton. Lots of queer romance, because they make really lovely rest-your-brain books, some books about feminist Judaism, because I don’t have as much connection to my heritage as I’d like, and of course I’ve spent a lot of time reading (and re-reading) the book I’m publishing: Your Writing Matters: 34 Quick Essays to Get Unstuck and Stay Inspired, by creativity expert (and dear friend) Keiko O’Leary. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me about it, it’s available for preorder now and is coming out on August 9!
I’m moving my body a lot. (I don’t really like saying “exercise”, because that makes it sound harder than it is.) Daily walks around the neighborhood and weekly longer hikes up and down the San Francisco Peninsula. I actually just live in paradise, and I’m finally making time to visit all the gorgeous parks throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. I also have a new Hatha yoga class that’s a three minute drive from my home that’s in the middle of nowhere, with a lovely instructor. I’m working to build up my stamina and strength for longer 10+ mile hikes again.
I’m making the most of my unstructured schedule to re-learn how to prioritize my day around what interests me and what my body needs and what interests me, instead of relying on dates and obligations and other people’s schedules. It’s been hard not to just create my own obligations and schedules, but I’m trying to unlearn the idea that my value comes from productivity, and instead focusing on the value of admiring nature, petting the cat, and truly resting. And, when I’m inspired, creating something!
On the creating front, I’ve been knitting up a storm. I’m in the middle of two shawls now, and I just finished a beaded rainbow gradient shawl. It’s ridiculously gorgeous.
I’m also writing more (… this very blog post, for example!), and I’m starting to remember that when I have the thought, “I should write about X!” I actually have time to write about it right now, and whatever I was going to do next can probably wait.
I went on retreat at the end of June, as I do a couple of times each year. I got to spend time with my soul and with dear friends who are also on the path of self-knowledge and healing. (If you’re interested in a 10.5 day retreat next March, I’d love to talk to you about the Heart Conference!)
So stay tuned for more about what I’m publishing (and I may put out a call for submissions…), what I think about quality, and whatever else is top of mind.
And, to all my past coworkers: I miss you and I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Seriously, let’s chat.
Last night, we tried to buy poultry. You have to understand, I’m vegetarian. I’ve always been vegetarian. I don’t eat poultry. I don’t know what to do with poultry (other than that if you brine a turkey it comes out juicy… but I don’t really know what “juicy” means with regards to turkey.) I’ve never needed to buy poultry.
But. Last night, we had a shopping list that included poultry.
In fact, what it said was:
Chicken:1 whole rawOR, 3 whole legsOR, 1 pkg breasts & 1 pkg thighsOR, roasted chicken is fine too…OR, whatever you can get (no feet or beaks)
This is good! This is a list I can work with. Start at the top, stop when you find that thing. How hard could it be?
Did I mention that this was last night? And that we’re in the midst of a coronavirus crisis, and everyone had bought all the food? Yeah. So, uh. We didn’t buy anything from that list.
There were no whole chickens. There were no chicken legs, breasts, or thighs. Cooked or uncooked. We did find ground chicken. (I did not know that chicken comes in ground. Now I do.) And we found the frozen packages of chicken feet! (Good thing the list told us not to buy feet, or we might have!)
There was turkey. There were 15lb whole turkeys, which was much more than was needed (even if the list didn’t say so). There was ground turkey. And we did finally find turkey breast, 6lb, for $32. Ben asked me if we should get that. I said I don’t know if that’s a reasonable price, but it’s almost like chicken breast, right? So we bought it.
What I learned from all this is that Americans in my town, when they’re panicked, are more likely to buy chicken than turkey or beef. So if you’re panicked, and you eat meat, buy the turkey or the beef. (Or go vegetarian, like me. ðŸ˜‰)
Also, there was no bread (closest thing was English muffins), or frozen vegetables (but there was plenty of fresh vegetables!), almost no broth or shelf-stable nut milks. Despite the hype, I forgot to check the TP aisle.
And finally, pro tip, when the county tells you to shelter in place but you’re still allowed to buy groceries, buy your groceries tomorrow (like we did) rather than the day of the announcement (like apparently everyone else did). The clerks were frazzled and punchy at the end of their workday, and told us that the lines for the past week have been crazy, and yesterday was the first sane day.
I’ve been noticing that I censor myself. I allow myself to listen to my inner critic, who wonders what people (i.e. you) will think about or misinterpret about what I have to say. What if I post this post, and it’s just rambly and not interesting? What if you judge me for not being beyond this already? “I figured out how to conquer my self-censorship years ago,” I hear you say. “Why are you telling me about this?” Or worse, “What else do you think you have to say that no one else has said?”
“Nothing,” I whisper quietly and slink back into my closet. It’s all been said before.
But you know what? That’s bullshit. Do you hear anyone say, “All there is to say about love has already been said, so you might as well not bother,” and then stop telling anyone that they love them? Of course not.
Well, everything I have to say is just that: “I love you”, but in other words. And that’s probably what you mean whenever you talk, too.
That’s all my censor wants to say, also. “I love you, and I want to protect you. Please don’t say anything that can get you hurt.” It’s very loving, and damaging, too.
I’m choosing to listen to the most important part of that sentence, and ignore the rest.
In other news, Ben and I are going to England for three weeks next week, and we’d love it if you’d follow along (and leave comments!!) on our travel blog: Liza & Ben’s Travels – Exploring without the Cat (it’s a silly tag-line… we haven’t thought of a better one). You can also subscribe via email, if you want ongoing notifications.
He’s a Real Author, and he’s been very busy, and then he’s been very brain-dead.
His brain-dead is (morbidly?) reassuring to me. I’m an author, and I have a full time job, and I run a small business, and I have health issues, and I have a committed relationship that requires intentional effort to maintain (as any good relationship does).
It’s just lovely to have a reminder that it’s normal to have only so much capacity. Creative people create less when their mental energy is used up. When my day job requires creativity, I have less available for personal projects.
I always have a vague belief that if I cared more, I would create more. That if I were more diligent, I would sit and write every day like they tell you to.
I remember how I allow myself to get sucked into things that aren’t worth my time, like fascinating podcasts when I should be working, or brain-dead games on my phone when my brain isn’t working.
But I spend a lot of mental energy on my day job, and on the other things I must do, and it’s not a moral failure that I don’t write every day. It’s just a fact of time and energy. It’s normal.
I just read Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher1, set in the same world as her Clockwork Boys duology, but it’s about normal life things (and nearly being eaten by magical sky-jellyfish) rather than being about saving the world. I loved it so much.
I tell you this because: I want to be T. Kingfisher when I grow up. I keep ruminating about how to become an author, a person who has hours every day to be creative and inspired, who also isn’t broke. Make it important now. Wake up early2. Write every day. But right now, I don’t have the energy to spend being creative; I’m spending most of my energy in keeping normal life going, eating healthy food, getting exercise more often than never.
Neil Gaiman reminded me that it’s ok to be an uncreative creative person. It’s normal to have physical limits. It’s not a moral failure when I don’t write every day… or even every week3.
Do you have times when you can’t be creative? How do you handle it? How do you give yourself permission to be where you are?
1 It’s a lovely silly book about a woman who doesn’t know her own value, having to fight for her own value, and developing friends who support her exactly the way she is. I loved it so much, you should read it.
I haven’t posted anything here in half a decade. Time flies.
My boyfriend and I are going to be traveling in England for 3 weeks, though, and I decided to set up a travel blog. It’s pretty spare, but I think we’ll have fun posting photos.
Unrelatedly, there’s a decent likelihood I’m going to have major surgery on my jaws in about a year. After I’d set up the travel blog, and was about to go pick up the models of my jaws, I realized that I want to share that process, too. So I started a second blog, which is all about my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It’s called Body, Mind, & Soul, and it’s even more spare than the travel blog. It may also become TMI… particularly once the surgery starts.
That led me to want to post more on this site, which led me to going through old drafts sitting in the backend. There’s a lot of them, and some of them tell good stories, or parts of stories. I don’t know why I didn’t just publish them… lack of confidence, maybe, or lack of time.
So, I’m planning to clean them up a little and post them, because the prospect of major surgery on my face is reminding me that there’s nowhere to hide from myself. I have zero fucks to give* toward shame, self-censorship, or TMI. If you don’t want to read what I have to share, you don’t have to. I want to write. So I’m planning to share stories from my past several years. I hope you’ll let me know if they speak to you.
* I love when common phrases are rearranged. “Give a fuck” is so 90s. (1790s, if this link is to be believed. I didn’t research it enough to find out.)
I promised you the story of the Adventures of the Rocking Chair, and here it is.
Once upon a time, I went on a road trip with my significant other to visit family in Oregon*. And we happened into a shop that sells wood things made locally. In fact, many of the things were made in that very shop, as we discovered when we** asked and were shown the huge rooms full of uncarved wood, and the huger room full of tools and more uncarved wood, and the hugest room yet stacked full of uncarved wood and great big tools. Not to mention the shop across the street with the saw-of-some-sort that could cut a 20′ piece of wood. But in the front of the shop were gorgeous things: clocks, shelves, tables, bowls. And rocking chairs. They came in three sizes: small, medium, and large. First thing, we had to sit in them. Ahhh, comfy.
This is the first one I bothered to take a picture of:
We ogled. We asked the shop owners about the chairs. (We bought a couple of pieces of uncarved wood.) And then we left.
A few days later we were back in town, and back at the shop ready to choose a chair and make a deal. We sat in every single chair they had, including the dozen in a storage unit around the corner. We wanted the right balance of comfort for me, comfort for Ben (we’re not the same size), and attractiveness. They were all made by the same guy, so there wasn’t a lot of variation in style, but most of them were made out of very nice wood, and a couple were made of absolutely gorgeous figured wood. (I didn’t get a picture of the most gorgeous one. You’ll have to take my word for it.)
We hemmed and hawed. And finally we chose the same one I’d taken a picture of when we first saw it. It really is pretty. It’s a little big for me, and a little small for him, but better than any other chair we tried.
And we told them we’d be back in a couple of days to put it in our truck. Have I mentioned the truck? We have a FWD truck with an awesome cap on the back that fits a mattress and all of our camping gear underneath, so we can go camping in comfort and luxury, without the crummy gas mileage of an RV. So we figured, sure we’re buying a piece of furniture, and sure we have to drive it 500 miles home… but we have space!
See? It totally fits. (It’s behind the pillows. Yes, those are our pillows. We sleep on them. Also, they protect the delicate corners. Worked a dream.)
Here’s closer view:
The only question then was, where were we going to put the chair whenever we needed to put ourselves in the back to sleep at night***?
As it happens, earlier in the week we’d decided we wanted to camp at this one specific campsite, because everyone knows that Oregon’s campsites are the best evah. When we called to make a reservation, they only had a campsite with a yurt left. It’s more expensive, but it’s a yurt. We looked at each other and said, “Sure, that sounds like fun.”
Turns out the yurt is basically a tarp-covered frame with furniture inside. The windows were all velcro’ed closed, so it smelled mildewy and awful. Also, we would’ve had to strip the bedding out of our truck and put it on the bed in the yurt. We looked inside the yurt, and we looked at our comfy mattress in the truck, and we said to ourselves, selves, we said, we’ll be much happier sleeping in the truck. And the chair can sleep in the yurt.
So that’s how the chair ended up sleeping in its very own yurt that can sleep six plus furniture.
The next night was slightly less exciting for the chair. We hadn’t made reservations and we couldn’t find a spot anywhere we wanted to campâ€ , so we ended up at a Holiday Inn Express. It was really nice. The pillows were nice, the mattress was nice. Having a place to rest and change so we could go out for dinner was nice. Our pillows stayed in the truck, cushioning the chair as it slept.
The next morning we hit the road, refreshed and excited to find somewhere nice to camp. Maybe somewhere along the Avenue of the Giants. But lo, it was not meant to be. There was smoke from a fire somewhere in Oregon. Once we got beyond that, it was hot and icky. Once we got beyond that we were back in civilization and there was no reason to try camping. Instead, we stopped at my grandparents’ house, where my aunt had just arrived for a visit.
And because we are weird, and we really like our setup in the truck, we slept in the truck outside, while the chair slept in the house.
Everyone admired the chair, and we felt quite pleased with ourselves and ate too much ice cream, as one does, and we left for home the next morning.
And we all lived happily ever after.
* Gorgeous up there, by the way. I really liked being in the middle of nowhere. The only downside to small towns in the middle of nowhere is that when you ask the gas attendant^ if there’s a coffee shop with WiFi anywhere nearby, she literally laughs out loud.
^ Cuz Oregon doesn’t let you pump your own gas, you know.
** This is the euphemistic “we” used by couples. In this case the “we” didn’t include me, though I did follow along.
*** We did, in fact, try to put the chair into the cab of the truck. Because of the runners, the chair was just a couple inches too big, no matter which way we angled it. And then as we tried to pull it out again, I felt like the guy with the couch in DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, who gets his couch stuck halfway up the staircase in his apartment building, and then when he models it on the computer he finds there’s no way the couch could’ve gotten into that position without knocking a hole in a wall. If you haven’t read it, you should totally read DIRK GENTLY. It’s Douglas Adams. It’s hilarious. There’s time travel, ghosts, and a couch stuck in a staircase that couldn’t possibly have gotten there. And a dodo.
We did remove the chair without removing any part of the truck.
â€ We stopped at one place by the beach. Ben went into the restroom, I did not. He left without having used it. Apparently it was really really bad.
So far this summer, we’ve frozen corn, peaches, apricots, pluots, pesto, more corn and more peaches, blueberries, blackberries, and, uh, some random bottles of water that we put into coolers.
Yesterday we made:
our last batch of pesto for the season using fresh basil and fresh lemon from our neighbors’ parents’ yard,
a huge container of salsa with tomatoes from our neighbors (which doesn’t freeze well, so we’re going to be eating a lot of salsa this week),
lemon juice from our neighbors’ parents’ lemons (the frozen lemon juice is in the kitchen freezer, so you can’t see it here)
cleaning fluid out of lemon rinds, basil stems, and some rosemary sprigs soaking in vinegar,
apple sauce from two sad apples that fell off the tree,
which went on our pancakes,
and beet/carrot/ginger/pear/red bell pepper/parsley juice.
I feel quite proud of us. (No wonder I spent all afternoon tired on the couch.)
There’s still hot peppers and tomatoes to acquire and process this month, and then starting in late september will be apple season (we have 3 producing apple trees). I’m trying to figure out better (i.e. more nutritional) things to do with the apples than just making apple juice, but everything I come up with takes a lot of peeling and slicing. We had boxes and boxes and boxes of apples last year, I’m not sure I can handle slicing and slicing and slicing and peeling and peeling. But I was thinking of trying an apple slicer. Anyone have opinions about apple slicers?