Living Through It All Again

It’s been a really tough couple of weeks.  My focus has been awful, sleep has been interrupted at best, my emotions all over the place, I can’t write anything for lack of concentration and my productivity non-existent.  It started in a subtle way and was hardly noticeable but before I knew it the wheels had come completely off the bus and it was a train wreck of chaos.   I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Maybe it was the change in the seasons.  After all, we’ve been living with tropical storm winds for over 72 hours now and it was starting to get on my nerves.  Maybe it was my moon was in Virgo and Pisces was in retrograde.  Maybe it was my biorhythms (remember those?!)

Whatever it was I kept plowing ahead feeling like I had a lead shoes on my feet and a kryptonite helmet on my head.  Nothing was coming very easy.  Everything was a challenge.  It was really starting to get to me.

But last night I was awoken yet again at around 4:09amish but this time I remembered the dream I was dreaming just before I woke up.  I was being laid off all over again.  There were a few minor details that weren’t the same, like for some reason my Mom was with me and what I was cleaning out of my files included lots of bags of vegetables and a squashed PB&J sammie which I never took to work, but everything else was the same.  Except for one vital thing, this time I wasn’t happy to be leaving to start my new life, this time I was anxious and worried.

AHA!  Finally some enlightenment.  You see the past several weeks I’ve been looking for new health insurance.  I stayed on my old plan because it was really good and surprisingly wasn’t super expensive.  But now I’m making the last break with my old life and it’s a biggie.  I never realized how difficult it is to compare and select plans because for so many years I just picked between the 2 plans my job offered.  Now I’m having to do all the leg work and evaluation by myself and apparently I’m a lot more anxious about this than I thought I was.  What a relief to finally realize what was holding me back and to identify the dark cloud in my mind.

I think I’ve found a few plans that I’m interested in.  Once I get that done I’ll be able to get back to my new life with excitement, hope and energy.  It’s funny how something can weigh on you and you don’t even know it.  But it sure is great to figure it out and take the boogy out of the boogy man.

High School Reunions

Last weekend was my High School reunion.  I’m not going to say which one it was because it’s noneyabidness but it was long enough ago that we’ve all mellowed a bit.  Or at least we now have the funds to bail ourselves out if things get too out of hand.  I always attend these with mixed feelings because my high school years were not those of 90210, Glee or Gilmore Girls and most certainly not like Gossip Girls!  High School was difficult for me.  I didn’t fit in in many ways, wasn’t a jock or a Cheerio, light years away from a brainiac, I’d skipped a grade so I was a year younger than everyone, didn’t have an older sibling to help pave the way, went to a parochial school instead of a public school.  Nothing really to make my transition to this awkward time any easier.

My freshman year was the year the school board decided to move the 9th grade from the middle school to the high school.  As a result there were about 850 new students, freshman and sophomores, trying to navigate our way into the “big leagues”.  You’d think that would make it easier since over half the school was new but not for me.  Everyone seemed to know each other already since they’d been fed from the middle school.  I stumbled through the first year but didn’t really find my friends until the next group of freshman came in and I started hanging out with them.  Guess I just needed to be with people my age instead of grade.

Because of this, whenever a reunion approaches I’m not struck with the overwhelming desire revisit the memories.  I wasn’t very close to my classmates and haven’t really maintained attachments post graduation.  I went out of state for college and never resided near my hometown.

Having said that, I’ve attended each one.  I sometimes scratch my head over my desire to reconnect but I still spent some very important time with these people.  We had the same experiences, teachers and memories.  Maybe it’s sadistic of me to attend but I’m really curious as to where my peers lives have taken them.  I know I’m a far cry from who I was during high school and I wonder if others evolved as well.  And that seemed to be the case at least among the attendees.  The essence of who they were in high school was still there but it was so much fuller and fascinating.  There were quite a few people like myself that were embarking on their second careers.  Others that were raising families in various stages and ages.  But everyone seemed very happy to be there and really interested in finding out about everyone else.  The cliques seemed to vanish…FINALLY!  Of course we only had a small percentage attend so maybe I’m not getting a full picture of the class.  But I left that evening with a fonder filter with which to remember my school years and school mates.  Oh, and really sore feet.  Fabby looking shoes but oh the price I paid!

Unplugging

One of the great things about technology is how it furthers our lives and our work.  Information is at our fingertips, clients can be contacted at any time; jobs can be received or sent out all over the world with the touch of a button.  It amazes me when I think of how short the time span has been since cell phones and computers have been a part of our lives.  I can only imagine where it will lead us in the future.

But there is a downside to all these gadgets; at least for me.  I find that my concentration has flown the coop.  I flit from thing to thing not really accomplishing much of anything.  It’s made even worse if I’ve been out of town or am really busy with something.  I have the attention span of a gnat.  This only adds to the problem as I then get more and more anxious about things not getting done.  And it becomes a downward spiral or as I like to say, a water slide to H-E-double hockey sticks.

I remember when I was working in corporate and occasionally we’d have a power outage or the computers or phone system would go down.  I was released from my pre-determined course and could do anything.  Except now I didn’t have the tools to make it happen.  I didn’t know how to unplug my brain to just think about things and be quiet for a bit.

I’ve found a way to force myself to unplug and quiet my brain.  I’ve had to take several short trips out of state which involve driving.  Being in the car, usually with the radio off, allows my mind to unleash it’s creativity.  I’ve come up with some wonderful blog posts, business plans and creative ideas while driving that ribbon of highway.  But it’s an expensive way to mediate and there’s the sticky problem of paying attention to the road.  I need to find a way to quiet my mind without having to hit the accelerator.  Unplug from the gadgets and plug into my brain.

Noteworthy vs. Noticed

The Midwest Independent Film Festival is a film festival with a twist.  Instead of running for a week with an insane schedule of movies to try to see, it runs once a month and focuses on films either shot in the Midwest or made by folks from the 7 states included.  The presentation this month was a series of shorts done by people from the advertising community.  Before the films are shown there’s always a producers panel that talks about the film to be shown and how they were able to get it made.  This time the panel was made up of judges from the selection committee for that evenings program.  The 3 gentlemen were all from ad agencies around the city.

One of the judges was a guy named Dennis Ryan.  He’s the Chief Creative Officer at Element 79, which used to be DDBNeedham a lifetime ago.  Dennis writes a blog about the ad business called Brands Are Opinions.  I like reading it not only because I was a part of that world for so long, but also because it’s well written and it makes me think.  He wrote a posting recently that really struck a nerve. It was about the subtle distinction of being noteworthy versus just being noticed.  Dennis was talking about the ad agency world but I took it far more personally.  That stopped me for a minute.  Lately it seems like there really is no such thing as bad publicity.  Being mentioned, no matter what for or why now, is the ultimate goal.  In today’s media savvy culture that craves more and more content, staying in the headlines seems to be the goal many are chasing.  And the work you did to get noticed and become noteworthy gets shunted aside in the quest to feed the publicity monster.

I think at some point every person unconsciously decides what kind of career they want.  Do they want to do good work over and over again and have their body of work be their most noteworthy item?  Or do they want to be in the tabloids coming out clubs at all hours or getting thrown off of sets?  This decision is usually not made with any deliberate thought.  It seems to be made as circumstances sweep a person along with the tide.  And by the time one becomes aware of what kind of career one has, it’s usually too late to make a change.

Dennis’s post made me thing about what kind of career I wanted to have.  While I will admit I want to be in US Magazine at some point on the red carpet INSIDE the ropes posing in some fabby gown (hey, I can dream!), I decided I want to craft a career that consistently does good work.  One that is far more noteworthy that noticed or notorious.  I can handle a photo or two of me taking out the trash with no makeup on, but I want to be known for quality not crap.

45000 Personal Bests

This morning I hung out with 45000 folks.  It was a lovely way to start a Sunday morning at 730am.  You see today was the annual Chicago Marathon.  The course, as it winds it’s way through the city, usually runs somewhere in the vicinity of my house.  I can remember one year it went right by Wrigley Field.  It was really cold that year, I was wearing my Columbia jacket with the lining zipped in.  I rode my bike down with my dog Lily and we arrived in time to see the elite runners.  They are amazing to watch.  You can’t hear them as their feet barely make contact with the earth as they fly by.  It was incredible.

This year, the weather was much warmer, although not as hot as the year they had to stop the race.  The humidity was really high that year and the organizers didn’t have enough water out for folks.  This year it was dryer and there was plenty of H2O for the runners.  We learn lessons really well in Chicago.  Like how snow removal, or lack thereof, will ensure you don’t get re-elected the next time (see How Jane Byrne Became Mayor in Wikipedia).  So the organizers were very ready for conditions this year.

I had a special reason to get to the course.  My friend Stephanie was running in her hometown and for a wonderful charity (PAWS – Pets Are Worth Saving).  I donated to her fund as did others and she wonderfully dedicated each mile to a furry friend she’d known throughout the years.  My dear departed Lily was mile 8 which is where I was standing.  A nice bit of serendipity wouldn’t you say?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to spot her.  After all, there were 45000 people running, how on earth would I be able to pick her out of the crowd?  And since I was still pretty near the front, there were coming in big groups as the crowds hadn’t had time to thin out.  I kept my eyes peeled all morning long.  But in the midst of all this pressure, I was cheering on whomever came into my eyeline.  Lots of runners put their names on their shirts so I was calling out to random people urging them on.  Lots of thank you’s came back.  The sheer magnitude of what they were undertaking was overwhelming.  I was blaming it on the sunscreen getting in my eyes, but I found myself tearing up thinking about their quest.  It was humbling to see all those people from all over the world running for themselves and any number of charitable causes.

Finally I hear my name being called out and look to see Stephanie with the biggest, most beautiful smile on her face waving at me.  I was so excited for her I started whooping it up, bad for the voice but oh-so-necessary for the accomplishment!  She finished with her personal best even with the hot conditions.  I’m so proud of her, proud of all those who even signed up to attempt such a goal.  They stuck their necks out and just showing up that morning was a win for them.  Kudos to all.

Makes me think…nah.  That’s just crazytalk.