Almost Lover – Soon Will Be Making Another Run?


I do tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when I shouldn’t – and I keep trying to learn that lesson. But I am human and never do. It is just that I try to see the good in people, be compassionate – and then that gets pushed too far, I guess. But at least usually when I close the door, it’s closed – and I don’t regret it. Or the time or the things I have done with/for those people. But just as I cannot control it, I also know when I cannot continue it.

Fuck You It’s Over” – Glasvegas

I have realized that almost all people are completely out of control and indecisive – and I have to be the decisive one – or as America’s best-ever president (hahaha) Geo W Bush said, “I am the decider“. Haha. And I need to be the adult, the caretaker – not all people are always going to like that, but regardless of their role, at least the issue is fucking decided and it’s back to the drawing board. No wishy washy BS for weeks, months, years that prevent all parties involved from moving forward and taking responsibility for the things in their lives. That is what making decisions – even incremental ones – enables.

Almost Lover” – A Fine Frenzy

Goodbye my almost lover/goodbye my hopeless dream/I’m trying not to think about you/can’t you just let me be?/So long my luckless romance/my back is turned on you/shoulda known you’d bring me heartache/almost lovers always do…

The same actually applies in business. Not that I want to equate the misery of indecision in romantic entanglements with unclear business strategy – but when am I not talking shop? I recently decided to follow an online “basics of marketing” course as kind of a refresher since I work in marketing but was never a marketing student. One of the fundamental points made in creating a strategy is: you can’t do everything, you can’t cater to everyone. Right – this is why we segment and target. But the same principle applies in creating a general business strategy. You can’t really set seven major goals and expect all of them to be met. Choices need to be made and a focus decided. I see this lacking – a lot of talk about strategy and endless meetings about and revisions of strategy but nothing real and tangible that one can bite down on, take a chunk and work toward meaningfully.

At least in a relationship, you can bite down, take a chunk and work toward something if you really want to. But that is a matter of making the choice and focusing too. That’s my conclusion in my old age, sage wisdom and experience – not unlike the great wise, leadership of Captain Stubing on The Love Boat. Hahaha.

Busyness: One’s almost lover


“Are you too busy? You should be, and you should let people know in a proud but exasperated tone.” A recent Slate article about people claiming to be busy and thus wasting time and driving themselves mad with the assertion (because they probably really are nowhere near as “busy” as they claim) hit the nail on the head. People love to masquerade as the world’s busiest, most put-upon and wear this distinction like a badge of honor. The article asks a question I ask myself all the time: “If the time squeeze is so miserable, why do people brag about it?”

There is no real mystery behind it, though. If you know people – even if you generalize about them, you know that people need, want, crave and will put themselves through hell to get just a shred of recognition – some kind of recognition. People want to brag about misery and be acknowledged for suffering through it, regardless of whether it is self-created. The Slate article echoes these fears, citing a book called The Busy Trap by Tim Kreider, “Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time. It’s the equivalent of being told that you’re redundant or obsolete.” People love to suffer and brag about it.

An article in the Washington Post excerpted another article on the subject (both articles I cite refer to a book on the subject written by Brigid Schulte), states, “And life, sociologists say, became an exhausting everydayathon. People now tell pollsters that they’re too busy to register to vote, too busy to date, to make friends outside the office, to take a vacation, to sleep, to have sex. As for multitasking, one 2012 survey found that 38 million Americans shop on their smartphones while sitting on the toilet. And another found that the compulsion to multitask was making us as stupid as if we were stoned.”

Considering the business of being busy, the PK Page poem “Suffering” immediately rushed to mind.

Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything as he is to his suffering.” –Gurdjieff

confers identity. It makes you proud.
The one bird in the family bush. Which other, ever
suffered so? Whose nights, whose days,
a thicket of blades to pass through?
Deeps of tears. Not ever to give it up
This friend whose sword
turns in your heart,
this o-so-constant clever cove-care-giver
never neglectful, saying yes and yes
to plumed funerary horses, to grey drizzle
falling against the panes of the eyes.

Oh, what without it? If you turned your back?
Unthinkable, so to reject it, choose instead
meadows flower-starred
or taste, for instance – just for an instant – bread.
The sweet-smelling fields of the earth
goldenly dancing
in your mouth.

suffering is sweeter yet.
That dark embrace – that birthmark,
birthright, even.
Yours forever
ready to be conjured up –
tongue in the sore tooth, fingertip
pressed to the bandaged cut
and mind returning to it over and over.

Best friend, bestower of feeling
Something to suck at like a stone.
One’s own. One’s owner.
…One’s almost lover.

Ring It In – Happy New Year 2014


The new year is here. Isn’t it required to reflect on what the previous year held? I do this frequently enough in my near-quarterly letters/life soundtracks, but year-end reflections aren’t bad.

Last year someone kept trying to tell me that I am his port in a storm. The problem is that I don’t think he knows what that means. He is someone who gets himself into trouble – or at least into unwise, uncomfortable situations – and panics, and then wants to press the red button to eject and land safely in my port.

The other problem with this “boy crying wolf” thing is that it also takes advantage of me and my willingness to be, as he drunkenly put it once, “the easy option”. I am neither the port in anyone’s storm nor the easy option. I suppose this is in large part where all my cynicism comes from – especially in recent years. I always had the “consolation prize complex” but it grows worse as people actually, blatantly try to use me. I look at every interpersonal situation and ask, “What’s this person’s angle? What is s/he looking for?” I would in 2014 very much like to meet a person I can instinctively trust without questioning their every action and word. And dispense with those who do not fit these criteria.

To get away from this doubt and take a few steps back from the cynic who always steps out in front of the more understanding “real” and unfiltered me, I will have to cut out the existing influences that always leave me questioning. Some people cannot be trusted – on so many levels – and there are just certain elements that I don’t want in my life.

An extension of this is my approach to friendship. I have always considered myself a good but vulnerable friend – sometimes extending myself way too far for people who ultimately don’t care that much (or as much) about me. Friends, as much as I love and treasure them in the moment, do come and go. In earlier life, people were fickle; we all change and can’t cling to the past. It does not mean that I don’t miss some people from 20 years ago who have disappeared and become the types of people who do not exist online (thinking here of Terra – I came across the Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” video and laughed, thinking about how she and I used to joke that she wanted to stick her tongue between Roland Gift’s crooked front teeth. Checking out the video again now, I am struck by how the other band members look like blokes who might work at a gas station or tax office). Memories.

I have become a lot better at letting go of the past, or so I imagine. But the “port in the storm” guy is evidence that I don’t completely let go even when it is the best thing for me.

Therefore, in 2014, I need to start thinking about what is really best for me in the long run. Not what fills a few hours of loneliness in the middle of a Saturday night, not lingering on things that are dead just because there is not something else to replace it. I need to devote that attention to the friendships that are very much alive and want the nourishment.

I would like to embrace sincerely the whole “age isn’t everything”/“you’re only as old as you feel” concept. I give it a lot of lip service, and I genuinely feel like other people at my age are still young but experienced – the best combination. But because I have been feeling like I was 72 since I was 8, I feel positively decrepit now. It does not help that my body has betrayed me in such underhanded and uncontrollable ways – in ways that are actually fairly devastating to me, even if in all the cliché ways. The healthiest thing I can do in 2014 is give up on dreams that are next to impossible – and even if they could be within reach, they come at far too high a price. I am happy with me and just have to be happy being only me, whether I feel 72, my actual age or 8.

On a related note, I came across a brief article on about things Craig Newmark did after the age of 35. There is a lot of emphasis placed on youth, especially in the world of fast-moving start-ups, as though only people under 35 are creative and risk-taking enough to put it all out on the line. But maybe other attributes matter more – I agreed with Newmark’s points about experience making a difference, and life’s greatest rewards coming when you accept and embrace who you are. I know that I am and always have been like a 72-year-old lady who bakes a lot of stuff, writes a lot of old-fashioned letters and postal cards and can be a nerdy librarian type with a head full of all kinds of references that no one needs. And I like it – I like me – like that.

Beyond this, I have written before about how it is never “too late”. Nothing is too late until you are dead – and if this year slapped me across the face in any way at all, it was to remind me that death comes suddenly, unexpectedly. We all know this in an abstract way. But most of us don’t confront it – with our young child or young wife snatched away from us without warning. It is a cliché to say that we should live our lives, each day, as though it is our last. It would also be irresponsible to advocate that kind of complete reckless abandon. But these sudden losses are cause to evaluate seriously each part of our lives. There are things we must do to get by, but for example, if you are miserable in your job – you have to find a path to get out. If you have a business idea, find a way to start it. If you always dreamt of getting a master’s degree in architecture, what’s stopping you? If moving to France was your dream, what steps can you take to move toward your Gallic future? I am fully aware that people have debts, obligations, family, legalities and a laundry list of other obstacles to doing whatever they want. But you can make almost anything happen if you really want it. It’s said that nothing worth doing is easy – and usually this is true. You can make a change.

As a woman for whom “change” is a mantra, I learned in 2013 that even if one can make a change – or a lot of changes – change is not always the answer. Make change judiciously. As I have written elsewhere, I made a lot of life changes, which were needed because I needed to get out of the complacent rut I had been in. But the changes I made were made more because they were the options I had in hand – not because they were the right choices or things that would make me happiest or most fulfilled. Important to note and remember – just because you make a change, regardless of how big it is, does not mean you cannot reverse it. Almost nothing is absolutely permanent, so you can always make another change. I try to advise people along these lines quite frequently because people are often paralyzed by fear, and fail to change as a result, too scared of things not working – possibly scared that they will work – or scared of the things that may change as a result of the first change. Indecision can kick your ass and drag you behind it. As long as you don’t decide, you are floating and never taking your life into your own hands.

I started this new year doing something out of character for me, and I think it is important to test your boundaries sometimes – even if you don’t enjoy it. It is the best way to find out how well you know yourself and sometimes whether you can grow and become more than you imagined. Life is, after all, about the experience, which includes both the good and the bad.

If you can, start every new year with a kiss. And finally, don’t settle for stale crumbs when you could have the whole cake.

Work Life – Retreading the Repetitive Inertia – “My transformers are gone”


“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve –
Hope without an object cannot live.”
–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“I’m a broken television on a Neukölln street,
That dog over there just pissed on me.
My screen is cracked, my transformers are gone,
I was state-of-the-art until it all went wrong…”

-SONIC CONTROL “Broken Television on a Neukölln Street” (listen – loud!)

Corporate life without dynamism and real decisions made and implemented (that is, backed up with real action) makes one inert – the planning for planning for planning to change for a change that never really comes. A lot of processes, developing processes and storing these storied processes somewhere (where? Some barely functioning, buggy database? Some bespoke little system that the company pats itself on the back for contracting the creation of – not realizing it is not scalable, not usable, not changeable, not modular, not portable, not mobile, not user friendly, etc. etc. A system that was not only expensive but so individual to the company’s needs that it cannot be applied outside the system or the company and any upgrades have to be done by the same original developer – and what should the company have learned in these cases, given that they repeat this mistake again and again, except that the company is a cash cow being milked for all its technical naivete and lack of technical competence is worth?)

The inertia also comes from a lot of talk about change management – but what change are we actually managing? The churn of the upper execs brought in to “change” things? To talk endlessly about change and innovation that no one has a clue how to implement – talk is cheap. Innovation is a buzzword, and if it is really meant to exist throughout the organization, an organization needs (supposedly) to find ways to work differently, communicate differently, be leaner. But this is all too often just a lot of talk. The push to innovate adds an extra layer of talk, endless meetings, pressure to do something without any idea what while the true organizational structure, the way it works and the people it hires, is not leaner, is not better suited to the needs of the future, is less transparent and even the simplest of “yeses” are really “nos”. Usually no one person has the chutzpah or cojones to say yes, mean it and back it up or to just say no and stick to it. Reality is in the corporate netherworld in between where decisions are half-made in committees that then must present to another committee. All that is left to show for this endless process is months and years of wasted time and really crappy PowerPoint presentations that no one will ever look at again.

If a company, for example, is going to place all its eggs in the “future-oriented” basket – then IT probably needs to be woven into the whole organization – not just SAP and supply chain issues, for example. It actually needs to be integrated with every part of the business (at least relevant people need to know what effect business decisions will have on IT systems and needs and vice versa). That means that a company-wide change cannot be vague and “IT-oriented”, heralded loudly and visibly as a major priority and then in reality set adrift on a rickety raft, isolated from the rest of a company, guided by competent but unqualified and junior-level teams without any authority. Change cannot be something guided by an organization instructing: “Turn this raft into a luxurious cruise ship that everyone will want to board. Here’s 1,000 dollars to do it.” Creativity and ingenuity go a long way – even assigning people who do not necessarily come from the “right” background suited to these fields can be a smart asset – getting new perspectives and ways of doing things but not if these people are not provided the resources and support to really implement the change.

One colleague referred to much of this as herding cats. I also thought of the way things in the corporate world operate when I was watching the film My Week with Marilyn today, when Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier yells something like, “teaching Marilyn to act is like teaching Urdu to a badger”. Corporate life seems to be a lot about forcing people into roles that are just not made for them – or roles that no one could succeed in or giving roles that are absolutely beyond the knowledge, experience and expertise of those given the roles, but no one knows or cares because those filling the roles are “yes men” and “yes women”, who buy into the game, who speak the lingo and don’t really care if things really get done.

The frustrating part, which renders the people of such a corporation inert, is that they sink a lot of time and work into efforts that are ultimately thwarted because there is no “big plan” or at least nothing that is backed by real resources. It is just like running in a hamster wheel – or worse, a rat maze from which no one is quite sure there is an exit. If a company could employ clarity and honesty from the start – that might make a difference. As one person said to me, a company could just admit that they are a hot dog stand and aim to be the best hot dog stand instead of being a hot dog stand striving to be a fine-dining establishment. The company is just playing in the wrong league, the wrong ballpark – maybe even the wrong game. Possibly the wrong decade – management with traditional ideas that were state-of-the-art in the 1970s and IT solutions that were cutting edge in 1998.

The feeling of employees beaten down by this machine, beating their heads against the wall, can only create frustration, unhappiness and eventually apathy.

Maybe it is not apathy so much at that point as it is  – why would one do something that is the antithesis of what they want to do? One can survive and thrive in some other way without the daily sense that nothing they do is going to matter.

After watching the documentary Hit So Hard, I was inspired to reread an article about Generation X heading into middle age, and it struck me that most people in my generation are somewhat apathetic (even if they are smart, hard workers). They don’t want to step up somehow because the world during their lives presented one crisis after another – and this corporate “thing” just isn’t our thing. (“‘If anything,” says Wendy Fonarow, a social anthropologist and the author of the indie-rock chronicle Empire of Dirt, “our generation is characterized by not hitting a wall of midlife crisis but having crises throughout.’” Also: “‘The problem is, with adulthoods repeatedly shipwrecked by economic disasters, Xers might have neglected to track the crossing over. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the resonant memoir In Spite of Everything, says that many Xers ‘are always living in a state of triage, always in a survivalist mode. We’re not thinking long-term.’”)

Many people in this generation have created their own businesses – many doing innovative things that enable working without compromising. Experience shows that we can find greater satisfaction if we have a certain amount of flexibility, if we are steering the ship – sometimes completely outside the confines of the “corporate box”. We can be compliant team players and prolific, engaged contributors – but not within a box.

For me individually, I don’t want to spend my life, my time, my effort contributing to hypocritical institutions that bow down to how things have always been done. I won’t give lip service to – and give my service to – something that is just sort of like putting a patch on a sinking raft. I want to get on a robust – even if small – ship and move full steam ahead (although I don’t mind the old-fashioned way of doing things and the knowledge and experience needed to do things in another or older way).

Maybe I am not thinking in the long-term because it has never done me any good to do so. No amount of planning can insulate one from economic reality or from disposability. I will undoubtedly always choose to do what is best for me personally and professionally, which for me has been a path toward freelancing or, ideally, full-time virtual/remote work. I have become a vocal proponent, near “activist” of sorts, for this. Sure, the virtual work concoction is one part selfish, i.e. I am more productive, healthier and happier working at home. But it is also another part driven by other considerations – our globalized world is under financial and environmental pressures, for one thing.

While this makes little difference perhaps for someone who lives in the same city as they work, it has become important to me as I have observed a large part of the “global” staff commute in from different countries on a weekly basis just to attend a few meetings and have a presence in the global HQ. Yes, people are literally flying in every single week. There is a tremendous environmental cost to this – and for what? These travel and housing expenses are covered by the company – so when the entire employee base is constantly prodded to think of smarter, more efficient, less expensive ways to work – this seems like an obvious, hitting-the-nail-on-the-head no-brainer. Technology has progressed to the point that I imagined telecommuting and virtual workforces would be a much more integrated and normal thing by now but it is instead working the other way. I don’t see the value if looking in a sheer cost-benefit manner in maintaining this commuting workforce, some of whom literally show up for one afternoon to attend one meeting. If the expertise of these staff is that valuable, fine. But how on earth does this excessive travel make sense? How is this lean or well-organized?

I was state-of-the-art until it all went wrong…” (SONIC CONTROL)