Author Archives: colleen

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Preg-Spectives

maternityleavePregnancy is so weird. There is no privacy to it. Your “condition” is on display for all to see and speculate about. Some comments are unwittingly presumptuous and stress-inducing. Especially when they come from people you barely know and involve personal matters  that you may be struggling with or unsure of like:

  • Weight gain
  • Birth plan
  • Maternity leave
  • Childcare
  • Sex and name of the baby
  • Home set up/accommodations

Sure, it’s easy enough to brush off these questions politely. But it’s still tiring to deal with them over and over day after day, week after week. As if lugging around all this extra body mass wasn’t exhausting enough, let’s throw on some added emotional baggage!

Overall, though, people are generally sweet, supportive and positive. I appreciate that. Especially those who tell me how great I look every day (because I don’t always FEEL like I look great). Also getting special treatment (seats on the train, etc.) and gifts is pretty awesome.

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letter to my 20’s self

Relax. All those things you worry about, namely the ridiculous pressure you feel to find the love of your life and life’s purpose before turning 30? It’s bullshit. Even extending that deadline to 35… Still bullshit.

Forget about timelines and deadlines as hard as that may be, given that you’ve been raised since birth to strive to the next grade, the next goal, the next chapter.

Fulfillment is elusive, no matter what age you are. And you certainly don’t find it by looking. The more you try, force, plan, push, the more you extend your misery. Because that which you resist — in this case “being alone” and “being unsure” — persists.

Life is hard and there are no romantic, professional or geographical shortcuts that will help you answer the fundamental question of human existence: who am I and why am I here? You will only answer that by living. Even then, the answer is never complete.

One thing’s for sure: you need to find peace in YOURSELF before you can be healthy and happy in relation to others. So go to therapy and take ownership of your issues. As exhausting, challenging, expensive as it is, therapy pays off over the long term. Self-awareness is the best gift you can give yourself, and the sooner in adulthood you can do that, the better.

Nurture friendships with fun, emotionally honest, self-aware people who show up when you need them and who share in your joy rather than compare themselves to, compete with and judge you. Steer clear of those with a martyr complex, a victim mentality or those whose depression is clinical and untreated. You can’t help these people… They can’t be friends to themselves so how can they be friends to you?

Forget every single one of those silly guys you obsess over. The weenie boys who flake out, break up with you over text. The ones who don’t call when they say they are going to. The unavailable, distant, inconsistent ambivalent types. Right now it’s hard to know if they simply lack maturity or if it’s a shortcoming of character. Maybe they’ll grow up and straighten out one day, but maybe they really are just jerks. When it’s absent in youth, character generally doesn’t develop over time. So move on.

This is very important: fret not about the seemingly five million friends around you getting engaged and married while you can barely scrounge up a decent date. 1/3 will be divorced before 40. 1/3 will stay married, but miserably so. The final 1/3 will actually be happy in their relationships, but it will not make them immune to the other challenges and setbacks that life inevitably sends us all from time to time. Finding a partner is not a panacea for life. It doesn’t solve all your problems and it doesn’t magically transform you into a superior being.

On the issue of having a family … these days there are so many ways to become a parent. So ignore the hype that it’s “now or never.” You’re not limited by the social conventions past generations adhered to, or even the same biological constraints. You are far better off waiting for the right mate even if it means forfeiting your biological ability to give birth. Because you can get fertility help. Or adopt. Because having kids is hard and without the right support in place it can really suck. Plus being tethered to the wrong person for life is a huge burden for you and your child. Don’t force it.

Have faith that things will go the way they are supposed to. A nuclear family is not the only way to give to and be sustained by a community of others. So don’t rule out the possibility that you are meant to create family and contribute to the world in a more unique way. Be open to all possibilities. Embrace who and where you are and you’ll find your tribe.

On the issue of career stuff. As early as possible, give up on trying to please/impress your parents and immediate circle with your job. Only you have to walk in your shoes every day, sit at that desk, walk that beat, do that thing. So choose a path that makes YOU happy. Don’t be afraid to chase down seemingly silly/ impractical dreams. You have the freedom to do that now and it definitely doesn’t get easier as you get older.

At the same time, develop patience … stay with it long enough to reap the benefits of your hard work. So many people give up before they break through. Once you realize you can achieve the things you envisioned by repeatedly working on it, showing up and focusing on your goal, it becomes easier to endure the short-term inconveniences and indignities of the workplace. Supporting yourself and having true financial independence will give you a life-long source of pride and confidence.

But also understand that no JOB or career path will complete you as a human being and give you sustaining spiritual purpose. Your vocation is not who you are. It defines how you spend the vast majority of your time, it provides income, but it’s not who you are. So be careful not to mix that up and think you are more or less “important” in the world because of what you do.

Above all, relax and don’t worry so much. You’ve been enculturated to believe that you’re not a REAL adult until you’re married with kids, but that’s a giant load of crap. Plenty of people who are married with kids are unevolved losers. Anyone can do it after all. Learning to be at peace with yourself is a far greater achievement and more worthy pursuit.

 

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Noise

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” – George Eliot

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good list

zenthings

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happy birthday tina fey

my hero!

Nerd Rage final

TinaFeyMeme16
tina_fey_bossypants_2011_shankbone

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losing my religion

I was raised Catholic. Indoctrinated since birth. Mass every week. Sacraments, religious education classes. Mom taught CCD. When I was old enough, I did too. Went to Notre Dame, the Catholic Harvard. It was a foregone conclusion that I was to be a good Catholic girl.

At the same time, I was raised to cultivate my intellect. We were of Irish descent which meant a distrust of authority and conventional wisdom. An urge to question, to fight. Dad was a financial man which meant disdain for government. Mom was an English teacher which meant lots of talking about books and writers. My early life was one characterized by reading, literature, following current events, and questioning the world and our place in it.

And so, once my mind was set free to explore at university, as I read, thought, explored, observed, Catholicism became increasingly less appealing to me. There was no convincing argument as to why women could not be priests. There was no convincing argument as to why the Pope or any clergy for that matter had a superior connection to God than everybody else.

Forgetting the physical implausibility of the Christ/Virgin Mary story, the sexism of it all, what most appalled me was the hypocrisy of the institution. How it abused young boys, how its leaders lived in wealth and comfort, how judgmental it was of individuals and invasive it was into their lives and bodies. How it required me and all of its followers to repeat over and over the words: “I’m not worthy.” That just didn’t seem right.

the-VaticanWhen I was 19 I did a semester in Rome, Italy. Looking back, that’s pretty much what sealed the deal for me on why Catholicism is not something I could identify with spiritually or intellectually for the rest of my life. I lived down the street from the Vatican and would travel up there with my backpack and study leaning against the pillars on sunny days. It was a thing of beauty but also lavish opulence. It felt antithetical to everything the figure of Jesus Christ stood for and was.

Then, for my compulsory religion class I had a Vatican priest who loathed my feminist inclinations and used his position of power to spite me. For my final oral exam I was asked to recite the grounds for annulment. There was no room for analysis or analytical thinking, just rote recitation of various canons. I think I came up with two or three out of more than a dozen. And because I couldn’t help myself, I wrote my final paper on the ordination of women. He gave me a C- on the paper (I RARELY got less than an A- on anything I wrote) and a C+ for the semester (the only C I ever received in college, thank you very much Father Mark).

It was hard to walk away from Catholicism after being told since birth by all the authority figures in my life and all my family members who I so loved that this was the path to “morality.” My cultural identity was so tied up in it all. But my conscience kept nagging at me. I couldn’t keep going through the motions pretending it all made sense and was perfectly acceptable. So I phased it out.

And because I am a genuinely spiritual person, I was left with a void for a long time. I missed it. I didn’t let my Catholicism lapse out of laziness. To use a ridiculous phrase from recent history, I had “consciously uncoupled” from it. Just because I didn’t believe God was an old white man sitting up on a cloud in judgment of us all didn’t mean I didn’t believe in God at all. But what was the alternative?

When we were kids in school learning about other cultures and religious history they made it seem like Native Americans with their animism and anything remotely Polytheistic was intellectually inferior. It took several years of reading and searching well into my adulthood before I once again found a spiritual center again in Yoga and meditation. The awareness didn’t happen overnight and was not the result of any single teacher, book, philosopher. It was a combination of things and experiences that I came to by myself — not by being force fed.

Eventually, a practice developed. The practice fed my body mind and spirit in a way that Catholicism never did. Now that I am a parent, along with my husband I’m faced with the challenge of imparting spiritual guidance to young, willing, open young souls who have lots of questions. We don’t have a fixed curriculum when it comes to matters of morals and ethics … we teach them in a practical way as the opportunities present themselves. And we DO make time for family meditation (probably not as often as we should). Sometimes we wonder if we should be doing more but overall I have a deep faith that the way to teach is through example, and that we can help them learn their way in this world by continuing to learn and explore ourselves.

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giving

A true gift is given with no strings attached. Otherwise it is not a gift, but an obligation. When we are preoccupied with our own magnanimity and role as the gift-giver, we are motivated by narcissism rather than altruism.

 

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achievement

First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end. – Aristotle

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love

Bearing and nurturing, creating but not owning, giving without demanding, controlling without authority – this is love.  – Lao Tzu

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shameless self promotion

shameless

 

Click on the image to see an interview i did at SXSW 2014 with AOL tech luminary David Shingy.

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