Friday, December 30, 2011


The experiences of the last half year have me really thinking about my life.  The good parts, the great parts and the parts that are just unbelievable.  Now that I'm finally home for a stretch I'm regaining, in fits and spurts, my motivation, my creativity, my zest and appreciation for life.

It seems I'm standing on the edge of the cliff, deciding if I will dive off into the beautiful blue waters below and live, really live the life I want.  Or if I will retreat back down the path into boring safety, boring safety.

This quote, from Thucydides, sums up all my aspirations and concern in one sentence:
  "Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave."

I crave a freedom that is hardly unique- basically, the freedom to do what I like:  to travel, to live in one place yet frequently spend time in another, to work creatively with a team without feeling overly bound; ie, working because I love it instead for the salary. It's a freedom that requires funding and will also require a great deal of bravery.

We'll see.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holidays & Rumors

Is there something about the Holidays that makes gossip more prevalent?  Within the last few weeks RumorsAboutMe is getting more hits than usual from people searching for advice on handling rumors about themselves.

It's a certainty that Holidays are tough for many.  If someone is already having a hard time, often the pressure of the Holiday rush and the stress of dealing with family relationships only causes more unhappiness.  It stands to reason that unhappy people engage in unhealthy behaviors at a greater frequency and that could account for an increase in the spreading of rumors.

People also tend to catch up with folks they haven't seen in a while around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  That creates more opportunity for gossip, especially among people that maybe don't have much to say to one another in the first place.

If you are one of those people searching answers about why you are being subjected to gossip, take comfort in knowing - it's not about you.  It's about the person whose mouth is moving and the one whose ears are open to it.

As long as the nonsense (or even truths) they are crowing about won't harm your marriage, your livelihood or your children, bear it with dignity by pretending you don't have a clue it's even happening.  This too shall pass.

More on Rumors:  Rumors About You

One Small Space

When struggling with chaos I've found that creating one small place of sanity, tranquility and perfection brings hope.

That small space might be physical - a place in my messy home that is always kept clean and perfectly organized.
It could be mental - an area of my minds that knows peace, some thought to think of that only brings calmness
and positive feelings.
It may be emotional - the friendship of one person in the world that I know for certain loves and appreciates me without conditions and of whom I only have positive feelings.  For someone else that might even be a pet.

Once that small space is established I derive nourishment and clarity just from tending to it, looking at it, or just thinking about it.  It brings comfort to realize that if one small space in my world can be sane, that space be made to grow.

Being home again after months away is overwhelming.  There is so much to do that I feel frozen and keep searching for ways to distract myself from what needs to be done, probably out of fear that I can't or won't do it.  Everywhere I look there is a daunting task; a mess to be cleaned up, a broken thing that needs to be fixed, months worth of mail to open.

My goal for today was to create that one small space to start the ball rolling toward regaining a sense of peace. My small space was an area in my house near a bay window.  Usually one of the best features of my home, that space had been cluttered for several months with things for a yard sale that never happened.  With help from a friend, we cleared it out within 20 minutes, vacuumed and decorated it for Christmas.  Gazing at it now I know that the seemingly monumental tasks on my list can be broken into smaller ones that I know can be accomplished.

If you are struggling or overwhelmed with life, consider creating a small space for yourself- physical, mental or emotional, as a place you can turn to regain tranquility when other areas of your existence feel like to much to handle.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Not Happy with my Blog!

I am not happy with my blog!

Right now my blog is suffering from the same "too many ideas, not enough action" syndrome that characterizes my current life situation.  I love to write but I haven't been doing that lately and when I begin it seems some other distraction comes along.  Nothing is finished, therefore nothing new is getting published here.

The blog also looks like the rest of my life - a confusing mixture of things.  Much of the last year was spent neglecting my own immediate needs to help others that truly needed me more than I needed myself.  That's good.  But now my life is in disarray.  It's all fixable but somewhat overwhelming to look around and see the great deal of work that must be done in order to get me back on my rails.  Breathe, I tell myself regularly, then I remember: I'm not really the one taking care of me, anyway.  This is obvious because fate, God, the Universe,  my higher power (choose your preference) has pulled me and my loved ones out of so many jams recently that there's no way to believe I'm really in charge.

Found a quote today that said something like "If you're struggling that means you've just leveled up."  That is a heartwarming thought and just what this trouper needed.  It screams the words "You've got a challenge!" and a challenge is something I relish.

Here's a little of what I'm facing:

I have to get a job!  After spending the last year in various business ventures, then totally suspended while taking care of family matters, then on a project assisting with a family business emergency, it's time for me to get back on track and find a position.  That means making major decisions about what will make me happy.  It also means facing fears about interviewing after having been fired.  I can do this.

I also have to straighten out my finances.  Funny, the two things that have always been the easiest control and maintain are the two that are currently in disarray.   It's been a humbling experience and one that I'm grateful to have had.

Career & Finances - those are the major things - I also need to get back to the gym, get my house in order and create a new routine.  A big challenge will be figuring out how to spend adequate time with my family while still taking care of my own needs once I start a new position.  They are 500 miles away and the past year has taught me that I need to be there for me as much as I do for them, but I have no desire to move.

When I start feeling happier with my blog, I will know things are getting back on track in my real life.   It will probably always be a random mixture of things but I'm hoping to find a way to make that work.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Here's a little Secret....

I wince a little bit every time I see your babies.
I'm so happy for you, sincerely, truly, without reserve.

But my little nose gets cold, there's a lump in my throat and my eyes get watery and I know... I just know I would be good at that.  I look at their pictures.  They are 4... 6... 10 with long hair in their eyes and I know.
I would make a good Mom, too.

I could have done it already.  But anyone that knows me knows I wouldn't make that happen without feeling it was just right.  Without the right situation, without a man that would make a great... no GREAT Dad... there's no way I would have brought life into this world without that.
But I do stop for  minute and stare, while feeling so happy for you and for your little ones....I think for a minute...I could do that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Find Out What Rumors Are Being Spread About You

Apparently many people want to know how to learn what kinds of rumors others are spreading about them.
Whether out of morbid curiosity, a sense this will help them gaining some control or out of some sense that it's necessary to know the details in order to defend oneself, it's probably human nature to try and discover what others are saying.

It really isn't that hard to find out what is being said about you and in this post I will tell you how to do it.  But first I suggest you explore the reasons you want to know, and try to anticipate what will happen once you find out.

There are some instances in which I believe it is important to know what people have to say.  From a business perspective, there are benefits to knowing what others are saying about you professionally or about your brand.  Only once you know can you address the rumors and mitigate the damage.

But if the rumors are only personal and not a threat to your professional life, it may be best to leave them alone and keep your head in the sand.  First because it can be painful and frustrating to hear negative things about yourself.  Also because often there's not much you can do to make it stop, other than continue being yourself and sometimes that's very hard to do when feeling uncomfortable about how others perceive you.

If you consider all the factors, and still believe it best to know what people have said, it's pretty simple to find out.  Just ask.  That's exactly how I found out what had been said about me at work.  Find the biggest gossip and ask them,  "Hey, I heard there's some crazy stuff being said about me.  What have you heard?"  You may have to pretend it's all just out of morbid curiosity or for entertainment that you are asking these questions.  You may have to swear you'll never tell where you found out. You might even have to feed the fire a little bit by sharing some of what you have heard, but unfortunately, most people that engage in gossip are more than willing to tell you exactly what they have heard once you get them going.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Staying Above Gossip and Rumors

Recently the accidental death of a childhood friend of my brother's resulted in an outpouring of emotion in the small community where we were raised.  With the advent of social media, public opinion of private citizens has been given a platform that used to be contained to idle chit-chat and whispers in the grocery store.  While reading everything available about this friend and his tragic, untimely death, it was incredibly striking that no one sharing their thoughts online gave anything but the most glowing praise of how he had lived his life.  If you read message boards and comment sections of newspapers, you know that it's rare even when someone has died to not find at least a few unpleasant comments.  The reason for such a positive response was made obvious by a number of comments that I read which all contained the same basic message, "He never had a bad word to say about anyone."

In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie gave the advice "Never criticize, condemn or complain."  This is the pre-emptive advice I give to people looking for tips on handling rumors about themselves.  Yet anyone putting this advice into action will quickly learn there is a great deal of pressure from others to participate in gossip.  It's a favorite past time of many, and it's no surprise that some people just expect everyone to find talking about others to be a delightful source of entertainment.

There are many ways to shut down gossip when someone tries to draw you in and get you involved in talking about others.  Ideally, you can do so subtly and without making anyone feel you are criticizing their choice to spread rumors. Sometimes that isn't an option.  Here are a few ways to wriggle out of a sticky situation when someone tries to use you as a sounding board for gossip:

Change the subject  - It's as simple as saying "Huh." then launching into another topic
  • Ask them a question about themselves or a recent event
  • Tell them something interesting happening in your own life
  • Not so subtle:  Talk obviously about the weather "I hear it's hot in Texas in the Summer" or say "How about that local sports team"
Excuse yourself - This works on the phone or in person
  • Suddenly "remember" that you have an important phone call to make
  • Step away to the bathroom and arm yourself with a new topic for when you return
  • Say "Huh. We'll, I've got to run.  It was good talking to you."
Say Nothing - It's amazing how effective this can be in shutting down gossip
  • Look into their eyes, smile gently and say nothing at all.
  • Seal your lips and mimic turning a key to lock them
Be Direct - When all else fails just tell the truth
  • "It makes me uncomfortable to talk about others like this.  It isn't my business and I wouldn't want to be the subject of it myself."
  • "I don't really know anything about that situation, and I feel better keeping it that way"
  • "Sometimes when I hear these things I wonder what people are saying about me."
  • "It's easy for these these to get twisted around.  Who can say what really happened? It feels wrong to speculate."
After time, it will become clear to others that you do not participate in gossip.  It won't stop others from gossiping, but turning it away repeatedly will eventually keep others from trying to bring gossip to you.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rumors at Work: When your manager is causing the problem

I recently wrote suggestions for handling rumors at work being spread by one's staff.  A recent visitor suggested a topic this complementary topic:  what to do when manager spreads rumours about you.

This is a trickier question because mishandling the situation poses greater risk of job loss.  This is the kind of issue that most Senior Management folks loathe even knowing about, never mind addressing.  The outcome is going to be depend greatly upon your approach and the kind of people running the business.

First, ask yourself how you really feel about your job.  If you don't absolutely love it, it's a good time to consider planning a move.  I'm not suggesting anything rash, but the simple process of beginning to explore your options.

If you work for a larger company, chances are greater that you may be able to get the issue resolved with help from HR.

In a small business, it's likely going to largely depend upon the role your manager has, and the value that management places upon each of you.

What you do not want to do is getting into a battle with your manager.  Most of the time, no matter what that person is doing wrong, the manager is going to come out on top.  That's because they were probably hired and/or promoted by the powers that be.  It's kind of like a person's favorite ball team - no matter how much they stink, the fans that choose them are going to keep supporting them.

Whatever you do, your best bet is to focus solely on your work, rather than on your feelings.  If anyone brings it to your attention by repeating things that have been said, tell them "I'm just so busy I don't have time to think about that."  Repeat this each time, or change the subject to something work related.  People bringing you this sort of news are just as guilty (and perhaps more so) than the person talking about you.

Here's a refresher on my suggestions for handling rumors at work with a modification:

  • Do not gossip at work.  If you do, you have no right to be offended when it comes around to discussion about you.
  • Choose your battles.  Don't bother defending yourself against gossip that is unbelievable or unlikely to harm your job.
  • Take gossip that will harm your position seriously
  • Address serious gossip perpetuated by your manager first with the manager directly above your own (if you can trust them). Do so as quickly and briefly as possible without whining; state unequivocally what occurred, but only the facts.  Ask how you should handle the situation.
  • In any discussion, focus on how it harms your work related goals.  Management doesn't always care if your feelings are hurt, they do care if someone is making it difficult to do your job.
  • HR is a last resort, ie; if the gossip is serious enough to harm you and you do not feel comfortable discussing with your own chain of command.

Why? Why? Why?

It seems like many people are looking for an answer to the question "Why do people spread rumors about me?"

Remember the really emotional scene in Good Will Hunting with Robin Williams and Matt Damon?  It's not your fault.

No matter what you did or didn't do, it's just not your fault.  There may be things you can do (or stop doing) to get off the gossip mongers' radar, but if people are talking about you then they are certainly talking about others, too.  It's either their habit, or it's in their nature to do so.  They are responsible for their own actions, not the folks that have become their target.  It is not your fault.

It's certainly one of the more tiresome aspects of dwelling on our planet - dealing with the human condition which includes this sort of behavior.  Seek to rise above this petty behavior by refusing to engage in hurtful gossip and rumor spreading yourself.

We are all children of the universe, deserving of love and respect.  Just remember that when dealing with the judgement and pettiness of others. When it gets to be too much, find a healthy outlet like doing a kind deed for another person, or engaging in a creative endeavor to get your mind off of the situation.  This will absolutely pass and if you choose not to dwell upon the issue and refuse to add fuel to the fire, it will be over even sooner.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mail Bag: Staff spreading rumors

I don't really receive any mail, but I do check the search logs to see how people arrived here.
Here's an interesting question someone recently posed to the great Google.

"i am a manager and my staff are spreading rumors, how should i handle?"

My advice depends greatly upon several factors:

1. Are you SURE?
If you have solid evidence that your staff is talking about you, you may need to take action.  If you aren't absolutely certain, do nothing until you have enough information to know for sure.  And remember, hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law, and should also be inadmissible with us, most of the time so if you only know this because one person told you, hang tight.  Someone repeating things other people say cannot be completely trusted; they may have their own agenda or be misunderstanding the situation.

2. How bad are the rumors?
Are they telling others you did something that you find morally repugnant,  illegal, career jeopardizing?  Like that you're cheating on your spouse, stealing from the company or doing illegal drugs?  If it's one of this things and you have solid evidence, you must absolutely take action.  If not, you can either roll your eyes and make light of it, thereby putting everyone on notice that you know their yaking, or rise above them and ignore it.

3. How much authority do you have?
Can you take effective action, or do you need the help of your Management and HR department?

4. Do you have a management team that trusts and respects you and your work?
You want to make certain that when you take action, you aren't jeopardizing your own position.  If this answer to this is no, set your sights on finding a new workplace.  No paycheck is worth working for people that don't trust and respect you.

5. Are the rumors true?
This is really important.  If they are true, the situation needs to be handled carefully.  With true rumors, I suggest approaching the greatest of the offenders (only if you are certain) and saying something like
"I'm coming to you because I've noticed that people pay attention when you speak and I think you can help with a small problem.  I'm concerned there are some things happening here that are distracting people from their work. The reason we are all here is to get our jobs done so we can feed our families.  Distractions from our work makes problems for us all, and I'm looking to you as a leader here to help us get back on track."

If the rumors are false, you are certain of their source, the rumors are serious enough, you have the authority and the respect of your management team you can take a much stronger stance.  Depending upon your culture I would first speak with HR and your direct manager and let them know you think this needs to be addressed.

There are two ways to approach it, one is directly and alone, the other is directly and with an HR Rep present.  If you have an office, call the person into it.  If not, use the HR office or a conference room.  Tell them calmly and in a professional matter-of-fact tone "I understand you've been telling people that I .  This is unacceptable.  We are paid to work here, not gossip about one another.  Your behavior is undermining and distracting to our business. This is your one warning that if you continue to disrupt our office in this manner, there will be serious repercussion."

I suggest doing this in your own office because it's a reminder that you are in charge. State the rumor out loud because it shows you are not afraid or ashamed, nor should you be.  The rest tells them that you won't tolerate distractions from work.  That takes this out of the realm of a personal issue between you and the offender, and shows that the offense they are committing is really against the company, not you personally.

Do this or some variation for each and every employee involved.  Have the HR person there solely as a witness, you do the talking because it's your job to see that your staff is being productive.  Treat this like any other issue that threatens that productivity.  Focus solely on the effect this has on everyone's work rather than the feelings you may be having. Work isn't about feelings. If you are certain this happened, there is no need to allow this person to speak, other than to say "I am sorry."  If they do that, accept their apology and let everyone move on.

Then if they do it again to you or anyone else, find out from HR what it takes to fire them.  Seriously.
This type of thing can cause great damage to productivity, and cannot be tolerated.

If the rumors are true, personal and not so terrible, a lighter but similar approach can be taken and HR really isn't necessary (unless the person is the untrustworthy powder-keg type, likely to try and retaliate.)  "I understand you've been gossiping about your co-workers. That's unacceptable, very uncool and not good for our workplace.  Let's focus on our work, and make this the last time we need to discuss this issue."

That's my non-expert advice.  If you have this problem, be strong and carry on.  They put you in charge for a reason and this type of thing is something you can handle through "showin' em who's boss."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chaos and Miracles

My world has been turned inside out again this summer by dealing with a family member and addiction.

Several weeks ago on a Friday I slept in, showered and didn't look at my phone until late morning.  I was surprised and happy to see a text message from my addicted loved one with whom I'd been out of contact.  When I read the content, my heart dropped.  It was a goodbye and instructions which indicated he planned to commit suicide.  I was reading it 3 hours after it was sent.  I'm pretty good in an emergency, my heart slows and I calm myself then take action.  I live 500 miles away, so I called the family member that lives closest. No answer so I called the police.

My loved one survived a very real and determined attempt to take his own life.  After 3 weeks in hospitals dealing first with the medical repercussions, then ensuring he was no longer suicidal, he was released to my care.  Holy Shit.  How do people live like this?  What the hell was I supposed to do?

What I realized is that the hospitals, doctors, care facilities and police are not in charge when we have a family crisis like this one.  We are.  And it's terrifying.  My parents are older and neither is equipped to have a post-suicidal addict in either of their homes.  Who is?  Someone had to do something, and there was really no one else.

I was and am grateful that the universe keeps giving me the strength to manage during this crisis.  And I have to be grateful to the asshole that fired me because if I still worked for him, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now without quitting my job.  I've chosen to stick with my loved one until he's in better hands - likely another rehab facility.

Since that day there have been too many miracles to count.  I call them miracles because there's no way I'm the one  making all this stuff happen.  First, a relative let us come to her house and stay indefinitely.  There's no way I could take him to my home, several states away in a neighborhood where drugs are available by just stepping out the front door.  We've been here 3+ weeks now.  She's helped with a few really difficult situations - like me discovering our loved one wasn't actually staying clean, despite our efforts to keep alcohol and other substances away.  Another relative found a wonderful woman to help guide us all through the process of getting him into treatment.

There's been a fair share of really awful stuff, too.  The day we learned he's got significant legal trouble was pretty bad.  One day filled with absolute fear he might try to hurt himself again is one I now count as the worst day yet of my life.  What got me through that was realizing just what Al-anon tells us.  You can't control this.

I had to cancel the trip of a life-time, pretty minor given the circumstances but still a bummer.  Friends are taking care of my home and pets.  I miss those cats so much, but I know they are in good hands.  I'm not really mentally able to work much with everything that's going on,  but I am getting to know some relatives better and spending time with them that would never have come to pass without this situation.  I am building my uncle a website, which he's wanted for 5 years.

So like so many others, I am on a journey that I've chosen willingly to continue, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  I'm saying a prayer right now for each and every family that is dealing with the chaos of addiction.  Today I choose to feel hope, and will pray that others feel it, too.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rumors About You: At Work

In my late 20's I was single and enjoying some success in my career when I learned that I was the subject of rumors at work.

A male co-worker and I had forged a friendship and we lunched together several times a week.  A few people made comments directly to me or to him. I pretended to take these as innocent remarks rather than the accusations that were intended to be, if I bothered to respond at all.  We were both young and single and he was a great looking guy with alot going for him.  It wasn't a huge shock to learn that some of the busy-bodies were making speculations and assumptions.

The biggest culprit was a woman that had made her own unhappiness with life, herself, her job and her mate very apparent.  She was a work "frenemy", one of those people that could be absolutely spectacular if they desired, but instead usually chose to take the low road.  I'd given up on expecting much of her and taken the fallback position of trying to stay off her radar and never letting on that she bothered me.

The rumors about our lunchtime activities didn't bother me terribly because I had a very supportive manager, the respect of those in charge and my ability to get my work accomplished remained unhindered.  Frankly, no one that mattered around the office really cared about things that didn't negatively impact the business, and there was no policy regarding fraternization.

So these rumors were little more than an annoyance for me and I resolved to ignore them.  That all changed when an college student interning for me approached and said "Hanna, the lady in payroll has been talking about your salary."  Payroll lady was the "frenemy" mentioned above, the primary purveyor of the other office gossip. I asked for details and learned she'd made leading comments like "You would die if you knew how much she made" to others in my department, people that I had to work with daily.  I had no idea what anyone else there was earning, but knew that comparing salaries could cause a great deal of resentment. 

At that point I switched tactics and went straight to her boss, after informing my Director of my intention to do so.  We closed the door and I said "It's been reported to me that Jen has been making comments about my salary.  I have not heard that she divulged numbers, but still thought you should be aware.  She's also made comments suggesting I am sleeping with a member of your staff.  This is untrue but I've tolerated it because we are both single. If I ever learn she's paired me up with someone who is married, I'll be speaking with HR and will expect her to be dealt with by you."

He was startled and speechless.  I thanked him and left.  I never had a problem again, but not long after that she was relieved of her duties abruptly for what I gather was another more serious matter.

Not every situation can be handled the same way.  This worked for me because of my position and because there was a management team in place that I knew I could trust.  But there are some definite points to take away from this.  My suggestions for handling gossip generally still stand. Here are some additional suggestions for the office that may help:
  • Do not gossip at work.  If you do, you have no right to be offended when it comes around to discussion about you.
  • Choose your battles.  Don't bother defending yourself against gossip that is unbelievable or unlikely to harm your job.
  • Take gossip that will harm your position seriously
  • Address it first with your direct management as quickly and briefly as possible without whining; state unequivocally what occurred, but only the facts.  Ask how you should handle the situation.
  • In any discussion, focus on how it harms your work related goals.  Management doesn't always care if your feelings are hurt, they do care if someone is making it difficult to do your job.
  • HR is a last resort.
Each working situation is very different. This is what worked for me but there are cases where it would absolutely be the wrong approach.  You know your situation best, so use your own judgement before taking action.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why People Spread Rumors

“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people”

The quote is of disputed origin and sometimes attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but there is definitely wisdom in these words. Talking about other people is a small minded pursuit.

Still, we would likely be hard-pressed to find anyone that has never done so at one time or another.  Have you ever repeated something you heard about another person, yet did not know first hand?  Or simply listened to someone else doing so? Most people can't claim to be blameless on this count.

So why do we do this? Here's some speculation based on my own experiences.

Boredom:  Some simply can't think of anything better to discuss.  Perhaps they've run out of things to talk about with their friends because don't have much else going on in their lives.  For some it's because they just plain spend too much time together and have exhausted all other topics.

Envy:  Some look for flaws in others because they lack confidence in themselves.

Ignorance:  A wise man once explained that when hurt by another person we must consider:  Was it out of ignorance, or malice?  Most of the time, people gossiping about others are doing so out of ignorance.  They don't realize how hurtful and harmful their words can be.  Rarely is it done with malicious intent.

These are just a few reasons that people talk about others, but there is a common thread here:  It's all about the gossipers and what's going on inside of them.   It's not really about the subject of the gossip.

If people are spreading rumors about you, remember that.  Gossip is primarily a reflection of the people spreading it.  Keep your own conscience clear in that regard, and no matter what people say about you, you can always respond "I wonder why anyone would choose to talk like that about another person."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Are the Rumors About You True?

In a prior blog post I gave suggestions for handling rumors about yourself, and it might appear that my advice only applies when the rumors are false.  What about when what people are saying about you is true?  Each bit of advice still applies.  In summary:
  • Be kind when you speak of others and strive never to judge.  You will be rewarded for this.
  • Don't loose your sense of self, though it may hurt your confidence, don't succumb to the feelings of shame.
  • Keep it in perspective: not everyone is talking about you.
  • Share your feelings with a trusted friend.
  • Get busy helping others and take the focus off of your own issues.
True rumors have to be assessed though. Is the topic of the rumors something you are ashamed of doing?  If not, then hold your head high.  Be true to yourself and don't let the judgement of others get under your skin.  If you are ashamed then you just need to know that we all fall down sometimes.  Here are a few things that should be adressed:

Take time to try and understand why you were involved with anything that doesn't reflect your true character. Get to the root cause so you can avoid a recurrence.

Admit Your Mistake
Even if it's just to yourself, admit that you failed.  It's the only way you can move on. If there is a clergy member or person you trust, even better to tell them of your failing.  It's difficult, but will bring you peace.

Make Amends
If someone else was harmed by your actions, strive to make amends and ensure it doesn't happen again. Making amends doesn't always mean seeking forgiveness, but sometimes just saying "I want you to know I am ashamed of my actions and very sorry that I hurt you.  I'm not asking you to forgive me, and I know I can't fix what I did, but I hope you can find consolation in knowing that I won't do this again to you or anyone else."

Forgive Yourself
No one I've met so far is perfect. We must learn to forgive ourselves and move on.

Change Your Ways
If you've done a thing that you don't respect, resolve to do differently in the future.  That is all we can do when we make a mistake.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Prayer for Jo

The Mom relayed this story that is both heart warming and hysterical:

Several months ago Mom met a friend, Betty, and her grandchild Emily for breakfast.  When the food arrived the little girl said she wanted to say a prayer before the meal, so she did. At the end Mom said she'd like to add a special prayer for her friend Jo, who was currently dealing with some medical issues.

Quite a time later, Betty's daughter, the mother of her little granddaughter, asked her out of the blue "Who is this Jo we keep hearing about?"  Betty couldn't figure out who she meant until her explained "Well, for weeks now whenever we say our prayers Emily chimes in that we mustn't forget to say a prayer for Jo."

Jo is better now, but apparently Emily still continues to pray daily for this woman, whom she's never even met. Emily must be an absolute jewel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rumors About You?

RumorsAboutMe gets quite a few hits from people searching for advice on how to handle being the subject of rumors.

Creating the site was my way of coping when I learned there were untrue rumors about me circulating.  It hurt.  Even being an adult woman with a great deal of good fortune in my life, it hurt to know anyone was spreading gossip about me.  I barely knew most of these people and it was unlikely that the rumors would any ill effects on my career or my social life.  It couldn't even have been more than a handful of people saying these things.  Nevertheless, it still bothered me.

My response was create this blog as an outlet for my feelings.  I made a joke out of it and started writing when I was upset because there seemed to be little sense in defending myself.   I wrote about the rumors, I wrote a poem, I wrote about other things that happened in my life.  I even let friends write a few things.  Sometimes I wrote fiction, other times recipes.  But then I saw hits from people searching for advice about what to do, why it happens and how to make it stop and I thought: maybe I can help a little.  Even just by letting those people that are searching know that it happened to me, too.

The searches come from all over the world, including societies where rumors about a person can result in serious life-altering consequences; loss of friends, loss of reputation, loss of self-esteem, loss of income and even worse.   That obviously wasn't my situation at the time, so I can only imagine the various scenarios each of you may be experiencing.  Each situation is different, certainly but there is some general advice that may help.  Here's a bit to start:

Do not speak ill of others, ever.  A person that doesn't participate in gossip isn't instantly protected from being the subject of it, but only good things can come from being known as a person that has not a bad word to say about anyone else.

Your response does make a difference so keep your head high and your shoulders back.  Look people in the eye.  Know that those with true character are reticent to believe ill of others if they haven't seen it with their own eyes.  It's normal to feel shame or embarrassment when one is the subject of gossip, but your internal dialog should be saying "Wait a minute here! I'm a decent person.  No one deserves to be spoken about this way."

Keep it in perspective.  Not everyone is talking about you.  It's usually a handful of people rather than every person you meet.  People that will talk about you have no compunction in talking about others as well, so do not allow yourself to feel persecuted.  You are not the first nor the last subject of this type of talk, and as someone pointed out to me, "That's just what they do. Everyone gets a turn and they will eventually move on."

If it isn't personally damaging to your health, family or finances, try to keep a sense of humor about it.  When confronted directly with some of the gossip, one can often turn it around to let the person sharing it know they are silly for believing such things.

Find a trusted confidant to talk with about your feelings.  It certainly helped me to sit with a friend and say "Can you believe they are saying this about me?"  He laughed with me, and shared my disgust and I felt like at least one person knew the truth.  Having an ally was a huge help.

And finally, tried and true advice from Mom for when you are having a hard time with anything in life,  "Stop contemplating your own navel and go help someone else. Take the focus off of yourself and you will feel better."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Did you mean that the way it sounded? Handling the Backhanded Compliment

Yet another reason to wonder if Facebook complicates life more than it's worth reared arose recently.  I received not one but two backhanded compliments from the same person in response to pictures I posted.  They came from someone I do not know well; certainly not well enough to assess intent nor to expect they have an ax to grind with me.

What an fascinating thing, the backhanded compliment: it leaves one so conflicted and confused, thinking first "Oh how nice" then "Wait a minute" then winding up at "Well how on earth do I reply to that?".

Online social sites like Facebook add a new dimension to the occasion of these uncomfortable statements.  Where normally you can easily let a remark pass with a simple blank look or a change of subject, the online remark is usually posted in a way that others can see it indefinitely unless one takes action to remove it, risking the creation of even more awkward feelings.

Both online and off I choose to ignore backhanded compliments and I think that's the best route to take.  With people I know well I might gently poke back at them and make light of remark, knowing that my friends never intend to make me feel badly.  "Thanks, Friend!"  If it really stings I would just privately message them and say  "Wow, I don't think you realize how hurtful that was."

In this case I ignored the comments and later was later realized I was just being overly-sensitive.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random Employment Advice

As satisfying as it may be, it's probably best not to use the word "subterfuge" in the same sentence with the name of the person running your company.  Unless you don't actually want to keep your job.

Despite that fact that I did actually enjoy my job, I personally found the experience so delightful that 5 months later it still makes me gleeful to think of it.  Of course, I'm a little odd that way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Charlie Sheen: Hard to Watch

The debacle playing out with Charlie Sheen on the internet, television and radio might be pure entertainment for some, but for many of us with drug addicted family and friends it's difficult to stomach.  We've seen the gaunt face, the wild eyes, those buckets of sweat pouring off of someone for no apparent reason.  We've uttered those words we heard his father, Martin Sheen say, "He's doing well"  and hoped against hope that were true.

Charlie Sheen's troubling antics mirror the way we've seen our loved ones behave; the paranoia, the delusions of greatness, the claims of invincibility, blaming everyone around for their problems, and worst of all the belief that no one knows that they are still in the grip of the drugs. Martin Sheen was right when he said "If he had cancer how would you treat him? This disease of addiction is a form of cancer."  The difference is that this cancer is something the leaders of this country could address but instead are ignoring and allowing.

It's not entertaining to watch a man suffering from the disease of drug addiction, and Mr. Sheen is not even remotely unique.  He is exactly like every other opiate addict, destroying his body, his career, his loved ones while people that care about him look on helplessly.  It is surreal to watch because it is a terror so many of us are living with personally and privately, but it's playing out as a public scene.  One hope is that he is garnering enough attention that our leaders in Congress may begin to grasp the reality of his problem.  Maybe they will begin to realize that drug addiction is pestilence with more power to destroy this great country than any terrorist or war because it destroys not just our our bodies, but our minds and our will.  No act of terrorism can cause that level of destruction.

A family member made an interesting comment about the US troops in Afghanistan and the poppy seeds that US based drug companies need to create these drugs that are destroying our country.  "The troops are deployed there, but it's here on the streets of our country that people are dying."  It's a connection I cannot quite grasp, but there is something there that is truly sickening just beyond my reach.  Even worse than the possibility that we are fighting to protect our oil source; what if we are fighting to ensure continued access to a key ingredient in the drugs that are responsible for the destruction of so many of our own citizens?

It is not possible that these drug manufacturers are unaware of the reality of where most of their drugs are being used.  They have marketing departments.  They have data.  They have statistics and trends and more information than you or I can imagine. Their best clients aren't going to the doctor for a prescription; they are people like my loved one and Charlie Sheen.  How can our leaders not know of the pharmaceutical drug problem that effects so many people in our country? Yet they allow it to persist nearly unchecked.  

The proliferation of legally manufactured pharmaceutical drugs in our country since 9/11 is surely making a great number of people very wealthy but ultimately if we continue on this path they will destroy us all.  If you want to see exactly what I mean, just keep watching Charlie Sheen.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sheer Lunacy

Even before things got hairy at my job, the stories from the office could have filled novel.  The regularly occurring nutty events at work are what caused me to start this blog in the first place; it was a coping mechanism.  Eventually it will all come out in writing; it's just too entertaining to keep inside.

One day I will share about the story of "The Hobbit", as I affectionately refer to a character that was a key player in my dismissal (but not the cause of it; I add this in case the poor creature ever stumbles upon this blog).  That tale that alone makes this whole experience worth every disturbing moment.  I'll have other jobs, other means of income,  but I don't know that I will ever again have an experience to share that is as absolutely hysterically, belly-aching-from-laughing-so-hard, funny as the story of me and the Hobbit.  But now, just a quick visual image of the firing itself.

Picture me, a woman with many years of experience, skilled, confident, respected and yes, a bit eccentric, in a small conference room seated with a CEO and a young female HR "Director" who is looking decidely uncomfortable.  For the CEO, picture someone a bit like Michael from The Office, because that's how I think of him at this point.  He tells me "It should come as no surprise to you..."  I look directly into his eyes for the length of his monologue, completely calm while he drones on, "You've been disruptive...kept me from doing my job...."  "Wow", I think, "I am powerful indeed!"  I nod my head in parts "I take no pleasure in this..."  I crack a smile but only with my eyes.  "I personally enjoyed working with you..."  We had no personal interaction in the 7 months he had worked there. I worked with him on a project in the same way I work at all times, professionally.  He's firing me one week before a huge fundraiser that I was instrumental in organizing and also the week before the implementation of a major new tool that I selected for our company.  He's choosing this timing for something he'd been planning to do for months almost certainly so he can claim all the credit after the bulk of the work that was done. I'm thinking about my performance review, received the day before from my direct manager that was so glowing I got teary eyed reading it.

I am not surprised; I knew this was coming.  I am also not emotional, to my great relief.  Being fired by this man who had, over months, done the opposite of earn my respect, I could handle.  Crying in front of him would have been devastating.  Part of my strength to take it quietly and professionally came from years of preparation.  Another large part came from realizing my Mother went through this and unemployment with four children to feed and made it.  But the bulk of my courage came from the sheer lunacy of sitting across the table being fired by a CEO of a multi-million dollar business with enough time on his hands to print, stuff and then illegally place 200 letters into mailboxes without postage. A man who become indignant when the Postmaster called about this mess. And a woman who once got drunk, took her top off and smoked a whole cigarette in front of a bunch of our male colleagues, allowing them to take pictures which were then circulated around our office not 18 months earlier.  You just cannot make this stuff up.

I was just glad to be out of there, and proud that I didn't giggle myself into a tizzy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Friendly Phrases Fail

My Mother's boyfriend of 7+ years, Ray encountered my Father for the first time at a family event. Ray is the quintessential gentleman.  He is always kind and polite and is the sort of person that one cannot help but really really like.

My Father and Mother had a particularly contentious divorce.  So much so, in fact, that they had hardly spoken in over 20 years by this point.  The stories are legion and legend and include words such as theft, vandalism, court, jail and more.  I try to stay out of it.

When Ray bumped into Dad at my brother's wedding, he was probably a little nervous because he isn't the contentious sort and prefers to remain on good terms with everyone.  That, and he could have seen little sense in being anything but friendly and polite.  So Ray said what first comes to mind when you meet someone that you've know about for a long time yet never encountered "Well, now I've heard alot about you!"

To which my Father, who does have a great sense of humor, replied with a smile "I'll bet you have!"  Then they both had a great awkward chuckle.  Poor Ray was both mortified and tickled pink by his poor choice of words.

No matter that 36 years after their parting ways, Mom and Dad still rarely speak, Ray is a point on which they both agree.  He is a good and kind man.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Default Positive Thought

Since "becoming unemployed" ie; getting fired, I have a rule that requires me to think a positive thought upon rising.  Generally speaking, I am a pretty darn positive person, looking for the good in any situation; a trait which I learned from my Mother who I believe, upon finding her home burned to the ground would say "I was thinking about buying a new house, anyway, so this works out better for me."

But I knew it might be hard some days.  Something pretty ugly and unfair just happened to me.  In fact, it is head spinning to consider: years of putting my own best interests in the backseat, being a loyal employee and always thinking of the good of the company were rewarded with wretched treatment.  And last time I was unemployed for even a month, I spent my days in my pajamas watching Bonanza and feeling useless, even knowing I was soon to start a great job.  I am realistic about the effort it sometimes requires to keep a good attitude.

There were a few days when I just couldn't come up with anything positive, so I went searching on the internet.  There are actually a great deal of quality positive thoughts to be found just by searching.  But it really wasn't my ideal scenario.

Then, over Thanksgiving, something brilliant happened.  Max, my Cousin's son, age 9, full of energy, charisma and intellect, was bouncing off the walls a bit, in a way that is delightful for someone that doesn't see him nearly enough, but is probably a bit tiring for his Mom and Dad. Near the end of our visit, they sent Max into another room to occupy himself, something he does with amazing skill and creativity.

When it was time to leave, he came bounding into the room proclaiming "MAX IS AWESOME!!!"  Not yelling, not even remotely obnoxious, but with a confidence and certainty that made me feel terrific.

"Max", I said, "I have a rule for myself that I must think a positive thought each day.  But sometimes, it's hard.  Maybe because I am feeling a bit down, or maybe because I am tired, I don't know. But it isn't always easy.  And you have just given me an idea for a default positive thought, one I can think when I can't come up with anything else."

He replied with a twinkle in his eye "What? Max is awesome?"

So indeed, that is what I think now when I wake up grumpy and can't think of anything else, "Max is awesome!"  It never fails to put a smile on my face, reminding me that I am, too.  For some reason, the unclouded viewpoint of this brilliant boy speaks to me and gives me the strength and confidence to move forward with my day and toward my goals. "Awesome" is the way we were all made to be.

A Simple Lesson for Us All

My Aunt, who is trying to turn me into a cat lady, and her daughter, my cousin were visiting my house with my cousin's young son, Max, who Is Awesome.  I had adopted one cat from them, and they were bringing me another to keep her company.  They live on adjoining farms, and beautiful, well behaved long haired kittens continue to show up on their doorsteps.

Max had recently turned 8 and thus is in a period of great learning.  I love watching children learn things because typically there is a message there for us all.  And that day was no exception.

Max was petting the older cat and at first they were getting along quite well but then she pulled back a bit.  He did what most of us tend to naturally do when something or someone shrinks away from us; he redoubled his efforts and moved toward her, petting her a bit harder.

At this point, Aunt and Cousin, in perfect complement to one another began teaching Max something I wish I had learned in such explicit language at the age 8 (or ever, prior to that day).  "See how she's pulling away from you Max? You have to watch her body language. That means she's had enough, and she needs you to back off a bit. She can't talk, so she is telling you by the way she moves.  People do that too, Max.  We have to respect someone when they tell us they need their space, even when they aren't using words to say it.  She will come back if you let her be now."

Though this is a simple key to success in personal relationships, I've got nearly 30 years on Max and had never heard anyone express it so clearly.  Aunt and Cousin are pretty awesome, too.