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January 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

No, I don’t need a rotating iPad case, shellac manicure or dinner for four at an obscure Italian restaurant and I will never ever cook

The Deal (magazine)

The Deal (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

something called Mexican chicken legs. And I really, really can’t understand how a business that calls itself ‘Beautiful Babe Butts’ is in any way relevant to my life or lifestyle. But I’d still obsessively check every daily deal, recipe and tip email in anticipation of finding the deal, the item, the object that I absolutely positively could not live without.

But I can- live without. And I think a good start is to try to shift my thinking somehow. Or at least find another way to unclutter my thoughts by decluttering my inbox. And part of that involves unsubscribing from as many daily emails as possible.

Part of my professional life involves keeping up with as many trends as possible and sifting through and then analyzing what’s filtering down and why. And that’s an incredibly exhausting and ever-changing process. So for now at least, I’m going to pare down my information gathering process and pay more attention to what comes my way organically.

And I never, ever want to wake up to a message about Beautiful Babe Butts again.

The Road to Hell

December 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had the best of intentions of inching closer toward zen and clarity and all the good things that make me feel pure and uncluttered

country road

country road (Photo credit: Slideshow Bruce)

. But nature abhors a vacuum, or at least it does in my universe. So as I removed belongings that tied me to a part of my life I was ready to let go of, I found myself acquiring things I didn’t anticipate wanting or needing. As the balance shifted and space emptied out, it quickly replenished itself. Okay, if I’m going to be honest- I did help.

I covet cute things and sparkly things and brand new tech things. And even as I sometimes indulge, I try to understand my ever evolving cravings. I’m a creature of my time and generation and as such find myself fascinated by new developments and product innovation. Professionally, I have to keep up with trends and styles and technology. And while I enjoy it, there are times that the trends treadmill feels faster than ever bordering on crushing.

So I’m not setting specific new goals for 2013, though I will make public my dedication to continuing on my road to More Clarity & Less Clutter. And some other things as well…

I finally rid myself of over a decade’s worth of work related notebooks, emails, scribblings and more. It was an incredible journey to leaf through some of my earlier typed and scribbled professional hopes and dreams and see the way some had gone beyond my wildest imaginings, while other withered on the vine. Among other things, I also found the now worthless shares to a company I’d co-founded during the heady web 1.0 days. An object lesson in not putting much faith in paper. It did remind me though, that I’ve built things from scratch in the past, and intend to again in the not too distant future.

I almost saved these notebooks and notes for another decade- just in case I write a business book. And then I realized- I already did. Amazing how unattainable goals once reached and passed become almost endearing, rather than thrilling.

I’d like to be thrilled professionally again. Though 2012 was a year of great new successes and accomplishments, the residual sagging economy and previous lingering life events left me without the full passion I once had. And I miss it. And I vow to fully reclaim it, without losing myself in the process. And I’m excited about what I have planned for 2013. And I can’t wait to tell you about it.

But before I can do that, I need to clear out some of my mental and emotional bandwidth along with some of this lingering clutter. I suspect that it’s more of a lifelong battle for me. To conquer things that crush me instead of sustaining me.

An informal poll of the New Year’s plans or traditions of friends provided me with inspiration. One friend mentioned working on a list of things she’d like to leave behind in the old year. And that come midnight on December 31st, she intends to burn that list.

I’m inspired to do the same and was going to include some of the things I want to leave behind, but don’t want to have them recorded in perpetuity to mock my intentions.

But I’m working on it. And I can’t wait to leave all of those things behind and make room for even better days ahead. And before you think me overly maudlin, Last year was filled with so many good and amazing moments. I want to make sure to make room for even more in the year to come.

My philosophy for the past few years was Better. I’ve amended it slightly. My motto for next year?  Even Better.

On Giving Thanks

November 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Thursday, many of us will be gathered around a table groaning from the load of too many delicious things to eat.

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ll talk about things mundane and magnificent. Like the fact that Thanksgiving falls on November 22nd and seems to be coming early this year (is it ever too early to give thanks?). Or the fact that so many of us in the Northeast had our lives shaken up mere weeks ago by hurricanesuperfrankenstorm Sandy and that we’re so incredibly fortunate to have our lives creeping back to a semblance of normalcy. And we’ll also send up a guilty prayer for those who are still weeks if not months away from anything even remotely resembling normalcy.

And we’ll pass the yams and marvel at the pies and then steal covert (or more obvious) glances at our smartphones. We might update our Facebook pages with pictures of our food or relatives and tweet clever or snarky things about the onerous responsibility of spending an entire day with family and being forced to muse upon things that we’re thankful for.

But for one day, we will slow down and mostly shut off and give thanks. And for that I’m truly grateful.

I’m grateful for a lot this year. For health. For family. For love. For friendship, the real kind, not the click and like kind. For the ability to make things better as they’re getting better. And for holding fast to, and then rediscovering my innate and hard-won optimism after a sandstorm of challenges.

So have I still been pruning my belongings regularly? Yes and no. And I hope to tell you more about it and more frequently than I have been.

In the meantime, thank you for sticking around if you’ve stuck around.

On Essays, Soul Spilling and Survivors

April 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

While it would seem to the world that as a professional writer I spill my guts on a regular basis, I’m actually incredibly circumspect about what I share publicly. My other self, the marketing strategist, regularly lectures me to ignore my desire to share the painful and over-twee and to instead mind my brand when opening up in print. So I write about beauty. And I write about culture. And I examine modern cultural minutiae and try to understand what motivates people. And I try to find ways to help people in their business lives and every day strive to make people’s worlds slightly more amusing and hopeful. And I try to tiptoe through the misery and inequity in the world and instead focus on teeny, tiny ways to make things better. Happier. Clearer. Because the

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judenstern". Part of the exhibition in the Jewish Museum Westphalia, Dorsten, Germany. The wording is the German word for Jew (Jude), written in mock-Hebrew script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

collective clutter of misery in the world can be far too soul crushing.

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day meant to commemorate the millions murdered by the Nazis. As a child of survivors I wonder where is the day celebrating the survivors? What about the ones who endured living hell and went on to create families and communities and lives filled with both magical and mediocre moments?

As the child of a child concentration camp survivor and a member of a family of survivors, I don’t need one day to remind me, every day is Holocaust Remembrance day in my world. I am a living, breathing, Holocaust memorial. After years of not discussing my familial pain, I decided to write an essay about it and submit it to my usual outlets. It was neither raw, nor overly emotional. What struck me most is how matter of fact I was about the facts of my life. And the fact that I didn’t much care if it was published or not. More than that, it was cathartic to talk about the ongoing struggle of survivors to be afforded dignity as they age. I spoke about the indignity of survivors trying to deal with the organizations that are funded by German reparation money and exist to aid them, who instead choose to victimize them a second time. There was no rage. There was no pain. Merely an airing out of a story that should be told over and over again until justice is meted out and not in insultingly tiny increments.

I’ve written and deleted tens of thousands of words over the years dealing with the particular pain of being what is known as 2G, the second generation of survivors. I wasn’t ready to share with the world the fact that as a very little girl in summer camp, I’d map out escape routes through the forests, just in case the Nazis came back for the rest of us. I felt too vulnerable to share the particular terror felt by children of survivors, that every time you kiss a family member goodbye, it could be the last goodbye. Or the fact that I almost exclusively dated tall blonde WASPs in the hidden hopes that they would save me, if it ever happened again. I never wanted to share the rage at feeling that even my most crucial moments, illnesses or heartaches were inconsequential, because really, how can you compete with the specter of your then eleven year old father being a slave laborer before being sent to a concentration camp? Or knowing that your name isn’t even your own, but rather one plucked from the mass grave at Auschwitz, where the first Rachel Weingarten was gassed before being obliterated in a puff of crematorium smoke. Or how after emerging from the hell that was cancer, you wondered why on earth people insisted on calling you a survivor.

But this time I hit send on my essay instead of delete. I felt as though I was sweeping clean some of the barbed wire cobwebs that pin me to a painful past. Still there, still somewhat rusty, but perhaps less oppressive.

In yearning to clear my life of extraneous clutter, I have to sometimes publicly explore my personal pain, the pain of a lost generation and wonder how people manage to forget.

Zachor. Remember. Not just one day a year, but every day. Not so that you live in the past, but so that the future can remain a hopeful place and not one crowded by ghosts demanding retribution.

Friend/Frenemy/Former…Facebook?

September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Remember the youthful trend of bribing people with the promise to be someone’s best friend? You’d negotiate the exchange of a cookie or coveted seat on the school bus for a pal’s ephemeral elevated allegiance. Until the next grade-schooler came up with a more tempting option and you were back to being simply friends again.

1950s - Painted Ladies - Best Friends Forever

Image by clotho98 via Flickr

These days online friendships are frequently measured by comments, likes and retweets. And offline? It’s complicated.

Time was, we’d pick up the phone for a long chat with nearly any of our friends. Now family, circumstance, career and technology have most of us playing phone/text/Facebook/Twitter/e-mail tag and trying to find an ever elusive mutually convenient time to catch up.

It’s exhausting.

It’s confusing.

It makes me question the nature of true friendships and revisit the thoughts behind an earlier post on pruning old friendships.

While I still have my core group of BFFs, some people I once considered close friends have become those with whom I [at best] share an occasional comment or inside joke on a shared social network. It’s all very civilized, but it feels crowded and sometimes fake.

Where a friendship might have once naturally run its course, it now seems to travel through a more circuitous path depending on shared public profiles. In many ways it was easier when a break-up was more permanent and moving on meant just that.

These days there seems to be the pull to publicly cling to as many former friends and colleagues as possible at the risk of losing sight of the more important and treasured friendships and relationships.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I want everyone who was once in my life to remain there. I didn’t love everything about high school and I certainly didn’t love everyone I went to school with – why would I want to know what their dog ate for breakfast?

I’m still trying to figure out how to tackle that particular persistent clutter without seeming anti-social-networking.

Declare Your Independence

July 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

This weekend we celebrate the signing of one of the greatest documents in history- The Declaration of Independence which severed the American colonies’ ties with Great Britain. Fast forward 200+ years and and we’re displaying all the hallmarks of a modern relationship. Not only are we best friends with our ex, but celebrating the nuptials of its crowned progeny and eagerly awaiting his visit to our Canadian cousins.

U.S. Declaration of Independence ratified by t...

Image via Wikipedia

Real life tends to be messier, and on the most basic level, break-ups, be it with a former friend or significant other, can seem like the ultimate in gut wrenching decluttering. Clearing out a person from your life who doesn’t suit you body and soul (or perhaps only body but not quite soul), or a subversive not supportive friend and declaring yourself independent comes with a lot of potential pitfalls, but also the potential for inner peace.

Bad friendships and relationships can drag you down much in the way that a too cluttered space can prevent you from thinking or acting in the way  that you wish. Hard as it may be, there are times when you have to clear through your roster of friends or significant others and decide who’s got to go.

While frenemies have become something of a societal norm, I choose to let them go. I understand the notion of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, but I can’t think of a single reason why I’d want to keep someone like that around.

A vampire friend who sucks the life out of you? Gone.

The childhood friend who seems to appear only in times of need? She’s out of here too.

The wishy-washy boyfriend who seems only concerned with his own needs? A no brainer- time to break up.

Sometimes the most freeing thing  you can do is clear out your phonebook.

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