So Busy

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days

When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

Stressed Out by 21 Pilots

During one of my jobs I had to sit down with a colleague to discuss a project we had been working on together. I had made careful notes in preparation for our meeting, while handling other tasks and calculating how much longer I would have to work that day to make up for having to leave earlier later in the week. At the same time I might have made a to-do-list for my after-work grocery shopping and worried about a friend who was not doing well.

As I I walked together with my co-worker to our conference room and politely asked how he was doing, he replied with a frustrated sigh, “Oh, it’s been crazy, I’ve just been so busy, just this constant load of things to do. I’m so stressed, I barely have any time.” He looked disgusted, as if someone was personally inconveniencing him. OK, the fact that I already knew him to be not the most reliable colleague and disregarding of efforts made by others contributed to the lightning-speed reaction in my head. What I thought was, Buddy, I’ve been here twice as long as you, and you think I’m NOT busy? Or anyone else?

Maybe it’s all in the wording. Maybe we react stronger to those who repeat something like the above, while not asking us how we are doing. Maybe both my natural state of positivity and my desire to maintain it drives me to say, I need to finish some things first, but I could get back to you * insert suggestion here *.

I have seen this time and time again, both in the workplace and outside of it, people who visibly do not trouble themselves or rush to exhibit involvement, committment, dedication, discipline, who cancel plans at a moment’s notice or simply don’t show up. They are surprisingly eloquent and clear as soon as they start talking about being “stressed”, while those at their desks rarely do. Why? Simple! One group has time to talk and the other doesn’t.

We all feel stressed or tired, we all share about it. We’re all busy most of the time. Sometimes you do have a hard day and end up talking only about your own experience. But the way it seems to work normally is saying, Wow, I’m just so wiped out from today, thanks for understanding, or I did this and that and now this, I just want to put my feet up, have a nice evening. Because the truth is, most of us are regularly stressed, tired or busy. There are rare exceptions, but I can’t think of any. It’s just the way life is, and the broader issue is how to deal with it and make sure you’re alright in the process.

I also think it’s pretty galling for people with less experience and a poor track record, in any context, to confidently tell someone on the opposite end of the spectrum about the tough time they are having. . .dealing with a sudden busy day, especially when half of what they are supposed to do ends up not being done. Again.

Whenever these encounters happen, I always come back to the same passage in one of Mindy Kaling’s books.

“. . . I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, “Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.I don’t believe anyone will ever give me a cake just like that, so I will simply bake my own.

As soon as I stop being so damn busy.

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Mary Higgins Clark Reading Spree: What I Learned

Besides the fact that I can accomplish the things I set my mind to?! Again! Hair flip! Another TICK on the list! Drumroll! All that good stuff. Using bookmarks like I mean it and reading standing up between the parts that making breakfast consits of. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride.

But in all seriousness. . . This is one of my favourite writers I’m talking about here. Her books have accompanied me multiple times from my early teens in to adulthood, each time providing new viewpoints both on the novels themselves and life as I was experiencing it at the time.

This year I set out to reread all the suspense novels she had written so far that I had on my bookshelf, starting with the terrifying debut Where Are The Children and finishing with one of her latest, All By Myself, Alone. The novels span several decades of publishing, from the mid-seventies to today. After spending time with 34 books from January to mid-November, what have I learned?

Mary Higgins Clark has the gift. Her prose is seamless, structured, not overloaded, her descriptions are spot-on and her storytelling skills are mesmerizing. She knows how to draw a reader in.

Stand-out qualities in the pages she has written include a steady, continuous sense of sincere empathy – there are words and descriptions you simply cannot fake. There’s also a clear distinction between right and wrong, even good and evil, if you will. She writes with honesty and precision, but without preaching, deftly interweaving and examining complicated issues within the story.

Her books are a compliment to the intelligent reading experience, with plenty of visibly solid research that becomes an integral part of the story without reading like a lecture or textbook even when something needs to be explained. The experts in her novels are believable, and readers end up ecoming curious about various topics not just due to the strong plot. From American history in various regions to actual famous murder cases, to burial customs. to reincarnation, to biblical scholarship, the palette is a colorful one.

It’s refreshing to have an author, and a bestselling one at that, who writes about relatable and likable heroines who are still as compelling and complex, just as much as any other. Their likability makes us see ourselves or someone we know in them, and this is part of the reason we get hooked. The “good girl” also has a place in literature. Most of us have known or know women like those who are at the center of Mary Higgins Clark’s novels. Many of us are like them, hard-working, at times struggling, faced with hard circumstances and loss, holding on to values and integrity, even sanity, loving with fear and sincerity at the same time and fighting for a sense of self in a difficult world.

I have discovered something for myself in every novel, but as in most cases of continued reading, a few already well-thumbed favourites that I know I will pick up again and again are on my list. These are Remember Me, Moonlight Becomes You, On The Street Where You Live, Daddy’s Little Girl, No Place Like Home. Some of the reasons for these gems topping the list include heroines with creative professions, among them writing, a house with a tragic past, sisterhood, parenthood, family ties and dealing with loss, developing love stories. And heck, the crime.

Mary Higgins Clark is turning 90 this year and in a recent interview she made it clear that she has no intention to stop writing – YES! People will still ask her why she does it. She loves it and gets paid well for it! I want to punch the air and say Atta girl!

Now I have to go buy her newest novel Every Breath You Take, which came out while I was busy finishing my reading spree. The journey continues!

 

 

November Repeat Playlist

I’m a regular re-reader, re-watcher, and the same can be said for songs. Sure, there are old favorites that always work, there are new discoveries, sometimes by chance, there are new albums we’re excited to listen to, and then again, and again. But some songs just grab you by the ear and I literally listen to them on repeat four or five times in a row. I would even go so far as to say it’s vaguely comforting in a world where you are peppered with offers of the newest hot thing every minute of your life. Yes, throw all that confetti at me, I don’t care, I’ve got my own!

Whole Heart by Rachel Platten

Fresh off her newest album Waves, I was excited to hear the new work after getting a feel for her musical energy and lyrics beyond Fight Song on her previous album Wildfire. This current favorite is a substantial pop-song with heart (no pun intended) that seems to follow a conversation about figuring out a relationship as I imagine it.

We were at the beach and you were hiding on your phone

You said nothing’s wrong, but something’s wrong

A powerful chorus rounds off the gentle, but firm point made in the lyrics. Romance and vulnerability without pathos or undue drama, as well as clear-cut vocals and a thought out story.

Cars+Parking Lots by Cimorelli

From cars and parking lots

I still think about him a lot

The last time we talked we fought

He’s gone but I never forgot

There’s always room for some nostalgia about our teenage years, especially when days are shorter and those autumn nights gradually turn to winter ones. Cimorelli effortlessly captures that teenage vibe of everything revolving around young love, and the sound just makes me think of all those classic 80s movies and the whole world (of course) being concentrated in one small town, during one summer, the universe of driving and dating, emotions running high and musical notes too. Great harmonies and easy to sing along to.

I’ll Make It Up To You by Imagine Dragons

‘Cause honey it’s been a hard year
It seems like we’re going nowhere
You’re crying inside your bedroom
Baby I know it’s not fair

This one is off their new album Evolve, which I’m enjoying very much. The thing I find coolest about Make It Up is how it takes off in the chorus, how the beat just picks up in the chorus, from contemplation to a firm statement, with a touch of wistfulness and, of course, hope. As always, the lyrics are observant, thoughtful and relatable. It also feels like a continuation of previous songs from other albums, like Every Night, which is similar to wondering about how characters you rooted for in a story were doing after you finished reading and then finding out in a (hopefully good, it can happen) sequel. Amazing guitar playing (heck, ALL the instruments) and soaring vocals in the background towards the end make me come back for more.

Don’t Hold Me Down by Colbie Caillat

Don’t hold me down
Oh, I was getting so far
Don’t hold me down
Cause I don’t wanna fall apart

This one is just always a good pick-me-up regardless of how I’m feeling and it’s been with me for years. Colbie Caillat’s trademark warm, energetic vibe and smooth vocals make for a feel-good, positive number that’s good for re-centering or just singing along to. It just fits in everywhere, anyime, any place.

Even The Rain by Gabe Dixon feat. Allison Krauss

You lean in close like I am your black umbrella
We run for cover, wind up in the doorway of a
Brownstone on the corner of west 17th
Out of the blue it’s coming down in sheets

I was shopping and heard the last lines of this in the background before it finished playing. It’s been around for a while. Luckily I remembered what I heard and a few keystrokes later I found this gem, which I couldn’t stop listening to since. It’s obviously perfect for the current rainy weather, but since it rains almost any time of year, its appeal is timeless. Obviously it’s more than being literally suitable to the weather outside. It’s the perfect blend of whimsical, romantic, quirky songwriting that makes me want to walk the rainy streets daydreaming under an umbrella.

 

 

Why I Love Being an Aunt

I have to admit, I’m still a beginner. In fact, I’m a total first-timer! But aunthood has become one of the most (newly) defined things in my life. It truly feels like a new life title that’s been added to the list of other roles that define my personality and which are in turn fed by who I am at my core. So, why do I love being an aunt?

The happiness I experience every time I hear something about the currently smallest member of our family, or better yet, whenever I visit, is instinctive and encompassing. I don’t even have to think about it or analyze it, it’s just there.

It’s like a mix of the best parts of being a big sister, a best friend and a fan rolled in one, with maybe just a dash of parental instincts!

While still adulting on your own and being excited about things, you discover the importance of moments and being present anew, through watching this little person grow, change and react to the world, and to you.

I am proud of the new parents. It is special to see a sibling step in to this new phase of life, with all its challenges, triumphs, surprises, all the highs and lows. It is incredibly touching and humbling at the same time to see someone you’ve known all your life caring so selflessly for a child you are also unquestionably ready to be there for.