Words to Live By

There has been a lot happening in my life. Some good, some not as good. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what I learned in all those years of behavioral therapy. 🙂 Yes, yes, how to behave. 🙂 Although I doubt I’ll win any blue ribbons for best in show. *grin*

I just finished reading an article that came up in my Twitter feed: The key to loving your job in the age of burnout by Cassie Werber. I don’t usually read these articles. I’m not burned out (yet) and I rather like my job and my work. I clicked through on this one because the associated image was interesting. It looked like footprints on water, but had to be mud or sand, but there was someone on the dock next to the footprints. 🙂 It was the picture – I thought if I could see it more clearly I’d be sure of the substance. I’m still not 100% sure of the photo and I’m not sure I am completely comfortable with some of the observations in the article about the nature of work, the gig economy, part-time versus full-time employment, and bespoke careers. That may be because of my age and experience. But I do know that there are several key observations that I consider “truths” to a happier life.

“More and more, our sense of self is connected to the kind of person we believe ourselves to be—a combination of profession and meaning—and not to our place of work. In this, we’re reverting to an earlier mode: before we had companies and careers, we had professions (for example, stone mason) and tasks (build a bridge.)”

Yes, absolutely yes. My corollary to this is that we need to appreciate ourselves and value ourselves in order to be confident and content. To phrase that differently: other people cannot ‘fix’ us. Happiness (contentment) begins within. The foundation is internal, not external. Yes, other people and external factors can make us unhappy, sad, stressed and other negative and bad things. But if we can see that as OUTSIDE of our core, we have the strength and belief to keep going and not despair. Or so it is for me.

“Despair, and railing against the unfairness of the system, are both reasonable. Many people, globally, do not have the freedom to choose. Some work situations—losing your job through no fault of your own, being bullied, suffering discrimination—are certainly unfair. But the narrative of entitlement to a fulfilling job obscures the fact that it’s not our job’s job to be meaningful. It’s our job to find meaning in what we do. Some of us have the option of changing our work situation if that becomes absolutely imperative. But we can also change the narrative we choose to explain our work to the world and to ourselves—and in so doing, change our experience.” (Boldface my addition to highlight the text.)

WORDS! The words we choose to express ourselves and describe our situation make so much difference. I used to say such things as: “I can’t STAND IT ANYMORE”, “This is killing me”, “I HATE him”. It’s very hard to feel as if I can make a change when I use such absolutes. I’ve learned to dial the emotion back a notch: “It is so frustrating when this happens”, “This is so uncomfortable”, “That behavior is not enjoyable”. The latter group of phrases gives me room to maneuver. Did anything about the external situation change? No. But how I perceived it did. I can handle frustration and discomfort. Those are normal experiences.

“… the difference between finding a situation bearable—possibly, indeed, happy—and unbearable is about whether we experience ourselves as performing a willing sacrifice, or simply as suffering. When working hard tips over into working too hard, or with too little reward, sacrifice has slipped into suffering. … “Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice,” he writes. “Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive.””

You need to read all of the article to understand the “because” part of sacrifice. We sacrifice for a goal. We tell ourselves a narrative to put the sacrifice in context, to make us feel that the ‘suffering’ is bearable and acceptable because of the end goal. We have choices. There are at least 2 choices in this sacrifice/suffering discussion. The first choice is that we choose the language to describe it, we CHOOSE whether we make it a sacrifice or suffering. The 2nd choice is the harder one. We can choose to change the situation (leave the job, leave the relationship, not fix the roof). I used to argue this one over and over and over and over. “It’s NOT a choice” I’d scream, “I HAVE to fix the roof if it leaks!!!” And Howard would say, “No you don’t. You can let it leak.” And I’d point out that the wood would rot, the house fall down and on and on. And he’d reply that it was a choice I was making – to NOT let the wood rot. There are obviously practicalities involved. But there is also a choice, when you stop, breathe and look at it. Once you frame it as a choice, it’s easier to confront. If you can confront it, you may also see how you might bring about an actual change, not only an emotional perspective change.

One of my former co-workers, Jim De Piante, had fantastic presentations about managers and project management. I have always remembered something he said (and my apologies to Jim for any mistakes in the quoting): “Think of your management as your client.” That change in wording shifts the perspective radically. It goes back to the point that words matter. It goes to the point we have a choice. The difference in connotation between ‘client’ and ‘boss’ is HUGE. When we have clients, we are in the driver’s seat, helping to make our clients successful. When we have a boss, we are powerless with no buy-in to the outcome. I think of this approach whenever I have the endless tracking and administrative work that comes with being part of a huge corporation.

“Unreasonable conditions and real misery need to be met with concrete changes. But other conditions, Petriglieri says, can be radically changed by reframing what we expect from ourselves—and how we see what we do with our days in the context of our lives as a whole. “There’s some pain that needs a solution, and some pain that needs a story,” Petriglieri says.”

Tell yourself a story, and choose your words with care. 🙂

Which World?

Why I want to be Ahuva in SL:

  • Ahuva never wakes up with a zit on her face.
  • Ahuva can dance for hours in high heels without getting tired, sweaty or being crippled the next day.
  • Ahuva never has to worry about fitting her keys, comb, cell phone, camera, drivers license and money into a little dress bag.
  • Ahuva can live a very happy fulfilling life without a home or income.
  • Ahuva never needs to sleep.
  • Ahuva doesn’t have allergies.
  • Ahuva’s clothes always fit, never get stained and never rip.

Why I’m glad I’m in RL:

  • Ahuva will never experience having a wonderful son like mine.
  • Ahuva can’t feel the warm sun on her bare skin.
  • Ahuva can’t smell the salt breeze, the fresh-cut grass, the cool fall air.
  • Ahuva can’t savor chocolate. (YES! endorphins!!!)
  • Ahuva has to juggle 7 chats simultaneously. That’s a lot of chats!
  • Ahuva can’t get her hands dirty planting flowers, working the soil.

Why I’m glad I have both RL and SL:

  • Wonderful friends in both worlds.
  • Ability to be creative in both worlds.
  • Experiencing new things – mentally, phsyically, emotionally,

You and I both know that these lists are incomplete.  But this is what happens when you wake up and look in the mirror and think “oh RATS!!!!”.  🙂


Another in my series of Why? Why do we do this, Why do we say that, Why do we make the choices we make………

The other day in SL a friend said to me that I was “smart and beautiful”. I accepted the “smart” part – you can fool some of the people some of the time…. 🙂 – but “beautiful” gave me pause. My intelligence is what it is, regardless of the medium. Intelligence, or lack thereof, tends to be revealed by communication, whether written or oral. But what does beautiful mean in a virtual world?

For the sake of discussion, let’s start with the premise that my avatar is beautiful. So what does it mean to tell me that I’m beautiful?

Does it mean that you think I look like my avatar? Probably not.

Does it mean that you think I did a good job creating my avatar’s looks? Maybe. But people change their looks/avatars regularly. And I didn’t even “choose” that look – someone gave me a skin. If you look at the before and after pics within my earlier entries, you can see that the skin reshaped my face, mouth, eyes. Not to mention the makeup. So I didn’t do anything. I am not my creation. I can’t even take credit for the design.

Does it mean that you think I have a good eye for creating beautiful things? Maybe. There are countless combinations of features for avatars. I do have control in what I select. So the compliment isn’t on my features, but on my creative talent. Or in this case, someone else’s creative talent. Maybe the compliment is on creative eye.

I’m sure there are many other ways to interpret the question. I know that I have frequently told others in SL that they were beautiful. I’ve written that here in this blog. When I said that, I usually meant that they had a created a beautiful avatar, so I suppose I meant either the 2nd or 3rd interpretation. Typically I’ve said that to non-human avatars. My friend S has 2 dynamite shapes – big white wolf and big black wolf. Both are beautiful images. F has the most stupendous set of wings – stupendous in look and in sheer size. She has obviously tweaked her appearance and she too is beautiful.

I have met many beautiful avatars. But I tend to save “beautiful” for the non-humanoid or modified human shapes. Somehow it doesn’t usually occur to me to tell a human avatar that they are beautiful. I compliment the outfit, the overall appearance. But I walk around in jeans and a top, barefoot. There is nothing “beautiful” about my outfit. I haven’t modified my basic human form. So “beautiful”, from someone who isn’t “hitting” on me, simply surprises me.

Perhaps my reaction means that I am still somewhat detached from SL – that I see avatars as “things” and not as people. I certainly don’t feel that way when chatting. I am very much aware of the reality and “person-ness” then. I wonder what will change my outlook. Will I “see” the avatars more when I can animate myself more? Will I “see” the avatars more when I know more people in SL? When, if ever, do you cross the line from seeing “animated characters” to seeing “people”? It is obvious to me from reading other blogs that many people have crossed that line, so I know it is a possibility. And not a bad possibility.

Writing these words also made me think about RL. Why do we compliment someone in RL and tell them they are beautiful, meaning their physical appearance? So much of that is not an option. That, however, is a far deeper topic than I’m up to discussing at this point. 🙂 But if anyone else wants to tackle it – I’d be delighted to hear what you have to say.