02 Jun 2018

what I’ve been reading

Photo by Alex Sawyer on Unsplash

One of my more indulgent fantasies features a room filled with books. Floor to ceiling books. Books spilling out of shelves. A ladder that allows me to climb to places where I can’t reach. I secretly hold onto this fantasy, especially when life brings me more than I think I can bear. But I manage because this is what one does–bear the dark spaces knowing that they will always, invariably, lead you to light. Books have always been my companion through this journey. When I’m jubilant, I read. When I’m feeling broken, I read. The only difference, really, is the types of books I cleave to in these moments of sadness and joy. When I’m on my game I read literary fiction and heady non-fiction. When I’m pulling the covers over my face, I go for the best of the genres–thriller, horror, historical fiction, YA, etc. Sometimes, when you reside too much in your own head, it’s nice to get lost somewhere else. In someone else’s world, one so artfully created. Push me back, pull me forward, or take me somewhere I’ve never been.

I’m excited to share what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks!!!

Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussman: I’m endlessly fascinated by the 1950s and 60s and the tension women faced between ambition and societal norms. When I was young, I devoured all the books about families come undone–families with lofty bank accounts and cocktail mixers–and Klaussman’s novel does not disappoint. I got glimpses of the Wheelers in Revolutionary Road and all things Cheever while reading this story of a family coming apart at very delicate seams.

Nick and her cousin Helena grew up in the privilege of gin parties and summering as a verb in a beautiful home in Martha’s Vineyard. They’ve got their men and their dreams and after WWII, they realize that the world they so assiduously built is far from their reality. Nick’s husband Hughes is withdrawn, no longer resembling the man she married before the War. Avery, Helena’s smooth-talking Hollywood charlatan, is hungry for fame, dollars, and all the trimmings Helena’s world provides. Both women are stuck with men who are pale facsimiles of their former selves and by societal norms. Who leaves their husband, especially after having children? You stay and endure the steady march of the years that follow. One summer, their teenaged children, Ed and Daisy, find a mangled body in the Vineyard and their family embarks on a decade-long downward spiral. This book is DARK, darker than I actually anticipated, and I loved it for all its bleakness. Why? Because sometimes life isn’t as tidy as you want it to be. It’s messy, unsatisfying, heartbreaking, and I find that SO MANY people want to be anesthetized. They want their shiny, happy ending, and I get it. I do. But that doesn’t stop me from going after that which is honest and real. There’s also a psychopath thrown into the story for good measure, and you guys know how I feel about THAT.

The Widow by Fiona Barton: Don’t you hate when publishers compare one book to bestsellers, even if the plot isn’t even remotely related? Yeah, me too. Everyone and their pony compared Barton’s first thriller to Gone Girl (I hated this book so much I actually through the film saved it) and Girl On the Train, but aside from an unhinged wife married to a douchebag husband, the similarities end there. Barton’s first book opens with Jeanie, a woman married young to a controlling husband, who loses said husband during a freak accident. We soon learn of the stench on them–Jeanie’s husband was a lead suspect in the abduction and murder of two-year-old Bella, four years ago.

The story is told through alternating POVs–you hear from the lead detective on the case, the ambitious reporter, the mother of Bella, and Jeanie, the widow. Over the course of the novel, we learn more about the insular couple, what binds them, and what tears them apart over the course of the trial. The question hovers around how much the widow knew? Did she know about her husband’s pedophile tendencies? Did she know about Bella? More importantly, when did she know? The pacing was on point (the book is literally a page-turner) and the inner workings between the police and the media were fascinating and well played out–no doubt to Barton being a well-regarded journalist in the UK. My only beef is that the story went exactly where you expected it to go. There’s no twist or red herrings. Rather, it’s a slow burn to uncover who knew what and when. Aside from the ending, which was less than satisfying (I like my twist), I finished this book in under a day and it’s definitely worth renting from the library.

Being Boss by Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson: I’m not a snob about career books, but many of them are just SO BAD. They’re either dry and redundant or too woo for words. However, Being Boss manages to straddle pragmatism and personal velocity in a way that’s practical, inspiring, and motivating. I also purchased their CEO Day kit and in one day I got complete clarity when it came to my career and its direction. Shanon and Thompson are small business owners who also produce the wildly popular Being Boss podcast. I love the podcast because it constantly reminds you of the difference between working in your business (knee-deep in the weeds) and on your business (establishing that bad-ass vision).

You don’t need to be a creative entrepreneur to find value in the book, which takes you through practical advice on how to manage and build your brand and career. You’ll learn everything from how to combat imposter syndrome to how to build your offering (and why you’re so awesome and unique, i.e. value proposition) as well as building real, actionable goals to jettison your career. Their voices and real stories from the trenches were infectious, and they’ve also brought in quotes and insights from people at the top of their career game. You also get worksheets and checklists! I found that this book, combined with their CEO Day course, really helped me gain clarity and focus when it comes to my career. This book is absolutely worth your $$$. And yes, this book is also helpful for the guys in the house.

Articles I’ve LOVED this week:

  • I had a blast on The Hartford’s Small Business Ahead podcast where I talk about firing wack clients.
  • The double-edged sword (and reality) of remote work.
  • How your email list can do some of the heavy-lifting when it comes to sales.
  • “It’s a very slippery slope from admiration to jealousy, especially as social media has become so prominent, giving us the ability to follow anyone’s carefully curated image of success and glamour.” This piece on online jealousy and hate-reading is excellent.
  • Five ways of looking at a serial killer.
  • As a small business owner, you need to be working on your business, not in your business. Making calculated moves is the key to success and you’re not able to do that if you’re knee-deep in handling the day-to-day details. I write often for The Hartford’s Small Business Ahead blog and here’s my latest on the power of delegation.
  • “We cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves and our workflows. Time doesn’t change, it isn’t flexible and can’t be manipulated to fit our needs.” Some real truth on time management.
  • You can’t be well-read without reading women. AMEN, people. AMEN.

 

Full Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase any of these books, I make a little cash to pay for my site’s hosting fees. 

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  • Do the thing that chills you down to the bone. I keep saying this like it’s a sermon, a song, and it’s taken me to places I couldn’t have ever imagined.
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I moved to Los Angeles nearly three years because I need to get lost, uncomfortably so, so I could find myself, scrubbed and renewed. And these three years have been some of the hardest I’ve known, but also humbling, exhilarating, and clarifying. In my search for quiet and calm, I could finally hear myself. And when you hear, you start to listen to what you want versus what the world tells you to want. And that’s when the magic happens.
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This year, I made a point of serving women and the marginalized. I got tired of making white men richer; the rest of us deserve the sky too. And in that work, I got further clarity on what else I wanted. I wanted to work with women my age to help them define their second acts. Moving from success to significance, now that we’re more conscious of the fact that we have fewer years ahead of us. Morbid, I know, but recognizing time as the most valuable thing we have has a way of making us surgical about our wants.
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Today, I closed on a project with a peer and good friend. She’s a successful entrepreneur who wanted to reshape her business to be more of a purpose-driven one. I feel humbled that she trusted me with her vulnerability. She told me she was buying clarity and perspective. I gave her that and a framework. Before I left, she hugged me and told me she had a plan. That the road ahead was clear, structured and achievable. And damn that felt good.
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I’m in a Lyft on the 101 and I feel good. Strong. Confident. Sometimes I hate that I’m in my 40s, but it’s times like these when I’m grateful for the years. I’ve been through it all and I have perspective, knowledge, experience, and the kind of calm age breeds. I can’t even imagine what I’ll know in 10 years, 20
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And it feels really fucking good to lift another woman up.
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  • Four years ago, when this photo was taken, I attempted a return to my yoga practice. I practiced every nearly every day from 2001-2009, but then I stopped. When I tried again in 2014, I was ready to reassume the shapes I knew, physically, but I wasn’t prepared for how this practice changes you if you allow it. The practice makes you a humble student. It’s not about the asana. It’s about your work off the mat.
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My teacher once told me the mark of an advanced practitioner is not the yogi kicking up into handstand. That’s ego. Rather, it’s the yogi who goes to a basics class to relearn the poses as if she’s encountered them for the first time. That’s the practice. The work.
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At 42, this is the work I try to do every single day.
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  • Do the thing that chills you down to the bone. I’ve been thinking about time a lot, as well as ambition.
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When I was young, I was hungry. I was aggressive and relentlessly ambitious to the point of being myopic. I had to prove something to the world, myself, perhaps my mother, and I needed to collect these totems or the signifiers of success.
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But there comes a point when you shift from desiring success to significance. The shift is imperceptible, but it happens because you start to be aware of time and the fact that you have fewer years ahead than behind. That realization is potent and frightening because death takes it all, strips us of ourselves and we return to that from which we’ve come. We can’t cart along our trophies and bank accounts and handbags to the afterlife. Those things have been reduced to dust and they no longer have any meaning.
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You start thinking about time and its value. Am I squandering it? Investing in it? Living it? Breathing through it.
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I’m frightened of death and the irony that I wanted to take my own life two years ago doesn’t escape me. I don’t have faith that could hold my hand and guide me through and out of the dark. I simply believe there’s nothing and this life is the one true thing I know of.
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Suddenly success morphs into significance because you start to do the math and wonder what you’ve done in this one beautiful life that will leave its mark. Maybe we’ll all be forgotten. Maybe we’ll leave indelible prints that linger. I don’t know.
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What I do know is that the definition of success is elusive. Just when you think you have it, it changes form. And the things I wanted five, ten years ago aren’t that which I desire now. There’s want, but it’s a different kind of want. There’s the want of designing a life that’s conscious, graceful, impactful, curiosity-driven, and remarkable.
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I sat down with a peer today and she trusted me as a marketer, and as someone at her level who could lend perspective. She has the tools, it’s just a matter of me being her guide and telling her that she alone can grant herself permission to shift her business and change her life.
  • When you’re trying to get WORK done and your pet is back on their bullshit.
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Who has a little one (pet, baby, cactus) they play with during the day to keep sane?
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  • My mother had died a year ago and this wasn’t about her. My pain exceeded her. I was in new terrain — a dark country to which I’d emigrated yet it was foreign to me. This wasn’t like the darkness of before, this was a fresh hurt. A ground that had given way beneath my feet and the fall felt bottomless. There existed no end to it. There was only the enormity of the hurt and its persistence. I woke to it. I carried the weight of it. I fell asleep to it. Even now I couldn’t meet my friend in the day because the light had become an assault.
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You don’t understand, I said. This is constant. Again with the blank stare. The discomfort and confusion. I had created a ripple, a disturbance in one place. I was no longer the fun friend who cracked jokes and entertained her for years. I had become something other.
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All I wanted was for her, for anyone, to say: I love you. I’m here for you. Tell me, what can I do?
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Have you thought about going back to yoga? she asked, signaling for the check. This is just a slump. You’ll snap out of it. You’ll see.
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It was if a curtain had fallen over our table and the room had gone black.
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I wrote about depression. HIT THE LINK IN PROFILE AND CLAP YOUR HEART OUT.
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  • Part of being a consultant is self-care. Now this isn’t about fancy candles and spending piles of money. This is about managing stress, anxiety, and the crippling self doubt we feel when we go at it alone.
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My self-care is all about meditation, medication, yoga, walking to clear my head and get the creative juices flowing, not taking on crazy clients, saying no, having me time and doing the thing that gives me calm—cook.
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For years I published a food blog, lovelifeeat.com where I documented thousands of dishes I made, baked, and ate.
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While I’m no longer feeling the blogging vibe and I had to hock the fancy camera, I’m back to cooking yummy food.
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And eating it, natch.
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What’s your self-care regimen?
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