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 Nick’s husband Hughes is withdrawn, no longer resembling the man she married before the War.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’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.
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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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While there's a lot of garbage and woo phonies out there, I'm serving up the real deal. Who am I? I've published two books, built a $20MM company, and have worked with world-class brands and brilliant start-ups. I know how to tell stories.
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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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  • I used to be a woman who did things. I was a doer, a maker, a builder, and then I was a woman who stared at a wall. I’d become an abandoned construction site, in a constant state of disrepair. The hammers grew heavy. The cement cooled. The nails dulled and rusted brown. And then I woke up from staring at a wall and looked around and nothing felt familiar. I forgot the blueprint and all my plans. What was that building, that woman, supposed to be? For miles, all I could see was the semblance of something, a stack of bricks, a room incomplete. What was supposed to be here? I kept asking myself. ✨

I put on my shirt and shoes and try to walk myself back to the woman I used to be. And watching myself get cut and bruised in the process. But I’m used to this, I think, passing time tending to my wounds. ✨

How do I go back to building when the tools feel heavy in my hands? ✨

How did I get here? ✨

I look at pictures for clues. In 2002, I started an online literary magazine because none of the cool kids would publish my work. My writing was too raw, dark, and messy for print. I wasn’t cool enough, connected enough, or willing to kiss the right ass.
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I’ve always been more of a kicker than a kisser.
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The journal was beautiful, smart, and cultivated a following enough to get the attention of The New York Times, Poets & Writers, and The New Yorker. I was proud of the five years I devoted to the journal—how I built it on Moveable Type and then fought with the printer on proofs when I decided to launch an annual print edition.
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I don’t tell people about the times I’d hurl 40-pound boxes up and down streets. I don’t tell people about manning a table at a book fair knowing all the cool kids in publishing hate you because you upset the queen bee. And I definitely don’t tell people that I used to get stone-drunk at book parties because the idea of talking to the judgy smart set was unimaginable sober. Never do I talk about the hours spent sad and alone.
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.....read the rest on @medium. Link in profile.
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  • The most advanced yogis aren’t the lithe Lululemon-clad women who kick up into handstand. We claim to be egoless, yet we grandstand our heel hitting wood while the motley lot peer up from their books and their phones, while we holds our breath for a moment before coming down. Our practice has begun because we’re able to hear the sound of a heel thumb against wood.
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This isn’t yoga to me, it’s showing off. Truly skilled practitioners settle into their breath because that is the most difficult thing one can do. That is the union: stillness and movement coalescing, folding in on itself like a note held too long, sorting itself out. When I started my practice in 2002 I was driven by ego; I regarded the asanas as a succession of poses I could master. Little did I realize that holding a Warrior pose would reduce me to a shaking mess. How could I know that my physical impairment — a shattered collarbone that never healed, only prevented one arm from growing, so I was left with one arm markedly longer than the other — would make many poses anatomically impossible?
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How I could know that it would take me seven years to sit still for 15 minutes?
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I hadn’t prepared myself for how my practice has shifted in the years since I’d left it. I practiced for 7 years, daily. I stopped and every attempt to start again has been a challenge.
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When I left NY, it occurred to me that I was going at life SO HARD. Everything was about killing it and crushing it and every violent metaphor you could muster. Then I got here, slowed down, and wanted to settle down.
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I’ve been in LA for nearly 3 years and I’ve finally returned to that mat. My body has changed. My ability to do certain poses has changed and I remind myself that I can’t compare my advanced before with this new after.
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I found a studio that’s a lot like the one I used to love, and my teacher told me that my practice is in me. The precision and attention are there, but the strength and prowess aren’t. I’m reminded of the meaning of yoga: union, and how my practice is a union of all my selves. The woman I used to be and the woman now. And the work is seeing the beauty between the two.

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