Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

About an hour ago, I got an email from Maria, my immediate supervisor at work and my role model for leadership during difficult times. With her permission, I’m sharing what she wrote with all of you:

“Good morning, Amanda. I see from the emails you’ve sent that you worked most of the day yesterday and have already started working today. I know that we’re behind the eight ball on a lot of things, and I appreciate all that you’re doing, but I’m concerned that you’re pushing yourself too hard. I’d like you to take the rest of the morning (at least) to rest and recharge. Read a book, watch a movie, do some baking, call your sister, take a walk…do anything besides work. Then, later today, sit down and really think through what we need to accomplish in the next week, what can be delayed or approached in a lower gear, and how I can support you in finding the balance. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be at your best as an employee, leader, family member or friend.”

As an empathetic, caring, and committed manager, Maria knows me well and knew exactly what I needed to hear today. I was especially struck by the last line, because right now so many people are consumed with the feeling that they need to devote all of their energy to being the very best parents, employees, friends, relatives, and so on. However, time spent paying attention to our physical and emotional health pays dividends in making the time spent on other things much more effective. I know that when I’m feeling burnt out, I might spend an hour on something that on another day might take twenty minutes, because I didn’t think I could afford to take a break, even though the break would undoubtedly have saved me time in the long run. (Here’s more about why taking time out benefits your work and productivity.)

I know that this is a particularly difficult time for parents, and it’s easy to think you need to devote every spare minute to your family. My sisters have recently expressed that while they’re very focused on parenting, they don’t feel like they’re always doing a great job. This makes sense, because effective parenting also requires taking care of yourself, so you have the energy needed to take care of others. (More on that here.)

I’m taking Maria’s advice today, and I hope you will, too. Enjoy your day.

As I mentioned last week, I’m now alternating working from home and at work. While this has presented some unique challenges with social distancing, I’m getting used to the new routine. What’s taking a little more time to adjust to are some changes in how I spend my days. Over the last six months, the long stretches of time spent sitting and working have slowly but steadily increased as the things that used to have me moving around the building (meetings, training sessions, going to the coffee room, etc.) were replaced with Zoom sessions, increased emails, and my desktop coffee maker. 

In recent weeks, my training schedule has gotten back to something close to pre-pandemic days, but there’s a huge difference in how that plays out now. Before, I worked in person with groups of people, often with reference slides projected on a nearby screen, and I was constantly in motion, checking in with individuals and small groups. Now, I sit in my chair and interact through the computer. One day last week, I spent a total of ten hours in my home office and only got up four times.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of unshackling from the desk, both at home and in the office. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Get Moving

Working at home requires a lot less movement, because even just reaching my desk at work involves getting in the car, walking through the parking lot, going to the elevator, etc. Inside, everything is just a little more spaced out. Even heading down the hall to the restroom or to refill my water bottle requires more movement than when I’m home. Even at work, though, I’m sitting around more than usual (see above). Given that walking, even a little bit, has enormous health benefits, it’s something we don’t want to lose out on. So, it’s important to build short breaks into the day. Even a few laps around the room a few times a day gets our bodies engaged and contributes to our overall health.

Stretching can be done in short spurt so you get the benefits of moving without being away from your desk too long. If you, like me, are nearly constantly monitoring emails, online discussions, or Zoom sessions, try these simple stretches that you can do without going anywhere. Also, do some standing. Several of my colleagues swear by standing desks, although there are some mixed opinions about how long you should use them. At a minimum, health experts agree that we should stand up at least a few minutes every hour to help with circulation, blood sugar levels, avoiding muscle cramps, and gaining other health benefits. 

Watch Out For Your Eyes

In the old days, there were more distractions, location changes, and in person interactions that pulled us away from our screens. These days, the computer is the gateway to just about everything. If you’ve had an increase in tired eyes and headaches, you’re not alone-many of us have been battling eye strain, a nasty byproduct of too much sustained screen time. Luckily, there’s an easy way to fight back: use the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple trick has an enormous, and pretty much immediate, positive impact. In fact, if you’ve been online for more than twenty minutes, take a quick break from reading this post and look away right now.

In addition to time, it’s important to be aware of blue light. This type of light travels the deepest into our retinas, and has been linked to cumulative damage. In the more immediate sense, it contributes to eye strain and headaches. Many devices have a built in option to filter blue light, but if yours don’t, consider either screen covers or glasses that filter it for you. I switch screens so often that the glasses work best for me, but my friend Mike wears glasses for his vision and so had gotten a screen cover for his monitor. You can also get prescription lenses that include blue light filtering. Blue light protection has immediately noticeable benefits. A while back, my mom started to complain about eye strain, so I loaned her my extra pair of blue light glasses over a weekend to see if they helped. It made such a difference for her that I told her to keep them and bought myself another spare set. 

Watch Your Habits

One of my friends recently joked that she was fighting “the death of a thousand snacks”. She’s still working from home full time, and has realized that it’s a thousand times easier to walk to the fridge or pantry to get a snack than it is in the office (rummage for change, leave the desk, go down to the vending machine…). I’ve discovered that being back at work still involves a risk of unhealthy eating these days, because many of us have stocked up on non-perishable munchies in our offices. Fighting the snacking impulse can be really draining, especially if you’re feeling bored, lonely, or stressed (three hallmark 202 emotions). Instead of trying to eat less, I’m changing the options on hand, choosing veggie chips, granola bars, and fruit. Changing my grocery list has definitely started to change my day to day food habits. 

Finally, be aware of your posture. Over the course of the pandemic, half of the people I know have started turning into bananas because of how much they’re hunching, and the other half are leaning back on their couches with their head awkwardly propped forward. Both of these postures put extra strain on the back and neck, and this can lead to short and long term.  Try these tips for good posture, and be sure to change position (like standing, stretching, or walking) to prevent stiffness. If you’re experiencing a lot of stiffness and soreness, you might consider investing in a new chair. I have a great chair at work, but less so in my home office. I’ve been alternating between two, because one is more comfortable and better supports my posture, but the other allows me to swivel between two computers and an additional monitor. I think it’s probably time to get something that does both. 

Clientmoji

What’s your level of “sit and screen” time these days? How are you managing it?

(Side Note: Am I the only one who’s having fits trying to figure out the WordPress block editor?)

It’s a holiday weekend, and I’m staying home. Locally and across the state, our positivity percentage is still high, so I’m continuing to be cautious, especially since I’m now back at work a few days a week. I’m using a lot of the weekend to catch up on work, in the hope that I can start scaling back on the recent string of fourteen hour days. Meanwhile, there has been an unexpected increase in challenges to my commitment to remaining cautious during the ongoing pandemic.

So I thought it might be worth talking about a few of these situations, for anyone who might be facing something similar.

Quick Conversations

So far, I’ve been physically present at work for six days over the past three weeks. Every single day, several people have asked if we can “get together for just a minute”, or simply opened my door and stepped in to ask a question or start a conversation. Most of my coworkers believe, as I do, that the best thing to do is keep our doors closed and continue communicating virtually or over the phone, even if we’re both in the building, but some think differently, or figure that one time won’t hurt. So several times each day I’ve had to politely ask people to leave and request that they send me an email or a Zoom invitation. The next time I go in, I’m going to put a sign on my door and hope that helps everyone get the message.

Invitations

Not everyone agrees with my level of caution, and I respect that. However, I must admit that I’ve been a little taken aback at how many people have invited me to parties, dinners, and movies. One particular friend has been pushing in person gatherings since our state reopened. She has never broken the current guidelines (which are stricter in my city than they are across the state), but has consistently been organizing group events ranging and has become frustrated that I have consistently declined. Most recently, she told me that she is planning a small party for her birthday, and said that she desperately wants me to attend. I would love to, and I hate to disappoint her, but I’m simply not comfortable with the risk, especially since I don’t know everyone who will be there, and therefore have no way of knowing the possible exposure risks. The best thing we can do in situations like this is to empathize, show respect for the decisions of others, and ask that they do the same for us. I’ve mailed her a gift and am making sure to communicate with her regularly so she knows that I still care, despite not being ready to spend time in person.

Personal Care

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but my hair is about two feet long. I usually get it highlighted about every six weeks, and I was past due when everything shut down. So I ended up with about four inches of very dark hair that then suddenly changed to light caramel. When a coworker teased me about it, I freely admitted that it looked pretty silly. I actually spoke with my stylist, who urged me to come in and promised to wear a mask and take precautions. I have to admit it was pretty tempting, but ultimately I decided it just wasn’t worth it, especially since she works in a nearby county that doesn’t have a mask mandate. I ended up dying it all to something close to my natural color, and it looks…well, it’s better. Lol. A lot of people I know are going in for haircuts, manicures, massages, etc., and have suggested that I should, too, especially given my current stress level. In the end, though, I just don’t feel safe.

Events and Experiences

Going to the movies has been one of the hardest things for me to resist. I love movies, love the theater experience, and usually see tons of films when they’re released. This weekend, half a dozen people in my circle plan to see Tenet, which is only playing in theaters. I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan, and usually see his movies as soon as they open. The movie won’t be available on demand for quite a while, and I hate to miss it on the big screen. However, there are so many streaming options that while I’m disappointed to have to wait for this particular film, I can still get my movie fix. Just last night, my sister Audrey came over so we could watch Bill and Ted Face the Music (which, by the way, is a lot of fun), and while we missed the big screen, we also acknowledged some of the benefits, like being in the comfort of my living room and being able to hit pause if we wanted to make a comment or needed a quick break.

Final Thoughts

I think the most important thing for all of us is to be kind, empathetic, and respectful to each other. If you’re finding that you’re more concerned than others around you, be firm in your decisions, but don’t make negative assumptions about others’ motivations and decisions. If you’re more comfortable with resuming daily activities, don’t take it personally if people in your life feel differently. Above all, avoid the temptation to argue, accuse, or attack. We’re still in this together.

How comfortable are you at this point? What have you been doing, and/or avoiding?

I have two tough weeks behind me and another one ahead. In fact, I had so much work to do this weekend that I didn’t have a chance to write my regular Sunday morning post. So instead, here’s a quick post for #MondayMotivation, because I think most of us could use a little bit of mindset support these days.

A Song to Get You Going

“The Champion” remains one of my favorite songs/videos because of the musical energy, positive lyrics, and inspiring images.

For more great motivational music, see this post and this post.

Reminders to Keep Trying

For more great quotations and other content, visit my Instagram page.

A TED Talk That Inspires

Amy Purdy’s story always reminds me of our capacity to overcome obstacles and live our best lives.

I hope you all have a great Monday and a fantastic week!

motivation

What’s ahead of you this week?

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a week. As planned, I went back to work on Monday, and to make a long story short, for the foreseeable future I’ll be at work two days a week and at home the other three. Some of my colleagues are still working from home full time, where others are on site full time. Midweek, we were informed that one employee who had been in the building had tested positive, and contact tracing caused several people (including one person on my team, but not myself) to reverse course and go into quarantine while they wait for test results.

Challenges

the struggle is realMeanwhile, my organization has implemented a lot of new policies and procedures, including a lot of new changes to the work from home process and a serious increase in oversight and monitoring. This has caused a good bit of confusion and a decent amount of frustration (particularly among people who have been meeting their objectives while working from home, because they feel like they’re being undeservedly punished). My immediate supervisor, Maria, continues to be amazing, but there have been a lot of decisions from other levels of leadership that are increasing stress on everyone. We’ll figure out a way to make it all work, but the stress is palpable right now.

More Challenges

I Can't EvenMy personal workload increased exponentially this week. A lot of my projects have reached critical stages, and there have been several new short-term projects assigned to me. Some of the aforementioned procedure changes have created the need to redo some previous work, and added new tasks that I hadn’t been anticipating. One of the most difficult situations I’m facing is that I’ve been moved up the chain on one particular project, and have been tasked with implementing decisions that I didn’t make. These decisions impact almost everyone in the organization, and people are really, really unhappy about them. I am very aware of how unhappy they are, because I have suddenly become the “face” of the project, so the day I took over my inbox was flooded. I spent most of yesterday catching up on replying to those messages while simultaneously getting up to speed and preparing to move forward.

Surge Capacity

helpBy the end of the day on Friday, I was more stressed than I’ve been in a long, long time, and I was frustrated with myself. The thing is, usually cascading workstorms is where I thrive. I’m a crisis-managing, priority-setting, marathon-working, we-can-do-it overachiever, and for my entire life I’ve been at my absolute best when the challenge seems insurmountable (see this post, this post, this post, this post, and this post). I’ve actually been really proud of how well I’ve handled things during the pandemic, because while I’ve had a few hiccups and tough days, I’ve overwhelmingly stayed positive and productive. This week, though, I’ve been tired, cranky, and stressed out. I’ve skipped all of my workouts, binged on unhealthy comfort foods, and even privately resented time devoted to talking to friends and family. In other words, I’ve been the anti-Amanda. I couldn’t figure out why instead of gearing up I felt like I was shutting down.

I video called a co-worker/friend for a venting session, and expressed those frustrations to her. She had a few things to say, and I think it’s good advice for all of us:

  • Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done well
  • Remember that you’re only human
  • Be honest with yourself and others about what you can and can’t do

Then she told me she had just read an article that I really needed to read, too. She sent it to me, and after reading it I decided that I absolutely had to pass it on to all of you. Here it is, and I strongly recommend taking the time to read it, because it puts a lot of things in perspective.

Conclusions

There’s still a lot of work to do, and I know that the next few weeks are going to be difficult. However, I feel a lot better after being reminded that there are reasons I’m not 100% on my A game, and that it’s ok to be where I am. Did I still work most of the day yesterday? Yes. Am I still working most of today? Yes. However, I’m also going to stop skipping my workouts, make sure I get enough sleep, be honest with myself and others about how I’m feeling, and take it easy on myself. I’ll get through this. We all will.

I'm ok 2

How are you doing?

black and white roller coaster

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In case you didn’t know (and let’s be honest-why would you?), in the United States today is National Roller Coaster Day. Many theme parks are open, with social distancing and precautions in place, so I suspect that a fair number of people will be (likely unknowingly) celebrating this “holiday” today. Speaking of precautions, I can’t help thinking about the Japanese amusement park that, last month, requested that visitors resist screaming on rides in order to minimize the Covid risk. Instead, the park urged, patrons should “scream inside your heart”. If you missed this particular example of 2020 weirdness, the demonstration video the park put out was oddly hilarious. Here’s a sample:

This is the first summer since I was five or six that I haven’t made at least one visit to Six Flags St. Louis, a tradition that now includes three generation of the Cade family. My sisters and I were discussing that just the other day, reminiscing for a while about both our local amusement park, as well as our first trip to Disney World, which has become something of a family legend (That particular story has also been on my mind lately because I’m finally nearing completion of my own basement upgrade). It was good to focus on the happy memories rather than the disappointment of missing this year (our family continues to be extremely cautious about Covid risks), and to talk about things we’ll be doing at some point in the future.

white and yellow roller coaster

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Eventually, of course, someone had to make a “coronacoaster” comment. We’ve definitely been feeling the ups and downs and uncertainties of these past months. Many of our local school districts ultimately decided to open virtually, including the school Audrey’s girls attend. Amy’s district is offering in person instruction, but she chose virtual learning instead. So they’ll be continuing the balancing act that all parents have been dealing with since shutdowns began back in March. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re both optimistic and determined to get it right (and so are Cassidy, Carly, and Cat, because they’re the greatest kids ever).

you got it boss

As for yours truly…tomorrow morning I will be at my desk at work (deep breath). Two weeks ago, I was feeling fairly comfortable with the idea, but now that it’s upon me, I’m definitely feeling some coronacoaster stress (side note: this morning I found this article, published just a few hours ago, that I found really helpful). I know that I’m very lucky to have been able to work from home all this time, an opportunity that a lot of people didn’t have. However, with cases in my city and state higher than they were when we were sent home in March, I don’t love the idea of venturing back into the physical workspace. My coworkers who have kids are especially stressed due to child care concerns.

Luckily, my employer’s plan seems to be changing. On Friday, we received notice that tomorrow we will be “discussing options for ongoing remote work”. I spoke to my supervisor, the amazing Maria, and she told me that while discussions and details are ongoing, she believes there’s a good chance that most of us will be approved to work remotely most of the time, at least until community spread has decreased (although Maria herself will be required to be at work full time). I’m definitely looking forward to receiving more information tomorrow, and cautiously hopeful.

In the meantime, I’m spending Roller Coaster Day trying to stay off of the coronacoaster. I have some shelving to finish in the basement, and I also plan to engage in my favorite stress reliever: baking. Specifically, I’m going to make some treats for my team, and a box of Maria’s favorite cookies just for her (and, I’m assuming, her kids…but I definitely won’t judge if she keeps them all for herself). I can’t control the ups and downs, but I can control how I react to them. No need for my heart to be screaming. 😉

log ride

Are you feeling the roller coaster lately, or is your metaphorical ride running smoothly? How are things going for you?

In a virtual conversation with friends this week, I mentioned that I almost wish I was back in graduate school right now. My MA is in Communication and Leadership, and the opportunity to study leadership during the pandemic would have been fascinating. This comment prompted a long discussion of how our employers and elected officials are handling leadership during this time. As we shared our professional experiences, we realized that they ran the gamut between people we felt had completely crushed the challenge, and others that had been nothing but a disappointment (one friend is actually looking to change jobs because of an utter loss of confidence in his organization’s leadership).

In our conversation, some common elements emerged among the leaders we considered most effective, and what we wish we were seeing from others. These are not new ideas, and they are also important during more traditional times, but the past five months have really highlighted their importance. I’ve been lucky in that while not everyone in my organization has met the moment, Maria, who runs my department, has been a shining example of leadership during the pandemic.

Here’s what good leaders are getting right:

Communication

miss your face

There’s definitely uncertainty about the balance between too much communication and not enough. One of my friends complained that his boss deliberately scaled back communication to almost zero shortly after they began working from home, saying that he didn’t want to put additional pressure on anyone. While he had good intentions, his employees felt lost and uncertain. They requested an increase in interaction, especially opportunities to talk to him in real time to ask questions and share concerns. Unfortunately, those requests didn’t prompt any changes, as he maintained faith in his philosophy that the best thing he could do for his employees was to let them do their jobs with minimal input from him. This became especially problematic when he sent emails with new policies and tasks without, in his employees’ opinion, allowing them sufficient opportunity to weigh in or get clarification. On the other end of the spectrum are leaders who are micromanaging from a distance.

Good leaders have sought to find that balance, and a key element has been asking their students how much interaction they need, what format is most effective, and if they need to adjust for specific circumstances. That speaks to a broader element of effective leadership: listening. Not only does having their voices heard make people feel respected and valued, but a variety of perspectives also contributes to leaders making the best decisions and avoiding missteps.

One thing I have really appreciated about Maria is that she has given us frequent updates, even when there’s nothing to report. Just knowing that “we still haven’t made a decision about X concern” lets me know that progress is being made, and that she hasn’t forgotten about things that matter to us.

That’s also reflective of…

Empathy

Bitmoji Image

Because she asks questions and listens to the answers, Maria knows how we’re feeling and what we need, and tries to make things happen. In a conversation we had back in April, she said, “I don’t know all the ins and outs of your job under normal circumstances, and this definitely isn’t normal. I’m counting on you to tell me how I can support you”. Just hearing her say that helped allay some of my worries, and when she followed up on the things we talked about, it was huge. In several cases, she’s pushed hard in conversations with her own superiors because of our needs and concerns.

Maria has always been interested in us as people, but she’s really increased her focus on our personal relationships since we’ve been working from home. She has made a point of asking questions about people’s families, hobbies, and activities, which has made me realize how little I knew about a lot of people’s lives outside of work.

That leads me to…

Team Building

dream team

I’ve gotten to know some of my colleagues (including Maria herself) better in the past five months than I have in five years. She has also created lots of voluntary fun stuff that has really brought us together, like inviting us to take and share pictures related to various themes (like “your thinking space” or “trying something new”) or asking questions like “What would be title of your TED Talk?” She also created a weekly optional Zoom meeting just to talk – not about work, but about life, concerns, and how we’re doing. Finally, she invited us to participate in a group text for, as she said, “whatever’s on your mind”, which we’ve used to discuss all kinds of things, share memes and news articles, update each other on daily events, and so on.

We had a well-functioning department before the pandemic, but the progress we’ve made over the past few months is astonishing. As a result of our increased closeness, we’re working together and supporting each other more effectively, and everyone is on more solid emotional footing.

Work Ethic

working from homeIn the conversation with my friends, one lamented that she has no idea what her boss is doing, except sending emails that increase expectations on her and her colleagues. “I’m not saying he isn’t working,” she said, “but I have no evidence that he is…which makes me wonder.” It’s harder to lead by example from a distance, but if someone is able to demonstrate that they’re working hard, it encourages others to do the same.

There’s no question that Maria is doing at least as much work as the rest of us, because she’s been transparent about how she’s spending her time. Additionally, she’s gotten involved in projects that she normally only supervises, offering some day to day guidance and even taking on some of the workload. That’s had a couple of results. First, our respect for her has really increased. Second, we’re all motivated to work harder for Maria, specifically, and to do things she asks. Finally, those of us who have leadership positions within the department are following her example by making sure that we’re working as hard, or harder, than anyone else on our teams.

thoughts?

 

Have you experienced effective or ineffective leadership during the pandemic? What do you think are qualities of a good leader?

This week, my home state of Missouri was added to the list of “red zone” states because of our COVID metrics. Restrictions were re-implemented in some parts of the state, including here in St. Louis, where cases are climbing at a disturbing rate.

syringe and pills on blue background

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Two weeks ago, local school districts released reopening plans, with the vast majority planning to open on a hybrid schedule while allowing parents to choose full time virtual learning if they do not want their students attending in person. Since then, quite a few districts have changed course and decided to start the school year with full time virtual learning instead. Our county executive and county health board have recommended that all districts follow suit. Some groups of parents are petitioning for more in person instruction, and many teachers are advocating for 100% virtual.

Four positive cases prompted the St. Louis Cardinals to postpone a scheduled double header with the Brewers, and there is a lot of speculation that the MLB will not be finishing the already truncated season.

St. Louis has a mask mandate, but the state of Missouri does not. There is still a lot of resistance to wearing masks.

Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, has said that they are watching trends, and need two weeks to see how current mitigation efforts impact the situation. However, he added that, “We are running out of levers to pull, short of a complete shutdown.”

apartment apartment building architecture building

Photo by Expect Best on Pexels.com

Meanwhile, many businesses and organizations have already started having employees return to work, while others (including my own) have been planning to bring people back within the next few weeks. My sister Amy recently began spending a few days a week in the office. My sister Audrey and her husband will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, but their school district is planning to reopen for hybrid instruction. As of right now, I am scheduled to be back at my desk full time in a few weeks. One of my friends recently changed jobs so he could continue working from home, and several others have stated that they will resign and live off savings for a while rather than return to work. They’re lucky to have that option. Many do not.

I don’t envy those who have to make decisions in a time where every choice has serious consequences. I have opinions, but I don’t have answers. And, like so many others, I’m in a state of uncertainty, and wishing I knew what was going to happen. Meanwhile, I’m taking all possible precautions and trying to stay centered (and, happily, mostly succeeding…so far).

wear your mask

How are you doing? How are things where you live? Any thoughts on the current state of affairs?

In general, I avoid the romance genre. I don’t have anything against it, exactly, but it really isn’t my thing. I like fantasy, science fiction, character studies, and procedurals. Maybe romance doesn’t appeal to me because I’m not generally a romantic person myself, or maybe I’m just a bit too cynical to really get into them. 

That all changes the moment I get sick.

sick 2In my early twenties, my roommate and I both came down with a terrible flu. She had a huge collection of feel-good romance novels, and since I had a lack of new reading material in that pre-Kindle age, I picked one up and started reading. During the week we were home sick, I read two of those books every day. When I recovered, I wasn’t really interested anymore. The next time I got sick, though, I dug into my roommate’s DVD collection and spent a couple days watching rom-coms. The pattern has continued-for some reason, when I’m really under the weather, romance becomes my guilty pleasure. This past week, I spent several days sick in bed (recovered now, thankfully). Partway through the illness, my friend Mike asked me how I was doing, and I responded by telling him what I was watching on Netflix (and because he knows me well, that told him all he needed to know about how I was doing). 

When I thought about it later, I considered the fact that I felt a need to justify the fact that I was watching, and enjoying, something outside of my norm. The subtext was clearly, “This is silly, but don’t make fun of me…it’s ok because I’m sick”. It’s strange, because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with romance; it’s just not something I’m into, and doesn’t fit into the way people usually see me, or the way I see myself. That got me thinking about the term “guilty pleasures”, informally defined by dictionary.com as “an activity or piece of media that someone enjoys but would be embarrassed by if other people found out about it”.

I think it’s time for a good hard look at guilty pleasures, and how we engage with them. Let’s start with:

Should you feel guilty?

Before you decide whether you are going to embrace your guilty pleasure, you should ask yourself if there is a good reason to feel guilty about it. Set aside the cultural or social baggage that comes with certain things and ask yourself a few key questions.  

  • Is it irresponsible? 
  • Is it hurting someone? 
  • Is it hurting you? 
  • Can you afford to spend the money or time on it?

video gameTo use an absolutely extreme example, if your guilty pleasure is drug abuse, that is a problem. You are harming yourself and others by taking an addictive substance, and odds are you are going to spend far too much money on it. For a less extreme example, let’s say your guilty pleasure is video games. Those have become pretty acceptable in recent years, so why do you feel guilty about it? Is it because you’re in a situation where you are overdoing it, to the neglect of family, friends, and work? If that’s the case, any guilt you feel makes sense, because you probably need to adjust how you spend your time until you’ve reached a balance.

If your guilty pleasure isn’t causing any harm, you should ask yourself…

Why am I embarrassed?

If there aren’t any problems associated with your interest or activity, why are you embarrassed by it? Usually that comes down to two problems: you feel it’s wasting time or there’s a negative perception. 

If it’s a matter of wasting time, ask yourself if there’s something you need to be doing during that time. If your guilty pleasure is taking time away from things that must get done, take another look at the previous section. If, on the other hand, you could spare the time, but keep thinking you could/should instead be doing non-critical productive things instead, give yourself a break. Rest, relaxation, and fun are all important parts of life.

beachThe other problem is negative perception. Perhaps your hobby is viewed as being immature, or not being serious enough. Maybe it’s low-brow entertainment, or, like in my case, it doesn’t fit into your ordinary life or self-concept. Maybe you, or others, see it as selfish. That last one might really trip you up, because you feel like you should have taken the two hundred dollars you spent on getting your hair done and donated it to charity, or maybe you think the two hours you spent watching a movie could have been better spent on upgrading your next presentation at work. However, there’s nothing wrong with spending time and money on something that makes you happy.

Of course, guilty pleasures get the name because of how people see them, which leads to the third question…

Should you talk about it? 

A lot of times we apply the term “guilty pleasures” because of how people respond when we talk about them. The first thing to realize is that you don’t have to tell anybody anything. The most important thing is accepting it for yourself, and then it’s your business if you want to talk about it. Being a person who usually really enjoys telling the world about how ridiculous I am, I tend to go with talk about them. 

couchMost of the time. I am the opposite of ashamed of my love of cheesy 80’s horror films. However, I’m very uncomfortable telling people how much money I spent on any kind of salon or spa treatment, and, as previously mentioned, I always feel like I have to justify a foray into the romance genre. Talking about your interests and activities is your call. If you do, try to avoid the knee-jerk reaction to include a de facto apology (something I’m going to be working on in the future). It’s possible that someone will tease you, but if they do so in a way that’s fun and not hurtful, enjoy the camaraderie. On the other hand, if you have legitimate reason to believe that someone will judge you, or diminish your pleasure or something, don’t tell them about it. 

Personally, I think we should be thinking of these less as guilty pleasures but more like we think about anything we enjoy, period. I’ll get us started by admitting that even though I’m feeling better, I’m still going to finish the show I was binging while I was sick, because I’m legitimately invested in seeing the characters get their happily ever after. And I’m not ashamed of that.

let's discuss 2

How about you? What are your so-called guilty pleasures?

First of all, let me say that while the adjective “miscellaneous” is quite popular, I don’t think that the noun “miscellany” is used nearly often enough. So I’m happy to use this neglected word as the title of this post, which certainly fits the definition of “a collection or group of various or somewhat unrelated items”. 

In other words, this week I had a handful of things that I wanted to discuss, but none of them felt like enough to fill an entire post. So let’s start with:

Covid-19

syringe and pills on blue background

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

As I wrote about in last Sunday’s post, I was lucky enough to be able to get a rapid test when I had an exposure scare, and, thankfully, tested negative. Meanwhile, St. Louis and statewide trends, cases, and hospitalizations are on the rise, as are the waits times for testing results, which I’ve been told are now averaging 7-8 days. Meanwhile, our local school districts are scheduled to release their fall plans tomorrow, which has a lot of people feeling extremely anxious. Our schools typically start in August, and I’ve been watching the national and local debate on the school issue, which has gotten quite contentious.

Both of my sisters have been weighing pros and cons of sending their kids back to school, and my teacher friends have been trying to plan for all possible scenarios.

Baking

I had a rare two post week this week, because on Wednesday I posted my entry for this year’s Great Bloggers Bakeoff, which is going on right now over at Mel’s Caramel blog. You really should take the time to check it out, because there are some amazing entries.

I wouldn’t put mine in the “amazing” category, but I had fun. So much so, in fact, that as the week went on and some really stressful stuff went down at work, I kept making little cheesecakes and various toppings, eventually mastering strawberry and cookies & cream. It was extremely therapeutic, and I ended up with way too much cheesecake. Lol. 

Screenshot 2020-07-18 at 8.26.50 PM

Small Acts of Self Care

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

I’m a firm believer in looking for opportunities to maximize the benefits for investing time, money, and effort. Recently, I’ve started applying that principle to stress relief and health management. Even on the busiest days, I’ve made a point to set aside at least an hour for relaxation, and I’ve gotten in the habit of taking a few minutes to consider what activity would have the greatest impact on my mood. I’ve discovered that varies day to day, and being mindful of it has been really beneficial. So some days I add a little extra reading time, while on others I take a walk, do a little baking, or watch the Muppets (which never fail to lift my spirits…no matter how old I get). 

I’ve also made a few small financial investments that are paying daily dividends, like a new seat cover for my stationary bike (good timing, since I’ve increased my workouts a little due to all the cheesecake), a few new accents for the house (they make me smile every time they catch my eye), and high-quality, super comfortable bedroom slippers (which, since I’m still working from home, I’m wearing most of the time).

The right small things can really make a big difference.

Life 2

Let’s keep the miscellany going. What’s on your mind?