Say what you mean, mean what you say

I’ve mentioned how one of my pet peeves is when people offload ownership of a request by turning it into a question; please complete this report becomes do you want to complete this report?; please go to the grocery store becomes do you want to go to the grocery store? This trend is so prevalent that when I find myself asking someone a genuine question (Do you want to go to the grocery store with me?), I sometimes worry they think I’m doing THAT OFFLOADING OWNERSHIP THING and say yes because they think I want them to say yes.

See how energy consuming and complicated this lack of clear communication can quickly become?!

That’s why when I met up with a friend and her almost four year old the other day for a tour at the Denver Art Museum, I was thoroughly entertained by the kid’s straightforward communication. I could tell he was excited to see me when I arrived because his facial expression looked like joy and he came toward me for a greeting. On the other hand, I could tell he did not want to have anything to do with the tour guide who came over to him and asked him his name. She introduced herself and the kid just closed his eyes and slowly tilted his head back. I was dying laughing on the inside, because I imagined what it would look like if an adult did this.

In a conversation at work that you just.can’t.handle? Close your eyes and tilt the ol’ head back a little. That’ll send the message loud and clear. PLEASE GO AWAY I DON’T FEEL LIKE LISTENING TO YOUR INCESSANT CHATTER. At a bar and some creeper keeps talking to you? Close your eyes and do the head tilt thing and bam, they actually pick up on the message and walk away. How great would that be?

The directness of my friend’s almost four year old got me thinking about communication in general. I used to use the word “like” a lot, typical for an adolescent, then it hung around in my early adult years as a space filler—an avoidance of silence. After a colleague was criticized for her excessive use of the word (a subordinate counted the amount of times she said “like” during a meeting and shared the results with her), I assessed my own use of the word and made a point to pause and say nothing instead of “like” or “um.”

I have a friend who caught herself when she started to say, “kind of” when we were on the phone together. She explained to me that she was trying to be aware of using that phrase. I want to ask her more about it the next time we talk, because it’s a phrase that I’m curious about, similar to “sort of” and when people use “maybe.” I think of these phrases as timid talk when they’re dropped in the middle of sentence where they have no actual purpose. Or when they’re not used sparingly for dramatic effect (i.e. “That person is kind of intense).

When did saying what you mean, with clarity and kindness, fall by the wayside? Why does it feel like we’re tip toeing about with our words, many times literally apologizing for what we say or ask, even if no apology is necessary?

I have a thing for efficiency, and like to imagine a world where people feel comfortable and confident to say what they mean. I have a thing for integrity, and like to imagine a world where people are sincere and mean what they say.

Why I wear Patagonia

I stopped buying clothes from the mall. I no longer drop in to Anthropologie to see what dresses are on their sale rack and I don’t consider H&M when I find myself wanting a new outfit for an upcoming trip or work event. I watched the documentary True Cost in January; it explores the supply chain of fast fashion and sheds light on the garment factories of Bangladesh and Cambodia (where the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building caused +1,000 deaths). It links health and environmental issues near cotton fields in India to pesticide use. I could have easily felt overwhelmed by the complex web of issues that are tied to my clothing purchases. Lucky for me, the film’s website offers suggestions of companies that pay garment workers fair wages and whose business practices reflect their commitment to making the earth habitable to generations who will live 100 years from now. Most recognizable on the list is Patagonia.

I’m a big fan of Patagonia. It started in the 90’s when I was in high school and I sported a forest green Synchilla jacket. What the what is Synchilla you wonder? It’s a soft polyester fleece so snuggly you might as well be cuddling a Chinchilla. I loved that jacket. And I loved the Patagonia catalog I acquired along with it. I remember being amazed at how different it felt to flip through the essays (yes essays in an catalog!) and environmental ally advertisements, compared to Seventeen Magazine, the main event periodical of my adolescent years. Messages from both saturated my subconscious and guess what—Patagonia’s messages have withstood the test of time .

The values I try to live by as a decent human being on this earth are on the same page as Patagonia. I recently read Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. My admiration for the company and the man who started it only grew after reading about the intentional business philosophies practiced at Patagonia, that reflect Chouinard’s commitment to caring for the environment. Even though I have no intention of ever running a business as large as Patagonia, I took away concrete lessons of things I can do in my every day life, to reduce my impact on the environment. Skeptics or lazy brains may say, “What one person does isn’t going to make much of a difference.” That’s true to a certain extent, in the grand scheme of things. But if lots of people started caring enough about the earth to make small changes in their lives, we could collectively save ourselves from a WALL-E situation where we trash ourselves out of a planet and have to float around space on a ship as we grow morbidly obese.

I made a promise to myself, humanity, and the earth after watching True Cost; I am buying less and when I do buy clothes, they must be from companies who pay fair garment wages and who value the earth as I do. Now when you see me wearing the same shirt every time we’re together, you know why. 🙂

Intergenerational tech talk

“I need Facebook like I need a hole in my head.” This is what I imagine my Dad saying if I asked him why he’s not on it. The hole in the head saying is one that he probably used only a handful of times when I was young, but my imagination did a great job of creating a vivid picture of what he’d look like; a small tunnel passage running from the front to the back of his noggin so I could see straight through. I still picture this anytime I’m offered something that feels more like a burden than a blessing. Free XXL t-shirt giveaway? It might as well be a promise to have a hole drilled in my head. No thanks!

I know a number of people who don’t use fb. Back when it was first getting popular, I remember hearing many conversations in restaurants and coffee shops, where one friend would be trying to convince another why they should get on. It sounded suspiciously similar to when an adolescent wants to experiment with drugs but doesn’t want to do it on their own, so they convince their friend to try it with them.

I don’t ask my non fb friends why they aren’t on it with the intention to get them using; if anything, I like hearing the thoughtful reasons why they have decided to stay off it. I also don’t take quickly to new apps; it took me a couple of years to get on Instagram, despite a close friend’s point of how it was the ideal app for me and my photo loving self.

K and I had one of my younger brothers and his girlfriend over for dinner last night. Social media came up in conversation, as it tends to do (by genius design of its creators?!), and I was finally properly schooled in Snapchat. Definitely not in a proselytizing way, more like a respectful fyi overview from the younger generation. I particularly appreciate the perspective I gained from the young woman who explained live stories and live story events to K and me. Besides shedding light on the additional features that Snapchat has added since its start, one particular comment she made resonated with me. “With Snapchat I don’t have to worry about the ‘likes’ a photo gets.”

Dealing with real life approval was enough when I was in high school and in my 20’s, being reminded that that struggle now spans across all social media made me feel sad about the human-technology relationship. Technology is great when we can use it as a tool, but when we start being controlled by it, seems more like we’re prisoners. Trapped by the habits we form, of checking whatever app every five minutes, or worse, interrupted by constant push notifications that make us feel like we’re missing out on what’s going on in our phones. Feels like a huge hole in the head.

When I was on my walk this morning I tried to understand why it is that I prefer Instagram over Snapchat and ultimately landed on the fact that with Instagram, it feels like I’m compiling a composition of things I see and feel compelled to capture in a snapshot. The documentation is mostly for myself to remember the moment, but I do like the fact that friends on Instagram can see them too. Snapchat seems more focused on frequent sharing with friends. Is Snapchat the extrovert’s Instagram? Or maybe I’m just using Instagram like the introvert that I am and extraverts on there are engaging way more with comments and likes. Do people who enjoy listening to an entire, well composed music album prefer Instagram while those who grew up downloading singles from iTunes sway toward Snapchat? I don’t know. All I know is that technology is not going away and I will have to continue sorting out what is a real need, what’s nice to have, and what dozens of things to say no thanks to, so my head doesn’t end up looking like swiss cheese.

The Dixie Chicks live the anti-quick ‘n’ easy way

When I listen to the Dixie Chicks’ music, I can feel the raw emotion they pour into it; every single time I hear “Not Ready To Make Nice” I get goose bumps from 1:47-2:18 in the song. Every. Single. Time. I just tested my theory and played that part of the song three times in a row. You know, just to be sure.

I started listening to the Dixie Chicks in 2006 when their album, Taking the Long Way was released. I think it was a country music lovin’ co-worker who first introduced me to the song, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” This co-worker must have been one of the fans who continued to listen to the Dixie Chicks, despite their 2003 fallout with country music radio stations all over the United States.

If you don’t know much about the Dixie Chicks and absorbed the conventional opinion that they’re anti-patriotic, I’d recommend checking out the documentary Shut Up & Sing (your public library might carry it–the Denver Public Library has numerous copies). I watched it first in 2006 and then for the second time this past weekend. It’s always disappointing, but not shocking, to see the media feed the fears and feed on the fears of citizens. This is basically what happened in 2003 when the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines made a negative comment about George W. Bush during one of their concerts. From there, many fans turned on the Dixie Chicks and country music stations banned their music. Their Taking the Long Way album responded to the controversy that resulted from the George W. Bush comment and “Not Ready To Make Nice” is specifically about a death threat that Maines received.

I hopped on the internet after re-watching Shut Up & Sing this weekend, because I realized it’s been 10 years since Taking The Long Way was released and I haven’t heard anything new from the Dixie Chicks. To my delight, I discovered they’re going on tour this year, with the release of what looks like an album titled MMXVI. For you non-Roman Numeral minded folk, that translates to 2016. My immediate reaction was, “Holy cow! 10 years is a long time between album releases.” But then a satisfaction swept over me as I realized what 10 years could indicate.

I don’t’ know, because I’m not part of the band, but what I like to believe is that the Dixie Chicks value doing things their way (they aren’t kidding about “taking the long way”), which could mean taking their time and not rushing it. Because authenticity takes time; because living out a life to write vulnerable songs about takes time; because the creative process is filled with dead ends and demons, both of which—you guessed it—take time to navigate and face.

I’m excited to listen to MMXVI. I appreciate that the Dixie Chicks are still sharing their gift with the world, even if being a fan of theirs means practicing patience.