Expanding my comfort zone, part 2: 2012 personal reflections

NOTE: This is the second, and far more personal, part of my 2012 reflections. If you’d rather hear about my experience with coding class, read Part 1.

Aside from taking my first coding class, this year I dealt with several more personal excursions outside my comfort zone.

The biggest one was triggered by the abrupt and painful ending of a three-year relationship I’d treasured, which happened this summer — just a couple weeks after I moved from Oakland back home to Boulder.

Continue reading

Expanding my comfort zone, part 1: 2012 reflections on life and code

My motto for 2012. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

My motto for 2012. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

I know it, you know it: the obligatory end-of-2012-reflections blog meme is coming. So I might as well get a jump on it. It’s partly geeky, partly personal. And it’s not at all professional. Roll with it.

For me, 2012 has been a year of expanding my comfort zone by stepping outside it. Sometimes by being booted unceremoniously beyond it. I’ve walked the talk of one of my favorite pithy t-shirts of the year: “Comfort zone = dead zone.” At the ripe old age of 46, I’m finally learning how to be more at peace with being uncomfortable or uncertain, even for extended periods of time; and how to temper this discomfort with the kind of comfort that feeds my soul and keeps me sane.

One uncomfortable but important advance I made this year was to knuckle down and really start to learn how to code.

Continue reading

I’m not alone in this: reflections on social media and digital connection

Social media, digital communication channels, and cell phones often get accused of alienating people, enabling bullies, and breaking down the human ties which are the foundation of society.

Bullshit. Personally, I am far happier on a day-to-day basis thanks to these technological tools. They have added considerable love, meaning, joy, and value to my life. With their help, I’ve been able to offer nurturing and support to far more people I care about than ever would have been possible otherwise.

So I wasn’t surprised when a recent Pew study found that 85% of adult who use social networking sites say that people are mostly kind. Also, 68% reported they’d had a experience on social media that made them feel good about themselves, and 61% had experiences that made them feel closer to another person.

I know I’m not alone in this…

Continue reading

Cheer from Christmas Past, by Terry Gilliam

Thought you were going to escape the holidays unscathed? Think again! I’m actually in the holiday mood this year, and I’m not afraid to inflict it on others…. Muahaha…

This is an early animation by Terry Gilliam, from Christmas 1968. Laughing Squid posted it to Tumblr this morning.

Every since my brother introduced me to Monty Python when I was about eight, I’ve been enamored with highly visual absurdist humor. And I especially adore Terry Gilliam’s ability to upend our assumptions of space, time, place, scale, and intention.

This was also why I loved the original Pink Panther cartoons, Ren & Stimpy, and Ralph Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse. And, of course, my all-time favorite film, Brazil (by Terry Gilliam, of course).

We live in an unpredictable world, where meaning shifts drastically as context changes. We’re forever falling into a new picture frame, and parts of other pictures intrude rudely upon ours. Laughter is the best way to stay afloat amidst chaos. And there is always, always chaos.

And with that, happy holidays, all!

 

The inevitable mid-life birthday reflection post

Me atop Twin Sisters peak yesterday, Estes Park, CO. Geez, I hope it's not ALL downhill from here!... (Click to enlarge)

I’ve always said that my one true goal in life is to be a crotchety old bitch, sitting on the deck of my mountain cabin, a cup of tea or jug of wine and a plate of smoked salmon or trout at my side. I’ll have a shotgun across my knee, ready to cock it at anyone coming down the driveway and yell, “You from the gummint?”

I’m actually not kidding.

I’m not saying I’ll shoot anyone (necessarily), but crotchety old bitches tend to be able to get away with stuff like that, so why not?

The good thing about having this kind of life goal is that simply by continuing to exist, I’m progressing toward it. Today is my 45th birthday, and I’m starting it right — sitting on the deck of my cabin in the Rockies, still shaded by aspen…

Continue reading

Great Oakland hangout: CommonWealth Cafe

Shepherd's pie with lamb and arugula, Strongbow cider, and HP sauce. All on offer at a great pub near my place. Nomnomnom!

One thing I really love about Oakland, CA is that there are so many good places to hang out here. One of my favorites is CommonWealth Cafe, at 2882 Telegraph. I just wrote up a review of this pub/eatery on Oakland Local:

CommonWealth Cafe and Pub: Chill out, UK-style

The main reasons why I like CommonWealth:

  • They serve Strongbow Cider (my favorite!) on tap
  • Simple, hearty, inexpensive food
  • Dependable, free wifi and enough outlets for digital nomads
  • Friendly staff and clientele
  • Conversation-friendly noise level
  • Ample bike parking
  • It’s a short bike ride from my home.

Would you quit Twitter? Reflections on personal media choices

Wow. If You Think Quitting Booze Freaks People Out, Wait ‘Til You Quit Twitter.

Very interesting insights from TechCrunch’s Paul Carr.

I think there is much to be said for periodically cutting back on (or eliminating) anything that feels absolutely essential or habitual to you, to gauge how much you really need it.

In the last year I asked myself, “Do I need a house?” Nope. I’d like to have a house again, but I can be happy without one.

Several years ago I wondered, “Do I need a car?” Nope — and I’m much happier without one. Same with printed books: “Do I need several crammed bookcases around to reassure me that I’m smart or that I won’t get bored?” Again, no — I’m far happier with my Kindle and with being able to make better use of limited space.

I doubt that I’d ever entirely quit using social media because in my case it has vastly improved my life in many ways. But in the last couple of months I’ve cut back on it quite a lot — some days I post a lot, but others I don’t post at all (and a post-free day NEVER used to happen to me). I feel less compulsive about it.

However, I have definitely increased my use of two kinds of social media tools in recent months: social bookmarking tools and Facebook… Continue reading

Idea: Nurturing App for Social Media

Friendster or Foe
Image by l0ckergn0me via Flickr

Without going into details, I’ve been handling a lot of major personal stuff lately — and I’ve been fortunate to have a strong and growing circle of close friends who have stepped up to offer me a steady supply of energy, support, perspective, honesty, sympathy, empathy, nurturing, and fun.

And I do this for them, too. That’s the core of deep friendship and other loving connections: You give of your own energy to help sustain others who are running low or in transition. At certain points we all need more nurturing; and at other times we have an abundance of energy and emotion to offer. Life comes in waves.

Personally, I’ve always found it very hard to ask for the help or nurturing I need. I don’t trust people easily, especially where my feelings of vulnerability are concerned. I assume that any emotional need I have, however small, will be perceived as too great an imposition. I don’t expect other people to be available to me. (Yes, I’m working on changing this mindset, quite deliberately. It’s a coping mechanism I’ve outgrown.)

As I’m reaching out more to my close friends, I’m wishing I had a tool that would help me to gauge their situation before I make a request, so I can be more sensitive to when I might actually be imposing.

Here’s what it might look like…

Continue reading

Continental 1404, Pan Am 103, and thoughts on dodging bullets

This morning, before I’d even had my tea, I learned via e-mail that at my local airport last night a Continental flight 1404 veered off the runway and crashed, injuring 58. AP reported that local resident Mike Wilson tweeted his experience immediately after he escaped the burning plane.

Two tweets from Wilson especially caught my attention:

Mike Wilson's first post about the Denver plane crash he survived

Mike Wilson's first post about the Denver plane crash he survived

And then, a couple of hours later…

Mike Wilson reflects on a similar bullet he dodged earlier

Mike Wilson reflects on a similar bullet he dodged earlier

…Next I was making breakfast, listening to Colorado Public Radio, which was (of course) reporting on the Denver airport accident. They followed that with a story that stopped me cold for a bit: Witnesses, Families Remember Lockerbie Bombing. Yes, today is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 — a terrorist attack that killed 259 on the plane and 11 on the ground.

On the evening of Dec. 21, 1988, I was a 22-year-old journalism student packed up and ready to head back home to NJ after spending a semester in London. I’d been at the office Christmas party for the business magazine where I’d been interning. When I entered the house I’d been sharing since August with five other students, my housemates who hadn’t yet departed for home were sitting in the living room, crying. Mindy said, “Diane’s plane crashed”…

Continue reading

The Stereogram Approach to Finding the Meaning of Life

Gary W. Priester (Click image to enlarge.)
Often, the first challenge in life is simply to see the target.

I really used to hate stereograms.

When they became popular in the early 1990s, they often reduced me to serious frustration and headaches. I would stare at them — glare at them, really — trying to will their embedded 3D images to leap out. Everyone else seemed to enjoy these hidden illusions with ease. But my eyes and brain stubbornly refused to do the trick.

Then one day, I realized that I was looking at a dolphin. I just glanced at the cover of a book of stereogram art, and there it was. I was delighted to discover that the image wasn’t “leaping out” at me — rather, I was “seeing into” it. I wasn’t even sure how I’d started to see the hidden picture. All of the sudden, and quietly, it just worked.

Years later, I’ve come to realize that whenever I’ve identified a key mission or purpose I should pursue, it’s emerged (very much like that dolphin) from the background of the world around me. I get a sense that some vision is waiting to be seen, and I prepare my mind to be open to it. Then eventually I see it, and it feels like I always should have seen it.

In contrast, whenever I’ve tried the top-down, primarily rational (rather than intuitive) approach to choosing a course in life, I usually end up not really wanting what I’ve been working for, or liking what I’ve done — which is frustrating and demoralizing on many levels.

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately, mostly because I’ve been spending more time conversing, research, reading, and journaling. To be honest, I’ve been searching for purpose. For a couple of years now — although I’ve been doing a lot of interesting work, meeting a lot of interesting people, and learning a lot of interesting things — privately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been flailing around, seeking direction and purpose.

Finally, I feel like the picture is starting to emerge. Here is the outline so far…
Continue reading