Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Obsession

My mother picks her cuticles until they're bloody.

I remember watching her pull at her skin while we were on family vacations - long road trips with plenty of time to stew over one's troubles.

She is a nervous person, my mother. And I surmise she tugged at those dry and ragged bits of flesh out of absent minded worries. My supposition comes because these 25 years later I find myself doing the exact thing, pulling skin away from my nails until they're rimmed with raw and red flesh.

Nervousness is something I cope with.

Nail biting, scab picking. I have strange ways to physically cope with nervous energy when it creeps into my psyche.

I think at some point I realized there are things I can't control; I am quite deliberate with occasions I can manage.

I know full well there's plenty more of the former than the latter.

Control is an interesting thing. I don't think it's a learned behavior. I can go through my genealogy and single out relatives both older and younger who cope with control issues.

Some of us inherit freckles or a gaping overbite. Other ancestors pass down quirky behavior traits.

My relationship with psychology is confined to a Psychology 100 class way back in 1995 with Dr. Golding at UK. I'm no expert, but my hunch tells me many people with control issues also struggle with OCD.

And a little bit of that lives in me, too.

I have rituals. After showering, I dry off the exact same way every time. Face. Arms. Hair in a towel turban. The second towel takes care of everything else.

Apple's ear buds cause me trouble daily. No matter how hard I try, I can't let myself put the right-designated bud in my left ear. It's a quirk I've come to accept.

Every morning when I leave my apartment, I search my purse for my keys no less than three times. One time right after the other. Sometimes people in a rush don't like waiting for me, but I need to check to make sure they're there.

I don't know if it's my financial sensibilities (ringing up the landlord on the weekend to unlock the door carries a $75 fee) or the threat of inconvenience, but part of me suspects it's my OCD.

My ears likely present my greatest obsessive experience. I clean my ears maybe two, three times a day. If I don't have a q-tip handy, I'll resort to using a bobby pin. Intellectually I know this is not a healthy behavior, but I can't help it.

My worst moments of OCD typically involve losing something. Yesterday I double-backed two blocks to search for a missing glove. Sunday I tore apart my house for 20 minutes to find a missing scarf; my frantic search sidetracked me for an appointment with a friend.

I don't talk about my mental health often, but I know full well there's a great big world of other folks coping with their own idiosyncrasies, too.

My nervous ticks have been bothering me lately, and I thought a little bit of transparency and sharing might make me feel better, helping me remember everyone is dealing with their own brain gunk.

A friend reminded me this weekend that everyone has issues; the power is in owning them and figuring out how to overcome them or at the very least working to ensure they don't control us.

A perfect challenge for a control freak, eh?

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Kate's Random Musings by Katy Crossen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wrap It Up

Sometimes a woman needs a coat of armor.

Whether it be work, dating or other sticky matters, situations arise that require confidence and grace, and sometimes we need to fake it until we make it to survive the moment at hand.

It's in situations like this when I turn to a few well loved items in my wardrobe, one of which is celebrating a monumental milestone.

Diane von Furstenberg's iconic wrap dress is turning 40; it was designed when more and more women were entering the workforce and seeking styles that were comfortable, professional and also flattering for the female form.

After the traditional LBD, the wrap dress is my favorite frock.

The classic design looks great on nearly every body type. Willowy women look sleek and slender. We curvy girls look dynamite in the dress that skims our shape and pulls together our well blessed chests.

The dress requires little maintenance, and can be untied in a jiffy on occasions that require quick undressing. It goes from day to night beautifully and is the perfect canvas to style with jewelry, jackets and jaunty scarves.

The wrap dress is a symbol of liberation and opportunity and beloved by women everywhere.

I wore a new wrap dress today, quite coincidentally (Banana Republic always has amazing wrap dresses and right now many are on sale), and was greeted with a compliment from a colleague first thing this morning. The props more appropriately belong to the dress than me; it is a great form that makes me feel like a million bucks.

Modern fashion dynamics typically don't involve chainmaille or breast plates made of steel, but we women sometimes still encounter situations that require suiting up for battle.

Thank goodness for DVF.

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Kate's Random Musings by Katy Crossen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Five Minutes To Lend A Hand

Ever struggle with burn out?

It's the sensation you feel when your soul is exhausted. Just like a sore body after running a marathon, your emotional self can run out of gas when you feel like you have nothing left to give.

Burn out almost snuffed out my sparkle two years ago. My volunteering had hit a fever pitch just as I was training to run three half marathons and had embarked on more demanding work duties. My body ached, my spirit was defeated. I felt dull and weak, with no fire inside to keep me going.

I began to shut down.

So I made drastic changes.

I withdrew from all of my volunteering endeavors. By the end of it, I'd actually become a horrible volunteer because I wasn't committed. My sweet spot is life balance, and I found myself with a career and service obligations that both wanted a little bit more than what I could give.

Any good young professional keeps a hearty social calendar, too, and mine had been full of events - obligations with loose ties to philanthropy or politics. I love a good gala - the fun dresses, the cocktails. But the chit-chat can leave me feeling a bit empty. It may be a surprise to some, but I am a textbook introvert; I'd rather spend quality time with a solid group of 10 people or so and dig in to conversations that probe a bit. It's hard to do that when you're trapped in ballroom with 300 of your closest friends.

So I started weeding out the "have to" events and committed to the "want to" events.

Stoking the coals. That's what I did. I needed to find my fire.

Outsiders might surmise it looked like I was pushing people away, but rather, I was retreating to take care of myself. I guess it goes back to that introvert thing: I crave a little bit of downtime so I can ignite my light and shine a little bit when I'm with others.

I made a few changes and it led to a healthy harmony in my life: good professional efforts, short civic stints that don't burden and offer meaning, and social engagements that keep me connected to people and causes I adore.

But I still find myself wanting to do a wee bit more.

Enter the Five Minute Favor.

Adam Grant touched on this concept at last year's Bold Fusion event. The thought is that we can each afford five to 15 minutes to help someone - whether that be by making a connection, advocating for a cause, or otherwise doing something that is helpful but not burdensome.

Right now my career doesn't allow me to devote a lot of time to a given cause, but I can rock a 15 minute favor like it's my job. I love connecting two people who would benefit from each other. I can easily spend five minutes crafting a meaningful thank-you note to someone who has made an impact on my life in some way. I can meet with someone for a drink to brainstorm their next great idea.

I wish I could save the world.

I wish I could nurture a thousand, meaningful relationships.

But for now, I know I can count on myself to deliver five to 15 minutes to help someone, and that 15 minutes could maybe, just maybe, mean the world to someone else.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.