• Read Nothing Worth Splitting Hairs Over

    Authenticity, Well Being

    Nothing Worth Splitting Hairs Over

    I normally don’t share my creative writing that I do for fun, but this piece I want to share with you.  It’s a vulnerable one recently published in the spring 2022 issue of Please See Me, an online literary journal dedicated to health and wellness.  While the topic deals with an anxiety disorder related to hair pulling ( the technical name is Trichotrillomania) I’ve suffered with over the years, the deeper themes in the piece relate to things we all struggle with.  I hope you enjoy a humorous dive into an important topic, and how learning to laugh at ourselves and how ironically, sometimes surrendering and letting go can open the door to something very special indeed… Nothing Worth Splitting Hairs Over I remember the first time it happened. I was sixteen and it was advanced algebra class. It was our final exam, and I was struggling as usual. I’d never liked math. I looked down at the floor at the end of the period and there it was. A large pile of thick, curly, blond hair was lying innocently on the floor. I looked around the room, wondering whose it was—had some poor soul lost a wig? The confusion was quickly replaced with a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was my hair. But how? Why? I didn’t have time to make sense of it. My face flushed with shame, my eyes darted nervously around the room, looking for my nemesis, Shannon Clark. Had she seen? She’d be sure to tell everyone. I reached down to the floor with all the nonchalance I could muster, quickly grabbed the pile, and stuffed it into my backpack. I disposed of the blond wad later in the girls’ bathroom. I wondered later how many pieces of hair it was. One hundred, two hundred? It was a lot. I didn’t think to stop and count each strand in my mad dash to destroy the evidence. And then panic set in. Did I have a bald spot now? Frantic, I checked my hair in the bathroom mirror multiple times for signs, searching for little patches of scalp peeking out from underneath my frizzy mop. But there were none. My secret was at least safe for now. Up to that point I had craved the long, straight, luxuriously silky-smooth hair many of my classmates sported, like the girls in the Pantene commercials: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” I hated them. But in that moment, I was secretly thankful for my big, blond mop, which Shannon often referred to as a blonde afro. I had more than enough hair to spare. I was in my early thirties when I finally went in for treatment. I kept pulling out my hair all through the remainder of high school, all through college and my first master’s degree, all through my first job and my second master’s degree. Never enough to be bald. I always conveniently pulled from the underneath on the left side of my head. The result was the […]

    April 26, 2022

    |

    12.8 min read

  • Read Too busy to meet a friend for coffee? Embrace your inner sloth…

    Well Being

    Too busy to meet a friend for coffee? Embrace your inner sloth…

    “So how are you doing?” I asked an old friend the other day. “Busy!  I’m just so busy at the moment.  It’s crazy trying to find enough time in the day to get everything done.  I don’t know where the time goes.  How about you?” “Oh, keeping busy too I guess.” I vaguely hear myself mouthing the boilerplate response. The land of the crazy busy people I often feel as if I went to bed one night and woke up foggy headed and disoriented in the land of the busy people.  You know the kind.  Outwardly they appear as if in a perpetual rush.  They’re surrounded by an aura of nervous, chaotic energy as they go about their daily business of running red lights, texting while driving, tapping their foot impatiently in the checkout line, intently replying to that next super urgent email on their smartphone, so focused they barely look up to mumble “Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip” to the bemused Starbucks barista. They tell you how much they meant to call you, but they’ve been running around like a chicken with their head cut off.  Work has been insane.  They promise to call soon, once their meditation class finally finishes.  They say that it’s such a shame they don’t see you more often.  Let’s make a date for coffee soon. I’m always left bewildered by these interactions.  Is this crazy busy routine is just a clever ploy to avoid me? The second thing that crosses my mind is, “Why is the simple business of going about your life so damn complicated?”  Because as far as I’m aware, none of these folks are busy solving the problems of the world or a front runner for the Nobel peace prize (present company included). Of course, there are things I could be doing but don’t (which I regularly beat myself up about) like working on yet another marketing campaign for my business or writing a new training course or perhaps even writing a fabulous new blog.  But despite these things, I sometimes find myself bored. But bored is taboo these days.  We’re not supposed to be bored.  If we’re bored, something’s obviously wrong, because our Facebook statuses and Instagram pictures would indicate we’re all leading highly exciting, fast paced, idyllic lives full of meaning and purpose and god only knows what else. I’ve often thought about answering the “How are you” question honestly when I’m having an off day.  I wonder what reaction I’ll get from the other party if I tell them I’m “bored and uninspired.”  It may be similar to the look I got the other day at the liquor store when I was restocking the bar and mentioned to the cashier I was just picking a few things up to get me through the weekend. I often wonder, “How did crazy busy become our new normal?”  As a child, I recall those moments of boredom that inspire you to light […]

    February 8, 2022

    |

    6.5 min read

  • Read Sorry Whitesnake, you WEREN’T born to walk alone – A quick tip for building a support network

    Well Being

    Sorry Whitesnake, you WEREN’T born to walk alone – A quick tip for building a support network

    A proud child of the eighties, I’m sometimes reminded of that Whitesnake song, “Here I go again on my own.  Going down the only road I’ve ever known.  Like a drifter I was born to walk alone!” Catchy huh?  Except for the fact that the songwriter was more concerned with finding the perfect rhyme than sharing an important truth about life.  Which brings me to the point of today’s blog:  how to develop a support network.  Cultivating a robust support network is an important ingredient in the multifaceted recipe of resilience. 

    February 3, 2022

    |

    3.3 min read

  • Read How We Fool Ourselves Practicing Self-Care

    Well Being

    How We Fool Ourselves Practicing Self-Care

    The self-care word is everywhere these days, and marketers have wasted no time in exploiting this tagline to peddle anything from aromatherapy to underwear.  Treat yourself to a moment of self-care – you deserve it!  It’s the same old song and dance, just with a different name.  And we fall for it, over and over again. The problem with self-care Not to say that there is anything wrong with relaxation, there isn’t.  Not to say that there’s anything wrong with being kind to yourself, there isn’t.  I highly recommend both of these things as regular practices.  It’s just that in our culture, where downtime is not rewarded and we tend to associate self-worth with how busy we are, we find “active” ways to initiate self-care.  I’ll get a massage, get my nails done, have a spa day, go out with the girls or guys, go shopping, have a nice meal, drink a fancy bottle of wine.  Even when we’re practicing self-care, we’re not resting.  We’re just ticking it off the list and thinking about the next thing on our to do list.  The moment of relaxation from the massage quickly fades and we go straight back into the fire.  And then we dream of the next massage and resent what we’re doing.  We can’t wait for the next one again, and we are trapped in the never ending cycle yet again.  Stress – quick release – stress – quick release. But we’re tired, we’re stressed, and we need self-care, right?  And, plus, we deserve it!  We’ve worked hard for it!  We’re burned out.  This self-care thing is the magic potion that is going to reignite our passion and spirit and help us feel human again, right? Coping versus treating the root cause Wrong.  For most of us, this type of self-care is a coping mechanism.  It’s the equivalent of slapping a crappy Band-Aid on a huge gaping wound.  We may “practice” these forms of self-care, but we’re never addressing the underlying problem that caused the need for it in the first place. Now you’re wondering what the underlying problem is, aren’t you? A lot of people tell me they are overworked, under resourced, have a bad boss, horrible colleagues, the company lacks direction or doesn’t care about their employees, and all these things may be true.  But true burnout, and the stress that leads to burnout, comes from a different place. It comes from an underlying feeling that you’re not good enough.  I’m not good enough, so I spend more time than is really necessary working on something so that it’s perfect.  I’m not good enough, so I am afraid to say no and then beat myself up for accepting another piece of work that I’m going to have to work day and night to complete.  I’m not good enough, so I over personalize my boss’s bad behavior and think (deep down) the reason they act like such a jerk is my fault. It’s the constant, “I have to prove […]

    January 28, 2022

    |

    3.5 min read

  • Read Is There Such a Thing as Too Safe?

    Well Being

    Is There Such a Thing as Too Safe?

    The Pernot household is no stranger to the importance of safety.  My husband, having worked in construction for years, lives and breathes it, as he is acutely aware that every day he is responsible for the lives and well-being of his crew.  And moi, having worked in large, manufacturing companies for a great portion of my career, safety has always been a common mantra.  And in my not so humble opinion that’s a very good thing. Having led leadership development workshops for years, most mornings we start out with a safety moment – a great way to remind others to be vigilant and mindful when we silly humans have a dangerous tendency to switch onto autopilot.  Over the years I’ve learned a lot about process safety in a high-risk environment, as well as the terrifying danger of escalators in suburban shopping malls (stay away from those things if you’re wearing sandals people – just saying…) But I’ve started noticing something interesting that’s been popping up in just about every interaction I’ve been having lately, even before COVID-19 appeared so unapologetically and intrusively onto the scene.  Instead of signing off an email or conversation with “sincerely,” or “thanks” or “see you soon,” I’m increasingly being met with the closing phrase of “be safe” or “stay safe.” Turn on the TV, and dangers are everywhere.  We’re reminded daily of the fact that the world we live in is very much less than perfect.  Behind every shrubbery lurks a child molester, or a would-be burglar, intent on stealing our precious worldly possessions.  We install sophisticated security systems, cameras, doorbells like Ring with the capability to monitor and survey 24/7.  Instead of using the electronic neighborhood bulletin boards to foster community and fellowship, we post blurry pictures of ominous shadowed would be assassins and the offending dog owner that always allows Fluffy to do his business in our perfectly manicured lawn (Jerk!  I’m watching you…). Ironically, we’ve never been safer.  In a recent New York Times Best-Seller, The Coddling of the American Mind:  How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Lukinahoff and Haidt lay out a compelling and research based case for how we have embraced a culture of “safetyism,” a dangerous trend that impedes an adult’s capacity to navigate the bumpy road of life, despite the fact that we live in a safer than ever before world.  The result is a generation (and overwhelming larger and larger part of the population) who are increasingly “triggered” by every little thing, aided by the very well-intentioned helicopter mom, lawnmower parent, or whatever they are called these days. (You know you’re guilty…) I have often wondered if our environment has evolved much more quickly than our brains have.  A hundred or so years ago (which really isn’t long in the grand scheme of the planet) things were very different.  My husband’s grandmother’s obituary read like a lifetime movie.  Born in France in the early 1900’s, her father died in WW1, […]

    April 14, 2020

    |

    4.3 min read

  • Read The (Scary) Sound of Silence

    Well Being

    The (Scary) Sound of Silence

    If you’re like most folks, you’re caught up in a perpetual tailspin.  A crammed diary filled with meeting after meeting with barely enough time to shove in a lukewarm sandwich in-between, or after school activities for the kids, school run, volunteer activities, endless lists of chores that only seem to get longer and longer.  The first response to the question “How are you?” is typically something in the order of, “I’ve just been so busy!  There’s just never enough time to get everything done!” or my personal favorite “Frazzled!”  Or maybe this is just the strange universe I hang out in.  Never having been one to jump on the bandwagon, folks often look confused when I don’t respond back in agreement.  I’ve often wondered if there is something wrong with me. When I lived in the UK, making it into someone’s personal diary was a point of distinction, a barrier to be overcome, as spots in it were tightly guarded and highly coveted.  Brits in general, not being as spontaneous as their American cousins across the pond, tend to respond to the question of “when should we get together again,” with things like – “let me check my diary and get back to you.  The next three months are mad, just mad!” (Mind you, this could also be their subtle and polite way of blowing annoying Americans off, but typically we’re too stupid to notice this.) But while we might, on the surface, spend a lot of time complaining about this busy thing, I’ve often wondered if deep down we secretly like it.  Perhaps being busy has become the new badge of honor, a justification for our existence.  If we are busy, we are doing something with our lives.  Our life must have some meaning, some deep purpose, something greater than taking out the trash and watching the next season of Ozarks on Netflix, thrilling though it may be. I myself have even reveled in this practice from time to time, secretly gloating to myself that I have so many client engagements on my schedule that it would be impossible for me to meet with such and such person for the next couple of months. Well, not anymore, thanks to Corona virus. So here’s the question, in a life that’s filled with activity after activity, what do you do with yourself when the tailspin finally ends and sound of silence finally comes? I mean, you can only rearrange your closet and shop on amazon so much.  I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, who lives in Orange County, CA.  The eternal optimist, she mused that perhaps this might be a good opportunity for society to finally slow down, and smell the proverbial roses, so to speak.  The eternal realist that I am reminded her that many of us (present company included) will most likely lose work, maybe even their jobs, and these days will be filled with worry and anxiety of what to do after the […]

    March 23, 2020

    |

    3.9 min read