What are you afraid of?

Giant red eel-like sea serpent on antiquarian maritime map, extendedThe wildest thing I ever did to impress someone was jump out of an airplane.

It was terrifying. I am not, by nature, an adventurous person. But I was dating someone (who I later married) who got deep pleasure and satisfaction from giving himself a rush of adrenaline, and skydiving was a hobby of his — along with watching scary movies, snowboarding in parks and backcountry, and other things designed to induce the sensation of jolting your heart into your stomach.

I’ve spent over ten years not understanding this rather significant part of my husband’s personality. To me, the activities he finds exciting and thrilling are all things to be avoided: they scare, upset, and disturb. But a recent episode of Hidden Brain about the science of fear finally explained some of the reasoning behind it. (read more…)

I’m an Adult Child

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My mom has a tendency to do things for me, even though I’ve told her not to, that often drive me crazy.  Every time I visit her, my trip starts out in the same way. I call her, and before I discuss plans,  she asks what I eat for breakfast.

  • Me: Don’t worry about it, Mom. I’ll pick something up when I get there. I probably won’t eat at home much.
  • Mom: Well, I’ll just make sure we have some bagels. No, I forgot. Gluten-free bread!
  • Me: Really Mom, you don’t need to get anything.
  • Mom:  Yogurt?

I agree to yogurt. When I arrive, she insists on leaving me money for anything else I need. I know that providing for me while I’m home again (she still lives in the apartment I grew up in) is her way of expressing her love and affection. And she knows that I won’t use the household money and find the idea infantilizing. But I no longer point this out. I just say, “Thanks Mom,” and kiss her on the cheek. (read more…)

That Time I Policed a Woman’s Voice

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I recently read an article about “radical candor” in the workplace (the idea that supervisors should give very direct feedback to their team) that contained a shocking anecdote.

While at Google, a woman named Kim Scott gave a presentation to senior management. She was nervous, but overall felt the presentation had gone well and could tell that the owners of the company were pleased. But afterward her boss – who happened to be Sheryl Sandberg – took her aside to give her some feedback on her presentation style. At first Sheryl was gentle with her criticisms of Kim’s public speaking, but could tell none of it was landing. According to Kim, Sheryl finally said, ‘You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word, it makes you sound stupid.’”

At first Sandberg’s comment seemed startlingly direct to me, even offensive. But I realized that I’d done something similar to someone I used to manage. (read more…)

Milkies

Feathers Claire Scully

He wakes up crying from nap. He didn’t sleep long enough. Will he go back to sleep? Not this time. I wait 5, 10, 15 minutes. Still upset. I go in. “Mama up,” he says, big wet tears on his face. “Do you want mama to rock you?” “Yeah.” “Do you want milkies?” “Yeah.” Slowly, his breathing calms, his tears dry. We stay like this, locked together for a while in the dark, glints of sunlight arrogantly streaming through the blackout curtain. And just like that, my happy guy is back, ready to play.

I never set out to be an “extended breastfeeder.” I never thought I would be that type of mom. That was for moms who bake gluten-free zucchini muffins from scratch, not me who picks up donut holes from Krispy Kreme in Penn Station. Before I got pregnant, I remember thinking I definitely wanted to breastfeed, probably for about a year. That’s what my mom did with both me and my sister in the 80s, so I figured that’s what I would shoot for too. When my son, Walter, was born 20 months ago, my milk came in quickly and heavily. I realize in another era, I could have been hired as a wet nurse to a village and I would have enjoyed the work, too. I was blessed with a baby that took to the breast easily and that I was able to nurse with little to no discomfort. I also became a woman with a giant rack. I remember wearing nursing bras in a size J/K. J/K! Which should stand for Just Kidding! Boobs should never be that big. (read more…)

The Ego Whack-A-Mole Game

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My ego gets very confused about what’s important in life. Since ego, according the dictionary, is one’s sense of self-esteem and self-importance, ego can be a force for good in some doses, and can easily get out of control.  My ego desperately wants to look good, to be seen as smart and helpful. It really wants to be important, and is quite tied to how my hair looks. It drives me crazy with all of these concerns, confusing me about what is really important in life. It’s not all bad, though; it’s also my ego that gets me out of bed in the morning and to work on time.

But just when I think I have tamed it or tamped it down, when my ego has agreed not to get attached to something, like the number of likes on a post or a job title, it immediately pops up somewhere else, circling around in a new disguise.  It gets self-congratulatory about how enlightened it is. It gets attached to accomplishment, even when it comes to meditation (ironic, I know).  It gets self-congratulatory about how enlightened it is.

It feels like a never-ending whack-a-mole game: it’s just you playing yourself, for eternity. (read more…)