Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trying to Absorb

This is not the blog I started out to write today. That one was about my inability to focus, and well, quite frankly get anything written. While I was floating from one thing to another, I happened across an article that was in Wednesday’s New York Times about a support group formed for the girlfriends, spouses and, yes, mistresses of the Wall Street guys who are having trouble in their relationships, what with the economic meltdown. It actually has a name. Dating a Banker Anonymous. Now I am all for women supporting women and since I was having trouble focusing I stopped to read the article.

Even as I write this, I still cannot believe that those who were interviewed , not to mention the ones who agreed to be in the photo op that accompanied it, would actually say what they did, out loud, and be quoted in print. The world is in the worst shape it has been in recent times and they are looking for empathy because their usually in control guys are feeling a tad stressed these days and it is having an effect on their relationship, or more specifically the money these guys bring to the relationship.

But as I said, I was having trouble focusing. So in much the same way, one slows down to look at an accident even though they really don’t want to see the wreckage I did a Google search and found the blog they created to share their sad stories.

The blog was more of the same with the posts edited by the women who own the title. Apparently it’s gotten a lot of traffic since the Times article. There is also a rumor that the girls are about to get a book deal.

Every day I try to absorb the stories I read online and off line, stories of layoffs, cutbacks, families losing their homes, kids dropping out of college because their parents can’t afford to send them. I watch the stories of senior citizens wiped out of their retirement accounts and take the calls of the latest friend or colleague who has been downsized out of their job. Each day I notice the group of professional men and women hanging out in the gym in the afternoon growing. Every day there is some new scandal of some crook (usually banker type) who has embezzled huge sums of money from unsuspecting clients. Today I am trying to absorb this story.

I have said before that I believe there is a huge correction going on in the world right now and it is more than just the economy. It is in the way we live. Maybe I am missing the humor in the DBA girls musings and their stories of woe is me, but I can’t help but see this as just one more example of how our priorities as a society have fallen off track and why they need to be reevaluated. I kept looking for a sign of gratitude for what they do have, some indication that they know there is a bigger picture to what is going on than just their world, but all I kept reading was whines. Maybe that’ll stop if that rumored book deal materializes. Maybe not.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Joy of Hibernation

I have always liked to hibernate in the winter, particularly in January. It feels good after the December rush, the gift buying, the holiday parties, the overindulgence, to just slow down and get acquainted with my apartment again. I like to think of it as a time to gather up my energies before the inevitability of spring.

This year I have taken this concept of hibernation to a new high. I am after all working out of my house now. In previous winters I was forced to leave at least once a day to get to the office. Now the office is in my living room. It is true. I confess. Days can go by and the farthest I make it outside is to go to the lobby and get my mail.

Curiously, I find I am OK with that. I have no signs of cabin fever. In fact just the opposite. I find myself rather content to stay warm and cozy in my apartment. And let’s face it, this winter! Whoa! It has already been way too cold and way too long for this sun worshiper.

OK, OK. So maybe I am exaggerating just a tad. There are trips to the gym and the grocery store and I admit to a few social outings. But no sooner am I out there than I long to get out of the cold and back home.

I was told once that the Taos Pueblo Indians believed there should be no forward movement between November and March, that this was a good time to replenish the spirit, nurture your soul, and get clear on what’s next. I am not sure what they would think of signing on to Facebook to canoodle with a few friends, if you need a little fix of the outside world. I confess, hibernation is much easier with high speed Internet access.

Still, what the Taos Pueblos believed has always resonated with me, perhaps this winter more than ever. My spirit is being replenished, not just from the past year but from a long career. It’s good to pull back while creating the space for what is ahead.

Come to think of it, perhaps this is true of the state of the economy. There is a lot of soul searching going on there. Perhaps it too, needs some time to replenish its spirit as it recreates and before we see any real growth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch- Changes

The air feels different today. Cleaner. Filled with hope and promise. It's official now. Barack Obama has been inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States and we are all off on a new adventure.

I am often struck by why I chose this particular moment in time to venture on a personal journey of reinvention. My decision came long before the economy really tanked and long before Barack Obama was elected. But here I am reinventing myself while the country does the same.

My life has always had a soundtrack. Sometimes a song takes me back to a moment in my past and sometimes the button of the jukebox in my head is hit to describe how a moment feels.

The past few days somebody pressed Changes. Bowie, originally released in 1972 as a 45 off the album Hunky Dory, back when there were such things as a 45rpm record.

The first time I heard the song I was (yes, I admit it) an about to be graduated high school senior stepping into my future. There is something about not just the lyrics of Changes, but the melody that still evokes in me that giddiness of anticipation mixed with promise and uneasiness about the what’s next that I had when it first came out.

As the lyrics have been playing over and over in my head the last few days, I feel the same joy. Once again I am standing in the vortex of change. I have left the perceived safety of a corporate job for the world of the entrepreneur. And at precisely the same time, I find myself in an even bigger swirl as the country gets a new leader and a fresh direction.

Change means stretching into untested places, beyond our comfort zone. When you are in the dream of the change you think about the aches that go along with moving these new muscles and you wince. Sometimes that is exactly what stops you from moving forward. It’s easier sometimes to just let things be.

When people ask me why I am choosing this route now, my answer is I didn’t feel I had a choice. When faced with my options this was the only one that allowed me to breathe freely.

I think that is also true for our country now and that is evident in the election of Obama. There really wasn’t any other choice if we indeed wanted to really change the way things have been.

I watched the swearing in yesterday in a crowded restaurant with friends. I overhead someone whispering at the beginning of his address for him to get past his comments on the current state of affairs and inspire us. I winced.

For me, his acknowledgment of the hard reality of the times inspires me more than if he did not. There are no quick fixes here. Without recognizing where we are, we cannot get to another place. President Obama is clear that there will be strain ahead and that we have responsibilities to ourselves and to each other. He knows of the roller coaster ride change is about, what I believe Bowie meant when he wrote, "Turn and Face the Strain." Obama gets it.

Ch-ch-ch-changes. Sometimes it is hard to actually say the word. But when the word is spoken and the vision is clear, the air indeed starts to change and it is easier to breathe.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Little Lipstick Can Turn It All Around

Sometimes when you are outside of the corporate conference room, it is easier to see how foolish the decisions made inside of it can be.

Take NBC. First the network says it will cancel Lipstick Jungle and then they follow that up with announcing five nights of Jay Leno in prime time. Five nights of nothing on NBC at 10PM but Leno’s couch!

I don’t watch much on NBC, but I am a fan of Lipstick. And apparently I am not alone. Even those who don’t watch are surrounded by the many that do. Check out what Ben Grossman has to say in B&C this week.

Lipstick is well written, engaging, and great escape, which if the folks at NBC looked up from their spreadsheets long enough to notice, is exactly what people want right now, given the state of the world. Escapism. A good story. Likable characters.

My theory is they are paying attention only to the state of their bottom line and that these decisions were made not with a lot of thought to the long term but with a lot of sharpened pencils.

NBC is not alone. Story after story is out there of business decisions being made on what will yield the most to the bottom line in the shortest amount of time. Panic is prevalent as opposed to real thought and perhaps some sense of a long term vision.

Of course, I understand that revenue is key. This is business. And long term vision does not necessarily make the stock price go up. But decisions based only on the short term and the bottom line are what got us into this economic mess in the first place. Leno for five nights is nothing more than cheap programming. Canceling Lipstick Jungle after two brief seasons given the viewer feedback, the lack of good drama on NBC and that group that advertisers so desperately want to reach, Women, is just short sighted vision.

Rumor has it that the fate of Lipstick Jungle is still in limbo and there is hope that the folks at NBC will come to their senses. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the network has renewed “30 Rock” and “The Biggest Loser.” The article goes on to say that despite the Leno decision, they are still looking for six dramas. My suggestion would be to look a little past this month’s revenue projections and give some thought to what we women all know. A little Lipstick can a long way to turning it all around.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What I Miss

When people ask me if I miss corporate life at all, my answer, without pause, is no. With the exception of a handful of close friends I worked with daily and the paycheck every two weeks I don’t miss much.

But today I did.

I was working on my blog. Not writing a new post, but adding some gadgets and moving some things around. Or at least trying to.

I was inspired to attack this project after attending one of Carmina Perez’ classes ( which I highly recommend) on exactly this subject last night. She made it look so easy, I was sure it was going to take just a few minutes and I would be back to writing. But I should know myself better.

This kind of stuff makes my head hurt. And the truth is I don’t really want to be doing it. I want to be writing and I want someone else to be doing it. You know, that corporate phenomenon known as IT support. But, as you know, I don’t belong to that world anymore and in my new one I am practicing fiscal responsibility, which basically means, don’t pay out for what you can learn to do yourself.

There I was, scrolling away, like I had a degree in computer technology, looking for that exact break in the html code, after which I was supposed to add the new gadget. As my eyes started to blur and my frustration level was rising, I admitted it. I did miss something about corporate life. Tech support.

I kept missing that exact break. But not one to give up easily, I kept on trying. When I finally did find it I was so elated I had to do a victory lap around my computer.

In fact I am feeling so confident with my new gadget installed, I have decided to try and connect my blog to Facebook later. We’ll see how that goes. Who knows I might even have some time left over today to write!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pink.... For New Beginnings

The stats are out and apparently another 524,000 have joined the ranks of the downsized in December. The word is that the numbers of those who have received pink slips this year have swelled to a sixteen year high. Ouch! Apparently I am not alone on my reinvention journey.

It got me to thinking, why pink? Pink is pretty. Being told you are being laid off is hardly pretty. And a pink slip? It makes me think more of silk lingerie than a notice of termination.

According to Wikipedia, the term pink slip is an American practice of including an actual pink slip of notification that you no longer have a job in an employee’s paycheck. The claim is that the practice dates back to 1910.

Apparently there was no original significance of the color. Still, I wonder why pink was chosen and not blue, which to me seems more appropriate for the mood. Or dark grey. Or even black with a bold white lettering, something somber that invokes the darkness of the moment.

No, the slips have traditionally been pink. And in the spirit of good old American ingenuity, my guess is the color pink was originally chosen as a marketing decision. Pink is a happy color that invokes images of springtime and little girls' party dresses. So I am thinking the choice was a conscious attempt to try and package the news in a vibrant shade such as pink in the hopes that would somehow cushion the blow.

I did not get an actual pink slip. I got a folder with a week’s worth of reading material inside of it, all on white paper. And a conversation.

The color of the folder? You guessed it. A very pretty shade of pink. At the moment I did not see the significance in the color choice. Now, I like to think of it as for new beginnings.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bull's Eye !

I am just flat out bragging about my friend Linda Eckstein. If you have not seen this yet, check out Vanity Fair.

Linda, an information designer and artist, was commissioned by the editors of to create a graphic based upon their fascination with the web of intrigue described in Russ Baker’s just released Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America(Bloomsbury Press).

The finished product is The Bush-Dynasty Bull’s-eye. Bravo, Linda! Your graphic depiction is brilliant !

Monday, January 5, 2009

Retiring the Sport or Just Temporarily on the Bench

People retire from sports all the time. And often it has nothing to do with age but more likely an injury. Someone stops skiing because of their knees or no longer plays tennis because of their shoulder.

For me it is shopping. Yes, it is true. I confess. I have shopped for sport over the years. And if you do not believe me, just take a look at the number of purses I own. I counted sixteen that are just for “going out” at night. They range from pink to teal blue to basic black, from leather, to fabric, to sequins. That is not counting the selection I have for daytime. And let’s not even start on the shoes.

But now I have had to give up my passion for this sport. My injury? I am on a strict budget these days without the benefit of steady income from a corporation. There is a recession going on out there. I am now an entrepreneur who wants to make sure her money is spent wisely.

This weekend as I was wandering Columbus Avenue with a friend, after an afternoon at The Met, we felt compelled to stop in at Verve. It is one of my favorite stores to shop for pocketbooks. It was the sign that said 50% off that compelled us to wander in. After all I have been shopping for sport since I can remember. And that is what sport shoppers do. They peek in, especially when the sign says Soldes (yes, a true sport shopper recognizes Sale in many languages). They want to be sure, just in case there is something to be had. Besides when you have a passion for a sport, it is sometimes hard to remember that you are injured to the bench and are not really practicing it anymore. But you dip your toe in anyway. Just to check the temperature.

I perused the array of bags in expensive leathers and assorted colors. I asked prices. I checked to see how they looked over my shoulder in the mirror. There was at least one that when I was an active participant in this sport I would have taken home with me. After all, the prices were really good.

Surprisingly, the experience did not feel as enjoyable as I remembered it. Can it be that my passion for this sport has waned? Or is this just part of my evolution into this new chapter of my life, one in which the quality of how I live is more important than accumulation of things?

I am not sure. All I really know is that I no longer shop for sport. I shop for need and for groceries. Right now I don’t need another purse. And at the moment I don't need groceries. I am on the bench, at least for now.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Brand New Day in a Brand New Year

I like January 1. I have never really liked New Year’s Eve but I have always liked January 1. New Year’s Eve is all about endings and moving on, something which has never been easy for me. It is about doors closing. But January 1 is about doors opening, a brand new day in a brand new year.

I closed a big door in 2008 and it was long before the ball dropped in Times Square last night. It was that day I walked out of my downtown corporate office for the last time. It took some months before the door closed completely and I grew certain that I did not want to open any more corporate office doors unless they are the ones which house those who want to publish my writing.

I am like that in most things in life. I never leave anything easily. I like to be 100% sure I am ready to let go. The other thing that happens to me is that once I let go, I rarely look back.

It's much easier to let go of a year and shut the door. Especially the one entitled 2008. It has been a roller coaster ride for everyone filled with an economic downturn, tales of greed and corruption and a presidential election we watched like a sporting event. It has been a year of change, some unwanted and some necessary. I am not alone in being happy to shut the door on 2008.

I am also not in my usual quandary about closing this chapter. I am not nostalgic to hold on to this past year. I see no benefit in looking back and wallowing in a downsized financial portfolio and fear the uncertainty of what is ahead.

I am in the camp that what is ahead is what we all choose to create. So that is the door I am opening to 2009. The one that holds hope and excitement for what is next. The one filled with those who can find gratitude for what they received in 2008 amidst all the chaos, who believe that this crazy state the world is in is a necessary correction in how we live and that on the other end is a much brighter and better tomorrow.

So today, I open the door on this brand new year with enthusiasm for what’s next. As I sip my coffee and listen to the winds howling past my window I am writing down my list of what I want 2009 to look like, a list that includes a wish for you for a Happy New Year filled with love, prosperity, health and lots of hope !