Diamonds on the soles of their shoes

(This is reprinted from the Authentic Customer Service blog, http://authenticcustomerservice.blogspot.com/, that I published from 2009-2011.)

I think that tonight I came up with a juicy strategy for staying in a centered, present moment state at work.

I was telling a friend how much I want – starting with tomorrow morning’s shift – to find that flowing, peaceful state while I’m running the cash register. I knew what it looks like to be in that state, but at first had no clue as to how more to get there. Then out of nowhere a method presented itself: “I want to like them.” Yep, I want to practice – as much as possible – liking each person as they come through my line. This focus outside of me can, I think (we’ll see), pull me out of my self-preoccupation and get me to show up in the moment.
Then my friend made a suggestion that made this strategy more concrete and tangible and specific – that I think will make it easier to operationalize. She suggested I see my customers as having diamonds on them. Appreciating and liking them can be like harvesting the diamonds that they are wearing from the soles of their shoes to the top of their heads.
How do I get myself to like each customer as they come through my line?  I'm gonna picture them as having diamonds on them - diamonds that I will pick off them as we interact with each other.  Why not?

How do I get myself to like each customer as they come through my line? I’m gonna picture them as having diamonds on them – diamonds that I will pick off them as we interact with each other. Why not?

I can hardly wait to try this tomorrow.

My best buddy Monty (RIP 1/10/15)

Monty was an individual - his gift was being true to himself.

Monty was an individual – his gift was being true to himself.

Monty (Montague Sam) Berman has been my best buddy for 35 years, but we have not lived near each other for 30 years – until last June, when he moved here to Asheville after living in the same house in Ithaca for 15 years.  Moved here at age 85 (I’m 68, but Monty thrives on close connections with younger people), knowing no one but me.  Came here hoping that he would somehow get more opportunities to teach than he was getting in Ithaca – and that maybe we would get a chance once again to teach or lead workshops together.

Monty could be very difficult at times - and could also be full of joy.  He pissed me off more than anyone else in my life - and there were other times that we totally, completely got each other's sense of humor.

Monty could be very difficult at times – and could also be full of joy. He pissed me off more than anyone else in my life – and there were other times that we totally, completely got each other’s sense of humor.

 

Monty and I led men’s groups together 30 years ago, before they became so popular.  He loves to tell the story of the one group where he played the good cop and me the “shit detector”, who would call men on their shit when they weren’t being really honest.  That’s a lot different from how I had facilitated before – or ever again did after that group.  And maybe the last time this irascible and challenging character Monty ever played the good cop in a personal growth group – maybe that’s why it was so much fun for both of us, because we were each going way outside of our usual personas.

Monty was incredibly smart - and largely self-taught.  He was in many ways a kind of personal growth guru - but he seldom ever set foot in a personal growth workshop.  He would read Fritz Perls and others, but mostly  he wanted the insights to come out of himself.  Even if something originated with John Welwood, he wanted to chew on it until it became his own.

Monty was incredibly smart – and largely self-taught. He was in many ways a kind of personal growth guru – but he seldom ever set foot in a personal growth workshop. He would read Fritz Perls and others, but mostly he wanted the insights to come out of himself. Even if something originated with John Welwood, he wanted to chew on it until it became his own.

When a new doctor asked Monty yesterday what brought him to Asheville, he said “My best buddy John”. (I’m still John to all my pre-Asheville friends.)  Maybe he moved here so I can help him die.  I have thought that thought several times since Monty’s lab studies and MRI’s over the last few months have showed his long-time prostate cancer to now be wildly out of control – moved probably to his bones, definitely to his liver.  The most recent prognoses have ranged from 1 – 1 1/2 years (his primary doc) to 4-5 years (his oncologist, who is very impressed by the new drug he put Monty on).  The new doc that Monty was talking to yesterday was the ER doc at the VA Hospital, who examined him, listened to his symptoms (a ferocious new pain in his side, which she thinks is bone cancer), went through all his records – and told him he may have just weeks to live.

Monty challenged me more than anybody else in my life - and sometimes quite harshly.  And nobody has ever admired me more.  Our relationship was sometimes a battle, but a battle between equals.

Monty challenged me more than anybody else in my life – and sometimes quite harshly. And nobody has ever admired me more. Our relationship was sometimes a battle, but a battle between equals.

 

She referred him to the VA hospice unit, with a promise that if he gets stronger he can go back to his apartment (or maybe better an assisted living apartment).  Monty and I have a tentative date to run a workshop at Jubilee in February: “The Case for God”.  Led by Monty (a devout atheist) and me (a non-theistic mystic), I think it will be hot.  Let’s all picture him being strong enough for it.

Monty adding his own vision to the "Before I die" wall on Biltmore Avenue - photo taken August 22nd.  Monty said that he didn't like some things about himself - like how judgmental he was of others - but that he never got down on himself for it, never felt bad about himself, never felt guilty.  I don't know how he pulled this off - I couldn't - but I believe he did.  When he walked through that final door, I'm sure he did it with no regrets.

Monty adding his own vision to the “Before I die” wall on Biltmore Avenue – photo taken August 22nd. Monty said that he didn’t like some things about himself – like how judgmental he was of others – but that he never got down on himself for it, never felt bad about himself, never felt guilty. I don’t know how he pulled this off – I couldn’t – but I believe he did. When he walked through that final door, I’m sure he did it with no regrets.

I wrote this post Friday afternoon, but didn’t have any of my Monty photos in the laptop I was using so didn’t post it.  Monty died Saturday morning at 5 a.m. All photos courtesy of Maureen Simon, who very quickly brought forward and captured so much of Monty’s spirit and depth and aliveness – and who I think kind of fell in love with him, which was maybe why he let himself shine for her. 

An angel made me do it

Lucy was about 5’4″, slender, brunette, very cute – and apparently, in the state I was in, ageless.  I had just had a string of enchanted interactions with customers (1/7, 1/9).  I wasn’t thinking of her as the 54 years old that her driver’s license would reveal her to be.  So I carded her for the bottle of wine she was buying.  I am a lot more conservative about carding than most of my colleagues.  From my 68 years a lot of people look younger than they do to my 20-something colleagues.  When I was trained for this job, I was told that if someone looks under 50 we should card them.  And I know from experience that older women generally like being carded – but that’s never why I do it, it’s always because I genuinely think they look young.

Maybe an angel made me do it.  Lucy thought so.  She was obviously excited and touched.  “You’re an angel to card me.  A ways back I passed a marker where I thought, ‘Will no one ever card me again?’ This is the highlight of my month!” (“Wow, her month!”  Her excitement lit me up.)

OK, it's a macho angel - but hey, I can visualize what kind of angel I'd like to be.

OK, it’s a macho angel – but hey, I can visualize what kind of angel I’d like to be.

When Lucy left my line, I was excited by the possibility of offering a customer exactly what they need in that moment to heal an inner wound.  Obviously we can’t really know what that would be, but what’s the harm in trying?  The next guy up in my line was significantly short for a guy – maybe 5’5″ or so.  Does he have any issues with being short?  How could I possibly know?  But if seeing Lucy as young had such a positive effect on her, then why not see this guy as tall?  So I did.  I didn’t look up over his head, but I just pretended I was dealing with a tall man.  Why not?  Did it have any positive impact on him?  I’ll never know, but I’m sure it did him no harm – and it had a positive impact on me.  I gave him more respect than I might otherwise have.  I have a woman customer who has suffered terrible burns over her face and I practice seeing her as beautiful – and I trust that this is a good and useful thing to do.  Why not see this guy as tall?

Why not imagine qualities where there is no physical cue for what the person might be needing?  Why not smart? Brave? Loving?  I could just trust my intuition to pop up a quality that is useful for that person.  Why not?  It’s more fun than just swiping groceries.  I’m going to play around with it.

Our “Real life” community

Friends –

I am more and more thinking of the group of us who participate in this blog – in whatever ways we do so – as a community.  We may participate in different ways. Some of you read an occasional post; some of you gobble up each new day’s post; some of you see me in my actual checkout line, and maybe comment on that morning’s post and/or maybe become material for the next day’s post – by giving me a hat (my now trademark, hand-knitted by Caryl red hat)

I had been getting to know Caryl and her husband Brian in the checkout line. One day I told them of my shopping plans to find some furniture for my buddy Monty's new apartment.  They recommended a retail store called The Screen Door. They said the best day to go is Thursday - the next day, the day we were planning to go shopping.  We went and scored big - mostly furnished his place, at good prices.  They came in while we were there, which was big fun - they got to meet him, got to see some of his treasures.  The next time I saw Caryl in the checkout line I was admiring her hat.  When she told me she made it, I told her how much I needed a cool hat and that I wanted to buy one.  She demurred: "I don't sell them - I just make them for friends." As she was getting ready to leave, I once more made my pitch: "I want to buy one of your hats."  She paused just a moment and then took it off her head and gave it to me, with a big shit-eating grin.  Her beautiful, spontaneous, generous gesture made her as happy as it did me.  And she gave me the beautiful matching fingerless gloves, which came in really handy at the cash register yesterday.  This is what community looks like to me.  Head warm, hands warm, heart warm

I had been getting to know Caryl and her husband Brian in the checkout line. One day I told them of my shopping plans to find some furniture for my buddy Monty’s new apartment. They recommended a retail store called The Screen Door. They said the best day to go is Thursday – the next day, the day we were planning to go shopping. We went and scored big – mostly furnished his place, at good prices. They came in while we were there, which was big fun – they got to meet him, got to see some of his treasures. The next time I saw Caryl in the checkout line I was admiring her hat. When she told me she made it, I told her how much I needed a cool hat and that I wanted to buy one. She demurred: “I don’t sell them – I just make them for friends.” As she was getting ready to leave, I once more made my pitch: “I want to buy one of your hats.” She paused just a moment and then took it off her head and gave it to me, with a big shit-eating grin. Her beautiful, spontaneous, generous gesture made her as happy as it did me. And she gave me the beautiful matching fingerless gloves, which came in really handy at the cash register yesterday. This is what community looks like to me.
Head warm, hands warm, heart warm

or offering me chocolate or a hug, etc. Some of you participate by adding comments, which I treasure and work hard to reply to in a timely fashion.  Some of you may come to the mental health recovery presentation with me next Friday (which I promoted in yesterday’s post) – and maybe come out to lunch with me after, which would be a real gas.

I have other communities: the Jubilee Spiritual Community here in Asheville, the Asheville Movement Collective dance community, my Magnetic Minds depression and bipolar support group (and community – we socialize with each other, beyond simply attending meetings).  I see the staff in our store as a community – and our customers with us as a bigger community.

But the community of this blog – which overlaps with all these other communities – is really close to my heart.  You all are really close to my heart.  My writer is a really important part of who I am, so to have so many people reading and participating in this blog is kind of thrilling for me.  I have frequently, since I left the corporate world behind about ten years ago (organization development – at its best I loved the work, but at its worst it really burned me out), said that I have become the working class hero I was always meant to be.  I identify with my brother and sister cashiers and all front-line customer servers: fast food workers, restaurant servers, retail sales associates, cab drivers, call center agents – I’ve done all of these in the last few years but fast food).  I have a vision of this blog reaching more people, giving lots of non-cashiers an insider glimpse of what our work lives are like for us, and being a positive influence in the lives of other cashiers/servers, influencing the people who manage us, etc.   I’m talking with my internet marketing guru friend Jason Spencer about how to do this.

Big dreams, but a very big current reality!  You are my community – you are my people.  I hope that you will more and more feel yourself a part of this community.  Leaving comments helps.  Emailing me or talking to me in the checkout line helps.  (My regular hours are 10-6 W/Th/Sat, but you can check with me in advance if I am going to be there by emailing me at heymajo@gmail.com.)  If you think of anything I could do or something I could write about that would build the sense of community for you, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Power to the people!

Presentation on mental health recovery next Friday

Sharon Young is brilliant and a real leader in the field of mental health recovery.  She is the thought leader behind the very progressive CooperRiis treatment program.  (It’s apparently now renamed the Cooper Institute.  Their website is very inspiring and educational: www.cooperriis.org).  Come to her presentation at noon on the 16th and let’s go out to lunch afterwards to talk about it.  Let me know if you are coming so we can look for each other.

119 Tunnel Road Inc. Asheville NC 28805  (in the training offices at October Road, Inc.).
FREE and open to the public. No registration required.

“Recovery and Discovery:  How to Support the Re-conceptualization of Self Within the Recovery Journey”

Summary:

One of the most powerful, yet least articulated aspects of the recovery journey involves the profound process of re-conceptualization of one’s identity.  This workshop will provide a conceptual framework for identity work and existential aspects of the healing process along with tools that can be utilized to facilitate this crucial aspect of recovery.

Dr. Sharon Young is the Director of Cooper Institute as well as being a licensed Psychologist.  Implementation and research related to the progressive recovery movement has been Dr. Young’s professional passion.

The Cooper Institute (until recently CooperRiis) is a pioneer in holistic, recovery-oriented psychiatric treatment - a lot because of Sharon Young's leadership.

The Cooper Institute (until recently CooperRiis) is a pioneer in holistic, recovery-oriented psychiatric treatment – a lot because of Sharon Young’s leadership.

As a part of her research efforts, Dr. Young created a three stage non-linear Recovery Model and a comprehensive Recovery Measure which emerged from a grounded theory analysis of individual recovery stories. In addition to publishing and presenting this research, Dr. Young has distilled seven recovery domains from the research which provides a framework for the holistic programming of CooperRiis Healing Community.

Dr.  Young also serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Foundation of Mental Health Excellence and the PRA (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association) Advisory Committee for the new Recovery and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Learning Academy.  She is also co-leading the political advocacy efforts of the organization called North Carolinians for Recovery Oriented Care, has been on the planning committee for all five North Carolina Recovery Conferences, and is on the strategic planning committee for the Mountain Council Recovery Coalition of Western North Carolina.

You risk, I risk….

May was a slender attractive brunette, around 5’6″, maybe 35 years old.  She responded to my “What’s been a highlight of your day?” question in several steps of progressively greater openness – startling to me and maybe even to her.  “I had a really good hypnosis session….We’re working on fear….I’m a cancer survivor and lots of little symptoms bring up fear.”

My response was in its own way a little startling to me.  “Are you familiar with A Course in Miracles?”  Now why did I bring that up?  I’m sure not getting paid to promote far-out, channeled, New Age metaphysical programs.  I do know why I brought it up – because in my life A Course in Miracles has been a very powerful lever for working with fear.  But it still feels like a risk to be recommending it to a customer, maybe especially a customer who is at such a vulnerable point in her life.

May’s next response was also surprising.  She got positively electrified (I get goose bumps recalling it): “Yes – love is letting go of fear!  My hypnotherapist was telling me about it today!  This is total affirmation that it can be good for me.”

A Course in Miracles is a dense metaphysical system paired with a very concrete workbook with 365 daily lessons that tend to turn your daily reality upside down.  I spent 3 years making my way through the lessons, then turned around and spent another 4 years doing it again.  My life has been forever changed by it.  Jampolsky's book is a great introduction.

A Course in Miracles is a dense metaphysical system paired with a very concrete workbook with 365 daily lessons that tend to turn your daily reality upside down. I spent 3 years making my way through the lessons, then turned around and spent another 4 years doing it again. My life has been forever changed by it. Jampolsky’s book is a great introduction.

After May left, I had no mixed feelings about having recommended A Course in Miracles. I’m a big believer in synchronicity and felt as convinced as her that her hypnotherapist and I both recommending it within a few hours of each other indicated it could be good for her.

What did all this teach me about taking risks with customers?  Sometimes I’m the first one to risk – to offer something personal or unusual.  Today May disclosed first.  But is it really so easy to know who opens first?  Did May know from the way I asked my question that I was a safe person to open up with?  I don’t ask the question to everyone – did I pick up something from her that indicated that asking her the question would go someplace?  Was I in a more trusting place because of the enchanted interaction that I had had just an hour earlier? (“I’m vertical…”, 1/7) Why did she end up in my line?  Why shortly after this hypnosis session?

Sometimes it makes sense to think in terms of taking risks.  I want to develop my sense for which risks are worth taking and which are perhaps too risky – and to recognize when my customer has taken a risk, has made themselves vulnerable, and needs to be supported.  Yet it also seems equally valid to hold that we are always totally supported – and that love means to recognize this, to trust it, to surrender to it.  And as we do this we progressively let go of fear.  I learned that from A Course in Miracles.

I’m vertical and taking nourishment

Adrian was totally on to me.  An attractive, slender blonde of average height, her face was very familiar, but I couldn’t remember her name (turned out I didn’t yet know it) and could not recall any conversations we had had.  But I did recognize her and she clearly knew me.  I was having a tough morning and she knew it – she had obviously been checking me out when she was next up in the line.  When she moved in front of me, she immediately asked me my stock question, “What’s been a highlight of your day?” with a really compassionate look.  Oh, Lord, it’s that obvious that I’m in bad shape.

“You know about my question.”

“I’ve been reading your blog –  I really like it.”

I have two responses: “Nice – she’s reading the blog.  That feels good.” And “Oh shit – if she’s reading the blog, she knows just how bad my days can get.  I feel very exposed.”  There followed a brief, intense wrestling match between these two voices.  I chose a few years ago to be a spokesman around bipolar disorder, to write and teach about it – to make it my personal mission. I chose to write a personal blog.  I chose to out myself around bipolar disorder in the blog – even though coworkers and customers would be reading it.  Oh, but right in this moment I’m not sure I can bear the openness.

Audrey has bought two little 89 cent chocolates – my fav’s, though I’m off sugar.  Her brief (10 items?) transaction is over and she leaves the chocolates on the counter after putting the rest of the stuff in her bag.  “Do you want a chocolate or a hug?”  Even if I was still doing sugar, it would have been an easy choice.  “I’ll take a hug.” I indicated to the next customer – who had heard the whole conversation – that I would be just a moment and Audrey and I met at the foot of the counter.  There was no ambivalence on my part in that hug – it just felt great, better even than chocolate.

I love these little chocolates, but even this chocoholic can recognize when love is a sweeter option.

I love these little chocolates, but even this chocoholic can recognize when love is a sweeter option.

As Audrey left, I continued to feel great – great about the hug, great about the blog, great about the life path I have chosen: to live a relatively public life, to offer my life for teaching about cashiering, about bipolar disorder, about life.

I was a little dizzy through this next customer.  The guy after her, when I asked him my stock question, answered “I’m vertical and taking nourishment.”  I had heard this somewhat clever answer before, but never had it meant so much to me.

“You’re fine” – soothing the apologetic customer

“You’re fine.” – the reassuring response to someone who has just apologized for bumping into you or for getting in your way.  Or – in the grocery store line – for entering their frequent shopper number incorrectly, for not noticing if their cucumber was organic or conventional, for forgetting their bags in the car, for running out of money and needing to take a couple items out of their order.

“You’re fine.”  I’m not sure it’s a southern expression, but I sure don’t remember it from up north.  I love it.  Not just “Never mind” or “Forget about it”, but “You’re fine”.  It’s a real affirmation. And at a perfect moment: the person is feeling apologetic – they could use some affirmation.  Our last post dealt with mistakes we ourselves make – here we deal with the other person’s “mistake”.

We cashiers often have the opportunity to make a difference in our customer’s day – by providing a genuine moment of contact, an acknowledgement of that person’s uniqueness.  But there is no more juicy moment than when the customer presents some apology.

Even a little bit of apology throws us into that "something-wrong-with-me" energy.

Even a little bit of apology throws us into that “something-wrong-with-me” energy.

We won’t, in one exchange, heal a customer from the tendency to apologize for themselves, but a well-timed “You’re fine” can help.

Or well-phrased:

  • for entering their frequent shopper number wrong, maybe “That machine is very confusing”
  • for not noticing the cucumber, “It’s our job to get labels on them”
  • forgetting their bags in the car, “100 people a day do that”
  • for running out of money, “I imagine this is very stressful, but trust me it happens to a lot of people.”

This person has just made themselves very vulnerable. Let’s put all our personal energy into the words we say, the eye contact we offer, and the feelings we put behind the words.  Let’s wish for that person’s total healing.  It’s maybe a little encounter – but if it can make even a little bit of difference in how much a person apologizes for themselves, how awesome is that?

 

I believe in mistakes…

Cashiering is detailed work – there are so many ways to make little (and larger) mistakes.  When I am up, I roll with these mistakes: I make fewer of them because my brain is sharper, but I am also a lot more forgiving of those mistakes that I do make.  When I’m down, I tend to be pretty hard on myself about even little mistakes – and positively cruel to myself about the larger ones.

I thought of a variety of ways to attack this issue in a post, but none of them seem better than the poem I wrote during this same dark time of year about four years ago.  It’s longer than most of my posts, but lots of people have found it meaningful.  I’d welcome your feedback – in a comment or an email (to heymajo@gmail.com).

I BELIEVE IN MISTAKES          (Majo, 1/15/11)

I believe in mistakes
I believe in right and wrong
Good and evil
Sin and redemption
Well I’m sure about sin at least

I believe it’s possible
To make a wrong choice
Take a wrong turn
And to forever lose
All option  for good
That the right road would have held

I believe it’s possible for these wrong choices
To lead you to a wrong life
To become a wrong person
With no chance to get back to
The person you were meant to be

Why am I so imprisoned by this wretched
View of the world?
Why do I cling so to beliefs
About life and about myself
That cause so much suffering?
Why am I so attached to
This harsh god of right and wrong?
Why is this unforgiving code
Carved so deeply and painfully into my heart?

Is it my Libra nature
Constantly balancing and rebalancing the scales
Desperately and hopelessly trying to get things to come out right?
I so often know immediately
That I have taken the wrong path
Committed to the wrong course of action
Ordered the wrong lunch
And am so seldom confident
That I am going the right way

Is it because the good nuns
So patiently and persistently
Drilled original sin into my young consciousness?
Is it my Irish conscience
So hopeless about becoming a genuinely good man?
It believes that carrying
A heavy load of guilt
Is the most reliable way to
Earn God’s mercy.

Is it my western analytical mind
So hooked on separating
On putting things in different buckets
Hooked on the world of either/or?

Is it my human ego
So tiny in the face of
The vast world out there
So lost in fear and alienation?

I would like to say that my belief in mistakes
Is my one true mistake
But I think that would be a mistake
Tortured as this paradigm is
It is my lineage
It unites me with the human species
From which I spring
My suffering is your suffering
Is our suffering
Until we can together
Every one of us
Lay this burden down

You may have gleaned by now
How hard it is to step outside
Of this world of mistakes
Indeed, from our shared starting point,
It is impossible
It is anathema to our human programming
A contradiction in terms
It is a world that can only be visited
When we take a brief vacation
From our normal minds
It’s the payoff from meditation
The addictiveness of drugs
The bottom line of love

In the throes of love
Does our lover or child not seem perfect
Able to do no wrong?
(How ephemeral are these throes of love)
Is it not clear, when we are truly in love
That there can be no mistake
In committing fully to the beloved
No matter how great the cost?

How can I turn this kind of love on myself?
Commit this fully to me?
My path the last few days
Is clearly littered with mistakes
Today I wrote a poem
Who wrote the poem?
Who made the mistakes?
Could I have had this
Without the others?
Did they not get me here?

Maybe my commitment to a me that does
Is the deepest mistake
Steps were taken that led me here, led me there
Led me to this poem
Led me to this room
Led me to you
You get to decide whether for
You this poem is right or wrong
But if you are wise you will maybe not

You’re too weird!

I did something creative at work today.  In honor of the first day of the year, I let go of my standard customer question “What’s been a highlight of your day?” and instead asked “What’s a way you intend to express your creativity in the new year?”  I got back some great answers, ranging from “Continually adapt to new cultures as I practice my international consulting business” to “Learn how to build a table – I’m a musician, not a carpenter” to “Parent my two-year-old”.

Our cafe at work is celebrating the creativity of our staff with every wall covered with staff art.  This massive, beautiful painting was created by my old roommate Will, a brilliant artist in several media.

Our cafe at work is celebrating the creativity of our staff with every wall covered with staff art. This massive, beautiful painting was created by my old roommate Will, a brilliant artist in several media.

I felt good about the results of the question – and, as always, a lot of people asked me the question back.  I had some fun responding to this by talking about writing, but sometimes when you target a positive new behavior what you get first is a clearer picture of where you’re stuck – what’s in the way of  that behavior.  That’s what I got today – more clarity about what makes it hard for me to be creative.

Over lunch I had a conversation with a colleague in which I told him that I don’t like the way he does announcements over the public address system in the store – that it’s too weird for me.  I’ve been chafing on this for a while – waiting for the right time to tell him.  Some part of me had a fantasy  that he would wake up, repent, start doing more normal announcements.  He didn’t do any of that – but he also didn’t get defensive.  I think his lack of defensiveness allowed me to take a look at myself.

By the end of our 20-minute conversation, I was asking myself What is it about his weirdness that I find so threatening?  Why does it bother me?”  I’m all about creativity, improvisation and risk-taking – and that’s exactly what he’s doing.  Why don’t I support it?  Why don’t I regard him as a real role model?  What kinds of risks do I take with my announcements?  None – they’re very straight-arrow.  I’m sure not practicing improvisation in that area of my work life.

Which differences are OK?  Which ones are exciting for the ways they open up the envelope?  Which ones are too weird?  Is it possible to let all these questions go and let these differences just be different?

Which differences are OK? Which ones are exciting for the ways they open up the envelope? Which ones are too weird? Is it possible to let all these questions go and let these differences just be different?

So this stuck with me today – especially in the face of what I was doing to celebrate creativity, to aim towards creativity.  It really was hitting me between the eyes, in terms of how I get in my own way.  All the ways that I focus on what’s negative – but maybe especially my fears of being weird.  I have a mental illness – bipolar disorder.  What does that mean?  For some that very term means weird – and definitely not good weird.  Sometimes I’m just fine with it – it feels like just one more way to be in the world.

Today when people were asking me where I planned to express my creativity this year, I would say “Two writing projects” and I would tell them the title of this blog, but not the subtitle – “The ups and downs of a bipolar cashier”.  I not once got around to telling them about the second writing project – online training for people with bipolar disorder.  I left that out because I would have to explain about me having bipolar disorder.

It seems like as long as I’m holding a concept of weird as a bad thing to be, I’m going to keep myself stuck around my creativity and self-expression.  What is weird anyway?  It’s different too much or different bad.  So am I going to go through life scrutinizing my differences, to see which ones are bad? Am I going to have a continuum that goes “normal – creative – eccentric – weird” and continually be assessing where people lie on the continuum?

It seems like the more I give other people a break – room to be different – that will automatically translate into giving myself a break.