Purple Healing

  prince in purple

      I sat alone in a diner waiting as my car was serviced when I noticed silent clips of Prince performing on the far wall TV.  I squinted to read the flashing news lines thinking, oh no, something must have happened, not prepared for the headline PRINCE DEAD AT 57.

For a moment I could not breathe.  I looked around, not understanding why people seemed not to notice, carrying on as usual.  I did not know my waitress, but wanted to hug her, ask her, did she hear the terrible news about Prince?  My Facebook friends were already talking, debating, hoping the news was a hoax, as confirming reports came in.  Thus began my descent into a grief I didn’t understand but couldn’t deny.

Circumstances left me alone throughout that day and well into the evening.  I longed for a place to go, somewhere to be, someone to be with who shared my grief.  It felt personal, his death.  I always admired Prince, considered him an icon, a genius, deserving of every gushing description he’s now receiving, but I couldn’t call myself a fan, feeling I did not deserve to place myself in that category.  His hits were among my all time favorite songs, I turned the radio up whenever I heard one, but I never attended a concert, didn’t own any of his music and hadn’t even seen Purple Rain.  Yet I felt devastated he was gone.

For the next two days I couldn’t get enough Prince, listening to every news outlet, alternating between news and music.  I learned the full extent of his genius:  playing so many instruments, laying down all the tracks of his early music, writing songs for others — performing, producing, managing his catalogue, building his “vault.”  Rarely do we see anyone so talented in even just one area, let alone all he displayed.  Yet that didn’t explain why I was feeling such an unshakable sadness.

People were calling in to EW Radio to share their personal Prince stories.  I thought of watching him guest star last year on the sitcom “New Girl” with Zoe Deschanel.  The episode captured classic Prince, the balance between his superstardom and humanness.  He gave Zoe’s character the opportunity to “freak out” at meeting him and then went on to share an evening with her like a new best friend.  It was a look behind the curtain for someone like me who only knew his mysterious, remote, untouchable side; a glimpse into what I heard one fan describe as his ability even in a full concert arena to make each person feel like he was performing just for them.  It seemed I could connect to his positive energy even through a flat screen TV.  I wanted more of him.

After sadly slogging through two work days wanting only to talk and think about Prince, I decided to go out on Saturday night, despite facing work again the following morning.  I am fortunate to live five minutes from Daryl’s House, as in Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates; it was my first visit though it’s been open over a year.  That night acoustic guitarist Andy McKee, with whom I was not familiar, was playing.  I thought, hoped, maybe in a music venue I’d get the shared mourning experience I was craving.

Andy McKee’s guitar playing was indescribably soul touching, soothing and restorative.  Even watching with my own eyes I could not understand how he got so much music out of one instrument.  He performed with no mention of Prince or the terrible news, and I thought perhaps his niche was too different to hold a strong connection.  It was getting late and I thought about leaving just as he finished his set.  The filled room drew him back for an encore, and then he started talking about Prince.

In intimate detail, Andy shared his story of being invited by Prince first to collaborate and then to be a part of his upcoming tour.  We shared in his surprise and disbelief at receiving the first email invitation, the thrill of visiting Paisley Park, jamming with Prince, and planning for the concert tour.  Andy would play as the show began leading up to Prince’s entrance, and Andy hilariously described Prince’s specific idea about what Andy should wear for the occasion (involving a long fur-lined cape) starkly contrasting Andy’s usual casual style.

And then Andy played for us, as he played for Prince then, his acoustic guitar version of Purple Rain.  Beginning softly and building to the throbbing intensity a proper Prince entrance would demand, you could almost feel Prince’s spirit filling the room.  This was exactly what I needed, more than I could have asked for, and I felt unspeakably grateful for this answer to my prayer.

andy mckee

Gabrielle Bernstein says in her book Miracles Now! the light we see in others is our own light reflecting back at us.  By all accounts Prince knew exactly what he wanted and went about making that happen with exceptional precision.  He was more than his music, he was an example of a life well lived.  We all wanted more.

Thank you, dear Prince, for showing me what it looks like to dive fully into being exactly who you are.  I see what can be accomplished even in a too-short lifetime by someone who is not afraid to fail, who reaches heights only attained by taking risks that leave people shaking their heads in disbelief.  I hope I can be at least a little bit like him.  Purple has always been my favorite color.

purple

 

 

 

 

 

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McDonald’s – Still Lovin’ It

happycustomerblog

mcd's sign
According to the New York Times, McDonald’s is struggling with how to turn around an ongoing slump. Apparently they’ve tried everything: getting healthier, more exotic, cheaper, more expensive, more customized, and nothing is working. I just want to say I still love McDonald’s. As a lifelong customer, here’s what I recommend.

Get back to what you’re good at. You don’t have to compete with more “upscale” fast food chains like those you mention, most of which are not in my area anyway. McDonald’s is a treat, not a way of life. When I was a kid, my mom took us to McDonald’s on nights my father wouldn’t be home for dinner. Whoo hoo, Big Mac here we come! Onions and pickles were my first introduction to vegetables. Who needs it your way?

big mac

What’s better than a hamburger, fries and vanilla shake? I don’t care if it’s not a real milkshake…

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Work — Just Dig In

happycustomerblog

The morning I turned 16 my father took me directly to the DMV to apply for my learner’s permit.  He had been teaching me to drive since I was small, holding me on his lap to steer the car from the corner into our driveway.  He loved driving, it seemed he could hardly wait to share the fun with me, his oldest child.  That same birthday, he marched me straight to the neighborhood supermarket to apply for the job he had already arranged for me as a part-time cashier.  It seemed he hated working and wanted me to have the same awful experience.

We had the same conversation for years as I watched him shave before going to work, one leg up on the toilet:

Dad: “I wish I didn’t have to go to work.”

Me:  “Why don’t you call in sick?”

Dad:  “No one would answer!”

He was the…

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What the Universe knows

2013I wasn’t looking for a retail job.  I’ve never watched someone working at the mall and thought hey, I’d like to do that!  I’m not even so into shopping anymore.  It’s gotten where I feel like I’ve eaten a too rich dessert just walking into some stores for being surrounded by so much stuff no one needs.  But I did want to find work and wasn’t getting any interviews via the internet, so I signed up for a career fair one Wednesday afternoon.  I didn’t have high hopes and wasn’t even sure I’d go, but with no other pressing plans that day, off I went, thinking at least I was taking a positive step.

My goal was to get face to face with someone at a large health care organization I already applied to online.  I hoped handing someone the book I published years ago would make me memorable enough to get an interview, but the opportunity fell flat.  The young woman behind the table was nothing more than a resume receptacle, reciting the same script to everyone in the long line.  Deflated, I looked around and spied the logo for a clothing line I held in high regard.

The young woman at this booth was personable, genuine.  I hoped she was hiring for an office, but it was for a store.  I’d been to that place in a crazy busy outlet mall, and mostly remembered how I couldn’t find my car for over an hour, not so Seinfeld funny.  Still, when the young woman said “we’ll talk more next week at the interview” my heart lilted.  Three weeks later, after I’d given up, I got a voice message inviting me to call for an interview.  Mapquest said the store was an hour away.  Too far, I thought.  I called to decline the interview, but at the last minute changed my mind and accepted.  What did I have to lose?

The drive was pleasant, scenic, peaceful almost, all highway and against traffic.  The store was nicer than I expected: neat, colorful, classy; smelled good, fun music playing.  I liked the interviewer, a little younger than me, but with much in common, including college degrees unrelated to retail and a long drive to the store.  “I guess I’m an adrenalin junkie,” she shared, describing the busy store’s challenges, obviously proud of the store’s high standing.  “We need grownups.” she said.  I would take an online test before we could move forward.  If I passed, I would get a second interview.  I was … intrigued.

I almost didn’t go to the second interview.  Does it make sense to drive an hour to work an hourly retail job?  What about the gas and tolls?  Can I tolerate such a busy place?  Stand on my feet all day?  But it’s a good company, and I haven’t been offered anything else.  Why not go for another interview?  The second interviewer, a much younger man, shared the larger picture of what it takes to operate the company’s number one factory store.  Employees work many hours beyond open for business. Am I available?  Yes, In theory at least.  It’s most difficult filling the middle hours of the day, he said.  “Then I’m your man!” I replied.  A high five and the interview ended on a positive note.

A week later I was offered a part-time position as a cashier.  Orientation would be the following morning if I was available.  Elated, I felt a weight had been lifted.  Months of searching were over, I had a job!

I almost quit at orientation.  Six of us sat around a table and were handed a quarter-inch stack of papers and an equally thick employee manual.  One other woman was about my age, the rest were kids in high school or college.  We each shared how we came to this company.  The other woman and I both hoped to progress to the corporate office, the kids just wanted a job, any job.  We were shown a video on the company’s history then spent the next four hours reviewing the company’s policies and expectations while reviewing and signing copious authorizations, releases and employment forms.  The kids looked to take it all in stride, I was overwhelmed.  It’s been many years since I worked for a large company.  Would I fit in?  Could I take on the required persona?  I closed the folder and sat quietly waiting for the session to end so I could escape, maybe never to return.

I handed my folder to the session leader and told her I wasn’t sure I fit into this company.  “I don’t dress like that,” I said, referring to the dress code.  She urged me to give the job a try for a couple of weeks before deciding. “It’s a lot to take in,” she admitted, “but I’ve seen four or five people catch the eye of Corporate,” she encouraged, cracking that door open, drawing me in.  I agreed not to give up just yet and later tried analyzing my resistance.  For years I had been in charge, setting the culture, creating the atmosphere; I wasn’t used to taking on someone else’s.  Could I be another company’s “brand ambassador?”

I might have noticed the real-life foreshadowing pointing me right in that direction.  I was consciously trying to update my “look”, yet didn’t connect that with having recently bought, for the first time, clothes bearing the logo I would represent.  There was that aforementioned trip to this particular store in the huge mall, including parking in the same lot (in which I would lose my car again, this time in torrential rain).  On the negative side, though, employees have to park far from the store during the week and completely off-site on weekends, taking a bus in, adding to an already long commute.

I didn’t anticipate how tiring it would be to absorb so much new information.  “Learn something new every five minutes” became my motto my first few weeks on the job.  If I thought being a cashier might be too simple, I was wrong; it’s extremely challenging, physically and mentally.  Yet interesting.  In four months I’ve met customers visiting from 55 countries, including some I’ve never heard of (Brunei?).  I have something to talk about and stories to tell every night.  I notice so many ways in which the store is just right for me, from how the physical work area is set up to the people I’m working with, to the company’s customer service philosophy, one of my passions.  And it turns out I love dressing to code in the company’s style.

Sometimes I feel anxious going to work, until I enter the store and it all feels right and good.  How right it is became crystal clear when this week I finally got invited to explore my intended path, going back to my roots as a legal secretary.  The law firm setting was so familiar, from formal reception area to elegant conference room.  As I interviewed with two of the firm’s partners, though, I found I was much more excited talking about my current job than I was hearing about the firm’s activities.  When they asked how soon I could start, I realized I had no intention of leaving my new retail home.  The Universe knows.

 

 

 

 

59 Going on 48

I don’t like my age, that number. I can’t face the one that comes next. My husband felt the same way this past year when he was due to hit that big one. He was so miserable we couldn’t even celebrate. He wouldn’t even let me invite family members over for a piece of cake. He moped for months as the date approached, seemingly uncheerable until I suggested that maybe it was time for us to start lying about our ages. He was turning 49 and I was now 48. He visibly brightened immediately. I felt the same way. Oh to be 48 again! Not even 50! That got my blood flowing and lowered my anxiety.

I can’t bring myself to actually lie to people; lying to myself seems enough. Not that anyone asks me my age, and in my own experience, it’s hard to guess how old is someone else. Your own biases about age creep into your guesses. To most young people, 30 is old, 40 is unthinkable and 50 is totally done. But that’s all changed for our generation, in our culture. Rush Limbaugh nailed it when he talked about how his father in his 40s already felt like his choices had all been made, it was by then his time to just carry on as he always had. I remember when I was in my early 20s, one of the women in the office had become pregnant at 42. I thought that was crazy, imagining her with a teenager as she approached 60! A senior citizen, sitting idle in a rocking chair! Measure that against today’s standards. I had my second son at 37.

Yes, it’s all different now. Still I hate the approaching number, the entire decade. Mostly because I can’t figure out where the past decade went. So fast, it’s all a blur. I know I should be focused on paying attention this time, slowing time down. But first I have to face the reality of it and decide what to do with it. And I have been trying to figure it out, but for the first time in my life, I am not sure about my next steps. And that’s not like me. I have strong intuition and have always had no trouble following it. But for the first time in my life, my gut is wavering, throwing me to and fro like waves coming in at differing angles on the beach. I gather information and wisdom from all sources, open to the Universe’s direction. A quote or Facebook share will ring true, but I will fail action, lost in an inner debate about what feels right versus what takes too much energy or will lead to regret down the road.

Am I ready for a new challenge or too tired? Is it time to coast or is there still time to dream? That’s my inner torment. I do dream. I want to write a best-selling book that turns into a movie starring Ryan Gosling. My gut wrenches when I think someone has beat me to it, that book that wants written. When I was much younger that feeling was enough to spur me on to action and the success that followed. But now … the motivation comes and goes infuriating me. One day I’m sure I’ve got it, the outline for the book and how to market it. I’m filled with inspiration and excitement, looking forward to seeing it all unfold. The next day, I’ve lost it. Life is comfortable. I am content soaking up the beauty of the blue sky and puffy clouds, looking forward to tonight’s dinner. I know what success feels like; I don’t need to actually experience it again, do I?

I recently started a new job. It’s in retail, not what I was looking for. My varied career has provided a depth of skills and knowledge, so I hoped to get into some big organization at an entry level where I could prove myself and move up. My first full-time work had been secretarial, so I applied everywhere to receptionist openings. Talk about a different job market, I didn’t get a single interview in many months’ trying. Tapped into all the online job sources, my resume went to countless companies, and I formally applied to many, including some where I was known to the principals. The only responses I received came weeks or even months later as form rejection emails stating the company had decided to explore other more suitable candidates.

A friend suggested maybe I was being rejected as overqualified, the employer thinking I’d want too much money. How much money could I expect if I were applying to be a receptionist? Wouldn’t a smart employer read my resume and realize they could be getting the best receptionist they ever had? Wouldn’t they even at least be curious enough to call me, invite me in for an interview? One rejection email stated that they had received over 50 resumes for the opening. I guess it’s too easy to be lost in a pile. In my last position, I was the one reading the resumes; I admit my own biases and can understand how I might be overlooked. My friend suggested I should try stating I’m a stay at home mom returning to work to indicate I don’t have such high expectations. I tried that in my most recent application; I’ve had no response so far one week post-send.

So retail it is, and to my surprise I am enjoying it. It’s busy, I like the people I work with, the environment, the merchandise. I like the variety of schedule and new experiences every day. Meanwhile, I have met people from the corporate office who may be interested in me. I thought that was what I wanted, to move up, further my career. That was what younger me would have wanted. Yes, maybe I’ll do the reverse of what More magazine is always touting, I’ll get a new corporate career at my age rather than leave the corporate world to grow trees in a third world country. Yes, I could write about that and More magazine will promote my new book …. Or maybe I’ll just enjoy punching out, looking at the puffy clouds on my way home and thinking about what to eat for dinner.