On Discipline (Not the Parenting Kind)

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Last week I decided I didn’t have to do this blog anymore.  I decided, who cares (really) and why am I doing this?  I reminded myself that the goal I set of writing every week for one year was just MY goal and no one will be too bothered or disappointed if I stop now.  (Except maybe me.)

Then I had a failure at work and I decided I should write about it. One last hurrah.  Maybe just this last post to make it #20 so the number is even?  Maybe a final post about a subject so near and dear to my heart, I could end here?  Ironically, it’s the virtue Discipline I’d like to end with.

My failure at work was losing a new client after giving it my all.  I had one attempt at what she wanted and a second try to get it more to what she wanted (called in the salon business a “re-do”meaning the client does not pay).  Because I am a professional and always want to learn from my mistakes, I won’t go into details about what happened (she said/I said).  The bottom line is, I didn’t nail it.  I hate nothing more than losing clients so I reached out to my FB community for moral support.  I hardly ever complain or cry for help there so when I do, people seem to respond.  Lovingly, cheeringly and always on my side.  Which is it’s own strange form of love but when I’m down, I’ll take it.

I wrestled for a good 24 hours with this demon and at this point, I am chalking it up to needing a few reminder lessons including to “under-promise and over-deliver”, don’t overestimate my ability and the big one, don’t take things personally.  The last one is the hardest and one of the greatest teachings ever from The Four Agreements  which if you haven’t read yet, you must!

I am highly self-critical.  Which makes me excel at what I do because I will push myself harder than most. This has some bad consequences like not being content and the flip side of that coin, not even trying if I don’t think I can be stellar.  With my work I am neurotic, perfectionistic and a die-hard people-pleaser.  I am part Artist, part Scientist, part Therapist.  I am a Business Woman and a Mother and my work ethic is such that no matter what, I keep going.  And that is what this blog is about.

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A few weeks ago my Son got cut from the soccer team.  And then he got asked back on.  And in his first few games, he played maybe 1-2 minutes, sometimes 4.  By game 5 he started to play 20 and now almost half.  I asked him what was happening and he told me the Coach said he was rewarding players who MADE THE MOST EFFORT with playing time.

It isn’t easy getting ahead.  I have done my damndest at a few things I never made much progress at.  I didn’t “make it” as a Singer or an Actress and I tried hard.  I am competitive, I want to win.  I am  tenacious.  So failing eats at me.  Losing one client is torture.  And everyone can say, “It’s not you” or “You can’t please them all” or any other comforting words of wisdom but I still take it hard.  One massive teaching I have gained from watching my son compete in athletics is the lesson of loss and failure.  I love that he has already developed a thick skin for loss and an attitude that if you do your best, that’s all that matters.

In the end, did I try my hardest?  I have lost clients over the years and will certainly continue to do so for various reasons.  It’s the nature of what we do.  But can I live with myself when these things happen?  Do I know that I tried my best?  When my pride is bruised and I feel crappy do I keep going?  When I wanted to quit this blog, I didn’t.

Not yet.

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On Why She Stays

I am grateful to see that in the wake of the NFL player, Ray Rice’s abuse of his wife Janay Palmer, domestic violence is being discussed openly and heatedly.  On Twitter, women have begun a movement to share their stories on all social media fronts called “#whyistayed” and reportedly, the calls to domestic violence hotlines have doubled and in some areas even tripled. I won’t begin to touch the implications of steroids, sports, NFL politics (really ALL major league sports) and why this incident was not  handled properly from the beginning.  That has been done very well already.  At best, this incident will incite real change and all sports will take this example and handle it before they are made an example of.

What I want to discuss, because I haven’t seen it done much, is the cycle of abuse.  Because it is a cycle 100% of the time.  From the outside, it’s really tough to understand why a woman stays in an abusive relationship.  But the truth is, the physical abuse is the tip of the iceberg and only one part of what’s really happening.

I learned about the battering cycle many years ago and I still feel that this diagram by Lenore Walker is an excellent starting point.

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The diagram outlines 4 phases.  First, there is tension.  Regular life stuff usually.  Then, the incident.  Often unprovoked, an inappropriate reaction to something mundane.  This can be verbal abuse or physical abuse.  And then what happens?  You want to really know why she stays?  Because after things go badly, it’s usually great again.  This is called “Reconciliation” and in other literature it is coined “The Honeymoon Phase”.  This is the good stuff and we remember why we love him.  And we want to hold on to that part.  We want to stay here.  We want to believe that people change, that he didn’t mean it.  That it won’t happen again.  We are optimistic.  In the calm phase after the Honeymoon Phase we might forget all about it.  And deep down, we are ashamed.  Because then it happens again.

Sometimes we stop telling everyone in our lives about the bad stuff.  We don’t want to hear what they have to say . We don’t want to hear from our close friends and family that this isn’t the first time. We don’t want to remember that.  We focus on the good and the kids and moving forward.  We are strong.

Just yesterday, a friend called me in distress.  She and her guy had had another fight.  She was in the incident phase.  Her situation isn’t physical, it’s verbal. They argue and he says mean and hateful things to her.  Then they make up.  Then it’s fine for awhile.  Then it happens again.  Her self-esteem is low.  Maybe it was before this relationship, I don’t know.  I do know that it takes a hell of a lot of strength to break out of this cycle.  How do you find that strength when you have been broken?

Some women say that it’s almost easier when there is physical violence against them because everyone can say that’s wrong.  We can all agree, it isn’t OK for a man to hit a woman.  You would think that was a no-brainer but check this out:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one-third of women in the United States (35.6 percent, or approximately 42.4 million) have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime,” and nearly one in three women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. To put some of this in percentage terms, 30.3 percent of women in the United States have been “slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner” in their lifetime.”

Now, let’s bring it to a global level. ” As the United Nations makes clear, “Violence against women is a universal phenomenon.”According to the U.N., “Up to seven in 10 women around the world experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime,” and “603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/15/opinion/charles-blow-ray-rice-and-his-rage.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As

Did you get that?  It’s not even considered a crime world wide to abuse a woman.  My blog “On Beyonce’s Feminism”  began to address this issue of the necessity of ongoing dialogue on the status of women worldwide.  There are economic and religious reasons why women stay (and that seems to be more what people are focused on) but I still believe that it boils down to the same deeper psychological phenomenon and breaking that, truly, is the starting point.

For many years, my Mom was the Director for La Casa De Las Madres which is an agency in San Francisco for domestic violence.  They house and help women trying to get away in an anonymous place, a safe house.  They take in the women and their children and they help them start a new life.  They give food, clothing, shelter, career coaching.  It’s an incredible agency and she still works there in a different capacity now.  Looking back, I remember how hard that work was for her.  How heartbreaking the stories were but especially heartbreaking was every time a woman went back.

How do help each other?  How do we build self-esteem?  How do we assure our Sisters, our Mothers, our Daughters and our friends that they deserve better?  How can we help them when they don’t believe it?

On Jheri Curls

I went to high school in the mid-80s.  Looking back, it was a hilarious and iconic time in fashion and music but we did not know this then.

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*photo courtesy of Ed Smith.  This was a night in 1984 in downtown Mill Valley as all of us kids converged at the Bus Depot on weekends.

We only knew that we identified ourselves by what kind of music we listened to and where on campus we hung out.  My high school largely self-segregated during breaks and lunches.  People were known by the specific part of school you sat with your friends.  You were a “front parking lot” person (Prince fans, Madonna look-alikes, cheerleaders and football players) , a “back parking lot” person (rockers and stoners/Heavy Metal), an “Orange Court” person (Dungeons and Dragons, brainiacs) and on and on.  I sort of wandered between the “front lawn” (skaters, surfers, soccer players, beachy types)  and off-campus, being sure not to associate myself too much in any particular area.

Our school was mostly white but there was a small contingent of African American kids (Tupac went to Tam High!).  These kids mostly hung out in the front parking lot and a few wore one glove like their idol, Michael Jackson.  Secretly, the music they listened to and break danced to was my favorite but because I was not a “front parking lot” person, no one knew.  My love for Vanity 6 was my little secret.

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When we were Freshmen, we had PE and PE was divided into segments.  We had Gymnastics, Square dancing (oy) and Swimming.  Gymnastics came first in the rotation.  The gym was full of bright blue mats and we were forced, in our very awkward 14-year old bodies, to do somersaults and such.  During Tumbling training, the oil from our classmates with Jheri Curls would famously streak the mats and one day, someone slipped on the oil.  That person sprained their ankle causing a school dilemma.  What to do with all the kids who have to do somersaults but have Jheri Curls?!?!

Do you know what a Jheri Curl is? Let me remind you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jheri_curl

Jheri Curls were hugely popular right in the mid and late 80s thanks largely to Michael Jackson who rocked one famously on the cover of Thriller.

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In a nutshell,  a Jheri Curl (technical name is Soft Curl Permanent) is when you relax curly hair and then perm it into a new curl pattern.  What was inconvenient about Jheri Curls, in addition to being time consuming, was that to keep them rocking you had to have an activator in your hair at all times to keep it from drying out.  This was called, by some, Jheri Curl Juice.

So, the schools solution to keep Jheri Curl wearers in class and not cause any more injuries was to have all the kids with Jheri Curls wear shower caps during PE.  That didn’t stand out…

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I was reminded by my friend Kimberly that after that incident, those guys worked that style all day long and soon enough wearing a shower cap became cool.  Of course.

When I started Beauty School, I was a little lost.  I was raised by Hippie-types and went to a Hippie college.  When I started Beauty School, I didn’t know what a flat iron was.  Actually.  I had never done a perm and didn’t own a blowdryer.  Most of my fellow students were more typical Hairdressers meaning they had already been doing hair their whole lives and were finally there to get a license.  Many had been cutting or coloring hair at home, wrapping their Mom’s perms and doing all the make-up for friends for years.

When I learned about what is called the Soft Curl Perm and that I had to do them, I thought-Holy Shit, that’s a Jheri Curl!  Getting a Cosmetology License is still largely an archaic experience.  You must learn things you will never, ever do after you graduate and you practice procedures that go entirely out the window the minute you work in a salon.  That said, I was fascinated to learn the history of the Soft Curl Permanent which my friend Lee calls, the two-step Perm.  As a red-headed white, gay man he had to find two-step perm models for his Vidal Sassoon training in LA and he would venture into Compton asking strangers if they would come and get a perm from him.  Talk about a racial divide!

The business of hair largely divides itself by race and ethnicity.  You get good at cutting  “Asian Hair” or you specialize in Extensions which are more Caucasian while Sew-Ins are more for Black hair.  You may do fades, clipper cuts or $100 scissor-over-comb men’s cuts and all of the above is skewed by race, class and economic status.  As a Colorist, you learn that there is only hair texture to contend with.  Ethnic background can certainly play a part in texture but hair is hair.  Marketing of hair products is absolutely race-related and may not be as blatant as it once was in the 80s (see below) but it still aims at a target audience, just as all products do.

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I actually have Hot Sticks.  But let’s keep that between you and me.

 

On Boyhood

When my kids were itty bitty, (Daughter, 5 months and Son, age 2) I made a career change, went to Cosmetology school followed by a 3-year Apprenticeship to become a Color Specialist.  In my years of training, I made minimum wage and was a Single Mother with full-custody.  I worked extremely hard as I was setting myself up for the career I have now.

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In those years, as well as the years after on the road as a Corporate Trainer, I missed a lot.  I never had the option of being a Stay-at-Home Mom and, as I saw it, could not allow myself to feel guilt about any of it.  I had no choice but to push through and provide.  I was fortunate to have a few women who gave me really good advice that at the time I didn’t totally understand but now I do. They said to me that when kids are little, anyone (not literally but someone wonderful other than you) can care for them.  When kids are little, you know when they are hungry, they tell you when they stub their toe.  My daughter, to this day, tells me she is going to the bathroom.  What these women told me is that as kids get older, they need you more.  As your kid gets into Junior High and older, sometimes they don’t say much about their day for a few hours, if at all.  You need to be around and then, when you least expect it, they just start talking.

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This week, a friend of my Daughter’s committed suicide.  She was 11.  This was a new friend of hers so not a family I knew and I have no details on the girl’s life or her family.  It still rocked our world.  Her older Sister is in school with my Son at the high school he just finished his 3rd week of.  A lot of changes going on for him as well.

This week, neither kid has stopped talking for a second.  It reminds me of when they were babies and there was a cacophony of sound.  A constant stream of chatter and someone always saying “Mom!”.  I am so grateful to be closer to home and here for them.  I am so grateful that we have a house of communication. Even with all our arguing and (occasional) door-slamming, we have love and direct talks about our feelings.

I can’t imagine what that family is going through.  It is the worst thing ever.  This isn’t even a teen suicide.  Pre-teen.  What the hell?

I saw the film Boyhood a few weeks ago with my own kids and we all loved it.  What I loved most about it was the reminder that time is precious.  I loved the quote I heard recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.” and watching the children in the film’s faces age, I held my breath for what is in store for me.  My window in getting to raise my own kids is getting smaller and smaller.  What my kids loved about Boyhood was it made their life seem normal.  Single Mom, Brother and Sister, Mom working hard to provide with an occasional difficult choice in partnership. Well-meaning but not totally together Father figure.  Their life.

I am not religious but I do pray.  I pray for the family who lost their Daughter.  I pray for the girl who must have suffered in ways we will never understand.  I pray for my own kids, family and community and give gratitude for our blessings. I pray that I always remember to count my blessings.

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