Trading the Sublime for the Mundane

Today at work I had big plans to take time and strategize for 2016. I like to use the end of the year to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and how I can best set up my team for success in the new year. Plus, the week between Christmas and New Year is almost always quiet. Almost.

Because life is funny in a way that makes for a great rom-com conceit, the universe had different plans. Not surprisingly, I spent most of my brain cells dealing with two issues that needed my undivided attention for pretty much the whole day. With sadness, I deleted the four-hour block of time on my calendar that I had foolishly set aside in advance for strategery.

Life is life, and stuff happens. And any good improviser will tell you to take the unexpected turn of events you’re given and embrace the hell out of it. That’s the only way you ensure that the resulting end product is enhanced rather than diminished by your input.

But it got me thinking about how often we acquiesce — consciously or subconsciously — to trading the sublime for the mundane. Admittedly, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to articulate a cogent and inspiring vision for my team at the end of the workday. And frankly, I wouldn’t have had a clear perspective given my heightened blood pressure.

And although the mundane is important (and imperative in many cases), I’ve decided to challenge myself to find intentional time everyday to consider the big picture. I’m eschewing the idea that we always need four hours with flip charts and lots of smelly colored markers, although those “retreats” are sometimes necessary, especially for facilitating group dynamics.

I got a glimpse of the power of intentionality on my five-minute Starbucks run this afternoon. There, dodging the traffic of downtown Miami, my brain was away from my computer screen and given freedom to think. That change of scenery allowed me to disengage from the crises I was handling and gave me brain space to ask myself bold questions, brainstorm and shoot down ideas, and imagine the possibilities for the new year. (And yes, I talk to myself in public.)

I achieved a distinct moment of clarity and immediately jotted a few quick thoughts on my notes app. I’m sure nothing I typed was Nobel Prize-worthy; they were just a few words and ideas to mull over. But even if I didn’t get a chance to get back to them today, I’d like to think that I planted seeds that would eventually take root and blossom. At the very least, my moment of zen re-energized me and allowed me to handle my work crises with a more balanced perspective.

A while back I asked Twitter founder Jack Dorsey about one thing he does everyday to keep ideas brewing. Here’s how he responded:


Lesson learned: While we may never truly escape the mundane, a few intentional minutes on the sublime — even on a coffee break — can be transformative.

How Old Are You?

No, not your physical age. Your mental one.

I have a theory that personality/chi settles in the brain mold early, despite all the wisdom we supposedly acquire with each additional trip around the sun. (Or, if you question science, the sun’s trips around us.)

I’m convinced because I think I’m still somewhere in high school.

It’s not just the sophomoric jokes, which make me snort to this day. But the irrational fears, insecurities, and motivations that manifested themselves in high school still seem to drive me today.

I often wonder this about my friends with kids. Sure, parenthood thrusts a whole new set of responsibilities on you, and the world somehow expects you to “grow up.” But to my friends who are parents: Even with progeny in tow, is your brain somehow still in its teens?

I ask this question a lot in the workplace because I’ve seen behavior — both good and bad — that’s led me to wonder why people act the way they do. Were they hugged enough as children? Is their territory marking motivated by some deep insecurity that started when they were 12? Are they jerks at home, too, or just at work?

This Is How Busy I’ve Been


I haven’t appropriately :::squeeeeeeeeeeeeed::: at the prospect of having Mulder and Scully grace the small screen once again. 1997!Archie would totally be ashamed of 2015!Archie.

By now, you know that talks are heating up about an X-Files reunion/reboot/re-I-don’t-care-what-you-call-it-just-make-it-happen.

I am all sorts of giddy at the prospect. I never was satisfied with the way seasons 8 and 9 panned out. I liked Robert Patrick as Doggett and Annabeth Gish as Reyes. I didn’t even mind that Mulder was MIA for the last two seasons. And I actually enjoyed the second movie, even if the story was too pedestrian.

But like many of my favorite TV shows (ahem, American Horror Story: Freak Show), there were lots of squandered creative opportunities (e.g., Scully searching for the abducted Mulder instead of tending to an alien baby) that could have further sealed the show’s groundbreaking impact.

Having a seasoned Mulder and Scully — preferably back at the FBI (hey, feds get rehired all the time!) — investigate a season-long mystery a la True Detective or Fargo would instantly modernize the show’s storytelling, which occasionally fell under the weight of its own bloviating self-importance.

I’m on board, even if Chris Carter’s terrible The After pilot on Amazon terrified me in all the wrong ways. (Side note: Carter should never write an ensemble show. Characters turn into stock caricatures.)

Best case scenario: He invites his old friends Vince Gilligan and Howard Gordon to map out the season’s arc and write a few episodes. There’s no reason this should be a solo venture, should it?

Maybe there’s hope.

Where I Come Out as Pro-Government

It’s been about a year since I left the Washington, DC area. On a night like tonight — when the President gives his State of the Union address — I miss DC’s intoxicating energy. There’s no other place on earth where bars willingly air the SOTU (and presidential debates, among other political fare), and where drunken patrons actually engage.

I don’t consider myself a political person. After all, I’m just a lowly educator trying to get students to and through college so they can fulfill their own brand of the American Dream. (Confessions: I scored a 3 on my AP U.S. History exam. I’ve never seen an episode of The West Wing. The last “political” movie I saw was Air Force One.)

But after moving into the Beltway in 2005 and spending nearly a decade as a public servant working closely with senior officials in both parties, I developed a healthier appreciation for both the infrastructure and the process of the federal government. No matter who’s in power and whether we agree with his/her policies, there’s a reason we’re the nation we are 230+ years later.

Which is why it bothers the crap out of me that there are people who want to wholesale destroy the federal government. They may wrap themselves in the American flag, brandishing words like “patriotism” about. But their anarchic views only overshadow the truth that the federal government is us. We — i.e., you and I — are the federal government.

Sure, we’re messy. And sure, we’re a gajillion light years from perfect. (You can read my musings from when the federal government shut down in 2013 and I grew a beard* here:

*not really a beard

We somehow keep electing megalomaniacs who don’t seem to have a basic understanding of generally accepted scientific concepts. We’re easily distracted by stupid crises manufactured for profit. And I’m not too naive to understand that there’s too much influence on policy decisions from many dark corners of the woodwork. The extent to which our representatives actually represent us is questionable.

But I’ve got to believe that this great experiment works because we — i.e., you and I — participate in the process. Because we are our government. Despite many serious bumps in the road, we’ve somehow survived as a nation. And that, to me, is worth raising a glass to.

Do Grown-ups Journal?

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for a new design and newer content.

So what to write about?

I’ve been blogging on and off since 1997. My internal monologue is very active, so I grew up an avid journaler. My geocities site became my de facto journal, digitizing late night musings that I used to pen on notebook paper.

I recently read entries from 18 years ago, and I’m both horrified and impressed. Many were overblown, yes. But most were thoughtful — and now, educational. Back then, I relied on journaling as a way to process my thoughts and feelings. I wrote novel-length entries. These days, my thoughts have been narrowed to 140 characters that are carefully curated and vetted through various filters.

<Carrie Bradshaw>I couldn’t help but wonder: Aside from using therapists and bartenders, how do adults hurtling toward middle age process their thoughts and feelings?</Carrie Bradshaw>

Getting married, moving to a new city, starting a new job, and having to create a new support network in the span of 18 months got me thinking. Do grown-ups journal? Or are we somehow expected to have it all figured out by now?

Notes to Self

Every once in a while, I need to be reminded where I’ve been. So I’m starting a new series of short posts called “notes to self.”

My inaugural note on this Throwback Thursday:

May I never forget that I auditioned seven times before I got into Washington Improv Theater’s company ensemble, Caveat.

The troupe has since disbanded, but holy crap was it a lot of fun. Here’s our demo reel from 2011: