Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, looks under the hood of the human engine and reveals the vulnerability-shame cycle that drives us all.
We all feel shame—it can’t be helped, Brené tells us. Shame is the fear that we are unlovable and that we don’t belong. People deal with this universal shame by withdrawing, becoming too eager to please, or lashing out aggressively to shame others.
Daring Greatly dares us to go on a journey of self discovery. If we apply Brene’s tenets to our lives, we can deepen personal relationships, abandon stifling masks, and get along better at work. Her shame resilience tactics can help us when we are making big life changes or figuring out next steps—as I am now.
Reading Daring Greatly when I am at a personal crossroad is serendipitous. I must ask myself: am I daring greatly?
I resigned from my job last week—when 23 million Americans are out of work. I am leaving New York, the media-job capital of the world, the city of “never enough.” Finally, I’ve had enough. Where else is self-worth tied so much to achievement? Where else are there more people “chasing down the extraordinary”?
Brené says we adopt armor to protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability. In New York, the armor is out in full force. Here, we can be alone in a crowd, with invisible, barbed-wire shields around each of us.
New York is also a city of disengagement. Picture me reading Daring Greatly on the subway. I don’t want to people to see what I am reading or worse, what I am underlining. New Yorkers don’t make eye contact, but they will read over your shoulder. I feel vulnerable.
As I read the book, feeling the eyes of jaded New Yorkers on me, I recall grade school experiences that shaped my attitudes and actions more than I realized. Over time, I worked out a lot of my vulnerability-avoidance behaviors, though I never called what I was doing “vulnerability avoidance.” I care A LOT less about what others think. I let go of “perfectionism.” I compete only against myself.
Most of the book’s anecdotes come from Brené’s life. By the last chapter, I felt I knew husband Steve, son Charlie and especially daughter, Ellen. By revealing so much, Brené makes herself vulnerable and most importantly, credible.
This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.
The Door Shuts on Mary Astor
New York is a city of stairs and elevators.
Stairs to the subway, a second set of stairs to get to the F train at West 4th Street. Stairs to the West Side Highway overpass, five flights of stairs (no elevator) to get to our old sixth floor walk-up in the East Village. The city is my Stairmaster.
I don’t mind stairs–most days. But elevators. Oh, the elevators.
In older buildings, elevators can have less floorspace than a phone booth. Some still have grates that close outside the doors. Elevator grates were never used to better effect than in the last scene of The Maltese Falcon.
There are 350 apartments and 35 floors in my Battery Park City building. Every resident of those 350 apartments use the four elevators. At 2.1 persons per apartment, that’s 735 people, 100 Cadillac-sized strollers and 200 dogs who refuse to stand upright in the elevator.
Nothing underscores the unpleasantness of the elevator ride than our task tonight. The vet who makes house calls requires a poop sample from our dog. There is no other way to collect that sample than to bag it up and carry it up the elevator. Check your dignity at the door.
A Lucky Break
Lucky for me, my husband is walking the dog tonight and he will carry out the assignment –as long as Shadow cooperates.
If not, I will be tasked with this in the morning. My husband suggested that even if he bags a sample tonight, I should get a “fresher” one tomorrow. Really?!
I’ve seen a lot of things in the elevator, but so far I’ve never ridden up with someone carrying a poop bag. Will it be a point of conversation? Or will my fellow riders notice the stench and wrinkles their noses? If there’s a kid on the elevator, then there’s sure to be a commotion.
One day, I will live closer to ground.
Soup Kitchen Volunteers
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of assembling meals at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.
As a first-time volunteer, I didn’t know what to expect.
I am assigned to Line 1, Vegetables. I accept a paper hat, a plastic apron and gloves and get in position between the Black Bean server and the Mashed Potato server. Line 1 faces a mirror image Line 2.
The first position in each line, Trays, grabs a beige plastic tray with built-in compartments from a stack that is being constantly replenished.
Bread adds two pieces of bread with a dab of grape jelly smeared on each. Then Dessert fishes exactly four strawberries from a watery gray bin for the small top compartment. Then the beige tray moves to Black Beans, Mixed Vegetables (me), Mashed Potatoes, Salisbury Steak, Gravy, Utensils and Drink.
The soup kitchen guest does not get to walk with a tray in front of the metal bins of food and customize his or her meal. Each guest receives a pre-assembled tray at the end of each line.
Two runners work between the two lines replenishing the metal bins of food as needed.
As the beige trays rush down the assembly line, I notice how haphazardly the grape jelly is applied; some pieces of bread lack the moistening smear of grape jelly entirely. Strawberries range from firm to a little soft to mushy.
Each tray gets what it gets: luck of the draw, or luck of each guest’s place in line.
Food Tray Approximation
Black Beans and I must share a tray compartment. Since the black beans are watery, it doesn’t matter if the mixed vegetables land on top. Still, I try to land the mixed vegetables away from the Black Beans; at the same time, I want to drain as much of the water from the pea, carrot and green been ensemble as possible.
The beige trays already hold a bit of water from Dessert (strawberries).
Continue reading Soup’s On! – New York’s Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
Canned! Mr Potato Head
When everyone seems to have their hand out, how does a city food bank grab a New Yorker’s attention?
I can’t think of a better way of engaging people in charitable giving than the CANstruction® competition. In CANstruction®, teams of designers, architects or engineers create exhibits using canned food as their medium. After the competition, the structures are dismantled and the food is donated to local food banks. Cities all over the United States and the globe participate in CANstruction®.
I stumbled upon the New York exhibit last week (without knocking anything over). A couple dozen over-sized aluminum can sculptures were displayed throughout the World Financial Center. Most teams went with a “feed-the-hungry” theme with smart titles like Paint the Town Fed or Feaster Islander.
Stand too close and the pieces look like a grocery store aisle. But step back a few paces and oh yeah, that’s what it is. The placard beside each piece tells how many cans in the design and how many New Yorkers each will feed. The numbers are staggering, but so is the need.
Enjoy my photos below and also check out the CANstruction® photo gallery for images from other cities and earlier years.
My first visit to Tribeca Grill was sometime during my first year in New York, in 1992 or 1993.
I was overly impressed that Robert DeNiro owned the restaurant that I WAS EATING IN. I really thought DeNiro might be standing quietly at the end of the bar, notice me and my friends and raise his glass to us in a subtle Robert-DeNiro-kind-of-way.
Tribeca Grill’s longevity is not unheard of in New York restaurants, but against the odds. Many restaurants that were once white-hot dissolve into the ether of the forgotten. Good restaurants too—not just the trendy ones. A New Yorker’s memory is short.
Each annual update of Zagat’s contains a tribute page of once-loved restaurants that bit the dust in the last year. Oh yeah, I remember that one . . . too bad, but where are we going to eat tonight?
Celebrity-owned restaurants have an especially high mortality rate. Remember Planet Hollywood? Remember Britney Spears had a restaurant for five minutes? Five points if you can think of the name.
Gene and I ate at Tribeca Grill for the billionth time recently. The place has become a standard for us. Not trendy anymore, like its sister restaurant next door, Locanda Verde, but comfortable. The brick walls emit a homey warmth and the upside-down sombero chandeliers, well, what can you say about the audacity of lit-up, upside-down sombreros?
I ordered an red-wine braised octopus salad and herb-roasted monkfish with lobster ravolini. Gene had the charcuterie plate as an appetizer and the alaskan halibut as a main course. A booth and a bottle of wine made our late, romantic Sunday night dinner perfect.
Will Tribeca Grill still be there next year? The year after? I hope so.
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At some unidentifiable point, after I lived in New York City a long while, I started talking about leaving. I would say, if it weren’t so cold in Wisconsin in the winter, I would have already moved back to Milwaukee. The Frank O’Hara quote built into the North Cove fence in Battery Park City, makes the answer clear.
The sore point and source of my complaints always boils down to the stupidly high cost of living in Manhattan—from housing to groceries to taxes to well, everything.
But when I step outside my apartment in the summer and stroll by the North Cove and the World Financial Center plaza, I know I live in the best place in the world. I think how, if I woke up in a foreign city and found this view, this cove, this plaza outside my hotel window, I would be satisfied that I had landed a great vacation spot.
Nothing puts the unpleasantness of cost-of-living conversations behind me better than the Frank O’Hara quote embedded in the metal fencing alongside the cove:
“One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. —Frank O’Hara
There is another famous quote, by John Lennon I believe, in which he says, everyone always talks about leaving New York, but no one ever really does. That isn’t true; I know a lot of people who have left New York, some with eventual regret and some none at all.
But I fall into the category of people Lennon is talking about. I won’t leave New York City. Unless I can’t afford it anymore.
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Attitudes about race from both sides of the fence expose themselves in Race, David Mamet’s play at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway.
The structure is simple: a single set with four characters and an unseen fifth character, a red-sequined dress that the audience only sees on the cover of their Playbill.
The action takes place in an austere, book-lined room in a law firm. The law partners, one black, one white, played by Dennis Haysbert and Eddie Izzard, are deciding whether to take the case of Charles Strickland (Richard Thomas), a rich, white man accused of raping a black woman in a hotel room.
The lawyers’ approach is rational: can they win? What isn’t the client telling? Why did he dismiss his first lawyer? Or did the first lawyer dismiss him? Then back to the question, can they win?
The young and pretty junior lawyer who witnesses their debate interferes in the action making a seemingly novice mistake. Susan’s actions take the play from the surface racial questions to unmasking the deep prejudices within all four characters.
Afton Williamson gives a powerful performance as Susan, the role originated by Kerry Washington. The demure Susan of Act 1 morphs into an angry, vengeful, yet naive, character at the play’s end.
Henry Brown (Dennis Haysbert), is a world-weary realist yet commands the stage in a way his partner should have but couldn’t. Partner Jack Lawson (Eddie Izzard of whom I am a big fan), performed well as the hyper, type-A, star lawyer but didn’t have the presence of the other three actors.
Finally, Richard Thomas (Charles Strickland) will forever be John-Boy Walton to me and I apologize to Mr. Thomas for that. But John-Boy has made good on Broadway and doesn’t give away his guilt or innocence.
Like all Mamet’s work, the play is powerful and lingers in your mind long after the curtain has gone down.
Down in Battery Park City, as in much of downtown Manhattan, the wind is on steroids. Strong, and stoked by tall buildings and narrow streets, the winter wind saves its best work for west of the big highway where the Hudson River adds its two bucks.
On any given day, the air feels at least ten degrees colder in Battery Park City, especially in seasons where you need every degree on the your side of the tote board.
The wind whistles through spaces in the windows of our 18th floor apartment; it pounds on our walls and makes us huddle close to the space heater and under a comforter on the couch.
This brutality is payment for the beautiful summers down here when Battery Park City is spared the sweltering stench of the rest of Manhattan, where the same tall buildings create oven walls to contain the heat.
The Hudson River relents, and the mad, mad space makes you close your eyes and spin around without knocking anyone over. Among the joys of summer: The Esplanade, Rockefeller Park, and the North Cove where the yachts are moored, the World Financial Center Plaza where PJ Clarke’s and South West have hundreds of outside tables, the fountains, and the places where you can just sit outside, undisturbed.
I count the days until March when I get my annual reminder that March is still a winter month. Okay, I’ll count til April then, which for some is the “cruelest month,” but not for me!
Its late, its quiet, and I sit alone on the subway platform bench. I wish for the bustle and quick arrival of the trains I hated this morning.
A woman with white shoes sits in the furthest seat from me on the same bench. I can’t see any more than her shoe, her crossed leg moving up and down. I hear a wrapper crinkle. She must be sucking a hard candy.
Three trains come in rapid succession now: an uptown local across the tracks, an express zooming through the center track, a beeping local running fast, too fast, but I still think it will stop. The lady and I rise from the bench and walk quickly down the platform. The train’s horn sounds like a laughs as it sails past.
Now I see the lady in the white shoes and she is surprisingly young.