Scaramouche, Scaramooch, Can You Do the Fandango? Also, Thank You Jane Kenyon

The same week that Apple programmed Siri to answer iphone users who said, “I see a little silhouetto of a man,” with, “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, can you do the fandango,” followed by the rest of the song’s lyrics by Queen, Anthony Scaramucci was hired to be the Communications Director for the White House. In his first interview to hit the press he mentioned cock-blocking and firing everyone who didn’t agree with him.

The dictionary defines a scaramouche as,

“a stock character in commedia dell’arte and farce who is a cowardly braggart, easily beaten and frightened.

and a fandango as,

1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine.

2. a foolish or useless act or thing.

I recently began a formal break from social media. I did it to lessen the pain in my eyes from scrolling motion, to self-protect from the radical undulations of news suggesting our democracy is failing, and to satisfy a blood desire to meet a writing deadline. An occasional peek to see what a few loved ones had posted revealed the scary “mooch” (he referred to himself as The Mooch) and also a speech given at the Boy Scout Jamboree, which seems to be have been mistaken as another campaign rally to a crowd of his voters instead of a bipartisan organization made up primarily of children. Someone posted the speech Obama gave at the same event a few years ago and I felt my ears bleeding.

Remember the days when the administration of the free world spoke in complete sentences and kept their use of profanity within a professional decorum? I wonder if those who voted this situation into office remember these words:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

I sometimes want to add, “Ye shall know them by their vocabulary. Ye shall know them by their sentence structure. Ye shall know them by their education.” But who am I to do so.

I kind of like a world where a communications leader knows how to communicate well. And also, kindly. I also like a world where leaders lead from a position of intelligence and discretion.

Good fruit, according to the bible, which a majority of Republican voters say they revere, is:

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • gentleness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness and,
  • self-control.

I heard one of his voters once say they didn’t expect him to be a pastor. They expect him to be a leader. Good luck getting grapes from that thorn bush. Or, maybe it’s the other way around: he’s the fruit from the tree of the voters.

Either way, Queen already said it. “Scaramouche, scaramoosh, can you do the fandango? Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening.”

The remedy to this, a tonic offering temporary sanity during these troubled times, came from Jane Kenyon’s Advice to Writers.

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

July sunset in Florida, unfiltered.

 

 

The Power of No: Setting Personal and Work Boundaries for Greater Productivity and Integrity

Why can’t people get work done at work? It was the premise of a very good talk by Inc. columnist and 37signals co-founder Jason Fried at TEDxMidwest. He articulated the need of “creatives” – designers, programmers, writers, engineers, etc- to have long periods of uninterrupted time to get things done. And, how businesses that spend a bunch of money on a place called “the office” have staff and employees who don’t get their work done there!

I found it to be validating. Liberating. Because saying yes to everything only leads to burn out and overwhelm.

Listen to what he says about work “moments”:

Jason Fried TED Talk, “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work”

He’s got nothing nice to say about managers and meetings. From what I’ve seen of traditional salaried, cubical work, I’d have to say I agree. His work-sleep phase analogy was brilliant.

As a creative, as an entrepreneur, and as a working parent I’ve learned to embrace what I call, “The Power of No”. While a lot of women’s self-help focuses on learning how to say no (and not feel guilty about it), I find it to be addictive and empowering. Being able to say no enables a boundary to be upheld. Being able to say no also offers the flip side of the coin: the ability to say yes with passion, authenticity, and honesty.

When my children were little, I said no to a lot of outings and obligations so that I could say yes to their naps and reasonable bedtimes. When I’m faced with multiple personal growth “groups”, all with evening meetings, I might say no to 4 so I can truly participate in 1. I frequently say no to distractions by turning off social media and my phone volume so that I can say yes to a few hours of writing. And yesterday I said no to a freelance opportunity because my current projects require my focus and an authentic yes.

At first it was hard. Sometimes it still is. It can feel like letting people down or missing out; they don’t always enjoy being told no. But building the boundary makes me a better writer, a better wife and mother, a better business owner. The benefits outweigh the challenges by far.

Speaker and writer Mike Robbins, in an article that appeared on The HuffPost Healthy Living blog wrote, “…saying “no” is one of the most important aspects of living a life filled with balance, integrity, and authenticity. Our ability and capacity to say “no” with confidence is one of the most important aspects of creating peace and power in our lives. This is about creating healthy boundaries, honoring ourselves, and being real — it’s not about being closed, cynical, or unwilling.” He went on to point out that being able to tap into the power of saying no offers us freedom and liberation but also helps those around us to trust we mean what we say.

I appreciated Fried’s suggestion of creating no-interruption times.

  • Cancel the next meeting. Just don’t have it. Everything will be just fine.
  • Switch from active communication (meetings) to timed-choice methods: email or IM
  • One afternoon a week of silent work- “No Talk Thursdays”

“Giving someone a few hours of uninterrupted time is one of the best gifts you can give” he says. Better than software, a new computer, or anything else you could offer.

So think about that. Give yourself the gift of uninterrupted time. Unplug over the weekend. Put earbuds in and tune out distraction. Set boundaries and be unafraid to speak up about them when making appointments. Choose your communication method and teach people that’s the best way to reach you. And then say no. As Jason said, “everything will be just fine.” Keep track of your productivity and you’ll probably find you are better than fine: you are managing life instead of life managing you.

 

Photo taken at Olio Restaurant on E. Bay St. Or as one instagrammer said, "Perhaps where Ebay gets their Dry Goods"

Photo taken at Olio Restaurant on E. Bay St. Or as one instagrammer said, “Perhaps where Ebay gets their Dry Goods”