Inspired Life: Toxic social media, snow, passion, and birds

Inspiration: Toxic social media

Um. Say again?

Sometimes the best thing to come out of social media is a bad experience.

Without getting into the particulars, I left a community today which purports to be a support group.
But the people who run the community seem to have forgotten the dictates of their own mission, and something that should not have been a problem became a big problem.

It inspired me to do three things:


Because who has time or energy for that?

Participation in social media isn’t a life requirement, it’s still voluntary. Staying involved when the shite hits the fan is on us. Walking away is one of the most empowered things you can do. Why? Because you get to choose.


What happened bothered me on several levels, but instead of just thrashing about it privately (or publicly), I took some time to break down why it bothered me.

What that did was so useful!

I considered:

  • what I need from social media
  • what I am willing to give to social media
  • what social media can’t or won’t be for me.

I am reminded of the positive experiences and communities I belong to in social media (and also, live and face to face).


After leaving the group, I took stock of similar communities I belong to and reviewed recent dialog to see if they were toxic, positive, or somewhere in between.

I ended up leaving a couple more, snoozing one, and popping in to another to say hi and “thank you for your support.”

And then someone else posted a meme in there that had nothing to do with me, but which reminded me why I was there in the first place.

Sometimes other people’s bad behavior can inspire you to make healthy changes so you don’t fall into the same pit. Recognizing how not to behave is quite instructive.

Final analysis: The universe can be its own #konmari, if you’re willing to listen.

Inspiration: Snow

Snow = slowness, peace, and community

Many of my Seattle-area peers will not agree with this. (Fine, they can write about their misery on their own blog.)

Creativity requires space, solitude and support from one’s peers.

When 20 inches of the white stuff sock you in for the week, you have several choices. You can choose to be stressed out; you can be flexible about your priorities and make changes based on your mobility in snowy conditions; or you can slow down and enjoy the moment.

I don’t stress about snow. I didn’t go panic shopping. I learned there was another system coming on the Monday before it showed up on Friday. Preparedness isn’t useful if it’s done at the last minute, after all.

My grocery shopping was no more or less intense than any other week. Instead, I made sure I had gas (for the generator) in case we lost power. We both work out of the house and need electricity and wi-fi to keep up with work demands (and mine happen to be deadline driven).

I also did my wi-fi based work earlier in the week in anticipation of power outages. I kept key devices charged ahead of the storm. I sent out notes to my clients several days in advance to let them know there might be disruptions.

We lost power for about 2 hours on Saturday morning. That was it.

That afternoon, I spent some time outside with the neighbors catching up with them, enjoyed watching their kids make the most of actual snow days, and started a new jigsaw puzzle. The slowness of life following the march of Mother Nature is really a gift for all of us.

We actually didn’t watch any more Netflix than we normally do.

It was a pretty normal weekend, except that the world was blanketed in beautiful crystalline white, the reflective light a boost to my mood. I caught myself smiling every time I looked at the window.

Playing with smartphone photography while shooting images and videos brought inspiration that I actually applied to my projects for work.

When in Rome, as they say… or, when all you have are lemons… choose your own adventure!

The snow gave me space to work, the peace and solitude of a slower world, and inspiration from others who also saw the beauty, the victory, and the lessons that arrived with the snow. Some of my favorite writers, in fact, made some eloquent tributes to Mother Nature, for which I’m truly appreciative.

I also spent less time in social media. At first, I was there, sharing pictures and videos of the winter wonderland surrounding us… and then I had to cut back, because the anxiety, dysfunction, and lamentation about snow—and the sort of internal apocalypse it became, for somebecame far too negative, or sad, for me. Sad because of all the lost opportunities for practicing equanimity.

The snow, for me, was an opportunity to assess priorities: where and when to put my energy, for one thing. And it was also a chance for a change of scenery that we all seem to need by February… something to break the monotony of gray winter days.

I loved it, and wish we had more days like it. Today, it will push toward 60 before the temps drop again with rumors of more snow. Bring it on. I have a whole week, plenty of gas, and all the time in the world to let the snow charm my life again.

Inspiration: People who live their passions

This week, I walked among goliaths (who probably feel like Davids)

The first Workplace Fatigue conference (hosted by the National Safety Council) took place last week in Seattle as part of a larger event sponsored by the Campbell Institute. 

I had no expectations except that I recognized some amazing people had been selected as speakers, including several sleep physicians, researchers, and lobbyists whose work I admire (starting with Drs. Charles Czeisler and Mark Rosekind).

It was a smaller conference, which I personally prefer (more out of having MS; I do better in small groups where the stimuli are not overwhelming and where you can actually have meaningful conversations with the delegates).

It ended up being a fantastic event, mostly because the vast majority of people I encountered, as speakers and as delegates, were people driven to work toward solutions out of their own passion.

I met C-suite safety leaders, safety advocates, legal teams, people in varying levels of management at major corporations where daytime fatigue is extremely worrisome (aerospace industry, mining, construction, transportation, military, manufacturing).

The one thing everyone shared in common was a tremendous passion for finding solutions.

This isn’t always something you find at a conference. Some conferences I go to are so large that there’s little time for interaction and networking. Others seem only to be attended by people who need to get their continuing education credits (hey, I do this, too). Still others are attended by fandom who aren’t necessarily interested in learning.

So kudos to the NSC for such an inspiring, thought-provoking, important event. I am still enjoying the residual energy this conference generated for me, and now I’m connected to many new people who probably have no idea how they are beacons for me in my own line of work.

Inspiration: Wildlife

No such thing as learned helplessness in nature

One of the other inspirations I’ve gleaned from the recent snow comes by way of my feathered and four-legged friends living in the woods behind my house.

In spite of the weather, the birds were out there in droves, singing and collecting food and twigs. The coyotes were howling. None of these critters were going to “phone it in” because of the snow. You have to respect that kind of drive.

The groundhog told us just a week prior that there would be an early spring. My time spent outdoors during the snow confirms my sense that spring is coming in spite of the storm. The animals certainly seem to know something we don’t.

I read something recently about the problem of learned helplessness in affluent communities where resources, services, and access are prevalent. I wish I could link to it, but it crossed my desk a few weeks ago among dozens of other things I read during the course of the day.

You know, in nature, helplessness is the kiss of death. You either help yourself, or you’re done for. Basic Darwin 101.

We humans are losing this lesson in all the virtual noise. Perspective about what we need (versus want) in order to succeed (survive) is fast losing relevance. I’m not sure what the answer is to that. For me, the answer is to focus on Maslow, making the most of what you’ve got at hand.

Meanwhile, so much groaning about the inaccuracy of a groundhog from two-leggeds who seem to confuse the spring (which is a transitional season, and which includes snow as a possibility) with the summer.

After living 12 years in Chicago, I can confirm that while many people are donning Easter bonnets and floral dresses with sandals in springtime, just as many are donning full-length wool coats and black boots before heading to their Easter brunches. In fact, that is what makes the tulips so pretty when they do arrive.

I’ll take my cues from nature, thank you. And today, they are inspiring me to do some cleanup in my herb garden, to listen for the songs of birds and smell the earthy richness of fresh new moss and damp soil warming to the season, and clear away the debris of the dark season to let the intrepid daffodils and crocuses push their way to victory.

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