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amber et cetera is a little bit of everything. It's my online home where I write about anything and everything that comes to mind - from the personal to the professional - unfiltered, unfettered, and straight from my misfit brain.

No newsletters. No content calendars. No agenda. Just...Amber, et cetera.

Two Reasons Why “How Can I Help You?” Is The Wrong Question To Ask

Two Reasons Why How Can I Help You Is The Wrong Question - amber et cetera

I love the spirit of the question “How Can I Help You?”

For starters, it puts the focus on the other person, emphasizing that you’re looking to give as well as just receive in professional relationships. The intent is a good one, because giving in business is as much a factor of success as anything else. (If you don’t believe me, read this great book by Adam Grant called Give and Take).

However, I don’t think this question is ideal all by itself. Here’s why. Continue Reading

Living My Truth. Reluctantly.

Living my Truth. Reluctantly - amber et cetera

After many difficult months, I am starting to feel like my feet are settling back underneath me.

I feel a new-found sense of quiet in my mind. I’m sleeping better. I’m taking on each day with more confidence, more clarity, and more acceptance of whatever might come along.

The secret?

It’s one that I have *long* rolled my eyes at, believing it to be woo-woo bullshit that’s full of warm fuzzies but not a lot of substance. And I was wrong about that.Continue Reading

Another Way To Look At Brain Picking

laptoprock

We’ve all read the posts about getting asked to work for free, or have our “brain picked”.

It’s not fair. It’s rude. It’s presumptive. It devalues your work, time, and professional worth.

But I’d like to offer another perspective.

Most people genuinely ask for your input because they like you, value what you have to say, or admire your work. I’d offer that the vast majority of them are asking for your input not to be rude or try and eke out something for nothing, but to get a little smarts from someone they value, perhaps when they’re feeling unsure, overwhelmed, or out of their depth.

So, next time you’re asked to do something for nothing, start there.

Start from a place of gratitude that you’ve made an impact on someone enough that they want to attach their work to your name, or get you to help them make important decisions.

Sure, there’s a self-serving jerk or two in the mix asking for something outrageous or being ungrateful while they do it. Ignore them and move on.

Yes, your time is valuable. No, you can’t make a living always working for free.

If it’s not convenient, you can always say no graciously and simply say that you’re grateful that they value your work, but you just can’t take it on right now. You don’t need to be horribly affronted, offended, or indignant that someone even asked (I mean come on, none of us is that important.)

Everyone’s 15 minutes is up sometime. People won’t always be beating a path to your doorstep for your input and advice.

It’s good to be in demand. It’s nice to be admired.

The alternative isn’t very fun, now is it?

How To Complain On Social Media And Actually Get Heard

lazy

Social media has given us all very itchy trigger fingers.

Something goes wrong – the cable guy doesn’t show up, a snowstorm grounds the plane, our order arrives all messed up – and we take to the internet to chastise and share our rage with the world.

The thing is that by virtue of everyone taking that approach, it’s noise, and it has little impact. 

Having been in the trenches on the community side on social media, I’ve dealt with everything from polite requests for assistance and outright frothing-at-the-mouth raging. I’ve also been the person who lost her cool, inexcusably, at someone on the other end of the phone when I had a problem with a utility at home.

So here’s what actually works to get your problem noticed, address, and handled with the utmost of speed.Continue Reading

Learning To Trust Myself

 

Old Mirror Standing Against Wall

It’s been a weird year for me.

For the most part, I think it’s healthy. Very growth-oriented.

The truth is, I’ve had my ass handed to me on several fronts in very painful ways. Business, professional associations, friendships, relationships, even my health and wellness.

I think they call these “growth opportunities” but I can tell you that in playground parlance, we call that getting your dick knocked in the dirt. (Nevermind that I don’t have one. We’re being metaphorical here.)

The other night on Twitter, I asked folks what their biggest lessons were from the last six months.

I got some amazing answers, some funny, some sad, but many of them had a central theme to them. That our lives are what we make of them, and we have to own not just our mistakes but our success and our selves.

A few people asked me what my lesson was in all of this. I had to actually think about it for a bit, but now that I have it, I’ll share it with you.Continue Reading

Emotion Is Not A Character Flaw

Emotion is Not A Character Flaw - amber et cetera

This is a really vulnerable, raw post. I originally put it on Facebook but thought it belonged here. Some of you might call it oversharing. I don’t care. It’s my blog. If you aren’t into that kind of thing or it makes you uncomfortable, you probably want to skip it.

I just had a conversation today with my sister Dyan where she said something very wise, and something I have long believed.

I’m having a tough time right now.

And yet, we don’t make it very acceptable for that to be the truth for people.

We aren’t graceful when someone is hurting. We want to fix it or make them fix it, tell them why they shouldn’t feel that way, tell them why all the evidence points to other feelings they should have, preach things like perseverance and overcoming and not letting things get you down.

We tell them to suck it up and go to the gym anyway because that’s being strong. Or to “gut through” the pain. Or to “man up” and get to work. To be fierce or strong or anything but broken. Because we are horribly uncomfortable around broken people.

We glamorize people who are “unstoppable”, revere the seemingly invincible people that are never brought down, by anything. So what happens when we’re stopped dead in our tracks?Continue Reading

A few things I learned last year.

A few things I learned last year - amber et cetera

I didn’t really make any resolutions. Unless you count giving myself grace as a resolution. But ‘resolution’ seems so…temporary when it comes to something that important.

Anyway.

I can confidently say that 2013 was one of the most difficult years I’ve ever had. Personally, professionally, you name it. I have never EVER been so glad to see a year end.

Here’s a few of the things I picked up along the way.

It’s hard to forgive yourself for things you won’t forgive in others.

You cannot handcuff yourself to your mistakes. They will eat you alive and carry you over the edge right along with them.

There are no “should”s. As adults, we simply have choices. The sooner we embrace that, the more empowered we become.

Have sex with your partner even when you aren’t sure you want to. Perhaps especially then. It fixes a lot of things. Nature knows what she’s doing in that regard.

Have a pet. Have several. You don’t have to get shelter pit bulls from California. But get a fish or something else alive in your house to let you know that there is always another heartbeat nearby, no matter how small.

When someone apologizes and means it, acknowledge it. You might still be hurt. But rejecting a sincere apology is just about as hurtful as anything else you might say or do.

Do things that seem crazy to others but perfectly rational to you. They are the things that shape you most.

Learn to lift heavy things. The benefits of it are far beyond physical.

Don’t forget to breathe. Even if you cry when you do it.

Oh, that reminds me. If you’re a cryer, don’t pretend you aren’t and try to stop it when you need to do it. Just cry. I cry when I’m angry, sad, frustrated, happy, overwhelmed, joyful, relieved. It’s my pressure release value.

Drink the good wine. You may not have the someday. And it’s perfectly okay to drink the good wine all by yourself.

Emotional games are shitty. I’ve  played them, and I’ve had them played with me. Learn to refuse to play. It won’t happen overnight. But learn.

Understand and accept that how you say your words means everything to the recipient, more so than what you say. Learn how to speak with compassion, calmness, and meaning. It doesn’t really matter what you meant to say if you’ve hurt someone in the process.

Most attention is temporary and based on the needs of the other person more than you. Family and partners are often the exception, but not always. Accept the attention, enjoy it, then let it go. Spending your life begging for the attention of others  – whether overtly or subtly — is a recipe to disappointment every single time.

Learn how to be alone. Then, learn how to rely on others for support. Finally, learn that life requires both for balance.

Buy a good kitchen knife for Pete’s sake. And learn to sharpen it.

You deserve to have relationships around you that support who you are. Who you really are, not the person you think you need to be. You also deserve to end the relationships that drain you more than they sustain you. That includes “friendships”, not just romantic relationships. Ditch the emotional vampires.

There is not a finite amount of success or happiness to go around. Be happy for the good things that happen to the people around you.

You are worthy of love and respect right now. This moment. The person who will tell you that you are not more often than anyone else is likely staring you in the mirror. Don’t believe them.

The only irreversible thing is death.

The rest? It might hurt like hell, but it’s recoverable. It’s okay to hate it while it happens. It’s okay to be angry, frightened, and confused. It’s okay to not know how to fix it. It’s okay to question yourself a thousand times over.

But it’s never okay to give up.

Okay, 2014. Give me what you’ve got. I’m waiting.

When You’ve Got Nothing Left To Give

Nothing Left To Give - amber et cetera

Humans – and dare I say especially women – are told that generosity and giving are some of the pinnacles of humanity. We women especially here the virtues of the maternal instinct, the nurturing spirit we are born with.

We are all told that people who give of themselves through money, time, effort, or caring are truly outstanding, the kind of person that everyone should aspire to be.

The problem is that no one balances that statement with the simple acknowledgement that sometimes, along the way, you have nothing left to give.

I’ll make this a personal statement because I don’t necessarily want to speak for all of you. But I’ve learned recently, to my surprise actually, that there are very real limits to how much of myself I have to devote to everyone and everything outside of my own basic well-being.

I only have so much encouragement and reassurance to give to other people that everything is going to be okay. Because sometimes, I’m not sure it’s going to be okay.

I only have so much money to give. And I do give. But it’s a finite resource.

I only have so much expertise to lend to others before my own business and work starts to suffer because I’m not paying enough attention to it.

I only have so many feelings of love and affection and trust to give away when my own stores are feeling woefully depleted.

My therapist’s name is Jane. She’s awesome. But I also love that I can remember what she tells me, sometimes before I believe it myself, by drawing on my inner 90s child and telling myself that Jane Says.

Jane Says that it’s okay — and normal — that sometimes the tank is empty. That we can give and exert to the point where we simply don’t have any more.

And that it doesn’t make me a bad or selfish or insensitive person to say no, no I can’t get into this conversation right now or give you a big smile or hug you or hear your laments about your job or boyfriend because I don’t have anything left. My soul, my mind, my emotions are starving and the only resources I have to give them right now are the ones that will replenish them.

But we get empty. We just do.

I still feel selfish. I think because I was brought up to believe that good people give. Good people are selfless, they put others first. Good people don’t take and take. They give and give. Constantly. Effortlessly.

And so I’ve never found the balance between taking at an extreme or giving at an extreme.

(And see, I’m even feeling like an asshole writing this because my inner self is saying “Really, Amber? You’re such a martyr that you’re talking about how much you over-give as though that’s some kind of indication of your superiority as a person?” My inner critic really can be a bitch sometimes when I’m trying to have moments of self-awareness.)

I guess I’m writing all of this to tell you it’s okay. To tell me it’s okay.

It’s okay to be empty.

I don’t want you to stay that way, of course. I need to work on shoring myself up some before I can really be strong enough to give to others again. You need to replenish your stores, too. By finding love, and comfort, and strength in those who have it to give right now.

It’s okay to not have anything left.

Because tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, you will.

You’ll be better, and re-energized, and you’ll find strength in therapy or the woods or church or your family or your kids or a book. And then you’ll give again when others can’t.

There was a time when I didn’t quite understand the give-and-take that really comprises the universe.

But I think I’m learning.

My tank is really, really empty right now. More so than it’s been in a really long time. But this time, I know it’s temporary. I know I’ll find ways to fill it again.

And more than anything, I know it’s okay, for right now, to have nothing left to give.

Three Things You’re (Still) Freaking Out About on Twitter, Explained

crazed

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008, but man, a lot has changed since then.

Lately, I’ve been rejigging my filters and lists to find some fresh conversations and people to connect with. And every time I do that and start asking for recommendations, people still freak out about the same things they did many years ago.

So, in the interest of being helpful, here are a few things you might not have realized about Twitter.Continue Reading