Being inspired by Dan Hallberg

For the past year or so as I’ve worked hard to write more and to write better, one person that frequently comes to mind is Dan Hallberg.

Dan was an amazing young man I knew at Northland College. We became friends because we were often in the same literature or writing courses, which given the size of Northland College were always really small.

20 years ago today, Dan and three other Northland students were killed in a car crash on the way home from a Grateful Dead concert.

In my opinion, Dan was one of the best writers attending Northland College in the early 90s. He had a skill and a talent that I wished I had at the time.

A few days after Dan died, when classes had resumed, one of our professors read a piece that Dan had written the week before he died and had turned in for the latest assignment. I don’t remember the words, but I remember how it made me feel. It made me inspired and also so very sad that the person that had written it was gone.

The picture on this post was taken by Dan Nordstrom, another friend from Northland College, and is a group of trees that were planted in memory of the four students that died. They serve as a living memory to their lives.

I hope those that knew and loved Dan, Elise, Brad & Scott are available to find comfort today.

Today I Will Not Sit in the Chair

“Sit in the Chair” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot this past year — and it’s a phrase that I’ve tried to apply to certain parts of my life. It’s similar to “fake it ’til you make it”. There are certain tasks that require you to “Sit in the Chair” and sometimes that means staring at a blank word document for a really long time waiting for the inspiration to come. Sometimes it means doing that “one thing” that you really don’t want to do in order to move your goals forward. Sometimes it means working on that one beast of a project just to get out to the other side.

But, today, I am literally not going to “Sit in the Chair” … instead, I’m going to get up on stage in front of several hundred people and tell a very personal story about my life.

For years, I told everyone around me that I was okay with being the “behind the scenes girl”, and that I didn’t want the spotlight. The truth was, I didn’t think that I was worthy of the spotlight and so me hiding behind a different identity made it all okay.

I’ve also at times shied away from telling my story due to familial pressure. Keeping secrets is still a strong pull 20+ years later.

I was also told that being vocal about my personal story — whether it related to my life growing up or my struggles with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome — was going to be career suicide. No one wants to know those types of things about an employee, so it’s best if you just sit quietly.

Today, I’m breaking that apart. This room full of people will be filled with past, present and possibly future business colleagues. They are going to hear about my struggles and how I made it through some of the darkest times anyone should ever have to overcome.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.

I also wouldn’t be here today and ready to tell this story without the support of “community” and there are a couple of people I need to thank in this post.

First, AJ & Melissa Leon and the community of misfits. The idea and structure for the presentation I’m about to give today was literally “born” at MisfitCon last year. The understanding that I have a unique story to tell and that I need to be fearless about telling it was inspired by you and the group of people you put on stage.

Second, Jon Acuff and his community of Starters, Dreamers & Hustlers. Today is one huge examples of “punching fear in the face”, and I’m not sure I would have made it to this point without the community that you built and the words that you used to inspire.

And, my team at work. When I first floated the idea of pitching a “very personal” story to present, I received full support and have continued to receive a huge amount of support along the way. I appreciate that so much.

And, finally, to all the people in my community, especially folks on Facebook who have been super supportive — especially as I agonized over each and every slide and got a bit obsessive.

Today, I will not Sit in the Chair. And, while my stomach is in knots as I write this I know that this is exactly where I need to be.

Lena Dunham, female comedians should take more responsibility — not less

Some background on what I’m about to say later in this blog post:

  1. Lena Dunham is a multi-faceted woman in Hollywood. She’s a comedian, actress, director, creator, writer and many other things.
  2. Lena created and stars in a popular show on HBO called Girls 
  3. I have never watched Girls 
  4. In the show Girls, Lena Dunham’s character gets naked a lot
  5. Lena has received a heavy amount of criticism due to the fact that her character gets naked a lot — a fair amount of this criticism is leveled at Lena because of her body shape (she’s not a size 0 model)
  6. Lena hosted Saturday Night Live this past Saturday where she got naked
  7. Lena received a lot of Twitter-hate and Twitter-rage about getting naked on SNL
  8. Lena sent a very inappropriate tweet on Sunday night about child / familial molestation and her nakedness
  9. Lena deleted the tweet and apologized
  10. Part of her apology stated “Not if they were a fifty year old man. But by my lights women can have a lot of joke flexibility. Ya gotta get by in this world”

Whew! That’s a lot of background bullet points.

Here’s the thing. Rape jokes should never be okay. Whether you’re a 50-year-old man or a 20-something female comedian.

As bad as rape jokes are, jokes about molestation are even worse and have no place in our culture.

And, a 20-something female comedian — especially one who champions women’s rights as strongly as Lena does in other instances — should be even more aware about the impact of those words.

Lena blamed her tweet on Sunday on being sleepy. And, while I don’t consider that a valid excuse for this type of joke, I do hope she learns something from the backlash about how inappropriate it was.

Update on my 2014 goals

It’s been two months since I put together my list of goals for 2014, and I thought it would be worthwhile to check in and see where I’m at. I plan on doing this again in a couple of months.

Goals for 2014: 

  • Write 500,000 words (this includes this blog, sueannereed.com, my posts on engageyourcause.com and other writing)
    • January was a pretty good month towards my writing goals. I wrote 13k words in January. In February, things kind of went the wrong direction and I only wrote 3,800 words. Part of it was being sick, and part of it was a focus on getting things ready for the Nonprofit Technology Conference. I’m planning on getting back on track in March. I’m going to have to have some really great months over the summer to make up for the slower months I’ve had already. 
  • Launch the Nashville 501 Tech Club meetup and hold at least 6 meetups in 2014
    • No progress on this yet
  • Get more involved in the Nashville nonprofit community
    • No progress on this yet
  • Have at least one speaking engagement that is about my life and not about nonprofits or online marketing
    • On March 13th, this is becoming a reality when I give my Ignite presentation at the 2014 nonprofit technology conference about my life. 
  • Guest blog on at least 2 industry blogs
    • No progress on this yet.
  • Workout at least 3 times a week
    • Other than the weeks I’ve been sick, this has been going well. I actually went 4 times last week, which was a huge accomplishment. 
  • Redesign sueannereed.com and rebrand it as NonprofitsFTW.com
    • No progress on this yet
  • Send at least one personal snail mail note or card per week
    • Of all the things that I’ve had zero progress on, this is the one I feel the worst about. I had a plan, and I just haven’t followed through on it. 
  • Be more productive during work hours and free up
    • I haven’t done as well on this as I would like. Part of it has been due to illness, and I’ve also been so mentally focused on the presentations I’ve been working on. This is another one that I hope to refocus on once I get back from Washington DC this month. 
  • Eat out less
    • I’ve done a really horrible job at this. I consider “eating out” and “ordering in” the same thing, and I continue to do this way too much. When I get back from Washington DC, I really want to set a concrete goal of making this one a reality. 
  • Go on at least one trip that isn’t for a conference or similarly related activity
    • No progress on this yet
  • Deal with the dental issues I’ve been putting off
    • No progress on this yet
  • Read from the Bible at least once a week
    • No progress on this yet
  • Attend church at least 75% of the Sundays during 2014
    • Other than the weeks that I’ve been sick or out of town, this has gone well. I’ve also tried to attend as many of the worship & prayer services my church has been having lately.
  • Find more ways to be involved within the Clarksville community
    • No progress on this yet

Can you have have a “practice life”?

A little while ago, my friend AJ wrote a post titled “This is not your practice life.” I’ve been thinking quite a bit about that statement and about his post.

In his post, AJ says, “I began to recognize that living for tomorrow is nowhere near as potent as living for right here and right now.”

I’ve felt that way for quite awhile. For a long time, I’ve tried as best as possible to live my life based on the statement “Be Here Now”. We only have one life to live, and the more time we spend regretting the past or worrying about the future, the more we lose precious moments of today.

However, I have been very grateful for the opportunities for “do overs” and to start again. This has happened twice in my life.

In 1991, I “ran away” from home and moved thousands of miles away to go to college. The college I chose was not a good choice, and by the end of my junior year I left without a diploma. I chose the college because it was far away from my troubles at home — and didn’t factor in other options like I should have. And, by the end of the three years, the demons that haunted me were still there. I had just postponed dealing with them for three years. I also added a bunch of debt into my life that I didn’t need.

Less than a year after dropping out, I had made a big cross country move again. For this move, I chose Washington, DC and I was determined to get my life headed in a different direction. The good news is that this time it worked. Through lots of counseling sessions, good friends and mentors that helped me along the way and lots of introspection, I was able to move my life forward.

The same thing happened in my move to Tennessee. I moved to Tennessee back in 2012 because my life in California had become a bit stale. A lot of my good friends and families had moved away (most to Utah), and I was spending more and more time being a hermit hiding out in my apartment without much to do. I was hoping that moving to Tennessee and being near my sister would get me out of my shell a bit. And, also allow me to make some new decisions regarding religious worship, my social life and other things.

For a whole bunch of reasons, when I moved to Tennessee, I decided to live in Goodlettsville. This seemed like a good choice, but really wasn’t. In addition, when I first moved I was dealing with a medical condition that would take a couple months and a surgical procedure to get corrected. It wasn’t anything life threatening, but it was painful and annoying. A few months after finally getting the medical condition addressed, I broke my ankle.

In many ways, it felt like I had just transplanted my California life to Tennessee. It was just a new location and nothing had changed.

I knew I needed a “do over”, so when my lease came up after the first year I decided to move closer to my sister up to Clarksville. The “moving” part was really annoying, but I’m very glad that I did it. It gave me the opportunity to recommit to those goals that I had made when I first moved to Tennessee.

While it is true that we don’t have a practice life, and we don’t have the opportunity to relive days, I am grateful that we have the opportunity to rethink and course correct when needed.

How much pain for art?

I love to crochet. For years, it’s been my escape from the computer and the online world and also away for me to make others happy with the gifts I’m able to make them.

About a 18 months ago, I started experiencing increasing pain in my left wrist. Crochet and some pain have always gone hand in hand. Any repetitive movement like crochet is going to cause pain for someone dealing with a disease like Ehlers-Danlos. But, the pain had always been relatively minor and usually only occurred if I was exerting myself trying to get a project done.

Unfortunately, my left wrist has no become hypermobile to the point that the pain while crocheting has been intense and also wasn’t going away. It was leading to pain while I did other activities — like working out, typing, sleeping or trying to lift and carry things in my left hand.

While Ehlers-Danlos isn’t technically a degenerative disease, the problems with joints can be cumulative, and I’ve been worried about pushing my wrist past the point of no return — especially for something as frivolous as art.

Do I want to risk potentially needing surgery on my wrist just to crochet a few more blankets?

Do I want to risk potentially harming my career because I lose function in that hand / wrist just for a few more blankets?

I’ve been struggling with these questions the past several months.

I miss crochet. I miss the art I was able to produce.

I don’t know what’s next and what can replace the enjoyment I received from crochet.

At Christmas-time, I bought a bunch of supplies to do some other Christmas crafts, but I couldn’t get inspired. The supplies are still sitting in the same bag they were brought home from the store. Every time I thought of doing some of the crafts, I just kept thinking about how much I missed crochet.

Not a slacker …

I haven’t been writing much this month, which is going to really hurt my goal of writing 500,000 in 2014, but it’s not because I’m a slacker.

Well, not 100%.

For two weeks I was fighting a seriously bad cold. I barely was able to get my “day job” work done. And, the cold was all nasal congestion which seriously seemed to disrupt my thinking patterns at times.

In addition to the cold, I’ve also been prepping for a couple of big presentations in March. I’m looking forward to them, and working hard on them, but it hasn’t left a lot of mental time for much else.

In addition to all of that, the presentation and another bit of a writing I did earlier this month (not for public consumption at the moment) have left me in a mental funk. It’s not anything that I can’t handle, but it doesn’t leave me much mental space for writing other things.

I’m hoping to get back on the daily writing bandwagon sometime soon.