What I Learned the Week of June 3rd, 2022

From a Podcast – Chad Sanders

This week I discovered a new author and podcast that I have fallen in love with. Chad Sanders was interviewed on Armchair Expert in 2021 and on a complete fluke I listened to that episode. I love how these moments happen. I was trying to find a completely different episode but was getting frustrated with the website and decided to just pick one from the page I was on versus continuing to hit the “next page” button. This may go down as my all-time favourite AE podcast. HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it.

So who is Chad and why was this so powerful. Chad Sanders is a writer, director, actor, and musician based in New York City but grew up in Maryland and has lived in several places in the US and internationally. Chad worked at Google and YouTube as a tech entrepreneur. He has since written and co-written TV series and feature films with collaborators Spike Lee, Morgan Freeman, and Will Packer. 

His book, which I’m now in chapter 4, Black Magic, looks closely at his collective experiences in life as a black person/male and how he dealt with his own self-betrayal of being authentic. In the book, he tests his theory of how to be successful as a black person by interviewing Black leaders across industries to get their take on Black Magic.

There were many statements Chad made throughout the interview that was just so poignant. Such as:

“I remember the day I realized I couldn’t play a white guy as well as a white guy. It felt like a death sentence for my career.”

And then his New York Times OPED piece was super powerful and also recommend reading. While he noted in the interview that he did not choose the title for the article I think the overall article aligns. He’s asking for real action versus sympathy. Which I don’t blame him in the slightest.

I can remember right after George Floyd there were anti-racist protests going on everywhere and I tried to gather my family up to go with me to join the Vancouver protest. Everyone had one reason or another why protesting was not for them. So, I went on my own. And as much as I was disappointed by their lack of action, I knew that forcing them to come wasn’t the answer either. What I did force upon them was that we would not be going on our tentatively planned summer vacation, for which I had planned to pay, because I instead was donating that money to a charity that supported black people. No one protested. Message sent. Possibly received. But mostly I felt like I had issued some punishment to them for their lack of action which felt equally bad and good. This is the thing that I feel like I am learning from listening to Chad. Not putting too much energy into the desire to punish others versus finding ways to inspire them. Or simply move on and inspire others.

This is what I like so much about this podcast and more importantly his book. He keeps it real. He’s not going to coddle us to make us feel OK with our lack of action. But he still does it in a way where you don’t feel this extreme judgement either. I’m sure he is disappointed. But I think he’s learned to not make our in-action bring him down. To protect his own energy that he gives to those who are not ready to meet that expectation. And he does it beautifully.

If you have ever had to navigate communicating disappointment in someone and then not slipping into taking care of them for feeling guilty that they are not meeting your expectations, then I highly recommend giving Chad some attention. I’m still not quite sure how he is doing it so eloquently, but he does.

From Reading Book or Article – Breaking Stigma Key to Allyship

The article provided covers a lot of ground for how to be an ally, so it is well worth the read. However, IMO, Stigma is still the biggest barrier. I would advocate the starting point is recognizing how are you AND your organization contributing to that stigma? As pointed out in the article most still believe the risks of disclosure far exceed the benefits. And one could easily argue that there is plenty of data to support those beliefs.

What assumptions or preconceptions do you have about mental health conditions? How are you challenging yourself on those? Who are you asking to share what their experience of you is on this topic? Or even just getting curious with someone else on what their assumptions are as you may realize through that conversation you have the same.

One that I had for a long time, and still do, is that someone struggling with their mental health will show outward signs of struggle or decreased work performance. Not always true. We now know more that there are many people who are “high-functioning” … which means they have learned how to mask and hide their inner conflict well. Often from themselves

The bottom line is there are hundreds (if not thousands) of solutions to help address the mental health challenges that exist. But until we are making it normal to talk about it very few people will ever get the opportunity to experience those solutions. And those of us advantaged enough to not be experiencing a mental health challenge will be unable to be a good ally.

From Social Media – Can someone please explain my itchy ears!

I feel like I learned this one earlier, but I saw it for the 2nd time this week and it caused me to go research it a bit more. Every week I am learning something new about the experience of menopause. If you are male or someone not born with female parts that would have you go through menopause, then you might not think this pertains to you. All I can say is I beg for your empathy and greater awareness for how ridiculous this experience is and how most women feel they need to suffer in silence and/or not be given accommodations for it. Life is not fair for any of us. And I certainly do not subscribe to the comparison game to figure out who has the most burdens in life. Let’s just all be more empathetic and compassionate to each other period. And that starts with being a little curious about what ~50% of the population will experience at some point in their life for many years.

So, my new learning for this week – itchy ears are a symptom of menopause. I’ve had itchy inner ears for years (note I’m fifty). As women enter the perimenopause stage (note can happen much earlier than 50) our estrogen levels decline which creates a whole host of symptoms including very dry skin. My ears have itched so bad that I’ve scratched them to bleeding and have caused infections in them. Sometimes I feel like a dog that when you scratch that special spot their leg starts thumping and they lean into you a little more because it feels so good! And I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself with my finger in my ear while I’m on Zoom!!!

Here is the original TikTok link that made me stop and go WTF?!?!?

Here are a few of the links I found which had a couple remedies that I plan to try – both to do with diet and therapies/ointments. Wish me luck!

https://www.menopausematters.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=38057.0 (two people recommended bicarbonate and Savlon and Sea Buckthorn Oil)

https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/menopause/videos/does-menopause-affect-your-ears/ (recommended diet to avoid high salty, sugar and caffeine diets – which I think I’m already pretty decent at these but also to avoid alcohol which I’m not so good at that one. I do have weeks where I go dry so I should really pay attention next time to whether that reduces my ear itching as well)

From Someone Else – Privilege vs Advantage

In a conversation with a good friend, I learned that the word privilege can be too much of a trigger in teaching/facilitating DI&E. I’ve asked around a few folks in this space to understand how novel this idea is and so far, it seems fairly new. I found only a couple of articles that speak to the sensitivity of the word privilege, this one, which happens to be 6-years old but the most recent one I could find, does the best job of explaining and offering an alternative word – advantage. I get the logic being presented. Most importantly I appreciate the concept that if a word is triggering and creates defensiveness behavior in a situation where you are wanting to create curiosity and collaboration – then another option should be at the very least considered. I don’t have to agree with the reason for why it creates defensive behavior. I don’t even need to have sympathy for it. But I can be empathetic to the defensive feeling and harness enough compassion to have a meaningful conversation. Assuming that is part of my goal.

I greatly appreciated a statement from another good friend/colleague in this field which I think is a hugely important question for anyone doing this work. Whether you are formally doing this work or simply trying to engage in meaningful conversations with people. Here are her direct words.

“It is that balance of if we are going to do the emotional labour to make it more palatable for folks or push them out of their comfort zone a bit. But not too much, so they shut down.” – Signy Wilson

This is one new data point I am still digging into, and not yet landed on how it might change my behavior. However, at the very least it will have me think about the potential impact of using the word privilege over the word advantage. And if nothing else experiment to see the potential differences it evokes.

From My Reflections – Gluttony

This was inspired from a statement I heard from the Quitters – Mayin Bialik podcast. Note this is Chad Sanders podcast that I discovered from listening to the Chad Sanders Armchair Expert interview. I have managed to listen to about five of the Quitters podcasts and so far so good. But in this one specifically there was a statement that Mayin said towards the end that really hit home to me as an aha for myself. When she finds herself anxious and doing things, either consciously or sub-consciously, to appease that anxiety she asks herself the question “what thing in my childhood is still needing to be met”.

When I heard her state that question it was a big aha moment. Not that I immediately knew the answer, and I expect it will vary based on the situation in that moment. But using that as a question to mindfully bring myself to more awareness of what I need versus potentially what I’m doing or reaching for in that moment. She gave an example of a not nice behavior she was acting out with her boyfriend that had nothing to do with him, but some need she was still yearning for from childhood. Noticing that helps her stop acting out negatively in that relationship and potentially harming that relationship when it has very little to do with that relationship.

A real example for me is that I have a vice of gluttony. Food. Alcohol. Activities. Load Me Up! The definition I like for my version of gluttony is from the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram

Gluttony is the emotional response of wanting to stuff the self with external gratifications in response to the experience of feeling frustrated, empty and needy. Rather than experience the emptiness and neediness directly, you choose to escape from that anxiety by distracting yourself with other pleasures or mental stimulation.

Now as a coping mechanism, depending on what you are using for the distraction, it might not be that terrible. But obviously, it could easily turn into a slippery slope. Where I slide is when I know I am having excess and starting to feel a little guilt or shame. Logically I know this is not a good thing to keep doing but I can’t seem to stop yourself. For me I often just say “fuck it” I’ll recover tomorrow. The “you only live once” motto.

What I’m very curious about is if I can insert this question into the routine, and what changes that might make. Right now, I just try to use basic discipline (you will NOT do this) or shame self-talk to reframe from the negative distraction. As I genuinely like myself the shame self-talk rarely works on me. The discipline self-talk works decently but everyone has their weak moments.

Now you might wonder how would answering this question help as I can’t really go back to my childhood moments (or anytime in the past really) and have that need fulfilled in that moment. But I can acknowledge it (e.g., “I did not always get the nurturing experience I needed” or “I sometimes felt very lonely as a child”) and then I can find ways to feel gratitude for how I have found those things in my life now and/or recall moments from childhood where that was not true – where my needs were met. I can also reach out to someone in that moment and simply connect. I don’t even need to tell them I’m lonely, and if I did that vulnerability would be hard for me to admit as I like to be seen as the person who has her shit together. Regardless, whether we just sat and talked for a bit or went for a walk or literally did anything that kept me from continuing the bad habit I was about to do instead – then I’m meeting that unmet need now. Doesn’t mean that goes away as I’m guessing some of these things never go away no matter how old we get. But maybe it happens less. Or at minimum my natural tendency to gluttony in those moments happens less.

Looking forward to the experiment.

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