Fact: We Find What We’re Looking For

By Angela Noel

April 10, 2018

Vegas reminds me of a little black dress I once owned. The dress served its purpose. Coupled with a pair of very swanky heels, it attracted the attention I craved. Wearing it felt like I’d stepped into a different world, one I wouldn’t inhabit nine-to-five.

But one day, when I put it on I no longer felt a thrill. The shoes hurt my feet and my back. The eyeballs that tracked my every move weren’t nice eyeballs. The dress had lost its magic. Or maybe, I’d lost interest in the kind of magic it was capable of offering. Continue reading “Fact: We Find What We’re Looking For”

Peel the Onion: Why We Answer the Wrong Question

By Angela Noel

April 5, 2018

Questions without easy answers abound. But we humans hate that. Our brains like certainty. Tough, complex problems without clear solutions make us very unhappy indeed. In these situations, particularly where public pressure exists to find a fast and clean answer, we’re susceptible to a type of brain elf, Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, calls substitution. He writes, “If a satisfactory answer to a hard question is not found quickly, System 1 (our fast-thinking brain) will find a related question that is easier and will answer it.”

Since being sure of something is our preferred condition, our brains tend to do a lot to help us feel that way. I wrote about our search for certainty before, and how hard we fight to preserve our version of events even when we know it’s wrong. But, this time we’re talking about certainty from another angle. This time, we’re talking about onions. Continue reading “Peel the Onion: Why We Answer the Wrong Question”

Queen in the Quiet of My Child’s World

By Angela Noel

March 27, 2018

Lying close to my son as he slowly drifts into sleep is the most cost-effective therapy I know. But I know it can’t last.

Most nights, at least lately, after we snuggle and he reads a few pages from a chapter book, I say goodnight and exit his room. Then he reads a few pages of a comic book (Garfield or Calvin and Hobbs) on his own before flipping off his reading light and heading to snooze-town. But one night recently, we turned off the lights and I stayed a bit longer. He flung his arm around my neck and nuzzled a little closer. “Tonight,” he said, “you’re my stuffy.” Continue reading “Queen in the Quiet of My Child’s World”

The Spotlight Effect: How it Dims Our Shine

By Angela Noel

March 20, 2018

Two months ago, something magical happened: WordPress Discover featured my post, Co-Parenting: Confessions of a Part-Time Mom, as an Editor’s Pick!

I’d submitted the post on January 15 and heard back from an editor within minutes. I had just over a week to prepare for my January 23rd debut. I felt both honored and excited. Who would I meet? Would my words resonate with others? Would I get evil comments or get spammed by bots promoting Viagra?

But as the day approached, mixed with the excitement, an uneasy feeling crept in. Continue reading “The Spotlight Effect: How it Dims Our Shine”

Awesome Nuggets: It’s Been a Minute Edition

by Angela Noel

March 13, 2018

I won’t blame you if you’ve forgotten what an Awesome Nugget is. Or, if you are one of the new subscribers to the You are Awesome blog (Hi!) you may have never heard the term before. Either way, I owe you an explanation.

Awesome Nuggets make the day better. Big or small, these things surprise and delight me. I’ve talked about moths before, or about my wonderful former co-workers who honored me with all kinds of tongue-in-cheek insults. By opening my eyes to the wonder of the moment, these little bits of awesome make me feel good. Sharing them makes me feel better. Knowing they might inspire others to see the wonder around us. . . well, that’s the best of all.

We all need some good. And it’s been a minute. (I just love that phrase.)

Without further ado:

Continue reading “Awesome Nuggets: It’s Been a Minute Edition”

Love Letter: Let Me Get My Coat

A Love Letter by Brenda from You Can Always Start Now

March 9, 2018

Dear Mom,

A positive aspect about aging is perspective. I am trying to live with no regrets – something you taught me. I know you found it hard to say the words I love you. And, looking back, I realize it was both your era and personality. To put yourself out there and be hurt and disappointed is hard. As a woman now, I realize how hard your life was.  Continue reading “Love Letter: Let Me Get My Coat”

The Hazards of Waterparks and the Lizard Brain

By Angela Noel

March 1, 2018

My lizard brain recently freaked out.

In his 2010 book, Linchpin, Seth Godin writes, “The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.” I would not want to meet my lizard brain in a dark alley.

The limbic cortex, aka the lizard brain, is the part of our gray matter responsible for making it very very hard to be our best selves sometimes. It wants to keep us safe, help us survive, even help us win competitions at work or at play. But all it knows is how to react, not how to respond reasonably and in appropriate proportion to a given situation.

And this is where my freaking out begins.

Continue reading “The Hazards of Waterparks and the Lizard Brain”

Love Letter: Do You Remember?

A Love Letter by Claire Saul

February 22, 2018

In the months leading up to Cheryl’s death at thirty-seven from very aggressive breast cancer, I witnessed my friend’s short battle for life. We found ourselves in the tricky situation of being close friends with children who were best friends, but also my nurse to her patient. We talked and talked, and knew it was only a matter of time until she would need to come into the hospice. The night before she was due to go home I remember begging the night staff (also my friends) to take extra care of her. She wanted to be at home and had a day with her children before she drifted into unconsciousness.  She died two days later.

Cheryl’s sister read the poem I wrote for her at the funeral.   Continue reading “Love Letter: Do You Remember?”

Cognitive Bias Series: Our Search for Certainty

by Angela Noel

February 15, 2018

A guy in a ski mask and dolphin shorts ran by me as I walked my dog through our neighborhood park. While it wasn’t strange that a man would be wearing tight nylon shorts in the early 80s, a fellow wearing a full ski mask in Southern California in springtime with his penis flopping out against his thigh definitely stood out.

I hightailed it home and told my mom what had happened right away. I don’t remember the sequence of events exactly. But I do remember my dad grabbing a stocking cap, pulling it low over his eyes and heading out to the park to see if he could find the guy.

My dad acted on the instinct to protect his little girl. But in my nine-year-old brain, seeing my dad in what looked a little like the cap (without the mask) that the penis-waving fellow had worn, confusion reigned. Could the man I saw have been my father? Also, could the fact that I saw a man’s penis in the park make me pregnant?

Both of these questions plagued me, and though embarrassed, I asked my mom for the truth. “No, honey. Your dad was right here. He’d never do that. And no, you can’t get pregnant from seeing a man’s penis.”

Phew.

April and Angela
Here’s me and our dog, April, playing in the backyard. No ski masks in sight.

Just like when my son thought I was a gun-toting criminal, my own younger-self struggled with what I had perceived versus what I believed to be true. I struggled to discern fact from all the noise.

Now, as an adult, I have more information, more concrete ideas of what is and is not true. That sounds like a good thing. But in fact it could be an even bigger problem.  Because I think I know the answer already, maybe I won’t ask those critical questions. Worse, sometimes I don’t want to know the real answer.

Those elves, our cognitive biases, are at it again. Continue reading “Cognitive Bias Series: Our Search for Certainty”

I’m Breaking up with Perfection

by Angela Noel

February 8, 2018

Two words drive me crazy. The first is perfection. I don’t believe perfection exists. I happen to like plenty of things that don’t exist, fairies for example. Or Santa, he’s a pretty jolly (not real) man. But the myth of achieving perfection causes real problems at work and at home. And that makes me mad. Santa never made me mad. Fairies are equally blameless.  So, perfection is bad. Continue reading “I’m Breaking up with Perfection”