Your Eccentricity Is, Literally, What Makes Me Love You

Parks & Recreation as The Justice League by L.A.-based artist Vicky Trochez
Parks & Recreation as The Justice League by L.A.-based artist Vicky Trochez

I fell in love in September. I didn’t think it could happen again. But it did.

It’s a little complicated because, you see, I’m in love with three people. Two women and a man. And they live in a fictional town called Pawnee, Indiana, where they run the Parks & Recreation department.

Yes, I am ridiculous. And so are Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza). And it’s their eccentricity – literally how far off center they are – that makes me love them. Leslie with her Type A, waffle and whipped cream fueled plans. Ron’s clinging to a simpler frontiersman time. And April’s dark and brooding demeanor, guarding her heart of gold.

(Never seen Parks & Rec? Stop what you are doing immediately and invest some time in this modern masterpiece.)

The vibrancy of their characters is beautiful. They are full out who they are. It’s so attractive. And being this way, yes, even though they are fictional, they whisper a secret invitation for us to be fully our own versions of eccentric.

So let’s talk real world. What is it that makes us so afraid of being a little off center? So afraid that we won’t be accepted by the masses who run together in the safety of the herd? I have some ideas.

This week, in two different corners of my life, two extraordinarily talented and creative people told me that their insecurities are sneaking up on them. They are feeling restricted and vulnerable to a perceived (or even real) raised eyebrow from those who are on the straight and narrow.

Pull out the soapbox. Here comes the speech.

Life is about coming back to who you really are. The essence of yourself before you cared about what other people thought. When your imagination and inspiration guided you. Before you felt the sting of being left out, when you weren’t even sure that you even wanted to be included with those kids. When having SOMEONE to play with was way better than sitting alone in the schoolyard.

Please tell me that you didn’t have this experience growing up. That you weren’t the person on the sidelines. And if you were, that you didn’t care. That you were happy playing alone, doing your own thing. That being left out, left behind didn’t feel like a message screaming, “You don’t matter.” I would love to hear these stories from a writer, an artist, a creative soul. Because that sounds like just the kind of childhood experience that I hope everyone could have.

But it doesn’t always work out this way. And that’s what adulthood is for.

I’m here to tell you now that it’s okay to be off center. Like Leslie, Ron and April, being colorful and fully yourself is attractive and exciting and alive! That magic lives on the fringes. That the world NEEDS you to be unabashedly bold. That worlds are created from this place.

Be yourself – the more eccentric, the better. Seriously. You are not alone and your colors are so damn beautiful.

Houses Aren’t Showplaces. They Are Workshops.

I’m sharing with you a new post from my creative blog Your Goodness Guide. Friends don’t let friends clean the house to avoid writing.

"Fish" by Jacob Zinman-Jeanes
“Fish” by Jacob Zinman-Jeanes

I’m a big fan of a clean house. Especially when it’s my own. But sometimes having a clean house is out of reach. Like when…I still haven’t recovered from the 7-year-old birthday party at the house last weekend…or our living room is a staging area for the garage sale on Saturday…or, frankly, we just can’t extract any extra energy to clean the house ourselves or hire someone to clean for us.

And during those times, a panic sets in. My chest tightens. My breathing shallows. Until I take these two magic steps.

#1 – Turn Home into Workshop – Changing my perspective on “Home” works wonders. Instead of a showplace that SHOULD be neat and orderly like the staged photos in Home Magazine, I magically turn my living space into a “Workshop” IN MY MIND. Oh, a workshop! Yes, workshops can be messy. They can be a little disorderly. Because work is happening there. It’s creativity in motion. It’s dynamic! I can find a new boundary of acceptable disorder when I’m living in a workshop. No, not complete chaos. Not dirtiness that invites critters into my home. But not sanitized and wrapped up in a bow, either.

#2 – Make Plans for a Friend to Visit – Nothing helps me pull the house together more quickly than hosting company. And when the house is pulled together that quickly, my mind-body-spirit are reminded that regardless of how messy the house appears on any given day, it’s only 3 hours away from near showplace neatness.

There’s an invisible third magic step: Gratitude. Feeling grateful that I have a home to fill, that I have an address for USPS to deliver mail that will inevitably pile up, and that I have beautiful children who fill the house with their stuff, too. Whether it’s a showplace or a workshop or whatever, focusing on gratitude instantly quells the anxiety over dust bunnies and stacks of paper.

Beware of Hyperlink Blue

color wheel

Recently, a friend forwarded a marketing email from a well-respected networking organization. The email listed events and pertinent information relevant to me. I had my calendar and wallet out, ready to sign up and fork over some moolah. But I never got that far. Sad for me. Sadder for the networking organization.

As I scrolled through the email…and scrolled….and scrolled…my eyes glazed over and my blood pressure ticked up a notch. The marketer had employed an excessive amount of “hyperlink blue” and what I call “emergency red” for headlines and random emphasis of random words. After two minutes of focused attention but without comprehending a single thing, I closed the email with an “aaaaagh” as if I just discovered a garden snake in my kitchen.

Honestly, I’m a snob when it comes to email formatting. In fact, Hollywood studios rewarded my snobbery with a weekly paycheck to ensure that written communications to employees were as digestible as possible. I’m a snob because the audience WILL NOT READ the email if given any reason not to read it.

Sometime back in last millennia, the masterminds behind the Internet standardized the default hyperlink color to #0000ff with an underline. No, it’s not pretty. It is reminiscent of 1998, but millions of people associate that color blue with links. So, in my opinion, that blue color is off limits for anything other than links. And, actually, now that we have other options for link colors (i.e. a virtual web crayon box), let’s just leave #0000ff back in the ’90s.

A few thoughts to consider about links:

  • Use color sparingly. A solid rule of thumb is black or dark gray for the body copy, one headline color, and one link color. The eye-glazing networking email used six colors: black, blue, red, maroon, pink, and lighter blue. If you color random words or use too many colors, you start a visual competition with the headline and links.
  • Choose color wisely. When selecting a link color:
    • Be consistent – Pick one color for all links throughout your site or marketing piece
    • Match your color scheme – Choose a color that compliments an embedded image or logo
  • Underline links. Your audience expects links to be easy to find. Color and underline accomplishes that.

There’s much to say about the use of color in writing materials. This article in entrepreneur.com is a good place to start: The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding.

And when all the color talk inevitably makes you reconsider your home or office decor, check out 10 Color Theory Basics Everyone Should Know. It’s a great primer on color and inspirational design article.