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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

When NO means YES

When I watched the movie Yes Man, it had a kind of prolific effect on me. I learnt that:
1.       I have a lesbian crush on Zooey Deschanel. I also want to be her. Wouldn’t Freud have a field day with that?!
2.       My brain is or should I say was, wired to say NO immediately after any suggestion. If I’ve ever said yes after a suggestion or idea… I was lying so as not to hurt your feelings. I like to start off with a no, look at the facts and then slowly edge into a YES. An idea is CRAP until proven awesome.
This is why I’ve never been a very good subject for a sales pitch – in fact I’m a nightmare for those Albanian/Romanian/Iranian chaps at the mall who approach me to buy the latest-best-can’t-live-without-it product. I listen, pretend to be mildly interested for what feels like half an hour but is really just 5 minutes, and then search my imagination for an excuse you can’t argue like: “You know, I recently became pagan and now no longer believe in using any products that I don’t make myself.” Or “I just lost my job and don’t have money for petrol, could you spot me 20 bucks?” Suffice to say it sure nips things in the bud… until those darn Planet Fitness guys at the next courtyard. But we’ve all been there, which is why I never wanted to hurt their feelings or seem like a plain old bitch by saying no.
I started working in promotions when I was 16… oh the horror stories I could tell you. Ever worked at Macro liquor depot? At Crown Mines? Hungover? Selling beer with tequila in it? When there is no sample stock? And shoes are an optional clothing item to customers? I basically just stood at the back of the store where the fridges are, wearing a cowboy hat next to a cut out of a girl in a bikini who clearly looked nothing like me and responded to people who would walk passed and ask: Hey, is that you? Jy lyk mooi. Those were dark days, earning all of R150 on a Saturday morning for my emerging shoe/ booze habits. So I had developed a unique empathy for people whose sole purpose is to get a Yes out of a No majority vote – even though I am a self-proclaimed mutterer of No Thank-You’s and Nuh Uh’s.
And then one day I decided to catapult myself into the unknown in true Carly fashion. I can only compare it to one of those circus performers that shoots themselves out of a cannon, all make upped and in the perfect outfit, crowd rearing for them to go - a little hop-step, a courtesy and KAPOW! Whizzing through the air and into new territory. Well… I sort of expected a smoother landing. I also sort of expected a welcome committee with champagne. Perhaps there would be an onset of frenzied paparazzi all gathered to take my picture and get my comment. Maybe the lead singer from Incubus would be there too, to ask if I would perform a duet with him. Naked. No such luck… it turns out, when you are on the other side of things there can be a lot more no’s than there are yes’s. And when you get up to brush off the gunpowder from your pretty dress, and there’s not one single silly clap from the audience… you start to wonder about all those No’s that so easily popped out of your mouth like a jack-in-the-box.  That sure bit me in the ass.
So I became a Yes! Man. A Yes! Wo-Man. I said Yes! to meetings, Yes! to ideas, Yes! to pro bono anything, Yes! to you, you and you… and your cousin, and their mates. Yes! I’ll do it, sure no problem. And slowly, I began to earn my way into the Society of Yes’ers. Look out world here I come!
Even you can feel the anti-climax coming. It’s inevitable. All things are when you take them just that millimetre too far away from the delicate balance in your own cosmos.
I noticed that my clothes were getting a little tighter. Maybe because they’d shrunk in the wash. Maybe because they were a little tight to start off with. Or maybe because I couldn’t find an hour in my day to get to gym – a sanctuary where I can’t answer my phone or tend to everyone else’s qualms and queries.
I realized that I hadn’t seen my friends since the December holidays. But we were all busy surely? Or was I just too busy.
I still hadn’t gotten a gift for Ed, whose birthday was 3 months ago.
And I hadn’t posted a blog in… what? 2 weeks! That’s not like me.
Walking through the mall I ran into my friend Ernest, a career salesman who’d clocked in his hours at expos and malls from Poffadder to Pavillion.
Carly: “I have the best idea… you’re gonna love it.”
Ernest: “Go!”
Carly: “Hear me out… business cards.”
Ernest: “Huh?”
Carly: “To give to these sales guys, with a small polite ‘No’ printed on them and an explanation so they don’t get offended. I can hand it to them after they’ve pitched to me and we both walk away no harm no foul. What do you think?”
Ernest: “Let me tell you something about those guys. You think stopping to hear their story is sweet and thoughtful but it’s not.”
Carly: “It’s not?”
Ernest: “It’s not. You’re stopping them from talking to the person behind you, who may actually be interested in buying the product. By wasting their time talking to you, they’ve missed out on a potential sale. Just say no and keep walking, you’re doing them a favour.”
I sure wish someone had told me that sooner, am I right?
Over the last week I realized that sometimes you need to be a Yes person and sometimes you need to say No. Yes people are the creators of momentum, the starters, the catalysts and YES the world could do with another shipment of them. But I have to say that No sometimes gets a bad rap for what it’s worth. I realized this week that sometimes saying No to someone else, really just means you are saying Yes to yourself.
So NO, I cannot and most unequivocally won’t. I shan’t. I am unable to. I am unavailable, unobtainable, inaccessible and absent. Because tonight I’m sharing a delicious glass of Merlot with someone I’ve really missed.
Just plain, little ol’ me.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Age of The Superhero

There is no one in the world who hasn’t pondered as to what super powers they would take on if they supplemented their morning smoothie with a healthy dose of Chemical X. Let’s get the obvious out of the way – we ALL want to fly. Then, there are some people want to be able to read people’s minds, I cannot think of anything worse. Some folks dream of controlling fire, or being able to shoot lasers out of their eyes, or even taking on the ability to become invisible. Of course a large majority of these people are 5 year old boys trapped in 30 year old men’s bodies. A real 5 year old boy wants to have daggers as fingers, be able to climb walls like Spiderman and at any point become an entirely edible entity made of chocolates and sweets – or so my younger brothers tell me with more enthusiasm than an energizer bunny on a caffeine drip.   
Carly: “When I was a little brat, I strapped cushions to my arms and spent hours practising take offs and landings in the garden.”
Ed: “Be honest, did that actually happen this weekend?”
Carly: “Shut up!”
Ed: “This is what surviving on minimal sleep does to a person.”
Ed had been contracted to produce a live TV show that aired at 05:00 in the morning and subsequently, had new office hours that started at 03:00 AM. I don’t know how he does it, but wine has proved once again, to be the best group therapist two best friends could find on a Wednesday night.
Ed: “Well, time to head home and try get some sleep”
Carly: “Time, what happened to that? If I’m not selling my soul to the devil that is my new career…”
Ed: “Or racing to get to a wedding, baby shower, engagement party, birthday…”
Carly: “Speed walking through the aisles of Pick and Pay with a calculator like a peasant…”
Ed: “Pretending that I’m going to finally make it to gym this week…”
Carly: “Or fast forwarding to the pivotal plot events of my favourite shows so I can keep up without actually investing in a whole hour…”
A perfectly timed gulp of wine goes down our throats as we swallow the realities of being grown up’s. I walk Ed out and before I start a pity party for one I realize how many of my peers are faced with a multitude of multi-tasking maddening’s in their own lives. I don’t even have another little life to consider, unlike my friend Nandi who is newlywed, underemployed and raising the most wonderful little sprite sans domestic worker or nanny. Now THAT is some kind of miracle.
I woke up this morning at 06:30, drove to work through the clogged traffic tributaries of northern suburbia and gave my best from 08:23 to 17:05. I raced from job one to job two to interview an aspirational South Africa leader for my next commissioned article and then dashed home in time to catch some Masterchef highlights and make 3 meals: Dinner, along with breakfast and lunch for work the next day. A 45 minute kickboxing workout and quick shower ensued just in time to miss that awful point where you are just too tired to be able to sleep. Lying in bed I could feel my body physically sapped of all energy – mental, physical and spiritual (meditation beads and mantra collecting dust at the bottom of a long 2013 goals list). I started thinking about what a real life superhero would be like, and if perhaps… I was slowly mutating into one.
We ALL want to fly, no matter how old we are or what our CV says we’re capable of. But maybe it takes someone with a little bit of Chemical X, to power on, no matter how many times they’ve grazed their knees trying like hell to lift off and reach new heights. Maybe we don’t have the lycra suits, the flapping red capes and the heroic reputation of Wolverine or Wonder woman to feel like we can conquer the universe, but what if we were unknowingly mastering another cosmos in our own galaxies – taking on mentors as our professor Xavier, aligning ourselves with other fearless freaks to win the battle for good while harnessing our own set of superpowers and formidable forces.
All superhero’s start out as unappreciated underdogs; working through life’s setbacks, all the time trying passionately to make their mark and find their purpose. The Hulk is an impulsive alter ego of the withdrawn and reserved physicist Dr. Bruce Banner. Clark Kent represents the 9 - 5, average Metropolis man just trying to make it through a day, transforming into Superman to save the world at the same time – how’s that for multi-tasking? Even Rouge from the X men considers her powers a curse and for most of her life, her potentially fatal abilities prevent her from making any physical contact with others.
I wondered if maybe, the real enemy of a superhero was an insatiable ambition to be better, to do greater things and to have been instilled with a fire incomprehensible to mere mortals. And maybe, being a 20 something year old trying, despite all plots against them, to find their place in this crazy comic book of life, is merit enough for a cape and mask.
I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams. - Spider-Man