I’m Not the Best at Anything, Just Like Madonna

not the best

I’m obsessed with Madonna lately because I got to see her in concert this month. I’ve been a casual fan, at best, over the years, but I’ve always admired Madonna. I’ve actually lived by a quote of hers since 1991. These words have shaped me, encouraged me, set a path for me to follow. The quote represents a quarter century of influence.

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In Celebration of Awkward

Awkward Lela Davidson

My sweet friend Sarah did not post this picture after I spoke at the NWA Technology Summit in November. Instead, she came up to me giggling and asked to take another picture.

“It makes you look really short,” she said. “Like, you-don’t-have-a-torso short.”

I mean, CLEARLY I’m bending over. But, yes. Awkward.

The thing is, that image was the least awkward part of the day. You can tell by the look on my face that I’m happy here with my friend. I feel good, which was not the default of the day.

I beat myself up badly before, during, and after I speak to a group. It doesn’t matter how many people talk to me afterward. It doesn’t matter how many encouraging notes I receive. I literally lost sleep the night after this talk, going over the parts of it where I stumbled, or said something maybe I shouldn’t have.

And don’t get me started on the drama of trying to get dressed for this event. Because it was super Chamber of Commerce, but also super tech. So what– graphic tee, jeans and a blazer? White House Black Market take me away.

Posing like the queen of the munchkin parade was low on the list of things that bothered me that day. My glasses look cute in this shot. Is there anything more important?

This all happened way back a million years ago in November. A few days later I got a reminder that I was not alone in my awkwardness.

That same week two of my heroes were super awkward.

First, Sheryl Sandberg was practically heckled when she encouraged the alpha males at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to lean in to supporting women as peers.

Ouch. Those boys tried to bring her down a peg, that was clear, so much so that their cadet leader scolded them afterward for their poor treatment of their guest. But who can blame them? It’s their job to bring her down a peg, right?

Maybe Sheryl lost sleep, too. And maybe she obsessed over that dress. (Such a great dress.) Or maybe that part is just my issue. Bottom line, Sheryl was not smooth. She was real. And therefore vulnerable.

“Look,” she told CNN. “I could have gone to a million places where they would have loved me. But, I didn’t.” Later she added, “Societal change and cultural change is not always comfortable.”

We’ve got a long way to go, baby.

The same week a friend sent a clip of Madonna’s performance in Stockholm. It was the day after the attacks in Paris. Madge gives a heartfelt monologue about how we need to shine light in the face of all this darkness, to be the light.

Damn, is she awkward. Just absolutely not smooth.

Aren’t we all so lucky that these two amazing women, my teachers, my role models (don’t act like Borderline didn’t change lives) can show us their awkwardness? Because if they in their power and privilege can’t be awkward, how can we feel okay with looking like a circus attraction once in a while? But they can, so I will.

Won’t you join me?

Books Make Great Gifts!

Screen shot 2015-08-16 at 9.09.26 PM

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon,
NookiTunes and other places books are sold.


Image: Sarah Hood

Do You Have a Super Hero?

Here is the mug a dear friend gave me a few years ago. This friend took a chance on my writing when she started her magazine. We have since started and run a successful business together. Over coffee and slide decks, we dream of future ventures. When she gave me the mug, a Christmas gift I think, she said, “You are a Wonder Woman to me, Lela.”

super hero

Every time I use this mug I remember those words and they encourage me.

I know, it’s just a mug. But I’m a mug person. I still have the mug I received from my very first real(ish) job. My Bellingham National Bank mug is 25 years old. I haven’t managed to break it yet. That one reminds me of the super powers it took to overcome my circumstances at the time (unhealthy relationship, ill-advised “break” from college, questionable 1990s fashion choices, etc.), and make the decisions I needed to make in order to own my own life. And the friends I made at that job. The mug reminds me of them too.

But back to Wonder Woman, because this post is about super heroes. I want to identify with a super hero, so that in my darker moments I’ll have one more tool to make me feel that ‘I can do this thing!’ energy we all need sometimes to power through. Wonder Woman is worthy, and what a sweet compliment from my friend. But I’m not so sure Wonder Woman is the one for me. Just minutes ago she was covered in crusted chocolate, the result of an unfortunate microwave hot cocoa incident. Seems like she would know better, or do better, or jet off in her invisible plane to a land where cocoa never runneth over. Not me.

I have plenty of real life heroes, women (and men) I know who accomplish amazing things or exhibit the qualities I wish I possessed. It’s important to have these people to look up to, but these real life heroes are not super heroes. They are role models. No matter how lovely, they are still human. They still fail. While they deserve our admiration, we can’t hold real people to super standards.

But a superhero, she can take it.

Business coach Erika Lyremark talks about creating “compact super heroes,” different personalities you can fit in your pocket. Each with unique super powers to get you through any situation. I like that idea, too. You create the heroes you need for a given situation. Still, I want the one. My special super girl.

What I don’t want is the busty, half-naked comic book femme fatale, leaping across rooftops and fighting crime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she doesn’t feel like me. Check out Wonder Woman. She is fierce. She is an Amazon.

I am an awkward, say-the-wrong-thing, tiny girl. I like to do yoga and read personal essays. My super power is spreadsheets, which is just not very dramatic, or literary, or conducive to cool costumes. A few months ago I got really excited about a cleaning cloth. Not my best moment. But on this side of 45, I can own all that. And thank goodness, right? Because I must now qualify as middle-aged despite my determination to live to 100. And ladies of a certain age, while we don’t have to grow up (oh, but, never!) we do have to give something back. We do have to be comfortable in our own un-super skin.

So I’m thinking Dorothy Gale. You know, the girl who travelled all the way to Oz to find out her powers were inside her all the time. And do not even try to tell me she is not a super hero. She leads a motley crew through an unknown land, and helps each of them find what they desperately desire. She doesn’t put up with any crap from flying monkeys or bad witches or the man behind the curtain. That’s the kind of power I’d like to tap each day.

And I love sparkly shoes. And pig tails.

Dorothy it is.

Maybe someday I’ll grow up to be Glinda the Good Witch.

But not yet. I still have a lot of traveling to do.

You know what super heroes are extra good for? Helping you fake your balance when everything threatens to tip you right over. 

Also great for that, encouraging words from my latest book: Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life.

Books Make Great Gifts!

Screen shot 2015-08-16 at 9.09.26 PM

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon,
NookiTunes and other places books are sold.


Image: Lela Davidson

Where Are You Making Do?

My hair dryer exploded this week. Literally, sparks came out of the little box where I have plugged it into the wall for I don’t know how many years. I really thought the whole thing might start a real fire. I smelled that weird electrical fire smell and sniffed the outlet several times, in between concealer and mascara. I stopped short of texting my husband, who was traveling for work. Because what could I say? Hey, honey, there might be fire in the wall.

There wasn’t. I’m lucky like that.

Even luckier, my hair was about 98% dry when it happened.

Just a few days earlier, for the first time in a long time, I thought I was probably going to have to get that on my list: buy new hairdryer. Because it’s been broken. For a while. And I’m not just talking about that melted part where it got overused while defrosting the freezer because household appliances must multi-task to earn their keep in this house. One of the many, many times I dropped the dryer, I broke the mechanism that holds the handle in place while the thing is in use. The same one that “un-holds” for handy folding and storage. For a week or two after I broke the handle I was determined to get a new dryer.

But that task never made it to the list.

In time I learned how to hold the handle just right so that drying my hair was almost the same with the damaged tool as it had been before. That happened about 2 years ago. Rather, I should say at least 2 years ago because I have no idea really, except that I remember it was broken before we moved. All those years accommodating something broken, holding it just so in order to make do. Not only because buying a new one never made it to my list, but also because why did I need a new one when this one still worked?

I take a certain pride in making do. It’s seeded deep within me. Which is why it took an explosion to make me take action. An interior designer once assessed my house and declared, “Well bless your heart, you’re just using what you have.” I didn’t know there was another way. And I’m not alone. I have a friend who asked a group of us to hold her accountable for buying new shoes because, although she went back to work nearly a year ago, she has been “making do” in her wardrobe. I have been making do in my office at work for almost 2 years. Maybe it’s time to settle in and make it pretty.

My new hair dryer is slick. It’s very light and it has fancy red lights where the air comes out that make it look like a heated up burner, which is actually kind of terrifying, but also makes me smile. The hair dryer incident made me think about other things in my life I’m just making do with, and that I might want to replace before they threaten bodily harm.

Where are you just making do? 

Books Make Great Gifts!

Screen shot 2015-08-16 at 9.09.26 PM

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon,
NookiTunes and other places books are sold.