customer service: love or rage?

Let’s talk about Customer Service. As a consumer, you know good customer service when you experience it, like love, you know when you’re in love even if you may not be able to quite explain why you love someone. You just do. They meet all your needs, are respectful of your wishes, and give you the indescribable warm and fuzzies. The converse is true. If you’re like me, bad customer service, with a capital B-A-D may at first frustrate and annoy you, and then inevitably escalates to the type of rage only born by repeatedly beating one’s head against a particularly insulting wall. Just Google search (Comcast + Grandma + Hammer) to see what I’m talking about. That woman may be my hero.

Over the past week or so, twice I have been violated in ways that have significant financial and security implications. First my Amex was taken on a $6,000 shopping spree at a Sears Roebuck in Jersey. On what does one even spend six thousand dollars at Sears?? Secondly, on Wednesday night, while I was eating tots in Falls Church, someone stole five packages off my front doorstep. Not two weeks after Fang left us and the neighborhood has turned against me.

Both of these incidents warranted many phone calls to more than a handful of companies in order to rectify the wrongs done to me. Each interaction ended in varying degrees of success. Each company handled my concerns with grace and understanding somewhere on the Love-Rage spectrum of customer service. I have decided to grade them all based on my own customer satisfaction.

The joke is that every time I use my credit card enough to remember the sixteen digits, expiration date and security code, that is about the time that it is stolen and I have to get a new one issued. Tis the age of data and credit theft, no matter what the banking institutitions and CISSP experts do to counter the cyber threat, it happens. The loss of my Amex to a laughable Sears-shopper does not really phase me. I got text and email alerts from USAA the moment it happened (of course I didn’t get those alerts until 4 pm when I left work) and I was able to call and cancel the card on the same day. Anyone else who uses USAA knows that they are customer service MASTERS. No matter what the situation, they respond promptly, with compassion and gratitude. It is the nature of a company that serves those who serve their country.

In this case, the same day I called, the Fraud Folk cancelled my old card and issued me a new one. To be delivered today, in fact. The Fraud Folk also assured me that all six fraudulent charges would be credited back to me one day after they hit my account. Thursday night, after the theft ridiculousness, I got the feeling I should check my USAA account and make sure all was well. It was not. They had credited me back only one of six bogus charges. When I tried to call back and ask Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I discovered the Fraud Folk only work Monday through Friday, eight to six. Seriously. So I called back Friday morning. Spoke to someone who told me I needed to sign some affidavits first which had been mailed a few days prior, before they would credit the rest of the charges. I asked for said affidavits to be emailed to me immediately to speed up this process no one had thought to mention since my initial call. Friday evening after work, it is clear they have taken no action. No affidavits. No credits. So I call the Fraud Folk again. The woman on the phone this time seems to be quite surprised that no action has been taken, and taking pity on me, grabs a Fraud Analyst who I think is on his way out the door (in my head, I’m picturing at knife-point) and voila! Credits will be evident in 24 hours. USAA: C+

About that replacement Amex that I’m expecting today. USAA sent me an email with a tracking number for the replacement card. Clicking the link takes me to the good ole’ United States Postal Service. I remember that USPS had done me the good favor of “upgrading” my account to something called MyUSPS. This is supposed to be some next-level customer portal with increased utility. I’m guessing. Logging into MyUSPS, I’m hoping to click a button to have the USAA package held at my lost post office (I’ve been having some trouble with mail delivery of late…). Woohoo! There is a button. But then it tells me there is a fee to hold at the post office and that I need to checkout my cart. Weird. But I click that button and am given repeated error messages. So much for this shiny new attempt by USPS to join the modern world. I eventually got it to work after logging in on my laptop vice my phone. USPS: C-

As to the four companies I called to see about getting credit or a replacement. In descending order of love, or ascending order of rage–however you want to look at it.

Amazon: A+

The only reason I knew to call Amazon is because UPS told me that a package had been left at my door from them. I figured it must have been a gift because for once, I was not actually expecting anything from the online market giant. Easy to use online system that let me request an immediate phone call. No kidding, took all of two minutes to get someone on the phone. No searching for customer service numbers. No automated answering system and endless “Say what this call is about” or “Press 3 now” or “I didn’t get that. Please try again.” Nope, just a human being. When she told me that the package was a bonsai tree from someone named Stephanie, I immediately understood that 1) my dog sitter had sent me a lovely, thoughtful gift to help me mourn for Fang, and 2) that some jackass had taken it. All I asked this Amazon angel for was if she could recreate the card. Instead, she issued a replacement bonsai with the original card, and empathized with my loss. It was amazing.

Overstock: B

Main issue with Overstock is that while the dude on the phone was very pleasant and understanding, Overstock has a policy which states that they will wait four business days while “investigating” before they will issue credit or a replacement for a missing order. When I called back after two business days and a weekend to ask if there was anything I could do to get my cool-gel-memory-foam pillow….I woke up with a crooked neck…the nice lady released my replacement. Yippee!

DayDesigner: C+

As part of my campaign to take over my own life, I researched the best day planners and decided on a Whitney English Day Designer planner. This thing is a work of art. Has monthly and weekly planning pages, as you’d expect, as well as a place to list out my daily gratitudes, top three concerns, and dinner planning. For $62, this thing is going to be my 2016 bible. And it was freaking not there when I was all set to spend an evening prepping it! My complaints, their website lists NO PHONE NUMBER. None! They have a email form on the site but we all know the longer you leave these things to fester, the less fantastic they get. So I tweeted at them. Yes, I will unleash a social media storm if you leave me no other choice. Twenty minutes later, I get an email back with a link to the USPS tracking saying it was delivered and wishing me a nice night. Read your emails and try to discern the problem. Four email exchanges later, they shipped out a replacement and offered me printable planning pages while I wait.

J.crew: D-

It is no joke, J.crew autocorrects to “screw” on my laptop. Yep, accurate. J.crew is now the ONLY company that has not replaced my order. They are waiting until eight business days from my order until they will “investigate”. Same issue I have with Overstock: companies operating on the assumption that a customer is trying to screw them over. I’m really not, I just want my new silver flats and puffy vest. Which I was going to wear to work on Friday. And which may not be available to re-ship on Monday since they were on sale.

Final thoughts: working in customer service, I know it can be difficult to take the time to be a compassionate listener, ensuring the needs of your customers are met to the best of your abilities, with expediency and care. Nothing ruins the customer experience more than the condescension, mistrust, laziness or indifference of a bad customer service rep. Beware, companies go wrong with poor user interfaces, bug-y websites, phone systems that just throw up roadblocks and denying access to a human. These top the list of electronic failures. On the other hand, all you need to grab me as a loyal, life-long customer, is to listen and respond with care when I’m crying on the phone about a lost bonsai tree.

 

P.S. I’m writing about customer service because I’m not ready to write about that other thing just yet.

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test. tested. testing.

Prompted by the document scanner I received for Christmas, I started sorting, scanning and filing about a decade’s worth of paperwork last week. Oh, the wonder of OneNote. During this excavation, I discovered a clear plastic folder my mom had given to me a few years ago. Inside were some important things like my birth certificate and an old passport. My acceptance and scholarship letter from UVa. That kind of thing.

In addition to these proofs of my existence, my mom had saved things like Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores from tenth grade, report cards from eleventh grade, AP and SAT test scores. I got a 1280, by the way. I giggled at the proud mama-ness of it all, looking at all of these now-obsolete datapoints about my fifteen and sixteen-year old capabilities.

What bearing does my 93 in AP Environmental Science have on my life now? None, whatsoever, but I do remember enjoying that class. We read about sustainability and global ethics in Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The theory of the Tragedy of the Commons. Our teacher, Mrs. Hypes, made us do research entirely in printed media: newspapers, science magazines and periodicals. No internet searches allowed. We helped with an elementary school science day. I helped fifth graders build water purifiers from rock and sand. I also volunteered with an after-school gifted-in-science program for middle-schoolers. Looking back, this was probably the first experience I had with teaching. So no, neither I nor anyone else cares about the grade I got in 2003 in an AP class, but what I learned that year has had a significant bearing on my life.

Due to the ongoing job search, I requested my UVa transcripts in case someone wants proof I attended. Besides the four years worth of Facebook posts from my dorm, the sorority house, the Grounds, the apartment on 14th street. Social media definitely says I was there, but my guess is that employers would like something more official. The transcript is interesting. Reading it, I feel like an archeologist deciphering the decline and subsequent rise of an ancient culture. Besides the obvious, what do the numbers and GPA say about my life during those years? I see the first year I mostly stayed in bed. I see the semester I got past the required coursework, drilled down a bit more on my interests, but also joined a sorority. I see the final two years working like hell to bring up my GPA, on the Dean’s List. I see the concentration of my passions in Linguistics and Italian studies and the corresponding successes in those areas. I see the year I volunteered with foreign graduate students as an ESL tutor. When I arrived, it was immediately clear to me that I was nowhere near the smartest kid at UVa. I was not an engineering prodigy or a pre-med struggling through Organic Chemistry. I was not a mogul-in-the-making with an eye on the Darden School. But I am proud of myself. Proud that I found and pursued my passions. Proud that I graduated from Virginia having put everything I had into it.

Like many others this past weekend, I sat mesmerized by the Netflix docuseries Making a MurdererTalk about a train wreck. There was a lot of talk about the intellectual capabilities of Brendan Dassey. Sixteen year old Brendan was said to have an IQ around 70. Of course, I start Googling. I wanted to know what an IQ of 70 actually means in the real world. I want to know what the upper and lower ends of the scale are. I also would like to know where I fall on that scale. Turns out, there are many different types of IQ tests and the scale runs from about 45 to 155. I took five online IQ tests, each using a slightly different methodology to give myself a good idea, within one standard deviation, of my own IQ.

Here were the sites I used and my scores:

Averaging these together, and with the understanding that these were probably not the most accurate or official tests out there, this leaves me with an IQ around 126. Given I did not want to pay these websites for a full report, I got little more than my number on a sliding scale. Although, seemypersonality.com did tell me that creativity and writing are not strengths of mine. I’ll just ignore that, thank you very much. Depending on which scale you use, my intelligence quotient is categorized as either “Superior” or “High”. While those are very nice-sounding words, they, like my high school and college tests scores, do not tell the whole story.

Numbers are not strengths, simply indicators. My numbers indicate that my mind works more quickly and retains more than others. This says nothing about my emotional strengths or weaknesses. Says nothing about the fact that my family has been laughing at my seeming lack of common sense since I was a kid. Says nothing about my potential as a leader or my social skills. Says nothing about compassion or kindness. Nothing of perseverance.

Life seems to be full of tests. Never-ending tests. We are assigned numbers and ratings from the time we are in Kindergarten and on through adulthood. Think about how numbers affected the type of opportunities or limits on your own life. Or your children’s lives. From the very start. As a society, we place such high value on numbers alone. Funneling people into corresponding buckets. You’ll be placed in a gifted and talented program. You’ll be placed in remedial classes. You’ll be encouraged to take STEM electives. You’ll be steered towards auto shop and cosmetology. You’ll be given a full ride scholarship. You’ll encouraged to take community college classes. You’ll be hired. You’ll be passed on. You’ll be promoted. You’ll remain in your current position.

There is so much more to the intelligence, worth and strengths of a person than the numbers our society uses to define us from the age of five. My own numbers have led me through a great life thus far. Complete luck of the draw that my earliest numbers pushed me to the position to continue to earn and benefit from more numbers. Not everyone is so lucky. We need to recognize that and fight for another way. A better way to measure and quantify a person. Numbers do not tell the whole story.

that is the question.

I’m not talking about Hamlet’s existential crisis. I am, however, referring to one of the most basic questions in the universe. A simple, Why?

Why, Mommy? I’m fairly sure this was my first question. I’m also fairly sure that I abused it. My curiosity was, and still is, extreme. I want to know how and why things work. If I see a good movie, I follow up and research the topic until I think I have a good handle on the facts, the speculations, the lore. After reading The Other Boleyn Girl, I spent nine hours researching Henry VIII and his wives. And the Tudors. And Queen Elizabeth. And Mary Scots.

When we’re younger, we use Why to explore and understand our world. But as we grow older, Why seems to take on new meaning. It becomes the default setting, the knee jerk response to anything new and unknown, scary or simply annoying. With adulthood, Why evolves into a challenge and a dismissal. I can’t blame Why; it can be a perfectly good question. When the status quo is working just fine, why bother?

One of my favorite videos on the interwebs is called This is Water. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend not infrequent viewings to remind oneself that we are more than our default setting. The video is set to a well-known graduation speech given by Author David Foster Wallace, and follows your typical Millennial through what can arguably be called the ninth circle of hell: food shopping, after work, during rush hour. My favorite part about this whole setup? It reminds me to just consider, for a moment, before I lose my mind at the utter stupidity of the world around me, that everyone else is in the same boat. And more importantly, to consider that the lady in front of me failing miserably to control her child may just be the angel from the phone company who just yesterday took pity on me and my phone bill. And further, that the possible reason she is having trouble with her son is because he’s going through a rough phase after his father’s recent abandonment. These things are unlikely. But, I remind myself that I have the intellectual capacity to give the benefit of the doubt to my fellow humans in the ninth circle of hell.

So back to Why. A couple of years ago, I was traveling overseas and met with a colleague of mine. She boiled humanity down to one very simple phrase. She said, “There are those of us who ask Why?, and those of us who ask Why not?” Mind. Blown. Intrinsically, I understood this. However, this was the first time it had been voiced so simply and eloquently to me.

There are those of us who are still open to new possibilities and who do not immediately reject any notion which may involve a little more. More research, more effort, more compassion. I can say with complete honesty, I am definitely a Default Setting kind of person. I wish it came easier to me. I really do. There are days when I lack the patience or motivation to ask  Why not? But far more frequently, I remember to pause. Pause when someone suggests a method or idea I hadn’t considered. Pause when a friend invites me halfway across the world for a long weekend of fun. Hell, pause when a friend invites me fifteen miles away for a drink. (The introvert in me really needs to pause on that one.) I pause when someone asks for something that initially sounds completely preposterous.

What do we get when we pause? We may change our minds about the “right” way to do things. We may experience food and culture and arts that would have otherwise been too costly or time-consuming to explore. We may catch up with good friends over bottomless mimosas which will somehow lead to a new opportunity in life. We may discover that a request which seems silly or selfish at first glance, is actually quite easy to fulfill and may carry unimaginable meaning to someone else.

If, like me, you need a nudge every once in a while–or daily–to be the type of person who asks Why not? instead of Why? then remind yourself! The power of mindful thinking. If you’re not into mindful thinking, then this video will do the trick.

Choose your response to life.

at home & abroad.

Christmas Eve. Fang and I are snug on my couch. Safe in America and only thirty minutes away from the homestead. Such a luxury, to be able to see all of my loved ones, in person, on Christmas tomorrow.

It hasn’t always been so for us, and I feel a little guilty in my contentedness thinking of my friends around the world who will not be with family this holiday. This life of service we’ve chosen truly requires sacrifice. And what other time than the holidays to most feel the sharp stab of longing for the comforts of home and loved ones? Life feels punctuated by all the moments you missed.

Looking back on all of the holidays and special events that were just slightly off –because of our family’s duty to Country–you know, they were some of the most memorable and special for it. Nothing will make you appreciate your family and home more than being away from it during a time entirely devoted to the importance of Family.

There was the Christmas in high school when Dad was gone for months, including Christmas, in order that my parents could afford to buy me my first car. A 1992 green Mercury Cougar. With a red bow on it fit for a Lexus. That thing was a tank and I loved it. But I have to admit, at the time in my teenage angst, I was a teeny bit resentful of his absence. Not until I was an adult, serving my own Christmas in a war zone at the age of 23, did I full comprehend what my parents gave up to provide the best life possible for their children.

At 23, the year I missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, my Mom’s birthday, my brother’s graduation from college, and so many other moments. I wasn’t without love. The family we built out there on camaraderie and pure survival saw us through the holidays. My job was basically to serve as the mom for all of my coworkers. Duties included jerry-rigging decorations and nagging the guys to not forget to write to their moms/wives/girlfriends/children.

That year for Christmas, my parents sent me a camera so that I could document life. Knowing that I have loved taking photos since I was old enough to understand what a camera was and how to operate it, this was a fantastic gift. Or at least it would have been. Mom sent it through the mail system early and I put the wrapped present under a hand drawing of a tree in my hooch and dutifully waited until Christmas morning to open it. The box was empty! I laugh now, but then, I cried like a baby. Getting a gift from Mom and Dad was the closest thing to normal that I had, and it was off. Mom to the rescue; she went back to the store, probably Target, explained what happened, and I got the camera about a month later. I still have it, even if I’ve upgraded a few times since. That thing went through a lot to get to me.

A week later, tragedy struck. How do you celebrate the coming of a new year and a clean slate when you’ve just lost friends to senselessness? There are no words. Twenty four hours after, I was faced with a decision: go ahead with the New Years “party” I had put together in the MWR or cancel it. I went with something in the middle. God knows why, but I’d found a six inch mirror ball in a storage closet and rigged it on string to drop at midnight. I had our cooks make platters of “American” food and had hoarded enough Johnny Walker to toast with. We used the occasion to mourn and move on because there was no other choice. Life and the rest goes on and there is no stopping.

Fast forward to a year later. I decide to surprise my family for Christmas. I worked it out with a close friend of mine to pick up and drop me off in a giant gift bag that I could hide in and get left on the door stoop. Stupid, yes. Cute, absolutely. SURPRISE. My first flight is significantly delayed and I am told that I will likely miss my connecting flight in Paris. Because, Africa. My heart sank and I felt a desperate urge to Just. Get. Home. I ran through Charles de Gaulle and made my flight. My luggage, not so much. Despite the nighttime arrival, my friend was kind enough to drive me to Target to get a change of clothes and a tooth brush. The gifts I’d ferreted in my suitcase wouldn’t make it that year. But the look of utter disbelief on Mom’s face when she looked down the stairs and saw me-priceless. Air France managed to find and return my luggage back a couple months later.

At 25, I was nearly fired over a special event. My little brother was graduating boot camp in mid-January so we postponed Christmas so that we could all be there. I would fly home from North Africa and head down to see Larry at Paris Island before we all went home and celebrated. And then a month in advance, a project comes up that I cannot miss. No, what I was not going to miss, was another graduation of his. At the end of the day, what am I going to look back on and regret-missing being on hand to open doors for a Big Wig… or missing the moment of pride in seeing my little brother become a US Marine? Easy decision for me. Ultimately, I won that battle, which was made moot when said Big Wig cancelled said project at the last minute. We froze our assess off hoping to catch a glimpse of Larry running by in formation and then hugged his skeletal frame in an auditorium full of other families ecstatic to see their newly minted Marines.

So tonight, I am thinking of my dearest friends all over the world. Sacrificing and serving so that I can sit here with Fang on my cozy couch in America. We’re sending you all hugs and licks. I’m also thinking of my family. It still surprises me every time I realize I can just hop in the car and go see them. Especially during this season. The holidays are special and even if you can’t be with family, they are still out there, thinking of and loving you. Waiting until that next time they get to hold you hard enough to make up for being absent on that arbitrary date which the calendar tells us is special.

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, everyone.

 

four questions.

Given my current circumstances, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to interviews and hiring practices. Looking back on my own experiences sitting on hiring panels and being interviewed, I must say there are good interview questions, and those that don’t quite cut it.

How do you judge if a candidate is a good fit? That they have the goals, morals, ambitions, the technical skills and a demeanor compatible with an organization? You ask questions, of course. These are the best I’ve encountered.

Why do you want this position, and what makes you the best candidate?

This is such a basic question and yet, somehow so difficult to answer. Why do I want this thing and why am I worthy of this thing? There is a line between the simple truth that I want this thing and I think wholeheartedly that I my past experiences and future potential would make me a rockstar in this job…and the reality of needing to show an employer that I have the self-awareness of my own abilities, have done the research to describe tangible reasons why this job, why this company. Until the day that we can look into a person’s mind and translate desire and conviction into concrete reason, this is a pivotal question.

How do you handle stress?

Back to that self-awareness. A company cannot pretend that life and work will always be sunshine and rainbows and unicorn farts. And likewise, a candidate must be able to demonstrate their own strength in the face of adversity. Each person handles stress differently, but each person does experience stress. Knowing that a candidate has the maturity and wherewithal to handle stressful situations in a manner that does not obliterate workplace morale–that is important.

What does Leadership mean to you?

Now, this one. I’ve seen and answered many iterations of this question. However, not all leadership questions are equal. Most often, I’ve been asked about my ‘leadership strategy.’ Any answer to this question is likely bullshit because frankly, being a leader is fluid and flexible depending on the team one is working with, the environment and the task at hand. You will sound like a robot listing off your surefire ‘steps to being a leader.’

Asking what leadership means to an individual is able to capture so much more. How a leader communicates. How team dynamics ensure the success or failure of a project. How a true leader empowers and inspires her team. An understanding that each person has individual needs, style, passions, and hot buttons. How trust is the most important ingredient in a workplace relationship. I don’t need a strategy, but I do need to know the difference between leading and managing, and the equally important acts of listening and following.

What gives you energy?

This. This I am borrowing from a truly insightful woman. What gives you energy? What makes you tick? What makes you want to get up in the morning, Monday through Friday, with a smile on your face? More and more, my generation especially, we want a career that is meaningful. Have a positive impact on others, on the world. We want to work our asses off, see the fruits of our labor and to be recognized for such. For an employer, how amazing to see that spark in the eyes of the person sitting across from you and to start to formulate how you will leverage that passion to further the goals of your company. It is no secret that brilliance occurs when we put our energies towards a project or cause we care about and are given the freedom to pursue ideas and solutions. It’s kismet. Linking an individual and her passions with a company equally excited to put those interests to good use.

coming out of the closet.

Walking back to my desk yesterday, a CD in hand, I felt like that poor anemic-looking kid holding a damn golden ticket. That ticket? My resume. All mine. Free to share with whomever I choose. I won’t start quoting Martin Luther King Jr. just yet, but the feeling is close.

You may have noticed a difference as of late. I certainly feel different. I’ve been trying to decide on an acceptable comparison for my recent awakening. A prisoner released, after 30 years, discovering the wonder of an iPhone? Alice popping out in Wonderland? Dorothy seeing in technicolor for the first time? Let’s go with able to breathe and be myself.

Seem extreme? Here’s an illustration. I got that shiny golden ticket, ready to upload to the world on full blast on the three new social networking sites I’ve joined and on which am probably making all sorts of inexperienced faux pas. I get home and pop that sucker into my Mac only to realize that I’ve never used my laptop for anything other than email and Netflix. I have no word processing because I’ve never had to take work home. No big deal…I’ll just have to make my Mac compatible with my newfound requirements. No so fast, Cassandra. There are approximately one million document readers for Mac. After an hour of searching for an actual MS Word app, I decide that it doesn’t exist. Google is your friend. I realize that, holy hell! MS Office is expensive! I decide on a monthly subscription, sign away my firstborn, and hit the download button. Turns out, I have not updated my operating system in three years. Because, once again, my laptop was used for nothing more than email and Netflix. Falling asleep waiting for the download and install process to complete, I wake up in the middle of the night and go about finally sharing with the world what it is I can do.

I am amazed at the power and sophistication of modern technology. In the span of a few days, I am reconnected with peers, colleagues, friends. I’ve found jobs that I think may energize me once again. I imagine my face when designing my LinkedIn profile as similar to that of my grandmother’s the first time she used Facebook. I’ve signed up to be a dog sitter because you really can’t ever have enough furry friends. Discovered a dearth of online market places to clear out the clutter that has been weighing me down. Using the United app, booked a trip to Croatia for my thirtieth. This blog itself is something I’ve wanted to devote my creative juices toward for years.

For months, I’ve been planning my jump from the severe cloister of the Government to the private sector. Given I have no parachute and am clearly ignorant of the freedom of today’s technologies, this jump is really a leap of faith. But leaping headfirst, I am. And enjoying the hell out of the fall, golden ticket in hand.

 

a murder of one.

gioia /joy·ee·ah/          dolore /dul·ore·ay/

First things first. What is gioiadolore? It is Italian for joy and sorrow. More importantly, it is an idea I’ve been batting about since I was a teenager.

One for sorrow, two for mirth. Three for a funeral, four for birth. Five for heaven. Six for hell. Seven for the devil, his own self.

This superstitious nursery rhyme dates back to Britain circa 1780. The saying contends that you can determine your fate by the number of magpies that cross your path. Here in America, we associate this rhyme more with crows because 1) magpies are much less common, and 2) the Counting Crows modernized the rhyme in the song A Murder of One.

One for sorrow. Two for joy. This song has been my favorite since I first heard it playing on mom’s stereo in 1995. At its core, it is damn depressing. But there is still a note of hope and possibility. Dreams and lost love and finding yourself. Change.

When I was younger I thought that being one meant sadness but that having a pair meant automatic joy. I’ve even considered for my second tattoo a pair of crows. One light and one in dark.

Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria. – Dante Inferno, Canto V 

“There is no greater sorrow than while remembering a time of happiness in your misery.” In college, I was a bit of a Dante nerd. When I came across this gem in Inferno, something struck. The scales are not as black and white as a magpie. One, you get sadness. Two, you get bliss. It is a balance. There is not one without the other.

At the heart of what I’d like to say here, in this forum, is that it is Ok to rage and cry and laugh and experience joy. All together. Recognizing the nugget of joy within the sorrow, within all things is a daily struggle. But it is a worthwhile fight.