Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I've Heard that Song Before - Recipe for Change

"It seems to me I've heard that song before,
It's from an old familiar score
I know it well that melody."

I was listening to this song last week for the purpose of learning it. It was written by the famous team of Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, recorded by Harry James and his Orchestra with Helen Forrest on vocals and became a pop hit in early 1943. Like many songs of that era, it speaks to memories and love lost during wartime. Sad, but sweet.

It occurs to me that the lyrics of this song could relate to my life, and how some of the daily tasks or situations in which I find myself have been repeated over and over (I've heard that song before). I thought perhaps, while acknowledging that I recognize that it is a similar tune (I know it well, that melody), I could think of a different way to perform this tune (task or situation) to facilitate a different outcome. Even if the original outcome for me is working just fine.

For instance, I've read that putting your pants on starting with the "other" leg, forces you to reconsider that small act. I've tried this, and find that it does make you think differently, forcing you out of an old habit just for a moment (I habitually start with the right leg). Any yoga or pilates teacher or physical therapist will tell you that switching sides when vacuuming, raking or shoveling snow helps your body be more balanced in its strength and coordination. So although our natural proclivity may be to always vacuum right (or left) handed, it's worth it to give equal time to the other side - I know my brain works harder, less on automatic pilot when I vacuum or shovel left-handed. Perhaps a little slower at first, but I get the job done.

Another way to make a change and promote a different kind of balance: if I normally didn't greet the people I pass on my walks (or the cashier, mail carrier, or woman in the next office cubicle), I could try nodding my head or just saying hello, and see if that helps me feel friendlier and more connected to the people around me. The worst that could happen is that they don't return the favor - the best outcome (and I am one to assume the best of people) is that that friendly gesture makes both me and the recipient of the "hello" feel noticed and appreciated. Small gestures can be very powerful and are not to be underestimated.

Making small changes like this can feel like a challenge at first, but practiced over time, can lead us to more thoughtfulness about our daily life, a feeling of connection with those around us, and a new and satisfying comfort level with change. All of this may engender a renewed feeling of openness and well-being. Positively.

The photo above is of American singer Helen Forrest, who began singing at age 10, in her brother's band, worked for big band leaders Artie Shaw and Bennie Goodman, then Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton, before being hired by Harry James. She left Harry James' Orchestra in 1943 to pursue a solo career, appearing on radio and in movies before singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, then led by Sam Donahue (it was the early 1960s). Helen Forrest recorded over 500 songs during her long career and didn't retire until her 70s, when arthritis forced her to give up performing. Given all that she did in her lifetime, she is clearly a great role model for change.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shop Special Sale Club Now!

The club referenced in my title is the members only shopping club by which customers obtain special pricing in stores. It's a fact that nearly every store in which I shop regularly has a special membership club. If you sign up (it'll just take a minute) you get special pricing and coupons and another little tag to hang on your already jam-packed keyring.

I understand the concept of a paid club membership to play golf, or a gym to work out, but an unpaid membership to a grocery store or pharmacy seems absurd to me. I realize it's just a method for keeping track of patrons' purchasing habits and a marketing ploy to make shoppers feel unique and cared for. Sort of a sly "permission marketing".

I find this mode of marketing a bit irritating. I don't want to carry more stuff in my purse or pocket, I'd really rather carry less. I'd rather you (I mean you, grocery store or Hallmark Card shop) please just give me (and everyone else) the special prices and stop with the memberships. I can even understand a paid membership to the big box stores like BJs and Costco, where you pay a membership fee to get the special pricing and you can choose to shop there or not. But when I go to CVS and the cashier asks whether I have a CVS card, the hair stands up on the back of my neck with irritation. I'm not entitled to purchase items at the sale prices without the card. Buy a mascara and get the eye shadow at 50% off; that's the kind of sale I'm talking about. So, of course, I have a CVS card. And three different grocery store "memberships", plus BJs, two bookstores, gas station, etc, etc. The coupons resulting (supposedly another membership perk) from such transactions never get used, because I have so many little receipts/coupons in my purse I can't keep track, then they are expired by the time I notice.

I don't think it's just me - I've heard rumblings from others. We can choose not to participate, and sometimes I say "no thank you". I want to know what you think...