Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Thank you, Ruder Finn!

I'm leaving Ruder Finn because I need time off.

For a few months before deciding I was convinced I didn't know what I wanted to do next, but it turns out I do.

What I want is to sit at my dining room table with a cup of coffee on a Tuesday morning without feeling like I need to treat it like a shooter.

I want to move through a day that isn't overbooked to saunter and make space for serendipity.

I want to stay up late writing without worrying that I need to be at work early the next day.

I want to see what it's like to not have to enter a time sheet.

I want to loiter. Not forever. Just for a little while.

My last day at Ruder Finn will be January 4th.

I am so very satisfied with the last three years. I woke up one day working alone on a laptop out of my apartment; now Ruder Finn has a team in San Francisco that is level-headed, intelligent, hungry and inspiring. I love them so much.

Maybe we'll FaceTime every morning while I sip my coffee.

The people who work at Ruder Finn are first rate. While my dad was sick and I tried to both be there for him and run an office, I heard nothing but "you do what you need to do". Feeling torn is a terrible thing and I never did. What a gift.

While my systems get refreshed I will write. And do yoga. And do executive coaching: media and presentation training, assisting people in articulating what they want to say about themselves, their companies, their vision, their brand.

If you know anyone who needs media coaching or presentation training, reach out. (If you don't, reach out anyway.)

Of course leaving my job with no concrete plans is scary.  Leaving a perfectly good company to loaf, to dabble, to fritter my mornings away can be considered crazy.

But I know what I would tell you if you were in the same situation and came to me for advice.

Honey. It would be crazy not to.

Twitter: @DushkaAmateur

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Extroverted dreams

Confessions of a closet introvert: we briefly dream extroverted dreams.
Me: To properly celebrate my next birthday I'm going to throw an epic party with Eighties music. Let's start assembling a list of who should come!
Boyfriend: You hate parties.
Me: You make an excellent point.
Boyfriend: So, are you sure you want to work on a list of who to invite?
Me: to properly celebrate my next birthday I want to travel to a remote, uninhabited location.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Please no

Confessions of a closet introvert:
Whenever we have plans, a version of the following conversation takes place:
Me: Oh no. I don’t feel like it.
Boyfriend: Let’s go! It will be fun!
Me: Ugh, no. No. I don’t want to.
Boyfriend: Come on! You’ll enjoy seeing everyone!
Me: No no no no please no
Boyfriend: OK. Would you like to stay home and I’ll go?
Me: Yes. Yes! But no. I can’t. We already confirmed. Why did we confirm? Why why why?
Boyfriend drives. I pout. I enjoy seeing everyone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why is finding a soul mate so hard?

Anais Nin said "we have been poisoned by fairy tales." 

"Soul mate" is a romantic notion that contributes to us developing unrealistic expectations. 

There are many many wonderful people out there who would make a great significant other, after which you really have to work on yourself and your own baggage to make the relationship something worthy of a romance novel. 

Soul mates are not found. They are created.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


His whole life my dad dreamed of grandchildren. By the time his first was born he already had early symptoms of dementia.
He would have been more present had he not been busy desperately fighting to not come undone.
I remember you healthy: powerful, supportive, dictatorial
I remember you sick: repetitive, disoriented, lonely.
I loved you just the same.
I remember you in your entirety. 
I remember you.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The perfect family.

Boyfriend, my niece, my nephew and I are standing in line for ice cream. We've had a full day so everyone is subdued. I lean over and give Boyfriend a smooch.

A woman walks up to me.

"I admire you so much" she says. "You have the most beautiful family. Your kids are so well behaved. You and your husband look blissful. Please tell me your secret."

"Well" I say. "This man here is not my husband. And these are not my kids. We just borrowed them."

"OH THANK GOD" she says and walks away.

The perfect family. It doesn't exist.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Introvert at work

Confessions of a closet introvert:
Robin: I want to show you a deck and get your thoughts on it. Can we sit side by side and go through the slides?
Me: Can you send me the deck so I can read it and think about it and use the “comment” tool to add my thoughts?

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Boyfriend is meeting my dad for the first time. They’re drinking from a bottle of Japanese Whiskey Boyfriend purveyed for the occasion.

Boyfriend: What was it like to raise four kids?
Dad: They get sick and argue and don’t come home when they say they will and you worry constantly. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Boyfriend: Tell me about Dushka. What was she like?
“Andrew.” My Dad says, eyes shining. “Dushka was perfect”.

My Dad died 8 months ago today. While the world reminds me daily of my flaws and shortcomings, this is the diamond – resplendent, indestructible - my father left lodged in the center of my heart.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Setting: early evening. Crowded bus.

A woman sitting turns to a guy standing.
Her: Excuse me, would you like to sit here?
Him: Whah? Oh, no thank you.
Her: I figured you could take my seat and I could sit on your lap.
They regard each other for a second.
Him: Sure.

I learn so much taking public transport.

Go for it

While I understand there is virtue in patience I don’t think it’s necessarily true that good things come to those who wait. Good things come to those who go for it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

No plans

Confessions of a closet introvert:
Barista: do you have any awesome plans for the weekend?
Me: YES.
Barista: What will you be doing?
Me: Nothing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Defying Stephen King

I walked into class on my first day of college feeling edgy and disoriented to find Carla sitting on the other side of the room, under the window. She looked right at me and flashed me a smile. More than feeling like she was greeting a stranger I felt like she was recognizing someone she had always known and was happy to see. I walked over and sat next to her.

Her company was easy; she laughed often and loudly. We defined loyalty similarly, and agreed on what we felt was most important, even as that evolved. From that day, she set up permanent residence in my heart and now, 25 years later, still firmly holds the title of Best Friend.

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12”, wrote Stephen King in Stand by Me. I asked my Dad if this could possibly be true. He nodded. “Life gets in the way” he said. “You have less time and other priorities.”

I won’t be that kind of adult, I vowed. I don’t want to ever become a person who feels she doesn’t have time for friends.  

And then I got busy.

I got picky too. Arriving at a restaurant on time or an ability to make and stick to agreed upon commitments became a critical requirement. If I didn’t have time, I definitely did not have time for flaky.

In my late twenties and thirties my life revolved around moving to a new country, working in a demanding, full time job that involved building teams, and being a good wife. I didn’t have time for much else.

And then I got a divorce.

I told my friend Amit that the hardest thing as a single woman in her 40s was opening my eyes after the alarm went off and determining in those first seconds how I was going to get through the day. He proceeded to call me every morning at 7:00.

I was vexed to realize that I had somehow bought into the notion that I didn’t have time, that I had more important things to do, that friends were not a priority. If you tell yourself “it’s too hard”, that becomes reality. In other words, I voluntarily closed myself off to one of the most enriching, heart-filling, affirming parts of life.

My friend Andrea said it best: “friends, like sleep, are an essential yet undervalued aspect of our existence.”

And then my Dad got sick – fatally sick – and he didn’t have many friends come by to see him. The end of his life forced me to more carefully evaluate what I was doing with mine.

I think every day about defying Stephen King. I try to be open to the delicate serendipity of making new friends. I remind myself to embrace people for exactly who they are and watch with wonder how they show up their way, not mine.

I also go out of my way to spend time with all the friends I made back when it felt like love, back when I saw my best friend Carla’s big eyes in the light of that window. Back when the two of us spent whole afternoons hanging out on the couch laughing without it ever occurring to either of us it would one day be necessary to make more elaborate plans.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Collective words

In the hope that this delights you as much as it did me, I hereby inform you that the collective word for cats is an intrigue, a parade for elephants, a tower for giraffes, a thunder for hippopotamus and a conspiracy for lemurs. Also, a romp for otters, a crash for rhinoceroses and a murder for crows. 

Now excuse me while I locate an exaltation of larks.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I got on the bus to find it filled to the brim with maybe thirty noisy, smelly, snotty, chatty seven year old kids. 

When we reached their stop the teacher asked "what do we say, children?" And they all replied in unison "THANK YOU BUS!"

It's barely the start of my day and I have already felt irritated, overwhelmed and delighted.
Kids. Tiny emotional roller coasters

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What does grief feel like?

Grief is personal.
You’ve probably read the 7 or 9 or whatever stages of grief but the truth is each person grieves differently and the stages happen in no particular order or not at all or all at once. When my dad died helpful people asked me why on Earth I wasn’t crying. I didn’t cry at all, not a single tear, for the first couple of weeks. After that I did, but never as much as would be considered by the general population the “correct amount”. Rather than sitting in a corner to sob what I wanted was to run. It was a fight; or a flight. It didn’t feel like I had lost someone. It felt like I was in danger.

The whole world is on another planet far, far away from yours.
It felt like time had slowed way down for me. I would compare it to being suspended under water, complete with muffled sounds, languid movement and refracted light. But the rest of the world keeps moving, fast, and the sheer frenzy of it exerts an unintended, relentless, exhausting pressure.

My dad died December 15, 2014, and through a few weeks that mostly felt unreal, everywhere I went cheery people would ask “how is your holiday going?” “What are you doing for New Years?” “Are you enjoying your time off?” and every time it caught me completely unprepared. It wiped me out.

Simple things can be hard.
We had to go through and sort my father’s things, his house, his clothes, his drawers and files. It might have been easier had we not felt like plunderers, invaders transgressing on a privacy he always guarded with such sacredness.

People tell you “things get better”.
You’d think this would bring someone solace. But here is the catch: in a way, your feelings are part of what is left of the other person. As such, you don’t want to get better. Not right away, anyway. Also, it feels like feeling better too quickly would be an act of betrayal. So saying “things will get better” can be an affront.

People say “don’t be sad”.
I don’t understand why we are so afraid of feelings. Happy is OK, but sad has to be “addressed”. It must “move on”. It calls for a “solution”. But sad is not a problem.

I’m sad, and I’m not ready to not be sad. I am going to sit here with my big bag of sad for as long as it wants to hang out with me. I consider sad to be essential. It respects the truth within me, and as such, it is beautiful.

(Of course I am not talking about clinical depression or a grief that has stayed with a person for whatever length is no longer “normal”. I am talking about natural feelings associated with losing someone you deeply loved and wanting to sort through every one in your own way. For clinical depression, talk to a doctor. I’m no doctor.)

People say “cheer up”. Or even “suck it up.”
I know they mean well, but this feels like you are being slapped. It’s a form of aggression. This sadness is mine, and you can’t touch it. So back off. But thank you.

You feel (and this is so horrible it hurts to write it) like you are going to forget the person that you lost.
It’s so shocking for a person to be there and then to not be there that it feels like everything they were will disappear. I fear I won’t remember my father’s voice or the glint in his eye or his clean smell or his soft white handkerchiefs or the way he put his foot up on something to tie his shoelace or the frequently astounding things he used to say when I asked for his opinion. 

So what does a grieving person want? For the whole world to grind to a halt? Why, yes. We want, in words of W.H. Auden, to “stop all the clocks.” We want “an airplane to scribble on the sky the message He is Dead”. We want “the stars put out, the moon packed up, the sun dismantled, the ocean poured away.” But we understand this isn’t reasonable, so ask instead for patience as we very slowly step back out into this new world that no longer includes a person who once determined its shape.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The truth.

The day before he died, my Dad was bedridden, delirious, anxious.

What’s next? He’d ask.
Why don’t you rest, and we will figure it out a bit later?
Yes, he’d say. I'm so tired.
What’s next? He’d ask in a panic ten minutes later. What’s next?
Why don’t you take a short nap and we will take it from there?

After hours of this, my brother came into the room.
What's next?
What's next, Pedro says, is that you are going to die.

My father, despite severe dementia, looked right at him and nodded.

Even when it’s terrible, there is nothing like the truth.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Me: Life is so unpredictable. What do you think are the chances that we'll actually grow old together?
Boyfriend: we're already old.
Boyfriend. Incontrovertibly logical.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make up

Mom: I just saw your beautiful new Facebook profile photo. You need eye make-up.
Me: Ick. I don’t like make-up.
Mom: Just a touch. To heighten the eyes. 
Me: Ick.
Mom: Just try it. And if you’re going to say no again, spare me.
Me: I don’t like the consistency.
Mom: I’m going to bed with my Kindle. Good Night!
Me: xoxo
Mom: Item. Do you remember my friend Constantina?
Me: Yes!
Mom: I just saw a photo of her. I couldn’t believe it. Shocking.
Me: What was shocking?
Mom: She looks so terrible.
Me: Why? She’s beautiful!
Mom: She's wearing no make up. Good night!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Instead of one

My sister in law calls the kids over. 
"Guys! Uncle Andrew and Auntie Dushka are leaving! Come say goodbye!"
My nephew turns to look at me, forlorn. He shuffles over, head hanging.
"Auntie Dushka."
"Yes, sweetheart?"
"When you come next time, can you please bring me two gifts instead of one?"

Thursday, July 2, 2015


We knew Christmas 2013 would be his last. 

I was walking in the garden and saw him through the window. Instead of heavy hearted he looked happy, surveying decorations and gifts. He caught me looking at him and waved. The reflection makes him look like an apparition.
I remember you angry and sick and scared and frustrated but mostly I remember you like this. The glint in your eye and the tailor made clothes and that swell of love I feel come towards me as if you were still right here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Do you remember?

I wish I could hold on to it. Yet I know 20 years from now this past weekend will come only in flashes. Do you remember the bright pink lining of my flower dress, the sweeping view from the rooftop party, the euphoric rainbow parade? Do you remember the unicorn trotting alongside the bare breasted girl, that picnic on the grass overlooking the ocean, my mango sticky rice popsicle? Do you remember that deal you made with the boy who is now 26?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Donald Trump Ignorant?

I’m sure that by now you’ve heard what Donald Trump said about Mexico and Mexicans:
“[Mexico] are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”

He claimed he would build a “great, great wall” on the Mexican-American border, and accused Mexico of “sending not the right people” to the US.

A great great wall. Sending not the right people.

Naturally when I heard all this, I disregarded it. No one takes Donald Trump seriously.

A few of my friends told me that Trump running for president would make the elections “more entertaining”. That by turning the other way I was tragically “missing out”.

His comments were called “racist tinged”. (What? They were “racist immersed”.)

As I’m sure you’ve deduced, I have gone from “uninterested” to increasingly uncomfortable with the absurd notions he is leaving behind. 

Donald Trump is a rich man living in New York. The city he owns skyscrapers in runs in large part thanks to invisible, undocumented people from Mexico. Chances are really high that the toilets he has used have been cleaned by Mexican workers.

Did you know that Mexicans who come into the United States are known for their work ethic? They start work earlier, work harder, stay later and ask for more. They leave everything they know – their country and family and everything familiar to them, including their language and religion – to risk their lives in an effort to support themselves and the people that they love.   
Don’t call it “The American Dream”. Mexican workers take the jobs no one else would take. (Example: the regular use of strong, toxic chemical cleaners to scrub blood and feces off walls in meat packaging plants). They live in fear of being deported and separated from their families. They work multiple jobs and still can’t make ends meet.

The last thing they need is for someone with a presidential campaign platform to turn them into criminals in our eyes.

Have you heard what Anthony Bourdain, the American Chef and television personality has to say about Mexican workers? “If you’re looking for a line cook who’s professional in his work habits, responsible with your food, dependable, a guy with a sense of humor, reasonably good character, and a repertoire of French and Italian standards, and who can drill out 250 meals without going mental or cutting corners too egregiously, chances are you’ll go to Carlos, your grill man. And ask him for a recommendation. Carlos will have a cousin or a brother for you.”

“The bald fact is that the entire restaurant industry in America would close down overnight, would never recover, if current immigration laws were enforced quickly and thoroughly across the board.”

Which reminds me of the satirical movie A Day without a Mexican, in which the entire state of California grinds to a halt without the labor of Mexican workers. In real life, other regions (such as Arizona) have found themselves in situations comparable to this when immigrant workers are “relocated”.

In the meantime, Donald Trump will continue to take for granted the shiny, clean windows of his golden towers. The fruit and vegetables gracing his table. The views of immaculately maintained golf courses.

I read people called Donald Trump “ignorant”, which makes me want to paraphrase Morgan Freeman. Please don’t call Donald Trump “ignorant”. It’s not that he doesn’t know. It’s that he’s an asshole.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Me: I'm always the one running, hiding, being pursued.
Boyfriend: Is this a dream again?
Me: Yes.
Boyfriend: got it.
Me: Except lately I'm the perpetrator. I have recurring dreams that I commit murder. It's so disturbing I looked it up. I read it can mean I'm processing a loss, making a drastic change or feeling overwhelmed.
Boyfriend: Do you recognize who you kill?
Me: No.
Boyfriend: Excellent.
Boyfriend. Cutting to the chase.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Scotch and the fight between good and evil

The first time I tasted Scotch I was teething. My Dad used it to soothe my gums. 
When I was seven he taught me how to say “le mots impossible n'existe pas” because he wanted his kid to quote Napoleon. When I was ten he explained that infidelity was a requirement for the procurement of the species and that, as such, monogamy was an absurd social construct. 
He did not teach me how to ride a bicycle, drive a car or throw a ball. He never remembered my birthday and asked me the same questions over and over because he didn’t pay attention enough to retain very much of what I told him.
When I called to say Luca and I were splitting up he blurted “Call him and ask him to forgive you”.
There wasn’t anyone like my Dad. He made me feel safe and I grew up convinced that between good and evil good would always win.
Happy Father’s Day wherever you are. I remember you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


A woman gets on the bus and sits next to me. Her curly hair comes down to her waist. She has purple fingernails and big rings. I compliment her on her vintage coat and she gives me a look: bewildered, then sour. She turns away and opens her book. "How to win friends and influence people."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Clear and beautiful

The world is clear and beautiful today, its edges sharp, its colors bright. The sky is so close I feel I can touch it.

How can there not be a musical dedicated to new prescription glasses?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Roosevelt encourages us “to know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions” to “spend ourselves in a worthy cause”. “Something is always born of excess” said Anais Nin. “Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions”. “Do not go gentle into that good night” warns Dylan Thomas. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

My favorite parts of life – irrational optimism, falling in love, feeling captivated, elated, inspired – are unbalancing. Balance is not all it’s reputed to be.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lose/lose situation

"Does this make me look fat?" creates a lose/lose situation (even if the reply is a lightening quick "NO!") 
I now walk over to Boyfriend and look at him solemnly. "Just tell me the truth. Is my ass too perky in this?" 
I get a gigantic eye roll and we laugh. It sure beats walking out of the house with a negative word hanging between us.

Eat alone

Confessions of a closet introvert: I usually have lunch alone, despite the "never have lunch alone" maxim.
Quiet is scarce. I cherish stepping out of work, picking a café and focusing on the food before me instead of my noisy brain. 
The guaranteed rush of gratitude - for how beautiful everything looks on my plate and the precious hour of peace - confirms that never having lunch alone works for some people, but it doesn't work for me.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Quintessential San Francisco

I was a tad late for work because I was walking down the sidewalk to catch my bus and a guy outside a bar was cutting ice with a chainsaw and I stopped to ogle the precise rows he was making and was lightly sprayed with slush that mostly fell into my boots and my socks got wet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Be happy

"Do what you love!" is not an idealistic platitude. It's tied to competence, productivity, even relevance.
When you love doing something, you want to do it a lot. You are (almost accidentally) perpetually practicing, improving, exploring, learning, expanding. 
There is no way to remain competitive against someone who loves what you slog through.


The most frequent question I get when asked for advice is related to travel. My answer: Go. You will take you everywhere you go, despite of which the trip will open your eyes, jostle your perspective, revive you. It will quiet the clamoring noise that is your life to make room for things to get sorted out. It will change you. You will be better for it. 
Why are you still reading this? Go.


When I was little I was certain I'd die young because I could not fathom ever being 40. Now every time I come across something unfathomable I remind myself that I'm still alive. Proof that anything can happen.

Friday, June 5, 2015


My dear friend/ex-husband Luca calls to remind me we have a document to sign. We meet at the notary and provide ID. The notary scribbles, then stops, pen in mid-air.
"Zapata" he says.
"Yes" I reply.
"Excuse me" he explains "but I just had a vision right out of a movie. A village in distress and you riding in on horseback, saving the day".
"That's no movie" Luca replies. "That's a documentary".

Thank you Papá. You left me here without you but armed me with a talisman implicit in the name of a revolutionary hero.