What Matters to Connie Birdsall

Posted inWhat Matters

Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

After a 35-year career, the retiring Lippincott Global Creative Director is looking forward to a next chapter with big fish and travel, and hopes to become a better gardener, cook, and friend.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

I love to flyfish— apparently, gorgeous rainbow and brown trout live in the most beautiful places on earth, which is an extra bonus. The fresh air, meditative quality of being in rhythm with nature is lovely.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

As children, my sister and I were always doing something creative with paint or clay or feathers or sequins— my grandmother always asked us to make the individual place settings for her Thanksgiving meal. She would send us out to find pinecones and then we would make little pinecone turkeys with pheasant feathers collected from hunting trips and pipe cleaners for beaks and eyes :) remember those? It was the first conscious memory I have of making something art-like that got the family oohing and aahing.

What is your biggest regret?

Yikes— this one is hard— there are the constant little things – did I say something that may have been taking the wrong way— did I forget to do something I promised to do, stay in touch with everyone? Likely… But I’d say my biggest regret was losing my parents both about the same time when I was around 40, which is not horrible in and of itself – but I would have loved to share the life my husband and I have created together, my successes at work, and places we have traveled with them and to have had their counsel and shoulders to lean on longer.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Little heartbreaks push me into filling up my time with lots of projects mostly things that result in quick satisfying results— baking cookies, canning food, cleaning the house, weeding the garden— that sort of thing. Big heartbreaks need lots of music, plenty of fresh air, friends who just listen and don’t judge— but provide hugs and laughter and help to pick up the pieces and move me forward and time— time really does heal, eventually.

What makes you cry?

The obvious things: losing someone you love, especially an animal— that crazily can be the hardest— but also, when I feel rejected, or judged harshly, either by someone or a group of someone’s that were or are important to me. That feeling produces tears of both shame and deep hurting where you just feel really down and bad and small.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Not for long— most things feel good in the moment— maybe a bit longer— the launch of a new brand— a success at work with a program or the gratitude of a coworker or friend for something you may have done for them or with them— these are all good, but not overly lasting. My third marriage now in our 28th year— now that, I am feeling proud of. It took a long time to learn how to make this work, and somehow feels like a very big deal that gives me a constant never-ending feeling of accomplishment.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I really hope there is— but I am not so sure. If there is one, I hope it has the beauty I see in this world and has solved all the challenges that plague the world today: no wars, equality, food, shelter and clothing for everyone, and a planet that is cared for and thriving but also interesting and exciting and advancing— not stagnate and ethereal.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I can be a passive aggressive micromanager. One of those people that responds to an email even when I was only copied not the main person to whom the email was addressed. It drives many people that I love very much batty. There are lots of other things too— too this, too that— not this or not that— it is pretty long list. One of the things that I have always felt is my greatest weakness is my writing and storytelling skill— I don’t hate myself for it, but I wish it was something I could do better.

What do you love most about yourself?

I am very loyal and gracious most days and am an eternal optimist. I love to do stuff and make stuff and cheerlead for my team.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

We love to cook— so for me, it would be a homecooked meal for my closest friends. Would start with some special cocktail and appetizers, we like the classics— martinis and Manhattans, a selection of olives and cheeses, maybe some homemade crackers. Then one of the many favorites in our house is paella—must have chorizo, chicken, clams, mussels, and lobster— and a garlicky soft Bibb lettuce salad on the side. Dessert would be something that I bake— could be a cake or a pie. The family favorite pie is sour cherry— a very special once a year treat with some homemade vanilla ice cream. It really doesn’t get any better.