The Blog

Do you know what to do?
October 21, 2016

Have you come to an important intersection in your life? Is it keeping you up at night, the not knowing what to do?

It might help to remember that the “not knowing” is part of what makes life fun. But who could blame you for not knowing that? In school you get rewarded for the right answers on tests. In life you get rewarded for asking the right questions.

Here are some good questions: “What will my life feel like if I had this job? What will I be doing at, say, ten o’clock on a random Tuesday morning? Does my heart sink or soar at the thought?”

There’s your answer.

Or not. If you still don’t know, that’s okay. Just pick a train. Any train. Jump on. There will be time to switch seats later. Forward motion is thrilling, as Seth says.

But sitting in the station, watching the trains go by? I got a little ache inside just typing that sentence!

If you want an opinion about politics or political correctness or protests, you’ve come to the wrong blog. Of course I have opinions. But I’m here to give you things to think about, not tell you what to think -- or what I think.

I do have questions about the people who protest. Where do some of them find the time? If they have day jobs, can they go in late on mornings after they’ve been up all night? How do they find babysitters on short notice? I wonder about the logistics. How do they maintain their energy? They’re so passionate. That looks exhausting.

I’m teasing, but I’m also curious. I’m always on the lookout for ways to keep my energy up, and I’ll take suggestions from anyone!

How do you keep score?
October 19, 2016

Detroit Lake for the blogSomeone we used to work with described my blog as a collection of “thought starters,” and that’s one reason I still write with him in mind sometimes. When he told me he’d printed out a post to show his wife -- one of my favorites, about making peace with time -- well, you can imagine my delight. I live for things like that.

A woman wrote to me a while back and said that after hearing an interview I did with a casting director, she was going to get behind her daughter’s dream of becoming an actress. The two had been at odds, definitely. Not anymore.

Someone who talked to me at length about my diet wrote to me recently to say she’d tried it -- and is devoted to it. She’s lost more than thirty pounds, but that isn’t even the best part. The best part is how she feels.

The conductor Benjamin Zander says his job is to awaken possibility in other people. If their eyes are shining, he’s doing it.

I’ve had way more than my share of shining eyes in my orbit. Every day’s another attempt to be worthy of those.

Do you keep score?
October 18, 2016

Several years ago a friend wanted to know how much money I made on a project. It struck me as odd. We were having a conversation about less measurable things. How much we loved getting up in the morning, the difference we wanted to make in the world -- those kinds of things.

It’s natural to wonder how much people earn. I do it. But there’s a time and a place and a tone. This felt like someone had crashed our party of two with a scorecard: “Let’s see the numbers! Show us those bank statements!”

It was jarring. It felt like going from a darkened movie theater into a blindingly sunny summer afternoon. “Oh. That’s right. The world’s still going on out here.”

I lose myself in conversations, granted. And when you reduce me to a spreadsheet, you lose me.

Maybe you’ve heard it said that the only people who supposedly don’t care how many followers they have online are the same people who don’t have that many. Which might be true. But you can’t tell me the people who fly mostly under the radar don’t matter. They do.

Just ask the people who couldn’t live without them. They matter.

For all the ways I’ve waxed smug on the blog about laundry as meditation, I still don’t look forward to it. It’s laundry. You know what makes it easier? Having decided when I’ll do it, and sticking to that.

You might think it’s trivial, but that’s because it isn’t in context. In the context of dozens of other things that come around all the time, that keep the trains running, it helps to give them their own special places on the schedule.

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Is that why Darrell and I spend so little time, relative to the average, looking for things?

The same is true for chores. There’s a time and a place. When we’re “home” -- wherever we call it at the moment -- you’ll probably find me doing laundry on the same day of the week. No sense wasting brain cells making the same decision over and over. Not only that, but I’ve also been finding places on the schedule for things more important than laundry -- like sharing more of my work. Pitching. Reaching. I’m starting to think of myself as someone who does what she’s supposed to do when she’s supposed to do it. It’s momentum.

You start small, with a laundry basket, and soon you’re on your way to becoming the owner of a chain of drycleaners -- or whatever your little entrepreneurial heart desires.

Trivial? I don’t think so! Momentum is magic.

“I think it’s great how much you and your husband love to run,” someone told me a few years ago. I looked over my shoulder to see the person she was talking with. “Who, me?” I finally asked. “We don’t love to run,” I told her. “But you do it almost every day,” she said.

The secret to life.

We don’t run very fast -- well, except for thirty-second surges every two minutes -- or very far. But we’re devoted. Rain, snow, sleet, or hail? We could give the postal service a run for its money!

You might be surprised by how little effort it takes to stay in shape. You don’t have to be a maniac about it.

But consistent? That helps!

I don’t know if I remember this correctly, but it seems to me a little sister once took it to my parents about not getting her started in some sport -- ice skating, I think -- as a toddler. She couldn’t have been much older than that at the time. As to why it mattered: “How am I supposed to make it to the Olympics?”

She had a point. World-class in anything usually means a lifetime of dedication and practice.

new Charlie HamblinUntil I talked with Charlie Hamblin, I wasn’t sure it was worth it. Charlie’s a roller skater on the US World Team, and I wondered if he missed out on a real childhood. “Not at all,” he says. “It was difficult and it was worth it.”

Charlie’s learned a lot on the rink. He’s learned to work hard, to be patient, to persist. The most important thing he’s learned is that hard work and great fun are not mutually exclusive: “It’s work and play at once.” Charlie didn’t have as much free time as other kids -- still doesn’t -- but he had some. And he lived to be on the rink. Still does.

Charlie says you can tell which kids have been brought up with a good work ethic or have learned it through sports: “They manage themselves well and they get things done.”

Hard work. A fun life. Don’t let anyone tell you it has to be one or the other!

What are you up to?
October 13, 2016

sunset in VermontOnce upon a time I took a freelance writing class from a teacher who was on his way to making a living as a writer. Good move! You can learn a lot about writing from someone who’s doing that successfully.

Vince was fond of asking, “Is there a story here?” Good question! You can learn a lot about your life from having the courage to ask yourself that.

Is there a story here? If not, what the heck are you doing with this little wisp of time on the planet?

No, it isn’t too late.

But it’s late!